Last month I talked about women — about how God made us uniquely, wonderfully feminine, and about the various ways our culture distorts our feminine gifts.
This month I’m “crossing the aisle” to talk about men.
I hope it goes without saying that I am a big fan of masculinity in general, and of many, many men in particular. Throughout my life it has been my privilege to know some truly awesome, wonderful men — my father, my brothers, my friends, my co-workers in the vineyard of ministry work, and yes, the men I’ve dated.
In fact, when I was younger, I was always the girl whose friends were the guys. I always liked how direct they were, how their friendships weren’t all wrapped in drama, gossip and backbiting like so many female friendships I’d seen. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate the gift of great girlfriends. But when I’m at a party and the women are entering their third hour of discussing labor pains and NFP, I’ll generally wander outside to hang out with the men and discuss world events while savoring the wonderful (yes, wonderful) aroma of cigar smoke.
Masculinity is a wonderful gift from God. But, like all gifts from God, it is vulnerable to distortion. It’s that old “original sin” problem. Just as the culture has a hard time getting femininity right, so it has a hard time with masculinity.
The way I see it, masculinity in our culture is distorted in two different ways. The first and most obvious way is in “hyper-masculinity.” That’s where men’s natural gifts are twisted. Men are naturally strong. They tend to be more analytical and less in touch with/ruled by their emotions. (See last month’s discussion about the difference in the size of the corpus callosum in the male and female brains, and how that contributes to differences in male/female emotional makeup.) When those natural gifts are left to their own devices without the influence of Divine grace, they become a caricature of true masculinity, and men become stereotypes of themselves.
We see examples of this all around us. There’s the John Wayne type — the tough guy who has no discernable emotional life at all. There’s a spin-off of that type — the analytical, Spock-type man who is so completely ruled by reason that emotion has no place in his world.
And then we have the stereotype of the hyper-sexual male. Apparently, as a result of original sin, men are much more oriented to promiscuity than women are. It’s not a slam against men; it’s just one of the specific temptations they face. Women face a lot of specific temptations. In general, anonymous or random sex with multiple partners is not one of them. We generally find it repulsive. But our sexual nature is such that, without Divine grace, the idea of promiscuous sex can seem very appealing to the male of the species.
We see in our high schools — and beyond — that “boys” of any age gauge their “manhood” by the number and variety of their sexual conquests. I’ve never understood that. I mean, a dog can have sex. It has never particularly impressed me.
So that’s one extreme. Then we come to the other extreme — the denial or “feminization” of masculinity.
This one is a particular pet peeve of mine.
I talked last time about how the feminist movement, in many ways, declared that women had to be more like men. It seems to me that one of the collateral effects of that movement was an expectation that men should be more like women.
I call it the “Alan Alda-fication” of men. And I really don’t like it.
I see it across the board, but I find this particular syndrome is most prevalent among men who married in the 1980’s and who now find themselves back in the dating “scene” for the first time since then. They think the Alan Alda “sensitive male” model represents a woman’s ideal man. They actually brag to the women they date about how they are in touch with their feelings and their “feminine side,” thinking this will win points.
It really, really doesn’t.
Let me say that, as a woman, I have no objection to a man being “in touch with his feelings.” I think it’s nice, in fact. But given a choice between a man who is in touch with his feelings, and a man who can confidently throw a punch when the situation calls for it, I’ll take the guy who can throw a punch any day.
Sensitivity is good — as long as it doesn’t replace or interfere with his real, masculine characteristics. But without those, all of the sensitivity in the world isn’t going to make up for the loss.
This may partly explain the propensity some younger women have for gravitating toward the “bad guys.” Yeah, they throw punches far too often — they seem to go through life looking for a fight — but especially when the boys around them are still in the process of developing fully their masculine gifts, that particular stereotype can be very appealing to a young girl.
I, like most women, am attracted to men — not women with biceps. I know that the male of the species is maddeningly different than I am. And those differences both frustrate and intrigue me. I like being with men because they’re different. I like the strength a man brings to a relationship. I like the thought of being “taken care of” — not in a condescending sense, but in the sense of having a partner with gifts that I lack. And yes, I like the thought of being with someone who could throw a punch on my behalf if I were really, truly threatened.
I close by quoting (with permission) a letter I received from a reader:
Men should be manly (yes, I embrace that term, today a dirty word!), decent and (in polite society) gentle. We used to be raised that way, but the traditional ideal of decent manhood is all but dead. Nowadays, too many “men” in their 40s and younger are sissies who don't stand for anything except drinking, “getting laid,” and growing facial hair… I don't pretend to be perfect.
But I was also raised to be a man, not a woman with a deep-pitched voice.
Mary Beth Bonacci, in addition to being a Catholic Match columnist is an internationally known speaker. Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. You can contact Mary Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.RealLove.net.
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