World gone caveman chic

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Rob Becker has long dissected the male psyche in his one-man show, "Defending the Caveman." Mr. Becker combines his comedic insights with everything from anthropology to mythology. He says the basic difference between men and women is that men are hunters and women are gatherers-all behavior, down to how they use the TV remote, flows from there. Mr. Becker took a moment to apply his theories to the world of marketing.

ADVERTISING AGE: An article in this Special Report says the desire to gain a competitive edge is possibly the greatest force that drives men to pick up certain magazines. Is this urge for a competitive edge a primal thing that's part of how a guy approaches anything he does?

ROB BECKER: Both men and women are driven to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex, and this is inextricably tied up with our self-esteem. Women know that men are attracted by physical beauty. All a guy has to do is look around a little bit to notice that even the ugliest rock star has beautiful women throwing their undergarments at him. Every guy knows that success attracts women, and conversely we know that women can smell failure on a man-it is in his pheromones.

Men fear failure and are driven to succeed and to acquire things that reflect success. It goes back to prehistoric times. The hunter who came home empty-handed slept alone. ... Guys who brought home the best cuts of meat were, like, the first rock stars.

AA: In another article, an auto consultant says: "Men are more involved in autos, while women tend to value security more ." Is that consistent with your theories?

MR. BECKER: The car represents something different to a man than to a woman. Have you ever heard a man say, "She is not that attractive, but have you seen her car?" No one has. It has never been said. Ever.

But we've all seen a troll of a man get out of a luxury car and escort a beautiful woman into a restaurant. The right car can make a man sexually attractive. Lots of women will claim this is not true, but the women stepping out of those luxury cars contradict them. We trust what we see.

In fact, the whole car buying process brings out this primitive instinct. You see it in the negotiation. Every guy fears he will buy the car and his neighbor will get it for a dollar less, meaning his neighbor is a tougher negotiator, which means more successful.

AA: Where does the concept of the metro-sexual fit into your male evolutionary tree?

MR. BECKER: The metrosexual is just another form of male competition. This aspect of male competition has been with us for a long time. ... Some men feel that appearing traditionally "masculine" is a negative, so they compete by appearing less masculine.

AA: Now there's talk about the retrosexual. But maybe "retro" isn't the right word. Maybe that's how guys always were and always will be.

MR. BECKER: We thought we could get in touch with our feminine sides, but in the final analysis, it was just fashion. We wore pastel shirts like Don Johnson in "Miami Vice." ... It was just clothes. I think there is a whole generation of people who are tired of trying to get in touch with their masculine side, their feminine side, their inner child.

AA: You say that female-type gathering involves multitasking. All that seems to be useful skills for shopping. Is it senseless to expect men to be as interested in shopping as women are?

MR. BECKER: Both men and women shop, but we do it differently. Women tend to enjoy using all of those gathering muscles developed over millions of years. Color and color matching is very important. Eight percent of men are color-blind; the rest of us test very low in "color sensitivity." Color wasn't that important to a hunter. ... Men test a lot higher than women at tracking movement. That's why women will sometimes ask, "If men are hunters, why can't they find the milk in the refrigerator?" The answer is "Because the milk is not moving." If the milk were trying to flee, we would see it. This is also why men often fail to notice changes in their environment and why beads of sweat will appear on a man's forehead if his wife asks, "Do you notice anything different?" We don't notice. We're not wired to notice. ... One woman said, "If the milk had breasts, you'd notice."

That's true. But that's a whole different discussion.

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