Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male: Lessons Learned from the Fairer Sex
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (08/10)
“Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male” caught me by surprise. While described as a tale that recounts life lessons learned by the author, Mr. Nork admits that the story has “a basis in truth” and that “all names and venues have been changed; and certain events have been either altered or embellished as necessary to honor the participant’s wishes for total privacy.” Does this make the book fiction or non-fiction? I honestly can’t say, but the author has created something that is fascinating to read.
The first half of the book tells us about Phil’s early years and how he was slightly traumatized by two related events. The first event was his parents divorcing when he was about eight-years-old. While divorce and single parent families seem to fit the mold of the “normal” family these days, it was a source of huge pressure and social stigma for kids in the 60s. The second event was Phil hearing his mom and other women freely share their negative views of men. Hearing these opinions made an impression on 10-year-old Phil, and he vowed to become the type of man all women would like, trust, and never talk bad about.
Phil decided the best way to successfully complete his quest was to pay attention to what girls had to say about how they liked to be treated. He also learned to appreciate girls for who they were on the inside, and not simply judge by appearance. The lessons learned are insightful and helpful, but they did result in one negative side effect that Phil was unaware of for many years. He became so determined to be the guy that girls liked that he focused more on what they wanted and less on what he wanted. For that reason, the female was almost always the dominant force in the majority of his relationships.
Towards the middle of the book, when Phil enters his teen years, the story goes off into a slightly different direction. Phil seems to be transformed into some type of sex god. As a teen, Phil has sex; lots and lots of sex. He apparently had more sexual relationships before the age of eighteen than Hugh Hefner has had during his entire life. The sensitivity part of this section of the story comes from Phil implying repeatedly that he doesn’t have sex for personal gratification but instead has these endless one-night stands for the girls’ benefit. A couple of intimate encounters cause him to gain the reputation of being a boy who will gently and compassionately help a girl become a woman, with the guarantee that there are no strings attached. Avoiding serious relationships is important to Phil because, while teens might be ready for sex, they’re too young to know what love is. Eventually, Phil comes to realize that shallow relationships are not the secret to happiness and that all the rules he came up with all point to the common desires shared by everyone – to be accepted by others and to be truly happy.
While “Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male” might not be a roadmap to achieving those desires, it is a fascinating and entertaining book that does provide a few helpful guidelines. While the last half of the book is filled with sexual encounters, the scenes are not described in a graphic way so the content remains inoffensive, for the most part. Ultimately, the story of Phil is the story of a boy doing the best he can to find true happiness, and I believe that’s a journey we can all relate to.