do they really mean us?

Women and men: Want to know what makes the opposite sex tick? Just look in your nearest glossy.

"it's that time of the mag again," quips the column heading on a puce-coloured page. So, in its inimitable way, loaded tags its monthly slot where an invariably sultry woman journalist holds forth on the female psyche. She might offer loaded's male readers her insights on anything - so long as it's about sex, and is laddish and embarrassingly revealing when it comes to her own exploits. And whether it's Maxim's "In the powder room" or New Woman's no-nonsense "Men" section, nearly every magazine is doing it. Across the range of monthly glossies, a writer telling it like it is - in lurid detail - from the other side of the gender divide is a key part of the mix. Why? Because everyone is fascinated by what goes on in the heads of the opposite sex - particularly when it's sex they're thinking about. But do men writing about men for women, and women writing about women for men, really tell it like it is? Looking at how you're portrayed to the other side can be funny, annoying or alarming. Below, members of our panel look at the latest magazine offerings, and try to recognise themselves.

The panel: Louise Anderson, 27, freelance journalist; Kate Preller, 24, postgraduate student; Lorraine Frost, 25, junior doctor; Malcolm Colin- Stokes, 23, PR assistant;

Andy Yates, 25, works in financial publishing; Johnny Law, 26, unemployed

"Whatever New Men might say, all men look - it's just that as we get older some of us are more discreet"

(Jon Courtenay Grimwood writing in New Woman, page 123).

"Tantrums, going mental, doing a feature - the wobbly is a peculiarly feminine skill and one we tend to throw with those we love best, specifically mothers and lovers"

(Kate Spicer writing in GQ, page 84)

Malcolm: Ogling is a very knotted-hanky expression: it makes me think of Carry On films and leching after Barbara Windsor. Men will always casually turn their heads to look at a women, even if they are perfectly happy in a relationship. By saying men don't, it's giving women a shared experience to moan about: it's the typical women's magazine "all men are bastards: women are superior" line. And the writer makes men out to be little boys, because women love to think of their partners that way.

Andy: The article is eminently readable and women will love it: it takes the piss out of men. Women like to get attention: the article reinforces that men will always give them attention, but it also recognises the fact that women to get hassled. Women feel more confident about ogling men now and men realise they have to be more subtle when they do it. But we're still doing it - we've just responded the new conditions. It's another tool in our armoury.

Johnny: The piece was surprisingly well-balanced for such a delicate subject. When I'm not with my mates we never talk about the rights or wrongs of ogling women, but I'm very aware that we do it. It's just assumed that it's perfectly natural. I guess I do look at other women when I'm with my partner, which isn't a lovely thing to admit. But as for ogling as a way of telling your partner you're not fully committed to them; if I hadn't been looking, I would never have found my current girlfriend.

Louise: I do like a bit of a fight, but this makes women out to be like something from Carrie . Tantrums aren't always a carefully staged way of pushing men to see how far they'll go. Sometimes you fly into one because you're genuinely upset. It's telling men not to take women seriously: after reading this, every time their girlfriend has a tantrum, they'll think it's an elaborate sex game.

Kate: The word tantrum is exclusively applied to women and children, but when men loose control it can be far worse - it's just not described in the same, trivialising way. I thought it was a bit dodgy, playing to the male fantasy of a Betty Blue-type woman who has lost control and needs a man to take over for her. It makes a very comforting read for GQ's readers - they can relate problems to their partner's biology, rather than to something wrong in the relationship.

Lorraine: I understood what she was talking about and that made me think more positively about what you get in women's magazines. When I read about what men are "really" like I always dismiss it as vaguely entertaining but not true. But there's a massive grain of truth running through which made me think maybe there's something behind the wild generalisations.

"Any bloke, no matter how cottage-cheese-in-a-plastic-bag his buttocks, or bouncy-castle-like his gut, can get away with anything if I've had two bottles of Asti and he's got a big one"

(Imogen Edwards Jones writing in Arena, page 46)

Louise: This article will sell a magazine like nothing else - it's the equivalent of women's magazines having "what men really find sexy" on the cover. Top marks for hitting men where it hurts - and it had me snorting with laughter. Cosmo couldn't get away with this article in reverse - why men love tits and don't care about the rest. Cosmo knows its readers back to front; Arena is stabbing in the dark a bit, hoping its readers have a sufficient sense of humour to take it on the chin. But there's nothing more flattering to a man than thinking a woman is interested in what he's got in his pants.

Kate: In the wedding scene at the beginning of The Godfather ,all the maids and skivvies are gathered round talking animatedly and laughing about Sonny Corleone, who has had his way with most of them and is apparently very well-endowed. I think it's more at that level: women will only really notice or exchange comments if there's something unusual about it. A more real fear for both sexes is impotence: women feel the consequences of that are more relevant to them. But it's a taboo subject, and I feel sorry for men in this respect.

Lorraine: Halfway through the first paragraph and I was cringing. It's so crude, I couldn't believe it was written by a woman. I've no idea what it's doing in this magazine: it's offensive to everyone. It's one of the great inequalities - it's alright to lay into men as they'll bounce back, but totally incorrect to treat women the same way. If women's magazines are ever disparaging about women, it's done in an "aren't you cute" way. Something so extreme isn't interesting, it bears no relation to real life.

"If I decide a woman is my friend, I'm perfectly capable of spending time with her without thinking about what she looks like naked. After all, what are we - men or apes?"

(Michael Hogan writing in more, page 64)

Malcolm: There are two distinct sides to this article, so it misses out on a lot of the grey. One of my closest friends is an ex-girlfriend and the article doesn't mention what a strong bond that can be. And if you're friends, it doesn't mean you stop flirting - it worries me that women could read this and become distrustful of my intentions when I flirt. I don't want anything to happen, you just can't beat a good flirt.

Andy: I agree it's more natural for a man to go out with a woman than be friends with her. And because men have a higher sex drive, that's especially true from the male point of view. Social trends towards more male/female friendships have transcended physical urges to a certain extent, but they can't replace them altogether. It's a question I think about quite a lot. I'm still wondering if it can work - but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to rely on my female friends when I'm an old man.

Johnny: Is there anything remarkable about having female friends? The men quoted are apes if they think so. A degree of sexual tension can actually be a nice thing - when you're both thinking "could we/should we" but never talk about it, even though you're very close and talk about all sorts of things. It gives the friendship an excitement that it wouldn't have if you were both the same sex.

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