Rise of the alpha female
Commitment phobes, ruthless workaholics, serial cheats... all traits usually associated with a certain type of man. Right?
Not any more. As the recession bites, it's women who are toughening up. Experts believe traditional gender roles are being swapped as men embrace their feminine side and women flex their muscles.
Many blame the Beckham effect - male beauty is now big business, and the number of men having cosmetic surgery has risen by 25 per cent.
Meanwhile, waiting to step into their shoes are the alpha females, women raised to have it all, who are taking traditionally male traits and making them their own.
Psychologist Linda Blair says this is a new social phenomenon.
"The recession has made women feel more responsible, both emotionally and financially, for their families. As a result, they're becoming tougher to survive, and will be reaping the benefits of this new attitude.
"They've got the job, the man, the house and, as a result, they're looking for another form of satisfaction - whether it be from having a risky affair to pushing themselves to their working limit," she adds.
"Also, we've accepted that the lines between traditional 'male' and 'female' behaviour have blurred over the years, from ladettes to the moisturising metrosexual."
Here, we meet some of the sisters who are doing it for themselves...
THE WORKAHOLIC BREADWINNER
Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, 31, a company director and mum of four from Stroud, Gloucestershire
"I was 26 when I started my own PR business. My husband Neil, 33, offered to give up his job as a mortgage salesman and become a stay-at-home dad, looking after Rhiannon, now 13, and Brandon, now 11. I was earning more money and had always been more driven, so it made sense.
I worked 16-hour days, seven days a week. I'd get up at 7am, get the kids to school, work until 5pm, have dinner, put the kids to bed, before pulling out the laptop and working again until 1am. I was always shattered, but I was doing it to give us a better quality of life.
When I had my second daughter, Bo, three years ago, long maternity leave wasn't an option - I was too busy. I don't expect people to make allowances for a choice I've made. I worked during my labour pains and sent a client report 10 minutes before I went to hospital.
I felt really sad about leaving Bo when I went back to work two weeks later - I cried for hours the night before. But I had work commitments, so I had to return.
I breastfed her for 12 weeks. I wanted to do it for longer, but when I was away at meetings, I'd use a breast pump in motorway toilets and I couldn't keep up with the milk supply.
It's affected our bond - Bo is very much a daddy's girl. But that's the role I've chosen - sacrifices have to be made.
I feel guilty every day but I just remind myself why I'm doing it. I was raised by my mum - she didn't work and we struggled financially. I don't want that for my kids.
I feel huge pressure being the breadwinner - knowing I'm responsible for the mortgage, food and clothes. Although I love my kids, I couldn't be a full-time mum. I need the challenge work gives me.
I sometimes go to parents' evenings and school plays. The other mums all know each other so I feel like an outsider. But I'm proud of what I've achieved. I hope my family is too.
Perhaps because I'm so driven, I constantly need to build on what I've got. We've got a nice four-bedroom house, car, and a good standard of living. But we haven't had a holiday for four years because I haven't had time.
I gave birth to our fourth child, Cicely, nine weeks ago, but I'm already back to working 12-hour days. Our marriage has felt the strain from my long working hours - it leaves little time for Neil. But he's been incredible, running the house so I can focus on bringing in the money. And we're happy." Neil says: "Sabrina's very good at what she does. It made sense for her to concentrate on her business. We made this decision as a couple and although Sabrina is the one earning, we feel as if we've done it together."
WOMEN ON TOP - THE EXPERT'S VIEW
Dr Papadopoulos says: "More women are now starting to see themselves as having a role beyond being a housewife and mother - they're sexual beings who want to be satisfied. They're also finding it easier to separate sex and emotion."
THE COMMITMENT PHOBE
Jane Carroll, 30, a PR executive from Manchester
"I haven't had a boyfriend for four years, not because I can't get a man, but because I don't want to settle for just one guy.
In fact, I love playing the field. I've had long-term relationships - I was with my ex for six years - but the next step would have been to get married and have children and I just wasn't ready.
He was really hurt when I ended it. Looking back, it was a difficult time, but I know I did the right thing.
Now I go on at least a couple of dates a month - I'm having too much fun to commit to one person.
Relationships can be so complicated. Guys expect you to behave in a certain way and I don't like to be controlled. Also, you have to compromise and I'm just too selfish.
I regularly cancel dates if I get a better offer. A couple of months ago, I found out my friends were going on a night out in Leeds, so I ditched my date to go with them instead. I told him I had other plans and rearranged to see him another time.
A lot of men say to me: 'You behave like a bloke', but what's the point in lying? I'm very honest with men and tell them I'm not seeing them exclusively. Some see that as a challenge and come back for more, but I respect the ones who tell me it's not for them and don't want to see me again.
If anything starts getting too serious, I'll end it. I'll often find a reason in something silly, like when a man says he'll do something, then doesn't.
Getting married isn't important to me. I've never picked out the dress in my head. I love kids but I'm not very patient and I don't know if I want that level of commitment.
My friends and family say I have a masculine attitude towards dating, but I'm not afraid of being left on the shelf. I own my house and I'm happy home alone reading, listening to music, watching TV. I love doing my own thing.
I'd be happier being single forever than settling for a less than perfect relationship. And it would take an amazing man to persuade me to give up my freedom."
WOMEN ON TOP - THE EXPERT'S VIEW
Dr Papadopoulous says: "Women are shying away from marriage because the concept of it doesn't hold the same worth. With more women becoming self-sufficient, we feel we don't need a life partner any more, and with divorce on the rise, the idea of riding off into the sunset has fallen by the wayside. Committing to someone they don't need financially or want kids with makes women question whether they need this man at all."
Shelly Seagar, 39, a website manager from Bournemouth, Dorset.
"Twelve years into my marriage, I was miserable. I still had a laugh with my husband, Peter*, but our sex life was dead. We slept in separate beds and only made love once or twice a year. I had needs, but couldn't act on them. I was so depressed, I lost 2st.
Then one day, I spotted a tall, gorgeous blond man at the gym. I couldn't stop staring. A flash of the old Shelly flickered inside me. I knew I had to have him.
'How are you?' I smiled over the water fountain. He told me his name was Sam and that he flew private jets for the rich and famous.
We'd meet up at the gym every day where we'd chat and flirt. Six weeks later, we swapped numbers. He rang that day to say he was jetting off to France and would bring me back some wine.
A week later, Sam handed me some vintage Dom Pérignon and asked me to dinner. I couldn't resist seducing him.
I'd had plenty of opportunities to cheat on my husband before, but I thought adultery was wrong. Now I knew there was no hope of saving my marriage, I didn't feel guilty. I just thought about my own happiness for once. Sam knew I was married, but it didn't bother him.
A few weeks later, Sam booked us into a hotel. When Peter and I did sleep together, it was always done to make him happy. This time, sex was all about me. It was amazing.
I told Peter I'd been at a friend's house. I didn't feel guilty. My marriage was over - and it was exciting. For the first time in years I felt empowered. Someone desired me and I was in charge of my own pleasure.
Although I told Peter I was out with a friend when I was with Sam, he grew suspicious and started to question me about where I'd been.
Two months after the affair started, Peter rang me at work and said we needed to talk. I knew he'd found out.
When I got home, Peter confirmed that he knew about me and Sam. He crumpled and cried. I told him I'd wanted to feel wanted. He said he forgave me, but I had to stop seeing Sam.
But I didn't want to. It was the first time in years I'd put myself first, and I wasn't going to let that go. So, Peter and I divorced after 14 years of marriage. Leaving my home and the man I'd once loved was hard, but I had to do it.
I carried on seeing Sam for a year, but 18 months ago things fizzled out. I've been single ever since and love it.
I don't think I'll ever regret my affair. It gave me back my happiness."
WOMEN ON TOP - THE EXPERT'S VIEW
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulous says: "Women are finding the freedom that comes from financial independence - they can express their needs and how they should be treated. But juggling a family and work can be tough."
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