You are not signed in as a Premium user; you are viewing the free version of this program. Premium users have access to full-length programs with limited commercials and receive a 10% discount in the store! Sign up for only one day for the low cost of $1.99. Click the button below.
The battle of the sexes began to rage as soon as our first parents consumed the forbidden fruit. Indeed, the disorder introduced by Adam and Eve's primordial act of disobedience frustrated the ability of future men and women to understand each other and introduced a tension into the sexual dynamic. And the political correctness of the present age has only added another layer of confusion to the mix. But if women would bear in mind seven little-known facts about the nature of men — facts about how men see, think, love, react, struggle, need and yearn — it would go a long way in avoiding and mitigating misunderstandings, in regaining some of what was lost east of Eden.
At the outset, permit me to call your attention to three scholia, which should inform your read:
Now, without further ado, here are seven points to assist women in understanding men, and men in understanding themselves.
As a species, humans of both sexes value vision over the other bodily senses. Even so, sight is experienced differently in men than it is in women. Research indicates women have keener senses of touch, temperature detection, and auditory reaction; while men have a better sense of sight. While women have wider peripheral vision and are superior at discerning colors (color blindness is almost strictly a male phenomenon), men have better visual acuity, spatial perception, and (as University of Washington researchers found) motion-detection ability.
Evolutionary biologists note how it's fitting that women, who traditionally care for children and the home, have wider peripheral vision and notice minute details; while men, who protect and provide for the family, are more apt to see long distances and to detect motion.
So, women, never be offended if your man doesn't notice the colorful flowers on the table or the new dress worn especially for him. He's better at studying maps and noticing the broken branches at the top of your oak tree that might eventually crush the roof of your house.
Since we are psycho-somatic unions, the visual differences in the sexes also point to psychological and emotional distinctions. It's not surprising that men's keen distance-vision corresponds to a mind that specializes in logic. Male attributes are a product of the wiring of the male brain.
As the old saying goes, men have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time. That's because their minds think linearly. One task at a time, moving forward in logical order. That's how leaders operate. No military general has his troops walk in circles en route to the battle zone. What men lack in breadth of thought (women are gifted with peripheral vision, even mentally), they replace with intellectual depth and insight.
So, women, as you multitask and talk to your husbands about four subjects at the same time, don't expect them to keep up with you. They are either trying to process your first point, or busy thinking about how point A relates to point B, and how it all logically fits into the bigger picture to intersect with point C.
This is important: Men not only think differently than women, they love differently as well. In a humorous meditation, C.S. Lewis deftly articulates the differences between men and women in this regard:
A woman means by unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. Thus, while the woman thinks of doing good service and the man of respecting other people's rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish.
It's true: More men believe getting out of another's way is the best way to "love your neighbor." To put it in the context of the proverb "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime," women are more apt to give the man a fish, while men would favor signing him up for a fishing lesson.
The masculine–feminine love dynamic is complementary and beautiful. In the natural order, the man is the giver, while the woman is the receiver. He is lover; she, the beloved. The love between them can develop into various forms. Sometimes, as Scott Hahn has quipped, you might just have to give that "form" a name nine months later.
A man's way of loving is to give to his wife; a woman's is to receive, mix it with herself, and reflect it back to him in perfected form. We see this play out naturally in events as simple as the preparation of a meal, and as profound as the birth of a child. It's a sacred dynamic that reflects the eternal love between the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
Although this paradigm is challenged today in societies fixated on power rather than love, it's vindicated throughout Scripture. The head is seen as the masculine principle, whereas the heart is the feminine. Head and heart, however, are interdependent, as are man and woman. Eve's coming forth from the side of Adam can be metaphorically interpreted as woman being the heart of humanity. As a good heart is concerned with nurturing the body, women naturally care for the family. The head, on the other hand, looks outward to lead and watch over the family body.
Pope Pius XI expounds on this head–heart metaphor in his encyclical Casti Connubii, stating, "For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love" (§27).
And St. Paul uses the head–body metaphor to explain how both sexes love and honor God through the distinct forms of love they render to each other:
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church. … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. … Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:21–29).
A man cherishes his wife as his own flesh; a woman respects her husband as her head. To cherish and to respect are the complementary masculine and feminine ways of loving, which reflect the love dynamic between Christ and His Church.
This does not mean a wife must follow her husband into sin or allow abuse. A woman's primary fidelity is always to God. Nevertheless, it is incumbent on her to receive her spouse's genuine love and to give it back to him, formed and perfected.
So women, as you like to be cherished by your husband, remember, men need to be respected. These forms of love work together harmoniously.
This one may be received as disconcerting, even offensive, especially since many women tend to be incognizant. Men are programmed by God and nature to procreate. This point must be fully appreciated before moving on. To put it simply, men are instinctually hardwired to make babies, and women to nurture them. The human race depends on this.
Human males, like males of other primate species, aspire to reproduce abundantly. Unlike males of other species, however, human males are also persons, imaging God, and are inclined to exclusive personal union. This means that while men's lower natures are instinctively triggered by fertile females, their higher personal natures seek faithful permanent commitment.
There's the conundrum: an all-out war for chastity that's within every human male — something that women can't comprehend.
Why, you might ask, don't men just gird, at the outset, their involuntary instincts with reason and free will? In order to grasp this, one must apprehend how original sin taints human nature, affecting each sex differently.
Human beings are designed in such a way that instincts and passions are subjected to reason, which, in turn, is subjected to God, the Source of all life. However, Adam's sin shattered this perfect order, and he passed on a resultant wounded nature to every generation. This concupiscence tends to affect women more emotionally and men more physically.
A scientific study conducted by Ohio State University shows that, on average, men think of sex around 19 times a day. Many men reckon that number to be low. Women may be horrified by this, but keep in mind such rumination occurs involuntarily, sometimes even unconsciously. Of course, men take on no personal guilt or sin unless they choose to entertain the impure thoughts to derive pleasure therefrom. Nonetheless, the paternal instinct in men (today crassly called the "sex drive") is not automatically subjected to reason as it was before the fall; therefore, mastery of this form of concupiscence requires the virtue of self-discipline.
When a man sees an attractive woman, a primal and involuntary biochemical reaction transpires, somewhat analogous to what happens when a woman sees a cute baby. The medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and hypothalamus are stimulated autonomically — think dog in a meat market or child in a candy store. That's what it's like for many men living today in our hypersexualized world encountering immodest billboards, half-naked women on magazine covers, and provocative internet ads at every turn. And this is on top of the immodesty displayed by women he sees at work, on television and even in church. Yes, in church. Many women are oblivious. (In fact, many men confess that a perk of the Traditional Latin Mass is that women dress modestly, often wearing their hair up or covered and clothing that doesn't clearly display their form, thereby facilitating deeper concentration on the divine mysteries.)
History is replete with scandals illustrating that women truly are men's "Achilles' heel." And biblical history is no exception to this pattern. Notably, Adam was manipulated by Eve (Genesis 3:6); King David, the "man after God's heart," fell to adultery (2 Samuel 11:4); and Jesus' own Disciples thought fidelity to one woman was impossible (Matthew 19:10).
Just as original sin makes it easier to manipulate women's emotional nature, the primordial rupture makes it easier to manipulate men's physical nature. When the Western world began to shun Christ, the advertising industry took full advantage of this with its "sex sells" strategies. Widespread immodesty ensued.
The loneliness that plagues the present atomistic era has aggravated the vulnerabilities of postlapsarian men, and this has led to the rise of a new scourge. Pornography is now a top-grossing $97 billion industry. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of those addicted are men. Porn has destroyed countless souls and marriages.
Due to the grave harm porn does to individuals, families and society, the Catechism of the Catholic Church labels it "a grave offense," and insists that "civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials" (¶2354).
You women reading this, don't rush off to take a vow of celibacy quite yet (unless that happens to be your vocation); there is good news, some light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. Christ came to offer everyone the means to overcome the fractured and fallen nature that is the human condition. By His grace, we are able rise above involuntary thoughts and feelings to direct our minds to the true and good. Having come to restore marriage to what it was "from the beginning" (Matthew 19:8), Christ uttered this warning:
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into Hell (Matthew 5:27–29).
Although Our Lord may have been using hyperbole here, there's no question of the seriousness of the sins He condemns. But be assured that men of goodwill who remain close to God, persevere in the sacraments, and practice internal discipline will be victorious.
Women have a unique power over men: They can incite lust or inspire virtue. Men following Christ, however, are grateful for and inspired by the beauty and godliness of a chaste woman, for Our Lord says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
Note also that modesty benefits both men and women in our post-Edenic struggle to protect human dignity. Charitable women don't want to be recipients of wanton lustful looks, nor do they wish to be the cause of a man's perdition.
The virtuous Catholic man, in his quest to heed Christ's words "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), frequents the sacraments of confession and Communion — the one-two punch against greed, lust and pride (1 John 2:16) — to conquer his disordered desires. With God's help, there is nothing in the wounded human nature we cannot overcome.
Lastly, although humans are made to be interdependent, men have an independent streak that's absent in most women. Men need a certain degree of freedom and "alone time." Even Jesus Himself needed time to retreat periodically.
Outside of work, men value quiet time — just to think, read or watch sports. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that small talk is the dread foe of this sort of leisure. The "man-cave" has become an iconic room in American culture for a reason. Women, never be offended if your husband doesn't remember the details of how his day went to repeat back to you on call. It's a laborious task for his mind to conjure up mundane experiences. Just being with you makes him happy.
This male premium on liberty and independence also surfaces politically. It's no secret most men vote Republican, compared to a substantial majority of women who lean Democrat. If male voters had their way, there would have been no Presidents Clinton, Obama or Biden.
Genuine men are neither macho nor effeminate. They seek neither to dominate nor to follow. They are lovers of truth and are willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Next to Jesus, the premier model of manhood is St. Joseph. He reflected God as both just and merciful, respecting Mosaic law and refusing to expose Mary to shame (Matthew 1:19). Women, if you want a man striving to be like St. Joseph, it would behoove you to avail yourself to orthodox Catholic circles — and to increase your understanding of the male psyche.