Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Men Want

I found this page through one of the social networking sites. Generally, articles like this are pretty lame and simple-minded. This one isn't. While the language and argument is a bit basic (the site seems to be aimed at college students, so that makes sense), they points are actually pretty spot-on from my experience. [Comments below.]

College Sex & Love: What Men Want

by Micah Stipech

The other day I was working on the computer in our graduate lounge when two female classmates turned to me with exacerbated looks.

"What is the deal with guys?" they asked. "What do they want? I mean, why do they act like they are all interested and then in an instant freak out and start avoiding you?"

I hemmed and hawed through a couple minutes of chair swaggering ramblings about commitment and clingy women before I confirmed what my two classmates suspected; I was a guy, and I had no clue.

Oddly enough, I have thought more about love in the last few months than I have in my entire life, and I'm more confused than ever. As an aspiring psychologist I've decided to do what it seems every good psychologist does when encountering something that baffles them; they come up with a theory and write a paper on it.

I'm categorizing what men want into three hierarchical levels. They form a triangle. The three levels are biological, significance and meaning. The hierarchy shows value (the higher the level the more value and the more human), and the triangle shape shows the empirical reality that most members of my gender, including myself, are more apt to hover towards the bottom with fewer individuals in the upper regions.


The biological level is Sigmund Freud's level. This is the most obvious level and also where most men function. Mainly instinctual, we don't really need our brains to function here. We simply want to propagate our genes. When we operate on this level women wonder why we choose the bad girls over the nice ones. Here we are attracted to what our environment has taught us to desire. It seems that our current society has re-evolved, if you will, to functioning on this level. This level holds our strongest reinforcers. Our friends and idols pat us on the back and make us feel like men when we master this realm.

What men want at the biological level:

  • We want you to look like the girl in the magazine
  • We want you to act like the James Bond girl
  • We want more than one of you
  • We don't want responsibility or commitment
  • Of course, all this leads to the pinnacle of the biological level…sex.

The second level of significance is Alfred Adler's level. Here men want prestige and security. They want a woman who gets them thumbs up from their buddies when she leaves the table to use the washroom. Here men will gamble on a dangerous investment because she brings such winks and inquisitions from those who hold the approval that really matters to them, their comrades. Men get in trouble here when they shop for a woman like they shop for a car.

On this level men want to feel like men, and nothing makes a guy feel more like a man than having the girl who all the guys are checking out come and sit on your lap.

Now I also mentioned that on this level men want security. It is here the biker dude turns into a softy, but also a place that things can get ugly. When that girl that was sitting on your lap sits on your buddies lap, this level mingles with the lower biological one. Intense emotions of fear, anger and jealousy bombard the once suave male. Basically, he moves in seconds from feelings of googly adoration to wanting to kill everyone. I know that seems harsh, but its true. Men experience these emotions very intensely, and they don't know what to do with them. Barbaric reasoning overwhelms cool wisdom and we have all seen the effects. There are also men who turn emotion inward rather than lashing out. In either case, the effects on the individual are equally as devastating.

Men want security. They desire the one they love to want only them. Believe it or not, here they just want a woman who they can trust, and a woman who thinks they stole the moon. A woman can't build a guy up enough, and there is nothing worse than a woman who makes comments that cut his ego. Basic areas of ego damaging comments are physical stature, sex, power, importance. Contrary to legend, women who are demeaning to guys aren't an attractive challenge, they are just annoying.

What men want on the significance level:

  • Prestige
  • Approval from the guys
  • Someone they can trust
  • Someone who thinks they are superman

The highest level of the "what men want" pyramid is meaning. This is the hope for the male species. From here flow those brief moments that cause one to believe that there is something more in there than a crass, egotistical, pizza eater.

In this realm men enjoy giving more than receiving. They do things because they want to, not because they are supposed to. They find meaning in experiencing and encountering someone. More than infatuation, men in this realm just want to be with you, not to get something or to keep you from going out with your friends. They are simply content to "be," and don't have to be working towards some type of goal. Here their loved one's best interests are paramount. Here Antoine Saint-Exupery's words ring true, "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction."

This realm is open ended, it is moving, synergy abounds. From here creativity is spurred, not isolation. Here the whole is greater than the sum. Our intellect, spirit, personality and ambition swirl and motivate us into more than just an emotional experience. Here there is no record of wrongs, no focusing on needs or fairness. In this realm a single worn out picture may sustain a sailor for months. In this realm we don't love you because your beautiful, but you are beautiful simply because we love you. This is where love songs are written, selfless acts are committed, and men become truly human. We transcend all of what we have been conscripted to be, and become what we might and ought.

What men want on the meaning level:

  • To give selflessly
  • Someone to serve
  • Someone who shares mutual purpose
  • Someone to sacrifice for
  • Shared creativity, intellect, spirit, ambition
  • Maturity
  • Someone who loves on the same level

Does one need to have the lower levels before attaining the higher ones? No. They are continuous and work interchangable. In fact, the more one lives in the meaning level, the more the lower levels fade. This may naturally happen with age, but can be accomplished through conscious endeavor. The more a man trusts and seeks to give selflessly to a woman the less he needs her to look like a cover girl. Unfortunately this is not an easy transcension. It seems that more than ever, both biology and environment have teamed up against men. We are trained to live at the low end of the scale and women have keenly adapted to manipulate us at that same level, which makes moving beyond it even more difficult.

I realize that this paints a dreary picture of the male race. The silver lining is this; men really do desire to love at the highest level. The problem is that not enough of us realize it, nor are we challenged to find it. Our ability to love seems one of the many casualties of our current western culture.

How does a women find such a man? This is perhaps an article for the future, but in the meantime heed this advice; treat us how we ought and should be, not how we are. By this I mean, please stop training us to live off the bottom.

Micah Stipech lives in Whistler, British Columbia, loves to play hockey and works as a child psychotherapist. Reprinted with permission of author.

This hierarchy of male needs in relationship seems pretty accurate. But while the author suggests that the lower levels fade away as one lives at the higher levels, I would disagree -- it's a transcend and include issue. Because I see this as a developmental hierarchy for the most part (I don't think anyone gets to meaning without going through biological or significance), there needs to be a fourth stage in which one can integrate all of the stages into a healthy whole.

At the integral level of this model, a man might be able to balance all three drives in a whole and healthy way -- still manly and biologically driven, still aware of his image in the world, and still motivated at the deepest level by the need for a meaningful relationship. I would contend that if any of the three levels/stages that Stipech presents are lacking or underdeveloped, the man in question will not be a very healthy partner.

Clearly, as Stipech points out, not enough men are living with the meaning level -- especially college-age guys. I think he is wrong, however, to blame women for training men "to live off the bottom." I think it's more the overall cultural message that boys grow up with, the music and movies presented to us, and that guys encourage in each other.

You won't hear too many men sitting around in a bar, looking at a woman and talking about how they could really love her because she's smart and authentic and could be a supportive partner in the quest for a meaningful life. [And that's sad.] Men encourage men to "live off the bottom" of the hierarchy.

From my experience, and admittedly I am long past college age and things have changed a lot since I was in that dating scene, women want a meaningful, emotionally deep relationship, but they also want a masculine man, a socially aware and motivated man who values success.

It's a package deal.


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