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Book Review: Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male: Lessons Learned from the Fairer Sex by Philip Nork

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Half of first marriages end in divorce?  Should the pastor or justice of the peace just flip a coin? Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, says that the divorce rate in America is 50% for first marriages, 67% for second ones, and 74% for third marriages.  That isn’t too surprising since the Census Bureau reports that divorce rates have been hovering around 50% since the 1960s.  In 2005, the New York Times reported a downward estimate in the low 40% range.  Still, the numbers indicate trouble in paradise since World War II.

A few weeks ago my wife and I attended my fortieth high school reunion. We sat at a table with my best friend and his wife and two women with whom I’d attended kindergarten through college.  It was a small town (still is), and we only had about sixty students in our class.  Statistically our class fit the national numbers, with one woman rivaling only Elizabeth Taylor in marriages. Not many of us were still in our first marriage. My first lasted 26 years — almost.  My second marriage is in its ninth year. I married a Jersey girl who thinks I’m nicer than the Yankees she had been around before. I tease her that it’s just my Southern charm.  After reading Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male: Lessons Learned from the Fairer Sex, I’m not so sure it’s a regional thing.

Philip Nork has written a book that sort of fits into the “self-help” genre, and I hope he’s not just preaching to the choir.  Men that need the advice and suggestions he offers (based on his own experiences) are likely to be the arrogant macho sons-of-bitches that wouldn’t consider changing their insensitive behavior.  I learned at an early age that a man should never strike a woman and, as I’ve learned, many women suffer as much if not more psychological abuse as physical.  Like most self-help books, this one offers insight and inspiration “that ANY one can get better.”

Nork chronicles his experiences that taught him significant life lessons in dealing with the opposite sex, beginning with his great-grandmother. There are thirty-six chapters here to support his sixteen lessons, most with different girls/women. Some of the relationships were simple, casual, platonic quasi-friendships, and many were deeper and more complicated.  The stories and anecdotes are often poignant, sometimes sad, and in the end, uplifting.  He learned from all the women in his life.  At first I was surprised that there were so many, then I started thinking about all the females with whom I’ve been friends (at least a dozen at the reunion) through the years and wondered why it was only thirty six chapters.

Many consider the greatest self-help book ever written to be How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Nork was certainly influenced by the format.  Just as Carnegie did, Nork uses personal stories to illustrate the lessons he learned from the fairer sex.  As a reminder, he has re-stated the cumulative collection of lessons (rules) at the conclusion of each chapter. Examples are: “Girls want to be heard; guys need to be better listeners.” and “Allow your emotions to show others you are open and caring.” What better evidence can you have to support a point than a personal experience from the author?

Would I buy Sensitivity 101 for the Heterosexual Male: Lessons Learned from the Fairer Sex? Yes.  Anyone can learn from Nork’s mistakes and be inspired by his successes.  In fact, the sequel will focus on his experiences applying his lessons learned in life. The most difficult aspect of benefiting from this book will be getting it read by those who need it most.

Phil Nork is generous — he normally donates 25% of his profits to The Children’s Miracle Network to help raise funds for children’s hospitals throughout the country. But this holiday season – September through December 2010 – fifty per cent of the profits will be donated.



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  • Aleta Butler

    I am certain to buy the book after reading such a well written critique. The best self help book that was ever written had many authors. Our nation was founded on this book. Many of the people in this book had difficulty with personal relationships as the girl you mentioned who carries the nickname of “Liz”. A well written article. I am looking forward to reading this book.