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Taking Sex Differences Seriously – Chapter 5 (pages 113-131)

March 6, 2013 | NeW

Wrapping up his survey of the sexual revolution and its conflicted messages in Taking Sex Differences Seriously, Rhoads declares unabashedly that:

The idea that women can transform men for the better is out of fashion, but… it is undeniably true. (117)

He notes that marrying can also benefit women, particularly if they marry earlier in life. However, this positive effect is less likely to happen now; it seems the sexual revolution has created vacuums in more areas than just homemaking and cooking.

By early adulthood, there is a disparity between men and women’s feelings towards relationships; men seem to be emotionally unscathed by previous sexual encounters, whereas women feel “rage” (118) towards men in general.  Rhoads blames the cavalier attitude that men are able to maintain towards women, in a society where sex is easily attainable. Thus, women’s relational needs are not met, but men’s sexual needs are.

… many [women] are “acting like a wife” while their partners are “acting like a boyfriend.” (119) … one guy said he had no idea and no interest in love at this point. He hadn’t “slept with enough women yet.” (119) The main reason for their failure to commit is their ability, in the post-sexual revolution world, to get sex without marriage. (122)

Rhoads notes that men generally desire a higher degree of “space” than women do. But, since the sexual revolution, sex is widely available without any commitment at all. Thus, the incentive for men to forego any of their own space and freedom is less than ever.

Of course, most men want to marry someday, but these days it takes longer for them to commit. I believe this reluctance is a result of the sexual revolution… For men, marriage means giving up freedom and giving up the chance, however unlikely, for tomorrow’s sex with a beautiful stranger. (121)

Contrariwise, Rhoads says it is often actually best for women (and men, indirectly) to marry sooner.

Babies first and careers later… can be much less stressful than the frantic combinations women who marry later often invent. (124)

Rhoads references the book “The Rules” as a great guide for women who want to test men’s commitment a bit, and increase the odds that women get respect along the way. However, finding a husband who is committed to you also requires some savvy self-control.

Slowing down the process with a man you are “really, really crazy about” can be “excruciating,” but there are no good alternatives. (126)

Hopefully, by employing these “rules,” a girl can distinguish the decent guys, those who are willing to improve and control themselves for the sake of love, from the ones who simply won’t grow up. The most eye-catching remark in this chapter occurs here:

Once women give men sex, women are emotionally drawn in, even if against their will. (126)

This statement typifies Rhoads’ overall argument; in the same way that men experience sex almost entirely as a physical act, women inexorably experience it as an emotional act, regardless of societal conditioning. This leads Rhoads to examine how school children view sex, and he poses a logical question:

If sex is recreational, then why is it degrading? (129)

He observes that schoolboys are very aggressive about their sexual advances and demands towards girls, and you cannot tell them not to do this, if gender differences are not acknowledged.

The way to stop degrading horseplay is to try to convince boys that they might not feel degraded by such actions, but girls will, because they are put together differently. They are more vulnerable, more sensitive. (129)

However, as things stand, Rhoads asserts that,

The sexual revolution gave men, not women, what they wanted. (129)

Now, in order to be considered attractive, women must be competitively available, and game for almost anything; holding out because you know you’re “worth it,” or not being terribly “easy,” is no longer perceived as desirable.

As opposed to the virgin-next-door film icons of the 1950’s, the Doris Days who led uber-bachelors into marriage with their chaste allure, today’s stars gyrate and bare their way into men’s consciousness. (130)

And if we object to this status quo, Rhoads reiterates that the key is recognizing these inherent differences between men and women.

A serious sex education begins by emphasizing the reasons why female sexuality is dramatically unlike male sexuality; it explains the natural reasons for female vulnerability. It explains to women why they like to be courted and how their sexual restraint can encourage a courting culture. It makes possible an education that does much more to rein in male sexuality. (131)

Next week, Elizabeth will discuss Chapter 6!

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