This project was born out of a deep frustration in my search for meaningful connections with men. After years of online dating, which involved such touching pinnacle moments as being matched with “Slutfuka” on Match.com, receiving a message whose entire contents read: “Are you submissive?,” and being wooed by a man who included in his list of interests: “All things vagina”–not to mention growing up in a thousands-year-old patriarchy whose rape culture went unquestioned till, literally, a couple months ago–I often wondereded if men really love women. If they want the same things I want. If the ones who acted like dicks were putting on a show to hide their heartache, or if the ones who seemed loving and trustworthy were putting on a show so they could get laid. The catalyzing question was really baseline for me: Who are these people?
Of course, this sense of bewilderment wasn’t just about the failures of internet romance or greater questions about social structures. My upbringing involved a general alienation from men. There weren’t a whole lot of them around, and the ones who were around weren’t around emotionally. As I got older and became platonically and sexually involved with men, I experienced an array of perplexing and disillusioning behavior–from lying and cheating, to ghosting, to assault. Those experiences also fed the sense that I couldn’t understand men.
And when I would hang out with girlfriends, they weren’t getting it either. So many nights were spent hovering over mugs of tea, comforting tearful friends as they recounted arguments, break-ups, or totally bizarre boyfriend behavior. We were so confused.
One night as I was sitting in my room, staring sadly at yet another douchey Tinder message, I started to wish that someone out there had just asked men at some point. Asked them all the questions straight women want answers to, and then wrote a book or something, so we wouldn’t have to feel so clueless about who men are. Are they really all from Mars–planet of destruction, war, and lust? Are they complex? Do they just want to watch football and have meaningless sex forever and that’s it? That’s when it occurred to me that I was a writer, and I could do this project. So I wrote down all the questions I had, and then I asked my girlfriends what they wanted to know. I compiled a list of questions, bought a fancy (however used) voice recording device, and went on my way.
My aim for this project is to encourage authenticity and normalize emotionally intimate dialogue. We live in a culture that is constantly tricking us into believing that if we want to be wanted (and we do), then we have to pretend we don’t feel what we feel. It’s part of our political landscape, it’s part of our professional landscape, it’s part of our culture’s gender messaging to both men and women. And it’s so lame. It hurts everybody. For men, the type of masculinity we’ve postured as definitive requires emotional amputation, and as a result, we’ve bred generation after generation of emotionally stunted men who transmute fear, shame, and sadness into anger and blame, and/or who intellectualize their feelings. Women have either come to advocate for that structure, felt victimized at the hands of it, adopted it as their own method of surviving the world, or actively fought against it—often some combination of the four. And we’re all super depressed and disconnected and not talking to each other—and about to go to war with North Korea (or Iran or whoever wants to get into the pissing contest). These conversations are my contribution to breaking the cycle. My hope is that by being transparent with one another, we can start to see how much we have in common, and that this connection will help heal some of the rifts, both between individual men and women, and in how we relate to the idea of “the masculine” culturally.