Thursday, May 24, 2012

Predictably, Neville was left partnerless

Lena Dunham's character on Girls deals with a partner who expects flexibility, even when it's not practical, and perhaps not as enjoyable. A plethora of TV shows have episodes that discuss 'spicing things up', and a variety of pop-songs glorify dirty, dirty deeds. A clip from Tracy Morgan's Black and Blue stand-up show talks about gold diggers. Apparently (jokingly?) a lobster dinner is three finger minimum in the anus. At least he acknowledges that it's not everyone's idea of a good time. Setting aside any feminist statements, these messages create unrealistic expectations for men. Virility is cast as reckless, dominant, forceful, and indifferent towards a partner.  Take Don Draper's actions toward his wife Megan in season five:

We know Don Draper is not the best role model. However, pop-culture sees him as one of the most masculine characters on TV today. If guys already look to him for career advice, cocktails, and fashion, than what's to stop them from emulating his sexual endeavors. (Season 1: Cheating on His Wife, Season 2: Cheating on His Wife, Season 3: Cheating on His Wife, Season 4: Having Kinky Sex with Prostitutes and Others, Season 5: Domineering Sex with (Only) His Wife.) No, Draper was not created as a idealized model for masculinity, but the authenticity of Mad Men confuses reality with hyperbole.

At the other end of the masculinity spectrum, we have the guys in Big Bang Theory. Sheldon Cooper, Leonard Hofstadter, Howard Wolowitz, Raj Koothrappali each have a personal quirk that makes them a stereotypical nerdy and inept with women. Wolowitz is perhaps the least attractive and most offensive of the bunch: lives with his mother, hits on anything, tries to trick girls into sleeping with him, worst dressed, etc. He even gets a robot stuck on his penis one episode. Despite all this, Wolowitz is the first of his friends to marry. The most aggressive guy, not smartist, nicest, or sensitive, gets the girl.

Now, you can dismiss Draper and Wolowitz' sexual success as plot devices, but similar patterns appear throughout contemporary media. Iron Man is the only Avenger with a girl. In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the forcefull love interest loses out to the hesitant. Winston Bishop, the most masculine and sport-oriented roomate is the only one with stable, happy relationship in New Girl. Han Solo gets Princess Leia and Luke, the main character, gets no one in Star Wars. Three and a Half Men - need I say more? Instances where the 'less' masculine is threatened with losing his love interest to a more dominant guy include Spiderman 3 where Harry Osborne/Green Goblin gets MJ instead of Peter Parker/Spider-Man; in the last Harry Potter movie/book Ron leaves the group because he believes Hermione thinks him inadadquet compared with Harry; and even the BBC show Merlin, where Arthur has several love interests and Merlin gets only one during a single episode.

Merlin - Knights of the Roundtable
We're so masculine and scowly with our longswords!!

It's also fair to point out that my previous post discusses women's sexual freedom, and this is just the masculine freedom. True. But wouldn't you say that most guys (people) enjoy sex? My issue is with the dominating-male 'winning' a sexual partner over his friends who have other positive skills, and what this message sends to the general populace. Not only does this portray relationships as competition (which to some extent they are), but sets a woman as a prize for being a particular type of masculine. If you (the male) don't behave aggressively, dominating, or overall cocky, even if its more virtuous path (Luke Skywalker, Thor), then you lose the girl/prize and become miserable. One of two things supposedly happens: 1) a Ron Weasley complex, where the male feels inadequet and depressed, and gives up on his woman or 2) a Harry Osborne/Green Goblin mentality, where the male abandons his real self and tries to out-masculine his counterpart through over-compensation. This, of course, results in very few guys for women to reasonably choose from, and leads to statements like 'crazy' women who hang out with douchebags. But I promised this wouldn't be about "feminist issues" (even though it is).

The point is boys, I mean men, you don't have to compare yourself to the hypermasculine because you're not competing with them. (Unless of course, you are of the hypermasculine personality. Then go for it.) As always, present yourself honestly and your sexual interests will judge you on who you are, not who you're 'suppose to be'. (And women: judge guys on who they are, not who you think they should be). Because at the end of Harry Potter who was the most awesome, lusted-after guy? Not Ron, Harry, Malfoy, Lockheart, the Weasly Twins, Bill, or even Cederic. It was this guy:

and just in case you missed it, this guy:

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