Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Opposite Sex

Karen just posted a great blog post entitled "Kissing Boys," analyzing her relations with the opposite sex. It's really interesting to hear the perspective of anyone in this regard, but it's also interesting to hear the perspective of an SSA woman. There's already an interesting comment conversation going on for the post, and I've already contributed. This blog post is basically a modification of the comments I've already made there, detailing my thoughts and feelings about the opposite sex as an SSA guy. I know, I've done this before, but I'm a bit more mature now, in both my thinking and my writing, so having another go at it would be good.

I think my reaction to the opposite sex has been very different from many. There is no fear or even disgust towards women or the female body in general. I think women are very beautiful and I can recognize that beauty, but it’s completely non-sexual. It’s almost artistic, I think. I know when a woman has pretty features but they don’t do anything for me in romantic terms.

Even on an emotional or intellectual side, I am engaged and interested by men. I just find men to be exciting and stimulating, in pretty much all facets of their character, while women — though respected — just don’t get much of my attention. I suppose this sounds very sexist, but it really just has to do with my initial reactions. I have plenty of female friends who I adore. But if I’m in a crowd and looking at people, I notice the men. Women just aren’t on my radar, even in a non-romantic way.

I suppose I just find men to be more fun and energetic. There seems to be a bit more carefree attitude among men, which, of course, is largely dependent upon the fact that I’m a college guy and the guys I know are too. Women, in general, often come across to me as preoccupied. But of course this isn’t the rule. I know plenty of fun girls and plenty of grim guys. The problem with making these sort of observations is that they can play to stereotypes. Let me be clear that I'm not saying men are all great and women are all catty, but it is a bit of a gut reaction.

I think a lot of it comes down to small observations that are almost impossible to write down. The simple way men communicate is very different from the way women communicate, even in subtle ways, and I think I can pick up on those subtleties and it really does make a difference to me in terms of attraction. I will say, however, that I think men tend to come across as more forthright and honest than women do, and that is something that certainly endears me to them more. I'm not saying men actually are more honest. I just mean that their way of communication sounds more honest to me. Some say women tend to be more political and diplomatic in their communication style, and I will admit I can pick up on that from many women, and it's something that just shuts me down. It shuts me down when I hear it from a man, too. So, largely, this is just my own personal opinion of what I like as an individual.

Of course, I am just talking about initial gut reactions. I don’t think women are less fun or less energetic or less honest than men. That’s just how I react at first on a very instinctive level (in the same way that men instinctively attract me physically). In fact, when Karen's article first pressed me to think about this issue, I just kind of fumbled around for an answer to the question. I've never really thought of it before, but it is interesting to note it now that I've been introspective about it.

I certainly don’t have any gender stereotypes on a logical level. In fact, I’m probably one of the most open-minded and fair people I know when it comes to stereotypes of any kind. The fact of the matter is that at this point, I’m just sexually oriented towards the same sex, and I think that can account for my initial gut reactions about women.

I have wonderful relationships with women. Some women are as close to me as sisters and I trust them with my life. They’re great and loyal friends and I wouldn’t have them any other way. It’s just when it comes to the emotional connectivity required for a romantic relationship, not just a friendly one, I desire a male energy, I guess. There really isn’t any way to verbalize that properly, but I hope I got it across here.

I do think that, as SSA strugglers, we focus on the lack of physical connectivity too much, as if that's the main part of a relationship. It's certainly important, but I think it’s the inability to connect in an intense emotional way that really defines the problem between SSA folks and the opposite sex. Straight couples are able to work around things like impotence and inability to have sex all the time. It’s certainly difficult, but the emotional bond makes up for it, I assume.

For me, and I think for many SSA folks, however friendly we are with the opposite sex, and no matter what great friendships we have with members of the opposite sex, the fact of the matter is that we feel more emotionally bonded to the same sex. I do, at least. I know the argument is often made that SSA men don’t get along with heterosexual men, but that’s not the case with me. I like all men, and I like women too, just not to the same degree of emotional intensity as men.

I highly encourage people to continue this discussion, either here or at Karen's blog. Hope everyone's weekend is going well!

24 comments:

Jon said...

These are very interesting points which I don't hear expressed very often in this debate. I am as flummoxed as you are but I agree with much of what you said. To move away from what you said, I will go as far as to say I have been drawn to women physically, been attracted to women (the female body is a beautiful thing and no matter how much some gay culture treats women, I think most gay men realize that), and if I'd wanted to, I probably could have pursued a physical relationship with a woman, but I have never felt that emotional connection. I've never been in love with a woman, or even been very close. I'm not sure I ever will be. Maybe it depends on meeting an individual, not a gender. I don't know. I think a lot of gay men, whether it's ever said out loud or not, have in the back of their mind that they might eventually find a woman who will be for them. I sometimes wonder about this for myself. I think, if it happens, it's not going to be something I will myself into doing. I think that's counterproductive and the harder someone tries to be what they aren't, the less likely it will happen. Like the stories you hear about couples who try for a baby for years and years, and then, when they stop stressing so much, the woman becomes pregnant.

MR said...

As I commented on Karen's post, I don' think I should try to develop the weak hetero feelings I sometimes have. When I have tried to date girls before, it was forced, awkward, and maybe even insincere.

With one girl in particular my efforts only resulted in pain for her. I just don't want to hurt another woman like that.

e2c said...

Jay, I read your posts on Karen's blog, and one thing came to mind, though admittedly, it might be way off. Here it is: Do you and your women friends share common interests, dreams, goals, tastes...?

I can't help wondering that maybe socialization (for both men and women) has a lot to do with some of your gut feelings/reactions. (Not to diminish your feelings toward men, just thinking aloud.) Might also have a *lot* to do with being in college, too. ;)

Jay said...

Jon: Like the stories you hear about couples who try for a baby for years and years, and then, when they stop stressing so much, the woman becomes pregnant.

What's funny is that I heard an ex-lesbian I know refer to her marriage in the exact same way. She was just white-knuckling it, trying as hard as possible to be the best celibate Christian woman she could be, and she was very resigned to be content with that. And then, boom, her future husband walks in the door and she's fallen for him. I'm not saying that I necessarily hope that happens to me, but in the most successful ex-gay marriages I've seen, it's what usually transpires.

MR: I think your concern for the women involved is very important. I think a lot of times when talking about this issue SSA men seem to just assume that the woman will be fine and any benefit or detriment that happens is ours alone. It's selfish, really, and I think your concern for the women you've known is very honorable.

E2C: Oh, goodness, I'm sure socialization has a lot to do with it, and college is a part of that socialization. I don't really think that my female friends and I share very common tastes.

To be honest, I don't share common tastes with many of my friends. I'm very off-beat (really, my interests include trashy reality shows and, well, talking about this). I'm not very "girly" though, so when my girlfriends are off watching Grey's Anatomy, I can't say I'm there. It's certainly something of interest to watch out for, though. Do take care!

Christocentric said...

Jay, if you are pursuing godliness and you know that your attraction to men isn't godly, what is wrong with pursuing friendships with women?

Why not pursue those women who do have much in common with you. Build friendships - in other words, become friends with women.

Or, if you find you are emotionally more attached to men, why not avoid them because of the impropriety of that relationship?

What should disgust the Christian in his/her personal walk with God is sin. You know that God is not pleased for you to be attracted to men.

Where is your desire to please God in relationships?

Jay said...

Did I say there was anything wrong in pursuing friendships with women? I thought I said that I have many wonderful female friends who I adore. It's just my initial reactions to women tend to be more negative than my reactions to men. That's all this post (and Karen's post, which it is based off) is about.

I mean, come on, most men get along with men better. Most women get along with women better. Men are more likely to talk to other men about their problems and the same goes for women. Now, I certainly think Christians should try to move beyond this, because it limits our ability to be there for one another as brothers and sisters, but I don't see how it's inherently "wrong."

I mean, it's not like I am physically attracted to any of my male friends. In fact, I'm attracted to very few people I know (very few). So any relationship I have is going to be purely platonic (especially since most of my closest friends are either straight males or women).

In a situation where I would be attracted to someone inappropriately, my response would not be to avoid them (especially if they were straight, since then there's no fear of an actual relationship starting). I would pray about it and hope to see them in a more Christian light, and if they were close enough I would try to work out the problem and set up boundaries with them myself, but that kind of situation hasn't arisen.

In other words, I think my desire to please God in my relationships is pretty evident. If you don't see it, sorry.

Christocentric said...

Okay Jay, you answered many of my questions. I was just real concerned with the language of this post that appeared that women were out and men were in.

But if you are working on developing relationships with women, that's important. I highly encourage that especially with your desire to have children. I can see you being married to a woman and being a good father in spite of any SSA issues.

If you know what God expect's of you and you are constantly submitting to His will, that's the most important thing.

MR said...

Christocentric,

You said, "if you find you are emotionally more attached to men, why not avoid them because of the impropriety of that relationship?"

As a man, emotionally strong (not obsessive)friendships with godly Christian men have been very important in fighting my desires for gay sexual sin. I cannot afford to "avoid them" as you suggest. My best friend is a Christian, very heterosexual married man. We pray for each other and talk about our temptations in depth. God has used that relationship again and again to help me successfully fight my sexual temptations. I suspect he would say the same about me.

Of course, I am definitely open to female friends, I just don't think I should go for a romantic relationship.

TRiG said...

As a gay atheist, I feel I really ought to have something to say about this, but I don't.

To my mind, Jay, you have trapped yourself within the fetters of your mind, and are living a life far less full than you could be.

No doubt you feel similarly about me.

TRiG.

Christocentric said...

MR: "Of course, I am definitely open to female friends, I just don't think I should go for a romantic relationship."

If you are open to female friends, then why do you think you shouldn't pursue a romantic relationship if you've found one to be a great friend? What bothers me is your statement that you shouldn't as opposed to you saying you can't.

As a Christian, you are saying NO to God saying YES. In other words you are clearly making a choice here, and that choice is going against what God deems is natural.

Trig, I had addressed you in the post below this one and wondered if you're Christian or not. You aren't so everything else I'm sharing you can ignore.

You simply need Christ in your life.

Jay said...

Carlotta, MR made it clear earlier in this thread that he has no attractions to women. Friendship doesn't equal sexual attraction, and sexual attraction is needed for a marriage.

Getting a woman's hopes up and then hurting them when you reveal that you aren't that into her physically is something that shouldn't be done. A woman is entitled to sexual gratification within marriage and if the husband can't satisfy that, then they shouldn't have married in the first place.

If you don't think so, though, MR lives in San Diego. Maybe you should ask him out. ;-)

A. Friend said...

Hello Jay,
I want to be provocative and say sexual attraction is not needed for a marriage. Didn't Jacob find Leah unattractive? Yet we have Jesus through that lineage.

In theory I could argue that the man's sexual attraction doesn't matter as long as he can maintain an erection--after all it's not the man's attraction that gives the woman pleasure, but rather what he does.

I tried....hehe...

Christocentric said...

No Jay, I won't ask him out because I don't ask guys out at all! I'm old school and believe in the man making the first move.

I'm very content in my singleness right now and not even looking for anyone else in my life anyways.

So no thanks for the attempted matchmaking! :)

Jay said...

A Friend: Well, with the full understanding that we're deviating from G-rated material here, you're right in that an erection is an important requirement for a man before intercourse can take place.

But if the man has to think of men (or anyone else other than his wife) in order to get that erection, instead of focusing on his wife, then he is technically committing adultery in his mind even if he's "being faithful."

If a man is not attracted to his wife, and would not be able to have sex with her without resorting to fantasies about other people, then he simply should not marry. It would be better for both to remain single.

Carlotta: Point taken. Though if you do come across a guy who happens to struggle with SSA, I hope you don't turn him down for that fact. No man is perfect. I can't speak for MR, but I think one of the (many) reasons that many men in our position don't pursue relationships with women is because of rejection from women who back out as soon as they hear those three letters.

e2c said...

Hi Jay,

I guess I wasn't very clear about what I meant by "socialization." I was thinking more along the lines of traits that are cultural, not necessarily innate - and that kids are raised to follow. (This touches everyone, no matter how hard their parents try to keep it at arm's length.)

So... what I was thinking was more along the lines of how traits that are often considered normal (even essential) in boys and men are often frowned upon when girls and women exhibit them. Girls are *not* raised to be brash, bold, risktakers, to stand up for themselves, and - in an awful lot of cases - to be self-confident. As an adult woman, i've had to learn to do many of these things, and it hasn't been easy, because I was raised to try to be accommodating, to make peace rather than waves, to *not* be assertive, and so on.

Adult women who are assertive (not aggressive; that's another thing entirely) are often labeled as b*****s and worse. In many cases, it seems to be every bit as much of a gut reaction as some of the things you're saying. And you know, I've done my own share of stereotyping, too - so I'm not trying to be holier than thou or more in the know (or whatever) here.

Am wondering if you've ever read anything by linguist Deborah Tannen? She's written some very interesting books on the ways men and women communicate, and on how they hear things - her books are absolutely not in the "Men are Martians, women are from some other planet" category at all. They're fascinating, but also somewhat frustrating, because she's invested in observation and reporting, not in coming up with solutions per se. (Being a linguist, not a pscyh prof.) But I've found that pondering some of the things she describes has helped me come to a better understanding of how I might be able to both "get" my male friends, and to communicate with them as well. might be worth a look, for you and for others.

Also, I'm finding that a lot of my ideas and perceptions - of people in general and men in particular - have changed a lot as I've gone through life... which (I think) probably happens for/to many of us. it's pretty remarkable to see, in retrospect, the way my thinking and perceptions of others has changed over time - which I'd attribute, at least partly, to God's ongoing work in my life. (But also to being a shade older and maybe just a bit wiser - though the "wiser" part is probably open to debate! :))

e2c said...

Oh, an add: I think the commenter who mentioned that men tend to talk with men, and women with women, is pretty much correct - regardless of sexual orientation, or any other factors.

Developing a close relationship with someone of another gender (aka "the opposite sex") can be hard work, no matter if it's a friendship, getting to know a sibling better, a romantic relationship... whatever. But that doesn't mean we should avoid trying! ;)

MR said...

A Friend,

You said, "after all it's not the man's attraction that gives the woman pleasure, but rather what he does."

Um, with the women I have heard from, they do not want sex to be a merely physical thing. They need to KNOW and feel they are loved emotionally and sexually. Attraction is very much a part of that!

Jay,

You said,"I can't speak for MR, but I think one of the (many) reasons that many men in our position don't pursue relationships with women is because of rejection from women who back out as soon as they hear those three letters."

For me, one reason I don't pursue a romantic relationship with a woman is because I honestly do not believe I have enough sexual attraction to women to sustain a marriage. That means the relationship would end in hurt and disappointment probably even before it reached the point of marriage.

All that means is that I now have opportunities to serve God joyfully with my extra time and energy in ways I could not if married!

Brandon said...

Attractions can be funny when it comes to sex. I've heard married SSA men before talk about how when they first met their wife, they weren't attracted to her. But once they became friends, and love developed between them, attractions grew. I've often found this interesting, because it proves physical attraction isn't everything. If I fell in love with a woman, somehow, I think through that love, regardless of whatever she looked like, I'd be able and wanting to please her sexually. Anyone else agree with this? I mean, if you love your wife and want to share with her everything about yourself, wouldn't that include sex? I mean, your wife may not be the most attractive women that ever lived, but then again, most men's wives aren't. And yet they make it work. I think it's because of love. And the love is strong enough that attractional preferance doesn't matter so much. What I see is that the relationship isn't based on attractions so much as it's based on love. As long a couple has that, all else is good.

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

As an SSA man who's married, I have a lot to write about this. I think Jay, A. Friend, and Brandon have made some great points here that I want to elaborate on.

PS - I conceived my daughter on my honeymoon :) So it is possible for an SSA dude to have an erection for his wife :) However, marriage is not a sign of spiritual maturity in an SSA man- it's a gift of God in spite of his falleness :)

Joshua Cookingham said...

hmm....Just wondering, what does SSA mean?

In any case, I'm straight, but I think it's important to have healthy relationships with women as friends, but more importantly as sisters in Christ. The problem with isolating yourself, is that leads to falling back to other sins, and it makes it harder to be more accountable.

I love the disscussions you bring up, Jay. Keep up the good work!

God bless!

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

Here's what I wrote yesterday on the subject: http://giraffepen.blogspot.com/2009/03/where-does-marriage-fit-in-with-ssa.html

Tonight I want to get more practical :)

Giraffe Pen (기린 만년필) said...

By the way Jay, I like reading this blog and getting to know you through your writing. You write well and your perspective is interesting, if not challenging :)

Jay said...

Joshua: SSA means same-sex attraction. It's just a more politically-correct way to say someone who struggles with homosexuality, I guess. Some guys in our position don't like to be called gay or ex-gay, so SSA is probably best.

Giraffe Pen: I've also enjoyed your recent posts, and you challenge and interest me too. Thanks!

Joshua Cookingham said...

Oh, okay. Thanks Jay, sorry, I'm a little ignorant of certain terms.

God bless.