Retrosexual this…

// 30 May 2008

Remember this quiz providing men with a helpful guide to satisfying the gender police? Now the Daily Mail has dug up a modern version – and some people clearly wish they were back in 1954. Clare Laxton has more in this guest post

Upon my habitual trawling of the right wing press to see what we are up against today I come across this article on a new book the ‘Retrosexual Manual’ – it was in the Daily Mail’s ingeniously titled ‘femail’ section.

The book claims that women are tired of metrosexual men and goes through certain qualities that a ‘real man’ must hold in order to be attractive to women. They include focusing solely on sex, beer and football (apparently women envy the ability of the retrosexsual man to have such an uncluttered mind), having strong arms to open jars and never cooking anything more complex than a Pot Noodle – as cooking is the women’s job! It goes on with other generically sexist rules like never say ‘I love you’ after sex, never ask for directions and obviously never have cushions or curtains in your house or flat.

Not only is the article and book completely patronising to women and all that they have achieved – and are still striving to achieve, it reinforces all the gender stereotypes that we work to eradicate and gives reason for, nay, glorifies men acting in a misogynistic way – backing up every sexist’s verbal masturbation with ‘the lads’ down the boozer. Though this is a slightly tongue in cheek portrayal of a retrosexual man – apparently the author – a Mr Dave Beasley – was inspired to write the book when he saw what effect Gene Hunt from Life on Mars had on women……I wonder what women he was speaking to, as I can tell you right now that Mr Hunt had no effect on me apart from being thankful that I wasn’t a woman in the 70’s. He believes that if women are true to themselves they will admit that they want a ‘real man’. Will we? I’m not sure but I think that women don’t really like being told how to think – especially since we are in the strong starting position of our full minds, of course. In practical terms, are we really after directionless sex smelling of beer, and post-coital patter about Chelsea’s latest signing? Count me out.

It’s also deeply homophobic – giving tips on how to scrutinise interactions with other men to avoid any appearance of “suspicious relationships”:

You have mates – but never Best Friends. Famous buddies such as Starsky and Hutch, Butch and Sundance, Batman and Robin, and even Ant and Dec are highly suspicious relationships.

No matter how tough those men may be, nor how straight, the Retrosexual can’t help thinking they’re all riding a little too close to Brokeback Mountain.

I read this article with a sense of absolute disbelief but also a vague hope that men and women around the country don’t read the book or take it seriously.

Comments From You

Sabre // Posted 30 May 2008 at 3:25 pm

I read the Daily Mail article and it provided me with a good laugh. I don’t think anyone would take that too seriously as it’s so ridiculous. Although it is true that my ideal man should never have to say ‘I’m sorry, that’s never happened before’, after sex. ;-)

Lindsey // Posted 30 May 2008 at 3:28 pm

I saw this too and was left thinking if these guys don’t want any kind of commitment to a woman yet can’t cook, clean or take care of themselves in any way because that’s a woman’s job then how do they not die?

shatterboxx // Posted 30 May 2008 at 3:54 pm

The phrase ‘Oh for heaven’s sake’ comes to mind… Another real problem is when I hear women talking about men who are courteous and respectful towards women, as well as being emotionally intelligent, in a really scathing way. As if they must have some disease or something. I have a strong suspicion that this is yet another tactic used by women who desperately don’t want to appear uptight or confrontational around men. The women who want to be ‘one of the lads’ for the few tiny crumbs of so-called ‘respect’ thrown their way by men… Thoughts?

Kathy // Posted 30 May 2008 at 4:28 pm

Thank you for the link, it’s very entertaining. I have found that if you try to ignore the fact that it appeared in the Hate Mail and read it as a piece of well-observed satire, it’s actually very funny:

“And pay in cash – retrosexuals don’t use credit cards.” – is that because their brains are too “uncluttered” for them to remember their PIN or understand the tricky concept of having a bank account?

I do, however, take issue with them using Indiana Jones as an illustration – the guy’s an archaeology professor, ffs, the “Retrosexual” in the article would probably avoid such an occupation like the plague, thinking it’s “riding too close to Brokeback Mountain”, to use their words.

chem_fem // Posted 30 May 2008 at 5:37 pm

Is that it? Two choices: metrosexual or retrosexual. It’s also quite amusing that people feel men need a guide that tells them not to be told what to do.

Also why would women feel jealous of mens uncluttered minds, when they are so full of questions like ‘what would a retrosexual man do here?’.

An attractive man to me is one who is just happy to let be.

Keith B. Rigsby // Posted 30 May 2008 at 8:55 pm

Surely this book is meant as ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor–like that old book, “the Rules”, which promoted control & manipulation of men–but that’s ok, isn’t it….? Any ‘self-respecting’ man, which goes hand-in-hand with having a brain, realizes, that there is no profit (in EVERY sense) in demeaning, demoralizing, or, (more exactly) ‘dis-respecting’ anyone. Methinks there shall never be mutual respect & courtesy ‘twixt the genders. Seems as if, “everybody wants to Rule the world” (Tears for Fears). I personally (for all intents & purposes) have ‘thrown-in-the-towel’. You women won! You’re welcome to: “love, commit, & re-produce”–all by yourselves. Enjoy your “spoils”.


p.s. In the interest of “true” open dialogue, I’m confident you will ‘allow’ my contribution (as-it-were). ….hmmmmmmmmmm????


” ‘WE’, get to decide what’s anti-feminist.”

“…otherwise, deemed offensive by ‘US’…”

” ‘WE’, get to decide who is a troll.”

” ‘WE’, do not seek to censor debate.”

“This blog is a safe and friendly space for feminists, & ‘feminist ALLIES’.”

Anne Onne // Posted 30 May 2008 at 9:01 pm

Wow, so any sort or relationship with other men is suspicious (oh noes! Teh Ghey! it’s catching!), but women aren’t your equal, so don’t hang around with them, either? So I guess a Real Man is an antisocial beer-swilling football-watching slob who can’t cook and won’t pick up after himself… Wow, yes, everybody’s just falling over themselves to find such quality companions!

You know, I think this is the kind of book these kinds of ”real man” write to console themselves with the fact that women can vote now, telling themselves women prefer men like them over men who actually like women. How that level of delusion works is beyond me.

I’m also suprised that although they announce the return of ”Real Men” every 5 minutes (about as often as the death of feminism, but I guess they’re linked), men aren’t suddenly getting any more

And how is Indy a real man, since he seems pretty uninterested in football, you don’t see him drink much beer, and even the sex doesn’t seem to be that plentiful in deserts and rainforests?

And also, they confuse being a decent, polite person with being a Real Man! I mean, giving up seats for heavily pregnant women, and opening doors are a polite thing, not something that proves you’re better than everyone else! Geez, will some people only do anything remotely nice if it gets them sex or it would look really rude of them not to…(Real Men: just Nice Guys (TM) who just try a bit less!) As for the rest, it’s just straight out of the stereotypes that ironically women always complain about, so god knows why they seem to think them a positive thing that women will actively crave!

Holly Combe // Posted 30 May 2008 at 9:06 pm

The Rules? Yuk! What makes Keith think feminism deems that one “OK”? Think about it!

This isn’t a competition, Keith. It’s about fairness.

Anne Onne // Posted 30 May 2008 at 9:12 pm

Shatterboxx, exactly. I think there is a very real effect of the patriarchy that encourages women to demean other women, and men who don’t conform to stereotypes. I do think it’s to get a pat on the head, the idea that if you play along, you’ll be rewarded, and that what you really want is to conform, and all those around you to do so. It’s quite sad, really.

Keith, if it was tongue-in-cheek, would most people actually believe the stereotypes? How can something that just affirms stereotypes (without even examining why these supposed innate differences and preferences occur) be considered satirical or tongue-in-cheek? If it was, it’d have to go further and laught AT the stereotypes and how stupid they are, and not encourage them. If it’s satire, it’s very poor satire. Nah, I’m of the mind it’s exactly what it says on the tin. Since there are enough people to believe this tripe, it seems more likely that it IS tripe, rather than a badly failed attempt to reverse stereotypes it looks like it celebrates.

And Keith, any website screens its comments. The F word just has the decency to tell people openly, and warn them not to post abuse. Most sites you could comment on may well never put your comment up, and you’ll never know they’re being selective. But here, they really do put nearly everything up. I’d only worry about the comments policy if you really had a high chance of saying something you know they’d find useless or insulting. Unless you think that any comment, no matter how insulting, useless, off-topic, threatening or demeaning should be published, in the interest of ‘true open dialogue’?

Torygirl // Posted 30 May 2008 at 9:35 pm

I have a real man. He’s a soldier.

Luckily he doesn’t chain me to the sink, because otherwise I couldn’t get to the cooker.

Unfortunately he prefers rugby to football so that probably makes him ‘suspicious’…


Freya // Posted 1 June 2008 at 6:10 am

QUICK! Question your sexuality if you happen to like cooking, or treating your wife like an equal, or close friendships with your best mates!!!!!

I never could stand the term “metrosexual,” least of all “retrosexual.” It’s as if taking good care of yourself has something to do with your sexuality. RetroSEXUAL? It’s as if chauvinism makes you … I don’t know, sexier or something?!?

Again and again, society confuses gender with sex. Ridiculous articles like this express a common fear: the “castrating” logic of feminism.

Anne Onne // Posted 1 June 2008 at 3:04 pm

Freya, I think the term ‘retrosexual’ came about as a continuation of the ‘metrosexual’ tag, which in itself was a pun on the word ‘heterosexual’, and relies on the assumption that it is somehow different to being ‘heterosexual’ if a man does anything considered ‘homosexual’ or associated with women. These assumptions are in themselves infuriating, especially the idea that it’s only really ‘heterosexual’ to be a misogynistic slob of a loner who is incapable of doing anything but the ‘manliest’ things.

Redheadinred // Posted 1 June 2008 at 7:10 pm

You can tell what it’s like from its cover. A man blowing cigarette smoke in a woman’s face, while she looks into his eyes? Ew.

Redheadinred // Posted 1 June 2008 at 7:16 pm

I also think you’d have to be a few fries short of a happy meal to read any book with the subtitle ‘how to be a real man’. I mean, come on, what kind of saddo would you have to be?*

* I’m counting women here, too, if the situation were reversed with ‘how to be a real woman’

Kate King // Posted 2 June 2008 at 12:36 pm

Real men, and real women if it comes to that, respect and relate to other people as fully-rounded people and not just as crude stereotypes.

That one needs a bit more work before I get a best-seller, newspaper articles or appearances on chat shows out of it, but it’s the core of something that should work. Anyone else want in on the project?!

Torygirl // Posted 2 June 2008 at 1:14 pm

I’d read a book called ‘How to be a Real Woman’, Reheadinred. I’ve always felt I was missing something somewhere…

Leepster // Posted 2 June 2008 at 3:18 pm

Thanks Clare for bringing this to our attention – the book is clearly an insult to most men who are far from either being – or aspiring to be – ‘retrosexual’. It’s a sad return to stereotypes that we should be well over. Whether or not it’s meant tongue in cheek is not the point at all – it’s a dangerous reinforcement of gender roles, and suggests that women should be dominated. I hope it ends up in the bargain bin and then discontinued as soon as possible!

Adrian // Posted 3 June 2008 at 10:25 am

Hi, I’m the author of the book. It’s a joke – a piss-take of men’s identity and values. OK maybe the humour didn’t come acrosss in that article that ripped off the book – but hey that’s the Daily Mail for you. To be honest my book is not that great either, but it does try to be funny.

Torygirl // Posted 3 June 2008 at 12:40 pm

Adrian could you write a piss-take of women’s identity and values? Would it still be a piss take? I’ll collaborate with you – I need all the help I can get!

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds