By Michelle Martin

Mid-February: Mid-winter, mid-rainy season, post-holiday indulgences, post-abandon of gym regime - but at least it's pre-bathing suit season, right? No! Wrong! A cursory glance at any newsstand magazine rack or the coffee table (or bathroom floor) of just about any heterosexual male will reveal that according to the media, bikini season is in full swing! For a woman, this proliferation of styled female flesh is akin to being called on the dirt after school by the girl bully in fourth grade, who wants to teach everyone a lesson by attacking the scrawniest, least threatening classmate she can find.

Everywhere I turn are tanned, toned, silicone- and collagen-injected, mostly naked women looking ready for action of the sexual sort. They appear to want to kick my ass in the "attracting men" department. Why are they so competitive? Why can't they keep their clothes on? Why don't men want something more, uh, intellectual? I am under attack, people!

I do not believe that men, in their eternal quest for whatever it is that they are in an eternal quest for, understand the pressure that women feel to live up to the standards of the completely supernatural (and by that I mean alien) females in mainstream men's magazines. Have you men noticed that your magazines feature scantily clad babes looking horny, and OUR magazines feature scantily clad babes looking horny? So unfair. What about a whole shelf of magazines featuring shirtless and aroused George Clooney and Mathew McConaughey and Ben Harper and Johnny Depp and the like? You just don't see that, do you? And it's not because men are buying all the magazines - no, I think we all know which sex reads more, thank you very much. (Not that guys buy those mags to read them?duh. But I am willing to wager women buy more magazines than men.) It's because we women are socialized to receive messages regarding impossibly attractive women (albeit surgically, cosmetically AND photographically enhanced?those particular factoids don't lodge in a permanent spot in the female brain) and react by spending money to try and approximate those images.

It works thusly: Men look at a magazine with a shirtless and aroused Mathew McConaughey on the cover and think "He's gay - I heard about that naked drumming shit in Austin," or a shirtless and aroused George Clooney and think "Hmmm. Some gray hair. He's getting old; I look as good as he does and I don't have any gray hair! I'm rocking, baby!" Women look at a magazine cover featuring a shirtless and aroused Heidi Klum or Denise Richards or Tyra Banks and think "Holy shit. I am never going to get married in 100,000 years because no man will ever want me because I don't look like that. I must buy this magazine, then go home and make appointments for a $50 haircut, $80 highlighting, $23 eyelash tinting, $20 eyebrow waxing, $25 manicure, $20 pedicure, and let me think if I have enough money after that for a trip to Nordstrom for some new clothes and shoes and makeup and perfume, and really, I should max out the Visa with the highest limit and get a $6,000 boob job because men are going to see right through the rest of the stuff I do and probably nothing will work except that."

Crazy isn't it? Men look at that same magazine cover and think not of money matters at all. They think: "Must. Get. Home. Now. To. Whack. Off." So men get the orgasm, and women get an empty pocketbook and an attack on their self-esteem. Ladies, we're being ripped off!

It would be rude and tiresome to rant without a solution, so I will not do so. My advice for improving one's fiscal and emotional health, if one is a woman, is this: DO NOT pick up the goddamn Maxam or Maxim or whatever it's called, or any of the other naked-horny-woman-on-the-cover magazines. DO NOT PICK THEM UP. PUT THEM DOWN. NOW! Instead, pick up some magazines that don't rely on making you feel shitty about your looks. My picks: New Yorker, Ms., and Bitch. (Bitch's full title is Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. It rocks.) Then, read those. You will immediately feel way better. You'll feel at least as good as you do after a spa day, but you'll be hundreds of dollars richer! Whoo-hoo! Go out to dinner!

Men, you don't need my help. Go. Home. And. Whack. Off. And then let's go out to dinner! We can split it.