Sexual Equality?

Since my first memory of instruction on boys versus girls (my gradeschool teachers telling me that boys and girls were equal in every way), I had sought subconsciously to see females through this lens. It was my way of being respectful of them, treating them as they wanted to be treated.

By the time I was a junior in college, it was becoming obvious that in at least one way, men and women were not equal. In particular, in the emotional and sexual spheres, there appeared to be an unbridgeable chasm between the two. I saw the men in my dormitory expecting sex with some female at least once per week. From the sounds that came through the thin walls, I knew some of them succeeded some of the time. When a breakup occurred (if there was anything substantive enough between the two to even require the term "breaking up"), the men were stressed out for a while, but otherwise unhurt.

On the other hand, the women appeared to suffer long-term effects, to the point where some became extremely withdrawn after a particularly hurtful breakup. Their cynicism towards men in general increased, and in the women I knew, it never receded.

This independent discovery was brought back to my mind while reading a review [1] of Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's book Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman [2]. Although not its thesis, by the time the book concludes, it has exploded the myth that men and women are equal in every area of life.

Today it is clear that unmarried sex is the norm in our culture, and that any traditions I might have been raised in the shadow of, are nothing but shadows today. No longer is there a pattern of courtship or dating, followed by marriage. As Whitehead writes,

No one knows what the rules, conventions, or accepted practices are. No consensus exists on crucial matters of romantic conduct such as who should take the initiative in dating, when to have sex, when to live together, what it means to be a couple, who proposes marriage, what constitutes commitment, how to go about finding a worthy marriage partner, and what it takes to make love last.

Under such anarchical circumstances, a thinking, compassionate person should ask, "Is one gender or the other getting the better end of this deal?"

Whitehead thinks so. She says that living together offers men "the benefits of a wife without shouldering the reciprocal obligations of a husband...Unlike other forms of live-in help, she is sexually available and works for free." Women in turn, are frequently expected to trade away their childbearing ability--the thing that gives them true spiritual, psychological and biological satisfaction--for nothing more than emotional pain and emptiness. No longer does our culture urge young adults to sow properly in order to reap a harvest of contentment and genuine love; rather we have regressed to a culture of sexual hunter-gatherers.

How did we arrive at this state? When a society--and thus its conventions--declines, people revert to that which is instinctual, in this case, an unadorned desire for the raw act of intercourse. So if women are hurt by this arrangement, why is it that they say nothing, but readily comply with what the other half of society seems to be expecting of them? Why have they not simply refused to go along?

Of course, I have considered the explanation that the sexually liberated lifestyle is also beneficial and pleasant for women. But their words, actions, and attitudes demonstrate the pain that they have been handed by this "system" we now operate under. They will deny this, but to protect a lifestyle choice that one has invested much of their life in, all but the most broken women and men will deny any sort of hurt or emptiness. And as I have said, men are less easily broken.

Therefore, I am forced to conclude that if this is the social environment that has formed, it is likely the result of a fundamental inequity between the sexes. Men are simply the more powerful and influential gender, both in bed and in the culture at large. They get what they want most often. This explains a number of other cultural phenomena, including the lack of resistance women mount against the proliferation of pornography, and the fact that men are successfully battling the economic penalties of divorce by simply not marrying in the first place. As Whitehead summarizes, "…the modern single woman's malaise is…rooted in an imbalance of power. Only this time the terms are sexual and social rather than economic and institutional."

This is a serious indictment of feminism, as it implies that feminists have been quite shallow in their understanding of the nature of womankind. A denial of womens' basic needs, and a focus on the superficial rather than the substantive has been an incredible disservice to women. In the old days, there was always the hope that transcendant morals (i.e., those stemming from a belief in God) would provide protection for all members of a society, but even that hope is dwindling. As Christianity wanes and truly fundamentalist religions like Islam take over, women have much to fear in the millenium we have just entered. The only answer is found in the God who inspired the words, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28, NIV) Principles such as that used to influence our society.

 

Notes.

[1] Grossman, Jennifer, "Anarchy In Eros, Where The Men Went", The American Spectator, June/July 2003, pp 56-58.

[2] Whitehead, Barbara Defoe, Why There are No Good Men Left: The plight of the new single woman, 2003, Broadway Books, ISBN 0-7679-0639-X.

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