March 27th, 2005
AskMen.com are the latest in a long line of online and print magazines to go down the ‘read her secret signals’ idea for features.
Magazines want to talk about sex. But when it comes down to it they also don’t want to be too rude. So they get round it with the ‘secret body language’ feature. By teaching their readers to decode hidden sexual signals, they can
a. Use some nice pictures illustrating body language – preferably that of celebrities
b. Show readers how to decode those signals so they – wait for it – never actually have to have a conversation about sex – they can get answers just by looking
c. Involve a ‘body language expert’ to decode both pictures and signals, so it sounds a bit sciency.
Mainly it means they don’t have to talk about anything too explicit, and they can present sex and relationships in a universal format. And if the reader can’t read the signs, well then it’s their fault.
The AskMen feature’s been promoted on several internet sites, but when you start to read it, you see it falls into the trap of every other ‘read her body language’ features. First of all, it’s not really about body language. Of the six ‘body language in bed’ signs in the feature, two are about facial expressions, two are about behaviour, and the other two (‘she acts like a guy’ and ‘she never reciprocates’) are about something – but certainly not body language.
Then it goes wrong by telling the reader what to do, but not how to do it. The reader’s told ‘tell her that you love receiving oral sex’ – but how do you say that? And when do you say it? Bearing in mind the feature’s written for the guy who’s relying on reading her secret signals, so starting up a conversation on how he wants her to suck his dick isn’t going to be easy.
The so-called signs are mentioned, but not described. For example the ‘sign’ ‘she acts like a guy’ – could mean anything from her actually enjoying sex to pouncing her man giving him a good seeing-to with a strap on. Funnily enough they don’t mention that. It’s okay outlining signs, but what if your partner doesn’t conform?
This one-size-fits-all approach to body language is the main reason why features like this one aren’t any help. For the section ‘her expressions are stoic’, the reader is told the causes are probably her not liking sex much, perhaps she can’t move, or perhaps she secretly wants to be on top. Clearly the latter is the most likely answer, since to fix her stoic expression the reader’s told “put her on top and tell her you want to watch her move”.
Yeah, that’s what the shy guy and his insecure girlfriend need. An instruction that requires them both to be confident. Strangely a woman’s lack of confidence as expressed through her body language is hardly covered.
And maybe her expressions, lack of movement or problems in sex are a sign of pain, discomfort or distress – something you’d have thought would be obvious to pick up from body language tips – but something that passed the AskMen feature by.
There are useful theories of body language, and some obvious signs to read. But these should never be taken on face value, and should always be accompanied by teaching people communication skills and confidence. Since magazines don’t use these accurate theories, and instead rely on half-baked secret sex signs, or unqualified ‘body language experts’, then what they’re giving you is less than half the information. Meaning when you read the signs, you inevitably get them wrong.Tweet