Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Historic Heroes, Contemporary Readers, Part II


A Man's Man vs The S.N.A.G.:
Does Eleanor of Aquitaine have much to answer for?

Eleanor of Aquitaine is credited with being the one to spread the idea of courtly love around Europe. In the idea of courtly love, the lover attempts to gain the attention and adulation of his ladylove through acts and deeds of honour and kindness.

To be soft-spoken, poetic, considerate and gentle were all ideal male behaviour in courtly love. And what a contrast from the traditional definitions of masculinity: virile, strong, brave, aggressive, stoic, logical, independent.


What an accomplishment for a woman, to take the big strong manly man and get him, of his own free will and volition, to spout the words, "I wuv you, my snuggy-wuggums."

(But the man is not some blind dupe who will follow slavishly. He cottoned on that if he puts aside all his powerful masculine traits for a brief while, and approached a woman on her terms, he'd be granted access to hidden delights he previously could only wet-dream about.)

So thus was introduced a behavioural counter to all the macho grunting, scratching and thirty seconds of uninsipring sweat in bed that most men were known for. Eleanor single-handedly introduced civil behaviour for knights towards the fairer sex. Romance was born.

Since then, women have enjoyed the sense that men were courting them simply not to get under their petticoats, but because the man admired the whole woman, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually as well as physically.

Now chicks dig this, which is why so many of them write tales of manly men who abandon their masculine traits (temporarily, of course) for love of the heroine. Then, reverting back to his masculine ways (without completely losing his sense of courtly love) he proceeds to take her to bed and prove his virility, and then cuddles her afterwards. (Chicks dig this as well.)

It's not so much the abandonment of the masculine traits a woman seeks, but rather the aquisition of a sensitivity towards the feminine needs.

We like our heroes masculine yet sensitive. We like the Mister Darcies, Colonel Brandons and Leopold Mountbattens. What we don't like are the Man's men like Mister John"Don't apologize—it's a sign of weakness"Wayne. Absolutely nobody can imagine the Duke saying, "I love you, despite myself."

Then in the late 20th Century a disturbing knee-jerk reaction permeated society: Machismo. (Personally I blame the 50's first, then the 70's.) Suddenly men wanted to be Macho men with fur on their chests and engage in the preening and strutting and fast cars and their bevy of "bitches and hoes" while eschewing any and all traits that smacked of femininity. After all, real men don't eat quiche.

Now, the macho man is nothing like the historical masculine man, who was willing to embrace the ideas of courtly love and woo a woman as a whole being and not just as a convenient [censored], and the contemporary woman missed historical masculine man very much.

Then, in a knee-jerk reaction to the knee-jerk reaction of Machismo, along came the Sensitive New Age Guy (or S.N.A.G. for short--and hey, Metrosexuals? I'm looking at you too!). Here was a guy who is in touch with his feminine side. He's sensitive (of course), thoughtful, kind, considerate, weak, limp-wristed and effeminate. While he may be appealing at first, wooing us with his empathetic sensibilities, when it comes time for his to sweep us off our feet and carry us off to the bedroom, instead of consummating our hormonal desires, he offers, instead, to go with us to couple's counselling.

(Hello! We don't want counselling! We wanna be schtupped! Where are your cojones?)

So now we have Contemporary Woman who loves the old-fashioned thought of a masculine man who is all sinewy thews, strong chins and lofty titles like "Lord Devlin, Marquis of Baddington" who will be admired greatly among his peers, ride a fine horse, fight a duel with aplomb and yet have his heard and sensibilities turned by a pair of fine eyes and finer ankles. Yes, we want him to be sensitive to our needs, but not at the expense of those lovely masculine virtues that attracted us in the first place. He must take Contemporary Woman gently into his arms, then kiss her fiercely, leaving her breathless and wanting more.

So let us give Contemporary Woman a man who is strong, virile and powerful and is intelligent enough to recognise her value as a woman, who cherishes her not just for her sensibilities, but her intelligence and also her very fine pair of bazoombas. She wants the best of all worlds. Not asking much, is she?
Eleanor may have much to answer for. She introduced us to the concept of courtly love. Now we have been spoiled.
And although Eleanor may roll her royal eyes at us, I think we will draw the line at Lord Devlin calling us "Snuggy-wuggums."

Next time: Historic Heroes--Contemporary Woman's Wishlist.


Holly Greenfield said...

Great post, Heidi! I really enjoyed reading that. You made me laugh.

Zara Penney said...

But it's nice to come to the end of the book, dream of he who shall, once he gets gal, can revert to the bossy, nasty piece of work his father probably probably taught him into, put it on the bookshelf - turn to hubby and say,

"Bring me my slippers, shnoogikins."