Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Manliness: A Continuum

The Almighty Yojo recently wrote about masculinity and proposed that it could be defined along a continuum. I think that there are many dimensions to masculinity and that it is therefore difficult to define in a linear fashion. I am, of course, too lazy to come up with a multi-dimensional model for anything, let alone something as arbitrary and subjective as manliness. So a continuum we shall have.

Manly archetypes include the warrior, athlete, hunter, engineer (as in guys who can build or fix things, not Dilbert), and stud. Manly attributes include strength, courage, honor, and mustaches. Manly inanimate objects include fast cars, scary guns, loud motorcycles, brown liquor, yellow beer, sports apparel, and big speakers.

There are many other manly archetypes (father, husband, frat guy, lecher), attributes (toughness, shoulder hair, flatulence), and possessions (boats, stripper poles, taxidermy). This makes a quantitative analysis of manliness too difficult to undertake, so I will present my own personal continuum of masculinity along with a rationale. I don't profess that it is perfect or even close to accurate, and I wish others would admit the same when undertaking a similarly imprecise exercise.

Accordingly, I'm not going to come up with some masculinity points system (although points are huge), tally up the scores for various people, run some bullshit nonparametric analysis, and tell you who the manliest guys are (p < 0.05). Instead I'm going to rely on the aformentioned archetypes, attributes, and possessions, as well as anything else that sways my opinion, and present to you a continuum. I will not include any women on my continuum. It would be funny to include a female sturdily-built athlete, domineering political figure, or TV personality, but women are women and deserve their own continuum. Which I would like to see Dave assemble. There has to be a maximum and minimum to any continuum, and I was tasked with creating a continuum including both people and actions. The most male thing you can do, definitionally, is put to your penis into a woman's vagina. But "banging chicks" seems like a pretty lousy maximal point for the continuum. In fact it is nothing more than the midpoint of the continuum -- having sex with a woman is manly, but any man can do it (except for Raffie Palmeiro and Jake Barnes) so it seems like it's really only an average manly activity. And people perform more than one activity so in the aggregate they can be very masculine even if they don't have sex with women. For example, Robert DeNiro's priest character in Sleepers (but chastity is not masculine, more on this later), or Gareth Thomas. So the extreme ends of my continuum will be anchored by people, not activities.

The bottom of my manliness continuum is set by RuPaul. I don't put him at the bottom because I suspect that he's gay. Gay men can be very masculine (Gareth Thomas is tougher than anyone on the G:TB staff). I put him at the bottom because he hits none of the manliness factors. Here's an ad he did for Viva Glam cosmetics:


He also released this music video.



RuPaul is about as feminine as a man can be. And I mean that as a compliment, since he's a drag queen. I cannot picture RuPaul fishing or cleaning a fuel injector. I can't even picture him wearing something other than makeup, a dress, and high heels. Thus he anchors the bottom of the continuum.

If you want to argue that RuPaul isn't the world's least masculine exemplar, go ahead. At that point you're splitting hairs. It's like arguing over who's the world's tallest midget. No one wins.


The other end of the continuum, the epitome of masculinity, is Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, the main character from "Magnum P.I.". Magnum is a Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran who kills someone almost every episode (warrior); played quarterback (RFQB?) at the Naval Academy, once trod water for 24 hours, and surfed regularly (athlete); he can fix cars and helicopters, pick locks, and dissemble and reassemble firearms blindfolded (engineer); and he gets a different woman every week (stud). He drives a Ferrari, wears his dad's hand-me-down Rolex, lives for free on an estate in Hawaii, has unlimited free access to his buddy's helicopter, and drinks for free at the King Kamehameha Club. He owns a gun, a Detroit Tigers hat, and a rubber chicken. He's so manly that they named extra-large rubbers after him. He has tremendous amounts of chest hair and one of the most famous mustaches of all time, behind only Chaplin, Hitler, Marx, and maybe Fingers.


I'm sure many of you disagree. That's fine, get your own continua. But you can't put someone like Derek Jeter or Joe Namath at the top of the continuum. They're stud athletes for sure, but neither ever killed a man and I doubt either one of them knows how to replace an oil filter (though Namath had a good stache). Ted Williams likely killed many people in World War II and Korea and he was the best hitter ever, but he wasn't much of a stud and he played for the Red Sox, the least manly team in pro sports (hence the "Pink Hat" nickname for their fanbase). That said, Jeter, Namath, and Williams are pretty fucking manly and unlike Magnum they really exist. In order of manliness I go Williams (war hero/fighter pilot status carries a lot of weight, especially since he volunteered for Korea), Jeter (impossibly impressive list of unattainable women; name-checked by GFK, Lil' Wayne, etc.), then Namath (loses points for the fur coat and pantyhose ads).

Other strong candidates for the top of the manliness continuum are the Duke Boys, Bo and Luke Duke. They are moonshiners (outlaw, another great male archetype). Luke was a Marine (warrior) and a boxer (athlete). Bo was a stock car driver (athlete) and got lots of tail (stud). Both can fix cars (engineer) and are so proficient with a bow and arrow that they can use them to make outhouses blow up (hunter). They have a cousin so slammin' that bootie shorts are named after her and they live in Georgia so they have no qualms about tappin' it. They have a buddy named Cooter. They're so manly that Waylon Jennings wrote a song about them and even took the time to narrate their life. Their uncle has a still in the barn. And they tear around in an orange 1969 Dodge Charger with the doors welded shut. American muscle cars are masculine as hell.

They lose out to Magnum because you need both Duke Boys in combination to reach Magnum's level of manliness. They also have a rebel flag on their car and that's bullshit.

At first blush Don Draper is exceedingly masculine. He bangs January Jones and every other woman he meets (stud). He's a decorated war hero (warrior) and according to my wife he's in fantastic shape (athlete). He hits on his mother figure's teenage neice (lecher). He drinks brown liquor and smokes unfiltered cigarettes with abandon and has such a preposterously high tolerance for drugs and alcohol that he is almost immune when someone slips him some roofies. He drives giant convertible American cars with V8 engines. He's perfectly tailored and seamlessly smooth. He's smart and cool and always comes up with the right angle to save his advertising firm.

But I think Draper isn't too manly in the aggregate. He isn't really a war hero (he's a deserter), and in fact his entire identity is a lie. He lost his mojo in season 4, ultimately resulting in the "Sad Don Draper" meme. He cheats on his wife, sexually harasses his secretaries, lies habitually, and treats his co-workers like peons. This is not masculine behavior. Women can do this type of stuff and it doesn't fit into any of the admirable masculine archetypes. Draper is still somewhat to the right of the continuum's midpoint (i.e., putting your penis into a woman).

The Sean Connery version of James Bond looks like Draper with a gun. He's a warrior, athlete, and stud who drives around in an Aston Martin killing Communists and other evildoers. Manly props to Sean Connery -- not only was he the best James Bond, he also was Mr. Universe and has a black belt in karate (athlete). Subsequent Bonds watered down the brand, making 007 less manly and thus falling behind Magnum. And he drinks vodka, which is a little fay compared to the Dukes' moonshine or Draper's rye.

Falling to the left of the midpoint are the Jonas Brothers. They are famously chaste, and chastity is not a masculine attribute. Jay-Z tooled on them in "On To The Next One" stating "No I'm not a Jonas Brother I'm a grown up, no I'm not a virgin I use my cajones." That's pretty harsh stuff. They don't drink, smoke, or do drugs; although these activities aren't limited entirely to men, self-destructive behavior is a masculine trait and it would help move them to the right on the continuum if they would get acquainted with the business end of a bottle of beer. They're from Wyckoff, NJ -- not sure which way that cuts.

AC Green is similarly situated along the continuum for the same reasons. Sure, he was a good athlete and he had a mustache (albeit a weak one), but he was famously chaste. He waited 38 years to lose it. That's just not a manly thing to do. He also participated in this video:



AC's lack of skills 'pon de mic don't help him move up the continuum. Ironically, Barry Sanders had a kid before he was married so he doesn't practice what he preaches when it comes to bringing the ruckus.

The "bring the ruckus" sketch is very masculine:



The act of bringing the ruckus is very masculine too -- not only does it involve putting your penis into a woman's vagina, it also involves making that ass tapdance. Very manly stuff.

Tim Tebow and his chastity are also unmanly. His proselytizing doesn't help him move up the continuum either. Sorry Mark.

Tom Brady is surprisingly effete. He's arguably the best quarterback of his generation, he has an unlimited free supply of Audis (and he has the good sense to drive an S8) and three Super Bowl rings, his wife is one of the most beautiful women in the world (and she makes something like $25 million a year), and everyone in New England loves him. I was at a party in Jamaica Plain one time and my friends were talking about Tom Brady's baby mama drama. One of the women said "You don't tell Tom Brady to pull out" and all the other women stuck out their lower lips and nodded their heads in vertical approval. I would trade places with him in an instant. But he isn't very manly. He's been known to wear a hairband and shave his armpits. But the thing that boots him way to the left of the continuum is: he wears Uggs. He's the official Uggs spokesman. Peyton Manning annoys me because I constantly see him hawking wares on my TV, but at least it's normal stuff like DirectTV or Gatorade. Uggs? UGGS?!? Are you fucking kidding me? You could get any endorsement deal you want, and you sign with Uggs? According to the press release:
Brady said he was excited to be joining the UGG family. "I have worn and loved the UGG brand for a long time," Brady said.
I guess he knows what he's doing, given all of the foregoing, but he doesn't rank highly on my continuum.

I can't think of too many artists (writiers, musicians, painters, etc.) who are exceedingly manly. Many rock starts get lots of trim, but making music isn't an especially masculine profession and rock stars who wear makeup aren't manly at all. In my view, the manly artists are always geniuses who battle drugs and/or mental illness and who commit suicide. Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Vincent van Gogh, guys like that. I'll throw Jackson Pollock in the mix too even though he didn't kill himself. TR will likely take umbrage and cite the fact that porn star Savannah said that Greg Allman was the best lover she ever had. Umbrate away. Greg Allman can bring the ruckus and drink a lot, but can he fly a helicopter or make a 1969 Dodge Charger jump across a river? I don't think so.

Dave asked me to address seven activities, which I shall rank in order from least to most manly. A common trend across activities with high manliness quotients is stupidity. By that I mean very manly activities are also often very stupid. You'll see what I mean.

Streaking is not manly. Women streak all the time, like Erica Roe. Streaking was, in fact, invented by a woman (Lady Godiva). It's such a gender-neutral activity that it doesn't even belong on the continuum. It's like breathing. Streaking isn't all that stupid because if you convince a woman to go streaking with you you might end up putting your penis in her vagina later, which means it's a smart thing to do (assuming you want to get laid). So it's a smart activity that can lead to a manly activity, but it isn't manly in and of itself.

The Iron Man triathlon isn't very manly either. Women do it all the time (including the zsister-in-law). Sure it's tough. Sure it's insane. But it isn't stupid so it isn't particularly manly.

Tabasco shots are slightly manly because they're stupid. But I can see a certain phenotype of woman enjoying Tabasco shots because she'll be surrounded by and receive lots of attention from men while she does them.

Tearing down a fence and ripping out a stump are tied at "quite manly." These acts aren't stupid as a general matter, although if you undertake them by yourself without the aid of a Bobcat or similar device you're being stupid and/or cheap. I rank them as quite manly because women don't engage in these activities. A handful of women out there might do this, real Ma Ingalls types (or W&M co-eds nicknamed The Stump Puller), but overall this is manly stuff.

Eating the Grande is very manly. Only women who are competitive eaters would do this.

Ledge diving is manly as hell. Only men would do something this stupid. Scratch that. Only drunk 22-and-under men would do something this stupid so it involves both stupidity and drunkenness. Thus ledge diving is a quintessentially masculine endeavor.

Cars pepper the continuum. Body-on-frame SUV's are manly because you can attach a winch to the front and do some serious froadin. Unibody SUV's are not manly because they are really just minivans with doors that open outward instead of sliding back. Any car with eight or more cylinders is manly. Manual transmissions are manly, automatics are not, and those "tiptronic" style fake-shift-it-yourself automatics are atrocious. Saturns are the least manly cars ever because you couldn't haggle over the price, you had to take whatever the sticker said. Knowing how to buy a car, especially a used car, is manly. If you bought your Saturn used then your Saturn is somewhat manly even though it's made out of Tupperware. Station wagons are more manly than minivans but not by much. For the record, I drive a station wagon with an atrocious fake-shift-it-yourself transmission (i.e., a car that isn't very manly) but I bought it used so it isn't as bad as it could be.

Someone asked me to put the Village People on the plot. That person is a pain in my ass. The Village People are six guys who dressed up like manly archetypes so that they could perform disco music, and disco is some of the most unmanly music of the past 50 years. You only hear their songs at sporting events, weddings, and bar mitzvahs, i.e., events notorious for bad music. No one says "I'm going on a long car trip, I better make sure I have some Village People tracks in my iPod." (I can't wait for Igor to tell me why I'm way off base on this. Here's a premptive retort.) I have no evidence that they actually are as manly as the costumes they wear so I have no idea where to plot them. And there's six of them, so even if I did know how manly each guy was, how would I plot them as a gmish? So the Village People are not plotted on the continuum.

And here's the continuum.


(Note that this is plotted on a log scale.)
(Also note that "Being miserably chaste" slots in between Ted Williams and ledge diving.)
(Also note that Gheorghe Muresan's Gheorgheness was too potent a confounding variable for him to be plotted.)

40 comments:

T.J. said...

Holy shit that's a lot of words.

Danimal said...

congratulations on your post. that's long to quite long.

Geoff said...

This was phenomenal. That is all.

Danimal said...

drove a saturn right out of college. but it was standard so i got that going for me.
also - ironman competitions are usually comprised of approximately 70-75% males & 25-30% females, with males finishing an average of 30 minutes or better. thank you.

T.J. said...

They have a cousin so slammin' that bootie shorts are named after her and they live in Georgia so they have no qualms about tappin' it.

Love it.

rob said...

i'm a champion ledge diver and removed a stump by myself once. also, i fucked gareth thomas. feeling pretty manly.

zman said...

Says the Sox fan driving a minivan and training for a triathlon.

zman said...

And speaking of Daisy Duke, dangerously short cutoffs are cropping up all over Manhattan. Expect this fashion trend to trickle down to your corner of the universe some time next summer. Unless you live in Florida, in which case you'll only need to wait 6 months.

rob said...

half-marathon. i'm not wearing spandex bike shorts for all the tea in china.

rob said...

i see tr corrected his reading comprehension error.

TR said...

The Daisy Dukes are a whole lotta good times (save for the morbidly obese women who want to join in).

The hipsters-in-jorts phenomenon, on the other hand, is a bit less exciting, though just as popular.

Luckily, my look (scowling white man in suit) is still wildly popular.

Danimal said...

i think the cutoffs are trickling up...i don't think they ever left this place.

Igor said...

I admire this effort and your conclusions a great deal, Zman, but the omission of Evel Knievel is inexcusable. He's many, if not all, of the things touted as manly, but unlike Magnum, the Dukes, and James Bond, he was a real guy. Flesh and blood.

Igor said...

And uh, the Village People thing was my attempt at being facetious . . . but I do appreciate your efforts to debunk the notion of six gay guys dressing up in costumes and singing songs about San Francisco, Key West, Fire Island, Sodom and Gomorrah, macho men, and the YMCA being incredibly manly.

Please see the album covers and track listings for more evidence. Especially Renaissance.

TR said...

YMCA is a song that celabrates the type of activity that led to the rampant spread of AIDS. Which makes it that much more fun to watch folks of all ages dancing and singing to it at large gatherings of lame white people.

Jerry said...

I actually think that chasteness in the face of having a ton of tail thrown in one's face is somewhat manly. It requires a ton of stubbornness, which is certainly manly. It's an insanely extremest position to hold, also manly. Proselytizing is a negative -- it's annoying and lame and tries to induce guilt in others for their actions. Inducing guilt is extremely unmanly.

But on the whole it's very impressive. If girls are constantly tossing their muffs at some dude and he just does a "Nah...I've got shit to do," it's pretty cool.

Igor said...

Colbert makes fun of idiots.

zman said...

I just did a little research into Evel Knievel and learned of his mannishness. Impressive.

I would've included the Village People if there were only one or two of them. I'm happy to give you any man's exact placement on the continuum, but groups of men is too challenging.

Men are biologically predisposed to spreading their seed around. I take your point about being stubborn, but turning down every piece of trim that comes your way is unmanly, from at least a biological perspective.

Turns out AC Green also suffered from chronic hiccups for most of his adult life. Not too manly.

rob said...

a clear cut case of cause and effect if i ever saw one.

Dave said...

wow. definitive tour de force. i've got to "task" you with more posts while i enjoy my beach vacation.

rampant sex with the looming threat of AIDS is pretty manly.

love magnum as the top choice and impressed by all the backstory i learned about your examples-- who knew?

where is mr. t?

Squeaky said...

So where would John Wayne fall on the continuum?

"John was a fag"

"The hell he was"

"He was, too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood, and he come to the door in a dress."

Whitney said...

Didn't the Lakers almost draft Jeremy Hyatt because of that hiccup thing?

rob said...

see, that's funny

Danimal said...

where is Barry O on this scale? he is after all the leader of the free world. that's pretty manly. not much of a first pitch thrower, awful in fact, and terribly attired when playing golf (for being leader of the free world) - neither of these are manly. seems like a great dad and husband - pretty manly. always rolls up his sleeves when visiting a manufacturing plant - trying to look manly is not very manly.

Lumpy said...

cant fault the lakers for considering jeremy hyatt- he can shoot from anywhere, anytime...

Danimal said...

z - jags picked up posluszny today... seems like a good catch for us, no?

rob said...

weird no-no in cleveland today. ervin santana gave up a run in the first on an error, stolen base, ground out, passed ball, then only allowed one more baserunner. indians got no-hit and made 5 errors. believe they were filming major league 5: electric boogaloo at the time.

zman said...

If everything on his Wikipedia page is accurate, Mr. T sits between Ted Williams and Derek Jeter. Dude has a remarkable biography.

John Wayne did some manly stuff and he played some manly roles, but apparently he was quite racist so he can't be plotted.

Obama killed Osama bin Laden, albeit indirectly, which is really manly. He's the first basketball president, also manly. He slides in between Jeter and Mr. T.

Posluszny gets hurt a lot but when he plays he's good. He led the Bills in tackles last year, for what that's worth. He's allegedly better in a 4-3 than a 3-4, so it's a good fit for the Jags. Kinda makes you wonder why the Bills converted to a system that doesn't fit their personnel, but what do I know.

zman said...

Lots of local chatter that the Jest are heavily going after the corner from Oakland whose name I can't spell. That would be an interesting defensive backfield.

Mark said...

I'm pretty sure we're all hearing that chatter, Z. Not just those of you in NY.

Jerry said...

Tribe football is fairly heavy favorites to win the CAA again.

rob said...

such a tough league, though

TR said...

Does the Tribe have a new defensive coordinator? The last guy was the tits.

Igor said...

I'm a fairly heavy favorite at parties.

zman said...

Fair enough. I thought it was just conjecture on WFAN but I was wrong.

Igor said...

How long has Duff McKagan been writing for ESPN instead of playing rock & roll, and what rock have I been hiding under? That strikes me as very odd.

rob said...

a little bit stunned that a guy named colby rasmus sounds like a dumb hillbilly

rob said...

also, hillbilly is a superb word. we need to bring it back.

TR said...

Duff McKagan also went to biz school. He's lucky to be alive. Dude drank a handle of vodka a day for years.

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