Analysis

Five Signs Your Story Is Sexist – Against Men

A muscled Riddick broods on his throne.

Stories like The Chronicles of Riddick glorify masculinity while ensuring real men can never achieve it.

You’d think patriarchy would be good for men, but it isn’t. Patriarchy enforces strict standards of masculinity that are impossible to meet. But because masculine traits are glorified, it’s easy to lose sight of how toxic they are to men. As storytellers, we may think we’ve created strong central characters when really we’ve brought destructive stereotypes to life. Here are five signs you’re stuffing your male characters in the “man box.”

1. Male Heroes Have No Relationships

Mad Max on a motorcycle

Mad Max: Fury Road does a fantastic job of showing how patriarchy reduces people to objects, from the sex slaves struggling for freedom to the young men throwing their lives away for glory in an invented afterlife. Yet the entire Mad Max series centers around Patriarchy Exhibit A: the lone male hero.

The idea is that real men don’t need other people. Manly men are independent, emotionally scarred, and unable to express their affection. The character of Max started his journey in 1979 with his first movie, wherein he lost his wife and infant son.* In every movie after, he starts alone, connects with new people, then abandons them at the movie’s end. In Fury Road, he cares about Furiosa enough to give her his blood, but he doesn’t stick around to say goodbye or even resupply for his next journey.

Max isn’t alone; a brief glance at recent action movies reveals this trope is incredibly popular. When a male action hero starts a movie with a wife or a team, all of those characters could be headed for the chopping block. Sure, it’s to give the male hero more glory. But unfortunately, there are real-life consequences for glorifying male independence and isolation: men often don’t ask for help when they need it. This pattern spreads the notions that men who depend on others are weak and that men shouldn’t value their relationships or work to maintain them.

How to Fix It

Let your males characters bond with other people and form permanent relationships, whether those relationships are romantic, platonic, parental, or something else. Allow the hero to both support those people and receive support from them in turn, even if it’s just trading supplies. Let your hero express his affection with a smile, a hug, or some kind words.

You can do this without making it front and center or otherwise mangling your plot. Your hero’s allies don’t have to back him in a fight, and he doesn’t have to remain stationary to care for someone. His friend might be too aged to go on adventures but gift him with supplies to help keep him safe. A child he’s fond of might stay with parents but take lessons from him and then gift him with crude figurines. He can use the spoils of his adventures to help the people he cares about.

2. Fathers Are Distant or Judgmental

Norman's Parents from ParaNorman

In the 2012 movie ParaNorman, the boy Norman can see and talk to ghosts. His family doesn’t believe these ghosts are real, so they’re very concerned. His mother channels her concern into being patient, loving, and supportive. His father responds by yelling at him. I mentioned recently how this mother stereotype is harmful to women, but the father stereotype isn’t any better. It spreads the message that men cannot be nurturing people or loving parents.

Stories have a deficit of positive relationships between fathers and their children, and most of the ones we do have are between fathers and daughters. In these cases, the daughter’s warm nature is supposedly making up for her father’s inherent coldness or incompetence in raising children. In father-son relationships, the father almost always falls into one of these stereotypes: admired but absent, distant or neglectful, harsh and judgmental, or an outright enemy. Entire movies like Three Men and a Baby have been written around the premise that men can’t handle infants and don’t know how to raise children.

The real-life results are not good. Men are less likely to get time off to care for newborn or sick children, are less likely to be a child’s primary caregiver, and have a reduced chance of getting custody of children. Men who are the primary caregiver are likely to face discrimination from those who assume they can’t do it well.

How to Fix It

If your story doesn’t center around family, you can still give your adult heroes emotionally supportive fathers. Let your hero call their dad when upset; have the dad offer some comforting words. He can tell them how he knows all of their little quirks and describe how their present difficulties are like the time they skinned their knee when they were five.

When featuring families in your stories, consider making the mother the disciplinarian, and the father the conciliatory figure. Don’t let the father put his kids through trials to “build their character.” Allow fathers to tuck children into bed, read them a story, sing them lullabies, and be all-around dedicated, sensitive dads. You can let the father love his kids and still develop any conflicts your story needs. Maybe the father doesn’t realize his child’s need for privacy or independence. He might interfere in their lives too much because he’s worried about them. Err on the side of making your father character warm and affectionate, even if he’s flawed.

3. Men Are Divided Between Winners and Losers

hal-megaminnd

In a patriarchy, being a man is an never-ending contest to be the strongest, earn the most money, and get the most women. Stories reflect this toxic notion by designating some male characters as “winners”* while others are clearly “losers.”

The stereotypical “loser” has a flabby rather than muscular body, doesn’t possess enough social skills to be attractive to women, and lives in his parents’ basement because he doesn’t have much money. Characters following this stereotype don’t make good villains because they’re incompetent, but popular stories like to villainize them anyway. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has “the Trio,” a group of three villains who scheme in basements and prey on women. The 2010 movie Megamind has Hal, the creepy gamer cameraman who almost destroys the city.

The stereotypical “winner” is buff, popular, and wealthy. He’s sometimes an asshole jock who abuses his power, like Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Sometimes he’s a role model, like Metroman in Megamind, or the hero of the story, such as Batman or James Bond. Regardless, he’s always portrayed as the subject of admiration and envy.

While it’s standard to show a character’s journey from underdog to leader, some stories frame this as a zero-sum battle of supremacy between a male loser and winner with a woman as the prize. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, and Megamind all fall in this category. This pattern sends the message that women are objects who fall in the lap of the person who is the most successful, and men can only become successful by challenging and defeating other men.

By perpetuating these stereotypes, we are telling men that they are not good enough. Being a “real man” becomes something that only a few men can achieve at the cost of taking it from all the others. No matter how often a man works out at the gym, how many women are interested in him, and how much money he has, it won’t be enough because some other guy has it better.

How to Fix It

Avoid the stereotype of the loser male. Instead create characters that are more complex, with both successful and less successful aspects. Maybe your character has no social skills but earns a large paycheck, or lives with his parents but is charismatic. In your story, either of these men could become an annoyance or a good friend, a hero or a villain. Don’t use superficial traits like a character’s outward appearance or money to signal whether your character is worthwhile.

If you have both a protagonist and an antagonist that are male, avoid making their conflict about how “cool” they are or whether they can show each other up. If they are competing for the same woman, their focus should be on strengthening their relationship with her so she’ll want to be with them, not on cutting each other down. Ideological differences, personality clashes, and noble causes are good sources of conflict between men.

4. Male Consent Is Disregarded

John Murphy wearing a collar and chain

Content Notice: sexual assault.

In season 3 of The 100, John Murphy finds himself held captive by a powerful Grounder leader. After putting a chain and collar around his neck, she strips off all of her clothes and states her desire to sleep with him. He declines her aggressive advances, saying that he’s staying faithful to another woman. Then this exchange happens.

Her: Would [your girlfriend] kill you if you ever lied to her, did anything to break her trust, or upset her in even the slightest way?

(She uses the chain to pull him closer.)

Him: (smiling) Oh, the things I do to survive.

This is clearly rape, yet it’s treated in the show like a kinky sex scene. John smiles, and somehow that makes being coerced into sex okay. It’s impossible to imagine this scene would have been written that way if the characters’ genders were reversed.*

And unfortunately, it’s not the only show to dismiss rape of men by female aggressors. In the first season of Orphan Black, the main character steals the identity of a woman who looks just like her. When the woman’s boyfriend comes home and is suspicious of her, she soothes those suspicions with some surprise sex. But just as sex under duress isn’t consensual, neither is sex when you’ve been lied to about which person you’re having sex with. He thought it was his girlfriend; yet when he finds out otherwise, he isn’t upset. Battlestar Gallactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer pull the same identity trick, again without recognition that the male character was violated.

This dismissive attitude regarding male consent is based on the false notion that men will always consent to sex with a woman who is attractive. In the case of John Murphy from the 100, the writers seemed to think he needed to use his faithfulness to another woman to even put up resistance. The aggressor in this scene was a murderer of children. Why wasn’t that enough to make him reluctant? Her attractiveness doesn’t matter. An erection is not consent; it is an involuntary physical reaction. And men are thinking human beings, not automatons compelled to do as their erections tell them.

This terrible trope encourages people to disregard male victims of sexual abuse and blame them for the assault. It strongly discourages men from reporting what’s happened to them, because even if people believed them, they’d have their “man card” taken away.

How to Fix It

For most stories, the best choice is simply to avoid featuring any form of non-consensual contact, regardless of gender. Sex or foreplay might not be a good time for conflict between characters (unless it’s a contest to see who’s the best in bed). The sexual contact they engage in should be unquestionably enthusiastic on both sides, and they should be sober and fully-informed at the time. This goes for the small stuff, too; avoid unwelcome hugs, stroking, or surprise kisses.

If you feel unsure whether the interaction in a scene is appropriate, you can also picture it with different characters. Start by switching the genders. Then imagine the suitor or pursuer in your scene is very unattractive, repulsive even. Pretend that you are the person on the receiving end, living out your real life. Does the contact still feel acceptable, or does it make you uncomfortable?

5. Feminine Men Are Mocked or Demonized

Zorg from the Fifth Element

We have no greater sign of rigid gender roles than how our stories treat men who clearly fall outside the “man box.” The movie The Fifth Element is the perfect showcase of this. The hero is a man named Korben Dallas. Played by Bruce Willis, he’s muscular, violent, and engages in an epic struggle at the movie’s end just to share his feelings. The evil villain is named Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg. He’s thin, emotionally expressive, wears nice clothes, and at one point embraces a cute elephant-like pet. Then there’s the comic relief, Ruby Rhod, who has an elaborate wardrobe too effeminate for Prince. Rhod is excitable, emotional, and acts like a bumbling coward during the action sequences.

While most storytellers wouldn’t make their villains gay because of the message it sends, we have an extensive history of male villains that are subtly packaged as gay. That means many of the traits we now associate with male villains are feminine. Nice clothing, strong emotional expression, good social skills, thin frame, and high voices are all frequently featured. Disney is particularly notorious for gay coding their villains. Even Hux from Star Wars: The Force Awakens is noticeably effeminate.

When not playing villains, feminine men too often become the butt of every joke. In the United States, women have worn pants for almost a hundred years, yet a man wearing a skirt is still considered funny and demeaning. It’s time we stopped policing men’s masculinity and let them be who they want to be.

While gay and trans men feel the brunt of these stereotypes, they affect other men as well. If a man doesn’t live up to the impossible standards of the male heroes in our stories, people will ridicule him for being too effeminate. If he tries too hard, people will mock him for “compensating for something.”

How to Fix It

Unless you’re willing to make an effeminate man the hero of your story (and your story isn’t a comedy), then you should steer clear of effeminate male villains. Make your villains just as stoic and muscular as your heroes. Never use the feminine features or behaviors of male characters to make jokes. A male character should cross-dress because he wants to, not because he’s forced to as a hilarious disguise.

Give feminine men some positive representation. Being feminine isn’t mutually exclusive with all the talents we associate with action heroes. He can love babies and use a sniper rifle to take down enemies. He can wear high heels as he escorts a suitcase of laundered money to an arms dealer willing to support the rebellion.


No matter how privileged a group is, we should avoid stereotypes about them. Just by giving characters the same traits story after story, we are encouraging our audience to make assumptions about real people. Even if those assumptions seem positive, they are ultimately hurtful. They punish both the people who don’t fit and the people who spend time and energy staying inside the box we gave them.

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Comments

  1. Vangluss

    Good stuff, man. People tend to forget that at one time or another every demographic has gotten rawdogged by awful representation in media.

  2. Patrick

    Excellent article. I would say that Megamind is a better example of rebellion against the zero-sum attitude of winners and losers. Megamind himself is firmly in the winners and losers mindset but comes out of it after inadvertently driving away Roxie, seeing what Hal becomes when allowed to become a “winner”, and finding out the truth about Metroman. He becomes a hero by recognizing the importance of power and responsibility and that he does not have to defined by the stereotypical ideas of winners and losers. And the movie defiantly challenges the “nice guys deserve the girl” trope by having Roxie reject Hal for his creepy nice guy friend-zone nonsense and Megamind for not being honest with her.

    • AuroraMoon

      I was going to say something similar along those lines but you beat me to it.

      I agree that Megamind is a pretty bad example to use for toxic relationships. As seeing that the movie very deliberately brings up those tropes, plays around with it a little bit before subverting the trope to pieces.

      And as you pointed out, the movie subverts the idea that as long as you play nice, you get sex any time you want… which is a pretty toxic idea in itself. Way too many movies out there gives young kids the impression that if you follow the guidelines on how to be a nice guy, that you will instantly get everything you ever wanted in life.
      That if you compliment a woman on her clothes enough times, that she’ll be obligated to have sex with you just because you told her that style of dress looked great on her.

      Naturally, this kind of trope bred so many assholes who’s pretending to be a nice guy in order to get laid, and they get so angry and bitter when they find out that life doesn’t go their way at all just because they acted like a nice guy.

      It’s one of the reasons why I love Megamind so much, they play with all of those tropes about masculinity, and shows us how toxic it really can be.

      • Jacquelope

        Courtship is itself toxic. It is a system set up by women which says men must put out all the effort in order to convince her to date him. Inherently this CAUSES the nice guy / jerk problem.

  3. Jesse

    I really enjoyed the article. I’m curious what you found effeminate about Hux, perhaps I need to rewatch the movie, but I don’t recall anything particularly effeminate about him. Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the fascist speech.

  4. Stephanie

    I LOVE that you’re discussing Ontari’s rape of Murphy! This has been discussed by other people, including the actor, who seems to agree that this was rape, despite the smirk on his face. I do feel it should have been given more discussion time in the show, though. The 100 is my favorite TV show for a number of reasons, but occasionally it rushes past things that could benefit from more in-depth discussion.

    • Siderite

      There is the old joke about saving someone from rape by convincing them to agree to sex. There are some scenes of women who “decide” to have sex while raped – the example that comes to mind is Flesh+Blood – or do other things to defy their assailants in order to maintain some semblance of control. But while people are routinely shown to do that while tortured, rape is seen differently, although in essence is the same thing. We cling to the old romantic notion of the “fate worse than death” and we expect “real women” to abide by it, while men to scoff at the obviousness of survival being more important than pride. In short, stories portray female pride more important than female life, when I believe reality to be directly opposite.

  5. Cay Reet

    Sorry to throw a wrench into things, but did you watch “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog” to the end? Penny (the love interest) doesn’t end up in anyone’s lap … she ends up in the morgue. She is killed during Dr. Horrible’s final fight with Captain Hammer. Yes, he wins. Yes, he gets what he wanted … but not the girl he wanted. It’s what the last song actually is about: Dr. Horrible’s Pyrrhic victory.

    Apart from that, I agree with the article, though.

    • mrm1138

      So in other words, instead of being claimed as a prize, she gets fridged. Yes, that’s so much better.

      • Cay Reet

        Not better, but a different trope.

      • Hal

        Interestingly Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog ticks the check boxes of multiple tropes. The patriarchical drive to compete and ideals of success. The masculine vs feminine and winner vs loser of the “hero” and the anti-hero. The competition for a woman that fails and leaves them alone and damaged, his new relationship with bad horse could be seen as allegorical for a distant father he is trying to earn confirmation from.

        I loved the show, and don’t fault it for any of this, but it does contain some of those bents to it.

        • Andy

          I love the show, too, and I’d disagree with previous assessments that Penny gets “fridged.” Her death happens as a result of the lead’s descent into toxic masculinity, and… well, as the closing montage shows, he sort of just keeps spiraling down from there.

          If she does fit into a problematic trope, it’s the “woman as potential savior.” While Penny’s a fairly interesting and relatively fleshed-out person, her main purpose in the plot is to be “the woman who could make Dr. Horrible a better man.” That’s not always a negative thing, but when it *isn’t* negative, it’s usually when the female character has her own personal reasons for choosing that path on her own, and not just “oh, because she’s generally kind of a goody two-shoes.”

          Having said that… I’ll stand by my firm belief that Dr. Horrible does a great job of holding its two male lead characters up for stark criticism, particularly their competitive, “winner vs. loser” mano-a-mano nature, but also in the way it gives its “nerd” character (Dr. Horrible) a certain amount of power, while constantly pointing out how that power is being misused.

    • S.D. Miller

      “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” played with the concepts of hero and villain, with the “villain” as the actual protagonist.

      Dr. Horrible was not an alpha male in any sense of the word. He was more nurturer than villain. He wanted to become supreme ruler of the world (at least his corner of the world) because he truly believed people were children who needed constant guidance and help. He wanted to be their parent and he wanted to be admired by them. He did villainous things because he decided that was his role. He was only doing what was expected of him, but his weapons are designed to temporarily neutralize his enemies, not kill them. His approach to wooing Penny was shy, and he was making progress, but once Hammer got involved that was the end of that.

      Hammer was labeled hero, but he was a misogynistic self-centered bully. He delighted in tormenting Horrible and he lived to be showered by the accolades of the masses. The more medals the mayor could bestow upon him the better. The only reason he became interested in Penny was because Horrible was interested in her. In one scene he shakes his mighty gloved fist in a cowed Horrible’s face and says, “This is not the hammer. My penis is the hammer.” He beds Penny only to diminish Horrible.

      Penny is not passive, but she is unsure. She connects with Horrible on an emotional level, but then is swept off her feet by Hammer. He parades her in front of the TV cameras, calling her his girlfriend, but she seems uncertain. He’s dismissive of her and what she wants.

      Penny and Horrible shared the same goals, but they had different ideas about how to achieve those goals. Horrible was fixated on the idea of being accepted into The Evil League of Evil, else Penny may have been able to redeem him (had Hammer not interfered). Had everything gone to Horrible’s plan, he would have Penny by his side and he would have given her the homeless shelters she wanted.

      Penny was a prize to Hammer, but a potential partner to Horrible.

  6. Bob Bersch

    While I do agree with part 5, I totally disagree with your read on the two characters.. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg is a great villain that does not come off effeminate at all. He has a weird sense of style and has more of an aristocratic air about him. And Ruby Rhod is being a send up of a super pop media star, the idea is he is useless in real life beyond his packaging (he does help save the world though, so his hero’s journey worked out.) Everyone is wearing wacky futuristic clothing so he does not seem out of place compared to anyone else.
    Also “women have worn pants for almost a hundred years, yet a man wearing a skirt is still considered funny and demeaning.” Because a skirt is female clothing.. wear a bra and see who laughs… A kilt on the other hand.. those are cut for man to wear. It actually looks comfortable.

    • Rachel

      “Because a skirt is female clothing.. wear a bra and see who laughs… ”

      We could have a whole article on how crossdressing and transgender people are depicted in film and television.

    • Ellie

      That’s silly. Many cultures feature garments that could be called skirts or dresses as men’s traditional clothing (see: fustanella, sarong, kushma, sherwani, kurta, pareo, gho, kikoy and your kilt example). Just because you have a solely Western perspective on gender roles and their expression doesn’t mean that other perspectives don’t exist or even that they’re uncommon.

      • Trent

        The problem is, the Western world hoards a lot of money; people can regularly go to see a movie. If a transgender/skirt-wearing person could just hypothetically diminish the amount of people spending money on your movie, representation is out of the window. And all those movies where people wear a fustanella, a sarong and so on aren’t aimed at Western audiences.

        I’m not saying you don’t have a point, you do, most certainly – and I wish things were different, but I think this is solely a money thing. If a concept works, people will do it a thousand times over, sarongs be damned.

    • S.D. Miller

      Don’t forget that Ruby Rhod attempted to seduce any female that came within 10 feet (3 meters), some successfully. He didn’t even flirt with with any of the male characters. Except of course that he constantly “flirted” with his public (reporters and cameras). But good observation that he’s useless in real life.

  7. GeniusLemur

    In regards to #5
    Men wore what we would call skirts in every Mediterranean civilization in the ancient world: Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, everybody. They regarded what we would call pants as the garb of barbarians.
    Throughout the medieval and Renaissance periods, men wore stockings and put their legs on display.
    When high heels first became a fashion trend in the time of Louis XIV, they were a unisex thing.
    However unthinkable men wearing skirts or stockings or high heels or whatever might be at the moment, it was unthinkable NOT to for centuries or millennia.

    • Cay Reet

      Actually, heels were first developed for riding boots – because it’s easier to keep in the stirrups when you have a heel at the back of your foot. They were men’s footware first, then became a unisex thing, then were mostly feminine. In as shortly away as the 1970s, men wore heels for the last time.

      • GeniusLemur

        There were also practical predecessors of both heels and platform shoes as a way of dealing with the street muck. But high heels as a fashion (as opposed to practical) thing started unisex. Louis XIV thought he was too short, and had his shoemaker add heels. His courtiers thought he was making a fashion statement and mimicked him.

  8. Cat

    _Babylon 5_ had an excellent portrayal of a good father-son relationship with the characters of David (Father) and John (Son) Sheridan. They’re distant only in terms of physical miles, John tells stories of ways his dad supported him, and when they are on camera together they’re relaxed and warm.

  9. Rhea

    You forget to mention, though, that Ruby Rod is adored by woman, clearly straight, and is shown to get laid in the movie The Fifth Element. Dallas (Bruce Willis) doesn’t even get his kiss until the end of the movie. Another effeminate man in the movie is surrounded by adoring women.

    I’m not negating your point, I just think Ruby isn’t the best example for this, since he’s shown as both successful in his field and with women.

  10. Pat McKnight

    You write: “His cork board shows no matrilineal descendants and no female cousins, sisters, or aunts of the chosen Michael Corvin. Sure, this could have a scientific explanation: the gene is on the Y chromosome. But the only reason to make inheritance work that way is to exclude women.” Actually, the Y chromosome is structurally an X chromosome lacking one leg. The corresponding second female X chromosome has one leg which, until recently was believed to be inactive. It turns out that is not the case. So, limiting the gene to a Y chromosome might simply be bad science & ignorance about X and Y chromosomes. In any event, the writer should have checked out this science and his intention is clearly sexist. Bettelheim (in “Symbolic Wounds,”) pointed out that male envy of the ability of women “to bleed without dying,” i.e. menstruation) and to bear children is a constant theme in cultures around the world. He calls it “womb envy.” Look up “couvade” and sub-incision of the penis, from other sources as well.

  11. Aoi

    Not sure I agree with Orphan Black’s example. Paul’s circumstance was complicated. He was forced to be in a relationship with Beth Childs, which none of it was really his choice. Beth was avoiding him for weeks because she found out that he didn’t love her and that he was her monitor. Also, he was upset at Sarah after he found out and pointed a gun at her. But he let strangers inside their house, possibly drugging both Beth and Sarah to do medical examination on them. Paul also gave reports of having sex with both of the women and describe one of the being “cold fish”. He also threatened her daughter against her. Consent is in the grey area between these two especially since he lied almost about everything when they’re together.

  12. Jeff

    I don’t think Mad Max is quite the character to use to illustrate your point.

    “In every movie after, he starts alone, connects with new people, then abandons them at the movie’s end.”

    You imply as if this is his choice and he’s choosing to remain as the brooding male hero type but most of his movies this is outside of his control.

    In Mad Max 2, he’s playing bait (along with the other most capable community leaders) for the rest of the society to get away. Originally he wasn’t even trying to get involved he wanted to get oil and keep going on his death/survival quest post Mad Max 1. Like you suggest in the fixing “A child he’s fond of might stay with parents but take lessons from him and then gift him with crude figurines.” already happens. He very readily bonds with the savage child. The music box becomes a main connection of a selfless gift from him to the child. He doesn’t abandon the community so much as he doesn’t get an opportunity to follow them as they’re long gone after the truck he’s driving get wrecked by the remnants of Lord Humongous’s crew and none of the community leaders with his survived.

    In Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome. It’s clear Max has a change of heart while he’s staying with the kids of the downed airliner. He actually encourages them to stay and not think he’s Captain Walker as they already have paradise compared to Gastown & beyond. He’s pretty intent on staying as part of their community until the dissenting group leaves for Gastown and he feels morally obliged to save them.

    During the end when they’re trying to take off on the plane, Max is more than willing to ride with them out and start and new community. However the plane is too heavy and he knows he’s the only one capable enough to slow down their pursuers. So again this isn’t so much that he chooses to abandon community, as circumstances force him to continuing wandering.

    “Allow the hero to both support those people and receive support from them in turn, even if it’s just trading supplies” He does play a favor from the pilot & son who tried to rob him earlier. Not to mention his relationship with the Walker kids who wander off and/or challenge his advice that they should stay in their oasis.

    Now Fury Road you could argue that he abandons Furiosa & company. Although I do see your fix many times in Fury Road between him and Furiosa, “Let your hero express his affection with a smile, a hug, or some kind words”

    Though I saw the opposite in the ending of Fury Road than, “his pattern spreads the notions that men who depend on others are weak and that men shouldn’t value their relationships or work to maintain them.” What I saw was that Max took a chance to become associated with Furiosa through her knowledge of how to drive the truck. Through this relationship he found, “redemption” that he was unsure that he was looking for in the first place. Thus helping bring the nightmares that plagued in to an end, by relying on another who was just a strong as he was.

    Again I get your point and I do think that the super bad ass loner is a trope, but I think Mad Max is the wrong subject since there’s far more going on with his characterization than first meets the eye. Since many of his loner aspects are either out of his control by the nature of the endings as he does develop strong relationships that end due to outside forces.

    • mrm1138

      All excellent points, Jeff. Also there’s the reading I have, which is that, regardless of audience reception, Max is a broken individual who is not intended to be seen as a shining example of masculinity to be emulated.

      I think Wolverine is probably the best recent example of this trope. Even though he’s part of a team, he still has the tortured loner thing going on. To me, the people who write for him have embraced the “He’s cool because he doesn’t need anyone else!” element in a way George Miller hasn’t.

  13. Siderite

    Interesting article. I suggest we don’t go into the other extreme when trying to fix things, though. Men are different from women and do react differently to the same situation. I totally agree that one sided stereotypes are wrong – not because of political correctness, but because it makes your character boring. However I don’t agree with statements such as “avoid featuring any form of non-consensual contact, regardless of gender”, because these things do happen, as people exist that behave in stereotypes. Just don’t overuse or base the entire story on these things *cough*The Sparrow*cough*.

    • Anneke

      I agree that diverse characters make more interesting stories, and I do agree that sometimes assault/rape may serve a plot purpose, but it is WAY overused in most media. Many writers seem to think it’s the only motivation possible.

      Men and women may be different but many (how many exactly is hard to tell, we can’t take people out of their culture completely) of those differences can be attributed to cultural factors. If the culture is different (in specfic for example) the differences are bound to be different or non-existant as well.

      The differences between men and women are smaller than you may imagine. The average man and woman differ less from each other than they do other random men or women.

      • Siderite

        It’s like saying all dogs are the same, if you ignore how they were trained. Even so, males and females have different evolutionary roles and this is abundantly obvious in the way we behave and consider the world.

        If one were to ignore the emotional scarring of being powerless (which in my mind is the worse part of rape or torture) which should be the same regardless of sex, and the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases, then rape for a man is almost inconsequential, yet it strips from women the traditional power of being able to choose their mate and thus direct the fate of their offspring and indirectly of the entire society. That is the reason males rape more often, because they dislike being subjected to that power. It is a profoundly social act of dominance and social rebellion. That is the reason why rape is such a powerful taboo, because society fights back against the occasional rebel, not because men are empathetic to the plight of women.

        I may be wrong, but I feel the poor victim of sexual assault is just a pawn in a much larger context of social motivation. Fighting against literary cliches is good, but not if we ignore the underlying reasons for those cliches to exist in the first place.

    • TOM

      Finally somthing i can totally agree with. Yes overstereotyping isnt good. Still it is an utter nonsense to deny that man and woman are biologically different, their brains are different, it is not coincidence, that every major civilization was more or less a patriarchy.

  14. Alex

    Semantic/philosophical point: You can’t be sexist against men. Sexism is discrimination, which is not the same as prejudice. Prejudice is merely an individual misjudgement; discrimination is prejudice backed by social authority. It’s not the story context, it’s the reader’s social context that is applicable. It’s not sexist to simply describe a sexist society (real or fictional), this can oonly be sexist if the content is used in the reader and author’s culture as a tool of political propaganda and oppression. Even if an author wishes for or perceives that their own society contained the sexism they describe, the individual’s misperception doesn’t actually change their social context.

    • Cay Reet

      By your own argument, you can be sexist against men, if you use specific male traits to discriminate against them. I agree a stereotype or predjudice isn’t the same as being sexist, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to be sexist against men.

      • Alex

        A story can describe a world where sexism against men would happen, but it’ can’t “be” sexist. It’s not a tool to promote discrimination if the discrimination doesn’t exist. Claiming that sxism against men exists is itself a form of sexism, as it denies that the power dynamic in our society favors men, so it effectively denies the real situation of victims of sexism. You can’t have two groups discriminating against each other; one side it going to have power on their side.

        • Jamie

          Power isn’t just one thing that you either have or you don’t — it exists in a myriad different forms. It is entirely possible to have power over someone else in one context, and for them to have power over you in another.

          Whether or not on average you have more power largely depends on what you want from society. Also the average person doesn’t really exist. It is fairly easy to lose power through any number of ways (mainly by not conforming).

    • Mark Neil

      “discrimination is prejudice backed by social authority.”

      This is not the definition of sexism. It never was. This is a creation of those who seek to discriminate against men without consequence… and, ironically, is sexist in and of itself. By your very own words, the purpose of this definition is to exclude men from being acknowledged as victims of sexism. This intent fits the description of sexism, by it’s original definition (doesn’t include the power/authority element), and so, the attempt is sexist by it’s original definition. Now, if you are to argue the definition has been changed, I need to ask, by what authority was this definition changed? And if it was, indeed changed, why then can we not acknowledge that this authority on which it was changed, was specifically used to deny men acknowledgement as victims of sexism…which, by YOUR definition, meets the criteria (discrimination + the power/authority of whoever redefined the word).

      In other words, no matter how you look at it, your definition of sexism is inherently sexist. And thus, disproves the very assertion you’re using that definition to assert.

    • Jarno

      “You can’t be sexist against men.”

      I sure hope you meant that in the same way that you can’t be sexist against women (since sexism is a phenomenon that affects all genders simultaneously and not a movement with a target). Otherwise you just dismissed the experiences of a whole gender.

      When every boy has instinctive idea that “certain behaviour” is undesirable and will mark you as a sissy for life, it’s most definitely not just individual prejudice of a couple of confused people. The idea that men must not be women is extremely deep rooted in norms, regulations, institutions, language and you-name-it. This isn’t just sexist, it’s misogynist, misogynist against boys. Not only it will hurt boys directly by denying a whole lot of feelings and experiences from them, it will leave them with a mindprint of the other sex representing everything bad.

      Say, you are not (trait) enough, well, you know who else is not (trait) enough? Girls. You know, girls (otherthing) too. Do you wanna (otherthing)? Yeah, thought so, good boy. Thus, women will not be expected to be (trait) and men will help them to get by without being (trait) yet when the situation where it’s really needed comes up, even (trait) women will be disregarded. And yeah, (otherthing) will be the lamest act ever as it symbolizes being the ultimate failure.

      • S.D. Miller

        “This isn’t just sexist, it’s misogynist, misogynist against boys.” FYI the term is misandry.

        • Actually...

          To be fair, I think misogynist is the word Jarno was looking for. She was talking about how males are expected to be masculine because femininity is viewed as a weakness. However, if that is what they intended then saying ‘it’s misogynist against boys’ was an odd way of putting it.

    • Antha

      Does your semantic/philosophical point improve the conversation in any way? If you define sexism in that particular way then sure your point is valid. That isn’t the way that Google defines the word: (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=define+sexism). And more importantly there is a very common usage of the word that differs, specifically (and might I add obviously) the usage intended by this article. If you aren’t comfortable with linguistic elasticity might I suggests refraining from semantic/philosophical arguments.

    • AVP

      I think I agree with where you’re coming from, and I’ve seen this argument before, but I don’t agree with the terminology.

      (note: this went long, and I apologize. TL;DR – I agree that sexism is prejudice backed by social authority, but where I think you might be wrong is the assumption that sexism *has* to be “one gender vs. another gender.” Men have social authority in this society – hence the term “patriarchy.” That doesn’t mean “prejudice backed by social authority” can’t be used against men – especially when you consider that most anti-male sexism comes from other men.)

      (the TL;DR to *that* is: Toxic masculinity is sexism against men perpetuated by other men – and occasionally women, but men set up the rules in the first place, so it’s ultimately on us.)

      First off, here’s what I *don’t* mean: Hiring a woman for a job instead of a man when they’re both equally qualified *isn’t* sexism, for instance; nor is any other situation where men have something “taken away from them,” by feminism. That’s obviously nonsense. Being asked to share your sandwich isn’t oppression, and some guys need to get over their darn selves.

      I guess what I mean is: men don’t experience sexism *directly* as much as women. The way I put it is, women drink the poison of sexism, and men drink the backwash. In other words, if *she’s* not allowed to carry the heavy thing up the stairs (because women are supposed to be delicate flowers or whatever), *he’s* expected to carry it (because men are supposed to be strong.) If *she’s* being paid less than she’s worth at work, it’s because *he’s* expected to be the one to provide for the family. And while we’ve made huge strides as a society in our acceptance of women who want to do “boy” things, there’s a deep mistrust and fear of men who want to do “girl” things. And failure to carry the heavy thing, or make enough money, or avoid owning a Cabbage Patch Doll and an EZ Bake Oven as a child (and I had both) means you’re a loser for not fitting into the role the patriarchy pre-cast you in before you were even born. And there’s a whole other list of examples I could go into, but most of these examples follow the same pattern: almost every hugely sexist limitation/expectation put upon women you can think of, carries an opposite (though usually not as severe) limitation/expectation put upon men.

      And it *all* sucks. All of it. That’s why using the same word – sexism – for all of it is so important – because it’s all part of the same dumb, outdated system, and we need to *crush* it. I know I don’t need to point out that expecting men to be The Strong Ones implicitly assumes that women are The Weak Ones, or that saying Men Don’t Cry is pretty much the same thing as saying Women Are Crazy. And when I say “pretty much the same thing,” I *don’t* mean equivalent. I literally mean that when you say Boys Don’t Cry, you are actually saying But Girls Do. On one level, it’s emotional oppression of men. On another level, it’s shaming and devaluing women in a profoundly ableist way. When I say “it’s the same thing,” I honestly mean – literally – *it is the same thing*. And frankly, we aren’t going to get anywhere if we waste time arguing over how different groups get to describe their own experience when *it’s the same damn sexist b.s.*

      (to different degrees, of course; I hope it’s obvious that I’m not making a “both sides do it” argument or a “men have it just as bad” argument, because I hate that crap. This is a “we are all damaged, to varying degrees, by the same rules and regulations regarding our behavior on account of outdated sexual/gendered beliefs – and though different groups – especially non-binary people, LGBTQ people, non-white people, etc. – experience it in vastly different ways and to different degrees of severity, the moral of the story is that it hurts everyone and we aren’t going to get anywhere with this ‘appropriating oppression’ nonsense, because who the hell wants to appropriate oppression?”)

      And while women *can* – and have – perpetuated this kind of sexism (yeah, even feminists – like my ex-girlfriend who proudly wore a “smash the patriarchy” t-shirt, but who made fun of me when I cried at Toy Story 3 and constantly used homophobic language to denigrate my friendships with other guys)… most of the time, it’s other guys doing it.

      That’s the take-away here: it’s the guys in charge, or the guys who’d like to be in charge, who are the worst offenders against their own brothers. The patriarchy might have paved the way to the top for them, but that road is paved with Men Who Didn’t Fit. And if this is starting to sound vaguely “alpha/cuck/etc.”… can I just say that the worst thing about MRAs – apart from the fact that they’re awful rape-apologists who literally hate women and deny reality with the fervor of a flat-Earth theorist – is that time and again they’ll point out a *very real problem* faced by men, and then, almost inevitably, declare it to be the fault of feminism. Not capitalism, not militarism, and *certainly* not the fault of the same patriarchal power structures that also keep women down. Nope, it’s always feminism. Every single time. It’s like a bad 80s cartoon. There’s only ever one villain. And – what a coincidence – it’s the villain that requires the least self-reflection!

      Look, I understand that it’s hip in certain circles to claim that men don’t experience sexism, and I understand why, because a patriarchal system benefits us waaaay more; because misogyny is alive and well, and misandry is mostly theoretical; and – by and large – guys are oblivious to the multitude of privileges we have, which means that we’re more prone to getting this kind of thing wrong anyway.

      However, there’s something to be said for self-reflection: on our own behavior, certainly, but also on the wide variety of influences, pressures, and expectations placed on us as men, solely *because* we’re men. We were told to “suck it up and deal” when we felt pain, then they filled our heads with stories of guns and violence and guts and glory, then they told us our worth as human beings would be inexorably tied to our ability to make money, stay healthy, and be strong when others were weak. We were mocked for acting feminine, maybe even beat up for it. We were taught the subtle power moves and dominating poses and cold reserve of the truly successful, and encouraged to simultaneously put women on a pedestal *and* fear their power *and* treat them terribly when they disappointed us, because empathy is for suckers.

      And I’m not naive. Other men did this to us. Other men, by and large, performed sexism upon us, either because they thought it would make us stronger, or they thought it would make themselves better.

      We need to own that, and reflect on that, because these men set the rules. Our gender holds a disproportionate amount of power, but that doesn’t mean we *all* hold *all* the power. Some of us certainly don’t. We need to own the ways we were slapped in the face by sexist ideas about how we should act, how we should live, and even how we should die. Warfare – the ultimate expression of toxic masculinity – is nothing more than the end result of men pushing other men to scramble for dominance against each other. It’s possible that ableism might actually be a worse problem for men than women, because of societal expectations of physical ability and mental/emotional reserve. I’d argue that homophobia (against gay men) and transphobia (against trans women) often have roots in anti-male sexism – not always, of course, but certainly sometimes (and let’s not forget that a lot of TERFs defend their transphobia by claiming – as the Governor of North Carolina also recently did – that trans women are just men who want to invade female spaces. It’s a horrible thing to suggest no matter who’s saying it, but TERFs tend to base it on a belief that men are animals who can’t control themselves. Which, by the way, is *another* ridiculous belief beaten into our heads *by other men*, though in this case, the behavior that results from that leads to women being wary of all of us – which might be unfair, but I can’t say it’s entirely unjust.)

      Guys, we *need* to own up to the ways sexism hurts us, and the ways it has caused us to hurt each other. We have more institutional authority than anyone else, so it’s kind of up to us to fix it. We *need* to, before the next penis-measuring contest between countries blows up the damn planet. Or, on a smaller scale, before virility-based peer pressure drives the next Elliot Rogers to kill women. And – to put it bluntly – if things are so awesome for us all the time, why would we even want to change it? That sounds cold, and it doesn’t really reflect the views of most of the guys I’d personally choose to spend my time with, but it’s a truth about humanity: we’re more likely to change the things that affect us directly. As men, we need to examine the negative impact sexism has had – on women, certainly, but also upon ourselves. To do that, *we need to stop being sexist to other men*.

      Because, yeah – I do think it’s possible to be sexist against men. But I’m not naive. 90% of the time, it’s us being sexist to each other. The other 10% of the time, it’s women reinforcing sexist stereotypes against us that we either made up in the first place, or that only exist because of how awful some of us can be when we abuse our power. However, 100% of the time, it’s an unfair expectation/limitation placed on us by a patriarchal society that expects us to conform to certain standards and refuses to see us as complete human beings if we step out of line. If that isn’t sexism, I don’t know what is.

      So, yeah, I think we need to hold onto the concept that you *can* be sexist against men, but we can’t ever forget – to quote Mad Max – “who killed the world” in the first place. We made the rules. Now, the rules are killing us – through war, through capitalism, through machismo, in short, through “toxic masculinity.” And, if we’re going to destroy that awful machine, we need all the tools at our disposal. Words have power, and “sexism” is a really, really powerful word. It is sexist to expect a woman to “know her place” is the home. It is sexist to expect a man to work himself into an early grave. It’s the same sexism, folks. And it all sucks.

      • Bex

        I wish this site had a like button and that I could punch it 1,000 times.

    • Actually...

      I disagree with your argument that oonly people in authority can be sexist.

  15. Patricia Burroughs aka Pooks

    “…avoid featuring any form of non-consensual contact, regardless of gender. ” Why don’t we only write about nice things happening, while we’re at it and skip anything uncomfortable, evil or even awkward?

    In the examples given, the problem isn’t that the sex was non-consensual. The problem is that it wasn’t acknowledged as such. The male characters could have reacted as if they’d been violated, and that aspect would have given more depth and texture rather than avoiding it.

    Also, not all men would feel violated. Not all characters would. Unfortunately, I know of a man who looked forward to each of his child’s births because he spent the nights when his wife was at the hospital at strip clubs and, reputedly, sleeping around. Fiction is about people, and people are different. And that’s what makes it fascinating to read.

    • Chrissy

      How on earth is being forced to have sex by someone controlling whether you live or die, remotely comparable to a guy getting a lap dance/a guy who sleeps around? Have you no idea what “consent” is? We’re not talking ability to stay faithful/monogamous here! We’re talking about consent to sex (and the lack of consent would make it rape). Is this really such a difficult concept?

      Your friend who gets lap dances CONSENTS. The character in the story mentioned DOES NOT GIVE CONSENT.

      I so agree with the article, and this has bothered me many times as well. Rape needs to be called out on for what it is, rather than portrayed as something a man should be “happy” about. No man enjoys being raped, whether it is by a pretty woman or not. It’s rape, not sex. The distinction should be made clear. If the genders were reversed you wouldn’t have found scenes like this one, not any more. But go back to the Bond movies with Sean Connery, and you will find plenty of “You mean yes when you say no” and “Come on, I know you actually want it, stop resisting”….. I rest my case.

      • Siderite

        Admit it, you wrote this comment because you secretly… just kidding. I agree with you. However, I think that literature should depict reality and the reality of it is that friends of the raped woman would comfort her for what she went through, while at least some of the male friends of raped men would undoubtedly go with “You didn’t want to tap THAT?! Poor boy, he was raped by [enter pretty porn star or actress here]”. Can you imagine a girl being comforted with “Hey, at least he was hot. You did say he had it long and hard”? There is an expectation for men to do anything for sex. I feel annoyed every time a male hero risks life and limb for “love”, but I admit it as a realistic motivation: it’s what we do.

  16. Mark Neil

    I never think burying a subject is the best solution. You’re “how to fix it” for #4 is not the answer, IMHO. Such difficult topics shouldn’t be shied away from, simply because they are difficult…but they SHOULD be acknowledged for what they are.

    • mrm1138

      Chris does start off the “How To Fix It” portion by saying, “For most stories…” He’s acknowledging that there can be a place for the topic of rape, but the implication is that it should be avoided UNLESS the writer or writers are prepared to give the topic the attention it deserves. The Starz series Spartacus is an excellent example of this. At its core, it was a show about power struggles, and the writers understood that rape is about power, not sex. If a character was raped, it would examine the emotional fallout of the event with the proper gravitas and not just use it as a cheap shock tactic or source of titillation. (They even understood that a person’s post-traumatic stress couldn’t be cured by murdering your rapist, and I respected that. For a show that was filled with stylized, 300-style fight scenes where dude’s jaws get ripped off and faces get chopped off heads, it was actually exceptionally canny about how to develop its characters.)

  17. Britannia

    While I agree with most of this article the author who wrote it has no understanding of John Murphy as a character. That scene was definitely intended to be treated as a rape scene, just adding to another inherently terrible thing that character survives. His smile and shrug is the ruthless decision he makes to live to fight another day and we have seen many scenes of women in the exact same position (sleeping with men they don’t desire for money, power, protection, ect.) with their scenes treated in the exact same way. John Murphy used sex and his body to survive, that is breaking down a sexist barrier (the idea that it is a “womans game” to use sex as a tool against men) not supporting one.

    It is also worth mentioning that using his interest in Emori as a way to reject Ontari’s advances is a tactic frequently used by women to reject men.

    The fact that the author of this article thinks that Ontari murdering children is something that would make Murphy reject her illustrates perfectly how little this person knows about the character. Murphy openly congratulates her on those murders and says that he thinks it was a smart move. He is also responsible for the death of a young child himself, not to mention the fact that he murdered two of his own people and attempted to murder three more (Wells, Bellamy, Raven). Acts that he feels no remorse or regret for. Murphy is a hard and ruthless character that plays by his own rules and ideas of what he thinks is right and fair, he classifies himself as a “survivor” and takes a sort of pride in that title as well as his savvy in doing whatever he needs to survive.

    It is important to address social issues to initiate change. It is even more important to understand the issues at hand and take the time to find legitimate examples of those issues, otherwise it does a disservice to the overall cause.

    • Anneke

      One thing that jumped out to me, the reason that many women feel the need to mention another man to discourage a suitor is that the suitor doesn’t take the woman’s word when she says no. He will only stop once he knows that another man has already staked a claim (ie the woman is already “owned”). This type of person will not listen to women, but only to men. In the case of Murphy, would women typically disregard men’s rejections? And carry on until another woman was in the picture?

      • Britannia

        In Murphy’s case specifically it is the first reason he offers as to why he is not interested (and also because it is onviously true, he does have feelings for Emori) and this is something women do too. They don’t wait for other replies to be ignored, they immediately go to “I have a boyfriend/husband/significant other”. As far as if women would or would not press advances on a man after being told no, I’m not really sure how you expect me to answer that or what that has to do with any of my other points? I doubt any statistical evidence either way exists for that topic. If you’re asking for my non-factual personal opinion (though I’m not sure why you would be) I find that women accept rejection better than men and are less likely to push the issue but that certainly doesn’t exempt members of the female gender from behaving in that way.

        That being said, in the show Ontari obviously does push the issue. She is a cold character and Murphy is little more than a toy to her, as many of the people she now rules are. Her thinly veiled threat, that she will murder him if he does not comply, is all Murphy needs as a motivator. He is well aware that she’ll do exactly as she says and as I previously posted, he is a survivor.

  18. Jake

    I didn’t read all the comments, so perhaps this has already been addressed, but I disagree with the “fix” for #4 – Male Consent Is Disregarded. While I do think the issue is rampant is cinema, television and literature, I do not agree that the fix for it is to avoid non-consensual sexual situations altogether. To do this is to pretend that it doesn’t happen, to create worlds where rape is not a concern. This does nothing to solve the problem in reality. A better fix is to handle rape with all the horror and consequences that come with it, and never to shrug it off or treat it cavalierly as it so often is (including the example in The 100). There are certainly many, many instances in modern literature where rape should not have been included in the story arc. In Game of Thrones, season 4 episode 3, Jamie Lanister blatantly rapes his sister, but going forward, the show’s creators continue to ask us to accept him as a hero, as though the rape did not occur. This is problematic as it seems to send the message that there are rapes that “are not really rapes,” (you know, since they had already had sex).

    I realize I have strayed from the specific issue of male consent, but I do so only to make a point about the fix. Non consent can be included in writing responsibly; it’s just very sensitive and needs to be treated as such.

    • SamBeringer

      I agree with what you’re saying, but what I think the author means is that rape is a very sensitive subject that should be handled delicately or not at all. And since many writers — even good or great ones — can’t handle it, it would be better that they don’t do it at all. Even the narratives where men are the rapists and women are the victims (the image we as a society get when we first hear the word “rape”) tend to screw it up somehow (looking at you, Game of Thrones), so how can narratives with men as the victims be expected to do better?

      Again, I agree that rape towards men should be depicted and addressed in a respectful manner just as Fury Road and Jessica Jones have done with regards to rape in general. But unfortunately, there just aren’t that many writers who would be able to do so, in which case it could be argued that it’s better for it not to be shown at all rather than done poorly.

  19. runthegamut

    Excellent. The most disturbing example of #4 I saw played out was in a Supernatural episode, season 7’s Time for a Wedding. Sam is kidnapped and drugged, and under the influence is coerced into marrying his kidnapper. As the drugs wear off, she hits him over the head. He comes to and finds himself tied spread eagle to a bed, naked from the waist down. All played for laughs. I cannot fathom that being at all acceptable had the genders been reversed, so why was it okay as it was?

    • Howard

      I saw that same episode, and I was wondering how I should look at it. As in, I’m not entirely convinced it was something being played up for laughs.

      What I got out of it was that what she had done to Sam was absolutely not okay. But also this is a horror series. Male stalkers doing the same sorts of things has happened. This is fair game.

      Was there a comedic element to it that they wouldn’t dare do with women? Eh. Probably. But I’d say they should make a male kidnapper/female victim comedy.

      Hey, I’m already watching supernatural. I like dark comedy.

    • Howard

      As an aside, Supernatural in my mind is a series that gets gender issues pretty well, though that’s coming at it from the perspective as a mens rights advocate.

      It’s an honest and fair exploration of masculinity. Confronting ones own feelings, and running away from them. Dealing with the expectations others have on you. What it would actually mean to be someone that fights monsters.

      It’s been going on far too long, and it’s kind of showing (it’s kind of hard to remain invested in the conflicts the Winchester brothers have), but it was still interesting.

      • runthegamut

        While it is a horror series, some comedy episodes were interspersed, and that seemed like it was supposed to be one of them. The way Sam just shrugged it all off at the end seemed to say we weren’t supposed to take it seriously. And I fully agree it’s gone past its prime. I gave up on it last year.

  20. PI Barrington

    Dare I make an observation here? I think it is possible that male heroes hark back to the days of pre-history when females sought out males who were good protector-providers and violence to survive was just that and not any political correctness was attached. However, if you’ve ever seen Jerry Lewis’ Cinderfella film while humorous did point out basically the same general idea you’re talking about. I find that it still is held up as an impossible male achievement in most romance novels to this day. My male heroes usually don’t realize they have relationships with women or other men until far later.
    JMHO.

  21. Malkovich

    Wrong about Battlestar Galactica. When Helo found out he had sex with Boomer and not Athena, Athena scolded him and treated him worse than she ever did in the entire series, and Helo himself is VERY NOTICEABLY distressed and ashamed with himself, being extremely apologetic to his wife (Athena).

    • Alee

      Thank you for pointing this out, I was reading the comments to see if anyone else had made the correction before I did. There were several instances of men being very upset to have been taken advantage of my women in the series, either on a sexual or emotional level. ( How many times was the Chief screwed over?)

    • Britannia

      Thank you. The author also screws up in the mentioning of Faith’s rape of Riley Finn in Buffy. We definitely examine how upset he is by what happened to him, he is clearly disraught and feels deceived and upset as any person would be.

      More and more this author really looks to have not done a very good job doing their homework, so to speak.

  22. Malkovich

    The assumption that these movies are merely presenting these cold, anti-hero male heroes with their isolated and violent habits as “glorification” is not science and is not even good philosophy, it’s a random assumption, a presumption at best. This article never proves that being a Mad Max protagonist is something the movie is reifying rather than presenting neutrally on a moral spectrum, let alone indirectly stating that this is NOT a good thing. Cinema and TV more and more present these kinds of heroes for exposing why these patriarchal roles are overrated and not necessarily desirable.

    I’m so tired of the same old feminist interpretations of these male heroes, because I know so few men who actually WANT to be a Tony Soprano or a Walter White, and I’m sure today’s internet feminists are in the same boat. Many of these arguments are obsolescent; they worked decades ago, but historical context has changed more drastically over the past 20-40 years than feminists I see are ever willing to acknowledge regarding men in fiction.

    • Howard

      Yeah, it’s something I notice. There are a lot of great stories out there. These days especially we’re seeing a lot of sincere character driven works. Be it Breaking Bad or Steven Universe.

      Some people seem to not understand that just because they’re the main character doesn’t mean you’re supposed to want to be like them.

  23. Kane of Mars

    “Let your males characters bond with other people and form permanent relationships, whether those relationships are romantic, platonic, parental, or something else. Allow the hero to both support those people and receive support from them in turn, even if it’s just trading supplies. Let your hero express his affection with a smile, a hug, or some kind words.”

    This won’t work if one of your main themes is about alienation.

  24. Howard

    Hello. Actual MRA here chiming in. While I disagree with parts of this post, it is at least ideologically consistent and without malice. This is refreshing and gives me hope that an honest discussion on gender is something that can actually happen.

    The comments section is also largely positive.

  25. Howard

    On #5, I’m largely on board… but then I think about numerous characters from Anime.

    As an example, we have Bon Clay from One Piece. Flamboyantly homosexual (it’s… difficult to explain so I won’t get too much into it. Gender Nonbinary is probably more accurate) and very much a comic relief character. Starts out as an enemy, but later helps out the main cast.

    Realistically speaking, the character is extremely offensive. And yet, has a number of heroic traits. It’s not fair to write the guy off just because it’s an offensive depiction. Could he have been written differently? Maybe, but I also feel like there’s a point in not judging works by what’s on the surface. People might be too busy being upset to notice you’ve actually got a pretty positive depiction.

    • Mary

      In One piece most characters are jokes, it’s mostly a comedy show. I thought the authors intentions were overall to portray Bon Clay in a positive light. I mean yes he was stereotyped, but he was also heroic, the main protagonist considers him a friend, he was quite selfless and strongly believed in friendship.

      One Piece had other characters who were trans and gays like Ivankov for example. They were treated like jokes but they also possessed good qualities. Ivankov is a good and interesting trans guy who is also quite powerful, most of the transgenders also ended up being the protagonist’s allies etc.

      In a comedy show like One Piece I think it’s not a big deal if some of the characters are treated like jokes.

      The only character in One Piece that is sexist is Sanji but I think he was meant to be that way. I don’t think the show overall promotes a bad attitude towards women or gays and trans.

  26. Stephen Mark Monteith

    6. All men are just itching to get into a fight. In the book “Chamber of Secrets”, Arthur Weasley actually starts punching Lucius Malfoy in Diagon Alley, and his sons are cheering him on. This scene was (mercifully) removed from the movie version. I’m not saying J.K. Rowling was being sexist against men, but she certainly did Arthur a disservice by making him engage in a senseless brawl right in front of his own children.

  27. JT

    I’ve read fiction based on reality (boring) and I’ve read fiction where the characters were carefully constructed to avoid any kind of “messaging.” (tedious, boring) The point of fiction is to tell a story, but it is also an escape, it is also a depiction of something out of the norm.
    There are a number of things you write about that could be viewed through a VERY different lens depending on the writer/reader.
    Most guys who violently lose their families go (a bit at least) off the deep end. Someone who comes out of it with only a bit of “emotional scarring” is far from the norm, it’s called superhuman which is a common standard for people known as heroes.
    Fathers being difficult to please and/or quick to criticize is, for a large portion of humanity, a fact of life (and I say that as a father and the son of an authoritarian father.) Perhaps there are fathers who do not do that, but i’ve known too many people who’ve had to leave home as very young adults because of aggressively critical fathers. Moms also are prone to being the more emotionally supportive parent. Is this always the truth? No, but it is more often than not.
    Lastly, your views on the femininity of men seem odd to me when you use Emmanuel Zorg as an example of this. I never saw Zorg as feminine. I saw him as ruthless. I saw him as I saw him as a person who attempts to be an elite by dressing/ carrying himself differently, but not feminine.

    I guess my biggest point in all of this is we have to keep in mind that writers often write best from experience. It’s only par for the course that people’s opinions, observations and, most importantly, experiences are going to be visible through one’s writings. I personally refuse to accept that EVERYONE who’s ever written something that utilizes one of these tropes is inherently bigoted… in any direction. That’s just being thin-skinned and quick to jump to accusations which is just as bad as actually BEING bigoted against something. Thanks for your time.

  28. Diademata

    Thank you for the male consent one. I was baffled watching that scene, because in most ways it’s such a progressive show. Also the fan community seems to have completely ignored it, when they would have been up in arms if it had happened to Clarke instead, say.

    I also feel like the writers thought that the wisecrack counted as consent, which is bizarre in itself.

  29. S.D. Miller

    Point 2:

    In my current WIP my hero phones home (a very big deal that required a lot of planning and a bit of luck to accomplish). His mother answers, but his dad is not there, so he has a conversation with mom. In the next to last chapter he’s in the hospital and the sheriff stops by and tells him his parents are on the way (a 9-hour drive) to see him. The final chapter takes place a week later with the hero discharged from the hospital (but still pretty tore up). The reader learns that his mom and dad stayed by his side a few days. Dad had to return home (work) but his mom stayed so she could continue to support their son.

    I do see the father as supportive of his son. I just don’t show it. By the next to last chapter, the story is over and I need only tie up a few loose ends. There is no reason NOT to show the hero’s father as nurturing. I think the best approach is that the hero talks to both parents when he phones home. I’ve been toying with the idea of an epilogue, but I’m not fond of them as they are too often predictable.

    Other fathers: #1) The heroine’s father is dead. My story is based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” which is Red, widowed mom, and widowed grandmother–no father figures. #2) The heroine’s BFF’s dad is around, but her mom passed away and so dad has retreated into depression and the bottle, leaving big brother to raise his little sister. #3) The villain is the hero’s half brother (they share a dad), but the villain has isolated himself from society and his family. #4) A nearby family with three sons figures heavily into the plot. Mom and dad are present, but dad gets only a few lines of narrative summary; my story is running a bit long so mom may also get summarized during editing.

    Point 5:

    In my current WIP I don’t characterize my villain, other than he talks with a drawl and walks with a cowboy’s swagger. He is a misogynistic racist pedophile who seduces, rapes, and then partially devours native American girls. He prefers them around 14 or 15, but he will make exceptions for other ages or races when it suits him. His personality (when the demon isn’t exerting its influence) is alpha male.

    My hero is a lover and not a fighter, a peacemaker and not a warrior. Which is why he is so horribly unsuited to kill his half brother the villain. He’s not effeminate, but it’s kind of hard to tell because he’s stuck in the body of a gray wolf. Act II is all about how he grows to become an alpha and a warrior, but those are not roles he’s comfortable in.

    The heroine’s mentor in the outdoor arts (hunting, etc) is a 23 y.o. gay man (eldest of the three sons mentioned above). When the heroine first encounters him this is her reaction: “Allen was tall. Every movement highlighted his muscles, which were barely hidden by his thin short-sleeved shirt. … He crossed his arms over his broad chest.” His gayness is not a secret, and I drop hints, but the heroine doesn’t realize until she propositions him. I did have a scene where he and his mother discuss what he did the night before, but I cut it because I already had too many first-person POV characters.

    I have a two-spirit character, but the heroine can’t figure him/her out, and the character’s not telling. He/she only says he/she is both male and female in spirit, but does that also extend to the physical? The heroine is confused. After an evaluation the two-spirit declares that the heroine: “has the body of a woman, the appetite of a woman, the spirit of a woman, but the heart of a man.”

    The remainder of my characters behave in expected cis-gendered ways.

  30. JamesIsIn

    Except for your assessment of Scott Pilgrim, this article is entirely spot-on and discusses issues I have pondered and talked about with friends for some time now. Well done.

    • manspider

      If we’re talking about Scott Pilgrim the movie, then the article is spot-on. If we’re talking about the graphic novel… well, not really.

      The League of Evil Exes isn’t the thing keeping Scott from getting the girl. The real villain of the story is the idea that you “get” the girl at all. Remember, the League formed because all of Ramona’s exes think you should have to win Ramona, like she’s some sort of prize. Ramona wants nothing to do with it- she even moved out of the country to try to get away from that mentality. The fact that Scott gets the Power of Understanding sword at the end, and that Ramona gets the Power of Love sword, symbolizes that they both have rejected the “good guy wins the girl” trope. Scott finally understands himself (including his flaws) and Ramona finally can love herself and get past her self-loathing. The fact that they end up together at the end isn’t because they “deserve” to, it’s because they’re now capable of having a healthy relationship. And we don’t even know if they live happily ever after or not, just that they’re going to try again.

  31. Metadata

    I think examining the 5th Element in this context is useful because it makes a colorful example, yet here we must remember the difference between an individual work, and a trend that the work often inadvertently perpetuates. The thing about the 5th Element is that Corbin Dallas is very clearly set up as a ridiculous satire of the chiseled, stoic male super hero. He is literally approached by a recruiter with a list of his martial abilities so long it falls to the floor, and told his new mission is to “save the universe”.

    And it’s very, very important to remember that Corbin blows through his stoic maleness by the end of the film, embracing open emotion and realizing that the day is not saved by violence and competition. Within this greater framework, Zorg is not held up as evil because he is emotional, but because he embraces negative emotions.

    I think it’s more useful to frame the 5th Element as an example of how many of these tropes signal visually, which it does a pretty good job of. It’s just that it then proceeds to subvert some of the apparent tropes, though I would agree that Zorg as a character still somewhat gets the short end of the stick, as his arc feels incomplete and put aside for Corbin’s last minute personal growth.

  32. Dianna Gunn

    What a fantastic article! I am going to save this link forever and share it with literally every writer I know.

    One thing I will say is that I would like to see some stories that actually tackle male sexual abuse in a real, honest way. Exploring these things in fiction does help us bring them to the forefront of conversation in real life.

    • S.D. Miller

      Stories that actually tackle male sexual abuse…

      What a fascinating idea, but I’m not sure how to do it. And maybe I’ll come back to that idea later.

      The movie “The Sorcerer and the White Snake” has a similar scene, and not handled in the trite way it was in “The 100”. The white snake, disguised as a beautiful woman, tries to gain the attention of a human herbalist, but he rebuffs her advances. She’s persistent and he’s doing well, until he mentions he’s in love with another. She then makes him remember their previous encounter. Part II of the movie: http://www.viki.com/videos/151423v-the-sorcerer-and-the-white-snake?origin=autoplay BTW, the mischievous girl is the green snake, the white snake’s sister.

      I thought the way it was handled was pretty good, even if it wasn’t rape and only a kiss she wanted (for now).

      • Dianna Gunn

        Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to check it out!

    • S.D. Miller

      Writing Realistic Male Rape in Fiction:

      1st, the definition of rape depends on the society. I’m going to define it as a non-consensual sex (or sex-like) act, and ignore rape defined by law (statutory rape). 2nd, realistic means that the perpetrator (the woman) would be convicted of rape in the courtroom of reader opinion. If the reader feels the presence of the victim’s erection constitutes consent, then the rape scene fails. 3rd, this is about a woman raping a man. 4th, I’m going to split this mini-essay into three pieces constituting the three major motivations for rape.

      As a reference I’ll first talk about man-on-woman rape, so we understand it. Then I’ll flip it around, which is the goal of these posts.

      #1 A Sense of Entitlement:

      This is the most common form of rape. In some societies it’s not even considered rape. And for many men who do this, they don’t consider they’ve done anything wrong, they are “just being a man.” It’s not about hatred of women per se, but about a complete lack of respect for women (although some will define lack of respect as hatred). The attitude is that all women want sex. That “no” means “yes” (no matter the circumstances). That men are strong and women are weak. That men are adults and women are children. That men are decisive and women don’t know what they want. And that men, and in particular the perpetrator, are entitled to sex from any woman, and that she will be grateful. He will leave some women alone, for example the wife of his best friend, but that’s because he respects his best friend. This type targets women who are in a lower position than he is–such women are easier to manipulate. His motivation is sexual pleasure. Bill Cosby is a fine example of this type of thinking–but drugs? Is Bill so lazy that he doesn’t even try to seduce his targets?

      Now let’s turn that around. Our villainess (or at least our anti-heroine) is a powerful woman. She is strong economically, mentally, and/or emotionally. She knows what she wants and goes after it. She is entitled to any man she wants and he will be grateful for her attention. All men want sex… isn’t that a universal truth? Her motivation is sexual pleasure. Her target is a man who is less privileged than she: younger, poorer, dumber, or someone who needs a favor. She is not doing anything wrong. She sees her actions as seduction rather than coercion. She typically won’t use force or threats. If she does use drugs it’s likely to be something like Viagra (so her target won’t disappoint her) or alcohol.

      The male victim gives in because of intimidation. He does feel coerced. He might start to respond, but quickly have second thoughts. By then it’s too late to back out. Or he may reject her from the start, but he has no recourse other than give in, and he dare not show his disgust. He doesn’t need a girlfriend or devotion to religion to reject the villainess. She might imply something good like a loan approval, a job, or easy passage through her realm. His greatest regret might come in the morning when he realizes how badly he’s been used. To write this as a believable rape will require some careful thought. His regret must be genuine.

    • S.D. Miller

      #2 Control and Domination:

      The male villain hates women and he’s going to take it out on this woman, his current victim. The classic trope is that when a boy he was dominated by his mother, and so now he punishes women as a substitute for punishing his mother. His penis is a weapon and he violates his victims by penetrating them. He uses force, violence, and/or the threat of violence to control his target. Taken to an extreme he may kill his victim, but usually not during the sex act. His pleasure is domination and emotional pain. This is what many people think of when they think of rape–a violent attack by a stranger.

      Let’s turn this around. Many years ago I saw a scene in a movie where a mother was instilling a hatred of men in her 10-year-old daughter. When the daughter asked what she could do (about a particular boy who was interested in her) the mother replied, “You could break his heart.” How weak. Our villainess will use violence to control and dominate her hapless male victims. She may initially drug them, but then she will bind or shackle them in some way as they must be awake and helpless in her power. She will use a penis substitute to penetrate and feminize him–such as a strap on. Her pleasure is in his discomfort. She wants to see him cry and beg her to stop. If she murders him it won’t be during the sex act.

      If your villainess rapes your hero in this way there will be no doubt to the reader that it was non-consensual.

    • S.D. Miller

      #3 Revenge:

      In war some armies rape entire villages. Sometimes as an intimidation tactic, sometimes in revenge for the real or imagined wrongs done by the opposing army. They kill and rape the helpless.

      Let’s turn that around (with a specific example). Young Kurdish women are going to war against ISIS. They carry rifles and shoot the enemy dead. Some are snipers and see the faces of the men they kill. Some wear suicide belts because they know what will happen if they are captured. They don’t hate men. They have fathers, brothers, lovers, and sons. But they hate the enemy and they hate what the enemy has done to their sisters, mothers, and daughters. Imagine our anti-heroine pumped up by the story of a recent Kurdish sister who escaped from an ISIS brothel. Our anti-heroine shoots and wounds an ISIS soldier. Does she kill him on the spot, or does she do what her hatred demands: rape him with a handy chunk of pipe or piece of rebar. If she tears up his insides so he dies a slow death from septicemia, so much the better. She leaves him, naked and bleeding, where his ISIS brothers will find him. It’s not about pleasure. It’s her message to her enemies.

      Well, this has been interesting. I had to do a bit of research and quite a bit of thought. Perhaps someone will be able to use some of these ideas. Best of luck to all, and have fun writing.

  33. Della

    I am shocked that you didn’t use the wheel of time series as an example of the male rape point. Mat was stuck as the queen’s boytoy, constantly trying to tell people he didn’t want to be there, for I think two entire books…. Maybe more. And it was played for laughs, but it made me cringe every time.

  34. Treg

    This is taking movies way to literally. I know what the article is trying to say but this is over the top. It is a far stretch to think that people will take away from these movies what was written in the article. Not everyone wants to fall into the gender blurred lines of your ideal family structure.

    • Cay Reet

      But it cements certain pre-conceived notions about men, which can be harmful … same goes for certain tropes about women (see that article here).

      Yes, most people will not overthink what they see on TV or at the movies, but that is exactly the point: as long as the media is not questioning certain ideas about how men (or women) are portrayed, those predjudices won’t stop existing in real life, either.

  35. AlphaWhiskey

    Rape was also disregarded in the NBC hit show Grimm. Adalind, a witch-like creature, concealed herself as Nick’s long-term girlfriend. Hiding her true identity, Adalind nonconsentually slept with Nick and he hand his girlfriend later learn of the devious act. The show writers toss out the fact that it was rape and cloud the view with a child, later to be born with a celebratory relationship of Nick and Adalind.

  36. Sophie the Jedi Knight

    The whole “male consent” thing was used very well in the TV show Once Upon a Time. In one episode, evil queen Regina orders the Huntsman to kill Snow White. (Not just because she’s attractive, it actually goes deeper.) Huntsman ends up being unable to do it and lets Snow go. When Regina finds out, she becomes furious but wants to make the best of it. She rips out his heart – not actually killing or injuring him, just removing it so that he cannot feel emotion and she can kill him by destroying the heart. Regina then basically uses him as a sex partner and palace guard. I liked that because it showed that women could want sex too. It seemed like a nice gender swap.

    • Sophie the Jedi Knight

      I’m cringing looking back at this. I realize I said what I meant to say very badly. I don’t in any way approve of females using men in these ways, I just hadn’t seen any switches yet so that was interesting to me at the time.

      • S.D. Miller

        Sophie, nothing wrong with your original statement. The purpose of story is not to present a utopian world without conflict. How boring. No one would buy the book or watch the show.

        The primary purpose of story, or at least the reason people seek out story, is to be moved emotionally. It’s about entertainment and participating (by proxy) in the characters, their world, and the events in their lives. The struggle for freedom or justice, the fight against inner demons, the quest for happiness.

        To me the point of this article is not that violence in story is bad, but that the underlying assumptions about the natural order of things, which depicts violence as normal, is bad. I’ve an earlier post on this page where I speculate on what realistic male rape (by a woman) might look like (of interest for those who write stories). My first point is about “a sense of entitlement.” That sense is an underlying assumption held by some men in today’s world. If an author believed in his heart of hearts that the “real men” in his novel where entitled to any woman they desired, and that no matter what she said or how she behaved, she wanted him too, then the author would create a novel of violence against women. Villain or hero, both will be rapists (just because a victim later decides that it wasn’t so bad, or worse that it was her fault for being so damn sexy, doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape). The author may be completely unaware he’s created a novel where his hero is a rapist.

        Its this accidental sexism (or accidental racism) which is damaging to the readers/viewers, and by extension to society. It perpetrates ugly attitudes.

        Stories need violence because characters need struggle. But the violence should be there by forethought, and it should be acknowledged. Sounds like that’s what the creators of “Once Upon a Time” did with Regina and the huntsman.

        • S.D. Miller

          Darn it. 2 misspelled words and a sentence “stupidfied” by an extra word. :-\

  37. Scootaloo

    I do think you mis-represent the Mad Max series. They’re actually pretty subversive films for the action genre.

    1. Max is not the protagonist. of any of them. Re-watch. Every film, he is purely reactive, and taking cues from someone else’s initiative. In fact, of the franchise, only Fury Road has a clear protagonist – Furiosa. Max is a focus for the camera to perch on while looking at the surrounding world, but he’s not the protagonist.

    2. Max is not your standard “action hero guy.” He’s a loner, sure, but this is portrayed as a weakness. He’s emotionally distant not because it showcases his badassitude, but because he suffers from psychological trauma, and it is repeatedly a liability that injures him and sometimes gets people killed. His “loner” status is a flaw, and often a costly one.

    3. And he’s not a hero. Max’s primary motivations are saving his own skin and getting his stuff back. While those are also the primary motivations for say, Riddick, Riddick will happily face off against the impossible-to-beat villain, because he has to get his Manly Vengeance, or show off how much fur he has below the belt. Max, in identical situations, will be looking for a back door to slip out of – Max avoids these confrontations because confrontations get Max hurt, which goes against his primary motivation. Which is probably why in the latter three movies, the people around him don’t really think twice about selling him over. They know he’s out for himself and isn’t reliable, so why not use him for all they can get then ditch him? In Road Warrior and Thunderdome, they call him a hero while telling the story to their own descendants, but I imagine that’s because “Come listen to the time your grandpa wrung out an emotionally-vulnerable homeless man and left him out to dry” doesn’t sound too good.

  38. Jessica Kazeno

    Thank you very much for writing this article. I am writing a story where the lead characters are men, both of whom are based on (well-rounded, complex) effeminate male characters in my favorite manga, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.

    When reading this article, I kept thinking of the differences between modern American culture and modern Amish culture, my lead characters’ culture being based more on the latter. In Amish culture, men are expected to be loving fathers just as women are expected to be loving mothers; raising one’s children in a way that will lead them to salvation is considered just about the most important thing one can do in Amish society.

    Also, humility and being part of the community are considered highly important in both genders. One of the reasons I chose to take so much from Amish values was to explore how vastly different ideas of “manliness” can be. Gender roles are much firmer in Amish society than American society, but both roles seem to be more respected, and people seem to be more comfortable in them, than in American society. Amish female roles, especially, seem more respected (by both genders) than they are or have been in American society.

    This is not to say Amish society is perfect, of course; far from it. But it is fascinating to me to try to see things from a perspective that I’ve never seen in my home culture. Things that seem like opposites can be combined, or divided in other ways, in other cultures.

  39. Carly

    Kirk has a platonic relationship with the rest of the main cast, and Uhura and Spock in the reboots are romantic, but most of the feelings for the crew are platonic both ways. The exception is Spock and Uhura.

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