The Success Myth And The Female Gaze

Noah Brand

Noah Brand

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.

32 Comments on "The Success Myth And The Female Gaze"

  1. Jin The Ninja | Feb 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

    as a self-professed nerd, i personally hate (HATE) the princess bride- and have never realised that ability to quote such is required for admission to geekdom…

    the article though is actually quite interesting (otherwise), and i find personally, and culturally relevant.

    interestingly (or not) i’ve never been interested in yaoi or yaoi titles, although many CLAMP titles from my youth have a lot of yaoi elements and subtle same-sex relationships.

  2. You’re not serious with this article are you? You don’t genuinely believe that society was/is “keeping it a secret” that women are physically attracted to men? What fucking rock have you been living under?

    • gwen jackson | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:41 am |

      The reasoning is apparently that if he’s not getting laid, it must be some big conspiracy preventing women from admitting how attractive they find him, because society demands that women only fuck men of a certain net worth… I can’t imagine how poor people have been managing to breed so goddamn much throughout history, can you? It’s a mystery…

  3. Hadrian999 | Feb 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

    I’ll always be thankful that not all women go for the andro-boys

  4. Hadrian999 | Feb 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    the writer seems to be in denial of the fact that people use what they have to get what they want, most women have a smaller window of opportunity than men do, women do find men physically attractive but the ones with a level of beauty that gives them power are much smarter to spend that asset in aquiring a long lasting benefit such as a marrying into a higher social position than they would to waste it on temporary pleasure of a pretty young man. Successful men are lucky, wealth lasts much longer than feminine beauty and they can afford to play around before committing to a course of action

    • Jin The Ninja | Feb 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

      there is a saying in chinese, that wealth lasts 3 generations, but beauty lasts 10.

      • Hadrian999 | Feb 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |

        in todays society woman are lucky if they are considered beautiful for 10 years…wel except for asian women, they seem to be able to pull off being ageless till they are close to 50

        • Jin The Ninja | Feb 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm |

          this is true. although i can’t really tell, because even though i am not hetero, i find many women quite beautiful post 40.

          i do agree that azn women do seem to have a secret formulae for aging, hopefully i will take after that side and maintain my baby face for a long time,,,lol

    • gwen jackson | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:49 am |

       lol, i love how you reinforce his argument that women are only concerned with “seizing our window of opportunity” to “snag a man” (presumedly to “take care of us”?) before our beauty (our only asset, apparently!) fades…

      yes, long-term economic benefit is all women think about when we think about fucking.
      you, and the author, have us alllllll figured out…

      Newsflash: Ugly women still get laid. Poor men still get laid. Sometimes ugly women and poor men, against all odds and imaginary social constraints, even manage to accomplish some breeding.

      How, exactly, do you think that happens?

      • Hadrian999 | Feb 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

         fear of being alone, don’t get me wrong I am not accusing women of anything, why wouldn’t people use assets at their disposal to get something they want.the world is quite full of evidence from wendi murdoch to calista gingrich. I’m sorry but you aren’t going to see someone with the kind of beauty that gets you powers looking for a guy with his name on his shirt unless you are watching some sappy romantic comedy

      • Eric_D_Read | Feb 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

        Beer and/or meth.

  5. Carolyn0519 | Feb 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    Yes, women are attracted to attractive guys.  Durr.

  6. It may not be fair, and it may not be right…

    …but I thank my lucky stars every day that a man can age and be considered ‘dignified’ or ‘rugged’…which is all I qualify for nowadays…as opposed to just being old. The system of value judgments is skewed between men and women with men catching most of the lucky breaks…and I know this and object to it…(but I benefit from the status quo and i know it. I’d take time to feel more guilty about it…if I weren’t burning so much time being grateful for the sheer undeserved luck .)

    • gwen jackson | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:34 am |

       Generally, only guys who get laid enough are capable of perceiving the extent to which our skewed system benefits men. Men who don’t/can’t/won’t get laid are always erupting with a million little rage-filled reasons why women are ‘oppressing’/’manipulating’ them and being a man is so hard, all of which usually boil down to “How DARE she not fuck me!?!? I’m such a NICE guy, goddamn her!!”

      • you nailed that one…most male complaints about women having too much authority over their lives…seems rooted in strictly personal frustration and suspended adolescent fantasies of getting what they want without hindrance. There are times when its seems like I’m surrounded by junior high students…talking empty smack to feel better about themselves. Given that I’m past forty…its  actually a little terrifying to look about and see so many people underdeveloped mentally and emotionally. Does not bode well for the future of manhood in general. Self discipline and self respect are the central issues for every human being male or female to enter into adulthood and be able to maintain themselves with relative mental and emotional health…and those two qualities seem to be in desperate short supply.

        • Jin The Ninja | Feb 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm |

          with all the BS of heterosex gender roles, gender relationships, and identities- i think being queer has a certain advantage.

        • Eric_D_Read | Feb 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

          “Self discipline and self respect are the central issues for every human being male or female to enter into adulthood and be able to maintain themselves with relative mental and emotional health…and those two qualities seem to be in desperate short supply.” 
          No worries. They’re working on an app for that. 

        • You said that perfectly.  

          I would add that a woman or women only have as much authority over a man as he allows.  You’ve just got to have the balls to  do & say what you really want to do & not worry about the fact that it will ruin your chances with any particular woman.  

      • I used to be a much nicer guy.  And, I can say that you nailed it.  

        Thing is, a lot of women aren’t attracted to nice guys.  And, the nice guys don’t get it.  They give what they want to give without regard for the fact that it’s not what the women want to receive.  Then they get frustrated because they’ve given so much.  

        That leaves two options, find a girl who wants a nice guy or stop being so damn nice.  

  7. gwen jackson | Feb 17, 2012 at 9:27 am |

    Women only see men as breadwinners, men only see women as trophies, blah blah fucking blah, stereotype much?
    What decade was this written? It’s like this guy’s entire perception of human sexuality is pulled from old issues of Ladies’ Home Journal. Was it originally published on Slate?

    And only ugly men think that women don’t choose our sex partners based on male beauty. For christ’s sake. Frankly, these perceptions of human sexuality are usually held by people who observe it without the luxury of actually participating. Every boring pseudo-intellectual and academic poseur has to come up with an elaborate cultural explanation why he or she isn’t getting enough ass. Yawn.

    Did Disinfo get purchased? It seems to have lost all subversive or progressive mindset it once had.
    Did you see the outpouring of sentimentality over the Valentine’s Day post?
    “We know it’s capitalist mind control, but it’s NICE, and we like it!”
    Like OWS, we don’t like capitalism, but evidently that’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy and participate in it’s rituals, right? We’re just being NICE!

    It’s like the whole site went through a hot-tub time machine back to the 50’s.
    I’m done reading here for awhile.
    But I’ll still buy a few t-shirts.

    •  “Every boring pseudo-intellectual and academic poseur has to come up with
      an elaborate cultural explanation why he or she isn’t getting enough
      ass. Yawn.”

      So what’s the simple layman’s non elaborate explanation? Seems you’re only thinking about this (or more accurate to say, reacting) from your own point of view.

      I find it infinitely tedious to hear about the thrill of the chase for men, and for women it’s enjoying being pursued, where does it lead? Ever heard of a pick up artist? Their techniques only work specifically because of the cultural indoctrinations women have towards sexuality.

  8. Lol, and the person writing this is a guy… Seriously? women are attracted to attractive guys, but theres more to it. As a lady, we dont see guys as only sex objects… So, being attractive is not the sole qualification… Women do love men, attracted to attractive men, but they want love…

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