Random Ephemera

No, Feminists Do Not Prefer Sexists Over Woke Men

*facepalm* Photo by Torley on Flickr
Over at Psychology Today David J. Ley has written an article that is sure to be a hit on the various Men’s Rights and Pick Up Artists boards called Feminists Think Sexist Men Are Sexier than "Woke" Men. He’s not just saying that like so many potatoheads in various comment sections do, though. Nope, he has SCIENCE behind it.

Granted, the study he cites doesn’t really say what he claims it says at all.

Ley’s premise, as derived from the recent study by Pelin Guland and Tom R. Kupfer, is that while women claim they don’t like sexist men, actually polling them reveals that they enjoy traits like assertiveness usually associated with “bad boys.” I’d like to point out that assertiveness is just a general attractive quality and that “bad boys” are usually just guys in bands, but Ley ties it in with benevolent sexist attitudes. Those that he says women are aroused by include:

Women should be “put on a pedestal”
Women should be cherished and protected by men
Men should be willing to sacrifice to provide for women
Women are more virtuous than men
Women are more refined and pure, compared to men
He makes sure to mention that these are attitudes he himself has as a southern gentlemen.

I managed to get into the study thanks to a friend of mine, and to say that Gul and Kupfer are making any sort of statement whether women like benevolently sexist guys over the woke is nonsense.

What the study is saying is as complicated as any aspect of human relationships. Benevolent sexism is often seen as an attractive quality because it implies investiture by the men. However, the study goes out of its way numerous times to point out that this is in spite of the harmful effects that BS has on women’s equality as a whole.

More importantly, this wasn’t a look at sexists versus woke. The study was interested in men who were perceived as benevolent sexists over ones that weren’t but weren’t covers a lot of territory. One of the defining characteristics of non-BS men in one study was believing that people could be happy without a romantic relationship. Though the study controlled for that aspect in their approach by assuring the women being studied that the man in the scenario wanted a relationship, it’s not inconceivable that someone hearing that wouldn’t be invested in a partner as much as someone who took the opposite view. Another look involved things that most of us would consider courtesy more than sexism:

The scenario described BS behaviors such as offering his coat, carrying heavy boxes, helping to use a computer program, and opening doors for the participant, whereas the non-BS man was described as taking a more gender equal role.
Look, I get what they’re trying to do here, but I kind of feel this misses the forest for the trees. If a man tells you he doesn’t open a door because of gender equality, I promise you THAT dude is the one with the real aggressive sexism. Men who spend their times pontificating about how women’s equality means they never have to do anything to help women aren’t woke. They’re guys with grudges.

I have no problems with the methodology of the study. It wants to find out why women, feminist or not, might be attracted to guys who are paternalistic or undermining even when they know that those attitudes exist and do damage. The conclusion from the study is that women find many of those attitudes coincide with willingness to put effort into the relationship.

But we live in a world where “woke” men are often hiding many aspects of institutional sexism thanks to a lack of self-reflection. There’s no escaping it. It’s easy to see why women would take the best they can get over overt misogyny or men who talk about gender equality but whose criteria are mostly defined by being unhelpful. I’d love to see how this study would hold up to men who help positions more in line with what feminists are usually interested in, such as equal pay, access to reproductive health, ending rape culture, etc.

But Ley’s article apparently isn't interested in any of that. What it seems to be implying is that women seek men who are sexist but in an okay way, and that’s just not what the study shows. It shows that women like men willing to be a partner and will put up with our patriarchal baggage when they don’t want to be alone. Wokeness is defined in a very mediocre way that just doesn’t do much. Most feminists I know are way more interested with whether a partner voted for Trump than whether he’ll give up his coat. Nonetheless, I expect Ley’s work to be widely posted as proof that feminists secretly yearn for douchebags rather than showing that even in hypothetical settings their options for men are disappointing.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner