You’ve probably heard of the phrase “men only want one thing”. It’s easy to drop it as “sage advice” in a real life discussion that’s strayed into the more spicy areas of how men and women interact with each other.
The ‘one thing’ in this case is of course sex. The phrase is an example of how society at large enjoys perpetuating the notion, humorously or otherwise, that men are robots with simple programming and that all their efforts are directed towards their next sexual conquest.
Of course, the phrase is said as a joke most of the times. But “men only want one thing” and other phrases like it create todays cultural background that guides how men and women interact with one another.
An implicit meaning that women want “more than one thing”
Part of the subtlety of the phrase is that if men only want one thing, then by definition it must mean that “women want more than one thing”. If it didn’t, then the phrase might as well be gender neutral “people only want one thing”, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
So what do women want?
After many thousands of years, we still don’t quite have a scientific answer for that. But popular belief says that women want a connection and emotional commitment from the opposite sex, and not just “one thing”.
At first glance, this doesn’t sound like such an outrageous distinction between men and women. The problem is that men’s desires are frowned upon as base and instinctive. By opposition, a woman’s desires are somehow nobler and purer.
The end meaning of “men only want one thing” is a criticism and shaming of men’s behavior and a pointed remark that a lifestyle of casual dating is “wrong” while entering and committing to long term relationships is “the right way”.
Examples of this abound. One is the recent creation of the word “fuckboy” (interestingly however, people who mock the fuckboy also criticize slut shaming).
This shaming of men’s intentions also extends to other aspects of their life, such as when a man wants to go out alone to a bar or club. Very, very few men are capable of going out alone without having the “creep” label attached, and most people will just assume he’s out there to get laid.
Do men want just one thing?
This belief that men just want to play the field, ends conversations and doesn’t ask the important question why don’t men commit?
The simple answer is that by and large men don’t really have an issue to stay with just one woman. In fact, most men would actually desire that.
What men do not want to do however, is to invest in relationships that are not fulfilling, and do not provide value to their life.
Men who only seem to want one thing are simply in the search for the right person. To be sure, some men have impossible standards that almost no woman can meet. However, most men are reasonable in their expectations but still have trouble finding a suitable partner.
For a man, the only logical solution to this problem is to “stay on the market” as it were, and keep looking for someone they feel is right for them, even if this means serial dating.
Viewed from a different perspective, this is men’s equivalent of women who seem to experience a lack of financially marriageable men.
In popular media such as music and movies, men are depicted as rash and impulsive when it comes to relationships. But in real life, the silent majority of men are much more thoughtful and measured in how they choose their partners. Most men are readily willing to trade short term flings for a relationship with a woman that meets their criteria.
In a way, the trope of the woman that ends the bad boy’s behavior has some truth to it. Except that it’s not the woman who corrects the behavior, but the bad boy who believes he’s found what he was looking for and can now move on to another stage of his life.
Why men are accused of wanting one thing
In the search for a suitable partner, men will likely go through many failed flings, relationships and situationships. As it so often happens, many men will be rejected by women they would have liked to pursue further. The reverse will also be true, and men will turn down women they consider to be incompatible with them.
Sometimes, feelings will be hurt and the women who are turned down will believe the man simply used them for sex, because “men only want one thing”.
This is unfortunate, and perpetuates a negative stereotype of men’s intentions and what they want from women. If it happens repeatedly it can lead to bitterness and can poison how the women who were turned down interact with future men in their lives. This then turns into to a negative downward spiral that is not fulfilling either for men or women.
If a rejection happens once, it’s a fluke and a mismatch. But if it happens repeatedly, then it is an indication that how a woman approaches her interactions with men isn’t healthy.
In this case, a woman who decides that “men only want one thing” makes a conscious decision to blame her romantic failures on men in general instead of looking inward, at herself, and how she might be sabotaging her own relationships.
This isn’t something extreme to say. Nowadays, many people grow up in broken homes or dysfunctional families and have no intuitive understanding of how a healthy relationship should look like. For many, many people the ability to carry a relationship is something they learn over time through personal experience, instead of having a healthy relationship role model at home. This applies to men and women equally.
Thus, in the face of repeated rejections, a woman’s best approach isn’t to shift the blame on men being simple minded. Instead, a woman would be much better served to take a step back and figure out all the ways she harmed her interactions with men and what she can do to fix that.
What do men REALLY want?
There are 3.5 billion men on the planet, so it’s a bit tricky to summarize what each and every man wants into a single phrase. But it is possible to make a vague guideline that can be used to describe the desires of most men (but not all men).
In two words, when it comes to long term relationships men cherish security and predictability. The exact meanings of these two words can be different from man to man, but the overall theme is the same.
Security in this case means that a man feels safe enough to invest himself in a relationship. A man wants to know that his efforts will not be wasted by a sudden attitude change from their partner, especially one that is out of their control.
But, as mentioned before, men can have different interpretations of security. For some men, it can mean unwavering support in difficult or stressful times, emotional reciprocation, genuine interest in their projects etc.
In regards to stability, a neat marriage joke applies very well: “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”
The joke is of course a caricature. True stability isn’t really possible since all people evolve. But what men want is to know that the central qualities that made fall for a woman will still be there 10 or 20 years down the line.
To sum it up
Probably the greatest argument to disprove the myth that “men only want one thing” is the fact that even in this day and age, men are overwhelmingly the ones that propose marriage. This alone should be proof that men want more than “one thing”. The gist is that they want it with someone who fits their standards.