Sex & Relationships

Is George Clooney really who young men want to be?

Why young men feel pressure to live up to the stereotype of the sex-obsessed dog.

George Clooney

George Clooney attends the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards 2013
Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage

The idea that men are sex-obsessed creatures is so widespread that it’s almost cliché. But is that interpretation of male behaviour accurate, or is it perpetuating a stereotype that is ultimately damaging — not to mention insulting — to young men.

That’s the argument put forth in a recent The Daily Telegraph article that reviews a new book making the argument that men are getting a raw deal culturally. The book, Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male by Andrew Smiler, puts forth the idea that pervasive ideas about men and sex don’t square up with the real thoughts and feelings that young men express when they’re asked to elaborate on their sexual lives and identities.

Some of Smiler’s statistics also reframe the ‘men as sex-obsessed dogs’ notion that is perpetuated in movies, TV, and terrible pop songs that proliferate. In fact, Smiler’s book reveals that the majority of men under the age of 30 claim to have had five sexual partners or fewer.

Telegraph writer Brooke Magnanti (the woman known as Belle de Jour to those who followed her once anonymous blog) makes another interesting point in her review of Smiler’s book — one that’s rarely brought into discussions about male sexual identity.

According to Magnanti, if monogamy, marriage and children weren’t things men wanted in their heart of hearts, they wouldn’t “exist”. “They may pay lip service to the stereotype of being dragged to the altar, but in reality, they want the social acceptability and stability too,” writes Magnanti.

Even though many women have fathers, brothers, male friends and former amours that stand in living dispute of popular and unflattering ideas about men, the myth of the male dog persists.

For Smiler, that’s down to a mix of pop culture and the media, which may be placing undue pressure on young men to live up to (or live down to, depending on your point of view) the myth of male sexual prowess. From rap stars to movie stars, the culture glorifies sexual conquests among men. And in turn, the Clooney- or Sheen-ification of male behaviour trickles down to the layman incompletely.

“…all those men we assume are both successful and promiscuous,” writes Magnanti, “[Smiler] posits, are driving pressure on men to get their numbers up whether or not it’s a real reflection of what they want from sex and relationships.”