I’ve always read women’s magazines. Almost always. Yes, there was that nasty period in my early teens when a graphic explanation of trichomoniasis in the Just Seventeen problem pages put me off for a few months, but we’ll skip over that. You see, I’m fascinated by women’s magazines.
I’m fascinated by their covers, which invariably shout, "HEY FATTY! EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT, YOU MASSIVE SHITTY FATTO!" and somehow still drive sales. I’m fascinated by the terrible free gifts that come with them –- the sunglasses that deliberately lacerate your face, the lipgloss the colour of animal semen -– that somehow manage to further increase circulation. I’m fascinated by the way that, after four decades, they still haven’t run out of sex tips.
I think I’m so fascinated by women’s magazines because just I don’t understand them. Which is a pain in the arse, because I write for them now.
Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been asked to write a handful of columns for a few women’s magazines. If you read them, you’ll know the ones I’m on about. I write The Man Page. The page that tells women what men think. The ones that all have questions instead of headlines, like Do Men Like To Be Chatted Up? and Do Men Like To Dominate Women? and Do Men Like Blue Things, Because I Just Bought My Boyfriend A Blue Thing The Other Day And He Didn’t Seem Very Interested, Is It Me, It’s Me Isn’t It, He Doesn’t Love Me Any More Does He, Oh God I’m Going To End It All Now Oh Jesus Christ I’ve Wasted My Life? You know the ones.
Anyway, this is how the commissioning process for these things goes. You get an email saying "Can you write 750 words on Do Men Think Women Look Sexier In Top Hats Or Swimming Caps?" You say yes, because it’s a famous magazine with a huge readership and also because you need money to stay warm and eat things. You sit down in front of your computer. You realise that your words must speak for an entire gender.
And then -- nothing.
Because that’s a lot of pressure. Single-handedly laying out the uniform opinion of half the human beings on the planet is a big ask. Especially when you don’t know the answer. You do know the answer, of course. The answer to all these questions is always, "Realistically that depends on the individual tastes of the woman and man in question." But you can’t write that because if you did the entire women’s magazine industry (xoJane too, probably) would die in seconds. So instead you have to generalise.
Now, figuring out what men think about stuff is quite hard for me, because I’m not really that much of a blokey bloke. I work from home. I watch X Factor for a living. I don’t like football. I bake things sometimes. On occasion, I will listen to jazz. I wrote the first four paragraphs of this article in a onesie, before I caught a glimpse of my reflection in my monitor, felt an all-consuming wave of shame rush over me and begrudgingly got changed into something less comfortable.
So when I write these articles, I have to pretend that I’m more of a stereotypical bloke than I actually am. I pretend that I’m a mechanic, and that I’ve just finished staring menacingly at my topless Melinda Messenger 1998 calendar to bottle a nonce in the face down the pub car park and run off shouting the word "LAD!" into the sky.
“Do men want to dominate women?” I think, putting myself in this mindset, before answering “WOR, TITS!” and smashing a beer can on my forehead. In the end, these two sides coalesce into an awkward consensus, which is why most of the stuff I write for women’s magazines tends to read, “I suppose some men do want to dominate women, although personally I don’t really have a fucking clue.” Which is a bit of a swizz, really.
I’m sure readers of these magazines want something better than that, something written by someone confident enough to actually form opinions. Something that hasn’t been written by me. I don’t know why I write for women’s magazines. I suck at it.
(If you’re reading this and you work for a women’s magazine, please keep commissioning me. I need this. Christmas is coming up and my onesie is dry clean only.)
We know he didn't answer the question here, but if you follow Stuart on Twitter @stuheritage he'll definitely, absolutely tell you what men want. Promise.