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On every woman’s dream

Here are two apparently conflicting statements. I would like you to read both of them and decide which one is true:

  • Heterosexual women are incredibly complex and almost impossible for men to understand.
  • Heterosexual women all share an identical dream of the man they would like to be with.

Well done to anyone who said ‘neither’.

I don’t like dealing in absolutes. Unless we’re talking about pure mathematics, we’re pretty much bound to be wrong. All women are not X, and all men are not Y. Yes, we’re all pretty complex, but pretending that one particular gender is impossible to understand is like claiming we can never know what someone’s favourite colour is.

The only way you could go through life believing the opposite sex (or, indeed, any arbitrary subset of human beings) to be incomprehensible is if you refuse to ever speak to any of them.

So that’s number 1 dealt with. On to number 2 – the ‘ideal man’ scenario.

Every woman’s dream

Today the Sunday Times published a list entitled ‘Every woman’s dream‘ – a handy checklist for straight men on what sort of person they needed to be in order to proudly wear their ‘Mr Right’ badge. I should point out that the addition of words such as ‘straight’ and ‘heterosexual’ are mine, and added for clarity. According to this Sunday Times list, women who identify as anything other than ‘straight’ either don’t exist or were not consulted when their clearly thorough and painstaking research was conducted.

Here’s what the Sunday Times thinks ‘every woman’s dream’ man does:

“He has a well-developed protective instinct, as in the arm flung across the passenger seat in the event of a sudden stop.”

Protective? Or just a bit odd? If he was both protective and sensible he’d have checked that I was wearing a seatbelt in the first place. Moreover, I have survived for twenty nine years on this planet without men flinging their arms around me, shepherding me across the road, or cutting up my fish before I eat it lest I choke on a stray bone – I can protect myself fairly well, thanks.

“He can carry off fur trims, designer flip-flops, hair ties and hairbands, jewellery, cashmere hoodies and a man bag.”

There might be some women who dream of a man with a honed sense of fashion, but some of us couldn’t give a Fcuk. I’m happy if a boy is capable of putting his trousers on before we leave the house, and sensible enough to wear a coat if it looks like it might rain. And as for carrying a ‘man-bag’ – I despise the arbitrary inclusion of gender with this particular accessory. He does not eat with a ‘man-fork’ or wash in a special ‘man-bath’. My dream man just carries a ‘bag’.

“He is not scared to buy you underwear in M&S in an emergency – but will not step inside Farrow & Ball in any circs.”

I don’t know what Farrow & Ball is, but my dream man certainly doesn’t use the word ‘circs’.

“He considers the dustbins his department, but can also put flowers in a vase in a crisis.”

A man who considers the dustbins ‘his department’ is likely to be the sort of man who considers the hoovering to be ‘my department’, and is therefore probably an utter prick. My actual dream man considers all household chores to be a tedious waste of both of our time, but something we might as well do together to finish them quickly.

“He can buy presents without consulting his secretary/sister.”

Interesting. That’s true – my dream man is capable of doing that. But I wonder, dear readers, why the word ‘secretary’ was so casually thrown in here. Could it be possible that the author is assuming a) quite a few men have secretaries, because we are after all still living in the 1950s and b) all secretaries are women, hence why a man might turn to one in order to seek help with a gift?

In reality, men are perfectly capable of choosing gifts for people they know. Present-selection is a simple task, along the lines of ‘buying one’s own clothes’ and ‘paying the gas bill’ – it is not a rare skill possessed only by women and the crème de la crème of masculinity.

“He can look after three kids on his own.”

This, Sunday Times, is not ‘dream man’ material. This is ‘absolutely fucking basic’ material. If you have three children with someone and they are incapable of looking after them without you there to supervise, it’s not a shame: it’s an outright tragedy and one on which you should probably seek advice. Men are not bumbling, child-fearing buffoons – they are grown adults. And, like women, they produce and rear children.

“He drinks but never gets drunk.”

This dream man has a liver that surpasses our current expectations of human biology.

“He is open to yoga and meditation, Pilates and hypnotherapy…”

Because women are, naturally, obsessed with exercise techniques and borderline woo.

“He can do basic DIY and plumbing.”

Fair enough on this one, to be honest. My dream man can do this. But that’s because my dream man is a human, and I think it’s quite important that humans are capable of carrying out basic household tasks without crying in a corner.

“He finds strong women sexy.”

I’ll finish on this point, because it’s the most outrageously contradictory of the lot.

My own ‘dream man’, as it happens, does find strong women sexy. But then I’d bloody well hope he would because I am a strong woman, and if he didn’t find me sexy then he’d no more be my dream than he’d be a carton of cottage cheese. Clearly what this means is ‘your dream man should find you sexy’. A tautological statement if ever I heard one.

But if he finds strong women so sexy, why on earth is he insisting that the bins are ‘his department’? If he thinks I’m strong, he should realistically understand that I’m capable of emptying a dustbin without being permanently traumatised. I’ll be honest, Sunday Times, not only does the notion of a ‘dream man’ belong firmly in the dustbin that is ‘his department’, but the guy you’re describing sounds like an incomparable, inconsistent prick.


  • Useful says:

    I can only hope that article was written by a new computer program that reads through old articles and re-combines and re-edits them with no thought of content to create new articles. That would explain the ’50s mentality combined with use of the word ‘circs.’
    I can’t countenance that it was written by a human because if so that human would have had to have been:
    A – Male.
    B – Female.
    And either of those options leaves me completely boggling.

  • Kate says:

    That article was published today?! As in….2013….in 2013 that was published….2013, now, today?

    I’m going back to bed.

  • The Goldfish says:

    I looked up Farrow & Ball and they appear to be a brand of >paint and wallpaper. So I guess that’s the code in which, if the other content wasn’t enough, the poor creature is indicating that they are writing under duress. That’s the only rational explanation.

  • Chaz says:

    I found myself yelling, “Get tae fuck!” or, “Whit?!” at most of the points on the extract I read. Like you, I’ve never heard of Farrow & Ball, and if you’re looking for white balsamic or purple basil in my kitchen, you’ll be sorely disappointed (do they even sell that in Tesco?!).

    The article was yet another puff piece written by a know-nothing man (I’m assuming Shane is a man’s name), intent on perpetuating gender stereotypes that we’re still fighting so hard to eradicate. The author and newspaper should both be ashamed of themselves for publishing such out-moded tripe.

  • Ravi says:

    Lovely writing by you. Clearly clueless article in yet another of Murdoch’s pulps.

    I did, however, once fling my arms out in a prang (yes I’m probably as old as Biggles ) it was in the back of a Bombay taxi, with no seatbelts, both of the ladies involved (I sat in the middle so as to allow them the windows – another piece of antique and archaic “chivalry”, but had, therefore, the advantage of being able to brace against the transmission tunnel), and saved both of them bloodied noses, at the least. This is not to claim I’m a hero, or to support the article in any way: just to point out that occasionally, a protective instinct, whatever your gender, is not necessarily a risible thing. Biggles)

  • Elettaria says:

    Farrow & Ball make very expensive paint, with long descriptions of which stately home the original was used in. My mother is into that sort of stuff, though even she usually caves and goes for Dulux in the end. It’s not gender that decides whether you’re into it, it’s class and wealth. The whole thing is outrageously upper-middle-class – the end note about purple basil and white balsamic vinegar, for heaven’s sake.

    Fabulous article, thank you for writing it! I’m amused that they think a crisis is when you need to put flowers in a vase. If that’s the worst thing that happens in your life, well, to be honest I don’t think anyone gets that lucky with their life.

    There was a definite “handing over your body to the expert” feeling in the one about how your dream man should be in charge of your orgasms, spotting your PMS several days before you do, and doing your breast exams for you. Because we all know that a medical breast exam is just so sexy.

    “He notices cherry blossom” – does he write a haiku about it too?

    Nice point about the “man bag” – I couldn’t agree more. At least it’s now accepted for men to carry bags, instead of wheedling their partners into carrying their stuff in their handbags instead.

    I’ve never been able to stand the condescending protective stuff either. I’m now disabled, which means that I do actually need help with a number of things. I’ve noticed that the ones who think that poor little women aren’t capable of opening their own car doors don’t give a hoot about helping people who actually need the help, and indeed run the other way. And I don’t want someone being condescending and assuming they know what help I need (apart from when it’s blindingly obvious, like holding a door open when I’m struggling with my walking stick). I need someone who will actually bother to find out what I need, and make it about my needs, not about them showing off. We already have an inbuilt power imbalance thanks to structural sexism, and I don’t need someone who will make that worse because of my disability.

    I wonder what the Sunday Times would think gay women want in their dream woman? And what about those of us who like people of all genders? It would probably break their little minds.

    If you think this was bad, and deeply insulting to both men and women, try Louise Mensch’s take on what women want. Actually, it was about what men want, because that’s what’s most important to women. Apparently the main thing men are interested in is sex, and women are obligated to provide that even when they don’t want to. I wrote a blog post about the whole business at

    • the_leanover says:

      Christ, Louise Mensch is such an awful human being.

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s brilliant. Your piece, I mean, not Mensch’s. And it highlights something that’s really hacked me off for a long long time. If we genuinely, truly believe that men always want sex and women don’t, then what we are suggesting is that in heterosexual relationships there always has to be some element of coercion, or at the very least someone sighing and saying ‘oh well let’s get on with it if we must.’ In short – it means that heterosexual relationships have to be about a sexual exchange, which hurts one if not both of the partners on a regular basis. And that is, quite clearly, crap. Not only is it crap but it’s an incredibly damaging attitude. You put it perfectly:

      “The idea that men deserve sex whenever they want it, and that a woman’s job is to meet a man’s sexual desires whether she wants it or not, is part of rape culture. It helps rapists justify their actions, and makes victims feel that they should put up with being raped.”

      Yep. We cannot hold both that women hate sex *and* that women are obliged to have sex unless we are willing to prop up rape culture. Naturally, both of these propositions are bollocks: some (but not all) women love sex, and no one should ever be obliged to have it.

      ADDITIONAL point of rage:

      “A man who is sexually rejected or deprived will feel rejected *as a man* and *as a person* and not merely sexually.”

      And a woman who is sexually rejected will feel … what … delighted?

      I have so much rage all over me now that I might have to go and have a shower.

      • Useful says:

        I completely agree about this coercion/rape problem – sorry to pimp, but if you’re interested I have an article on it here.

        It’s more focussing on anal sex, actually, but the point still stands given Louise’s oh-so-modern attitude.

        And I think I got some of your rage on me. And it seems to be spreading.

      • Elettaria says:

        Well, “sex” wasn’t listed in the “five top things a woman needs”, so evidently rejection just isn’t an issue for us. Or possibly men are meant to be so permanently randy that they’d never turn a woman down?

        Saying that men’s worth and sense of self is intrinsically tied up with their sexuality is a new one, usually that’s done to women, but it’s shitty wherever it’s pointed. In this case, it’s, “women must give in to men’s every sexual desire because otherwise they won’t feel like real men”. When applied to women, it’s, “women must do exactly what men decree, both in terms of being sexual and refraining from sexual activity, and will get stigmatised beyond belief if they put a foot wrong.” Either way, it’s about men retaining control and women being denied basic agency.

  • Bob says:

    What utter bollocks from the Sunday Times. Thanks for the tips, I think I’ll take more notice of GOTN.

  • Ezequiel says:

    My dustbins! MY dustbins!

    -Batman voice-
    Don’t touch MY dustbins.
    -/Batman voice-

  • Korhomme (@Korhomme) says:

    Farrow & Ball is posh decorating stuff, useful if you want a period look in your period house. But you don’t need to buy their paint — my local shop can make up their paint shades for a fraction of the price. Just sayin’.

  • Anth says:

    What insulting bollocks. Why would I be in the passenger seat? It’s my car, I do the driving. This is not an unusual scenario in 2013. The right wing broadsheets seem to be on a mission to reinforce where they believe a woman’s place to be (1953) at the moment. This and the telegraph’s repellent piece on Kate Winslett’s pregnancy both give me the rage. Great blog post – thank you.

  • G says:

    Admit it, you were proud of the ‘a Fcuk’, weren’t you? :P

  • Paddy says:

    My ideal man has a nice cock and doesn’t want to talk much. This version of the ideal man sounds like my personal hell. I can only hope that the whole piece was tongue in cheek, because otherwise I just may cry.

  • Cath says:

    This is awesome! My fave bit:

    “A man who considers the dustbins ‘his department’ is likely to be the sort of man who considers the hoovering to be ‘my department’, and is therefore probably an utter prick”. Word!

  • Lee says:

    Ah, dustbins. I normally handle them cos B minds ikky dustbins more than I do, and I’m happy to spare her a distasteful chore, then.

    At this point, I feel obliged to reveal that our domestic arrangements are something of a reversal of the classic ones that get ranted about.

    She calls me “the housewife”. Its got … dismissive undertones, tho, and it gives me a slight mental twitch in the manliness psychology.

    Don’t get me wrong, she works, I don’t (incapacity) so it’s a perfectly sensible arrangement, logistically.

    But she somehow makes it sound like a pejorative. And that makes me want to growl, snap my teeth, and assert some kind of … And here I run into trouble.

    Because B is one of those naturally dominant people. Its her personality *core*, not an artful overlay or a playact for sexy fun.

    At first, I loved that about her. She’s a strong personality, and that’s the whole attractive confident sexy thing.

    As time has gone by, though, it began to wear on me. I feel overwhelmed by her. She’s become a pushy, arrogant, overweening bullybitch. It feels like an attack-sinister against which my psychological defences are pitifully thin.

    I’m not big on conflict. It upsets me. I just want things to muddle along happily. Which made me into a doormat.

    The bottom line is that I feel powerless, and not in a fun way. And I don’t know how to redress this without starting a war that I’ll lose, even if I win.

    Meh :-[

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