Thursday morning, in a room on the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower in midtown, Cosmopolitan editor Kate White called the “Man Summit” to order. With current Cosmo cover lines like “Own His Orgasm (What Men Secretly Want Right Before Blast Off)” and “Naughtiest SEX Q&A,” one might picture a parade of, say, firemen wearing nothing but hats and loincloths. But in fact, White assured the audience, this was an event at which Serious Things Pertaining to Men would be discussed, with a five-person panel moderated by Ken Doll look-alike Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer.
“Readers understand that men are different,” said White. “We’re asking so much more of men today. We want them to be great providers — but we also want them to get pedicures.” The audience laughed. There were lots of young women in pretty dresses and peep-toe shoes; most of the men in the room seemed to be onstage or filming the event. “We want them to be sensitive — but we also want them to be alpha males.”
(The current issue’s advice to “flirt with a random guy” to “feel more aroused” seems to engender neither sensitivity nor alpha maleness. The quote from “Matt, 25,” about how to “Own His Orgasm!” is more on point: “Let me tug on your hair or pin your hands above your head in the moment. It unleashes this primal side of me that makes my climax crazy-good.”)
Hemmer opened with a question about whether men have it “easier” than in previous generations; 61 percent of the 1,500 men surveyed by Cosmopolitan.com responded that they did not. Sex therapist and Cosmo contributing editor Ian Kerner, Ph.D., one of the panelists, couldn’t necessarily speak to the reasons why these 915 men might think they'd had a rough go of things, but he did offer an observation from his private practice. “The No. 1 issue in the couples I see is low desire,” said Kerner, who resembles a slightly smaller Paul Rudd. “Five, ten years ago, it was women” with the problem. “Today, it’s mostly men.”
(Or maybe the women just aren’t dressing slutty enough? “Dress for the Action You Want,” Cosmo advises, quoting an expert as saying “It’s very important to make yourself look like you want to have sex, because then you’re way more likely to get into it.”)
Hemmer, who was named one of New York City’s most eligible bachelors by Extra!, segued into a question about the “burden” placed on men today. “Fifty-nine percent of men would feel uncomfortable if the woman makes more money,” he said, noting, “I have no problem with this.” And why would he? He recently signed a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract. “Men are going to have to get used to it! The growing jobs are jobs men aren’t supposed to have, like nurses and teachers.”
(“What’s Triggering Male Tantrums?” “Guys used to be the providers and protectors, but now, more women than men are graduating from college, which leads to women earning more, having more confidence, and demanding more from a boyfriend.”)
“We live in a world where women expect men to earn money and carry their weight economically,” said panelist Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at NYU. “Young men are not troubled by women making more money — they hope to have a partnership.”
“Sixty-seven percent of guys and 73 percent of women say that men today are less ambitious than men of the previous generation,” said Hemmer.
“It’s about failure to launch,” said panelist William Pollack, Ph.D., the president of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital. “More men are depressed. They’re sad, deadened — they feel like there’s no place for them.”
How do we overcome this world of Sad Keanus, then? “It’s not a zero-sum game,” said Gerson. “Just because women are doing better doesn’t mean men need to be doing worse.”
It’s so true. And who better than Cosmo to highlight these issues? After all, as “Alex, 24,” told the magazine, “For a while, I thought my girlfriend either was checking my e-mail or had developed the ability to gaze into my mind — she always knew things about me she should not have known. Then I opened her Cosmo. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”