the-continental

Ask yourself this question: What is the masculine form of the word “mistress?”

Can you think of an answer? I couldn’t.

Technically, there isn’t one. A male, extra-marital, long-term lover doesn’t have a specific term. There is, however, a kindred spirit to “mistress” that is more gender adaptable: the kept woman. The “kept” part of the kept woman is that she is largely provided for and supported by her lover, who is by definition of superior wealth. Until very recently the reverse situation was nearly impossible (Catherine the Great and Queen Elizabeth being notable exceptions). The closest male equivalent to a “mistress” would be a “pool boy.” The implicit social and age difference, as well as the extra-marital connotation, is about as close as I can get.

A pool boy, however, does not get much of a benefit besides sexual satisfaction. A kept woman, in addition, by definition receives more material favors, such as an apartment, clothes, an allowance, and/or trips. Not too shabby.*

So what am I getting at? That I am friends with lots of twentysomething women who are on track to be extremely successful, but are constantly frustrated with the men they date and with their harried lives. I also live in an era where it is common for men to not just be capable of cooking and cleaning, but to be adept, nay, talented in those arenas (I being one of the talented ones). Finally, while the GLBT* and the Christian fundamentalists trade punches over who is ruining “marriage,” there are a whole slew of people in my generation that recoil in horror at the word.

So what we are confronted with are busy women with disposable income, frustrated with dating needy men, with errands and chores piling up, and no intention of settling down. Sounds like a perfect recipe for a kept man.

A kept man lives somewhere at the intersection of maid, mistress, and husband. The important thing, of course, is that he is supported by his woman (or women). The transition from simple lover to kept woman/man occurs at the moment the relationship moves from one of merely emotional and physical pleasure to one in which material gain and financial stability are added to the mix. For both people involved, the advantages are clear. In fact, the development of a culture in which a “kept man” is acceptable would help to remove the stigma around kept women and mistresses present in puritanical America. For the record, I would like to note that a “kept person” need not be extra-marital nor monogamous. Nor is it for everyone. I’m just saying it sounds like a good idea for some people.

As a final point, I’d like to say that this idea is not entirely my own. On at least three separate occasions I have had female friends – who are either currently or soon will be far more successful than me (they don’t have to list “blogger” on their resume) – have brought up the appeal of such a relationship. They have nice apartments with too much space and no one to clean them, nice kitchens with no one to cook in them, huge bank accounts with nothing to spend it on, and other more, ahem, personal needs that need to be met without the hassle of dating. A husband is too big a commitment, a boyfriend might have a job of his own, but a kept man is there to do your bidding – for a nominal cost.

Any takers?

*Before anyone gets in a huff, let me state for the record that I am aware that the whole construction of concubine/mistress/kept woman is a result of the severe power imbalance between men and women, be it a result of aristocratic or capitalist wealth. I am aware that it is not always  some sort of idealized situation where the woman gets everything she wants and is still treated well. I’m not babbling about how unfair it is that women get these opportunities and men don’t. That is the opposite of what I’m trying to get at. Also this is just a goofy thought experiment, so chill out on the feminist critique for a second.

**I’m aware I’m assuming the heterosexual (not heteronormative) perspective here. Cut me some slack. GLBT relationships are outside my realm of analysis, cause I have no idea on what the norms are.

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