Sheridan Simove’s What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex

by | March 6, 2011
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

Taylor, 26, is a Gender Focus guest-poster, Vancouver-based theatre performer and barbershop singer. He became interested in gender equality while doing a double major in Theatre and English Literature at the University of Victoria. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared at his blog, No Greater Male Supporter.

This makes me wretch.

“Sheridan Simove has produced a 200 page book entitled “What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex”.

The 200 pages are, of course, blank. HAR DEE HAR HAR. This book is currently outselling Harry Potter, and is number 744 on the Amazon bestseller list. It was intended as a novelty gift, but is being used by students across Britain (“author” Sheridan Simove is an Oxford grad) as a notebook for lectures. Simove is making quite a few pence off of it.

I’m pissed, though.

But Taylor, it’s just a joke! Oh really? Here’s what such humour reinforces:

1. The assumption that men are wired dominantly for sex. I have intellect, spirituality, emotions, humour, activities in which I participate, ambitions, fears, joys, and various other things that occupy my mind. Don’t reduce me to being an emotionally bankrupt sex addict.

2. The assumption that men are pigs. Chauvinism/misogyny is a problem in need of radical change, but I’m offended by a counter-strategy, joking or otherwise, that dehumanizes me.

3. That the answer to misogyny is misandry. That’s right. The joke this book attempts to make is a reaction to a cultural assumption that men never stop thinking about sex, which is draining on their female partners (I don’t say male partners, because this kind of one-dimensional gendered humour almost never fails to be heterosexist). There are tons of blonde jokes, wife jokes, etc. that we mostly label as sexist. But publish a sweeping generalization about men that reduces us to sex-crazed robots (and women, by extension, to sexually frigid ones), and there’s no problem?? Not fair. Sexism is sexism, whichever way it is directed.

4. That the male sex drive is exponentially larger than the female one, if women have sex drives at all, and that having a greater sex drive than a partner should be attached to shame. Bullpuckey. Women desire sex, sometimes more than their male partners, and that doesn’t make them sluts, and men having a higher sex drive than their partners doesn’t make us assholes. Sexual desire is sexual desire, being an asshole is being an asshole, and we shouldn’t slut shame, period. Let’s not conflate the very fact of being “turned on” (another term that turns us into robots) with being a jerk.

5. By reinforcing the myth that men desire sex more than women do, this kind of humour reinforces the assumption that sexual intercourse is something obtained by men, rather than something in which men engage mutually and enjoyably and consensually with a partner.

6. That the male sex drive is purely of the physical, and supersedes or cancels out an emotional/empathetic connection with a sexual partner. Bull-freaking-crap. Reinforcing sex as unemotional for men is unhealthy and contributes to a culture of toxic masculinity and emotional puritanism.

7. That male sexual agency is unimportant. In order for us to find the idea of a man having a “one track mind” re: sex funny, we have to on some level trivialize men’s sexual desire as being something beyond our control, or, rather, something that controls us. Therefore we internalize a single-minded, emotionally absent sexual drive that contributes to rape culture by making it more likely for men to think they should be so hyper-focused on sex that caring about non-objectification and consent and mutual enjoyment are at best peripheral to the impetus of intercourse. By relying on our “uncontrollable” sex drive as an excuse do we not take responsibility for our actions and come up with the “boys will be boys” defense.

Looking at rape culture from another angle: if men should be expected, at all times, to want sex, then men are under constant sexual pressure…but nothing bad can happen to men sexually because duh we always want it right? Thusly we raise our eyebrows when a man says he has been sexually assaulted as though it were, you know, something traumatic that happened to him.

8. That the sexual differences between men and women are unbridgeable. If we continue to buy into the gender binary that suggests men are singleminded about sex and women just have to deal with it in order to be sexual partners with men, we will continue to limit the potential of our sexual relationships.

9. That lazy, sexist, old-hat, one-dimensional assumptions about gender should pass for wit in the first place. Come on, people. We can do better.

10. That trees are less important than our ability to keep making these dumb jokes.

“What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex”  isn’t “just a joke”, it’s a symptom and a reinforcer of sexist culture, and I don’t appreciate it at all.

-Taylor


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  • wouter

    Yes, it is and it’s funny. Crying about it wont change anything. Some things in this world are wrong, stupid or even unfair. Unless you are oprah or the president (someone with actual reach) i would focus my life towards things that are relevant to me and make me happy.

    • Funny enough, I wasn’t crying when I wrote this, it was and still is relevant to me, and I was pretty darned happy after writing this, too. I may have even ‘reached’ for my coffee at one point.

  • anyone

    The funny thing about this is that depending on how it was marketed it could have been a challenge to the stereotypes or as put forward a reinforcement. If put forward as a notebook first rather then a joke then one could see this challenge and partake in this challenge. Though one could argue whether or not the wording of the title should be changed to not be inclusive of all men but then again the intent could be to show by comparing multiple books we could get widely differing interest and ideas and as such as such not limited into what could be thought about.

  • Chris

    Taylor, excellent article. I only wish that feminists would start addressing the sexism that is rife in the feminist culture. Sadly, mainstream feminism has morphed into a willfully blind narcissistic culture that many women and men now no longer take serious. The primary reason is mainstream feminism’s inability to rationalize its doublethink when speaking to human rights and social justice issues for all. Maybe it should just get rid of the doublethink. Oh, but that would entail being honest about women’s sexism and reinforcement of gender stereotyping.

  • Chris I’m confused by your assumption that this book is an example of mainstream Feminist culture because it’s really not. It’s much more an example of what many *think* Feminism is, and maybe that should be #11, and the most insidious thing about this book. This book is, implicitly speaking, total doublethink, for sure, but my goodness until you’ve read Cordelia Fine, Amanda Marcotte, Kate Harding, Rachel Maddow, Robert Jensen, Hugo Schwyzer, and some of the other amazing writers within the movement whose books have actual words in them, be careful before so easily calling Feminism a hivemind with no capacity for self-criticism. Remember hivemind and unselfcritical are two labels lobbied at, well, every oppressed group ever.

    Also, and trust my experience with this, look through most prominent (or not so prominent) Feminist blogs and you’ll find a “being honest about my own sexism” post somewhere in there. Most people who have had the awareness to look at sexism in our culture so deeply have been able to do so thanks to some awareness of it in themselves. Some of Feminist bloggers have even given a “hell yeah” at this particular article of mine.

    Feminism has, not just now, but *always* had the problem of not being taken seriously, of being called willfully narcissistic, and of being called unselfcritical, and continues to be filtered through and blamed for that problem in lieu of being engaged with on the basis of what Feminists actually say. If you really think Feminism’s not being taken seriously is the fault of Feminists, and not the bevy of false images of Feminism in our society perpetuated by people who wouldn’t know Feminism from a hole in the ground, like Sheridan Simove, then I’m sorry my article gave you the impression that I agree with that premise.

    I worry now we’re inches from the “True Feminist vs. not True Feminist” conversation, which, like this book, distracts profoundly from the things that most suck about sexism for real people, like access to health care, employment, acceptance, etc.

  • Chris

    Reply to Taylor: You evidently are confused because I made no such assumption. I never said nor did I imply that the book is representative of mainstream feminism. In fact, I agreed with you about the book. Following my agreement with you, I went on to make a statement about mainstream feminism as it is today.

    I will make no such baseless assumptions about you other than I assume, given your major in English literature, that you can read and comprehend.

    As for mainstream feminism, the egalitarian feminists (not to be confused with the pro life types) have been criticizing the inegalitarian feminist for many years about the very issues I raised. BTW, egalitarian feminists are not the mainstream, and haven’t been for some time. They have however, been criticizing mainstream feminist since at least the late 80’s. Obviously, you do not recall the social & political discourse of the say 60’s, 70’s or even the early 90’s. You were in your first year of grade school in the early 90’s. I on the other hand I was well into adulthood back then.

    I guess you can read about it, but you would have to read a hell of a lot of books, thousands of newspapers & periodicals, and review thousands of hours of archived TV and radio shows. Even after doing all that, you would still be at a disadvantage because you simply did not live in those years.

    Today’s mainstream feminism in the West has simply run out of legitimate grievances that are specific to only women in the West. However, if one has a vested interest in a field of study as a result of having invested many years they will naturally what to remain relevant. If for no other reason than personal income/livelihood.

    In the past 20 or so years the complaints from mainstream feminists have increasingly rang hollow because much of the inequality in the West is not unique to women. Given the broadly based inequality particularly given the major changes to the political landscape as the results of neoliberal, the average person in the West sees feminism as just another sectarian group.

    I have always supported equality for women and men. Now that we have a gender equality in Western societies, what now? I don’t think twisting reality to support imagined gender inequality for one gender is going to improve Western culture one bit. There are many serious issues today that need our attention. This is why egalitarian feminists have moved on and are now concerned with those serious issues.

  • Guy

    Hope u have outgrown these incredibly juvenile thoughts by now. If what you say has a morsel of truth comedy would have to be illegal. Who are your favorite comedians, Barbra Streisand and Julie Andrews? Seriously, grow up and grow balls