"Hot women and dry martinis"

If we've come such a long way, baby, then why are we still being treated to sites like TheMan.com?

Published November 19, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

With a name like TheMan.com, you can just guess what you're going to get -- we're talking manly men, real men, nothing namby-pamby here, thank you ma'am. TheMan.com, which officially launched Thursday, calls itself the "premier source of timely, relevant, customized solutions to improve men's lives" (whew!) -- but really, it's merely the latest in a series of Web sites that exist to serve that endangered species: the stereotyped male.

TheMan.com is kind of a portal for the utterly clueless guy -- one who, for example, has no idea that a romantic date might include sunsets, jazz clubs and candlelight dinners. Apparently, men this clueless exist, and need guidance. They also need to be coached on the kinds of "pleasing gifts" they might pick up for that mysterious female. These gift ideas include nothing shocking like, say, a lawnmower or a first-person shooter game. Nope, "TheMan" recommends diamonds and pearls, cashmere and silk, chocolate, "skin stuff" and vases (all of which, of course, you can purchase via TheMan.com). Call it Gender Stereotype Affirmation 101!

TheMan.com considers itself a rather cosmopolitan site -- rather than porno and kegs, TheMan.com's man goes for "the hottest women and driest martinis." But never fear: For those dudes who just want their T&A and sports scores, there's Rouze.com, the "first online destination site for men."

Rouze.com, which launched in September, boasts reading material about sports, celebrities, games, sex and technology; including tips for growing your own cannabis crop, as well as articles like "Catch Rose McGowan in the buff" and "Pretend You've Read: Impress her by discussing 'The Bell Jar.'" Rouze is essentially an online copycat of Playboy: The most popular section of the site -- or, at least the most prominently displayed portion -- is a lengthy nude pictorial. Each week you can browse pictures of healthy-looking gals like Kirstie Rue (Bust: 34 inches; waist: 24) as they coyly strip in stairwells and showers. Yow!

Both these sites seem to have taken their lead from Maxim, the boys-will-be-boys magazine sensation that turned the men's magazine industry on its head by unapologetically gushing about hot chicks, sports and beer. Maxim's Web site boasts 1.5 million page views a week, thanks to men who materialize for intimate chats with Gena Lee Nolan and scorching spreads of half-clad Maxim cover-models. Or perhaps they're merely reading fare like "The Big Question: What's worse: blue balls, bad sex, or getting caught whacking off?"

It's a shame that a medium that was once so promisingly devoid of silly gender-stereotyped portals has reverted to the most banal of guy-isms. These days, the dudes online get sports and sex, while chicks can head over to Women.com or iVillage -- which grow more like Cosmopolitan and Redbook every day -- to participate in polls like "Do you wear makeup to the gym?" and read 65 tips for beauty emergencies.

Perhaps this is merely affirmation of the fact that guys will be guys, and girls will be girls, and never the twain shall understand each other. Perhaps the belief that the exciting new online world would break down gender stereotypes was just wishful thinking. Or perhaps, just perhaps, I should stop complaining and wait for my boyfriend to send me a dozen red roses and a picture frame, courtesy of TheMan.com. I suppose there could be worse fates.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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