Last week I watched an hour-long YouTube video of a man playing a game called ‘Super Seducer’, because I am ever keen to unravel the mystery of men. What ARE men, exactly? If I believe the creator of ‘Super Seducer’, the answer is that they are absolute twats.
Luckily – for both men and the people like me who love them – this game is a massive pile of bollocks. So bollocks that I have dedicated an entire post to it, because sometimes it’s fun to take a pop at the easy targets. More importantly, although this game is entirely ridiculous and unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone other than twelve-year-old boys, one of the key assumptions underlying it is ridiculously common: the myth of the ‘mysterious woman.’
I spend most of my social life talking to men. I have female friends, but most of my mates are men. There are probably complex [I WANT TO BANG ALL THE MEN] psychological reasons [BANG ALL THE MEN] for the fact that I’m drawn to men [BANG MEN], but I won’t go into that here. Instead I’ll just tell you that I know a lot of men. I also read lots of books and blogs written by men. I watch films made by men. I listen to male stand-up comedians. I talk to men on the internet. I ask men about their lives, and listen to their answers, picking over the detail of their beliefs and desires by asking them probably-far-too-many questions. I’d never dream of claiming to be an ‘expert’ in men, let alone create a video game for women to play on the assumption that I had man-wrangling skills to teach them, but I could certainly be classed as a dude enthusiast. An endudeiast, if you will.
Yet women are, apparently, a mystery.
We’re a mystery so great that some pick-up artists make big bucks teaching other men how to talk to us. The idea that women are some deep and impenetrable mystery has made plenty of money for a lot of people, who claim to be able to unravel us. It’s not just the creator of ‘Super Seducer’, there are other guys who make an actual living out of feeding the myth that women are unknowable mysteries, and only this One Weird Trick will help average-Joe-straight-guy understand us. Once they’ve mastered the trick (for one small up-front fee of $79 or whatever), they’ll finally be able to march, victorious, into our knickers.
My gut reaction, when men ask me to let them in on the mysterious secrets of female thinking, is to curl into a tiny ball and weep with frustration. But recently I came up with a much better idea.
The next time a guy asks me to explain women, I will tell him to read Bridget Jones.
Yeah, I know. It’s a really old book, and the woman in it is a fictional construct of an archetype that represents less than 1% of actual human women. But nevertheless, I will tell him to read it.
I’m still hurting from a conversation I had many years ago when I tried to get my boyfriend to read Bridget Jones, in the hope that he’d understand a little of the romantic streak that I had at the time. His response was ‘no’, with a side-order of ‘that’s for women, why on Earth would I want to read it?’ While Bridget Jones doesn’t exactly sum up the entirety of the female experience, back then there were parts of it that spoke to me, and it hurt that this man who seemed to want to know me would eschew something I’d actively told him was relevant.
So the next time a guy asks me to explain women, I will tell him to read Bridget Jones. Then I’ll ask him: how many other books by women have you read? How many female authors grace your current bookshelves?
What was the last film or TV show you watched that was written or directed by a woman? Have you watched Chewing Gum? It’s on All4 at the moment – get in there quick!
How many women do you follow on Twitter? How often do you read their blogs?
When was the last time you sat down with a female friend and talked to her about her worries and concerns? Did you manage to do it without interjecting or correcting her? Write me an essay on where her head’s at right now: please show your working and empathy.
“You’re not allowed to ASK, that’s cheating!”
The man who made the game ‘Super Seducer’ would never ask these questions. He would never prompt straight men to try and understand women by reading their words or listening to what they say. In fact, he doesn’t even bother to follow that many women on Twitter: a quick check with this handy Twitter tool shows us that only 30% of the people he follows are women.
He is reminiscent of hapless, terrible Jez from Peep Show who, upon learning that Mark was getting direct instructions from a woman on what he should do to please her in bed, replied:
“That’s cheating! Anyone can please a woman if she tells you what to do! You’re not allowed to ask, that’s the whole point.”
The truth is that men like this guy – who make money talking about women as if we are a ‘mystery’ – aren’t genuinely interested in studying what we think and want and feel. If you want to know ‘what women want’, the answers are often right there in front of you: in the books we read, the stories we tell, the blog posts we write and the words that come out of our mouths.
None of this is entirely representative, of course – no one piece of work will ever sum up ‘women’ as a whole, because each of us is different. But I do find it entirely bizarre that those who claim to want to study women – those who’ll pay £7.49 for a shitty Steam game which claims to train them in how to understand and manipulate us – won’t go so far as to actually examine the answers we’ve given ourselves.
I love men. I want to fuck men. Most of my adult life has been spent chasing after one particular guy or another (or in many cases, not even a particular guy – just any guy who might be even vaguely interested in sleeping with me). Sometimes I’ve been successful, more often I have not. I’ve read a lot of very odd advice, and some terrible advice too. Because the kind of guys I want to fuck are often the kind of guys who have struggled to get laid in the past, I’ve even read The Game to try and work out where they’re coming from. My taste knows no limits if it might show me a glimpse of something a dude I might fancy may be thinking – no matter how bad the actual literature might be. If someone had written a book, like 50 Shades of Grey, that had millions of men around the world reading and wanking in secret and whispering to each other about their love for Christienne Grey, you can be damn sure I’d at least have perused it.
I don’t say any of this to try and encourage straight men to read 50 Shades, or Bridget Jones. I don’t really care if you’ve read these specific books or not, as it’s more than possible that any woman you meet and want to speak to will hate them with a fiery passion. My point is simply that you don’t get to pretend women are a ‘mystery’ while simultaneously ignoring things that women produce, promote or enjoy. You don’t get to complain about how enigmatic we are, even to the point of paying another man to explain us to you, unless you’ve at least had a go at listening to us directly.
If there were a course I could take on ‘what men I fancy are secretly thinking’, run by men I fancy, I’d have signed up a long time ago, and eagerly completed everything on the reading list. What I wouldn’t have done is paid £7.49 to play a game called ‘Super Seducer’ written by a woman and slated by men, then dusted off my hands and considered my training complete. If I truly give a shit about men, and want them to let me into their pants at some point, I have to pay attention to what individual men are saying. Listen carefully, ask questions, then listen some more, because their thoughts and needs and desires can change at any time. That’s just how humans work.
And as I say, I am no expert: I’ll never even fully understand my partner or my best friend. But I can listen, and try, and make an effort, and I’ll know a little bit more each day. They’ll listen to me in return, and hopefully we can each give the others some insights into what we want and think and feel. You don’t need Super Seducer to let you in on women’s secrets: we’ll tell you our secrets, you just need to pay attention.
Women are only a mystery if you don’t actually listen to us.