Sarah Sands: What a chap wants in bed – TV and a sarnie

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The Independent Online

Stereotypically, the female areas of a house are the kitchen and the bedroom. Mail order brides are advised that they will need to perform in both. The male areas of the home are the downstairs lavatory and the garden shed.

How does that stereotype sit with the news that sales of beds designed for men have been rising? The recession proof popularity of the "man bed" has been a revelation to retailers and to gender psychologists. It is a phenomenon that demands a whole new marketing imagery.

Until now, beds have been represented as a female dream of starched sheets, white covers, and, beyond, billowing curtains suggesting a gentle breeze. When couples are shown in these beds they look wholesome and moisturised, often waiting for adorable blond children to run into the room with Mother's Day cards. There is a tremendous emphasis on quality of sleep.

This is not remotely the point of a man bed. The man bed is a Jeremy Clarkson fantasy costing at least £3,000, with super gadgets rather than lavender springing from the margins. Happily, it includes the essentials, such as an iPod docking station, sophisticated sound system, wine cooler and high security safe; and, because it wouldn't be a proper man bed without it, a 32in high-definition Sony plasma screen TV built in to the footboard.

Naturally the bed has a Hugh Hefner promise to it, furnished in dirty dark coloured satins and with space for plenty. But I sense this bed is not really about sex. Not, at least, until Match of the Day has finished. Rather, it is about male assertion.

We have lived under a misapprehension that beds are unisex. At the end of each day, a truce is called in the sex war as man and woman lie together. In fact, the nights are when the differences are on agonising display.

Women, on the whole, like to wear something in bed; men, on the whole, do not. Women, in the main, enjoy reading last thing at night; men drowse over their laptops. Women are a little more foetal in their sleeping positions; men tend to sleep on their backs.

This is where the real trouble starts. Why, according to a new biography, even the soul-mate Obamas fell out over the snoring of the future president. In a lovely man bed, you would not have a woman shoving and hissing at you to be quiet. In a man bed you could keep the curtains closed all the time if you wanted to. In a man bed you could watch late night telly with a beef and pickled onion sandwich.

A survey in the New Scientist concluded that men suffer mentally when they share a bed with a woman. The succession of female habits – the time in the bathroom, the reading, the conversation, the tending to children during the night, the hairdryer in the morning – all conspire to frazzle the male brain. Women continue multitasking even when they sleep. Men need an unbroken stretch.

Part of the popularity of the film Step Brothers lay in an unconscious male yearning to share a bunk bed with another man. Wouldn't that be fun? Imagine spending bedtime with gadgets, sport on a cinema-sized television, beer from your own fridge, snoring and farting without a thought. And no one to reproach you.

Men used to find respite from women at work. They went to pubs to be with men. They didn't see females in the football crowd. Now those opportunities for purely male pleasures are curtailed. No wonder they are seeking refuge in the man bed.