Newswise — From strip clubs and golf courses to barber shops and garages, a University of Florida English professor has pulled back the curtain on the last oases of unfettered masculinity and written a new book aimed at explaining just what makes those places so attractive to the burlier sex.
What's more, those cave-bear haunts are on the endangered list, the victims of political correctness and gender equality, says James B. Twitchell, author of "Where Men Hide" (Columbia University Press). The book, illustrated throughout by photographer Ken Ross, is due out early next month.
When it comes to hiding, Twitchell says, don't expect men to necessarily know what you're talking about.
"If you ask men if they spend any time hiding, they usually look at you as if you're nuts," Twitchell writes. "But if you ask women whether men hide, they immediately know what you mean."
Make no mistake, Twitchell says, there was a time when men enjoyed considerable latitude in marking their territory with signs " real or imagined — reading "No Girls Allowed." Even the classic American cowboy riding the wide-open spaces was doing a form of hiding.
Over time, though, those sacrosanct spots have come increasingly under fire as women have made inroads into once-male-dominated terrain.
Take the workshop.
A product of cultural shifts during the early 20th century, the workshop and garage rose to prominence after World War II with the arrival of suburbia. Do-it-yourself projects and mysterious tools gave men a place to get away from the wife and kids, writes Twitchell, whose previous books include "Living it Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury" and "Branded Nation."
What removed the cloak of mystery? "This Old House," the DIY show starring Bob Vila and Norm Abram. As Twitchell writes, "It has demystified and democratized something usually incredibly mysterious to the other sex."
Likewise for the hardware store.
Once the dank domain of plaid-shirted men who gathered on Saturday mornings to discuss the merits of 10-penny nails and ring joint flanges, the musty hardware store of yore has given way to something quite different.
"If you walk into Home Depot now, you're just as likely to be helped by a woman as a man," Twitchell says. "And she'll probably talk to you in terms you actually understand."
Twitchell stops short of passing judgment on the trends he observes, but he does think they're worth noting.
"Don't get me wrong " I like to go to Lowe's and Home Depot," he says. "It's just that they're sort of a symbol of one more guy's place that's going away."
Speaking of male haunts, what about that most prototypical one — the strip club? Sure, he says, there's plenty of ogling going on, but one of the most common activities that happens in a strip club has nothing to do with sex: it's business.
"Many salesmen frequent these clubs not because they are consciously trying to exclude female salespersons but because this setting makes business easier by speeding up the male bonding," he writes. "It would never occur to any woman that getting drunk over lunch and watching guys take off their clothes was a good way to reach an agreement."
What it all means remains uncertain, but Twitchell says one outcome may be a form of backlash.
"Gendered space is disappearing as male (and female) behavior is itself becoming blurred," he writes. "The man cave is becoming slightly anachronistic. Is some form of male liberation next?"