Let's return to the question I asked in my previous post: why would I want to date the kind of knuckle-dragging Neanderthal that many self-help authors are trying to sell me? What's supposed to be so appealing about a man who thinks that I'm prey to be conquered? Or is it that these authors think that the macho jerk is the only kind of guy out there - that I don't have a choice? Is it possible that what I'm calling a knuckle-dragger is, for them, simply an average guy? If so, I must be living in some alternate universe because I honestly don't know any men who think of themselves as valiant hunters out to subdue women.

Let's take a slightly different example. In doing research for my books on romance, I came across the following idea voiced by a well-known self-help author: while women are experts at reading feelings, a man "can't pick up on a sad face until his tie is drenched in his partner's tears." No doubt you're familiar with the sentiment. But how many men do you actually know who can't tell the difference between a happy face and a sad one? Personally, I know none. And I'm really tired of the attempts of our self-help industry to convince me that a guy like this is worth my trouble.

Many self-help gurus thrive on the idea that men and women are inherently different, and that men are "wired" to pursue unavailable women, forget your birthday, cheat on you, and recoil in the face of emotions. Commitment-phobia, we are told, courses through the veins of all red-blooded men so that the worst you could do would be to crowd them with your emotional needs. My question bears repeating: why would I want to date a guy like this?

Who benefits from this kind of thinking? Certainly not women. Undoubtedly, there are some men who fit the self-help mold. But, in my opinion, they belong in the Washington Museum of Natural History, along with other relics of the past. What's so baffling is the desperation with which our self-help industry holds onto this relic even though the world is full of men who are perfectly wonderful: men who treat women as their equals; who possess plenty of emotional intelligence; who make thoughtful, committed, and attentive partners; and who wouldn't dream of forgetting your birthday.

I'm not saying that commitment-phobia, cheating, and other relationship problems are not a part of the contemporary terrain of romance. Of course they are. But they do not sum up modern masculinity for us. And neither are they limited to men, for there are plenty of women who flee from intimacy, cheat, or otherwise find it difficult to sustain relationships over time.

From where I'm sitting, the so-called "male psyche" is one of the most damaging cultural myths ever invented. Not only is it unfair to all the decent guys out there, but it gives the bad kind - the kind who don't respect women - the perfect excuse for atrocious behavior. If a man wants to sleep around behind your back, there is nothing as convenient for him as the idea that he's "wired" to do so. And if he's too lazy to make the effort to understand your feelings, it's pretty handy for him to be able to say that, as a guy, he doesn't really "get" emotions. To put it bluntly, men who fall into the stereotype are much more likely to mistreat women for the simple reason that they think that they have the right to do so. In this sense, the "boys will be boys" mentality of our self-help culture is designed to serve the interests of certain kinds of men - the kind I, for one, don't want to date.

About the Author

Mari Ruti

Mari Ruti, Ph.D., is a professor of Critical Theory at the University of Toronto. She is the author of The Case for Falling in Love and The Summons of Love.

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