[media-credit name=”Illustration by Reid Cammack” align=”alignright” width=”427″][/media-credit]After a recent shuffle at my boyfriend’s house, he’s moved into a room with only one other person instead of two. I couldn’t be more excited about it, because that means I won’t have to wake up to a chorus of farts and guttural snoring whenever I spend the night. The last time I was there, the door of his old room was slightly ajar, so I backpedaled to get a better look at what had become of it.
Much to my regret, I was immediately smacked in the face by a stench so strong I could taste it. Neither of the brown-stained mattresses had sheets, blankets or pillowcases; the hardwood floors were hardly visible under the knee-high mounds of reeking clothes, and their cat was licking his paw on a desk littered with ashes, Backwoods wrappers and stale food bits.
Seeing the twisted expression of horror and disgust frozen on my face, my boyfriend’s housemate breezed by and said, “Yeah, their crust-punk man cave is pretty fucking gross.”
While I think it’s perfectly acceptable, and even healthy, to have separate spaces where one can enjoy time alone, the gendered language around “man cave” is pretty gross. It takes a passive dig at femininity. It’s as if women are such burden that they’re restricted from that zone, while still expected to readily share all other spaces.
A man cave is essentially an emotional sanctuary for men to escape their responsibilities without the interruption of women or children. It’s as if these men are victimizing themselves and require refuge to revel in their false sense of masculinity.
Sports-related paraphernalia and wall hangings that deify cheap beer are not badges of manhood or some sort of homage to a working-class collective consciousness. They’re the makings of a shrine to big business that has man-cavers nostalgic for a time when they were happy, or actually just drunk, in front of a screen cheering on their favorite billion-dollar sports team with their once single and similarly childless friends.
Guys should get over the feudalistic idea of a man cave allowing them to be the “lord of their manor” in a room they can call their own. It bears a juvenile likeness to a tree house with a sign that reads, “No girls allowed.”
The sewing room or craft room, to which a woman might retreat, is identified by the action that takes place there. By that token, a man cave is a place where a man devolves into a grunting subhuman that leaves sexist and racist comments on message boards, then furiously masturbates to free porn.
As an introverted person, I feel most productive when I can take a break from interacting with others to be alone with my thoughts. I completely understand that some ‘me’ time is necessary for most people to function. However the term man cave feels more like a space where someone goes to hide from their problems while surrounding themselves with things that make them “happy.” I wouldn’t want my partner to feel like I was hindering them from of living the way they really wanted to in a home we created together.
The progressive solution is allowing everyone to have his or her own space. In a household where that isn’t possible, the ever-so encumbered married man could actually leave his house. He could be free of his cave and take a walk, go to the gym, take a fishing trip, relieve his stress through meditation on a misty mountaintop in China. Man-cavers can be better than ruminating within their disgusting patriarchal myth.