So, they're just like us. We obsess about our appearance and feel inadequate at work, but research proves men feel the same. Being in the company of women only heightens these male anxieties, and even a night out with their mates doesn't help. One in four men think they're useless at sex, blaming movies such as Sex and the City for increasing female expectations to unrealistic levels.
Men think that other men – their bosses, for example – are much more confident than they really are and, because men are so poor at communicating their emotions and discussing how they feel with each other, their self-esteem just withers. Saddest was a list of aids men use as confidence boosters – a third wear "lucky" jewellery and most worrying, one in five admit to wearing "lucky" pants.
Lucky pants sound comical, and a bit sad, but on another level, we are seeing the violent results of this lack of male self-esteem, with young gang members increasingly involved in horrific crimes. Yesterday, newspapers published the photographs of the baby-faced young men (some just 13 at the time) sentenced to custodial sentences for repeatedly raping a 14-year old girl, and recording it on their phones. The judge ordered them to be identified hoping it would deter others, but somehow I doubt it.
The kids in this gang, like the men questioned for the survey about self-esteem, all have the same problem – no role models in the real world, just rap stars, comic book supermen or movie stars, none of which they could emulate. Meet any famous movie star (I met George Clooney last week and felt about three times his size) and you are reminded that there's not a hope in hell of another man in the room competing at this level of physical perfection. Stars spend every hour of every day exercising, dieting, honing their assets. The predominance of action movies just reinforces our desire for escapism and doesn't help ordinary men to talk to a member of the opposite sex or form a relationship devoid of grunting, posturing and role-playing.
It's easy to claim gangs are the product of absent fathers, but advertising and movies are equally to blame. The imagery directed at young men emphasises their physical inadequacy. Luckily, there are far more high profile women of all shapes and sizes for women to relate to these days – from Queen Latifah to Cheryl Cole to Dawn French and her best-selling memoirs. Pictures of David Beckham's ludicrously buffed torso in the Armani underpants might amuse women, but they threaten men.
And, don't think those chunky blokes in the D&G underwear ads haven't had the same airbrushing as females in Vogue. Doctors are treating an increasing number of men under 40 for sexual dysfunction, surely a by-product of the glamorous images of toned male sportsmen in advertising and fashion.
Last week, The Reach Programme, a panel of high-profile black men set up by Hazel Blears, nominated 20 role models from all walks of life (from fireman to accountants to lawyers and an army officer all in their twenties and thirties), to go into schools and colleges to inspire and motivate young black men to achieve more. It's a well-intentioned project, but so far government funding is just £2m. Truthfully, all young men could do with help like this, if we are to deal with a culture where pleasing your ring-leader by raping a defenceless girl is seen as the summit of your ambition.
We shouldn't foot the bill for royal holiday security
Talk me through the logic which ensures that an upper-class teenager who contributes nothing meaningful to my life can enjoy a gap year partying in India, and I have to contribute to the cost.
Why do hard-pressed taxpayers have to cough up £10,000 for officers from Scotland Yard to accompany the 18-year-old Princess Eugenie as she frolics around the beaches of Goa and drinks in bars till the early hours? That's on top of the £250,000 it costs to look after her security when she's going out to clubs night after night in the UK.
I don't blame Eugenie for having fun but I can't understand why a teenager who is sixth in line to the throne should be subsidised like this. If she truly wants to be a member of the Royal Family, then she should have stayed at home during the run-up to Christmas when thousands of people are losing their jobs and their homes – that would have been tactful, for a start.
Princess Eugenie could have done something useful like distributing help to pensioners and doling out meals to the homeless this Christmas. I don't mind paying for her security while she does that. Once she is in holiday mode, however, her parents should cough up.
Delivering the wrong message
My local newsagent in Kent, who runs the post office and a small general store, is much appreciated. Like many small businesses, he's finding things tough at the moment and was incandescent to be charged £30 the other day by his high street bank for being 28p overdrawn, despite being a customer for 15 years.
I can guess how he feels reading about the failure of HM Revenue and Customs to prosecute high earning tax evaders. Their detection rate runs at a paltry 1.5 per cent, and those found guilty of evasion only pay (on average) 3 per cent of the tax owing. Thirty-six barristers have just handed over £605,000 in unpaid tax and fines, with another 21 under investigation. But you can bet that small businesses, like my post office, have their tax returns thoroughly inspected with a fine toothcomb.
An ode to the humble oyster
Oysters are one of my favourite Christmas treats. One year I bought a whole box of delicious Falmouth specials, packed them in ice and drove 250 miles to Yorkshire. I eked them out for a week – bliss! I'm in Paris, about to order a plate of molluscs, but they may have gone up in price as thieves have targeted Normandy's oyster beds and stolen more than eight tonnes in three weeks. Organised gangs are suspected, and gendarmes are patrolling the beds. My poaching extends only to plucking and eating any pheasant I find on the road.Reuse content