Have men evolved? Or are they still brutish, beer-drinking, football-loving, hunters and gatherers at heart who see relationships as means to that age-old end (sex)?
My daughters will not date until they turn 65. By the looks of things, this rule, like all the others—e.g., no piercings, no boy bands, no visible tattoos—will be thoroughly disregarded.
Last week, at a friend’s birthday party, after cake and ice cream, the conversation turned to our teenage daughters. And boys. And dating. One of the moms said, “I think guys are different these days. They want a girl friend—not just sex.” The 40-something men around the table considered this. One smirked. Another raised an eyebrow. My husband, in his infinite wisdom, remained motionless.
Now, to be fair, my husband and the other guys, who are usually pretty opinionated, were rough. The night before, they’d taken a round-trip ride on the drunk bus and, even at 6:00 p.m. the next day, weren’t too chatty. Within minutes after finishing the cake, they disappeared to the couch where they watched football through closed eyelids.
But I considered her remark. Had men fundamentally changed in the twenty-some years since I’d dated? Was it true? Are modern men more interested in relationships? Has there been an evolutionary shift?
Is Don Juan dead?
We’re all familiar with the seminal studies by John Gray and Deborah Tannen (done in the 1990s) which found that love is central to a woman but peripheral to a man, that there are gender-specific sets of mating instincts—to maximize reproduction—that have evolved over thousands of years.
Okay. All right. Got it.
Pop culture—chick flicks and the like—supports the notion that guys seek something more than sex. My hairdresser, who retires more boyfriends than Gene Simmons says “I’ll call you tomorrow”, listened to my premise while whipping scissors uncomfortably close to my left eye.
She stopped suddenly, “Of course younger guys want to be friends with the woman they’re dating! They can get sex any time. Anywhere. It used to be that a few months of dating led up to sex. Now, a fifteen-minute conversation over coffee gets them laid. Anyone will put out. It’s harder to have a real relationship.”
She might be on to something. A 2010 study at the University of Florida found that gender stereotypes aren’t so black and white. They found that women and men “exhibited similar desires for sex as well as other verbal and non-verbal displays of love.”
But you can find a study to support just about anything, right? So I turned to ten of my twenty-something, male, heterosexual friends to conduct my own highly unscientific survey. Four of the guys are married, five are dating and one is divorced. None have children.
1) “In a relationship, men don’t need women, but women need men.”
The subjects unanimously disagreed with that statement. One said, “My wife is waaaaaaaay worse off having married me.” Another commented, “I think people need people. Gender roles are increasingly moot.”
2) Is the “strong but silent” stereotype still true? Do men lack the motivation to really talk and listen to their female partner?
Four of the test subjects thought that women dig the strong but silent type and that men lack the motivation to really talk and listen. The remaining six disagreed. A married guy said, “These are two questions, @#%head.” [WRITER’S NOTE: Yeah…he used that expletive.] ” To the first, do you mean, does it still exist? Yes. I think women are into it—which is why they are not into me. No to the second question. I could probably make a joke about sex being the main motivation but that would be obvious and abhorrent and I won’t be part of it. I want to listen to my wife because she’s fun to listen to.”
A single guy disagreed, “I don’t think so. The strong but silent stereotype is outdated. Women are more interested in sharing with an open and intelligent guy. I think men have become more sensitive and open emotionally but women still prefer alpha-type males. Based on my experience anyway, women still appreciate a guy who is confident and capable. They want to be with the guy that other guys look up to and emulate. The leader of the pack gets laid most. As far as listening, we still don’t listen. We hear what is said, hope to fix the problem if there is one, and, if there isn’t anything that can be ‘fixed,’ we wait it out until it’s time for sex.”
3) Past research suggests that men are unable to show loving nonverbal behavior (think surprising your girlfriend or wife with a special gift, doing the laundry, rubbing her back). Are you deficient at this?
The test subjects were divided equally on this one. Their comments included: “I think I’m quite good at that. In fact, I think I excel at that. Maybe the strong silent types can’t understand it.”; and, “I have no deficiencies (except a concave chest and lazy eye.) I always buy my bitch flowers. PEACE.” [WRITER’S NOTE: This is the same smart-ass who called me a @#%head.] Another added, “Yep, deficient. Special gifts and back rubs are foreplay. And laundry is laundry.”
So, to boil it down: guys need women as much as women need men, the strong-but-silent type is still desirable (at least until he rolls out of the sack), and a no decision on loving behavior.
Next week, I talk to dads and ask them what their heterosexual daughters should look for in a partner. Will I get a totally different perspective? Learn something.
Image Credit: sweetron1982 / Flickr