Heroes and Zeros

Heroes and Zeros

I have no idea what women really want other than what I’m told they want: someone who listens, who understands, and most importantly, who doesn’t think he has to solve a problem when she talks to him. Women want someone who will listen to them.

Okay, so far so good. But you know, the think that keeps me up at night isn’t trying to find a pat answer about what the fairer sex wants in a man, as much as what women think about when they see a man. How do you know you’re attracted to someone? What sets it off? What makes a woman notice a man?

I know there’s about a million answers, and they’re probably all valid. Height, weight, smell, eyes, a smile — I’ve heard all that before. I’ve read about the chemistry between a man and a woman. I’ve even depressed myself reading about what slaves we are to our genes; i.e., a woman is sizing up a potential mate even though she may not know it. Or how she’ll pick you as a good provider, but might have a fling (and possible pregnancy) with the loudmouth jerk who doesn’t call the next day because her evolutionary sense has told her that he’ll provide better, more competitive offspring even if she has a kid or two with you. (Nature can be so cruel.)

I know that we men process our wants differently: we are very visual, so we turn our heads when a skirt passes by, even if we have no intention (or chance) of buying her a drink. Men utilize pornography more than women do, and men are the industry’s primary consumer. I know very well that a woman can also turn her head when someone attractive enters the room, but you know what? Whatever she is thinking seems much more evolved and complicated than what dances through a man’s head. Men are often about visible lust: women, well, that’s another story.

Once while perusing late-night HBO programming, I watched a segment on one of their soft-porn “Real Sex” shows about male strippers. For whatever reason, the interviewer (a woman) asked the patrons of a strip joint if any of them wanted to see the stripper’s penis. Okay, so she asked only a few of them, but all of them almost immediately responded in the negative. And the look on their faces indicated to me they thought the question was either stupid or repulsive. Almost as if to say, "Why would we want to see the penis at all?" Ask that of a man at a female strip club, and you’d get an unqualified yes before finishing the question.

That alone got me thinking about the differences between men and women. Men want to see the genitals; women don’t place much emphasis on it. (And by extrapolation, perhaps it’s true that size doesn’t matter.) I don’t doubt that any number of women mind or enjoy seeing a guy’s more manly parts, but if that isn’t really important, then perhaps male perception of what women look for in a man is all wrong. If so, then my pet theory about women being far more cerebral than men is true: a woman’s evolutionary sense makes her seek out a good provider, because a family does not live on dick size alone.

All this talk about size just brings us to the question that haunts all men: does size matter? Like other insecure men (and we all are, ladies), I’ve sought the wisdom of women who could answer truthfully; i.e., not anyone I was dating. I asked my cousin, who is a little slutty, and at first, she killed me with a quick, “Yes.” Then she stopped and said no. Then she proceeded to tell me the difference between two of her former boyfriends: one was larger than the other, but the lesser-endowed man was more passionate. And that’s the word she kept returning to: passion. She loved that above all else, and in the final analysis, looked at me and shrugged: “I guess it doesn’t after all.”

We men are obsessed with the size our dicks. We equate bigger as being better, being more manly and being able to satisfy a woman. Right away, you can immediately understand why men are so lame at relationships and sexuality: we have it in our heads (ahem) that sex means penetration; that lovemaking is all about putting something inside someone else. If she doesn’t come, we haven’t fulfilled our duty and turn in our Man Card right away.

Pornography doesn’t help. While the camera may add ten pounds, for men, the camera zooming in on a stiff prick adds ten inches. The porn industry may go through women like water, but it often settles for tried and true male performers who are better known for their peters than their faces. And mainstream pornography doesn’t highlight average men: these guys almost always appear above average if not outright huge. This is where the pernicious side of pornography screws with a male’s psyche. Although the male audience wants to see beautiful women having sex, they also surreptitiously want to look at the man. Think about it: when you see those up close crotch shots, you’re essentially watching the male member. Then you’re sub-consciously associating that larger member against your own, and believing that you’re inadequate because you aren’t as big. The exaggerated moaning or screaming of the woman is the final nail in the coffin: size does matter.

For a poor schmuck like me, it’s all devastating. Not only do I not know what women think when they see a man, I’ve conflated all these issues together into a psychical mess. But don’t pity me too much, because I know that it’s a trap of my own making; a believer of what I see on television and in the movies. But when you live in a culture that is inundated with these images and conflicting stories, you can see how easy it is to fall prey to it, and how it wreaks havoc on unsuspecting males like myself.

I’m still no better off at deciphering the rules of attraction between men and women. I know a lot of my amazement and wonder comes from a sense of low self-esteem. If you don’t feel like a man, you can’t act like a man and no woman will want to take you home. Being on the outside, right beyond the pale of what an ordinary man is, makes the situation all that more uncomfortable. You want to be one of these regular guys because you want to attract a mate; show her how athletic you are or how you like rock climbing and doing outdoorsy things. But you keep asking yourself if she’s really looking at the other guy in the group, for whom all these activities come so easily. And the self-doubt (and jealousy) creeps up: he’s better looking, that what she wants, and he probably has a larger... Well, let’s just say you then go home and pop in a porno and get it in your head that the ten-inch monster you’re seeing is what she really wants....Shall I continue? At this point, I’m the zero to his hero.

Will someone please, just tell me what it is that women think when they see a man so I can figure out how to get a date?