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How Desperate Housewives Is Castrating Us All

Just when men finally mastered sensitivity, we’re told we’re too weak to satisfy a woman.

(Details, March 2005. Photo: David Barry)

I DIDN’T KNOW AMERICA had embraced castration. But there it was, one Sunday night, smack in the middle of prime time. A stony redhead named Bree, pissed off at her husband, turned to the scotch-swigging guests at a house party and cheerily announced, “Rex cries after he ejaculates.” You could practically hear the poor guy’s dick hit the linoleum.

Maybe Rex deserved it. Or maybe, as the ball-twisting comedy of ABC’s Desperate Housewives suggests, all guys deserve it. The wanton ladies of Wisteria Lane (stalking the back lot of the old Leave It to Beaver set) loom over their men like gynocentric avengers. Sex bomb Gabrielle cheats on her rich husband, Carlos, with a 17-year-old gardener. When Carlos tearfully confides his suspicions to his mother, she takes his chin in her hand—and slaps him for being a chump. When Bree asks the other gals how to get a screwed-up neighbor boy to disclose a secret, Gabrielle pipes up: “For God’s sake, Bree, you’re a woman. Manipulate him. That’s what we do.”

Manipulate the losers. No wonder men are so baffled. An editor friend of mine who watches the show, and dates a hottie, asked me, “When did men become such pussies? Women push us toward being emotionally vulnerable, and then they find it repellent,” he says. “I’m starting to feel like, ‘Move back to the wet spot and shut up.’”

Consider everything we’ve sacrificed and fixed about ourselves to fit into the pastel-colored suit of the sensitive man. And you can start with Sunday night—once we might have commandeered the Trinitron for the last NFL game on ESPN; now we submissively sit through none other than Desperate Housewives so our lady can get her bitch on. We gladly go to museums and hold hands thoughtfully in front of impenetrable abstract art. We loofah. We can tell the difference between her Manolo Blahniks and her Jimmy Choos and can whip up a vegan tempeh rollatini that will shiver her timbers. Speaking of shivers, have you noticed that those guys-can’t-find-the- G-spot jokes have disappeared from the improv circuit? That’s because we finally got the message. Now we know not only how to make a woman orgasm—we make sure she does. Hell, there are diaper changing stations in rest-stop men’s rooms now.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

But something has to give once you’ve been re-educated, and in this case it was eons of “real man” skills. So no, we can’t retile the roof or change the oil or snake the shower drain when the remnants of a certain someone’s $200 “trim” clog it into kingdom come. Instead we—shamefacedly—call for help. And some Gotti-esque guy shows up with a tool belt and prison biceps who couldn’t make a hospital corner to save his life, and there’s our better half having dirty romance-novel daydreams and cracking jokes about our baby-soft hands. The fact is, we haven’t just quit mashing Bud cans against our foreheads; we’ve lost our caveman mojo. “What I hear from men is that after all the sensitivity training, they actually find women are less interested in them,” says California psychologist Aaron Kipnis, author of What Women and Men Really Want. “This is a danger, and every guy knows it.”

As did our ancestors, those brave Iron Johns of the eighties who retreated into the forest to beat drums and wrap their arms around towering symbols of their manhood. But what they heard rumbling through the underbrush was a far more sinister sound than a request for intimacy: It was a stiletto heel to the crotch. For decades, the women’s movement has waged a brilliant PR war, attacking masculinity as coarse, retrograde, and even dangerous. A generation of bewildered men have sat through compulsory rape-awareness classes in college. The message: Your dick is a threat to society. The attentive freshman, ogling the professor’s Britney-tight sweater, is left feeling ashamed.

So men become the new women, while women (at least on Wisteria) become the new action heroes. Each woman on Desperate Housewives has a little bit of Schwarzenegger in her. Think Teri Hatcher bent over Jay Leno’s desk, displaying her karate-toned ass. But these housewives are not the judo-kicking, sword-slinging warriors of Charlie’s Angels. They engage in more realistic forms of combat: psychological and emotional. “This show is a sad extension of the feminist mentality that men are useless and don’t deserve human regard,” says conservative talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. “It’s psychological S&M, where you treat a man bad and he takes it. It’s S&M without the whips.”

That hurts. But of course, the very title of the show could have been pulled from a porn DVD, and the plot lines are old staples of one-handed literature. “One of our biggest trends is wife-watching, where a husband watches his wife screw another man,” says Kathy Cavanaugh, managing editor of Penthouse Letters. “It’s the whole virgin-whore dynamic. The men want to share in that sexual power their wives have. And there are a lot of cuckold stories where the guys want to feel demeaned.”

Perhaps that explains why, of the 27 million who tuned in to Housewives during November sweeps, nearly 40 percent were men. The modern guy, having studied back waxing, truffle tasting, and the art of the untucked shirt with the Queer Eye masters, cheers for Gabrielle as she slithers down her boy toy’s tanned and hairless torso. Apparently, we like to watch. And when Teri Hatcher brags in the press that she doesn’t need a man because she has “some fabulous electronics,” we can’t help but hear her roar.

No wonder Rex cries after he ejaculates.