Women Love Men like Concrete…

Talbot, K., & Quayle, M. (2010). The Perils of Being a Nice Guy: Contextual Variation in Five Young Women’s Constructions of Acceptable Hegemonic and Alternative Masculinities Men and Masculinities DOI: 10.1177/1097184X09350408

Many heterosexual women are happy to have the nice guy as a workmate and friend but when it comes to partner material, they want the strong, tough, in control stereotype. Hegemonic masculinity, thus, is not just a problem confined to men but is a problem that can afflict women as well. That is because hegemonic masculinity is a cultural practice, a relational dynamic that depends on players acting out or to some extent resisting, masculine ideals. Here, in this article by Talbot and Quayle (2010), smart, professional, seemingly in control women nonetheless yield willingly to a strong, silent man who can go out and earn a crust, stay on top and aggressively stake his claim. What might seem like an irreconcilable dilemma (see, for example, p.21 of the article), was resolved through a wardrobe paradigm: soft and fuzzy guys at work and as friends, fine, hard as nails guys at home and in bed, absolutely. Which all leads to that prickly question that Raewyn Connell herself finds hard to answer: if hegemonic masculinity is contextually bound and malleable to the march of progress, how can we escape its evil clutches when it encourages so much complicity? I still think that positive change depends on men simply saying, enough bullshit already. And, to deconstruct the myth that masculine ideals are somehow tied to men as blocks of concrete.

  1. February 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm | #1

    How unfortunate for the guys that ‘women’ are simply one hetrogenous block of people who all fancy someone who can “Aggressively stake their claim” (whatever that means). What a pity that there aren’t some women who don’t fit this stereotype, and instead actually would prefer to spend the rest of their lives with someone “soft and fuzzy”.

    Seriously, not every woman wants the rather terrifying man you’ve described in here. In the same way that not every man wants a tanned leggy blond.

    Looks like positive change depends on *everyone* saying ‘enough bullshit already’.

    [btw, I would love to read the article and see where the authors think they're coming from with this, but the paywall won't let me. The title is suspicious though. FIVE young women? Seriously? That's not a sample size, that's a joke.]

    • February 26, 2010 at 12:15 am | #2

      We can buy into cultural ideals, even when so doing is to our own detriment. I am finishing off my PhD on men’s emotional problems, their help-seeking behaviours and service responses, with a key finding being that men know it’s not good to bottle up their emotions but most nonetheless feel compelled (to be a real man) to bottle up their emotions.

  2. Anton.Shrek
    February 20, 2010 at 1:09 am | #3

    >>Seriously, not every woman wants the rather terrifying man you’ve described in here. In the same way that not every man wants a tanned leggy blond<<

    Unequivocally the most naive statement ever uttered on the internet.

  3. February 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm | #4

    Are you seriously telling me that every woman you know never looks twice at a guy unless he’s some kind of leather-jacket wearing tough-as-nails guy, who’ll dominate her? And you don’t know a single man who likes short curvy brunettes?

    Not everyone deals in stereotypes.

  4. Samantha Vimes
    February 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm | #5

    Actually, I think Anton is saying that you’re mistaken in thinking not every man wants a tan, leggy, blond. Which is him being naive.

    Anton, just because that’s the standard model of beauty in the US doesn’t mean there aren’t many men who prefer non-European women. Redheads and pale skin have their afficianados. Most men would not change the woman they are in love with, even if they do find blond models hot.

    So, like Lab Rat indicates, there are women with a preference for shy men (there was even a song called “He’s So Shy”!), for nurturers, etc.
    And if I *were* to change my man’s emotional behavior, I wouldn’t want him more aggressive at home, I’d want him more aggressive at work, because the whole point of a competitive, assertive mate is NOT to get pushed around at home, but that he can get raises and promotions at work to make a cozy home life more affordable.

  5. Marie T
    April 3, 2010 at 2:58 am | #6

    Granted, this is just my personal experience and so anecdotal, but I have seen a greater tendency in younger women to enjoy the friendship of the nicer guys while pursuing the aggressive men who treat them badly and this was my husband’s experience as well right up until he met me. I know several older women who still tend this way. Considering that the nicer guys I know would have no problem with raising their partner’s offspring from an earlier relationship, if this effect truly exists instead of being an artifact of small sample size is this perhaps not cultural? What if there was an evolutionary advantage for women to reproduce with the aggressive men before finding a better long-term partner?

    • April 3, 2010 at 9:42 am | #7

      Women, like men, can’t be immune from the message that strong, silent, and tough men are the way to go. That said, I think there is much confusion over what that really means, for example, with respect to overlap between male toughness, anger, aggression, and violence. Sure, for evolutionary purposes, any population under greater stress will tend to mate more and tend to look for healthy partners. But there is no evidence to suggest that men who are nice guys are any less virile or potent than aggressive guys. As fate would have it, the latter group of men are much more likely to suffer ill health and fall off the twig earlier, because of the associated stress. But your anecdotal observations match what I have seen in my private life, and through what my relationship counselling colleagues have told me.

  6. writtenon
    April 30, 2010 at 12:25 am | #8

    Out of the two men i loved, one was a giant teddy bear, bursting at the seams with emotions and kindness. The other seems to fit what your describing, and he’s a handful.

    • April 30, 2010 at 9:55 am | #9

      Yes, whenever I hear someone say that men are supposed to be like this and women like that, experiences like yours show that there can huge differences between men in terms of how they express their emotions (or not). The con is that men are taught that kindness, love, joy, sadness, distress, etc. are ‘soft’, effeminate emotions that need to be kept hidden and that, in fact, keeping those emotions hidden is some sort of masculine ‘feat of strength’. It is not. I thank you for sharing your insight.

  7. May 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm | #10

    I think that the first sentence of this post would be more accurate if it said, “Most heterosexual women…” There are, of course, exceptions to every blanket statement, which is why I find it important for scholars to specify such. I love the last two sentences, as I think many men need to do more to fight the ideals society makes for them.

    • May 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm | #11

      Thanks for that feedback. I really try to avoid creating absolute binaries but I’ll blame fatigue, slackness, shiraz or all three for slipping up on this occasion. The post has been amended. And yes, it really is tough for anyone who gets served up shite but nonetheless has to take responsibility for cleaning up their own mess.

      • Hello
        June 21, 2010 at 11:45 am | #12

        It’s almost as if no one has heard of the word testosterone

  8. Anton Shrek
    June 23, 2010 at 2:36 am | #13

    “Actually, I think Anton is saying that you’re mistaken in thinking not every man wants a tan, leggy, blond. Which is him being naive.”

    Okay, find me one heterosexual male who would pass on a tan, leggy blonde, and I’ll show you a man who is lying through his teeth because he does not want to hurt someone’s feelings and get his tail thrown into hot soup.

  9. Kirsten Talbot
    July 13, 2010 at 9:12 pm | #14

    I am glad to see our article has sparked debate. If anyone is interested in a copy please email me at kirstentalbot@gmail.com.

  10. Kashif Ansari
    November 17, 2013 at 9:12 am | #15

    the strong silent type also has raised levels of testosterone. he has personality and integrity and self respect not to mention tons of self esteem. his self confidence and lust for perfection make him lift the weight of personality, everything about him demands admiration and respect. he is the envy of many a man and the desire of many a woman.

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