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July 11, 2005

Nice guys

Judging by the comments in the "Aquarium" thread, folks have a lot to say about nice guys and the women who (do or don't) love them (enough).

No doubt there's some truth in perennial complaint that some types of niceness get short shrift in the dating market. Some people do seem to be drawn towards abusive partners. Who knows why? Past abuse, low self-esteem, bad judgment, personal idiosyncrasy, and bad luck probably explain a lot. Inequality is another major culprit--power imbalances invite abuse. Machismo is almost the antithesis of nice, and traditional femininity often requires women to indulge, ignore, or exalt men's bad behavior.

It's also true that the dating scene often rewards confidence, persistence, good looks, and conspicuous consumption over more substantial attributes. As John Emerson argued in the Aquarium thread, there might even be an inverse relationship between these qualities and niceness. I'd be curious to know if that's true. Thad suggested offline that some self-described nice guys may have difficulty recognizing the social nuances that make an approach seem charming rather than obnoxious. As a result they may be more reticent to approach women and more apt to perceive other men as being obnoxious.

However, guys who attribute their dating failures to niceness per se are often being self-serving. It's comforting to attribute to excessive niceness what might be better explained by shyness, awkwardness, or other less flattering interpretations. (I'm equally suspicious when Maureen Dowd complains that she can't get a date because she's too intimidating. Frankly, there are more parsimonious explanations.)

Often, the self-proclaimed nice guy wants special credit for just for being nice. It's as if he wants you to exclaim, "Oh, you poor fellow. What a burden it must be to treat women as you'd like to be treated. Above and beyond, old chap. Above and beyond!" I'm all for niceness, but I consider it a basic moral requirement for all humans, not a special bonus feature.

With certain notable exceptions, nice guys don't feel compelled to tell you how nice they are.* In my experience, most of the men who explicitly attribute their romantic failures to their own niceness are playing some sort of unendearing head game. Note, I'm not talking about acting nice, considering oneself to be nice, or valuing niceness in others. I'm talking about guys who tell you how nice they are and go on to complain about how women (read: you and your friends) don't appreciate nice guys (read: me). The subtext is that if women (you) weren't so stupid and hypocritical you'd appreciate nice guys (beg to blow me).

At worst, self-proclamations of niceness come across as vaguely menacing. The logical inference is that the speaker doesn't believe that women want to be treated well and that he might just drop the whole nice act. After all, if he thinks women like being treated badly, he might feel entitled to give them what he thinks they want.

*No offense to present company. Internet discourse is different from face-to-face interactions. We all have to describe ourselves a little more explicitly in a written medium. Maybe self-described Internet nice guys are unfairly getting tarred with the same brush as the guys who feel the need to go on about their niceness in real life.

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Comments

Aegis, I have actually known lesbians whose sexual behavior looks very much like that of gay men. I think that they, like most women, try to hide behavior that is not considered "feminine" and thus are not very open about this outside the lesbian community. On an anecdotal level I agree with Arwen's theory - in my experience it's usually been the women who get bored before the men, and most lesbians I know start complaining about sexual boredom very quickly. One good friend of mine described herself as suffering from the "seven week itch". That sounds like sexual boredom to me.

Arwen, I made on some comments on your blog entry. Your entry made the point that casual sex is not the same as anonymous sex, something I already agreed with, at least tacitly. Your entry also included a version of the conversation here that wasn't recognizable to me, so I didn't get much enlightenment there.

Arwen:
"The fact that guys have a problem with sex and dating is not the same as saying men don't have male privilege, and male privilege is not the same as saying individual men are at fault."

OK.

The rest of your comments suggest mostly biological disparities as "male privilege", together with sluttophobia and male selfishness. These are not helpful as instances of "male privilege", as such, unless you assume that many men believe they have a *right* to be selfish, as opposed to selfishness being something they try to get away with sometimes. As to the continually mentioned fear of being called a slut, and the idea that men commonly believe in a madonna/whore, virgin/slut dichotomy, and women are horribly afraid of such labeling, well, this is one of those things, like men harassing women on the street or men making crude sexist remarks in the locker room, where I don't deny they exist, but it's hard to believe they're so common as all that, because I've never witnessed them firsthand.

Lindsay has given two examples of what she considered "male privilege": a guy getting excited because she asked him to model a leather jacket for her, and some fat old bald geezers in a gym making loud rude comments about the bodies of some young female athletes nearby. I regard the first incident as completely mysterious in its "male privilege"ness, and the second as some old fat bald geezers acting like jerks.

Since the disparities between men and women in sexual relationships don't make either very happy, and don't seem to the benefit of men in any particular way, it's hard to see them as "male privilege".

One area where I do understand a kind of "male privilege" is with regard to childcare and housework, where it wouldn't surprise me at all if most people continued to believe, or more importantly to act, as though housework and the care of children were "women's work". Although, even here, I think the idea that taking care of children is something women "own" has definite disadvantages for men: taking care of kids is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

Overwhelming "white privilege", and you might even agree "male privilege", is "rich westerner privilege", in the sense that huge numbers of people are starving or desparately poor, while I'm sitting here fat and happy. But for all of these, the question is, what to *do* about it? And in this respect, these concepts aren't helpful: the concepts of "white privilege" and "male privilege" seem to exist partly as a way for me to feel guilty over what I am. But (and you seem very interested in the pragmatics), do they help me to do what is right? Here, the obvious approach of trying to be as non-racist and non-sexist as possible seems reasonable, and the "privilege" concepts don't help at all. They function partly as a way of asserting original sin.

So if there's any particular examples of "male privilege" that you can adduce, especially ones that suggest a way of right action, that would very helpful, to me anyway.

BritGirlSF said:
Aegis, I have actually known lesbians whose sexual behavior looks very much like that of gay men. I think that they, like most women, try to hide behavior that is not considered "feminine" and thus are not very open about this outside the lesbian community. On an anecdotal level I agree with Arwen's theory - in my experience it's usually been the women who get bored before the men, and most lesbians I know start complaining about sexual boredom very quickly. One good friend of mine described herself as suffering from the "seven week itch". That sounds like sexual boredom to me.

Although I am sure there are lesbians who have sexual behavior similar to gay men, wouldn't you agree that on average lesbians are more monogamously inclined than gay males in our current culture?

What interested me was Arwen's suggestion that "women being more interested in non-monogamy than men are, biologically speaking" fits the data better than the reverse. I don't think that idea makes any sense personally, but I wanted Arwen to clarify exactly how she thinks it fits the data better. In my mind, women being less monogamy-inclined does not explain "lesbian bed death" very well. If lesbians were really more interested in non-monogamy than men, why would lesbians stay in long term relationships, let alone ones in which they were sexually bored?

I am sure that in a culture with less polarized gender roles, we would see males and females gravitating towards similar behavior as for as monogamy goes. I simply doubt that we would see females on average seeking monogamy less than males.

Arwen said:
Without the mess of culture even being looked at, in the world of sex the male body confers some privilege: you can have orgasm through having simple intercourse, and you don't get pregnant, and the average man can overpower the average woman, rape her, kill her, and wear her head as a hat through 20 states, should he want to. Those things confer something that effects us. Add to that a female-sex-suspicious slurry and the standard cultural concept that all a sex act needs to be a sex act is male arousal, and you've got shitloads of privilege.

I wouldn't put in such hyperbolic terms, but I agree with your basic idea that certain disparities between the sexes which favor men in certain ways confer "something that effects us." Like Ken, I have trouble giving that "something" the label "male privilege."

Why do you call the ability to overpower a woman physically and rape/kill her a privilege for males? That kind of power is only useful to unscrupulous men, so I think it's highly inaccurate to call such a narrow type of power a "privilege" for males. Otherwise, you would have to call the potential females have to make false accusations of rape/sexual harassment/DV against men (and get away with it) female privilege. Also, there are many ways that men's greater average strength does NOT result in privilege, unless you consider the distrust and sometimes even derision we receive because of it to be privileges.

As for "the standard cultural concept that all a sex act needs to be a sex act is male arousal" (which I agree exists in some people) being an example of "male privilege," I'm not sure I buy that either. That standard is clearly a disadvantage for females, but a disadvantage for females doesn't equate to privilege for males. The only males who are privileged are sexually self-centered ones in this case. But what about males who are actually interested in pleasing their partners; does this system privilege them? I think not. If such a guy wants to pleasure his girlfriend but doesn't know how, and she can't help him because she has never masturbated and isn't aware of her sexuality, then both people lose. She may lose more in missing out on an orgasm, but he also feels inadequate, and I don't call that "privilege." In reality, this rather nebulous "male privilege" thing only benefits certain males under certain circumstances; in this case, what you are talking about would be more accurately described as "self-centered-male privilege."

Is it your fault? Not unless you designed the system. To my mind, however, you're making it worse.

That accusation seems unecessary and out of place. Ken C. seems to agree that the system isn't healthy for people. He is simply voicing legitimate disagreement on exactly what the "system" is, how it works, and what to call it.

Oh, I wonder if there's a pattern here? About how sometimes we make assumptions about genetic materials and can be wrong? Hmmm.

What about the times we make assumptions about genetics that are right?

I think rather than viewing things as nice vs. not nice, it is more an issue of active vs. passive. Everyone usually responds better to an active person because they are more out there and push for more.

That said, I think you don't like me just because I'm too nice.

"Although I am sure there are lesbians who have sexual behavior similar to gay men, wouldn't you agree that on average lesbians are more monogamously inclined than gay males in our current culture? "
I'm honestly not sure, since I'm not a lesbian. To the extent that there are differences I think they can largely be explained by socialisation. I'm not buying the idea that lesbians are naturally monogamous though - for me the rate of lesbians in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to get me in the sack is running about even with the number of straight men in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to do the same.
(Note to my lesbian sisters - this is not meant as an anti-gay slur. I'm bi, and I am unequivocally on your side. If there's a fight to be had I've got your back. I'm just trying to point out to Aegis that lesbian does not automatically equal monogamous and/or asexual.)
I think that in a culture without our current gender polarisation we would see men and women behaving in roughly the same way vis a vis monogamy. My feeling is that women do get bored in relationships sooner, but that it isn't specifically sexual boredom, it's more boredom with the other person in general. This may of course be because our current culture tends to leave us with a lot of relationships that are set up in such a way as to work better for the man than for the woman. I'm not sure how you could figure out how much is biology and how much is society, since we were all raised in the same culture. There's no control group to work with.

Neil - finally, common sense prevails. For that I send you a virtual kiss, just so you won't think we women are cruelly punishing you for your niceness.

"I'm not buying the idea that lesbians are naturally monogamous though - for me the rate of lesbians in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to get me in the sack is running about even with the number of straight men in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to do the same. "
Ahem, note that this is adjusted to reflect the number of lesbians I know vs the number of straight men I know. I mean that the numbers are about even PROPORTIONALLY . Thought I'd mention that in case anyone if wondering if I live in some magical realm in which there are as many lesbians as there are straight men.

BritGirlSF said:
I'm honestly not sure, since I'm not a lesbian. To the extent that there are differences I think they can largely be explained by socialisation. I'm not buying the idea that lesbians are naturally monogamous though - for me the rate of lesbians in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to get me in the sack is running about even with the number of straight men in supposedly monogamous relationships who've tried to do the same.

Who said anything about lesbians being "naturally monogamous"? What I said is that lesbians seem to more inclined towards monogamy than gay men, "in our current culture" (I specifically chose that phrasing to avoid excluding cultural explanations).

(Note to my lesbian sisters - this is not meant as an anti-gay slur. I'm bi, and I am unequivocally on your side. If there's a fight to be had I've got your back. I'm just trying to point out to Aegis that lesbian does not automatically equal monogamous and/or asexual.)

Huh? I've never said nor implied anything like that... I don't know who you are replying to, but it isn't me. I am simply trying to reconcile what Arwen was saying with what my mum (who is lesbian) and her partner have told me about lesbian relationships.

I think that in a culture without our current gender polarisation we would see men and women behaving in roughly the same way vis a vis monogamy.

Yeah, that is certainly possible. Though your hypothesis is also in disagreement with Arwen's suggestion that women are more monogamy-inclined than men, biologically speaking.

Aegis, Arwen and I agree on many things but that doesn't mean that we automatically agree on everything. And she was actually theorising that women were less monogamy inclined than men.
As to the lesbian question, like I said I don't think I'm qualified to speak for a group I don't belong to. As to your Mum, I'm not sure to what extent we can apply the experiences of the preceding generation to the next one when it comes to sex. Things have changed pretty rapidly in the past 40 years, and I know my sexual life looks very little like my Mum's did.

BritGirlSF:
"As to your Mum, I'm not sure to what extent we can apply the experiences of the preceding generation to the next one when it comes to sex. Things have changed pretty rapidly in the past 40 years, and I know my sexual life looks very little like my Mum's did."

Rumor has it, you go back far enough, and nobody had sex at all.

Actually, a little googling has turned up some additional data. Following the discovery of the clit in 1983, it was a surprising long 12 years before any of them got licked, and several conceptual breakthroughs arising from the RiotGrrl movement were needed. So from the invention of fellatio in 1973 through 1995, an enormous oral imbalance has arisen; although some compensatory efforts have been made, cunnilingus deficits may be plaguing the nation for years to come.

On the other hand, certain other practices have a somewhat longer history. The archeological evidence is mixed, but the practice of pegging may actually have preceded the discovery of fire. Moreover, certain cave paintings are thought to be either depictions of, or complaints about, santorum. It's a fascinating story, and it's not over yet. The nation can only turn to its young people, its future scientists, poets, and community leaders, for further advances, and all indications are that sex has an outstanding future.

Ken, do you actually have anything productive to add to the conversation or do you just enjoy being an ass? Or are you just sulking because everyone made fun of your use of percentages and most of us were unwilling to fully agree with your theory of human relationships?
By the way, the fact that you felt the need to run over to Arwen's blog and continue your bitching there? Hilarious.

And to answer the actual question implied in Ken's rather lame attempt to be amusing, of course people's sex lives have changed over the past couple of generations. First we had the pill (easy to forget how revolutionary that was)and the sexual revolution. We also had the legalization of abortion, which along with the pill changed how we approach our sex lives for women in a huge way. This may not be obvious to Ken, but being able to control whether or not you get pregnant is a pretty big thing for a woman. We also have the mainstreaming of gay culture, which allowed women my age to explore any attraction to other women we might have (to give a generational comparison, my Mom and I both had the same urge to explore an attraction to women. Want to guess which one of us actually got to explore it?). My generation also grew up in the shadow of AIDS, and have literally never been able to have sex without that being at the back of our minds (something my Mom's generation never had to deal with). We've also seen the mainstreaming of porn, which I think has had a pretty significant impact on how younger people view their sex lives (witness the mainstreaming of anal sex for straight couples, almost unheard of in my Mom's generation). So yes Ken, despite what you may think, the sexual landscape has changed since my Mom's day. I find it difficult to see how anyone could fail to notice that

BritGirlSF:
"Ken, do you actually have anything productive to add to the conversation or do you just enjoy being an ass? Or are you just sulking because everyone made fun of your use of percentages and most of us were unwilling to fully agree with your theory of human relationships?"

"Unwilling to fully agree with my theory"? That's an interesting way of putting it.

"By the way, the fact that you felt the need to run over to Arwen's blog and continue your bitching there? Hilarious."

Where would you suggest? Who's actually saying anything much here, anyway? I hadn't noticed that Arwen's blog was a secret.

"And to answer the actual question implied in Ken's rather lame attempt to be amusing,"

Oh, now you're really hurting my feelings!

"So yes Ken, despite what you may think, the sexual landscape has changed since my Mom's day. I find it difficult to see how anyone could fail to notice that"

I'm sorry, I didn't really intend to disagree with your point, nor was I intending to make fun of you in particular, or really anyone.

By the way,

Arwen, above:
"Ken: My blog answers most of your ideas in the Sex? Anyone? post."

BritGirlSF:
"By the way, the fact that you felt the need to run over to Arwen's blog and continue your bitching there? Hilarious."


Note that Arwen was getting a bit vexed with you too, Ken. No-one is challenging your right to take part in the discussion, it's the tone in which you communicate that's getting on people's nerves. You do tend to come off as a bit tetchy when disagreed with.

Hmmm, I didn't see Ken being tetchier than anyone else in either thread. I think most people get tetchy when they are disagreed with (I know I certainly do). The real problem comes when people try to pretend that only the "other side" is being tetchy.

Honestly, what I am seeing here is Ken trying very, very hard to communicate with you and Arwen in both threads. I've seen him apologize and back down on several points. I've seen very few such efforts on your part. For instance, you jumped on him a few posts ago in a way that was totally rude and unecessary (accusing him of bitching), and he apologized that he wasn't intending to be peevish. I was hoping to see you retract your earlier comments, yet you responded with more antagonism. Huh?? What happened to "reading with charity?"

You seem frustrated that Ken doesn't just roll over and agree with you on certain feminist premises, such as the "male privilege" concept. Yet that comes off as rather self-righteous to me, because you are assuming that you are right, and he is wrong. But your premises, at least in Ken's and my minds, and not as rock solid as you seem to think. Have you considered that perhaps they are wrong? Or maybe they are right, but you aren't making a very strong argument for them? Or maybe they express some kind of truth, but they need to be reformulated or put into different terms? Usually, tough questions directed towards the premises of what I believe are something I welcome, yet it seems that you aren't willing to deal with tough questions towards the premises of your beliefs.

Ken raised some very interesting questions about the "male privilege" concept, which I think warrant serious answers. For instance, he asked for some concrete examples of "male privilege," other than possibly the female "second shift." He also asked if there were examples of "male privilege" other than simply an absence of disadvantages. Correct me if I'm wrong, but so far, nobody has answered either of those questions in either thread. Until you can answer that type of question and explain exactly what the "male privilege" concept is, it seems kind of strange to get pissed off at someone for not agreeing with you about that concept. Why would someone want to agree with you on such a heated issue when they can't tell what you claiming, or whether it makes any sense?


Ken raised some very interesting questions about the "male privilege" concept, which I think warrant serious answers. For instance, he asked for some concrete examples of "male privilege," other than possibly the female "second shift." He also asked if there were examples of "male privilege" other than simply an absence of disadvantages. Correct me if I'm wrong, but so far, nobody has answered either of those questions in either thread.

Well since you asked to be corrected...

The Aquarium thread began with a description of what Lindsay considered a display of male privilege - a bunch of lumpy old men making public judgements on the bodies of young female Olympic atheletes. The conversation, with plenty of grist for the mill, went from there.

But what is this "*simply* an absence of disadvantages" ? The absence of disadvantages is the presence of advantages. How are male advantages different from male privileges?

I had thought this thread was dead, so didn't bother checking in for awhile, but I see it's not dead yet - and also I found out Emerson, although long ago fled from this thread, was talking trash about me on another blog.

So then I did a little tour of the bloggosphere, and although now and again a woman will speak truth to male privilege - Lindsay, Pinko Hellcat and Bitch PhD. and many others, some people are still not getting it.

But I will try to get through this time -

The whole "nice guy" phenomenon is clearly a symptom of male privilege. Others have said this, but it seems to bear repeating -

A double standard is at work here. The reason that you don't hear nice gals whining about not getting laid is because they don't expect that simply being nice is going to get them laid. Because women are *supposed* to be nice. It is the cultural expectation for women. So for a woman to be "nice" is simply to be an average woman.

But that is not the case for men. And this is why "nice" guys believe that being nice should be PRIMARILY what women require in a romantic partner - because by being nice the guy shows that he has sacrificed - by holding himself to a feminine standard of behavior. And women should be grateful for that. To also expect that men be held to the same AESTHETIC standard that women are held to is just too much.

And so the route that so many "nice" women take - to diet, exercise, buy nice clothing, wear make-up, go to the hair dresser, even to the plastic surgeon - is usually not even considered by "nice" guys.

And so, since the "nice" guy refuses to be held to the same standard of beauty that he holds women to, he must find another reason for his lack of success with women. And the most popular, as we have seen, is to claim that women simply prefer jerks.

It's so transparently self-serving. But when you live in a world where male privilege is so pervasive, it's hard for some people to grasp anything else - and they believe that male privilege is just a questionable feminist premise.

Aegis, I think my very British sense of humour is going right over your head. I was teasing Ken about the tetchy thing. I'm hoping that a bit of humour might defuse some of the tension that seems to have developed. Think about what the word tetchy means - if I was intending to insult him I would have chosen a different word. The post about my experiences vs my Mum was meant as a bit of teasing too. I'm beginning to think that you're lacking the sense of humour gene to be honest. In general when people get tetchy online I'm more likely to be amused and respond by taking the piss out of them in the hope that they'll realise how silly they're being than to get angry. Again, it's a Brit thing. I'm not quite sure where you're reading anger from, since the only person I've been angry with on this thread is John.
And as to this "Usually, tough questions directed towards the premises of what I believe are something I welcome".
Um, pot, let me introduce you to kettle. Aegis, no offense, but I've seen you refuse to even consider that your basic premises may be wrong more times than I can count. Remember the thread at Alas? Remember how stubborn you were being? I can be intellectually arrogant at times, no question, but you've got even me beat hands down on the intellectual condescension front. A little self-awareness, please.
I'd be happy to debate the whole male/female sexual desire thing with Ken (or you) if he'd meet me halfway. Arwen tried and it didn't work out too well, and I'm not quite sure why Ken got so angry and defensive with her. As long as you guys insist on defining sex in purely male terms and not even listening to the female perspective there isn't really much possibility for discussion. I just find it bizzare that you guys would hear a woman say "women are hornier than you think we are and respond with "no they're not". Don't you think we might know something about how it feels to be a woman?
On the subject of male privilege, take a look at Amp's list. I'm trying to avoid reinventing the wheel if I don't have to. One example off the top of my head though. If you (male) get a promotion you can be fairly sure that the majority of people won't think you got it because you were shagging the boss, or because you were pretty. I've had both happen to me on several occasions, and in both cases they were totally wrong. If I were a man I'd bet you any money that wouldn't have happened.
Also, privilege IS an absence of disadvantages. It's often about the assumptions that people DON'T make as well as those they do. For example, the fact that no-one assumes I got into university because of affirmative action? White privilege. The fact that my husband gets praise things like remembering my birthday, anniversaries etc. while it's just assumed that I'll remember his? Male privilege. The fact that no-one assumes that I can't be trusted with kids or that I'm somehow instinctively perverse? Straight privilege. Are you starting to see how this works?
I could name more examples but it would really be easier if you just read Amp's list. I'm pretty sure I posted a link somewhere upthread.

Nancy - word. It's kind of like this. Imagine that you're a fish. Someone says "look at all this water" and all the fishes say "what water? I don't see any water" because they've never known what it is NOT to be surrounded by water. If they do acknowledge the water the next comment will be "so what we're surrounded by water? A little water never hurt anyone. It's only natural for there to be water".
And so it it with male privilege, and white privilege, and straight privilege...

Of course I meant to say "and so it is", which is what I would have said if I could type properly.


A little water never hurt anyone. It's only natural for there to be water".
And so it it with male privilege, and white privilege, and straight privilege...

Great analogy!

And blindness to male privilege pops up in funny ways sometimes. On the Daily Show, a female actor showed up to promote her movie. The clip that the movie's PR people chose to show is a flirtation scene between her and Tom Arnold. Jon Stewart was clearly bemused by the idea of matching the attractive young actor with Tom Arnold. And really, I can't imagine how the prospect of seeing Tom Arnold as an object of desire will cause anybody to want to see this movie. If anything, it's going to make many women think twice before going to see it. But either the movie's PR team doesn't get that, or they don't care what women think - they're trying to attract men who identify with Tom Arnold.

And of course, in the land of male privilege, a Tom Arnold gets an attractive young woman on screen. But if you're an older woman you damn well better look like Susan Sarandon if you want to be portrayed as a romantic partner for a younger man.

Here's what it means to be a guy, according to advertisers. And guess what - it doesn't mean "nice."

And this is why "nice" guys think they deserve extra credit for being nice. They don't seem to realize that the bar for male niceness is set ridiculously low.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/advertising/2005-05-31-correct-usat_x.htm

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Ads take bite out of political sensitivity

By Theresa Howard, USA TODAY
May 31, 2005

It's correct to be politically incorrect again, at least for marketers trying to sell products to young men.

Frustrated in trying to get the attention of this notoriously hard-to-reach group, some are thumbing their noses at decorum. They are getting notice with TV and Internet advertising built around sex, wacky humor or "bad-boy" attitude.

Unilever's Axe deodorant and bath products, burger chains Carl's Jr. and Wendy's, and jeans maker Levi's are among those taking cues from what's already hot with these 18- to 34-year-old guys — such as Maxim magazine — in going after some of their biggest customers.

'The Axe Effect: It can happen anywhere' — even in a car on prime-time TV.


"This is going to be the summer where guys re-embrace guyness," says Marian Salzman, trend spotter at ad agency J. Walter Thompson and author of The Future of Men, due in September. "It's exactly two years after the 'metrosexual,' and it's a logical backlash against something that was too extreme. It's not going to be armpits and farts. It's going to be a lot more sensible."

Sensible in guy-speak means less potty humor and more attitude and irony — and maybe sex. It does not mean that it won't offend the politically correct.

Among the marketers who are embracing their inner guy:

•Carl's Jr.

Adding heat to the Western chain's Spicy BBQ Six Dollar Burger (which actually costs $4.49) is a TV ad featuring a bump-and-grind car wash by bad-girl heiress Paris Hilton. In a sexy black swimsuit, she seductively washes down a Bentley and herself, working up an appetite for a Spicy BBQ sandwich.

For guys who want more, a longer version, outtakes, stills and screensavers are posted at www.spicyparis.com.

"This is exactly what (young guys) respond to," says Carl's Jr. marketing head Brad Haley. "This age group is very jaded about advertising. They've seen millions of ads in all kinds of forms. Speaking to them in the traditional fast-food, bite-and-smile way is a waste of money. You need to do something that's more likely to grab them by the lapels."

In June, Hardee's — CK Enterprises' other, Eastern burger chain — will begin airing a version of the Paris ad for its Spicy BBQ Thickburger.

•Wendy's.

Beginning June 13, a young man plagued with MEPS (Multiple Eating Personality Syndrome) wards off the conflicting cravings of his affliction with help from the chain's combo menu. Wendy's doesn't expect viewers to be offended by the parody.

"It's a way to draw attention to variety in our menu," says spokesman Bob Bertini. "The character does not have a real personality disorder. It's something we're having fun with."

•Levi's.

The "metrosexual male" trend takes it on the chin in the jeans maker's new Internet pitch to guys about making their lives less complicated — starting with wearing traditional Levi's 501s.

In a two-minute animated Web film (www.501uncomplicate.com), a guy gets sucked into, then overwhelmed by, the metrosexual world of grande lattes, no-carb beer, facials, pedicures and chest waxing. In the end, he finds refuge in a pair of Levi's.

"We're definitely talking to younger guys," says Levi's spokeswoman Amy Gemellaro. "He is as confused as anybody out there. ... We're saying there is a logical way to simplify."

• Axe.

The Unilever bath product and deodorant brand aimed at young men has been an unapologetic front-runner in politically incorrect sexual innuendo and bad-boy humor in the past couple of years. The basic pitch of the TV ads and other marketing is that using Axe makes a guy sexually irresistible to women — the so-called Axe Effect.

There is also a fancy, multilingual global Web site for guys: www.axeeffect.com. Content includes provocative images and sounds, such as a pair of voluptuous lips that coo "yes."

"These are guys that are completely obsessed with girls but don't know what to say to them," says Esther Lem, a Unilever vice president. "Axe is all about giving them an edge in the dating game."

The latest ad shows women with impressions on their backs, such as a steering wheel or an elevator button panel, to show that using Axe body spray can make a guy so sexy that women will want to have sex right here, right now. The tagline: "The Axe Effect: It can happen anywhere."

In keeping with the search-for-sex theme, on June 20 Axe launches a video game in which guys pit their pickup skills against 100 "ridiculously hot" women. Players collect and use moves to try to woo the women. The game, at www.mojomastergame.com, introduces a new fragrance, Unlimited.

The rollout also will include TV ads in which two young guys, Evan and Gareth, play the game in real life and keep a video journal of their escapades. The theme: "Play or be played."

I enjoy being a guy

Such messages trumpet a "new kind of maleness," Salzman says. " It's a new form of masculinity that says ... 'I'm not going to be made to feel guilty about being a guy.' "

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And the article doesn't even mention one of the most offensive ads - I forget who the advertiser was, but it shows a dingy, dirty-looking men's bathroom stall, and the sounds of people having sex. Then a man and a woman emerge, and the voice-over says:

"male fantasies...."

and the the man puts the toilet seat down

"and female fantasies..."

It's supposed to be funny, but I think it's a pretty accurate view of the female libido on the part of the advertiser.

Unfortunately, if you want to watch The Daily Show, you end up being forced to watch all the incredibly offensive ads aimed at Comedy Central's slob demographic.

BritGirlSF said:
Aegis, I think my very British sense of humour is going right over your head.

Ok, thanks for clarifying. I honestly had no way of telling that you were trying to be funny. I don't think that is the fault of either of us, but rather a problem inherent with communication over the internet. Believe it or not, my parents are both English. There was a time when I would attempt a lot more humor online, but I stopped because of people not getting it or misunderstanding it. Now I probably sound like some kind of android.

Um, pot, let me introduce you to kettle. Aegis, no offense, but I've seen you refuse to even consider that your basic premises may be wrong more times than I can count. Remember the thread at Alas? Remember how stubborn you were being? I can be intellectually arrogant at times, no question, but you've got even me beat hands down on the intellectual condescension front. A little self-awareness, please.

Oh, I will definitely admit that I was being stubborn and condescending on Alas (though I was actually holding back quite a lot). Actually, the mistake I made on Alas was that I didn't establish my basic premises first, but instead started with more complex and speculative arguments based on them. Also, something I had a big problem with on Alas was that people there were determined to distort my statements with straw man attacks and ad hominems. I admit, I have trouble hiding my contempt for that kind of intellectual laziness (including from MRAs, which is why I stopped posting on the standyourground.com forum). Bad Aegis.

I'd be happy to debate the whole male/female sexual desire thing with Ken (or you) if he'd meet me halfway.

My impression: He IS meeting you halfway, and you just can't see it!

Arwen tried and it didn't work out too well, and I'm not quite sure why Ken got so angry and defensive with her. As long as you guys insist on defining sex in purely male terms and not even listening to the female perspective there isn't really much possibility for discussion.

First, I'm not sure Ken was angy. A few comments of his may have been a bit defensive, yet I also saw him apologize or back down a couple times, which is why I claim that he is meeting you halfway. Does that count for nothing?

As for us "defining sex purely in male terms?" Huh? Please give an example of where either of us has done this. Also, I would like to point out that neither you nor any other woman here embody "the" female perspective. You don't speak for all women, any more than Ken or I speak for all men. Actually, if you take the average non-feminist woman off the street, I think she would find the notions that "females have the same level of sex drive as males," or that "females are as interested in casual sex as males" to be silly. I've suggested both those notions in discussions with female friends on mine, and they basically laughed at me (and these were not conservative or asexual women). So if Ken or I disagree with you or Arwen, it's not necessarily because we aren't listening to women; we are simply listening to other women who have different opinions than you.

I just find it bizzare that you guys would hear a woman say "women are hornier than you think we are and respond with "no they're not". Don't you think we might know something about how it feels to be a woman?

Sorry, but this sounds like a bit of revisionist history on your part. I don't think Ken has said anything like that.

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