A 1950s-style magazine listicle on how to keep your man happy, generated a storm of protest online. Let’s get real about love, says Deirdre Reynolds
Have you had a chance to leaf through the latest consignment of glossy women’s magazines to hit shelves here yet?
If not, you may still be wondering what the last sexual taboo is (and why more and more women are doing it), how much sex is normal and when it’s OK to ogle men - just some of the burning questions answered by the September issues of Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Marie Claire, respectively.
Still, by now, at least you know that the way to a man’s heart is to hand him a cold beer as he steps out of the shower and make him a snack after sex, right?
According to the now infamous article posted online by Glamour US earlier this month, those are but two of the ‘13 Little Things That Can Make a Man Fall Hard for You’, not forgetting “giving him a massage” and “answering the door in a negligee”.
Sadly for the title, as the Mad Men-inspired listicle went viral for all the wrong reasons, the only thing falling hard was the magazine on its own sword, and readers — on the floor laughing.
“The 1950s called; they want their advice back”, one Twitter used quipped.
Pulling the piece from its website, after it had been ripped to shreds on social media, the fashion bible confessed to having an off-day: “We understand that the list read like a 1950s marriage handbook — and nobody wants to go back there.
“What we want for you is love based on equality, not indentured servitude with date night. We’re sorry for slipping off message.”
As editor of Ireland’s leading glossy for women aged 18-28, U Magazine’s Aisling O’Toole says she wasn’t shocked by the blowback.
“I’m not surprised that this particular article got such a negative response,” she says.
“Modern women don’t hanker after relationships the way previous generations did. Suggesting that men can be tricked into falling in love is not only insulting to women, but also to men.”
“Naturally sex is a big part of U Magazine,” continues O’Toole “but it’s not the only part.
“Our readers are very savvy, confident and intelligent women, who aren’t defined by what happens in the bedroom, or outside it as the case may be.
“For us, it’s important that sex features are empowering, informative and entertaining,” she says.
“We spend an inordinate amount of time with our sex and relationship contributors making sure that every article reflects the ethos of the magazine and U woman, and take our responsibility very seriously.”
As the cringeworthy listicle — which also included “being open to what he wants to try in the bedroom”— pinged around the world, one miffed reader took to social media to ask: “Is Glamour’s ‘13 Little Things That Can Make Men Fall Hard for You’ the worst thing ever written?’”
Incredibly, probably not.
Down through the editions, magazine sex tips have notoriously run the gamut from the demeaning to the downright deranged.
Take Cosmopolitan’s suggestion to cook topless to spice things up in the, um, kitchen back in 2010 or Women’s Health magazine’s more recent advice to singletons last year to, ahem, get intimate with the arm of the couch.
“Articles like this one are amusing as they seem to portray a type of 1950s relationship starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson,” says Teresa Bergin, sex therapist and psychotherapist of Mind and Body Works in Dublin.
“The subservient woman serving a martini to her weary husband when he returns from the man’s world of work.”
“They’re only helpful in so far as they might trigger a conversation between partners about how they show love and affection for each other, and if they could both do more in this regard.”
“Genuine relationships develop when two people open themselves up to connecting in as balanced a way as possible, not when one is trying to catch the other by presenting a version of themselves perceived to be more acceptable.
“Put simply, love cannot be earned. Neither can it be coaxed into existence by massaging someone’s feet — let alone their ego.”
Despite appearing on the cover of Glamour earlier this year and playing a women’s magazine writer in her new movie, comedian Amy Schumer admits to having a love/hate relationship with lunchtime literature for ladies.
“I make fun of women’s magazine a lot, because they’re great fodder,” concedes the new feminist icon, who’s set to attend the premiere of Trainwreck at the Savoy Cinema in Dublin tonight.
“Some of them make you feel bad for just being born with a [vagina].”
Directed by Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow, the anti-rom-com — about a booze-swilling, bed-hopping journalist who falls for a sports doctor she is profiling — has equally been praised for flipping the script on Hollywood’s gender norms.
“I don’t try to be a feminist,” insists Schumer. “I just am.
“I have no interest in trying to be the perfect feminist, but I do believe feminists are in good hands with me.”
For sure, the movie makes a refreshing change from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), Bride Wars (2009) or Leap Year (2010) in which unmarried women were all portrayed as being desperate to ‘lock down’ their man, as Glamour put it — presumably so they can then start “stocking the fridge with his favourite drinks”.
“It’s just so exhausting to be told over and over again that women have to cater to men to ‘keep them interested’,” says Siobhan Ramos of Cork Feminista, a voluntary feminist organisation, “while men never get the same advice articles or movies. Essentially, it is telling women that they alone are responsible for the longevity and quality of their relationship.
“It also focuses on women in subservient roles to men, and reinforces stereotypical gender roles for both men and women.”
So if it’s not post-coital “grilled cheese [sandwiches]” or bathroom beers, what is it that the modern bloke looking for in a relationship?
“In my experience, fun, honesty and respect are some of the main qualities people look for in a partner,” says psychosexual therapist Eithne Bacuzzi of Sandyford Wellness Centre in Dublin, “whether male or female”.
“Sexual attraction is obviously important, but in the long-run, it’s intellectual and social compatibility that help the relationship go the distance.
“As a relationship counsellor, I would say open and honest communication — both in and out of the bedroom — is the one of the most essential components in any relationship,
“Ultimately, most people are just looking for someone they can truly be themselves with.”
For some Irish men however, it seems Glamour’s step-by-step guide to snaring a man may not be that far off the mark, after all.
“If they’re being honest, most of my male clients say the number one thing they’re looking for in a woman is femininity,” says Jennifer Haskins of Dublin-based introduction agency Two’s Company.
“They’re not looking for a woman who’s going to arm wrestle them across the table — or drink them under it.
“Women often tell me, ‘I don’t want any man to think I need them’, when, generally speaking, men love to feel needed and appreciated.
“It’s not about being subservient, or going back to the days when women fetched their husband’s pipe and slippers as soon as he came through the door,” she continues, “although I’m sure plenty of men would subscribe to that in the same way that many women would love to come home to find dinner on the table.
“It’s about allowing them to hold the door open for you — and saying ‘thank you’ when they do.”
Of course, women’s glossies are not all about bending over backwards — quite literally, in some cases — to please your man.
The latest copy of Glamour also features the story of young mum who fled war-torn Libya on a deadly migrant boat; Marie Claire reveals why US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is much more than JUST a ‘good wife’; while Cosmo includes career tips from ‘the $1 billion woman’, Spanx founder Sara Blakely.
If you do happen to peruse the sex tips though, just make sure your other half does too, advises Teresa Bergin: “Expressing appreciation, acts of service and physical touch are all part of our ‘love language’.
“We absolutely do need to show our partners that we love and think about them, but mutuality is key.
"When one person is putting all the effort into ‘pleasing’ their partner, there is an immediate imbalance, potentially leading to resentment on one side and a growing sense of entitlement on the other,” she says.
“And that is a recipe for disaster — never mind grilled cheese!”
13 Little Things That Make Men Fall Hard for You
1. Stocking the fridge with his favourite drinks. Bonus points: Bring him back to his fraternity days by handing him a cold one as he steps out of the shower.
2. Making him a snack after sex. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal — a simple grilled cheese or milk and cookies will do.
3. Emailing him the latest online gossip about his favourite TV show. You don’t have to have a BFF at HBO. Just share applicable links from your Twitter feed and pat yourself on the back.
4. Bragging about him to your friends, family, the stranger on the street corner — whomever. Proclamations of pride will make his chest puff out and his heart swell.
5. Answering the door in a negligée — or, better yet, naked.
6. Being open to what he wants to try in the bedroom and out. An open mind is attractive no matter your playground.
7. Letting him help solve your petty work problem. Many men don’t do gossip, but they do like to fix things.
8. Spitting out sports stats for his favourite team. Showing an interest in his favourite players will earn you points on and off the field.
9. Making a big deal out of his favourite meal. Does he like hot dogs cut up into his boxed mac-and-cheese? Serve it on a fancy tray in bed to really see him smile.
10. Treating his friends as well as you treat your own. If you win their affections, you’ll win his heart.
11. Sitting side-by-side while he watches his favourite TV. It may not feel like quality time to you, but it’s the best time to him.
12. Giving him a massage — happy ending completely optional.
13. Taking him back to third grade with a tease over anything from how you’ll dominate him on the basketball court to his weird hairstyle.
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