Five feminist reasons to have a man in your life

Men are optional extras for women anymore. We don’t need them for their traditional purposes—procreation, security, paychecks—and many of us don’t want them for their traditional pursuits—sex, war-making, lawnmowing.

Even for straight women, the thrill is gone from the one pastime that requires male cooperation: romance. It’s such a tangle of misinterpreted hints, missed cues, mysterious silences, inexplicable rejections… easier to opt out.

I’m a likely candidate for quitter after eight years of dating, yielding three intimate relationships that hit the wall hard enough to fracture my bliss. This follows four better-than-most decades with an eccentric wiseacre who greeted me each morning with Hey, Beautiful! and made me crack up at least twice daily until his final weeks. Wasn’t that a lifetime supply?

Apparently not. I still like men who like women, for friendship and more, and I’ve come up with at least five reasons to seek out the good ones.

1. Men are different from you.

Diversity has become a mainstream desirable, at least among those not culture-canceling in one ideological direction or another, and gender is one aspect of human diversity. Gender may be no longer binary, and of arguable significance and debatable importance, but it’s still here. Interacting socially with a variety of cultures, including male ones, flexes the brain.

2. Men are people too.

Not everyone worth knowing is female (nor is everyone female worth knowing). Many of the worthwhile people in this world are male. Most of them do not need simultaneous translation or manual exploration to value your company.

3. Men know stuff.

I’m not talking about stuff like how to jumpstart a car or chainsaw a tree. Some men partake of the stereotypical canon, some don’t. As for you, take a class.

I refer to your interests, and extending your circle to those who share them and happen to be men. With male companions, I’ve gone to symphony concerts, Broadway musicals, opera, amateur burlesque, charity balls, jazz clubs, and fancy dress boutiques. For that matter, I usually play golf, snowshoe, and go to basketball games with women. A lot of stuff in life is more attached to personal taste than gender.

4. Men talk differently.

Tricky this, but in I plunge. Conversations with men tend to focus on the external: sports, business, politics, the state of the world, the state of a sport. Yes, men get chided for avoiding the intimate, but the female hothouse of personal topics can tire, too. Sometimes it’s a relief to talk about uncomplicated things like carbon trading, virtual private networks, and exchange-traded funds.

Male conversation also is not as consensus-driven as female. Men argue and stay friends. Female sparring takes place on reality TV, not in real life. Groups of women often work much too hard to achieve consensus, when honing opposing positions would be a better use of intellect, and agreeing to disagree a better outcome.

There’s another angle here, of course: Some men think women who disagree with them are disagreeable. We all have a ways to go at learning how to do civil disobedience with each other, but it’ll never happen unless women talk to men instead of behind their backs.

 5. Men can make you feel good about yourself.

Men are much less likely to have problems with their own bodies or yours, as plenty of research studies confirm. You probably look better to them than to your own self, since there’s no woman in America without body-image issues. Even models fear that people like them only for their looks.

Male compliments don’t necessarily tie in to sexual preference or flirtatious intention—verbal chivalry can simply be a form of human civility. My late husband, who didn’t stray, nevertheless greeted female friends with “Howdy, gorgeous!” because he liked to set off a glow.

Bonus point: Sex.

This reason is meaningful only for straight and bi woman, and, as noted earlier, there are plenty of workarounds. But there’s nothing like communing with a nice warm male body that has an interesting brain attached—if it values the same in a female one.

So I suggest you consider the male of the species as neither a must-avoid nor a luxury item. Close friendship with a worthwhile man can enhance your social and intellectual life. If you find one who extends friendship to physical intimacy and romantic commitment, all the better and happy you.

In sum: Having a dick doesn’t necessarily make you one. Give a guy a chance.