Why Do Men On TV Have Such Complicated Reactions To Women Crying?

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Somehow, the misogynistic hellscape that is Handmaid’s Tale keeps getting worse. In last week’s "Jezebel’s," viewers learn the Republic Of Gilead has formed a brothel for society’s highest ranking men. The women inside the club are the ladies who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit into their dystopian new reality and chose sex work over death. The Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and Offred (Elisabeth Moss) — who I’m going to call Fred and June, respectively — return to the upscale prostitution ring’s headquarters in the latest season 1 episode, "The Bridge." Although Fred takes his handmaid there to expand upon his weird games, the tryst instead ends up being the place June’s doll-like facade breaks, reminding the audience just how much men hate seeing women’s emotions.
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As part of a resistance mission, June manipulates Fred into taking her to Jezebel’s by playing into his fantasy of her. She simply can’t stop thinking about dressing up for him, sneaking around with him, and having forbidden hotel sex with him. Fred is just such an exciting man she needs to do it all again. All of this vomit-worthy flattery works, and the so-called Christian commander agrees to take his mistress out on the illegal town once again. Once the duo is back at Jezebel’s, June assures Fred she loves his wild missionary sex moves, promises to be more vocal during "the next time," and strokes his arm (along with his ego).
Then the cracks in June’s act begin when Fred orders Moira (Samira Wiley), now a Jezebel’s sex worker called "Ruby," to their room. He clearly hopes the newly-added woman was "that kind of friend" to June. She wasn't. When an implied threesome is shot down, Fred acquiesces and says he’s going to go "rinse off," which is the worst post-sex phrase ever when it comes out of his mouth. As Fred is showering, June and Moira have an massive argument about the resistance. The formerly fearless Moira has become resigned to the horrifying status quo and doesn’t see the point in fighting back. June can’t believe her toughest friend’s spirit is so deeply shattered. "I was doing alright until I saw you again," Moria whispers before storming out.
That emotional atomic bomb of a sentence leaves June sobbing as Fred returns from his shower. After all of his sweet tones and promises of freedom inside Jezebel’s, June’s legitimate display of human emotion sends him into a rage. "Pull yourself together, we’re going," he says, sporting a "this one too?" look. Of course this is the moment Jezebel’s stops being fun for the religious rapist. Before that scene, he could project all of his deepest desires onto a woman who would say "Thank you, Fred" on command with the blank stare of an American Girl doll. A grown woman crying with her mouth hanging wide open has very little in common with Samantha Parkington. Instead, June has ideas, feelings, and an entire inner life, which are all things a man like Fred, who literally overthrew the government to end silly things like female autonomy, would hate.
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Unfortunately, Fred isn’t the only man on TV who's had weird reactions to women’s emotions. In Mad Men’s season 1 episode "Indian Summer," Roger Sterling (John Slattery) tells his own mistress, the wonderful Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), he doesn’t regret their illicit relationship. She responds by crying very quietly. Instead of trying to console her in any way, the advertising executive stares at Joan's face and says, "That’s not what I wanted," in the same way someone sends back an overcooked steak. Yes, Roger probably didn’t want to make his secretary cry, but it’s pretty obvious he never wanted to handle all these feelings either. Even in reality TV, men can’t take watching ladies cry, just take a look at Juan "Ees Okay" Pablo’s uncomfortable reactions to his sobbing Bachelor contestants.
Although a tearful woman clearly ruins a man’s projected fantasy of her, there also may be a ridiculous scientific quirk at play. A 2011 study revealed testosterone levels drop and the brain areas dealing with sexual arousal go "quiet" when men smell women’s tears, NPR reports. The same doesn’t happen "when men sniffed salty water that had been dribbled down a woman's cheek," so it’s the specific chemicals in actual tears that are turning off guys everywhere.
Since all three scenarios with Fred, Roger, and Juan Pablo dealt with their eye-rolling inducing desires, it's no surprise they freaked out the moment everything stopped being sexy. I think this means I may have to invest in a vial of my own tears to throw at random cat callers.
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