“What Every Man Wants” (From The Deuce)

HBO ran this series called The Deuce – a show about New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was about bartenders, and hookers and pimps, and cops, and the first porn stars, and the mafia… all those characters interacting with each other. There are also some fascinating examples of the sexual marketplace in those various episodes…

What I want to write about here was a conversation on one episode between a father and son about “what every man wants.”

I transcribed the scene below. We’ll walk thru the dialog and then I’ll say what I want to say.

SHOW: The Deuce
EPISODE: “Nobody Has to Get Hurt”
Season 2 | Episode 8

The scene opens in the backyard of a house in NYC.

Vinny was previously married to a woman named Andrea, and they had two kids together. He and Andrea separated, and he mostly stopped seeing her and the kids. He started a new life (nearby, in Manhattan), busy managing some bars and clubs. And he took a new girlfriend – a young girl named Abby (a smart, rich girl, that had just dropped out of college).

In this scene, Vinny has a talk with his dad – Mr Martino – about women:

VINNY: I am having a hard time.

MR. MARTINO: You don’t look it.

VINNY: I was hoping to get some advice, about women.

MR. MARTINO: You think I know about women?

VINNY: Abby.

MR. MARTINO: Yeah. She’s a smart girl.
MR. MARTINO: She’s very pretty.

VINNY: I love her, but she don’t want what I want.

MR. MARTINO: Which is what?

VINNY: A regular home. A family, maybe.

MR. MARTINO: Well, Vin, you HAVE a family.
MR. MARTINO: You seen your kids lately?


MR. MARTINO: You wanted everything.
MR. MARTINO: A woman at home. Pussy on the side. Like most men.
MR. MARTINO: Except most men don’t leave.

VINNY: Me and Andrea were not compatible.

MR. MARTINO: What the fuck is compatible got to do with it?
MR. MARTINO: Compatible? What?
MR. MARTINO: Vinny, you can’t control your urges. You never have.
MR. MARTINO: Eh, you know…
MR. MARTINO: I am no ‘true blue.’ You know that, right?

VINNY: Yeah.
VINNY: When I was a teenager, I saw you one night, with Mrs Di Piari.
VINNY: I saw the way her eyes were shining like she was looking at you…
VINNY: I know what that look meant.

MR. MARTINO: Well, Mrs Di Piari wasn’t the only one…

VINNY: I don’t want to hear about it…

MR. MARTINO: You asked my advice…
MR. MARTINO: I am trying to level with you. You want to talk?
MR. MARTINO: I had others. Yeah. Some nice women. We had some laughs.
MR. MARTINO: Compared, to the mother of my children, Vinny… ‘puttana.’

This ^ is the look on his face when he says, “puttana.”

MR. MARTINO: I did what I did to make myself feel like a man.
MR. MARTINO: And I come home.
MR. MARTINO: I came home.
MR. MARTINO: I had you boys. I had your sister to take care of.
MR. MARTINO: But Vinny, I never considered leaving.
MR. MARTINO: Not once.

So that is the scene.

I love that scene.

The thing I like about it is… it’s not about “what should be.” I love idealism too, but I don’t often see ideal circumstances in long term relationships. And some of the best advice you’ll ever find is about what to do in “non-ideal” situations. This is that kind of post.

Here is where we start, with these really excellent lines:

MR. MARTINO: You wanted everything.
MR. MARTINO: A woman at home. Pussy on the side. Like most men.

Is that right? Is that what most men want?

I don’t hear men say that often. Rarely. But I see it… all the time, in the non-ideal realness of the sexual marketplace. And to be starkly honest here…

It’s what I think I want.

And I don’t think I am alone. If we work our way past the “ideals,” and look at the practical choices we have as men… that is what a lot of men want. And not always in pessimism, but in a practical sense where men have found a way to work out was seems unworkable.

“A woman at home and pussy on the side” is what many men have done since the beginning of civilization.

Before I explain why Mr Martino’s “solution” appeals to me so much, I want to present the Essential Dilemma of being a family man:

ON THE ONE HAND: A man might want to take a shot at family. There is a lot of upside for men in being fathers and husbands, but there are tradeoffs on that path. One question here is: How does a man hold his attraction for his wife as he watches her age past 30, past 40, past 50 years old? How does a man maintain a vigorous sex life with an increasingly older woman? From what I can see, most married couples rarely (if ever) have sex. (Once per month?) If a man has any interest in maintaining his sexual edge, there is some pressure to test his monogamy so that he might keep some sexual activity in his life.

ON THE OTHER HAND: A man might want the life of the bachelor, of sexual variety, of “endless freedom.” I know a little bit about this lifestyle, and it also has it’s tradeoffs. Here a relevant question might be: What is a man missing if he never invests the time to explore the joys of being a parent, or of building a family, or sharing all of that with a women as they build a life together? If a man has any interest in a familial legacy beyond his own individual goals and wants, there is some pressure to trade some freedom for those opportunities.

A dilemma is a difficult choice between to challenging options.

Should he choose a family and limit (or eliminate) his sex life? Or choose sexual freedom, but without the potential richness of a family? There are many other scenarios, but this is a common dilemma men have faced for thousands of years.

It gets to the essential question of “what every man wants.” And what his options are for navigating those wants.

Currently, I am quite happy with my freedom. I’ll stay a bachelor for some time, I’m sure of it. And yet…

Mr Martino’s has three main points that I am interested in:

1.) That “a woman at home and pussy on the side” is a classic solution that helps a man to manage the two scenarios of the dilemma. That 2.) Resolving that dilemma helped him to “feel like a man.” And then, interestingly, that 3.) He would always “come back,” as his real loyalty was to his family, to what he had built, and that was never in question.

That’s beautiful.

Let’s take them one at a time.

MR. MARTINO: You wanted everything.
MR. MARTINO: A woman at home. Pussy on the side. Like most men.

Once again, is that what every man wants?

Maybe it is. Maybe it’s a solution that might help a man step into something like a committed relationship. Maybe a man wouldn’t say it quite like that. Maybe he wouldn’t even think these particular words… but what Mr Martino’s suggests solves both of our potential tragedies. Mr Martino thinks we all want a shot at satisfying each of the otherwise conflicting goals of family vs freedom.

And I like that he lays it all on the table. And that he takes it for granted that we can have both.

Men have stared down the tradeoffs of family vs freedom for millennia. What Mr Martino lays out has been a traditional way to “square the circle” and to resolve the tension between staying with an aging wife and an ache for fresh pussy that for many men never goes away.

It’s not what every man wants… but it allows him to have what he wants. And I am going to call it the “Classic Solution.”

A brief interlude:

If marriage and “a woman at home” is easy to understand, the “pussy on the side” is the complicated part. And that brings us to the role of “the love affair” in the Classic Solution.

The discreet affair is the functioning mechanism of it all. You take a lover. (Or many… over the years.) It’s “pussy on the side,” but it’s never brought up at the dinner table. It’s discreet, unspoken, very, very… Secret Society.

I think affairs are normal – as in, they are common. Not admirable, but a “tool” relationships have employed to balance conflicting needs and to relieve pressure that comes from the various dilemmas of monogamy.

This arrangement (as I imagine it) is certainly not “open” or “polyamorous.” In my version of truth this is an important distinction.

I don’t think it’s weird to want to bang other women. I don’t think it’s weird to “need it.” I don’t. But I think asking her to accept that, demanding that she does, to share that with her, is corrosive for the vast majority of couples.

Telling her you aren’t that into her any more, or that you’re just desperate for some “strange pussy,” is insulting. Maintaining her self-esteem is worth the effort. And the dragon of jealousy that stalks the SMP is formidable force.

For both those reasons (and more), a man keeps his side action to himself. He never mentions it to her. He denies it if it ever comes up.

It’s not the “need” itself that is so unimaginable, it’s the rubbing it in her face that is too much to expect her to manage. It’s expecting her to share the responsibility for it that is a failure on the part of the man. The man owns it or it doesn’t work.

Once more: None of this ideal.

But if the choices are family and no sex, or rubbing my desire for other women in my wife’s face, I think the Classic Solution is to have an affair and keep it myself. The solution is the “lesser of evils,” where a man chooses this path as opposed to divorce or never beginning the relationships at all.

The solution is practical. And I respect it. It’s not pretty (not at this stage), but it has been tested through the ages as a means for some men to avoid both horns of the bull.

Back to Mr Martino…

MR. MARTINO: I did what I did to make myself feel like a man.

He is right about something here too.

If a man has sexual needs, and he has the personal power to satisfy them, what does accepting sexlessness to do his own self-esteem? If he makes major compromises at this level, are we sure his wife cannot feel a change in him as his sex life is neutered? Does any of that help his marriage?

Mr Martino needed his side action. And I think, if I ever try to start a family, I might need it too.

Discreet side action enables the whole enterprise.

And I was excited about this scene, as it delivered a common truth in such a “matter of fact” way. It wasn’t meant to be controversial, because to Vinny and his dad, it’s not controversial – it’s just how it is. And I was glad to hear them talk about it.

It was refreshing.

I don’t want to learn how things “should be.” I want to learn how they actually are. In that way, Mr Martino gave me an outline for something that I might try to implement one day.

First, there is a very comfortable admission as Mr Martino says that wanting “a wife and pussy on the side” (“like most men”) is a kind of normal. I agree.

Then, his saying he knows he was no “true blue,” that he fooled around, he recognizes that… no excuses. But he is clear that he needed it (in some way) to make himself “feel like a man.” And I really get that – to continue to hunt, seduce, to find success (and relief), sexually, to find that excitement and pleasure, to not have to give that up… I get it.

And finally…

Even as Mr Martino hooks up with Mrs Di Piari (and there were “others”), he goes on to say that all those girls were a kind of vague second place to his wife, that they were the “puttana” (“whores”), and that he never considered leaving his wife for any of them… “never.”

MR. MARTINO: But Vinny, I never considered leaving.
MR. MARTINO: Not once.

“Not once.”

I really like that. Here Mr Martino makes clear the point of the whole conversation. It is not, in fact, the side pussy. The conversation is about coming home.

There is a crazy tension of needs and ideals in this scene. Noble – to try to establish and provide for a family. Conflict – as the bride becomes a Madonna, and sex is no longer a focus. Ignoble – as a man has an affair. Proud – as he can see the hunter-killer in him is proven to be alive once again. Pleasure – in new romance and sexual release. Responsibly – in holding all this on his own, not expecting his wife to share his burden. And a kind of practical nobility again – in the final Commitment: To always come home. To never mistake “some goods times” for what is really important.

I have had this conversation before. And it freaks people out to stare at it like this, but for me, it’s so “classic” as to be calming.

Maybe I am a bastard that I see it this way.

But I don’t think I could ever be truly monogamous (maybe not until my sex drive is completely dead). And, like most men, I assume I could not maintain sexual attraction to my wife forever (the thought of sex with women beyond 40 years of age is not appealing to me). I don’t assume I would just give up on my sex life. And I wouldn’t ask my lovely wife to share that burden.


Maybe I am bastard for saying all this out loud. And maybe Mr Martino was too. But I don’t think so. I think he was teaching me something. And I was glad to see it all articulated so clearly in that scene.

The solution works to not ONLY keep “fresh pussy” flowing, but also to relieve the pressure that might kill an otherwise successful family situation. Mr Martino’s emphasis was that the pussy was a diversion, that he needed it. But maybe each scratch of that itch also created the space he needed to keep coming home, and to hold onto the continuity with his wife. I appreciate all that very much.

I have often said about the Classic Solution that while many people find the suggestion so revolting, I think the model itself can help hold marriages together. I believe that. Ideals are wonderful. But the pressure to always live up to an ideal is often more than most mortals can manage.

I think Vinny and his father show two paths: Vinny chose a separation as a means to start over with a younger girl and keep the blood flowing though his veins. I get that too…. that is one option. But his father used the Classic Solution. Fucking side-chicks was a kind of “pressure relief,” and that allowed him to STAY. And in many ways, I think “doing what you have to do” as you hold your family together is the better path.

The Classic Solution carries such a strong truth for me as to be beautiful… because it is not just about hedonism and young titties, it’s about a plan to always come home at the end of the day.

I think father knows best.

I am not married. And since I make no commitments to the girls I date, there are never any promises to break.

But maybe the path I am on… where I have my “freedom” and never “run around” on a woman I am supposed to be committed to… maybe this is “cheating” both me and some woman (one from the past or one I have yet to discover) out of a shot at a real family.

Maybe I am a bastard as I see all this is as a kind of true, timeless wisdom. Maybe it makes me a bad man that I plan to someday use this outline to help me navigate the dilemma and that I might involve a woman in such a mess…



I don’t know.

For now… I’ll go on being a bachelor. I’ll continue to learn about attraction, and the sexual urge, leading women, jealousy, and all that. I’ll see, up close and personal, that relationships are not always “perfect fairytale romances.” That is just not how the sexual marketplace works.

But in many ways I think I know enough. I think I have caught up to the Classical Solution, which was there long before me.

And maybe I’ll give it a shot someday. Like Mr Martino. Build that family. Have some “good times” when I need them to clean out my pipes. And then get home to take care of what is really important.

I can respect that.

We’ll see.

Viva Daygame.