Noah Brand, a mysterious figure with a very nice hat, tells of his greatest professional failure, explains his theory of “The Success Myth,” and introduces the idea of the female gaze, for the Good Men Project:
The masculine equivalent to what Naomi Wolf called The Beauty Myth is The Success Myth. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe said, “A man being rich is like a girl being pretty” and everyone nodded their head, recognizing and endorsing the sentiment. When a rich guy marries a slim young “trophy wife” we all nod our heads again, recognizing that, like it or not, this is a match of two high-value people, a conventionally-successful man and a conventionally-beautiful woman. It would take way too long to get into all the horrible things that arise out of these paired myths, from “gold-digger” stereotypes to men who kill themselves for being “failures”; for now let’s just talk about the idea that men can’t be considered attractive.
See, part of the poisonous idea that men are only valuable or attractive because of our worldly and material success is the implication that we cannot be attractive or sexy just for being … y’know … attractive and sexy. This is tied in with the equally-popular societal myth that women aren’t really into sex. Straight men are left to numbly accept that we’re never going to feel sexy or attractive, and deal with that with the poker-faced stoicism that is our permitted range of emotional expression.
A little while back, I found out what a lie that is, and it led to my own collision with the Success Myth. I’m a geek, and I run with a geek crowd. If anyone I know can’t quote The Princess Bride from memory, they have the good taste to keep that to themselves. This means that the women I get involved with tend to be fangirls, which means they tend to write and read slash fiction. That was how I first began to learn about the female gaze.
Slash fiction, or erotic fan fiction involving male characters from popular media, is one of the largest gift economies on earth. Yaoi manga, Japanese comics featuring tales of beautiful and sexy men, written by and for girls, is one of the most dominant genres of manga in the world. Romance novels, pornographic tales of gorgeous, sexy men humping the hell out of either women or each other, account for fifty percent of all paperback sales in the U.S., and were the first major success story in the ebook market. The female desire to look at, read about, obsess over, and lust after men is absolutely massive, and kept discreetly off the cultural radar. It’s How To Suppress Women’s Writing all over again: how to suppress women’s porn. Yaoi is dismissed as being for teenage girls and therefore irrelevant, romance imprints are excluded from bestseller lists, and slash fandom hides in Googleproofed communities online, entrance gained only by introductions and shibboleths, many of its fans afraid their husbands or boyfriends might find out that they…
That they what? That they’re really into men? That they find the male body, male sexuality, male emotions to be intensely, obsessively erotic? How exactly did our entire culture agree to keep it a secret that straight and bi women are turned on by guys? Shouldn’t that be less of a taboo and more of a tautology?
Read more here.