When men listen

From Philip Marlowe v. Agent Cooper, ‘New Girl’s Schmidt v. OutKast, And Manhood’s Relationship To Female Pleasure by Alyssa Rosenberg

But not all women are lucky enough to have lovers who are interested in genuinely discerning their pleasure, in asking them questions and following their leads. The rise of a masculine ideal of pleasure-giving is an absolutely seismic one. But it can also lead men to dub themselves experts and to demand affirmation of their skills without regard to whether they’re actually giving the women they’re sleeping with what they want.

On last night’s New Girl, Schmidt found his assumption that he’s God’s gift to women, or, as he puts it, “a Vagenius,” challenged by the reaction of his boss (Carla Gugino). “Our bodies really made something,” he told her as she dressed to leave his apartment. “I feel like we brought manufacturing jobs back to America.” “Yeah, it was fine,” she told him. Rather than starting an actual conversation, Schmidt’s reaction was to challenge her experience of what had just happened in favor of his own understanding of events. “What do you mean it was fine?” he demanded. “I broke your brain, girl.” But she wasn’t going to let Schmidt get graded on a curve. “How do I put this delicately?” she explained. “I was nowhere close to finishing. I was bored. And cold.”

And Schmidt’s reaction was telling. “World shattered,” he declared. And even when she suggested “We’ll try again. It’ll be better,” Schmidt still insisted “The world I once lived in: shattered.” The problem wasn’t that she didn’t feel good—it was that her not feeling good destroyed Schmidt’s sense of his own prowess. It might have been interesting if New Girl sat with those emotions for a while, and if, when Schmidt went to consult Jess’s lesbian gynecologist friend, he’d learned something from her experience, rather than having the show suggest that he’s so good at pleasuring women that he can even get a gay woman off just by talking to her. There’s a crucial step in between standing up the ability to make a woman experience sexual pleasure a symbol of manhood, and getting men to understand that for that stripe on their sleeve to be truly earned, that pleasure has to be genuine rather than something a woman tells a man she’s experiencing to make him feel better.