Into the Man Cave

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 2 2009 9:57 PM

Into the Man Cave

Greg Beato, my go-to source for weird insights into mass culture, has a very funny analysis of the DIY show Man Caves over at the Smart Set. The show is premised on the idea that men need man-friendly rooms in which to be manly, and the hosts help regular guys turn ordinary rooms into testosterone-rich dens featuring, say, stripper poles and motorcycles. But Beato thinks the masculine showboating is just the price of entry to an aesthetic realm typically reserved for women and gay men:

If today’s men don’t seem quite as grown-up as their grandfathers did, they show a much greater flair for decorating and design. Of course, men, or at least straight men, are wary about talking too enthusiastically about the way a well-proportioned ceramic tile can really open up a narrow room-so they develop strategies for masculinizing their passions. In the 1970s, their medium of extravagant creative expression was the custom van: Small block engines were the perfect beards for beaded curtains. In the 1990s, professional wrestling gave straight men a venue to unabashedly appreciate fringed Speedos; silver lamé high-tops; and greasy, fussed-over Botticellian mullets-not in a gay way, but simply as a sourcebook of ideas to use in their own efforts to unleash their inner peacocks. Now it’s Man Caves .
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All of which would suggest that Man Caves is less about affirming some prior idea of maleness than expanding its scope.

Kerry Howley's work has appeared in the Paris Review, Bookforum, and the New York Times Magazine. She is currently finishing a book about consensual violence, ecstatic experience, and the body.