Richard Bevan
26 November 2010 12:00 | By Richard Bevan, contributor, MSN Him

Why do men find bossy women scary?

Can forthright ladies be seen by some as a ball snipping threat to the male ego?

Why do men find bossy women scary? (© Getty Images)

In the world of porno parlour games, movie erotica and Jackie Collins' novels, the presence of 'bossy women' is a standard feature and fuels a range of escapist male fantasies. But in a society where traditional male roles are changing can forthright ladies be seen by some as a ball snipping threat to the male ego?

There are three typical views of 'bossy women' mainly reinforced through popular culture - that of the sassy female boss in specs and high heels, the fusty battleaxe (think Ann Widdecombe) or the nagging harpy - usually associated with henpecked husbands found on saucy seaside postcards and in 70s sitcoms.

But in an age of so called sexual equality where as many women work in managerial and professional roles as men, why do some guys still find bossy women not just a challenge but also a turn off when it comes to dating?

Rebecca Newman, Sex Shrink agony aunt for GQ magazine, has her own views on why 'bossy women' can be a turn-off for some men.

"I think there is a level where many men are put off by incredibly oppressive women. A classic example is Sex and The City and its characters, such as Miranda the successful lawyer who can't even get laid.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon in Sex and the City (© Rex Features)

"If a woman wants to impress a guy on a dating website she's more likely to do it if she talks about how fun she is, adventurous and loving, rather than saying that she's got ten PhDs and a BA in economics."

Some of the traits that guys mention they find difficult to deal with in 'bossy' women range from being 'over controlling' and 'scheduling their time' to 'always being right' with one of the biggest annoyances being 'choosing a guy's friends' - which may just be worse than always hogging the TV remote.

But isn't the notion of 'bossy women' and calling them such simply a throwback to when sexism wasn't even an acknowledged concept?

"A bossy man certainly isn't such a problem in society in the same way" says Rebecca. "It's almost accepted because it reflects the status quo. It's been part of historical tradition that women were oppressed and stayed at home and even today this still feeds into the way that a woman tends to be called a 'slag' but a man would be called a stud or bachelor. Where a woman may be termed 'bossy' a man would just be called 'assertive' and I think the same behaviour in men and women is more tolerated in men."

Double standards

Tony Reynolds, who writes for adult magazine Foreplay and receives bundles of letters from men and women, believes that socially, and in some areas of work, men may find it more difficult to deal with bossy women.

Businesswoman gesticulating towards male colleague (© Rex Features)

But from a sexual fantasy perspective, he sees that some guys are inclined to like the idea of an assertive woman dominating them.

"We get explicit fantasy letters from men who come from very male orientated backgrounds at work, where there's a canteen culture and assertive women are given a hard time. Some of these guys are obsessed with dominatrix type characters and mistresses taking control of them.

"As long as they are allowed to feel they are wearing the pants at home and bringing home the bacon, they allow themselves to be turned on by acting submissive and being chastised by strong, domineering women whipping their asses!"

There's no doubting that some guys are prone to a schizoid mentality towards women - the old cliché of wanting a Maria Von Trapp-figure in the kitchen suddenly able to transform into the Whore of Babylon in the bedroom.

Likewise some men seem to have a problem taking orders from women but conversely also like the idea of a woman being sexually liberated and adventurous.

Lara Croft, as portayed by Alison Carroll (© PA Wire)

Perhaps that's why comic-strip, ass-kicking females like Barb Wire and Lara Croft are so popular with some men?

Male emasculation

Two thousand men were questioned in a survey by television channel DMAX back in 2008 where the results revealed only 33% felt they could speak freely and say what they thought.

Asked what they believed society was turning them into, a sizeable number answered 'waxed and coiffed Metrosexuals' - which could best describe most professional football players these days.

The problem it seems is that as 'traditional' roles for men have been changing over the past 30 years, guys can feel 'disenfranchised' if they're not the breadwinners or clubbing some unwitting female to take home to the urban cave.

But what's odd here is that most of these same guys with identity issues who seem threatened by a self-assured, high earning and even possibly 'gobby' woman, don't seem to have a problem with other men who are equally forthright, direct and generally bossy.

Woman covering man's mouth with her hand (© Getty Images)

Perhaps rather than blaming women for a lack of spine fluid they should be examining why they hold onto double standards in a world where half the female population is working?

Why bossy women appeal

Conversely bossy women are exactly what some guys are looking for in life - with the exception of those searching for a Mother-figure who fail to break away from the apron strings.

It may be a bit of a myth that behind every successful man there's a woman driving his career but it can't hurt a guy's promotional chances if his wife or girlfriend is smart, tenacious and can play a guy's employers with all the smooth manipulation of Mata Hari.

Some famously successful dudes with ass-kicking female partners include:

Winston Churchill: not technically the wife, but his American mother Lady Randolph Churchill who was a force to reckon with and helped nurture young Winston into the famous leader we know of today.

Henry VIII: I doubt we'd be so fascinated by old tubby Harry Tudor if it wasn't for his six wives, particularly the feisty Anne Boleyn, who got him to change this country's religion.

Bill Clinton: His wife Hillary has moved from being US President's Svengali who acted as a sounding board for her husband's early campaigns to becoming a political power in her own right.

Hillary Clinton (© AP Photo)

JFK: Another revered alpha male US President with a formidable and opinionated woman behind him in the shape of Jacqueline Kennedy, who even had the guts to continue office hours after her husband's assassination.

Alexander the Great: The Greek hero's sexuality is debatable but it can be argued that his ruthless mother (no not Angeline Jolie but Olympias) was instrumental in young Alex's global conquering campaigns.


If you do have problems with bossy women at home or work it may be a good idea to ask what it is that is so irritating?

Is it because such women are demanding of your time or feeling that they are in a role of superiority? Do they make you feel obliged to do things you don't want or is it simply the fact that a particular woman is in a senior position?

Man thinking and staring at computer screen (© Rex Features)

If it's any of the above the issue may be one of boundaries rather than certain women being specifically bossy. Rebecca from GQ believes it's a matter of changing mental perspective.

"Maybe some guys are placing themselves in a position to allow a bossy woman to push them around? So learn to say no, you may be surprised by the reaction. It's important not just to develop a more assertive outlook but also to remember that these 'bossy' traits aren't to do with women in general - they just happen to be personality traits of an individual".

Relocate your gonads

Perhaps it's time for some guys to stop whinging about it not being a man's world anymore - as if it ever was - and to start being a bit more assertive themselves in their relationships.

After all, according to many surveys in women's magazines, besides wanting men who are sensitive, romantic and willing to share domestic duties, women also want guys to be confident, show initiative and display a bit of pre 'New Age Man' masculinity in body language and actions.

It's a bit of a challenging schizoid role to play but, according to advice on the Modern Man website, women today - no matter how keen on sexual equality - still "fantasise about meeting the kind of man who has the confidence to walk up to her, start a conversation and sweep her off her feet".

Man and woman kissing on beach (© Getty Images)

Rebecca agrees, as long as the woman in question has an approachable nature and doesn't come over as a cross between Madonna and Mussolini.

"Even with the term 'bossy women' you can almost feel men's testicles contract. I think what's really off putting is that one person in a partnership should have this narcissism and an attitude that the whole world revolves around her. It's not good for a relationship or friendship and it'll mean he'll be hideous in bed. The idea of one domineering person dictating left, right and centre - it's as attractive as a bucket of cold water".

You can read more advice from Rebecca Newman on her Sex Shrink column on the GQ website.

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