1. THE NATURE OF SEXUAL ATTRACTION
One sex difference that stands out for Kristoff is that women, when meeting a man for the first time, will notice his eyes. Men, on the other hand, notice a woman’s hair first, and body second.
It won’t surprise many of you, but boys do not think this way. When boy character meets girl character, he generally notices her hair, then her body. The eyeline (and thoughts) of the average boy tend to… descend. This is in our nature – if it wasn’t, every XY on the planet wouldn’t be constantly caught doing it.
Generalisations aren’t necessarily untrue simply because they’re generalisations, but I’m not so sure there’s a single grain of truth to this one.
Spend much time around teenaged girls and listen to them talk about boys. (Not because teenage girls are all that different from adult women, but because they tend to be more vocal in public spaces). You’ll soon discover that, even if they weren’t caught in the act, they must have taken in the entire vision of man at some point, because they are now able to recount the size of his biceps, the hairiness of his arms, the tightness of his butt, his height, his skin tone… you name it.
It’s a myth that women don’t notice the physical attributes of men.
Jay Kristoff also advises writers to look at how published authors do it; women should read books by men, and men are to read books written by women.
There are several problems with that. First, a minor one: you can’t always be sure of the sex of the author, especially dead ones — not by looking at the author names alone. Women used to quite often write as men, and perhaps vice versa.
The bigger issue underlying this particular piece of advice is that literature itself perpetuates the way we expect men and women to behave, not necessarily how they really behave. Far better to look to real life than books in this instance.
Sure enough, in romance novels the man’s eyes are mentioned most often in the introductory character sketch. But don’t assume from that, that that’s all that has been noticed. That is simply what has been written. It more closely approximates literary convention – or perhaps genre convention – than it reflects real life.
I also wonder if women notice other women’s breasts as much as men notice women’s breasts. Breasts have have been fetishized in the West, and play a starring role in women’s magazines. Women’s response to them may (or may not) be slightly different, but since we’re talking about ‘noticing’ there you have it. Breasts are accentuated by modern fashion and they also happen to be in a fairly noticeable position. Not only that — very little exists for the purpose of The Female Gaze.
This inaccurate generalisation — that men notice secondary sex characteristics whereas women are all about the eyes — is tangled up with the old-fashioned and erroneous idea that men are always thinking about sex whereas women are pure and innocent.
A writer is always going to betray somebody. If you’re going to be honest with your subject, you can’t be genteel.
- TED MORGAN
2. MEN DON’T CRY IN FICTION
Not as much as women, at least. And if they do cry, it’ll be in a manly I-just-got-something-in-my-eye kind of way.
Men don’t cry in public as often as women cry in public. Maybe. I’m prepared to accept that. Men are more likely to express anger by shouting or storming out or letting it simmer inside, but some women react to that exact emotion by crying. It probably goes without saying, but there certainly are men who cry in public, and there are also women who fly into a rage.
In stories, as in real life, it seems more acceptable for female characters to cry than for male protagonists to shed a few tears.
Apparently, men don’t want to read about other men crying.
Except men do cry. Some cry more than others. Men cry when they are very sad, or bereaved, or depressed, or angry. Men cry, all right. They cry in private, in front of their wives and girlfriends. But so long as we all avoid men crying in fiction, we’ll all go on pretending that men don’t cry — not ever — and we’ll all live happily ever after.
Is this honest? Is it helpful?
Why Is It So Hard For Men To Cry? World Of Psychology
A Cultural History Of Weeping, a podcast from BBC Radio 3, in which we learn that men-not-crying is a fairly modern expectation. I bet caveMEN cried as often as cave women. (And no, I can’t prove that at all.) But here’s something interesting along those lines.
“Funerals For Males 101″ from The Good Men Project
3. MEN GO FOR WOMEN WHO ARE BETTER LOOKING THAN THEMSELVES BUT NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND
See: Handsome Men With Unattractive Women (Couples the media will never show you) from Good Men Project
(And… whenever I say anything about Beauty, I always add the explanation that I am talking about The Western Beauty Ideal. Y’all know what I’m talking about. And yes yes, we are all beautiful in our own way.)
An episode of Girls, Season Two, was particularly brilliant and since it was pretty light on story-driven plot, probably existed mainly to get people talking about this very thing. The response to this episode was summed up nicely at Jezebel: What Kind of Guy Does a Girl Who Looks Like Lena Dunham ‘Deserve’? And here’s another response, similar to that at Slate, this time from Film School Rejects.
Kate asks:Would you have had less of a problem with Joshua being attracted to her if he was played by some other, less traditionally handsome, actor?
And Rob says: Probably. And I know this veers dangerously close to me being labeled an asshole, but this pairing just doesn’t happen without a lot more character work. The social and intellectual differences are a part of it, of course, but the physical details can’t be ignored.
We are still surprised, it would seem, when we see a conventionally attractive man with a lesser attractive woman, to the point where we don’t even believe it would happen in fiction as a believable storyline. Instead, these critics are more willing to believe this episode of Girls was a dream-episode, despite no precedent for dream sequences on same show.
See Also: Evolution and Heterosexual Dating Rituals from TSP