The term ‘spooning’ has increasingly become part of our language over the last decade, bringing with it titles for partners in this now-celebrated cuddling act: the ‘big spoon’ and ‘little spoon’. While being the big spoon (the hugging partner) or the little spoon (the hugged partner) have always had their advantages and disadvantages – as often debated by couples throughout the country – there has been a disturbing element with the rise of these affectionate titles: their conceptualised associations with gender, particularly in heterosexual relationships.
In the ever-growing debate over hyper-masculinity in our contemporary world, the once romantic vocabulary of spooning has been caught up in the same arguments that kindle the likes who found Gillette’s recent advertising campaign offensive to men. Despite the bigger spoon still having somewhat of a bond with ideas behind traditional masculine dominance, researchers such as psychoanalyst Steve McKeown have found that men who prefer to be the little spoon typically make more compromise in relationships, are usually more sensitive and emotionally intelligent, and tend to cope better in today’s stress-driven society [TB Unilad]. This asks the question: shouldn’t men try being the little spoon more often?
Being the little spoon when cuddling with your partner already lists a long number of contentments, such as feeling wonderfully warm, cocooned and sheltered. According to one student at UEA, who claimed that ‘having your partner’s arm as a pillow for your neck’ – as practiced in spooning – ‘is ergonomical for your spine’: being the little spoon even provides a health benefit. Moreover, though, if research shows male little spooners are particularly communicative and supportive partners in relationships, as well as far removed from toxic masculine behaviours, then being the little spoon once in a while may encourage emotional development in men.
It can be easily said that being the big spoon, for both men and women, has its benefits too – but crucially in terms of balancing relationships with its ability for female big spooners to assert themselves with partners. This isn’t at all to claim that, from time to time, men shouldn’t find it uncomfortable being the big spoon, either – some would say it depends on the dynamic of your relationship. The important notes to take away from the men-as-little-spoon debate is the need for neutrality, trust and vulnerability in relationships, and also, perhaps, that there’s a certain ridiculousness of gender being associated with spooning terms and titles in the first place.