What do women want in a man? A neosexual
By Karen Brooks
April 15, 2009 12:01am
ACCORDING to an extensive study by a deodorant company, the answer to the question "What do women want in a man?" is a "neosexual".
That is, a man who is both masculine and sensitive - someone who can light their fires and put them out simultaneously. Oh, and who doesn't hog the mirror.
(The company polled almost 3000 women from 14 countries.)
Demographer Bernard Salt, author of Man Drought
, believes that Generation Y
women, those aged between 20 and 35, want a mixture of Hugh Jackman
(looks), James Bond (ruggedness), Jim Carrey (humour) and the youthfulness of Disney star Zac Efron.
If this is the "neosexual", then he's no more than an interesting cocktail of fantasy and "real" men who doesn't and cannot exist.
This won't stop big business, Hollywood and some women caught up in the fiction of finding the elusive "Mr Right" as if he's a generic brand, instead of "Mr-Right-For-Me" searching, marketing and trying on all types for size.
For years, corporations have been reinventing what it means to be "a man" and for different generations. The 1980s, in a reaction against rigid and sometimes traditional baby-boomer fathers as well as the narrow and threatening models of masculinity that were offered in popular culture, such as the muscle-bound Arnie Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, saw the birth of the SNAG (Sensitive New-Age Guy).
Masculinity suddenly became a dirty word and something of which men (except in the world of celluloid) were made to feel ashamed.
Instead of being a genuine identity that attempted to undo centuries of gender-role indoctrination and free men so they could really explore options within masculinity and perhaps relate better to the opposite sex, it was exposed as a falsehood in which neither men nor women wanted to engage. Nonetheless, Hollywood offered us the pin-up SNAG boys such as Keanu Reeves and Matthew Broderick.
Against this watered-down version of masculinity, another beat its hairy chest: the retrosexual. Eschewing all things sensitive and new age, this type of man embraced facial hair, flannelette shirts, footy, barbecues, booze and broads.
He was a man's man and proud of it. You might recall the song, Bloke
, by Chris Franklin, which became the retrosexuals' anthem. Remember, he was an ocker and loved knockers - not the kind that hung on doors, either.
Then, there was the metrosexual - the poster boy for targeted marketing who loved brands, fads and fashion, colouring his hair, wearing nail polish and make-up. His idea of a great weekend was to go shopping - with his female partner.
Corporations have spent many millions (and recruited the likes of David Beckham) trying to convince men that caring about their appearance didn't cast aspersions on their sexuality or mean they weren't masculine.
On the contrary, caring about how you look and smell spoke of someone so ruggedly masculine and in tune with being manly, they didn't care what others thought. This is why they had to spend time in the bathroom. The message worked.
Suddenly, self-love took on a whole new meaning.
John Wayne would be rolling over in his grave.
Amid all this apparent gender confusion, young men particularly have been sold a huge furphy. What women don't want in a male partner is someone who (a) spends more time in front of the mirror than she does; (b) has waxed their eyebrows so they look like sperm; (c) shaves their legs; (d) steals their nail polish, eyeliner or mascara for purposes other than a Goth, emo or fancy dress party; or (e) buys his-and-her day spa vouchers for a gift.
Well, maybe some women would like that.
If there's one thing that years of gender debates and discussions about equality and equity has revealed, it's that we're all susceptible to persuasion.
We're also vulnerable to categorisation.
When are we going to learn that one size does not, and never will, fit all?
Masculinity, or masculinities as they should be called, come in all shapes, sizes and types. There's no doubt that diverse men express their masculinity differently. Some men, just like with women and femininity, express it in a dysfunctional, and personally and socially destructive way; some in a functional and meaningful manner that provides a role model to others.
What's evident is that what women want in men and vice versa cannot be reduced to one form.
Call it what you want, but a "neosexual" isn't "new"; it's nothing more than a corporate con selling us another version of masculine identity.
For those who have the sense to look beneath the surface, they'll realise that men who are sensitive and emotionally intact have always been there.
And these men are searching for the same qualities in a partner - qualities that as hard as we try, cannot always be labelled or defined and which certainly cannot be bought or sold.
Dr Karen Brooks is an associate professor of media studies at Southern Cross University