you must know
how to make your
marriage last forever
PLUS: Win a romantic
||what makes me feel loved by John Travolta,
Well, I suppose despite the fact that it’s sold “some 10 million copies around the world,” even John Gray knew that some people weren’t going to shell out $26.00 for a copy of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Why not sell a watered down version of his personal opinion for $3.48 per copy? That way even more people will read it! Even better–Gray will make more money off the desperate.
This newest addition to the magazine racks is the same contrived tripe that has been delivered in Gray’s books and interviews: more personal opinion prescribing just how men and women should behave in the world. Gray is listed as the editorial adviser and has contributed his articles to the magazine, as is his shadow, Michael Najarian (the Mars and Venus Adviser), and other free lance writers including famous celebrity gossip Jeanne Wolf.
There’s little that is new to readers of The Rebuttal. For instance, Gray has contributed an article entitled “The Art of the Quickie” wherein we’re told that James and Lucy negotiated for “quickies.” He receives regular “gifts” from Lucy, and in return she gets “cuddles” whenever she wants them. I could swear I’ve heard this story before. Hmm, where was it? Oh yes, it was on Gray’s web Q&A page–only there this “quickies for cuddles” deal was promoted as the brainchild of Gray’s wife Bonnie. Oh well, it’s only an opinion–I suppose you can modify the story at will to at least make it look like it’s a new idea.
While the players in this story may have changed, the message is the same. Says “James”: “For the first time . . . I was free to skip foreplay and go right to intercourse. I wasn’t at all concerned about my performance or having to please. It was strictly for me and there were no guilty feelings because we both knew that she would get hers at another time.” (29-30) Women are reported as saying “A quickie is fine because my body isn’t in the mood for an orgasm.” (30) Gray tells us that this is “normal.” Yeah, right! Keep dreamin’ buddy boy!
What does a woman do when she’s in the mood and he’s not? Don’t be direct; instead, send signals. “If she clearly puts away her book when he walks into the room, he knows she’s in the mood.” (31) Don’t ask questions. They’ll turn him off “at this most sensitive moment.” If she wants an orgasm (remember, women don’t always want one) she can pleasure herself and then she can wake him up to turn over and “do the honors.” (Guess she can’t do them herself, eh?) And, of course, don’t pursue that man. That’s a turn off, too.
Funny, isn’t it? He needs that orgasm so badly that she’s expected to lie there while he gets off and then she’ll get some cuddles when she wants them. And besides, the woman will “get hers at another time.” But he can’t masturbate, can he? No, he only can derive his pleasure from a woman. And our mail-order Ph.D. says that in order to keep him happy, a woman must give him this gift. The implied message? She’ll do it if she really loves him.
Remember Michael Najarian’s comment that the quotes in the Yahoo! interview were all taken out of context? I don’t see anything different in this article that is credited to John Gray. It’s written without the vulgarities but it’s the same message. That’s what I find so amazing. Somehow because it’s been wrapped in glossy paper with sexy photos and couched in nicely written phrases, we’re all supposed to think that this is something new. It’s the same old active-passive control mechanism again. A woman is required to give, else she doesn’t really love her man. A man is only required to give when he feels he’s ready for it.
Pathetic. But then you know this.
Since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, “Objects of Desire” puts forth some nifty gift ideas arranged in gender categories. Naturally, women are showered in trinkets and all things considered feminine. Men, of course, are surrounded by gadgets, toys, and things electronic. But just in case you’re thinking of doing something different for your significant other, this magazine has included some suggestions for you.
First, we’re told that men don’t “get” flowers and they only want fruit on their cereal–so don’t go to your florist. Also, silk boxer shorts are a no-no because “men say they feel slippery and slimy.” Thinking of a cashmere sweater? Be warned! “Guys like gear, not high fashion.” (News to those men who make a living from designing high fashion for men, isn’t it?) For women? Buy Godiva chocolates, take her to dinner, treat her to a spa visit, or just cuddle up. Putting men and women into rigid categories just makes life so much easier, doesn’t it?
Page 43 tells us how to write a love letter. Date it, use sappy salutations, declare your love in the first paragraph, use amorous analogies, include a “love list” of things you like about your significant other, then close with a statement of commitment. This is a pretty nifty layout. I suppose the next money-making endeavor will be “fill in the blank/check this box” love letters purchased directly from Personal Growth Productions with a personal message from John Gray and Michael Najarian written on the verso (with copyright symbol, no doubt).
In an article by Bruce Raskin, we’re given a “Parents Guide to Romance.” The article itself is typical of those “keep it special and passionate” articles, but I’m amused by the last item in a list entitled “6 Ways to Spark the Flames”: “Dads: Bring mom flowers, or better, send them to her at work. It may sound sexist and cliched, but it’s a great way to make her feel loved and appreciated, and there’s nothing quite as romantic.” (26) Uh, why is this sexist? I think if the author wants to employ the term “sexist,” he should be looking to Gray and not something as thoughtful as sending flowers to let your partner know they’re loved and thought of.
My favorite article is written by Vicky Samuels, the producer of Gray’s “ABC documentary” (read: infomercial). She writes of planning the “documentary”: “If we do this story well, it might have a positive impact on viewers’ lives. If we do it badly, ABC’s news division will be embarrassed and my career making TV documentaries will be over.” (58) Although I tried to contact Samuels on a number of occasions while this “documentary” was being planned, I never received a response. I wanted to know why she was wasting valuable time on this charlatan. Well, I finally I have my answer through this article, and it is the one that I’ve long suspected: “I’d read the book months before during a rather bleak period in my own love life, and I was fascinated.” (58)
After watching this sorry infomercial, I’d be surprised if the ABC news division wasn’t embarrassed by this two hour excuse of a documentary. This would explain the absence of any contrary opinion. And, naturally, this Gray apologist has provided some sources of where to get some help so that, “like the TV couples, you can improve your marriage.” Yeah, you guessed it: Mars-Venus workshops, the Mars-Venus Counseling franchises, books by the questionably credentialed doctor, audiocassettes, videotapes, AND the toll free number for acessing all of these interesting items.
I have an enormous amount of respect for news professionals who put their own predilections aside in order to thoroughly examine something of note. Samuels isn’t one of them.
Why bother taking you through every article of the magazine. It’s not worth it. It’s the same old, tired story coming from John Gray and his cronies. Men are portrayed as strong, sexual, tactile creatures who don’t “get” flowers and love their “gear.” Women, as usual, are given the message to submit and be happy with what you get. If you don’t get what you need, don’t ask, don’t pursue, and don’t be direct, instead “send signals.”
While my overall opinion of this magazine is very low (yeah, like you’re all surprised), two things did catch my attention. First, In the article “Why We Love (and Hate) Ally McBeal,” critic Jeff Jarvis observes that the “honest, endearing, smart, tough” and vulnerable television character is “a sign of a new era–or at least a new twist–in sexual relations [in that] TV is merely reflecting what’s happening among us.” I agree. Well, not about Ally McBeal (gag!) , but I do think that this magazine is a reflection of what is happening in society.
I contend that in a new age of uncertainty–where definitions of gender are themselves undergoing a change (much as they have throughout history)–putting men and women into pidgeon holes makes things a hell of a lot easier in the long run. In Gray’s universe, men and women fit nicely prescribed roles and are therefore predictable. They are depicted as coming from different worlds that are dictated soley by gender, without any consideration of the society that surrounds them. Gray advocates a patriarchal social system that as such holds one group in dominance over the other. It’s easier that way. If men and women just accepted the way they should be, we would all get along quite well. This magazine contributes to that patriarchal system by telling women that men “need” quickies and that they’re “normal” if they don’t want an orgasm. Do they not want an orgasm, or are they just accepting that sometimes they have to settle for less because they don’t “need” it like a man? If they don’t settle are they in danger of losing their partner because they just haven’t been accepting enough? Where is the line drawn? Is this magazine reflecting society, or prescribing patterns of behavior so that society is less disrupted by inevitable social evolution?
Secondly, I found something else that I thought was profoundly interesting and well worth noting: In not one place did Gray ever follow his name with that marginal “Ph.D.” Considering that until now everything to which the man has signed his name has included the mail-order degree I find this new development fascinating. Very fascinating indeed.
17 January 1998