Is Escape vs. Reality a Male/Female Thing?

male-and-female-symbolsI am a male, I have always been that way and I only truly know that way; my wife, on the other hand, is a female and as far as I know she has always been that way. There are many areas to our every day life that cause confusion between us.We simply see everything differently.

I am convinced that doctors will one day identify a gender switch in our heads that makes colours appear different, makes you put keys three inches to the left of the key dish, and prevents you from tidying up your mess only to then go all out to clean. There must be something that’s different. My world just looks different to hers. FACT.

But, this also stretches to the type of books we are attracted to, and this makes me wonder whether men and women look fundamentally for something different in a story.

I love a book that can take me away from reality. I love PG Wodehouse because of his ability to create a world that seems real enough and nothing too serious ever happens within it. However, my wife would prefer to read something that can make her cry and remind her about how awful life is.

I don’t get this at all. I spend most of my time trying to control the emotional state I’m in and reinforce the feel-good hormones. She just loves a good cry. It used to make me upset when I saw her upset, but now I’m sure that she is in fact smiling on the inside as the tears protrude from the outer crust.

If you have read this blog before then you will appreciate that I am not a doctor, a scientist, a philosopher, a biologist or even remotely clever, but I have a theory. To explain this theory I will use general stereotypes and a guess for which book genres people read.

I will have two sample groups; Group A, the men, and Group B, the others. Group A tend to prefer reading action and adventure (Complete Fantasy), Crime Thrillers (Violent Fantasy), Biographies (Fantasising about someone else’s life) and possibly Horror (Scary Fantasy), oh and Fantasy. These genres are more concerned with the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’.

Group B prefer the more genteel type of storytelling. Romantic Fiction (Similar emotions to themselves but from a fictional character), Erotica (extreme emotions), Historical Fiction (same shit, different time), Hard luck stories (disabilities, war torn families, loss, devastation, bleakness). All of these genres tend to dwell on the emotional response to extreme, but very real, circumstances.

The fact is that 80% of fiction is read by women (this number is in my head from somewhere so it must be true) Also, to get even more scientific, I think that most fiction authors are women because they find it easier to connect the reader to the appropriate emotions, however most screenplay writers are men because that is more concerned with the ‘what’. (There is absolutely no basis for this last opinion  so please don’t tell anybody else)

So, to sum up all of these facts into a nutshell of a theory, I would claim that women like to read about the rawness of emotion whereas men prefer to read about twists and turns of events. Like all theories, you will be able to find exceptions within the rule but I think you’ll find most of this holds up.

If you disagree then you are either, a woman that has very manly tendencies (perhaps big hands?) or a man that dressed in his sister’s clothes as a young boy. I look forward to the comments that this post may provoke.

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6 responses to “Is Escape vs. Reality a Male/Female Thing?

  1. Good thing we’re on different continents, or… notwithstanding my lady bits, I might strangle you with my apparently-mannish hands!

  2. You are a brave (suicidal??) man 😉

    Some of the women/men in my life:
    My Nan (92) – will read anything. I mean anything – 50 shades of grey (that was a fun phone call when I asked her what she’d been reading recently!), hardcore scifi by Richard Morgan and Iain M Banks, Harry Potter, Mills&Boon. Basically she absorbs words. It’s why she has lived so long. She can escape with anything. Her life was hard and she seems to be happy when simply reading about other people no matter what the setting or emotional angle of the book. That’s my take.
    My Mum – if Catherine Cookson didn’t write it she doesn’t want to know. She’s an avid reader but only of a certain style. Never asked her why…
    My Dad – if its set now, he’s not interested. Either needs to be set way in the past, way in the future, or needs to be in a land far, far away.
    My Fiance – she used to just read…chick lit I believe it’s affectionately known (have I just jumped over the railing and am now standing alongside you on the edge of the bridge??)..and was bored so I introduced her to Magician by Raymond E. Fiest. Now she reads pretty much anything. She also likes to be entertained (apparently I don’t qualify…) but she says her favourite books are those that have a damn good story and an emotional element.
    My best mate – will only read biographies and mountain biking mags. Not sure what that proves…
    Me – I’m like my Dad. I like stories. First and foremost I like to be entertained…but I’m not against an emotional element. The classics in my eyes are those that do both. Favourite recent book was The Martian by Andy Weir. Great story. Great twists and turns. Laughed out loud all the way through it. Cried my eyes out at the end.

    My fiance did the same.

  3. Hahaaa, you guys are funny. Why are women so scary to men??? I’m not going to push you off the bridge, I agree with you, especially regarding the exceptions within the rule.
    I wish I knew how to do a ping-back, because I wrote a blog entry about the same issue, from a woman’s POV. See it here http://julitownsendwrites.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/hinting-at-the-desire-to-write/
    Someone in the television news business also told me that if a story is a weeper, it’s a keeper. It seems stories that make people tear up, rate well, even on the news!

  4. I’m all with you on this one Michael, as long as the exceptions within the rule are included. (I’m a bit worried about this whole “80% of readers are women” thing because that narrows my audience dramatically.) And then: the “straight” descriptions of emotions in a lot of romantic novels is obviously something most man simply cannot stand – personally I prefer the icy, distant narration of emotions in the J.M. Coetzee style, but I’m not sure if he has more male than female readers. Are there any statistics on this? Well, one has to be a Coetzee to get away with that, I suppose. I would be nice if we could figure out a genre that appeals equally to women AND men. In this respect I must also quote julitownsend who says “if a story is a weeper, it’s a keeper” in the television news business. Doesn’t that also mean that women viewers have the upper hand in front of the tube as well? Finally: Michael, what kind of an audience do you keep in the back of your head for your works?

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