Friendship Is Possible / Sexualization by Culture of All Relationships
Every so often, the “Ask Amy” advice column can be instructive, or it reflects themes I’ve mentioned on this blog before.
A letter I saw today was one of those times; this is a letter from a married person to “Amy,” who answers letters mailed to the “Ask Amy” column:
“Worried Husband” asked if it was OK to have a “secret friendship” with another woman.
Friendships help us get through life. One problem with our understanding of marriage is that it should be the “be-all and end-all” relationship. That is simply impossible. It’s this wrong-headed belief that drives us to feel as if we must have “secret” relationships.
If we can learn to develop honest and mature relationships with our spouses (and our friends), we avoid the destructive baggage that comes with keeping secrets. Your spouse doesn’t need to know every single thing that you do or say or feel, but she/he does have the right to not be lied to.
Secrets, in the sense of this situation, are lies. — Sally
I agree. Thank you.
— end —
I happen to agree with the letter writer too.
There is a web site which is about friendship, and if I could recall its URL, I’d give the link, but I don’t recall it at the moment. At any rate, one of the site’s guest writers, or maybe the guy who runs the site, laments how everything in our culture, and all relationships are sexualized to the point people just assume that males and females cannot be, or remain, platonic friends.
If and when every encounter or relationship is assumed to have romantic or sexual undertones, or that it will result in that, it makes many people hesitant to reach out to other people. It makes females hesitant to befriend males, males females, and marrieds reluctant to befriend unmarried people.
I’m not saying this is not a possibility, by the way. Many, many times over the years, I’ve had men mistake my platonic conversations with them as flirting. A lot of men assume if you are talking to them, even about mundane topics such as the weather, they assume you are hot for them and want to sleep with them or at least date them, when those are nowhere near your mind at all.
But then, I take it that this is due to the fact that males have been conditioned by churches and secular culture to view all women as temptresses who want them sexually. (I discuss this farther below.)
The church is not immune from this sort of thinking, either. Even Christians assume a man and a woman cannot be friends, or cannot remain friends for long, without the relationship turning sexual and/or romantic.
What this does is isolate unmarried people even further than they already are. (I’m not the first to pick up on this, of course. If you’ve read other blogs or books by and for unmarried Christian adults, you will see they’ve noticed this as well.)
It’s often assumed by Christian and secular culture that all men are wolves with huge libidos who will prey on a woman sexually if given even the smallest of opportunities. That may be true of some men, or even 80 – 90% of them, but not all.
And I have to wonder, even if the figure is as high as say, 90%, how much is that due to the male gender’s intrinsic biological make-up, or how much of that is due to the fall (sin entering the world via Adam and Eve) and/or how much is due to socialization.
I have to wonder, if you keep repeatedly telling a young male from the time he’s age ten or 12 or 15 on up, that he’s an absolute horn dog who cannot resist sex, and he’s supposed to want sex all the time, if he will then begin to think and feel that way precisely because he’s being conditioned to believe it by his teachers, blogs, parents, churches, etc., and how much is truly innate?
And there again, the disturbing, sick, troubling, ironic thing (in my view) is it is not just secular culture via movies, TV shows, movies, and rap and rock songs telling young males they’re horn dogs who have an insatiable thirst for sex, it’s also the typical preacher, Christian dating advice blogs, and Christian relationship books that do so as well.
So maybe it’s more of a self-fulling prophecy. Maybe a lot of young guys with otherwise average- to- low- sex drives would not have sex outside of marriage, or at least not before a certain age, if they were not hearing the implication all the time from pastors, Christian dating blogs, secular sources, etc, that there is something wrong or weird about them for either not acting on the urges they have, or for not having a huge sex drive to start with.
Anyway, the socialization aspect especially intrigues me because I was just listening to an online interview a while ago by a Christian guy who visits high schools to talk about sexuality with students, and he said there are teen males who don’t want to have sex yet, who don’t feel ready to have sex, who approach him in private after his lectures, to say they feel tremendous pressure to start having sex, but they’d rather not. They are looking to him to give them responses they can give to people to get them to back off with the pressure.
These teen males say to this Christian guest speaker that males in particular are ridiculed or harassed for remaining virgins past a certain age – which I do not doubt.
(By the way, if I were them – it’s nobody’s business as to your sexual status. If you are a 15 year old guy and your friends ask you if you’re still a virgin, and you would rather not answer for whatever reason, then tell them, “that is private and none of your business.” You’re under no obligation to tell people about your sex life, or lack of one.)
As a female, I can say this pressure and ridicule is also true for females, and it has been true over the last 20 or 30 years. Maybe it used to be true up until the 1950s or mid 1960s, that remaining a virgin until marriage was a huge virtue for females, or that it was more expected of females than males, but about the time I was a teen (in the 1980s) that was no longer true.
Girls get picked on and thought of as “nerdy,” unhip, weird, or a loser if they’re still a virgin at age 18, 20, etc. Girls get bombarded constantly with these idiotic messages from secular feminists that having casual sex and viewing porn is “empowering” for them, so they feel expected to have sex.)
The teen males aren’t alone in being made to feel like freaks or kill joys if they’re not sexually active – teen girls and women in their 20s and beyond also get subjected to this pressure, ridicule, disbelief, etc.
These male teens I was discussing a moment ago would prefer to remain virgins, at least for awhile longer, but they don’t know how to fight the taunts and pressure from their peers to cave in and have sex.
From a female vantage point, I get sick and tired of married women, or chicks with BFs (boyfriends), assuming I want to steal their man. I’ve been a “goody two shoes” my whole life – I’d never break apart another couple. I’m actually the last woman you have to worry about trying to steal your sweetie. For a woman to behave as though I’m a potential “home wrekcer” has always been deeply insulting to me. (I probably have better morals than they do – which I say not to brag, but only to point out how hypocritical some people can be.)
Secondly, on the part of the man or the woman (for I’ve had married men assume I can’t wait to bed them, so they must keep their distance from me), I almost never find these men attractive….
I’m picky about what I consider “good looking.”
(Women, this includes Christian women, are “visual” too. Often, men being pigs about a woman’s physical appearance, being overly demanding and particular about a woman’s looks, as so many of them often are, is often excused on the flimsy basis – by Christians no less!- that “men are visual, and God wired them thusly, so if you are ugly and fat, don’t expect a boyfriend, ladies. Get your fat ugly ass to a gym today, and run the track, honey.”
I intend on making a new, separate blog post in the future on just this topic alone.
For now, I just wanted to point out that Christian women enjoy hot, sexy- looking men. We aren’t turned on by flab, beer guts, missing teeth, or body odor.
I’m wondering if the reason Christians, particularly the “biblical gender complementarians,” or certain pastors (e.g., Mark Driscoll – who is a complete tool), don’t mention any of this is because many of them are sexist; they don’t want to acknowledge that Christian women are sexual, have sex drives, have sexual needs and enjoy sex (the ones who are having sex).
We Christian women are supposed to be sexless creatures who never, or who rarely, have sexual desire, who only want “emotional closeness” and “to cuddle.” We’re supposed to look past the shabby exterior on a guy to see the heart of gold beating beneath the flab and double chins.
We women are never, ever -(it is thought or assumed by many Christians)- turned on by photos of muscular, shirtless movie actor Matthew McConaughey or whomever.
As long as the fat, ugly, slobby man loves Jesus and listens to us cry about the latest chick flick we saw, we ladies are supposed to be okay with any of his physical shortcomings.)
—– End of Side rant
So any way, I’m picky about what I consider good looking and would never consider stealing a husband from his wife. Unless these married guys look identical to a particular favorite movie star of mine (which is not Matthew McConaughey), there is about nil temptation on my part to steal them away from their honey pies.
Some of these men are downright dweeby looking, and how they got a wife or girlfriend to start with is a mystery to me – yet they assume that I want to hop in bed with them. They’re so arrogant.
To those men, I’d say the problem isn’t that women are temptresses who want to bed you – the problem is you are egotistical.
And really, are you saying that if I was coming on to you that you are so weak or so eager to cheat on your sweetie you couldn’t just straight up resist any of my so-called advances and tell me plainly, “I’m a married man! Away from me you harlot.” You think you’d automatically crumble and fall for me?
You should already be determined in your mind that you are not going to cheat on your wife; you would never even consider it. Ergo, should you be alone in a room with a hot and sexy woman – even if she is coming on to you – you know that you know that you know you won’t be having sex with her.
If you’re a married man who feels like you cannot so much as spend 20 minutes alone with an unmarried woman, lest you both begin kissing passionately, so that you segregate yourself from all women all the time (other than your wife) – that says something is wrong with you, your values, your fortitude, and your willingness to remain true to your wife, and how you view relationships and women in general.
I do think it’s possible for single people to be friends with a married person, or for women to be platonic friends with men, without things becoming romantic and sexual – as long as both people in the relationship are being honest about their feelings for each other.
A lot of men who consider themselves “nice guys” complain constantly on the internet that although they are so nice to their lady friend, she never views him as “boyfriend material” or won’t have sex with him. (This seems to be especially true for men under 30.)
And you know whose fault that is? It’s yours, the nice guy’s. If you have romantic feelings for the lady, you need to be upfront with her about it and risk being rejected.
So men and women can be “just friends” with each other, but if one of them starts to develop romantic feelings, he or she needs to let the other know.
My bigger problem with the idea that all of this garbage about men/women and single/married can’t be friends leaves a lot of people alone, lonely, and isolated.
In addition, it creeps me out and sickens me how every thing in our culture is so sexualized these days. People unnecessarily read sexual undertones into EVERYTHING these days, or they try to make everything sexual.
An example of this…
There was another letter published in “Ask Amy” a week ago where some homosexual guy wrote to her for advice. The homosexual guy says he has two platonic male HETERO-sexual buddies, and when he flirts with them, one of them kind of flirts back. He doesn’t know if the flirty guy is being serious or just playing around. He says he now has feelings for the one who is flirty with him, and he’d like to take the relationship to the next level.
My problem with a lot of homosexual culture, or attitudes of many homosexuals, is that they do tend to view every one or every thing through a sexual lens, just like the guy who wrote to “Ask Amy.”
Or, our culture has gotten to the point where you can’t just have two male friends who are really, really close without every one raising an eyebrow and wondering if they’re having sex with each other.
Some homosexuals, or their supporters, have even tried to twist Biblical passages in the past couple of decades to suggest that figures from the Bible, such as David and Jonathan, must have been homosexual lovers. People these days cannot even conceive of two men being emotionally close to each other – surely they must be lovers.
About the only slim exception I’ve seen to this trend involves the popularity of the term “bro-mance” in American slang. There does seem to be an acknowledgment from some portions of American society, that yes, two hetero-sexual males can be close – just be friends- and there be nothing sexual or romantic about it. But that sort of thinking seems to be pretty rare these days.
As far as children are concerned, even they are being sexualized these days. I can paste here link after link to news stories about inappropriate attire being sold to girls as young as INFANTS. Some companies are selling high heel shoes for female infants. There are t-shirt tops being sold to eight year old girls that read “Jail Bait” or “I’m Sexy” on the front.
Maybe if people stopped holding such unrealistic, distorted views of other people – for most, this would mean stop viewing all other humans as nothing but sexual or potential objects of desire to get sexual needs met…
For others, such as biblical gender complementarians, it would mean the reverse: they need to start (and this is ironic) recognizing that ONE ASPECT of a woman’s identity is that of a SEXUAL being…
Then maybe we wouldn’t have so many messed up relationships in the United States. If people realized unmarried people can be platonic friends with married couples without such friendships resulting in sex or romance, we wouldn’t have so many lonely unmarried people or suspicious married people.
I wish the stereotypes about unmarried people would stop. We’ve been outcasts by secular and Christian communities long enough, and I do feel one reason is because unmarried people are viewed (by Christians too, not just secular people) as sex-starved maniacs who can’t wait to steal a married person away from his or her partner at the first opportunity.
Christian teaching does foster that mind set, by the way, which I’ve touched on in previous posts.
Unmarried (and even married) Christian men are told repeatedly from the pulpit, and in Christian dating blogs and books and on Christian TV shows, to avoid all women all the time – don’t even meet with one for coffee, because that will lead invariably to SEX. Even though it won’t – a cup of coffee will lead to a cup of coffee. And some conversation (conversation about coffee and other platonic things, not sex).
I also want to say I see hypocrisy and inconsistent views from Non-Christians and Christians on this point.
I’ve noticed either we unmarried (celibate- by- choice- Christian) people (yet some of us want to have sex but are waiting for marriage for it) are either thought of as sex starved maniacs who will hop in the sack given the chance in a heart beat, or, we are thought of as people with messed-up libidos (we must have a physical or medical problem which is preventing us from having a “normal” sexual drive). Either assumption is insulting (if it’s not true of you; I have seen one or two older, celibate Christians online admitting to having low libidios, but there’s a lot of us who don’t have a low libido).
The people who criticize Christians who are C.B.C.W.M. (“celibate by choice but waiting until marriage to have sex”) can’t seem to make up their minds if we are (1) ‘nymphos in wait’ or (2) sexless, no- desire- at- all freaks who need a medical check-up and who are totally peachy with being sex-free. The truth for most of us CBCWMs is somewhere in-between those two caricatures, thank you very much.
Related post this blog:
(Link): How the Sexual Revolution Ruined Friendship – Also: If Christians Truly Believed in Celibacy and Virginity, they would stop adhering to certain sexual and gender stereotypes that work against both