by Brett & Kate McKay Please remember as you read this article that it was written in 1902. So the author has some opinions — particularly about women — that might offend modern sensibilities. By Rafford Pyke Cosmopolitan Magazine, August 1902
If you were to ask the average man to tell you offhand just what qualities he likes in other men, he would probably boggle a good deal over his answer. His first impulse would be to say, “Oh, I don’t know!” which is with men a convenient formula for avoiding thought upon unexpected or (to them) uninteresting topics.
A little later, after turning the matter over in his mind, he would give you a catalogue of qualities to which he would be willing to swear. His list, however, would bear a strong resemblance to the “hundred-best-book” lists made my persons who sincerely believe that they are expressing their own literary preferences, but who are actually indulging in a bit of intellectual pose. Just as these individuals mention the books which they feel they ought to enjoy reading rather than those which they really read, so the average man will name a number of qualities which he thinks he likes, rather than those which in his heart of hearts he actually does like.
In the case of one who tries to enumerate the characteristics which he admires in other men, this sort of answer is not insincere. Although it is defective, and essentially untrue, the man himself is quite unconscious of the fact. The inaccuracy of his answers really comes from his inability to analyze his own preferences. The typical man is curiously deficient in a capacity for self-analysis. He seldom devotes any serious thought to the origin of his opinions, the determining factor in his judgments, the ultimate source of his desires, or the hidden mainsprings of his motives. In all that relates to the external and material world he observes shrewdly, reasons logically, and acts effectively; but question him as to the phenomena of the inner world – the world of his own Ego – and he is dazed and helpless. This he never bothers his head about, and when you interrogate him closely and do not let him put you off with easy generalities, he will become confused and at last contemptuous, if not actually angry. He will begin so suspect that you are just a little “queer”; and if he knows you well enough to be quite frank with you, he will stigmatize your psychological inquiries as “rot.”… So when you ask a man just what it is that he most likes in other men you find him utterly unable to give you any satisfactory reply. …
[I]t will clear the ground a little if we first discover what it is that men dislike in men. I suppose that every man who is a man would readily agree that he dislikes a “Sissy”; but it is doubtful whether most persons could give off-hand a really comprehensive definition of what a Sissy really is…
The subject of Sissyism is really very interesting – first because there are so many Sissies in the world, and in the second place because only a very small number of them are usually recognized as being such. Hence it may be worthwhile to give a little space to Sissyism here and to regard it in a scientific spirit, since, negatively at least, it has a definite bearing upon the subject of this paper. The subject of Sissyism is really very interesting – first because there are so many Sissies in the world, and in the second place because only a very small number of them are usually recognized as being such. Hence it may be worthwhile to give a little space to Sissyism here and to regard it in a scientific spirit, since, negatively at least, it has a definite bearing upon the subject of this paper. Most persons when they think of Sissies, have a mental picture before them which is easily described. A slender, youthful figure, smooth-faced, a little vacuous in the expression of the countenance, with light hair and rather pale blue eyes a little wide apart; a voice not necessarily weak, but lacking timbre, resonance, carrying-power. The mouth is wavery and the lips are imperfectly closed. The chin tapers away a little. The shoulders slope, not with that peculiar slope and droop which often accompany great physical strength, as shown in the famous statue of the Farnese Hercules, but slanting straight down, so that unless they are scientifically padded by the Sissy’s tailor, they scarcely give you the effect of being shoulders. The neck is usually long, and the pomum Adami or Adam’s apple is very likely to be noticeable. The hands and feet are often large; or if not large, not very well compacted and put together, but giving one a general feeling that they are more or less imperfect. Such are the main physical attributes of one particular kind of Sissy…..
The traits in which this type of Sissy is most lacking are the traits which men most like in men. And yet this is a very negative description. Moreover we must distinguish between the man who is merely “popular” with others, and the man who is really liked, the man to whom other men will go not only in their jovial moods but in their serious ones as well, the man for whom they will make sacrifices and of whose friendship they are really proud. Many a man with easy manners, with a reckless, careless, hearty air, is popular. He has the gift of picking up acquaintances at every turn, of entertaining them, of making himself known as a “good fellow.” Yet all this sort of thing is superficial. Deep down there must be something more fundamental in order that a man may grasp and hold the hearts of other men.
These vital attributes are few in number, and with the exception of just one they do not need much more than a mere mention. First of all, a man must be what other men call “square” – which implies that he must have a sense of honor. This means so much in the relations of men with men. From women they do not expect it, at least in the fullest sense – a man’s sense; but it is the very corner-stone of friendship among men. For it does not mean that one must be merely true to his friends, but, in a sense, to those who are not his friends, who are even, possibly, his enemies. Fair play and the rigor of the game is a masculine ideal; and men will trust and like and honor those who live up to its strict requirements. The foundation of it all is justice – the most masculine of virtues, and the only one in which no woman ever had a share. Some women have been generous, and many have been brave and wise and self-denying, but there has never lived a woman who was absolutely just. Justice, even-handed, clear-eyed, supreme over prejudice and passion – this is God’s gift to man alone, and man alone can feel how splendid and sublime a thing it is. Allied to it is reasonableness, another virtue that appeals to men when found in other men. It involves a number of related qualities, and most of all a sense of humor which throws a clear light of its own upon so many difficulties, and sets things in their true proportions, and shows how small the small things really are. Reasonableness is the lubricant of life, as the lack of it is the irritant. No other virtue can quite compensate for the absence of this reasonableness; and he who has the quality is one to whom all men will be drawn as by a magnet.