It’s Training Men

A few years back, The New York Times ran a piece about the troubles with training men. It was called “What Training Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage.” It even featured an illustration of a woman holding a hoop, through which her husband was jumping. (Interestingly, one of the lessons wasn’t about how to avoid your husband grabbing you with his teeth and dragging you along underwater until you drown.)

The piece was meant to be funny in the way that Times and New Yorker pieces are too often “funny.” Upon reading them, people may be prompted to say, “Oh, that’s too funny” instead of, you know, actually laughing.

It was written by a woman, obviously. Because if a Times editor had run a similar piece by a man called “What Cattle Ranching Taught Me About a Happy Marriage”–feed her a lot of grass and rub lotion on her udder in the winter–it would have led to an outcry, an apology from the public editor, maybe a suspension or two and perhaps a hearing by the New York Commission on Human Rights. Sorry, men. Run your gender-based humor in Maxim or Esquire or one of the other lad rags.

(Which is fine. I don’t want anyone here to start bitching about reverse-male discrimination. Some advice: Shut up, other white men, you’re making the rest of us look bad. We still run most of what counts: corporations, sports teams and the majority of the world’s pick-up trucks. I know what you think you’re doing when you whine about commercials or TV shows that make dad look like a doofus. You think you’re striking a blow for men’s rights by appropriating the language of victimhood used by generations of other groups. What you’re actually doing is sounding like a pussy who can’t take a joke.)

Besides, one of her key takeaways sounds harmless enough: “The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t.”

(If this approach sounds vaguely familiar, it may be because Sheldon used it on Penny in “The Big Bang Theory.”)

Most men would actually appreciate this strategy to the alternative: incessant nagging. And I really appreciated this line of thinking: “I adopted the trainers’ motto: ‘It’s never the animal’s fault.’ When my training attempts failed, I didn’t blame Scott.”

Hear that, ladies? It’s never the animal’s fault. And the fact is, men are fairly easy to train with either the Shamu method or the old-fashioned nagging method. Why? Because we don’t like drama and noise. These things should be reserved for work–which pays us to put up with it–and football season, which is an entirely different story.

But be careful ladies. Because sometimes after domesticating your man, you’ll find you have on your hands a domesticated man. The sensitive-but-funny lovable oaf who once frequently frustrated you and, sometimes, because he felt a need to assert a sense of independence, turned minor disagreements into two-day bouts of screaming and/or silent treatment that would eventually lead to killer makeup sex? Now he’s just happy to sit on the couch watching TV, basking in silence (after he’s picked up his laundry from the floor and put the toilet seat down).

A specific example? Let’s talk about sex, ladies. This training scenario and its results are one of my favorites, dripping as it is in …. irony. (Did you think perhaps I was going to say dripping in something else? You are a sick person.)

At the outset of your relationship, perhaps you were both younger or simply equally inflamed with passion. Wild Monkey Sex was something you were mutually hungry for. Besides, you weren’t living together and it wasn’t every night and you could do some prep work–you know shaving your legs, getting extremely drunk or both.

Then one day, you find yourselves married, sharing the same space. Is the sex every night necessary? Likely no. And he doesn’t push for it every night, but your man is still a randy little bugger. Perhaps he’s young. Perhaps he’s just always horny. Perhaps both. At any rate, you start giving him “no” signals. You go to bed first, fake sleep or claim a headache or any number of other movie cliches. Perhaps you are a rational adult and simply say “No. I don’t feel like it.”

At first, your oversexed orca man may resist. He may whine or cajole (or wait until you fall asleep and then later claim he was suffering from sexnomia and it wasn’t his fault). But he’ll get the message eventually and he’ll stop.

Why? Because the man is trainable. Because, like I said, he doesn’t like drama. And, also, I’d venture that one of the fringe benefits of a long-term relationship for many men is they don’t have to deal with rejection anymore. Your average man — hell even your above-average man and definitely your below-average man — has been told “No!” by women so many times in his life he never wants to hear it again. So whatever your reasons for saying no to the old in-and-out, at some base level, he’s going to feel rejected and he does not like this feeling. Think of a dog with a shock collar. Eventually the dog figures out what’s causing this little bit of discomfort and stop his behavior. So will the man.

The man may even convince himself it was his idea. After all, he’s tired. It’s late. There are the kids (if there are any). The threat of kids (if there aren’t). And he’s got access to the internet and Kleenex (if you catch my meaning).

It’s better when she gives the green light–makes him feel like a stud, maybe.

Either way, he puts it out of his mind and goes on with life, swimming lazy circles around his tank. (I know, now I’ve mixed up whales, monkeys and dogs. So sue me.)

Then what happens? He’s sitting there, night after night, watching reruns of Seinfeld, and you start to doubt yourself. You miss the groping meathead you first hooked up with. And the following words come out:

“You never make the first move anymore!”

And, like a killer whale (or a dog or a monkey), he will have absolutely no answer for that. Because, dumb brute that he is, he has no idea how the hell the situation came to pass, that he’s been trained by a superior mind.

Either that or he’s totally banging the babysitter.

UP NEXT: How to tell if your man is banging the babysitter.*

*Just joking. I have no idea if he is or not. Hire a private-eye. Or fire the babysitter. Or both.

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