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Archive for the ‘gender roles’ Category

men are sexual+women are emotional=recipe for disaster?

In gender roles, marriage, relationships on August 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Growing up, one of the messages I received about relationships, directly or indirectly, from numerous books and chapel speakers was that a man’s greatest need was sex and a woman’s greatest need was emotional security and support. Sound familiar? These messages were purportedly trying to help each sex understand the other, so that they could achieve a harmonious relationship, but the tone often seemed to suggest that both sexes had to “put up” with the other’s needs in order to get their own.

Unfortunately, this kind of language makes it all too easy for men and women to reduce their identities to specific types or roles and also allows each sex to judge the other based on stereotypes. Having spent three years working with university students, aside from having been one myself, I’ve heard more than my share of worries and frustration about guys “crossing the line” or “only thinking about one thing” and girls being “so emotional and irrational” and “clingy”. This not only makes each sex sensitive toward those issues, it also makes guys who are very aware of their emotions and girls who are very aware of their sexuality feel awkward at best and like something is wrong with them at worst.

Moreover, even if its true that men are more sexual and women are more emotional, going into a relationship with that mindset will probably only lead to frustration with neither partner really getting what they need. Men will expect sexual fulfillment from someone who has not cultivated an understanding of and appreciation for sexuality and women will expect emotional fulfillment from someone who has not cultivated an understanding of and appreciation for emotion. This sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Ultimately, I don’t think this kind of language is useful to individuals or couples. Why do we need to label and categorize so definitively? You are handicapped if you do not see yourself as both a sexual and an emotional being, whether you’re male or female. To be a holistic human being, both aspects of yourself must be understood, accepted and integrated in your identity.

What’s your experience with this kind of language? Are these categories useful to you?

J.S.

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