Monday, June 22, 2009

Do Women Actually Respect Domesticated Men?

My post last week on Sandra Tsing Loh's divorce has led to a lively exchange about women who say they want sensitive, housework-sharing men - but then leave them for more masculine "bad boys." This comment from an anonymous responder lays out the issue nicely:

As a guy growing up with many sisters who believed that women should be in corporate america, pulling down work equivalent to the male jobs of the 70's, I was taught that what women found sexy was a man who was sensitive and could cook.
My first marriage of 7 years ended in divorce (no kids thankfully) when she decided I wasn't "sexy enough" anymore. She *thought* she wanted a sensitive man, but she truly desired the manly man - she wanted to be submissive at home.

Spent many years being single, dating, trying to find another woman who was like my first wife. Found many, but noticed a similar pattern - women who said they wanted the sensitive man really still wanted the "bad boy". They would joke about it, but in truth, I think they really did mean it. Last few years of being single I decided to switch roles and do the more "traditional" male role. Found out that I attracted essentially the same population of women as before, but was given a lot more leeway to not be the cook or the domestic god. Am now three years into my second marriage and it seems to be working a lot better, even though I feel sometimes guilty for going against the advice that my mother and sisters told me when I was younger.

BTW, two sisters are having similar complaints about their domesticated husbands. One of them wonders if he's actually a repressed homosexual.
My guess about what is going on here: these women don't think these nice, helpful, sensitive, equal guys could protect them in a pinch.

And egalitarian feminism (vs. the difference feminism that I subscribe to) produces a cloud of ideology which makes it difficult for such women and men to know what they actually want.


TallCoolOne said...

Pretty much dead on, Gruntled.

I would add, though, that this kind of thinking fits exactly the pattern of capitalist thinking that I mentioned in the original post: not knowing what you want makes you try different "things" in order to be "up to date" or "the best fit for the real me." This kind of thinking has been around forever, but it has become dominant in post-industrial societies.

Black Sea said...

Nobody, in any kind of relationship, under any circumstances, respects a doormat. Yes, there is such a thing as being too thoughtful and considerate.

Regarding the divison of domestic chores, I suspect that what many women respect most is a man whose income makes possible a housekeeper to do the domestic dirty work for the both of them. Actually, respect isn't the right word; "value" might be better.

". . . women who said they wanted the sensitive man really still wanted the 'bad boy'."

The battle between the heart and the head, or more accurately, the hormones and the head. In human affairs, nature generally trumps reason. We're animals, after all.

Gruntled said...

I like the study, about which I have blogged before, that the happiest wives are not those with a 50/50 chore split. The happiest wives do more than half the housework, but have husbands who are grateful.

Ana Amour Rencontres said...

I don't think the issue is about the hose work, domestic work, the man does or doesn't. To my mind there is no argue whether we women appreciate a helpful husband or not, because we do!
I think the reason women stop liking the helpful husbands is because they stop arguing with their wifes. I noticed that I get bored buy guys who don't contradict me and who do everything I want to do. I still want somebody with a personality of their own. If that somebody is considerate and helpful as well, JACKPOT!

max said...

Ask Michelle.

VA said...

Ana makes the right point - it isn't about whether women want someone to share in the housework, because I have no doubt most of us DO want a partner who shares in an equitable way with chores, childcare, etc. "Equitable" is going to mean different things for different couples, but there should be a balance that both agree is fair.

The point that I had hoped to make earlier in the week was that doing chores doesn't make a man more or less manly unless he feels it does. And if he feels it makes him less manly, perhaps he should examine what it is in his culture or his past that makes him feel that way.

I don't respect a passive person (man or woman) who gets browbeaten into sharing chores. But I do respect those who gracefully split the labor because they know it's the right thing to do.

Sharing domestic tasks with a partner is something you do because it's right and fair, not because chores are fun or because it makes you feel masculine/feminine. And as far as I see it, doing the right thing is the true measure of a real man -- or a real woman.

Gruntled said...

I agree that housework is not really the issue. The emotional term used by Tsing Loh and friends was "sensitive." They thought they wanted that; now they think they don't. Anyone want to address the sensitive/passive line?

Anonymous said...

I think that the sensitive trait women are looking for in men is really "sensitive to the woman's needs" not "cry with us during sad movies sensitive." Men who are as emotionally as expressive as women are off-putting (to me at least). I want (and actually do have) a man who is kind, thoughtful, helpful, and loving but still takes charge and rescues me when times are tough or even if it's just been a bad day. I know that a lot of feminists would say that women don't need to be rescued, but I love that my husband is the calm, emotionally-strong one who helps me weather the storms of life.

emily said...

I agree with Anon. above.

The combination of someone who understands my much more emotive personality and maintains a much cooler and stable head is the type of sensitive that I, and most of my friends, are looking for.

Also, I believe that there are 'manly' household chores that enable men (especially those who feel feminized by housework) to help their wives/partners and maintain their personality. I'm thinking of things like car maintenance, taking out the trash, yard work, etc. These are tasks are not generally as frequent as the tasks that women take on (i.e. laundry, dishes, etc.), but are equally important and can be time consuming in their occurrences.

TallCoolOne said...

Tsing Loh made a deliberate effort to point out that neither her husband nor those of her divorce-considering friends were "doormats." Some were practically master carpenters, almost all were great cooks, and I didn't read her as suggesting that these men shirked any childrearing duties or were easy weepers. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

What she and her friends did say, however, but which no one has mentioned thus far, is that these men also did not "do" their wives very much any more, certainly not as much as they "wanted it". "Sexless" was the word she used, which is highly ambivalent, and might be referring to the lack of physicality, the lack of the "balls" to be physical in the first place, or both at the same time.

So, to put it (censoredly) bluntly: is what these women really want in the "bad boy" they seem to crave a good, hard ####?

Anonymous said...


I actually think that Tsing Loh painted one of the husbands as a pouty, perfectionist bitch. He would certainly qualify as both over-emotional and not supportive of his wife.

As for your blunt question, the frequency and emotional-intensity (for lack of a better way to say crazy lust) of sex of does often decline after years of marriage. But, in a well-functioning relationship, those things are replaced with greater trust which leads to a better knowledge of what really makes your partner happy. It's a trade off, but that doesn't mean overall satisfaction will decline as well. Also, in loving marriages, spouses make an effort even if they aren't always feeling it because they know that sex provides an important connection.

The lack of sex in those marriages was merely a symptom of other problems.

Ben said...

I was born in the 1970's and grew up with the emasculating culture that told men, "our world needs sensitive men to step aside so women can find their destinies." What has happened is total destruction of the family and men who cannot do anything because they don't know how to act. What women need, and more importantly our culture, are men to stand up and take control. The apostle Paul was right in Ephesians, "women submit, and men need to honor their wives." When we forgot that our families and culture began to suffer. It is no wonder that I read stories that say mainline-protestant pastors are the most effeminate men in culture. If all men went to the mainline seminary (Columbia) I went to, every guy would be wearing a skirt.

Anonymous said...


Too funny! I almost posted earlier about the succession of pastors I've had who all teared-up just about every week during their sermons. Pastors who cry regularly during their sermons make me want to flee the sanctuary!

Anonymous said...

Folks -

My husband has a heart as big as the state. Does the laundry. Scrubs toilets.

Bu when a spider appears, I'm the one screaming and he's the guy taking care of it.

We're different but equal in our career (we work together). And we've realized that you don't have to be the same to be equal. That differences are okay and often fun.

Some things I'm tougher about. Somethings he is.

With Mis Loh, and many folks, I don't think it's about the "sensitive male" I think it's about the marriage, relationship and choices. To hint that it's because the guy is too nice -you're really not being honest with yourself.

Anonymous said...

It's called breaking when a girl meets a guy who is masculine and doesn't do housework and then eventually has him helping and doing some of the house work but then he loses a certain something she doesn't like it all that much in the end. Yes they see you as a weak guy.