The Manly Stuff You Don’t Like, Guys?

There’s a whole list of things men are supposed to do, or be, or like and dislike, and so on. The stuff real men are into, that which they should never escape from, and that which they’d never do. 

In some circles, you can fail to satisfy one of the points from the ‘manly’ list, but if it’s two or more… well, you’re probably not man enough.

Once you reach the ripe old age of 21 or so, once you’re done with desperately trying to fit in with the cool kids and go on to live your actual life, those circles become rarer. But by that time, we have all internalised their message and in many little ways, we continue to police ourselves and each other.

And you might not care about this, but I’m sure you know what stuff I’m talking about.

Wearing only specific colours, ideally solely in the form of trousers, (t)shirts or suits. Remaining stoic no matter what. Being willing to use force. Being into fancy cars. Repairing cars. Repairing things around the house. DIY. Wanting lots of sex and getting it, ideally with beautiful women. Preferring hard facts to soft feelings. Generally preferring everything that’s hard, clear and straight to what’s soft, vague and curved. Making money, ideally lots. Enforcing respect. Being competitive. Watching sports. Beer and pizza. Hunting, fishing, grilling. Caring about social hierarchies and climbing them. Having a stable relationship with a woman. Liking action films but not rom-coms. Doing only essential personal grooming. 

These are some obvious examples, but the list continues. We might not be able to quote it from memory, but you and I both know that if someone mentions something, anything, we can probably classify it: manly or unmanly.

Who actually cares about this?

But between you and me, guys: do you actually like being a man? I mean, sure, we all like this or that aspect of it, maybe even many, but the whole package?

We might have internalised this list and the imperative to conform to it. But do we really need to care about it? 

Because the truth is, in much of the modern world men can go through life perfectly happily without giving two squats about what society tells us we should be like. Behold the spoils of liberalism!

I was curious what actual men actually think about this, so I went around asking on various forums:

What is the traditionally manly stuff that you don’t chime with and are quite happy to not have to be or do or like?

I got hundreds of replies and was not at all surprised that pretty much every point of the manly list does not suit somebody. Guys would commonly say there was just a time in their lives when they realised that actually, most people grow out of the teenage need to judge you by how well you fit in a box. 

Most people really don’t care, so why should we? And if some do, well, you can just not hang out with them.

The stuff we’re happy to leave out

First of all, many guys don’t give a squat about what books, TV and cinema are said to be ‘manly’. 

They really enjoyed female protagonists and very emotional storylines, Barbie came up again and again. Quite a few couldn’t stop talking about how awesome the romance genre is. I ended with a long list of great recommendations for stuff to see.

The second most common answer was: chasing women

You’d be surprised how many guys said they don’t particularly fancy this game of running after skirts and how funny they find the men who puff up every time a woman enters the room, tripping over their feet to impress her. Many guys hate the trope that they should be the ones doing the chasing and women the ones waiting to be chased after.

Then, it’s sports. 

Doing them, but most of all — watching them. I have to say I sympathise with this a lot. I personally couldn’t care less who’s winning which sportsball tournament, and when I know there’s some important game in town at all, it’s probably because there are some diversions or something.

Sex was next. 

It’s fascinating how many men said they are very happy to have a low sex drive or that they wish that their sex drives were lower. I count myself in the latter group. It can be a lot of joy, but my gods, does it feel like being sentenced to permanent brain-devouring frustration sometimes.

Having to be Mr Fixit was pretty high up the list, too. 

Turns out that many men have no interest in power tools, DIY or repairing stuff. They’re perfectly happy to hire a professional to do even the most basic stuff and focus on stuff that matters to them instead.

Hierarchies, competition and having to prove your masculinity to the guys were a big theme, too. 

This is hardly surprising — despite the ferocity with which the alpha male crowd is pushing this, pretty much every psychological study says that it all only leads to stress, pressure, anxiety and depression. 

A notable mention 

Some themes came up less often: turns out that plenty of guys don’t care about being stoic and anyone’s emotional rock, want nothing to do with cars and are quite happy engaging in a variety of hobbies seen as feminine.

Why should you care?

It was really good to see such a variety of replies and people saying so clearly how happy they are to have stepped beyond the man-box and found what actually works for them. There is a story behind every step on this journey and I think that men should share more of those stories to help each other see beyond the limits of the box and into the realm of possibilities available to them.

Feel free to share yours in the comments!

Or better — I am planning to record a series of short video interviews on that topic. If you would like to partake in one of them, get in touch.

Meanwhile, I invite you all, guys, to enjoy your lives the way you want to, without giving a flying fuck about what society tells you men should be like. Do manly stuff if you want to, don’t if you don’t. Pick and choose the bits that work for you and leave the rest to others.

And if anyone has a problem with you on that front, just play them this:

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