For many of us—either through a genuine desire to settle down, or the pressure of social norms—the sexual issues outlined in the previous chapter result in one place: relationships. Like all the chapter themes, relationships are another classic site of masculinity conspiracy activity.
Before we start, there are a couple of caveats for this chapter. First I’m talking here about the relationships that result from sexual attraction. In other words, I’m not talking about relationships with friends. That’s not to say that friend relationships are free from the conspiracy (just check out the kind of quasi-autistic communication between some male friends, and the sometimes fraught friendships between men and women), simply that this is a topic for another time. Second, the two books examined in this chapter speak exclusively in terms of heterosexual relationships, which excludes about 10 percent of all men who aren’t straight. Needless to say, the fact that this issue is not addressed in the books in question is a problem. However, the kind of themes I address in The Solution section can often be applied regardless of whether you’re gay or straight.
There are two things you can deduce from that last statement. First, I don’t think it’s possible to imply much difference between men due to their sexual orientation, except that gay men have generally thought more about their masculinity than straight men due to the fact that they are under a lot more pressure to justify their existence and difference relative to the norm. Second, the fact that a “romantic” relationship between two men can possess similar issues as between a man and a woman suggests men and women are not essentially different. Of course, this does not mean that everyone is the same: there are differences between men—indeed, all people—but this is due to a variety of reasons: it is faulty to assume any kind of difference because someone happens to be a man or a person with a particular sexual orientation. In short, people are different, but not because they happen to be men or women, gay or straight. And when differences do appear along these lines, it is likely we are not seeing the result of natural differences between men and women or gay and straight people, rather we are seeing the conspiracy at work.
So, caveats tabled, this chapter looks at how the theme of relationships are presented in two texts. First is Double Your Dating: What Every Man Should Know About How to Be Successful with Women by David DeAngelo. This book offers a useful insight into the way the conspiracy frames the initial dynamics of finding a potential partner and establishing a relationship. Second is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Relationships by John Gray. A natural progression from the first, this book assumes you have a relationship in place and shows how the conspiracy frames communication when allegedly securing the longevity of a relationship. Let’s first give both these books an opportunity to speak in their own voice before identifying any problems, which will take place in the proceeding section.