Attraction to the emotionally stunted man: constructing a fantasy.

Fantasies are not apolitical. Whilst not all aspects of fantasies are translated into real-life relationships, fantasies are an important facet of our understanding and expectations of romance. We all deserve healthy emotional romance, and so we must be self-aware in the way we fantasize.

Rated 5/5 (1 person). Log in to rate.

Across my (not so many and not so successful) attempts at (heterosexual) dating, I’ve noticed a pattern in myself that I’ve grown increasingly disgruntled with. My pattern is that of an unrelenting attraction to what I’ve noted as the ‘emotionally stunted man’. There are many variants on what constitutes my emotionally stunted man, but the core idea pertains not to the man himself, but to a specific romantic fantasy I’ve curated, which is then projected onto these unsuspecting eyecandies.

That might sound crude and shallow, and that is effectively because my fantasies are just that, crude and flat. As a method of escapism, my fantasies can be argued to be pretty harmless in their construction, but fantasies are not that simple, they seep into our lives, in perhaps less exaggerated forms, but even diluted fantasies have the potential to be harmful.

I don’t believe I’m unique in my attraction to the stunted man, I believe many women hold similar fantasies, that manifest in various ways, but the significance of the stunted man fantasy in heterosexual romance lies in its emotional patriarchal demands. Bell Hooks wrote in ‘The Will to Change’, “patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples”, I view patriarchal fantasies as a piece of this emotional ‘crippling’.

There are two key elements of my title I should clarify. The first is what constitutes a ‘fantasy’. Fantasies in this essay can be as simple as an expectation or ideal in dating to a full-on daydream. Fantasy lies both in the individual and the culture, with an assumption that individual fantasies are part of wider cultural norms and cultural fantasies. Expressions of romantic fantasies manifested through such mediums as romance novels, offer an example of the widespread ideal of the ‘emotionally stunted man’. They demonstrate the socialized aspect of the construction of fantasies.

The second element is what constitutes ‘emotionally stunted’. In this essay it is meant to convey a specific set of emotional ideals, imposed on men in the patriarchal fantasy.

Below are some examples of such emotional ideals,

· Emotionally reserved; so not quite cut off emotionally, but certainly not expressive enough to, for instance, cry openly

· Passion which is often restricted to intense lust and anger

· A ‘suffer in silence’ type attitude to their emotional distress

· A protective (and typically unhealthy) emotional response towards their ‘lover’

These are (some) of the ideals that make up the ‘emotionally stunted man’. These are values by which men assert their ‘maleness’ and assume emotional dominance within relationships, emulating the greater pattern of male authority, control, and dominance which make up the foundations of the patriarchal system.

I would argue that conformity to this role pattern in real life creates psychological stress and emotional pain for men in their romantic lives. Men, under the patriarchal culture, are limited in their acceptable emotional range, lacking (healthy) emotional connection, and oftentimes (I believe) turning to anger and violence, emotional or otherwise.

Recognition that men are hurt by rigid patriarchal emotional roles does not excuse male oppression of women. My aim is to acknowledge the psychological impact of ‘stunted man’ ideals on men, and how women are also perpetuators of patriarchal thinking and action, by engaging with patriarchal fantasies.

I am not accusing women of creating these ideals of the emotionally stunted man. The psychological patriarchy makes the stunted man an object of desire for both men and women, to the detriment of the emotional and romantic lives of both parties involved. Women become attached to the stunted man, giving them love and attention to earn.

Romantic fantasies of the ESM are created and reinforced across a wide spectrum of means. In media, its manifestations can be as apparently benign as the ‘knight in armour and the damsel in distress’ trope in Disney movies, to the far more obviously concerning glamorization encapsulated in the Pierce the Veil’s lyrics “I kissed the scars on her skin”. These fantasies are absorbed and emulated from a young age, and their impact and range not be underestimated.

Romance novels are a medium which I think reflects popular ideas of romantic fantasies, whilst potentially informing an audience about what type of romance is appealing.‘The Spanish Love Deception’ is one such novel, one which I can only assume from its popularity(Tiktok-virality) is a style of romantic fantasy that is appealing to a broad female readership.

It is an ‘enemies to lovers’ style love story. The male protagonist (AaronBlackford)is tall, mysterious, and unsmiling. Over 300 pages, Aaron opens up just enough emotionally to the female protagonist (Catalina)for her to fall for him. They proceed to have hot and heated sex, featuring the most unsettling dirty talk I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading, “I want to feel you milking me, baby”. You would be forgiven for thinking that this couple has clearly spent these 300 pages building up emotional bonds and being emotionally intimate with each other. (Enemies to lovers duh). Well, in the last couple of chapters, Catalina finds out Aaron has failed to mention his DYING FATHER throughout all of this. This revelation is written by the author as an intentional and emotional omission, to protect Catalina, as a brave sacrifice by Aaron, him being an emotionally ‘strong’ man.

This is an incredibly rough and unflattering review of this romance novel, but it serves (to me at least) as a flagrant example of the way women, both writers, and readers, engage with fantasies of romance and relationships, largely unquestioning of the patriarchal constructions and emotional implications present in these fantasies.

All of this helps to highlight the importance of being conscious of the ways heterosexual fantasies are expressed and their impact on men's and women's emotional lives.

Fantasies are not apolitical. Whilst not all aspects of fantasies are translated into real-life relationships, fantasies are an important facet of our understanding and expectations of romance. Both men and women lose out in the patriarchal fantasy. Men are expected to prove their maleness through a limited range of emotional expression, leaving them repressed and inarticulate (obviously this is on a spectrum). Women are left with partners unable to communicate productively or don’t feel as though they would be accepted and loved if they did.

We all deserve healthy emotional romance, and so we must be self-aware in the way we fantasize.



Other news