A Comedy about Dating, Sex, and Romance in NYC (back when phones weren't so smart)

The Male “Sex and the City”

I have a confession: I am a man and I was a huge fan of “Sex and the City.” Well, at least the very first episode. It mixed clever humor with insights about Manhattan’s dating dynamics and “toxic bachelors.” But I’m also a straight man who has never been suspected of “metrosexuality” (on the pleasure scale, I rank clothes shopping just above a root canal), so I was bound to lose interest in the show.Indeed, when I wrote “Sex in the Title,” I never intended to pen the male counterpart to “Sex and the City” but that’s what many readers have called my novel. And who are these readers? Ironically, a book — written by a man — about the misadventures and dating disasters of five men, has been read almost entirely by women.

Surprisingly, many of these women readers have told me that they “love the male point of view.” I’m always mystified by this revelation because in no argument with any girlfriend have I ever heard anything like, “I understand and respect what you’re saying because I love the male point of view.” But this is still progress: by getting women to love the male POV in fiction, I may eventually get them to love it in reality.

So why do so many women readers who love the male POV (in fiction) think that “Sex in the Title” is the male version of “Sex and the City” when I never conceived it as such? Well, there are some obvious parallels: both have four-word titles beginning with “Sex”; both involve episodic stories about a collection of singles going out in Manhattan; both explore gender differences and dating dynamics; and both feature comedy about sex, relationships, and dating disasters.

But the differences between the show and my book are at least as significant as their similarities — and not just because my book explores the male perspective.

Diversity in “Sex and the City” amounts to four white women with different hair colors. And not only is that inherently less interesting, it also doesn’t do justice to New York City — a fascinatingly complex and diverse place that produces the most unlikely collections of people in ways that few other cities can. The five men of my book are each from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds, which makes for far more entertaining situations and interactions. Oh, and their hair colors are different too.

“Sex and the City” begins with a group of four preexisting friends but “Sex in the Title” merges two unacquainted male social circles into one posse of five friends (after totally unrelated but equally hilarious dating disasters coincidentally bring the guys together).

Given how central fashion was to “Sex and the City,” one might expect a male version of “Sex and the City” to emphasize stereotypical male interests like sports. But “Sex in the Title” never does that (it only briefly mentions a shared love of basketball among certain characters). I understand the male obsession with sports as poorly as I comprehend the female obsession with shoes. Both strike me as irrational vestiges of our evolutionary, hunter-gatherer programming: by warring over a ball that sometimes doesn’t even bounce correctly, men are apparently playing out some kind of tribal, hunter urge; by shopping for far more shoes than they could possibly wear in one day, women seem to be gathering pretty things. Maybe we haven’t evolved that much after all.

But it turns out that not filling the pages of my novel with sports trivia was a good creative decision because nearly all of my book’s readers ended up being women. Ironically, I actually revised one small part of the manuscript (where there is some man-on-man action) fearing that it would turn off the straight men reading the book. Good thing I considered all those readers who never picked up my novel. Meanwhile so many female readers have gushed about that scene that I wonder whether I should have left it more detailed and explicit.”Sex and the City” celebrated how women came into their own — openly pursuing men, discussing sexual practices, and generally asserting what they wanted in men, sex, relationships, etc. There can’t really be a male version of that because men have always been open about their pursuit of women and sex. Generally speaking, the topic of sex is so interesting to a man that he could probably discuss it entirely with himself (and thereby confirm what many women say about male listening skills).

Ultimately, “Sex in the Title”  is so different from “Sex and the City” that it must be read and enjoyed on its own terms. Stated more simply, the novel must be read — a shocking conclusion to an article by the author of “Sex in the Title.”