While some of the leaning-in talk in the media has been about how women should be less shy about their accomplishments at home and in the workplace, guys, in general, don’t have that problem. We get a promotion at work and we like to celebrate, put our feet up, have a beer. We repair something, or clean the house — ditto. Sometimes finishing a beer is cause enough to celebrate by getting another one. Sometimes a guy doesn’t even have to do anything himself: his team wins, or his favorite character on Game of Thrones smites an enemy, and he pats himself on the back. So it should come as no surprise that a recent study in Journal of Gender Studies finds that men feel really great about themselves after their partners birth a baby.
Specifically, men feel hot after becoming dads.
Researchers queried heterosexual newlyweds in their first two years of marriage, mostly couples in their mid-twenties who had no previous children, asking, among other things, how each partner perceived him or herself in regards to attractiveness. When returning a couple of years later, the researchers found that, on average, men who’d had no children saw no change in their perceptions, but men who had had a child during that period saw themselves as more attractive.
And why shouldn’t he? Break this down from a biological perspective. If everything is going right he’s (1.) found a partner that he wants to procreate with, (2.) successfully impregnated said partner, and (3.) stuck around long enough to see the child. Our genes have been spread, our biological imperative to add diversity to the species fulfilled, and so our biochemistry does the equivalent of kicking back with a beer. Score!
The mothers of our children, on the other hand, are in a very different situation. They’ve just been through nine months of baby boot camp. While their maternal spirits are high — bringing on binges of nesting, and hours of staring at their child while the baby sleeps their bodies are sore, and still going through changes. Take, for example, their breasts. (Wow, I never realized how much I’ve always wanted to write that sentence until writing it just now.) These organs, once associated with pleasure and attraction, perhaps an area of their body that they emphasized and enhanced with low-necklines and underwire and other wondrous inventions, are now food production plants, and leaky ones at that.
“It’s a Catch-22,” one guy told me. “They’re bigger and better than ever, but she doesn’t want me to play with them.”
Surprise, surprise. A hungry infant’s latched onto them for half-a-dozen feedings a day! The last thing she wants is someone else pawing over her. Besides, she’s tired, no longer pregnant but still carrying more weight than usual, probably not back to wearing her normal clothes, and, well, don’t forget how that little bundle of joy made his or her way into the world. For new moms, babies are a libido buzz kill.
While a guy not only feels good biologically, he probably also looks the same as he did nine months before, and plus he receives a lot of positive attention if he’s helping out with the childcare. Women glance at the babe, and then make eye contact with him. Men nod. Lots of people smile. It’s like walking a puppy, times ten. Men are vain, egocentric peacocks who think they’re cool, smart, powerful, or hot just by association. Strap a cute baby to their chest and they believe they’re Superman.
Seriously. You’re so in love with this little creature that you made, you want every attractive, responsive woman to have one. And the realization hits — every woman can have one! It’s like discovering a latent superpower, the magic to put a baby in a woman’s belly. Of course, this is a kind of everyday magic, not unique to you, but it feels that way at first.
And whereas you might have once sweated about your performance in the sack, now you have physical proof that everything works just fine. The ends justify the means, and wearing your baby out in public literally feels like you’re advertising sex, like your penis is shouting “Look what I can do!” to the world, and everyone’s noticing.
No wonder Genghis Khan made so many kids. If a guy could, and didn’t have to worry about caring for them afterward, a guy would. It was probably like an addiction. Hold a new son, then slink off in the afternoon to make a new daughter. And then pop a beer, or mead, or whatever Khan might have drunk back in the day. What a life!
In those first few weeks with my son Felix, I remember bouncing down a crowded street, so proud of my beautiful little son, so high on new fatherhood, I was seized with the urge to yell, “Who wants one? It’s a special today, I’m giving ‘em away!”
Of course, being an idiot, I told my wife this. To which she arched an eye and responded, “Get over yourself, dear.”
I’m sure that Genghis Khan’s harem felt the same way about him.
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