Hug your man today – Denise Li

I don’t know who perpetuated the myth that all men want to do after sex is sleep and that they hate post-coital cuddles, but whoever’s responsible for that should stop spreading lies.

I chanced upon this story as I was clicking through the Cosmo US website this morning, which said cuddling was a predictor of relationship happiness and longevity among men. That’s according to a recent study done by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the US. You can read more about its latest findings here.

More surprisingly, the study also revealed that tenderness was more important to men than to women.

How’s that for turning gender stereotypes on its head?

The image of men as sex-obsessed, emotional-retarded Neantherthals isn’t just frustrating women everywhere, it also places undue and unnecessary pressure to men to live up to certain gender expectations and stereotypes. While feminism has really taken off in developed nations, I believe no one has properly addressed the changing roles and expectations of men in the feminist age. Now that many women have corporate careers and more than able to provide for themselves, I can see why some men might feel redundant. A guy friend lamented to me the other day, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to behave on first dates anymore. Even the simple gesture of picking up the check at the end of a meal can be seen as a politically-loaded gesture; in paying for the meal, I’ll have to consider how the woman feels about that too. Will she feel beholden to me? Should I say ‘yes’ if she offers to split the bill?'”

All very valid questions, I have to admit. I wasn’t able to answer him because how each individual responds to the situation is highly subjective.  (If it were me, I’d offer to pay for my share of my meal. If he refuses, I’d volunteer to pick up the tab for post-drinner drinks).

Point being: It’s hard for men to “be men” when no one’s sure what exactly that means anymore. Some time ago, there must have been a clearer definition of what that meant; bringing home the bacon, never wearing skinny jeans, not talking about their emotions.

Clearly, things have changed, but it’s a confusing time for men who’ve been brought up by fathers who passed on old-school, patriarchal values to them. Men also have to deal with the onslaught of never-ending “new” labels like “metrosexual” (the term “metrosexual” in itself connotes a deviation from the stereotype of the traditional “masculine man”, which ironically becomes yet another stereotype); they clearly do not have history on their side. Ingrained patriarchal values are muddied with new and ever-changing pop cultural definitions about what it means to be a man. Men, too, are victims of gender stereotyping and labelling.

I think women can and should play their parts to ease men into this bewildering age. We can start by not having double standards; for example, if we want men to treat us as equals and to respect our independence, we shouldn’t be expecting them to buy us Prada bags and to pick us up and send us home after each and every date (it’d be nice, but these shouldn’t be things we take for granted). We can start by acknowledging and understanding that men have emotional needs too. We can take it one step further by understanding it’s not always easy for them to tell us what they want and need from us; this shouldn’t stop us from trying to make the process easier for them. Men need reassurance about being loved too – we shouldn’t judge them for it.

Let us, as women, be the first to take the initiative in bridging this gender divide. Start by giving your man a hug first thing tonight when you see him. He may not be very vocal in asking for one, but trust me, he’ll probably welcome it all the same.

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