Incurably Curious

Nancy Boys Are Everywhere

Meterosexual ManHistorically, I’ve always gone for effeminate blokes: tall, skinny types with long eyelashes and perfectly-coiffed hair. The kind of boys that would cause my mother to ask whether I was in denial about being gay whenever she came back from a dinner party or a night on the sauce (“It’s not that I have a problem with lesbians, darling, I just don’t want you to be one!”)

To be fair, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety on offer when I was a teenager. I went to an all-girls grammar school, and the only prey potential boyfriends in sight were the gangling youth at the all-boys school opposite, which was teeming with the academic offspring of the Buckinghamshire middle-class. Girls who went in for the grunting Neanderthals that made our mothers and grandmothers go weak at the knees – built like a bison and hairier than a Wookie, the kind who won’t watch Titanic or eat salad or wear anything but a T-shirt in any weather because feelings/lettuce/sweaters are for sissies – had to look elsewhere.

Personally, I blame the mums.

The classic archetype of the blood-thirsty, overprotective father figures strapping chastity belts to his daughters has given way to pushy, doting mothers and clingy, over-sensitive sons. The result is an epidemic of mummies’ boys. I’m not talking men who can be replied upon to remember their mothers’ birthdays, I mean the ones that practically have to be prised away from their mothers’ teat before you can get them down the pub. I have a very good friend whose ex, Boring Tom, once spent the afternoon sat on his mother’s lap being essentially cuddled. In front of her parents. (The final nail in the coffin was when she had to check the man-child’s tyre pressure for him because he didn’t know how to do it himself, nor had the initiative to Google it. Very embarrassing.)

For me, it took until February last year to realise that girly men aren’t actually all that. The trigger-switch was the close of a two-year relationship with a bloke with astoundingly sub-par levels of testosterone. Here was a twenty-four year old man who got me to pluck his eyebrows every fortnight, cheerfully spent £16 on a pot of hair wax and shaved off his snail trail with a razor. When his new flat-packed bed arrived from Dreams, it was me who crawled around on the floor putting the thing together while he played the glamorous assistant and handed me the screwdrivers. In short, he was about as masculine as Graham Norton holding a strawberry Cornetto. I should probably have twigged when I guessed (rightly, it turned out) that he would like a complete Clinique for Men skincare set for Christmas. Not that there is anything wrong with male grooming, of course; quite the contrary. Skincare is very important regardless of gender; male or female, neglecting to exfoliate and moisturise properly is going to leave you looking like you’re made entirely out of elbow skin, but you know you’ve got problems when your boyfriend gets more excited about your new cooling eye gel than you do.

I’ve sorted hated myself for thinking like this. After all, as a crusader against all kinds of sexist bullshit – and that’s a two way street – it does seem a bit hypocritical. But recently I’ve had an epiphany. These ‘girly’ men display the qualities that are traditionally associated with women – excessive vanity, submissiveness, an irrational fear of DIY – but actually I find these qualities annoying and unattractive in anyone, regardless of gender. Nobody likes those irritating people who spend half their life taking duck-faced photos of themselves, or people with no backbone whatsoever, or anyone who can’t work out how to pump up their own bicycle tyres, that goes for boys and girls. Initiative is a great quality in anyone, in friends, lovers, mentors. Nobody likes a wet lettuce.

If nowadays we can reject the idea that these generally ‘weak’ traits are more feminine (and, conversely, that the more powerful traits are more masculine), then the problem is not ‘girly’ men but weak ones. Conversely, successful, outspoken, extroverted women are often described as manly or ‘butch’, but in fact they’re not being masculine per se, they’re just displaying the strong traits and personalities that traditionally have been associated with men.

But does exhibiting traits strongly associated with the opposite sex make you unattractive? The question is a bit more complicated with homosexual and trans people, but a quick straw poll of straight girls on Twitter unanimously demonstrated that most women prefer ‘men who act like men’. Apparently, no girl wants to have to hide her new expensive face cream from her boyfriend. I think most guys would avoid using phrases like ‘women who act like women’ to avoid being lynched by the angry feminist lobby, but observational evidence suggests that generally men are more attracted to, well, ‘girly’ girls. I have a friend who is outgoing, funny and supremely self-confident. She also sports a really spectacular rack. Recently a workmate told her, completely unprompted, that although she was fun, interesting and generally a right laugh, he wouldn’t ever consider dating her. He used the word ‘Banter-saurus Tits’ (!?!?) Although he phrased it badly, once his bizarre, back-handed compliment was untangled he meant that she was ‘one of the lads’. Someone to have a laugh with. Undateable.

Does this mean that forthright, pushy women are, in general, less attractive to men? Do quiet, weak-willed women do well with the opposite sex while men with the same qualities automatically fall by the wayside?

What ‘type’ do you go for? Do you like people who exhibit their traditional gender traits? Or do you like ‘girly’ men or ‘masculine’ women?

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8 comments on “Nancy Boys Are Everywhere

  1. Marina MacPherson
    April 7, 2013


  2. El
    April 8, 2013

    The phrase “neglecting to exfoliate and moisturise properly is going to leave you looking like you’re made entirely out of elbow skin” made me literally LOL. For realz.

  3. fizzieferret
    April 28, 2013

    Oh dear lord, I’ve had my fair share of mummies boys. Not a hint of back bone between them. One of them, at the age of 22, had to ask permission before he could come over and see me. And had his debit card “looked after” by his mother too.

    • CuriousEmily
      April 29, 2013

      Christ, the first thing I could probably forgive but the debit card thing would definitely be a deal breaker!

  4. Jack
    July 22, 2013

    Women have some blame in this, and, like men, they have every right to blame the ‘everyone’s a winner’, extreme feminism, laws, and the crap in music, tv, etc.

    As a sensitive, responsible, 30-something single male, I’ve found many of the women I date in my age to be quite picky and controlling. The cause/effect of all the manchildren may have something to do with the increasing princess syndrome. For some of these women, the pendulum has swung past equality.

    Let’s face it, these ‘girls’ who are also growing up later (in relationships at least, unlike in education and career), keep hooking up with the losers.

    In the end, men like me can’t help but scratch our heads at these girls. Obviously, we work hard for ourselves, but find there’s not a lot of incentive to put in the effort with unsatiable women. Marriage has become less desirable.

    Remember ladies – what defines a man acting like a man these days? Sure, it’s not the mommy’s boy emos walking around, but are you sure it’s the UFC thug or dbag from Jersey Shore (so I’ve heard…it’s not like I watch that crap)?

    It’s causing the Charlie Sheen syndrome in many men…even the nice guys. Problem is, many of these ‘men’ lack the well-paying job of course!

    Just two cents from a male who doesn’t like what’s happening to either gender in general.

    • CuriousEmily
      July 23, 2013

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for your comment! Very insightful.

      I love the phrase ‘Princess Syndrome’, and I totally agree that there are dozens of women out there who suffer from it (I like to call it ‘Self-Entitled Bitch Syndrome’) but I suspect I’m less hot on that because I’m fortunate not to count any of those women amongst my girl friends. Those of them that are complete lunatics fall more under the ‘completely mental ‘strong independent woman” umbrella than ‘princess’, but I take your point.

      Not all women base their preferences on what a guy does for a living. :)

  5. Simon King
    April 9, 2014

    OK, so I’ve been reading your blog in complete stitches since a friend of mine on Facerash shared the link (she had an ermagherd moment when she saw you studied at The Mighty Luff) but this post has made me want to post a comment.
    I’ve mused on traditional gender roles and sexual politics on a number of occasions. I’ve seen, over the years, far too many people in relationships whereby the fundamentals of one (or both) partners personalities have been ‘tolerated’ by the other, usually for reasons of attractiveness, prosperity or sexual performance. I like your dissection of the ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ traits (and I wholeheartedly agree with them! My wife is just as capable of changing a tyre, painting a wall or mowing the lawn as I am, but the hoovering is generally my bag because the Dyson is my baby!) but what is required for compatibility is your partner’s satisfaction with your allocation of those traits and for them not to be harbouring some deep desire to change or improve you in any fundamental way.
    Looking at my female friends, the majority of them are fairly no-nonesense characters who wouldn’t object to being called ‘strong’ – a freelance designer, marketing manager for a crane firm, ultrasound technician etc. I define them as my friends by their ability to converse, dance and drink regardless of the fact that they’ve got t3h bewbz.
    I’d be jiggered if I was trying to date now though. My wife followed me home after she got so hammered in Echos she couldn’t remember where her student flat was. To be fair, I’d been pestering her for a month to go out with me ;) I heard something on the radio the other day that said that nearly 20% of all new relationships begin online now. Incredible.
    As a PS, I’d like to say if you’re not writing professionally and are harbouring any dark thoughts about doing it for a living you should give it a go. You’ve got a real talent for telling a tale to a massive audience that makes it sound like someone you’ve known for ages regaling you down the pub.

    • CuriousEmily
      April 11, 2014

      Hi Simon! First and foremost, thanks so much for taking the time to write that beefcake of a comment. Secondly, congratu-fucking-lations on managing to meet your wife in Echos! What was your secret? The best any of us ever managed was half a blowjob round the back of the bins. Hardly love’s young dream…

      It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? At the end of the day, everyone (or, at least, everyone who isn’t a cunt) wants a level playing field for all the boys, girls, gays, straights, and people of all skin tones. But there is a point where human nature kicks in, and sometimes as a girl you want to be treated a bit like a lady, or as a bloke perhaps you occasionally want to do that alpha male, protective thing. We can’t deny there are differences between men and women, we just need to make sure they don’t unfairly affect one or the other financially, or in any other meaningful way. I think the general rule to follow – like in everything in life – is simply: “don’t be a dick”. It’s a good rule. And it sounds like it’s yours, too.

      And thank you so much for your vote of confidence! I do a bit of freelance outside the day job, maybe one day it’ll be my full-time gig. ;) My top dream is to write a book. I’ll send you a copy if it ever happens!

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2013 by in Dating & Sex, Feminism, Things That Make Me Furious and tagged , , .


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