Via Glenn Greenwald, I just made the acquaintance of a paragon of toxic masculinity, Andrew Klavan, and I don’t know whether to laugh or wince or drop-kick my laptop. He’s a writer of hard-boiled fiction who has apparently solved the puzzle of sexual harmony. Here’s Klavan’s take on marriage:
I’m the old-fashioned King of the Castle type: my wife knew it when she married me, she knows it now, and she knows where the door is if she gets sick of it. And you can curse me or consign me to Feminist Hell or whatever you want to do. But when you’re done, answer me this: why would a man get married under any other circumstances? I’m serious. What’s in it for him? I mean, marriage is a large sacrifice for a man. He gives up his right to sleep with a variety of partners, which is as basic an urge in men as having children is in women. He takes on responsibilities which will probably curtail both his work and his social life. If he doesn’t also acquire authority, gravitas, respect and, yes, mastery over his own home, what does he get? Companionship? Hey, stay single, dude, you’ll have a lot more money, and then you can buy companionship.
(There’s more here, if you’re in a self-punishing mood.)
Let’s try reversing the genders, now, shall we? Why on earth would a woman get married?
I’m serious. What’s in it for her? I mean, marriage is a large sacrifice for a woman. She gives up her right to sleep with a variety of partners, which is as basic an urge in women as having children is in men. She takes on responsibilities which will probably curtail both her work and her social life. If she doesn’t also acquire authority, gravitas, respect and, yes, mastery over her own home, what does she get? Companionship? Hey, stay single, girl, you’ll have a lot more money, and then you can buy companionship.
Hmmmph. The reversal was working pretty well up ’til the last line. Then again, maybe the shortfall of male sex workers would self-correct if women had all that gravitas and money that Klavan claims for men.
But hey, that wouldn’t be my utopia, anymore than most men would be happy as miniature Hugh Hefners. Does respect really have to be a zero-sum game, instead of mutual regard? Aren’t there forms of mastery that don’t entail becoming master of other human beings?
If I had to define a “real man” (which I’m generally loathe to do), at the top of my list would be confidence, which I think is sexy whatever your gender. A man who’s secure in himself doesn’t require a gun, a Hummer, a fawning little wife, or (as Greenwald points out) the occasional war of aggression. He’s not diminished by changing his babies’ diapers or cleaning the kitchen; indeed, he just might do both better than his wife. He’s actually part of his children’s lives. He’s not a breadwinner. He’s a father and a partner.
If that’s Feminist Hell, then please bring on the brimstone.