Men are the ones who commit atrocities and murders, torture prisoners, start and fight brawls and wars over pride, politics, religion or land. They are the ones who molest little girls entrusted to their care, rape adult women, and bash and rob fragile old ladies.
Men are often unaware of their own feelings as well as of those of others. Relationship is not their strong suit. Males are task-oriented, unlike females, who are people-oriented. The great vice of maleness is ego, often called machismo. As a female friend of mine remarked after dating two new men, who hardly let her get a word in, "I'm tired of stroking men's egos."
David Barry wrote, "But I do think we need to explore the commitment problem, which has caused many women to conclude, mistakenly, that men, as a group, have the emotional maturity of hamsters. This is not the case. A hamster is much more capable of making a lasting commitment to a woman, especially if she gives it those little food pellets."
As for chores: "If God had meant men to do a fair share of the housework, he wouldn't have made us such lazy slobs."
Given all these, and myriad other failings that I'll leave to the (female) reader's imagination to elaborate, the question arises whether perhaps men have some hidden, redeeming feature. Or are they just an unpleasant substitute for in vitro fertilisation?
Only one side of the story is presented in this article - men too have a litany of complaints detailing the faults of females. Perhaps some woman wants to take up the challenge and attempt to show the misogynists why women were invented. (Though personally I don't need any convincing.)
No matter how macho he may be, a man's gentle side will show itself when he plays with little children. He then allows himself to drop the masculine image and to bring out not only the child inside him, but also the feminine, nurturing part of his nature. It intrigues me that the majority of the most burly and masculine-looking men I have met have turned out to be more gentle than the average male (cf Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men".) My theory is that because these men are so obviously masculine in the physical sense, they don't feel they need to prove their maleness by acting tough, and so allow themselves to express their gentle side.
It is easy to overestimate the differences between men and women. For example, I sometimes think that my partner is always hungry, and she that I never am. Yet it is not so at all: she becomes hungry a little faster than I do, pays more attention to bodily needs, and is more inclined to do something about her hunger. So it is with many other qualities, such as cleanliness. It can easily seem that the person who is a little less clean is slovenly, but only in comparison with the other, for only the difference is noticed. It is the difference, however minute it may be, that all the arguments are about.
Maryon Tysoe mentions a common belief that is destructive of relationships: that the sexes are dramatically different. If one holds this belief, then one is not going to make much of an effort to understand one's partner, having recourse instead to the lazy rationalisation that the other cannot be understood by someone of the opposite sex. It also leads to a stereotyped view of one's partner. Instead of seeing the particular individual one is in relationship with, one just sees a typical unit of that general group called 'men' or 'women'.
One survey found that men had significantly more romantic beliefs than women (eg that romantic love only comes once in a lifetime.) Other surveys showed that men gave more importance to being in love as a motive for marriage than women did.
Transsexuals are people (mostly men) who choose to undergo involved and painful procedures to change the biological sex they were born into because it is incompatible with how they feel inside. Their existence illustrates that the boundary between male and female can be crossed.
Men try to shine in their speech, akin to peacocks attracting mates. This show-off behaviour is also the male's attempt at forging a connection. Clumsy though it is, it may initiate a relationship. On the other hand, the shy man does not get noticed by women, who want a man to excite, stimulate and, above all, amuse them. Thus in the Meeting Place column in the SMH, the one quality desired more than any other by women of a prospective partner was a sense of humour. Intelligence came second. The traditional courtship ritual requires that the male tries to impress the female, who acts as an audience wanting to be entertained. Camille Paglia observed that women are attracted by "flaunting, strutting, wild masculine energy".
There is more to it than this superficial level. The average woman wants her man to be a good provider, so that at least this worry could be taken off her. She wants him to appear confident because it gives the impression she could rely on him. A woman wants an assured partner who will actively solve the family's problems. She surmises that a meek male, who lacks social skills and is insecure will have trouble fending for himself, let alone for a whole family.
In other contexts, the masculine manner of showing off when speaking can be of value by injecting intellectual stimulation, abstraction and witty repartee, into what might otherwise be a dull conversation. At a more pragmatic level, it is not enough to just do one's job and do it well. To get ahead one needs to tell others about it, and this involves selling oneself.
Basically, a man is attracted to a woman and vice versa because of the opposites each sees in the other. The man is lured by "feminine" attributes such as being gentle, warm, affectionate, supportive, caring, feeling, sensitive. The woman is attracted by "masculine" attributes: being strong, thinking, ambitious, active, brave, assertive, tough. Conditioning makes both sexes one-sided. A girl is trained to develop mainly her feminine side, and to suppress "masculine" traits such as anger, assertiveness and boisterousness. A boy is taught not to cry and to suppress his gentler feelings.
As a consequence of this one-sided development, the adult person wants to be completed in a relationship, to experience what they miss in themselves. The man can experience caring and gentleness through interaction with his wife - but without owning these qualities. For they are present in him, just as much as in his wife, only undeveloped and unperceived. Conversely, his wife may want him to be strong, so that she would feel secure with him. Again, it is her own strength she is projecting. Projection thus acts as the glue in the relationship. It also keeps each person stuck in a sex-role.
Of course these are stereotypes: real people are more complex and varied. There are also many cases of role reversal. It seems true of most of the couples I know personally that the woman is the assertive decision-maker, while the man is the more sensitive of the two. This shows that it is misleading to speak of masculine and feminine qualities: a gender-free terminology such as yin and yang is preferable. I don't use it because it is less familiar.
Robert Johnson explains the male need of the feminine in "She":
Terrible things happen to men who are deprived of the presence of women... for usually it is the presence of woman that reminds each man of the best that is in him... There seems to be a peculiar vacant spot in a man's psychology here. Most men get their deepest conviction of self-worth from a woman, wife, mother... A man depends largely on woman for the light in the family as he is not well equipped at finding meaning for himself... It is mostly the woman's task to lead a man to new consciousness in relationship... Few women understand how great is the hunger in a man to be near femininity... If a woman wishes to give a most precious gift to a man, if she would truly feed his greatest masculine hunger... she will be very feminine when her man is mutely asking for that precious quality.
A woman seems to have a corresponding need for masculinity. She wants her man to be a strong male so that he'd give her a model of firmness, decisiveness and assertion, helping her feel more confident and self-assured. The strong male makes her feel he will provide for her and take care of her, giving her a feeling of security and safety. Another big issue is that traditionally, a man takes on the role of allaying a woman's fears. In addition, by admiring and cherishing her femininity, he enhances her sense of self-value.
David Williamson related:
I showed a film of Don's Party at a Danish university and afterwards four strong feminists made a confession to me. There is an arch male chauvinist character called Cooley, and these feminists found themselves attracted to him, and it was a problem. They kept being attracted to these dominant males and they knew it was politically incorrect, whereas the other males who were sensitive and nice they had a term for them - Cotton Wool Pricks.
Wendy Dennis confirms this, "The trouble with Sensitive New Age Guys (SNAGs) is, they don't get women's lust-meters ticking. They are often totally devoid of sex appeal, and seem weak soft, limp. Women find it impossible to feel carnal desire for a SNAG." By contrast, the heroes in Mills & Boon romances are generally rich, macho and extraordinarily successful. They tend to be 'reformed cads'.
Men do bring things that can be seen to be bad to women, but some women enjoy it. They like the firmness, the traditional male qualities, the risk-taking, the aggression, the need men have to dominate, the element of security that men do and don't provide. All those stereotypes do still work powerfully and still apply.
I once counselled a woman who had a particularly macho boyfriend. When she asked me whether she should stay with him, I turned this around by asking what advice she would give to herself. Her reply was immediate and impassioned: "Leave him because he's a prick!". In the next breath, she flatly refused to accept her own advice. This explains what puzzled me for years: why men whom I found obnoxious were successful at attracting women.
Even more telling are the instances of intelligent women who seek out and marry convicted murderers in prison. This indicates the need for power in the female. Mikal Gilmore wrote that he met women who wanted to sleep with him simply because he was the brother of the murderer, Gary Gilmore.
It is well known that many women have contradictory demands of a partner. While they want a ratbag for excitement they also want a reliable 'nice guy' to feel secure with and depend on. Do women know what they want? One answer is given in All Men Are Bastards, "A woman doesn't know what kind of man she doesn't want until she marries him."
Whereas sex and intimacy are inseparable for most women, this is not true of men. Most men would take the opportunity to have sex with a desirable woman if no negative consequences were attached. Most women do not enjoy having sex with a man unless they are emotionally attached to him. Male libido is far more active and undiscriminating than the female variety, as Ian Warden testifies, "Almost all the women who excite us do not set out to be exciting and are not excited by us and are utterly unavailable to us."
Men fear intimacy but are eager for sex. Women want intimacy but are hesitant about sex.
Yet at a deeper level, we all fear intimacy, except that women seek it more and fear it less than men do. Hence they are the ones who push for more intimacy, with men resisting. This can give the misleading impression that women want it while men don't. The opposite is true with sex - because men are so obviously obsessed with it, this can give the false impression that women are uninterested.
I think it's hard to contest the view that men are more pre-occupied with sex. The male-oriented nature of the industries of prostitution and pornography seems like solid evidence to me. Men, whether gay or straight, easily go to prostitutes; women do not. As Kathy Lette put it, "Everyone knows that the way to a man's heart is not through his stomach. That's aiming too high." Another indication is the rampant (pre-AIDS) sexuality of homosexual men, who are not constrained by females. I think male heterosexuality would show a similar pattern if women were as obsessed with sex as men are. Instead, women tame male sexuality. Men have the opposite effect on women. To the extent that traditional sex roles are followed, the man acts as the accelerator, the woman as the brake. Both are needed for a successful journey.
Women tend to have what men derisively call a "touchy, feely" approach to sex, eg "Sex is... warm, sensuous, cuddles; flirting, teasing, fun times." To me (a male, alas) this is fine as a description of affection and fun, but is peripheral to sex itself. For a man sex is synonymous with excitement.
There is an interesting parallel: pornography does for men what romantic novels of the Mills and Boon type do for women. The women's books provide an idealised fantasy of romantic love, pornography gives men the fantasy of idealised sex. It is as hard for a male to understand the female interest in romantic fiction as it is for a woman to comprehend why her husband is turned on by pornography. Thus women can teach men about the ideal of love, while their men can help them explore the fantasy aspects of sexuality. Since his mind spends a lot of time in this area, it is usually the man who suggests sex variations, new positions, games, sexy clothes, unusual locations, exhibitionism, using books and films, or the acting out of fantasies.
Colin Wilson suggests that for sex to be satisfactory, it must involve the invasion of another's alien-ness. A man is sexually aroused by a woman precisely because she is so different from him, both physically and emotionally. My speculation is that men prize beauty so highly in a woman because they feel they lack it themselves, and that women are attracted to the sort of men who embody power and excitement because they feel the lack of these qualities in themselves.
Barbara Amiel wrote an article called, "Why Women Marry Up":
Power is an aphrodisiac because it protects and offers a shield from the world. It envelops a woman and plays to her most basic instinct of vulnerability... Power is sexy, not simply in its own right but because it inspires self-confidence in its owner and a shiver of subservience on the part of those who approach it.
Why is duality needed to develop intimacy? Perhaps it is because we need to unite the poles represented by masculine and feminine. The mystics speak of achieving the divine union of opposites.
How does this work in sex? While women benefit men by adding to, or enriching the feeling aspect of sexuality, men's contribution is to make sex more exciting and passionate. If sex were an all-feminine preserve then it might be too 'nice', dainty, too tame, clean and domesticated. Apparently many lesbian couples suffer from a syndrome called 'bed death'. Of course these are dangerous words for a male writer!
Psychologists are finding that men generally are still more reticent when it comes to emotions like sympathy, sadness and distress, while women are more inhibited when it comes to anger and sexuality. Yet studies are finding that men and women differ little, if at all, in the actual physiology of these feelings: the differences appear only when it comes to their expression... Some of the most compelling laboratory research shows that, when provoked, men and women had equivalent reactions in terms of heart rate and other physiological responses. But when questioned, the men usually said they were angry while the women usually said they were hurt or sad... One study found that as many as 42 per cent of women said they were not sexually aroused, even as readings of vaginal temperature showed that they were responding physiologically... In the same study, not a single man was unaware of his sexual arousal.
Two sexes were created so that each could learn from the other, including about coming to terms with the feelings just mentioned.
The world would be a dull place if there were only men or only women in it. If there were no men, with their task orientation, there would be little of what we call progress (for all its faults). Society would be much more static, for women are concerned with being and continuing, and with creating new life. They generally lack the Faustian striving of the male. While women create with their wombs, men are driven to create things and ideas with their hands and minds. A father usually wants his son to achieve more than he has; a mother's ambitions for her daughter have generally been more circumscribed (at any rate, until recently).
Often, a man extends his woman, eg when sight-seeing he goes further, encourages her to walk up the hill and so on. While women serve the function of helping men face reality, men add the important dimensions of dreaming, playing and risk-taking to women's lives. While in Turkey I made a difficult and painful climb in hot weather. My partner was unable to understand why. It was the male need to fly, to expand the limits, to be free, to have the fresh experience of a child, in a word, an adventure. It is often asserted that women have more sense than men. So why do they need us? Easy, they need us to introduce some precious nonsense into their lives.
I believe that a major difference between male and female conditioning is that women are taught to please others, men to please themselves. Women are trained to deny their own needs. Men are the counter-balance to women's practicality and other-centredness. A woman needs a man to lead her a little astray, for he represents pleasure. Perhaps his role is not so much to bring pleasure into her life, as to model its pursuit.
If there were no women there would be little development of the feeling dimension and little personal growth. Men tend to provide leadership, women tend to follow. Traditionally, the husband was dominant and work-oriented, his wife nurturant and concerned with the relationship. The female role was to support males in their endeavours and to consolidate rather than to initiate. Traditionally, male-female roles complemented each other.
I hope it goes without saying that I am not proposing that this is the way it should be. However, it is a starting point for seeing why males need females and vice versa in the present situation.
Please note I am not saying men are more logical or women more passive and so on. I am talking about psychological femininity and masculinity, not the biological fact of being female or male.
The four elements are a useful analogy to illustrate how the sexes need each other. The feminine elements are earth and water, masculine are air and fire. We need security, identity, grounding and stability (earth). We need fluidity and the ability to mould ourselves to the environment (water). We also need the masculine qualities of playfulness, novelty and change (fire), as well as intellect, fantasy and dreams (air). Fire also furnishes intensity, variety and transformation. Air gives us the intellect, which deals with the invisible and the imponderable, with what is abstract or only potential. Men's ideas are like mutations - most are not useful, yet ideas are necessary, or else we would still be hunters and gatherers living in caves.
For example, if a couple goes on a trip the person showing more feminine characteristics may want to revisit, whereas the other will prefer to seek out the new, extending the first person by seeking novelty. The feminine strength is to continue and to preserve life. The masculine is to seek adventure and extension. Men are more likely to feel driven. The feminine prefers to stay with the known, the masculine hankers after the unknown. Each of us needs a balance of both.
On a literal level, air, water and earth are necessary to human existence, while fire is needed for civilisation. Being the most active element, fire is the one that most easily becomes destructive (as in war). Yet in itself it is neutral - it is up to us how we use it. Certainly, the masculine is more dangerous than the feminine. It's not maleness (ie biological sex) that is the problem, but rather a man's rampant masculinity when it isn't balanced by his inner feminine. The most extreme examples are the Somali gunmen and East Timorese militias.
Even in the most mature and egalitarian relationships, there can be an aspect of the woman mothering the man and of him fathering her (or vice versa).
A relationship provides us with a partner who acts as a working model of our undeveloped half. Working on a relationship necessitates withdrawing what we have projected onto the other person, so that we begin to see them as they are. The painful upsets in an intimate relationship teach us what emotional stuff we are made of. Krishnamurti has expressed this wonderfully: "Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself." Since this involves finding out much about ourselves we would rather not know, many of us prefer to leave the relationship instead. Stephanie Beacham quipped, "People keep asking me if I'll marry again. It's as if after you've had one car crash you want another." It seems we may need such an experience of collision to jolt us into greater consciousness. Men undeniably have an aptitude for pushing women out of their psychological comfort zone.
The differences between the sexes are there for an excellent purpose - for each to learn from the other. Put simplistically, the strong points of the male sex are the weak points of the female sex and vice versa.
Stephen Covey points out that "the very strength of the relationship is in having another point of view... Unity or oneness, is complementariness, not sameness. Sameness is uncreative... and boring. The essence of synergy is to value differences." There is no point in having two clocks if they both indicate the same time.
To paraphrase HG Wells, "Whatever would a woman do with herself if no man stood in her way? Whatever would a man do with himself if there were no woman to reform him?"
If you believe in reincarnation then you probably agree that male and female are not distinct identities but two moulds into which the human spirit is alternately poured. Of course the soul or spirit is neither male nor female. We seem to need both experiences to learn our quota of lessons.
In "Other Lives, Other Selves" the psychologist Roger Woolger describes his discoveries from past life therapy. He sees the wounded feminine archetype as residing in all of us, since men too remember past lives where, as women, they have been raped or sexually abused. He claims that role-reversal between victim and persecutor is a common pattern in successive incarnations:
Women remember past lives in which they are men on the battlefield, finding themselves perpetuating the very same atrocities often with unashamed relish. From this archetype with its two poles - active and passive - none of us is entirely free... From past life work a woman may gain all kinds of insights into the wielding - or the abuse - of power, while a man may have a lot to learn about tenderness, sacrifice and solicitude from the inner woman of his past lives.
While Woolger sympathises with the feminist anger at patriarchal abuses, he cautions that such people often fail to look at a similar rage inside themselves. For example, one feminist suggested that even if a man were falsely accused of rape, this would still be a beneficial experience for him, as all men have the potential to rape. The attitude shown in this statement is a mirror-image of the callousness of the rapist to the feelings of the woman he violates. Woolger believes that past life recall bears out Jung's dire warning: "You always become the thing you fight the most."
Since male and female complement each other, each sex seeks completeness through union with the other. This is necessarily a difficult process since the differences that attract a person to their mate are the very ones that cause difficulty in relationship. Women's needs of their partner are contradictory: they want a tough cave-man who is also gentle and sensitive.
Male and female are each incomplete and so complement one another. Each of us is, in that sense, half a person. The male models the qualities of assertiveness, strength, courage, rationality and all the other yang virtues.
While women have much to teach men about intimacy, men enhance the excitement component of sex. Males are the traditional carriers of progress and change in the world. Men add the dimensions of dreaming, playing and risk-taking. A man extends his woman and makes her life more exciting.
All of us need to learn to withdraw what we project onto the opposite sex. That means recognising the disowned qualities as being our own. Growth towards wholeness requires us to develop the characteristics of the other sex. Relationship is the schoolroom for this learning. The purpose of the battle of the sexes is synthesis, not futile conflict.
It seems we need to learn feminine and masculine lessons in successive incarnations. At the most fundamental level, we need duality to achieve synthesis and transformation.
For my own part, I have no doubt that this is what nature intends us to do, and that it is an optimal path towards growth and happiness for both sexes. During thirty-two years of a close relationship, my partner and I gradually came to respect and value the differences between us. We still see things quite differently in so many ways, but that's the fun of it.
Two sexes are needed so that they can play their roles of tormenting and delighting each other.