Guy Talk

Originally posted by Amelia at Female Impersonator
I will be up front. I’m upset. If you disagree with me or feel I jumped to conclusions, feel free to comment. Maybe we can make something constructive of this.

I suppose most people in America are familiar with the term “girl talk”. This term is generally associated with women who get together to talk, most often to complain about men.

Well, a week ago I got a peek at what one young man called “guy talk.” Here is a rough transcription of the entire exchange between two men who are in committed, monogamous relationships:

Man 1: So how’s your woman? You haven’t told me much about her.
Man 2: She’s great. She’s thin, blond, and loves sex.
Man 1: Sounds like you should keep her around.
Man 2: Yeah, I will. She takes care of me, too. How’s your woman?
Man 1: We’ve been fighting a lot but I don’t want to get rid of her.
Man 2: Man, don’t you hate that?
Man 1: Yeah, and the sex is great. Makes it even harder to get rid of her.

People will ask me what’s so bad about this. Why am I making such a big deal about this? This is normal, it’s…guy talk. And that is the problem. I called Man 2 out about this behavior and he said just that, “What? It’s guy talk.” I know that people like to talk about sex. Besides the fact that I live in a society where productive, meaningful discussions about sex are practically nonexistent, the above conversation bothers me because it reminds me that certain men only know how to talk about women with other men in terms that verbally turn women into objects. Why stay with her? Well, the sex is great. Never mind anything else. Her sex is what she’s good for, otherwise she’s disposable.

If men are taught that it is acceptable to speak about women as if they are nothing but their bodies, their looks, the sex they can give to men, if they are taught that this kind of dialog is normal and should be expected among men, then we are living in a world where many forms of oppression of women are possible.

This small exchange, this seemingly insignificant act puts a mask of normacly over the idea, whether consciously agreed with or not, that women are objects, not humans, good only for things like sex and pleasing men, and they can be gotten rid of if the getting isn’t good enough.

It doesn’t matter if you’re like Man 2 and you “bought roses for her because she had a bad day” and you “hold doors open for her”. If you think talking about women in this way is acceptable you are helping to uphold a society where women are still, in many ways, treated like they are inferior. Talk opens doors.

What doors are we holding open if we think it’s acceptable for our male friends to talk about their girlfriends like this?

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    I think men often feel that conversation like this is the only acceptable way they can discuss their relationship partners. Women have long, extended dialogues with each other about their partners, but men are expected to have short, not terribly deep conversations.

    Yes, this does reduce women to objects. I’ve always despised these sorts of talks. But if you stripped gender out of the picture, you’d still find that men are afraid to truly open up to each other. They speak in these cute little couplets to each other because, in their mind, in depth analysis of their relationship is not masculine. Men are still expected to be strong and self-reliant. Talking about potential problems or desiring more long-lasting conversation would be uncomfortable. It would possibly make one or both men very uncomfortable.

    We can work on the sexism aspect, but encouraging men to rely on others and not feel constrained to share their personal feelings with one another is a major challenge.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    Man 2 sounds like the kind of Eurocentric yup-trash no one I know has the time of day for. While “thin”, “blonde” and “loves sex” is all well and good, he rattles them off like they’re achievements on HIS part, it’s like a checklist of things conventional society deems valuable in women. He doesn’t even state that he personally finds her attractive or enjoyable to be around, just that she meets these particular criteria.

    Man 1 – well, I feel like there’s not enough information given. Like what do they fight about? How long has the fighting been going on? I don’t know if he feels like it’s something he and his partner can work through, or if this relationship is oil on water, but he stays in it because the sex is great. Maybe he didn’t feel like he could discuss the more personal aspects of his relationship or the nature of their arguments with Man 2. Hell, I wouldn’t bother trying to have an intelligent conversation with Man 2 either!

  • Eugene

    …One thing you have to keep in mind is that these are the attributes that these men value most in their partners, but this doesn’t automatically mean that theses men aren’t aware of the thousand other qualities their partners have.

    Most of the straight men I’ve met in life all want a partner that they find very attractive and one that has a compatible sex-drive. These are key attributes that men value, but not the only attributes that men will notice and look for in a partner.

    From my perspective, for better or worse, men will always think and act like men, which I know can seem very strange and alien to how women think and experience the world, but I don’t think it’s possible to make men think and act like women do. Though I would agree that to a certain degree many men are emotionally shut down and are likely not even aware of this disability. I think much of this stems from the culture and environment that men are raised in, where a man is supposed to “suck it up” and persevere through any hardship ( physical or emotional ) that comes their way.

  • Laura

    “If men are taught that it is acceptable to speak about women as if they are nothing but their bodies, their looks, the sex they can give to men, if they are taught that this kind of dialog is normal and should be expected among men, then we are living in a world where many forms of oppression of women are possible.”

    Absolutely! I dislike many of the guys my boyfriend hang out with because they are the type of people who reinforce this thinking too, they talk and look at women like they’re there just to be looked at sexually and talked about in this same objectifying and misogynistic way. He is too scared to speak to them about it (because of the stereotype, it’s unacceptable to point out what’s wrong with this) so he either joins in (in the past) or simply ignores it. I wish he would try to explain to them what they’re doing but at the same time I understand why he feels he cannot.

    These men likely won’t even realise that by talking about their girlfriends or women in this way, they are reinforcing and partaking in the normalisation of objectification. I’m not blaming them either, they probably don’t even intend to do this – as Nazza said, it’s the only widely acceptable way for guys to talk about ladies. Maybe guy one really wanted to say that he thinks his girlfriend is beautiful, smart and caring but maybe he was scared of being labelled a fag or overly sensitive.

    That is the whole problem though 1) that if you mention this to most guys they won’t even realise what they are doing is wrong and 2) it’s so normalised they feel they have to carry on in this way, which in turn reinforces this stupid stereotype that men have to talk about women only in terms of sex and hotness to be accepted.

    Both of these things are dangerous, I believe there are many men out there who understand this point of view but are too scared to say anything about it. The culturally accepted vision of masculinity is as bad for men and women as the culturally accepted vision of femininity is.

    Eugene: I disagree with “men will always think and act like men… but I don’t think it’s possible to make men think and act like women do.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner who you are compatible with physically and well as mentally, that isn’t just a male thing though. I don’t think you cant just put this down to the old excuse of “that’s just what men do” like they can’t help it or it’s a natural, unchangeable response to having a penis. I don’t think this way of thinking is naturally ‘male’ I think it it learned. Men are taught from an early age that it’s acceptable to look and talk about women in this way, they have brains, they can think about and change the way they act.

    I believe that if men weren’t taught that it’s normal and acceptable to be like this, they would have more freedom to say what they really think. That means being sensitive, honest, whatever they want. Sure there would still be some misogynistic dicks around – but those who aren’t wouldn’t feel scared to deny ‘masculinity’ and speak up about what they really think.

    • sex-toy-james

      Your comments illuminate my take on this so very well. How many times did you just refer to fear as the reason that men can’t be honest about their feelings. You mention that men are taught that talking about women like this is acceptable, but more often you indicate that you believe that men do it because they’re afraid to step out of it. If you speak of women in the manner illustrated, I’d propose that either you’ve got a messed up view of women and relationships and will have problems forming fulfilling relationships, or you’re scared to open up and be yourself because someone might make fun of you. So dysfunction or cowardice, take your pick, but neither of those strikes me as a traditional masculine value.
      I think that we need to call this behavior what it is, weakness. Pretending to be someone else with different values in public because you’re afraid of your actual values being judged, that is clearly weak and unmanly. I’m pretty sure that manly men say what they want without fear of judgment and pursue it.
      I want a relationship that’s emotionally, sexually, and companionably satisfying while also intellectually challenging. Also, I need someone who cuddles. Right now I’m getting all of that. I have a hard time imagining tolerating a life where I couldn’t talk openly about who I am and what I want out of life. The whole concept disturbs my sense of machismo. I’m a little taken aback when people try to blame a gender that I share with them for their weakness.

      • Laura

        What you call a “weakness” or cowardice, I call fear. I’m not exactly sure what you’re argument is about other than semantics. As far as I can see we’re on the same ‘side’.

        Okay so your case is different and you’re a guy who says what you mean, great. But that doesn’t mean every “manly man” should, or does do that. In the example I gave – in that case the reason he didn’t fight back was due to fear. If you want to call that a weakness then fine…

        What I was really trying to get at though is that acting in this way is not a natural response to being male – it is accepted and normalised through our culture. I do not blame men for this, for simply “being men” or “that’s just how things are”. They’re the oldest non-excuses in the book! I recognise they are thinking beings who can make choices and choose how to react. I offer an alternative for men simply being animals who cannot control what having a penis has ‘naturally’ done to them. I offer an alternative explanation for the acceptability and normalisation of female objectification.

        • sex-toy-james

          I didn’t mean to argue with you. I think that the difference I see between weakness and fear is that you have little control over fear, but you do have some control over how you deal with fear. I agree with you that discussing women and relationships in superficial and limited terms isn’t a natural male response, but an accepted and socialized response. People buy into it and even reinforce it out of fear. Then they claim that it’s incontestable aspect of being a guy, so that they’re not afraid, they just can’t do anything about it. I feel that that excuse needs to be yanked away, and those hiding behind it need to be recognized as hiding behind it out of fear.

  • davenj

    a. People treating this like a direct set of quotes need to stop. This is an admittedly stripped-down version of the conversation from an outside observer, so direct analysis of these “comments” is impossible, since we don’t know what the comments were, how they were phrased, the intonation, or a whole host of other things that are relevant to actually understanding what was said.

    b. Staying in a relationship because of the sexual component isn’t necessarily wrong, either for men or for women. Plenty of people are in relationships primarily because that relationship is sexually satisfying. One can maintain that situation without reducing their partner to an object. Many people would prefer a sexual relationship that is otherwise unfulfilling to no relationship at all, and it’s not really fair to judge a decision like that if you’re not in their shoes.

    c. Yes, men are socialized to speak in certain ways with their male peers. That doesn’t necessarily indicate underlying attitudes, at least not in their entirety. A woman can wear heavy makeup or shave her legs and still have strong feminist feelings. Actions that arise from social pressure don’t always indicate sentiment, or only partially indicate it.

    It’s amazing how much people here think they can conclude from an overheard and transcribed conversation.

    • Napoleoninrags

      Thank you for this, I agree 100%.

      I don’t think anyone would deny the power of socialization in terms of shaping the way men (and everyone else) speak to and interact with one another. However, the conversation “quoted” here, at least in the form it has been reported by the OP, could very, very easily have been spoken by many of my women friends talking to each other about men. Especially “the sex is great. makes it harder to get rid of her.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that from friends. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with it. The idea that relationships are supposed to be based on something “more” than sex is problematic to say the least. YOUR relationship may be based on something other than sex, and you have every right to make that kind of decision and to seek out like minded partners. I certainly have. But that’s a decision that is made about values and desires between individuals, not something that we should be using feminism to enforce on others.

      • davenj

        Agreed. The post definitely seems to be at least partially based on the idea that a relationship that continues purely because of sexual compatibility is inherently wrong. While one might argue that this situation is not ideal (and there are folks who would disagree with that assessment), it’s not really fair to judge people for not participating in ideal relationships.

        Relationships are messy, and plenty of people stay in less than ideal relationships because a single component of that relationship is really good. Sometimes it’s emotional support. Other times it’s sex.

        One can describe individually valuable parts of a relationship without “objectifying”. In fact, most descriptions of individuals in a social setting are by definition incomplete. Private information is withheld, and the length of the conversation and its context dictate what information will be shared. This isn’t objectification, it’s compartmentalization.

  • athenia

    Man 1: So how’s your woman? You haven’t told me much about her.
    “So how’s your girlfriend? You haven’t told me much about her.”

    Man 2: She’s great. She’s thin, blond, and loves sex.
    “She’s great. You would totally approve of her and want to bone her too.”

    Man 1: Sounds like you should keep her around.
    “I approve.”

    Man 2: Yeah, I will. She takes care of me, too. How’s your woman?
    “Yeah, I’m still dating her because she’s a lot of fun to be around and my life is better with her in it. How’s your girlfriend.”

    Man 1: We’ve been fighting a lot but I don’t want to get rid of her.
    “We’ve been fighting a lot because she doesn’t want to do anal. She told me I had to go first, but I don’t want to because that’s totally gay.”

    Man 2: Man, don’t you hate that?
    “Man, don’t you hate that?”

    Man 1: Yeah, and the sex is great. Makes it even harder to get rid of her.
    “So I have to keep fucking her because I know you guys approve of her and you’ll totally make a move on her if I let her go.”

    Sorry. This is in no way mean to imply that girls can’t be superficial, but the convo just seemed so ridiculous, I had to spice it up!