Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sexuality makes us capable of tenderness but sex is for husband and wife. Nurture helps children embrace their gender identity.

On page 20 of the Montreal Gazette today an article reports brain scan studies of women that tried to see whether drugs might help solve some of the sexual dysfunction or dissatisfaction in women as these drugs appear to be doing in men. Some of the researchers appear to have been puzzled by the greater complexity of the processes connecting the body to the whole inner self in women in comparison with men regarding the factors that contribute to sexual satisfaction. Honestly, does it take a college education and post graduate degrees in science to realize what any married person or grandparent can tell you? Even young people who are awake to the world around them realize that women of all ages care a lot about their relationships and that they see sexuality as tightly connected to relationships.

Men also care about their relationships, but they seem to move more easily from one friendship to another; whereas women tend to invest emotionally a lot more than men. Men tend to be more cavalier about how the relationship develops and about all the feelings associated with it. It's not that women care and men don't, but it's more a question of degree. Women seem to be wired for more intensive attention to their relating; whereas men seem to be wired for more intenstive engagement with the natural world and all its concerns.

Now, these are general statements, and of course there are vast differences of degree even from one person to another. What has shed the most light of all, in my view, on the gender differences between men and women is the research done by Dr. Jeannine Guindon and the formation applications she derived from her research as applied in the Institut de Formation Humaine Intégrale de Montréal, which she founded three decades ago. Working with classic psychological principles, she demonstrated how the development of the human person includes the acceptance of one's gender mode. The male mode is intrusive, while the female mode is inclusive. This mode is rooted in the body, in the sexual organs, but also generalizes into the rest of the body and to the overall behavior of the person.

As children develop into adolescents, if they are encouraged, mentored, and loved with selfless love, they may more easily be willing to embrace their own gender mode. It becomes their preference, and they then need to learn to make use of the other mode. Men can learn to be inclusive, and women can learn to be intrusive. However, if children have insufficient encouragement, mentoring, or are loved with a love that is excessively self-serving, girls may develop into women holding in contempt their own gender mode and instead prefer the male mode, but wielding it more aggressively than they otherwise would. Boys may become men afraid or disrespectful of their own gender mode and instead take refuge in the female mode, sitting in judgement on the male mode as violent and evil.

Without referring to religious faith or the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, Dr. Guindon demonstrated that there is a natural design in the complementary differences between men and women. Their differences constantly and inescapably challenge each other to go beyond the comfort zone, and only when they do is it possible for both to grow as persons and expand their own capacity for selfless love and friendship. Religious faith adds a capacity and willingness to forgive one another and to serve the other by building each other up with ever increasing generosity.

For us to fixate on the biological mechanisms involved in sexual gratification and to put all the eggs in the basket of chemical manipulation is like paying $50,000.00 for a car and straining one's brain to find more creative ways to use it as a door stop or lawn ornament. It' absurd. There is far more to the human person than biology and chemistry. These processes, real as they are to scientific eyes, are intimately bound up with the inner processes of mind, heart, and soul. Without these, you can no more understand human relating than someone from Mars might understand that car on the lawn without the keys or operator's manual.

We are an orchestrated movement of the ebb and flow of the inner workings of the body, emotions (heart), psyche (mind), and spirit (soul). The body wants tenderness, warmth, respectful and caring touch. The heart wants stability, reliability, faithfulness, loyalty, friendship, selflessness, and a multifaceted love. The mind wants meaning and purpose, significance. The soul wants being, existence, life now and without end, eternity, and it wants these things in mutuality, in reciprocal relationship.

The overall result of the simultaneous operation of these multilevel processes within the makeup of each human person, given the varying degrees of lack of development or accomplished development; is a profoundly varied spectrum in the expectations of each person in their relationships. Sexual touch must be preceded by all of these, otherwise it is empty, incomplete, ephemeral, or an outright lie or even a violation.

The wisdom of the Bible's report of God's plan for human beings and marriage is that only a truly stable and permanent relationship even begins to reach the level of involvement and commitment that can ever satisfy the profound expectations that a woman has of her man, of her husband.

Meanwhile, for every single human being, our sexuality - both in our gender identity and in our being enfleshed persons - is actually by design what equips us and makes us capable of experiencing and showing tenderness by expressing the value of other people and of our relationship with them through forms of touching and contact that are not explicitly sexual and do not involve the sexual organs but do enhance our overall feeling of being alive and enjoying the other's presence and company. This companionship crosses over into explicit sexual intimacy in husband and wife because their life long mutual commitment with openness to children lends truth and authenticity to physical union and pleasure. In all other cases the taking of such pleasure is merely trafficking in sex and counterfeit joining.

For further reading, see The Theology of the Body, and The Acting Person, both by Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II.

1 comment:

  1. Just adding to your reading list on this fascinating topic:

    Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla (JPII)
    The Jeweler Shop, Karol Wojtyla (JPII)
    The Splendor of Love, Fr. Schu, LC
    Crossing the Threshold of Love, Mary Shivanandan
    Theology of the Body Explained, Christopher West
    The Good News About Sex and Marriage, Christopher West
    Sex and the Marriage Covenant, John Kippley

    and...most important of all... Humanae Vitae