Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guy Talk

I will be up front. I’m upset. If you disagree with me or feel I jumped to conclusions, feel free to comment. Maybe we can make something constructive of this.

I suppose most people in America are familiar with the term “girl talk”. This term is generally associated with women who get together to talk, most often to complain about men.

Well, a week ago I got a peek at what one young man called “guy talk.” Here is a rough transcription of the entire exchange between two men who are in committed, monogamous relationships:
Man 1: So how’s your woman? You haven’t told me much about her.
Man 2: She’s great. She’s thin, blond, and loves sex.
Man 1: Sounds like you should keep her around.
Man 2: Yeah, I will. She takes care of me, too. How’s your woman?
Man 1: We’ve been fighting a lot but I don’t want to get rid of her.
Man 2: Man, don’t you hate that?
Man 1: Yeah, and the sex is great. Makes it even harder to get rid of her.
People will ask me what’s so bad about this. Why am I making such a big deal about this? This is normal, it’s…guy talk. And that is the problem. I called Man 2 out about this behavior and he said just that, “What? It’s guy talk.” I know that people like to talk about sex. Besides the fact that I live in a society where productive, meaningful discussions about sex are practically nonexistent, the above conversation bothers me because it reminds me that certain men only know how to talk about women with other men in terms that verbally turn women into objects. Why stay with her? Well, the sex is great. Never mind anything else. Her sex is what she’s good for, otherwise she's disposable.

If men are taught that it is acceptable to speak about women as if they are nothing but their bodies, their looks, the sex they can give to men, if they are taught that this kind of dialog is normal and should be expected among men, then we are living in a world where many forms of oppression of women are possible.

This small exchange, this seemingly insignificant act puts a mask of normacly over the idea, whether consciously agreed with or not, that women are objects, not humans, good only for things like sex and pleasing men, and they can be gotten rid of if the getting isn't good enough.

It doesn’t matter if you’re like Man 2 and you “bought roses for her because she had a bad day” and you “hold doors open for her”. If you think talking about women in this way is acceptable you are helping to uphold a society where women are still, in many ways, treated like they are inferior. Talk opens doors. What doors are we holding open if we think it’s acceptable for our male friends to talk about their girlfriends like this?


Cicero said...

This exchange almost sounds scripted, but I know what you're talking about. I'm a guy and I'm sick of douches making us look bad by talking about their girlfriends or other women this way. I've picked up on conversations like this in passing and I only wonder why any woman would find that kind of thought and behavior attractive.

ItsMrsMe said...

Couldn't agree more. I remember hearing a conversation between two guys that essentially went something like
1: "How are you and [that one girl]?"
2: "Oh we're good, hanging out a lot but she's keeping it slow"
1: "What, why man?"
2: "Her freaking boyfriend."
1: "oh well that's just an obstacle you can easily get out the way haha
2: "I know right, hopefully at the party this weekend I'll get her to give in.."
And then I went a different direction.

And people excuse it as "Oh it's just how guys talk" in the same way the excuse goes for "Oh boys will be boys." This behavior and mentality (and subsequently, treatment) shouldn't be excused in any circumstance. Excusing it and acting like it's not a big deal is just shutting your eyes to the problem and helping it stay there. I think that's part of the reason people get so defensive, and get angry saying we/feminists are just trying to guilt trip them. I mean at the end of the day, how sad is it that it's NORMAL for this mindset (and conversation) to happen? I wish it was easier to get a calm discussion going about these issues without every guy I talk to about this blowing up at me for "taking things too seriously." Yeah, sorry buddy but perpetuating the notion that women are nothing more than sex objects and their merit is based on how hot/sexy they are and can perform *is* a serious issue.

Gypsy said...

I don't know. As a woman I do see where you're coming from. However, given that you yourself said that both these men are in committed, monogamous relationships I would have to say that they have more respect for their girlfriends than it seems. It's easier to just hit and quit. There ARE people out there, men and women, who just want sex and nothing else. So why stay in a relationship if you're not going to respect the person you're with? My need to have faith in humanity says that it's quite possible that these men really do care for these women, it's just that they don't know how to really communicate that. (We don't know how long they have been in a relationship with these women but they do say "it's hard to get rid of her which probably says no that long.) I mean, it's kind of weird to say you love someone if you haven't known them that long, especially for men. Maybe they haven't been in those relationships long enough to think it appropriate to say,"I love her," or even just "I really really like her." So the only other way to talk about them is through sex and making jokes. I would be more angry at society for portraying it as something unsexy or uncool or too feminine to express one's feelings about another person.

Or maybe I'm wrong and these men really are jerks. Either way, I don't really think we know about these men enough to really be able to judge or say if they meant what they said or not, so the anger may be a little oversensitive, but I do see where it comes from and don't really blame you for it. But it's always important to remember that we don't always know someone's full story and assuming sometimes make you more angry than necessary.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the fact that the kind of guy talk you overheard is unacceptable, and while everyone likes to talk about sex, women should not be seen as sex objects nor disposable. But I also want to point out that I have heard very similar talk with women involving sex and why they stay with a certain guy, even if he's terrible, or abuses them, and their response would be the sex is great. It's not just men that see others as disposable sex objects, or seek that kind of gratification.
Also, to be fair to the population of decent men out there that do not view women as such, this guy talk does only apply to a certain group of men. Men's "guy talk" can range from work, sports, videogames, television, to even their own problems in their relationship and how to solve it. And they don't always talk about sex in that way. If someone thinks they do, that's offensive and sexist from both a male and female standpoint.

Amelia said...


Sadly, this wasn't a scripted exchange, which is why I think it can be used as an example for how common this issue is.

And thank you for being a guy who finds this type of behavior unacceptable.


I know that Man 1 is in a long term (year +) relationship and that he is the one who started this exchange. I do not doubt that these men may very well have more respect for their girlfriends than this brief exchange shows, but even so, I think that allowing for this type of discussion and excusing it as "normal guy talk" is a problem in that it normalizing objectification of women, even if these men do not necessary treat women as objects (although their words here suggest that they may not be opposed to speaking about women like they are objects).


I focused on men talking about women because I had an example from my life to illustrate this point with.

I did not make any claim in my post that all men speak about women this way all the time, and I did not mean to insinuate that "guy talk" only consists of this kind of dicussion.

The whole argument that "women do it to" is just another point in that socialization can have harmful effects on women AND men, but in this society, the impacts on women are more drastic than for men, as women are often viewed solely as the worth of their bodies.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Cicero. This is kind of insulted as a human that people think/talk this way.

Anonymous said...

To say that this kind of exchange is unacceptable is simply unreasonable. Sexual prowess of a partner is often examined in "girl talk" and "guy talk," and so to think that this is an exclusively male occurrence would be erroneous. Furthermore saying that this kind of talk objectifies women is wrong. Sex is important in a healthy relationship, and discussing the value that it holds in such a relationship is not wrong. Would you have been just as angry if the men had been talking about their significant others, and how they use them as walking encyclopedias because of their exceptional intelligence, and that was the only reason they felt compelled to stay.

Amelia said...

@Anonymous #3

I missed the part where I said this was an exclusively male phenomenon? Oh, that’s because I didn’t say that. It is being assumed because I chose a conversation between men to illustrate a point.

“Sex is important in a healthy relationship”

This is not true for every relationship. Think of asexual people, or people who choose to withhold from sex (for any number of reasons) in their relationship.

And while sex is an important part of some relationships, people (especially men) in this society are often taught to discuss it in violent terms (think of some words for sex: screw, hit that, etc.) and really, when people speak of sex the conversations often do turn into objectification without much substance. The above wasn’t a conversation about how sex was an important part of keeping their relationship healthy and happy. It was being discussed as the only reason to keep a woman around. That is where the objectification comes in. The only good thing about her is her body, the sex it can be used for. She is not being discussed as a whole human being.

And Anonymous, that’s the point. Women are never discussed for their brains. That is the problem. They are most often valued only for their bodies – forget they have any brains, emotions, ambitions, goals, desires.

Aeva said...

I think the men I interact with on a regular basis are thankfully of a higher caliber than that... It's usually more stuff like "man, smart chicks are hot", and then the other guy nods in agreement. I may live in a different world than you.

Its really with a specific group of old school friends in which sexual escapades are regular conversation topic... But again, the guy I have in mind is also a strong advocate of being what he calls "the gay best friend", since it makes you a more informed person.

And in this same group of friends, we had a mixed gendered bachelor party, so maybe we're a bit of an anomaly.

I think it is unfair for a guy to justify saying something misogynistic by saying its a man thing.

Jebus said...

I'm sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. I believe in free choice. If "Man 2" wants to view women as ice cubes, motorcycles, or even bookshelves, he should be allowed to treat/view/talk to them however he wants. But obviously it is a 2-way street and if he truly acts in such a way then he probably will have difficulty meeting women, so there is balance to it.

If he really acts like that, and the girlfriend knows it, she knows what she is in for and can make her own decisions.

Of course I find the dialogue between the two to be in bad taste, and rude. But I don't believe it should be in anyone elses power to force him to act or speak in any other way.

I have to agree with Gypsy however, we simply don't know enough about the situation to determine whether "Man 2" is a misogynist, or is just saying it playfully.

But again, regardless of how "Man 2" feels about women, and whether or not the objectification of women is an issue, these two individuals are having a private conversation. If the two conversing individuals have no qualms with each other, than it is definitely not anyone elses place to intrude. If "Man 2" starts walking down the street spouting off about how he hates women through a loudspeaker to anyone who would listen, that would be different.

Amelia said...


The reason this is a problem in my eyes is because this sort of talk is rooted in the type of conditioning that makes it easier for people to treat women like objects, in addition to speaking about them as such. Sure, people have a right to perceive and talk about others as they will, but when this contributes to attitudes that are indifferent to the objectification of women by individuals are the larger society, I damn well have a right to be pissed off about it.

Really, more detailed information (which I could provide by will not) about the individuals from the above conversation and their relationships is unnecessary. My point can still be made without it: This kind of speech which objectifies womne, is seen as acceptable by these two men, most likely because of their conditioning by a society that accepts and even promotes women's objectification. If we stand aside and excuse this as personal choice and say nothing because "well, if he acts this way he's not gonna find a woman anyway so it balances out", our silence allows for an unquestioned continuance of the factors that made this kind of discussion acceptable to these men (and excusable/unimportant to some who have read this) in the first place.

BlindGiant said...

@ Jebus

Why is anonymously pointing out inappropriate behavior automatically trying to shut people down by yelling misogyny?


I think this kind of talk is a bit of a slippery slope to bad behavior. In my experience, men who really love women they are with feel a lot of pressure to speak about them this way in public and/or to other men. It's a masculinity defense. The state of male friendships can be a bit tragic: can you imagine if you couldn't honestly speak with your friends about love?