Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sex, Love, and Marriage

The one arena in which gender differences are encouraged is romance. Whether courtship or dating, men and women are not looking for a no-nonsense business partner when they enter a relationship. If society looks down on traditional feminine values (graciousness, maturity, competence, modesty), what qualities have taken their place?

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case I'll skip the image to keep this family-friendly. The sad truth is that many women choose to display their bodies, as if breasts and a trim figure are what being a woman is all about. College break photos show young women, in scarcely more clothing than is legally required, in provocative poses. High school proms feature dresses cut to accentuate cleavage. Eight-year-old girls wear tight pants with words printed across their butts.

For all of our talk about the inside being more important than the outside, it's what's outside that is valued. This is why sex appeal sells everything from food to cars to music and more. Society applauds women who bare all to show they are comfortable with their bodies and proud to be female. Those girls in string bikinis on college break? I knew some of them. They also drank to excess, had multiple sexual partners, and failed to get adequate sleep or nutrition. They were tearing themselves apart and never really happy.

Physical attraction is important in a marriage, no doubt about it. But if a woman is only valued as a potential sexual partner, her relationships are not likely to be very fulfilling. She will not be encouraged to live as a whole person. Marriage is the gift of oneself to the other; one who sees his or her partner as an object for sexual pleasure is incapable of giving or receiving that gift.

Fun Fact: My dress was a clearance prom dress for $84!
Photo credit: Eric Brophy, photobloke.smugmug.com

I'm not advocating for the nebulous "good old days". I don't think there has been a time when women had equal freedom with men and were encouraged to embrace femininity. (Except, you know, the Garden of Eden.) I am advocating for thoughtful consideration of gender roles in our society. Can we make a culture where men and women live out complementary lives with mutual respect? The balance may be a difficult one to find, but I believe it is worth the effort.

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