Are You Normal?

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In a Woody Allen classic, the son asks his father who's the boss in their family. The affronted dad sputters that he is-mom makes the decisions but he controls the remote TV channel switcher.

Marketers call women the gatekeepers, increasingly responsible for virtually all purchase decisions. But men still think that when it comes to power, it's a man's world. Based on interviews last summer with 1,000 men aged 18 to 49, Arlington, Virginia-based Luntz Research found that despite all the grumblings about feminism, 66 percent of guys still feel men hold a more powerful position in society. Just 13 percent think women do; 18 percent see no gender difference.

But within relationships, they concede, it's women who resolve the day-to-day issues, while men settle the life-changing disputes. Of course, perception is everything. J.D. Power and Associates reports women already make more than half the car purchase decisions-and by the millennium they should be responsible for 60 percent of car buys. But 65 percent of men surveyed by Luntz Research say they choose the car to buy.

And while menswear marketers have increasingly advertised to women, believing they make virtually all their partner's clothing picks, 43 percent of respondents said they choose the clothes they buy and wear-a dead heat with their female partners.

Forty-one percent said they decide where the family lives, while 33 percent credit women with that. And 39 percent say they have much more say in how money is spent versus 33 percent of women. They acknowledge, however, that females have an edge in picking the vacation destination (44 percent to 33 percent), and in deciding what movie to see (46 percent to 21 percent).

Men say they're still the initiators in bed, says Frank Luntz, president and founder of Luntz Research, which undertook the study for Playboy magazine. Some 61 percent say they almost always take charge between the sheets, while 21 percent share the lead, and 14 percent say the women run the show in the sack.

They also say they're more sexually creative than their partners. Some 52 percent claim to be more adventuresome in bed than women while 14 percent say either partner can lead the way into uncharted sexual seas. Just 15 percent of men are "somewhat" or "very dissatisfied" with their sex lives, with 46 percent "very satisfied" and 37 percent "somewhat satisfied." Perhaps surprisingly, married men are likelier than singles to be very satisfied.

Another area where men are patting themselves on the back: driving acumen. Twice as many respondents (59 percent vs. 29 percent) believe men are safer drivers than women.

Men may like toys, but 52 percent feel women are more materialistic. A third (34 percent) feel guys are more into "stuff," while 11 percent see no gender difference in lusting for possessions.

American men overwhelmingly feel that it's harder to be a guy today than it was 20 years ago: 60 percent say it's harder; 20 percent think it's easier, and 12 percent consider it a wash. They're split on whether women have it easier (44 percent) vs. harder (41 percent), while 7 percent see little difference in toughness over two decades. Affluent, educated men are more likely to think women have it harder today; bachelors think the lasses have it easier.

But they still identify with Luca Brasi's sentiment in The Godfather: "May your first child be a masculine child." While 43 percent claim no preference, 48 percent admit they'd prefer their first born be a boy. Only 9 percent would prefer a girl.

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