Why don’t men get as much of a thrill over fictional romances as women do?


To generalize for the purpose of an easy answer, let’s think in stereotypically gendered terms. When it comes to love, men have an active role while women have a passive one.

What are the implications of this? It means that what a woman feels as the ups and downs, the mystery, the unknown, the excitement, etc., all things that define “blossoming” love, are things that happen to her. She is passive, she is the recipient. Her agency is contained in her response to these things.

But for a man, anything that makes “love” progress (or regress) pretty much directly stems from one of his actions. He does something or initiates and a woman responds/reciprocates. Because he does not have the gendered luxury of taking a backseat or passive role and watching things happen (if he does, nothing will; the woman will lose interest), he begins, by necessity, to view love as the cause and effect relationship that it more accurately is in reality (he does something, woman responds).

Seeing something like this takes a ton of the “magic” out of it. Compare it to seeing the sun rise every day. It becomes a lot less mystical, exciting, and dramatic when you know exactly why it happens and can simply see it for the cause and effect relationship that it truly is… you may even begin to take it for granted.

This is why romance eventually becomes well… unromantic for men. Romance is not a phenomenon, but instead a verb; it’s a series of actions carried out by a man to earn a woman’s affections… it’s labor.

So when women make romantic gestures to men, do they like it?

You’re a little bit off the mark — you’re actually describing an inversion of the gendered roles here (i.e. the woman is an active contributor while the man is a passive recipient or responder). While a man will appreciate such a gesture, it’s not quite what composes the male romantic fantasy (more on this later).

Do men that were heavily pursued by women feel this way?

Men who aren’t used to being pursued are usually confused or thrown off by the reversal of gendered roles. The result is the prevailing idea that men do not respond well to being approached first by women or even the autobiographical accounts from men describing instances where they couldn’t respond well even if they were attracted to the woman approaching them. This is the men being shocked out of the traditional “script” of romance.

Secondly, when you talk about women pursuing men, that usually happens in a markedly different fashion than the way in which men pursue women (hint: it’s more passive). A woman “aggressively” pursuing a man looks more like said woman going to extensive lengths to make it clear that she is available for pursuit rather than actively pursuing; the man is still usually leading things forward in some manner by handling the logistics of this romance. This is where you get those autobiographical stories from men about missing signals; “aggressive” pursuit from women is (usually) a set of passive signals that are clear to men who are experienced, but unclear to men not used to being “pursued.”

I wonder if this is true in same sex male couples too.

I do too. I talk with a homosexual friend about stuff like this a lot, maybe I’ll bring it up next time I see him.

The Male Romantic Fantasy

I’d say that men usually feel most loved when this normal state of affairs is negated; when they are made to believe that a woman’s love is not conditional in the cause-and-effect manner described in the parent post. Love is work for men, but it can be rewarding work when things are going smoothly and the woman is happy as a result. But the male romantic fantasy is to be shown that the woman feels the same way and stands by him when he’s down on his luck, when the money’s not there, or when he’s not feeling confident. He wants to know that the love he believes he’s earned will stay even when the actions that feed it wane (however temporarily). A good woman can often lift a man up in his times of need and desperation and weather the storm even when things aren’t going well. The male romantic fantasy is an enduring and unconditional love that seems to defy this relationship of labor and reward. A man wants to be loved for who he is, not for what he does in order to be loved.

An interesting way to examine this is to look at what women often call romantic entitlement. An entitled guy is a dude who maintains an unrealistic notion of men’s typically active role in love. Before acknowledging reality, this boy uncompromisingly believes that he shouldn’t have to do anything or change anything about himself to earn a woman’s love; he wants to be loved for who he is, not what he does.

All men secretly want this, but there comes a day when they eventually compromise out of necessity. After that day, they may spend years honing themselves, working, shaping themselves into the men they believe women want to be chosen by. A massive part of what causes boys to “grow up” is the realization that being loved requires hard work. This impetus begins a journey where a boy grows into a man by gaining strength, knowledge, resources, and wisdom. The harsh realities of the world might harden and change him into a person his boyhood self wouldn’t recognize. He might adopt viewpoints he doesn’t agree with, transgress his personal boundaries, or commit acts he previously thought himself incapable of. But ultimately, the goal is to feel as if his work is done.

When he can finally let go of the crank he continually turns day after day in order to earn love and, even if only for a moment, it turns by itself to nourish him in return, that is when he will know he is loved.

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