What differentiates the man cave from these more traditional male spaces is that workshops and studies are designed to accommodate a particular, elevating interest. These rooms are only isolated inasmuch as the activities proper to them are best pursued without distraction. With the man cave, however, the isolation from the family—the escape—is the primary purpose of the space. The man cave, therefore, is the image of the traditional male space without its substance.This isn't about selfishness or narcissism, it's about men being able to escape from the constant assault of everyone else's demands on them. It is more than wearisome, it is soul-killing to have a constant barrage of interactions that revolve around one-way financial transactions. And the reality is that there is antagonism between a father's masculine identity and a feminized society's expectation that he is on call to play Mr. Mom 24-7 that exists regardless of whether a man has a place to escape it or not.
Of course, a workshop or study could become an escape—a place to hide from family duties or to indulge selfish habits. But this would be a misuse, or abuse, of a space set aside for humane recreations. By contrast, the man cave by its very name announces that it is for me. Whatever happens in the room is merely an artifact of my desires and my personality.
The implication is that the rest of the house—the joint bedroom and the nice kitchen and the kids’ messy quarters and the other TV room—cannot adequately serve me and my precious individuality. (Women, apparently, are not such fragile snowflakes that they need their own room to express themselves. After all, she has the kitchen, right?) Worse, the man cave implies antagonism between the father’s masculine identity and his family identity and duties.
Man caves should be celebrated and respected. Because the alternative is man flight.