We've heard from our mothers, our girlfriends, TV shows, movies and books that men only care about one thing: sex. Our popular culture is infatuated with the stereotype of the manly man and his hyperactive libido. From Barney Stinson to Charlie Harper and Joey Tribbiani, the list of men representing the socially understood version of masculinity is practically endless. Yet this stereotype of a macho man being one who can receive the most sexual attention, like most stereotypes, is fairly inaccurate.
A recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine surveyed 28,000 men between the ages of 18 and 75 in Western First-World countries, including Brazil, Germany, the US, Mexico, the UK, Italy, France and Spain. 11,000 men in China, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan were also surveyed. All of the men were asked to identify which traits are important to be considered a real man within their culture. Asked to rate each item on a scale in order of importance, the men chose between nine traits:
- Having a good job.
- Being financially stable.
- Being seen as a man of honor.
- Having success with women.
- Coping with problems on your own.
- Having an active sex life.
- Being in control of your own life.
- Being physically attractive.
- Having the respect of friends.
If manliness is based on sexual prowess, as our culture presupposes, we could expect the participants to rate it as high in priority. However, this was not the case.
In the study, the majority of men said that being a man of honor was the most important characteristic of manliness. After that, having control of your life and possessing a good job ranked as the next most important characteristics. In contrast, the two traits related to sexuality ranked low on the scale. Less than 3 percent of men said success with women was the most important masculine trait, and fewer than 6 percent of men said having an active sex life was the most important characteristic of masculinity. The scores did not vary much between different age groups or demographics, indicating that most men feel this way regardless of age or culture.
Guys don't value sex above all else. They value character, work ethic, and self-reliability. If we really want to have successful relationships, we need to treat men the same way we expect them to treat women - as more than just sexual objects. Respect is one of the key ingredients in a healthy relationship, and that goes both ways.