Monday, August 25, 2008

Men: Slime or Sublime?

In my experience, many men have an overly casual, and often outright juvenile, attitude about women and relationships. That's probably why many women I know don't trust them. I don't blame them; I don't trust them, either, and for the same reasons. It just makes me profoundly uncomfortable to talk to men who continually make crude comments about women's bodies or make explicit comments about what they'd like to do, or have done, with a woman.

Unfortunately, even among my friends, I encounter this kind of behavior a lot in men. This is why all but one of my close friends is female. If I'm talking about a woman I love and respect, the last thing I want to hear is crude sexual comments about them. To me, crude sexual comments cheapen a woman, reducing her to a mere object of sexual fantasy. The idea of someone I love being reduced to a cheap sexual fantasy makes my skin crawl.

The male stereotype is hardly a complimentary one:
In most modern Western cultures, men are expected to be assertive, risk-taking, tough, unfeeling, insensitive, combative, the owner or ruler of the home . . . Younger men are often depicted as pimpish, boasting, prideful, obnoxious, promiscuous and sometimes violent. - Wikipedia
No wonder women tend not to trust men.

Of course, stereotypes are just that: stereotypes. Men are individuals; not all of us are jerks. Unfortunately, there are enough jerks out there to make life very difficult for the truly honest, respectful man. I've often found it very difficult to get women, sometimes even my closest friends, to completely trust me and my intentions because they're not used to encountering a man who is so far outside the male stereotype.

Telemarketers face a similar problem due to stereotyping. Having worked in telemarketing, I know what a struggle it can often be to get people to give their credit cards. This is because giving a person your credit card number is risky; it renders your account vulnerable to whatever that person decides to do. Unfortunately, too many telemarketers have scammed people this way so people tend not to trust them.

Of course, just as not all men are jerks, not all telemarketers are dishonest. Also like men, telemarketers have a reputation; the telemarketing stereotype is of a bunch of teenagers crammed into a boiler room tricking people into scams. Unfortunately, there are telemarketers out there like that; the damage they do to the reputation of the profession makes it much harder than it should be for the honest ones to conduct legitimate business.

Male/female relationships follow a similar dynamic. Entering any close relationship, whether it be a friendship or a romantic relationship, always involves trust. Giving someone your trust is not unlike giving your credit card to a telemarketer except, in a relationship, you're giving a someone a piece of your heart. Like the telemarketer with the credit card, that person can now do what they want with that piece of your heart; that renders your soul vulnerable.

The unfortunate reality is, just as there are a lot of dishonest telemarketers out there, so too are there a lot of men that simply think with the wrong head; it's hard to know what a man's true intentions are. "Is he just trying to scam me to get into my bed? Or does he sincerely care?"

Ironically, the bad reputation of men affects friendships between men and women more profoundly than romantic relationships; with so many men out there just looking for one thing, it's all too easy for a woman to wonder about a male friend's intentions.

I've found that most men don't like to say "I love you" because they think of it as a sexual thing. Certainly it can be; as I said in my prior posting, sex is the most profound language through which one can express love. However, love itself is not about sex. The problem is, most men think it is. By extension, most women, hearing a man say "I love you," tend to automatically assume that the meaning is sexual.

When I say "I love you," I never mean anything sexual, even when I say it to a woman I am in love with. To me, "I love you" means: "I want you to know how important you are to me." Even when I say I'm "in love" with a woman, to me that simply means: "I think you're beautiful, and I trust you enough to handle my body when it's unprotected and at its most vulnerable." In other words, to me, being "in love" is more about trust than sex.

Love, even being in love, isn't about sex; it's about showing someone how important they are to you.

I only wish love wasn't so sexualized in our culture; showing people in my life how much I love them would be a lot simpler if it wasn't.