my journey through the pursuit of love & happiness

relationship role reversals: are men the new girls?

Posted on: June 8, 2010

Last year I read “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both” by Laura Sessions Stepp.

Towards the end, the author argues that young ladies acting like young men have resulted in young men being more emotionally available and wanting a relationship—in short, guys are starting to play the part of females in relationships.

Is this relationship role reversal real?

In the past couple of years I’ve experienced guys who I feel as guys read too much into my words and actions; guys who get all emo on me; and, guys who days later are still holding on to an argument I let go of hours after it happened. Let’s be honest, these are all stereotypical female activities.

That being said in the past few years I and many other straight women and gay men have also experienced guys who lied and probably cheated, who only wanted to be a ‘friend’ in the hopes of parlaying vulnerability/opening up to to get sex, guys who threatened physical abuse, boys who play the coy I’m-too-cool and will wait three days before texting (as in not calling),  and guys who make out with someone in front of you two days after they slept in your bed. Keep it classy boys.  I could just as easily write this blog wondering, where have all the cowboys gone?

So yes, men have not entirely changed. People are people. And horrible people are horrible people. But there is something going on in the war between the sexes. Are the latest dating generations victims of role reversal? Are women switching sides? If so, is this a whole grass-is-greener-phase?

Call it penis envy, call it whatever you want, but in no time in recent history has it been acceptable as it is today for a woman to sleep (around) like a man. Nor have women had so many educational opportunities that have allowed them to be independent, self-reliant and their own breadwinner.

For the most part I think that change is good, but some consequences of role reversal I do not agree with in my personal life. I’m saddened that I live in era where men seem to be less gentlemanly and romance is on life support.

Yes, I think it is great that women are allowed to express themselves sexually. I literally cannot fathom how it was for my grandmother’s genration — where single women were not allowed to buy birth control, in fact in cases of married women doctors required the husband’s permission to prescribe birth control. This was still occurring in the 1960s.

There is no substitute for sexual expression and the recognized right that I can and should enjoy sex.

Sexual liberation and equality for women is a good thing.

But with the good comes the bad.

Why is it okay for females to act like males but not okay for males to act like females? Our society has an interesting paradox where tomboys are generally socially accepted while nancyboys are not.

Not to get all dirty word feminist, but really, how far can society has come if it is still looked down upon to act like a female? And I’m no longer talking about males acting like females, but females acting like women carries its own negative connotations.

The phrase acting like a woman itself generally implies being emotional and over-reacting. While society values manly characteristics because being a man is associated with virility and strength.

Will this view change if we see substantial changes in men’s roles in relationships?

Women’s roles have changed. There’s no doubting that. Women are no longer overwhelmingly dependent on men financially; the reasons women stay married/get married have changed.

Is this new elite force of young women striving to have it all emotionally draining women? Are we beginning to feel the demands of work and providing and having children? Will we be able to continue at this rate? Do we find ourselves having it all yet wondering, is this it?

With greater equality regarding opportunities for the sexes, will we also see equality in other areas? Maybe in an ideal world everything would be equal; this means there is no acting like a man/woman. It’s all the same. Men and women are the same. This, of course, will never happen. And really, probably should not happen.

So what does this all mean for the relationship dynamic regarding men and women?

Are men becoming women? Before I mentioned guys who have repeatedly taken on “female relationship” characteristics. Did these characteristics always exist? Do men now feel comfortable showing the female side that has been there all along? Is this just a bunch of bullshit?

I for one have been surprised this past year to see how much guys will read into little things. I’ve probably never felt more like a guy this year than when I’ve had to explain why I didn’t call a guy when I said I would. No this wasn’t a first time calling. This was a friendly we’ve dated before and are still friends call. Sometimes not calling is just not calling. There’s no thought to it.  I suppose he felt our previously established relationship granted him the courtesy of me always calling when I said I would because that’s the way it’s always been in the past. Well things change.

There are other instances I’ve experienced with guys appearing to read too much into my actions. Doesn’t you being in my bed satisfy your desire to know that I like you? Isn’t that a given? Do I really have to show emotion when I do not see you showing emotion. I love that what is expected of me from the opposite sex is not given to me by the opposite sex. If you want me to act a certain way than, first of all, I’m not a mind reader. Tell me. Second of all, why do you except me to act like a ‘girl’ and to show emotions? Is this the only way you feel comfortable, the only way to reassure you about where we stand? Is this what you’ve learned from women and past relationships to rely on or is this what you need?

I can empathize with men on a whole new level.

I’m not defending me somewhat acting like a man in relationships. But really, I believe this is the evolution of things. I can’t be completely blamed for responding to men by acting like a man. It seems like the best way to communicate with the opposite sex is to take on their thinking and reasoning, right? Wrong.

Well now some of you men out there know what it’s like to be a girl. Grrrrreat. Let me just sing my little ‘If I were a boy’ anthem and hope that you all get it together and start understanding women better. I. Won’t. Hold. My. Breath.

Should we just expect communication between the sexes to always be damned? Can we not learn anything from this role reversal? Will the sexes ever be on the same page?  I mean we put a man on the moon…

Do men want women to act more like men? Do men view this as beneficial in any way besides women being more liberal with their bedroom door?

Is our sexual freedom and men’s showing emotion bringing down years and years of well-defined roles for both sexes? Are we pissing on ourselves? Should I try real hard to act more like a female?

It’s not just emotionally where men are taking on female characteristics, but the pride many guys now take in their appearance reflects guys being more like women.

More and more beauty products are targeting men, creating metrosexuals who take as much care (or sometimes it seems more re: Jersey Shoe) than females.

I think that changing gender roles are good. We shouldn’t have to confine to how society tells us to act. We should be true to ourselves. But how are these changing gender roles affecting our relationships with the opposite sex?

Whose the chaser? Whose the receiver? As much as trends can tell young girls that guys are flattered when a girl hits on them, I know women who complain that men don’t respond to their advances and studies show that men still want to pursue. I guess no one told evolution.

When I was younger this dating stuff just seemed to come natural. No thinking about it, I would just do what I felt at that moment. Now I find myself over thinking sending a text because I don’t want to appear too needy or too sexually aggressive. For years guys have been complaining that women are too emotional, now we have begun to take the emotions out of the equation, but at what cost?

Growing up my friends and I dressed like guys with baggy pants and wore boxers for dance practice.

It is only to follow that acting as well as dressing like a guy would be looked at as acceptable by female peers, something to be desired.

It is easy for girls to act like a man and disregard his feelings because we are told over and over that guys don’t have (much) feelings.

This is not the first time in history where women have taken on male characteristics. Suffrage, industrial revolution and Rosie the Riveter are just a few examples.

Society makes it a desirable quality for women to act like men but not vice versa.

Men are still looking for these emotional signals so they know how we feel about them but women have started reining in their expressions of emotion.  This leaves men more confused than ever.

I know from experience that guys do have feelings. Every girl I talked to said that they think the idea of men having no feelings is overrated. One guy I talked to said, “we are created a certain way and men and women complement each other emotionally.” He continued, “I want [a girl] to be emotional, that allows me to feel things and experience things in a way I never could.”

Is this every guy out there? Can’t be. But this guy believes that the majority of guys want an emotional connection with girls they like.

From my own anecdotal evidence I had a previous boyfriend who on our first date looked at me and said something along the lines of, “don’t expect me to be your boyfriend.” I rolled my eyes and thought to myself how horrible this date had been so far and how he certainly did not qualify as boyfriend material.

The date ended better than expected and we continued to see each other on an average of three times a week for the next couple of weeks. One night I finally told him, look I can have sex with you tonight but then I what will happen is that I will emotionally close myself off to you and there will be basically no hope of me ever having feelings for you. Is that what you want?

He said No and continued to wait for my emotions to play catch up.

Maybe men have been like women all along.

After all, they do have nipples.

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"IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE ME AT MY WORST, THAN YOU DON'T DESERVE ME AT MY BEST" -marilyn monroe

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