Toronto
3 min

Not all men are pigs, sweetie

Generalizations can get in the way of pleasure

Halloween Saturday, two super-tall straight guys got into a fight on the late-night bus over who was taller. One guy was 6-5 and refused to believe that his opponent was 6-7 and a half, as advertised, because if he was, he would be, like, brushing the ceiling.

One guy was wearing a jailbird costume and the other was wearing an ATF uniform and I was hoping they’d get into some gentle pushing and shoving, thus providing much material for future porn scenarios, but they just stood toe to toe in the middle of the bus and bantered back and forth as they jockeyed for position. Occasionally their gaze strayed to a beautiful cop with a pistol stuck in her garter, but basically they only had eyes for each other. The argument continued most of the way north. They looked like a couple of moose getting ready to lock antlers.

Men — what a concept. Never once in my angst-ridden life have I doubted that I was a man and never once have I entirely identified with the concept. I’m supposed to belong to the same species as the two bucks on the bus but I just don’t see it and I get even more confused when the media spin a thousand and one generalizations based upon the idea that I do.

The very idea is baffling. There are some three billion men on the planet and we’re all supposed to have something in common just because we have a dick? Yet the longer the sexual revolution continues, the more articles on the meaning of manhood I read.

Just recently CanLit’s reigning style-dandy Russell Smith weighed in with a Globe And Mail column on the marked differences in the TV-watching styles of men and women. Apparently, women like to watch Madonna interviews and men like to watch explosions. Then he named a whole bunch of man-faves I’d never heard of. Nope, couldn’t quite identify with that.

That same week Maclean’s weighed in with a cover story on the “sad slump of North American manhood” headlined, “The Age Of The Wuss.” Apparently men are now so conflicted about their role in society — breadwinner or domesticated sex toy? — that they’re getting stressed, depressed and even going limp. Nope, couldn’t identify with that either. (I’m still working on the sex toy thing.)

Either gay men are indeed a separate species (as folks used to maintain in the 19th century) or the whole concept of men is a bit of a sham. Me, I suspect the latter. Most of the time I think the notion of “man” is just code for, “Why can’t I get laid?”

All-powerful New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently spent 5,000 words exploring current dating rituals before coming to the rueful conclusion that both men and women like traditional sex roles more than they are willing to admit. Men, for instance, like paying for women on dates. As one guy said, it’s “one of the few remaining ways we can demonstrate our manhood.”

I can think of others, but apparently this rang a bell with Ms Dowd who, reading between the lines, hasn’t been getting a lot lately. Men don’t like powerful women, you see, and Ms Dowd is a powerful woman. This may or may not have something to do with her particular reality.

Anytime anyone cites sweeping social generalizations to explain the state of their love life, I get a little nervous. Social tropes like race, class, gender, education and income explain a lot but surely the first place you’d want to look is within.

As a queer, this is something you know almost instinctively (or ought to know anyway). Straight women who feel ill done by in love can always complain that men are pigs, but coming from a gay man this excuse sounds a little silly, not to say empty. In our case, after all, the pigs are us.

Pseudosociological musings about the sexes are endlessly entertaining (not to mention great filler for newsmagazines in a news slump) and I fully understand their appeal. What could be more fun than blaming your problems on some ubiquitous but largely mythological Other? But like all generalizations, such musings get in the way of our enjoying life’s very particular pleasures.

Miranda is the best example of this. Did you ever see the episode of Sex And The Citywhere the series’ favourite neurotic meets her future beau Steve? Any fool can see that the new guy is the answer to her prayers, but Miranda almost misses him. Badly burned by a lying married man, she spends so much of the episode ranting about the evils of men in general that she almost misses the merits of this man in particular. It all comes right in the end of course, but she could have spared herself a lot of pain by nixing the illusion in the first place.