One of the things which surprised me about Michael Kimmel's book, Guyland, was his presentation of evidence that guys, especially young guys in their late teens through early thirties, believe there are a lot of women interested in casual sex. He points out how this undermines a guy's confidence when it comes to his relationships with women. After all, if there's a lot of easily available nookie out there, why isn't any of it happening to you?
I always assumed guys were smart enough to see through the crap propagated by men's magazines and locker room talk. I thought they recognized it as part of a game they all play in which they try to make up something plausible yet raunchy.
I may have been wrong in giving them so much credit.
And yet, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. Girls have always had long, detailed talks about sex and their relationships. If we couldn't talk about men and relationships, most of our conversations would be around 70% shorter. And while there is some distortion, the sheer volume of material allows us to discern the truth about what is acceptable, what is normal and what isn't.
Guys don't have those kinds of talks. If all they hear is the locker room banter and fictitious exploits, then they may not have the understanding to realize the fantasy is just that: a fantasy.
It may explain why some guys are so sexually aggressive yet surprisingly unskilled. If they believe sex is an entitlement (because, after all, everyone else is getting it) then they may not realize they need to develop their skills in order to make them an attractive potential partner. (For the record: yes, women do talk about that kind of thing and you'd be surprised at how far the girlfriend network can go.)
A simple reality check might go further in taming some of the frightening aggression than we realize. Eventually guys get enough personal experience to see through the lie of the fantasy, allowing them to develop as potential partners. If they could understand earlier, they might not have to spend so much time miserably certain that everyone else is happier than they are.
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