Sexuality & Holy Longing – 6

We come to the last chapter in Lisa McMinn’s book. It is titled “Sexuality and Culture: Bodies and Scripts.” In this chapter she wants to introduce the reader to the idea of “cultural scripts,” or “taken-for-granted, learned ways of being that reinforce behaviors and roles for men and women that are considered important in a society” (p. 154). She sees these scripts as absolutely inescapable – we swim in it – and changing from culture to culture and throughout history.

 

McMinn also discusses a sociobiological explanation and a social learning explanation for differences between men and women. The former emphasizes hard-wired differences that impact behavior, while the latter focuses instead on the influence of culture and environment. She then offers “composite pictures of manhood and womanhood” from a Christian perspective. She also offers an account of the challenges facing young adult men and women in the area of how women dress (modesty) and the response of some men.

 

For reflection: What are your thoughts about sociobiological and social learning explanations of differences between men and women? How would you describe a “composite” view of manhood and womanhood? In terms of dress and modesty, what responsibility, if any, do women have for the struggles some men say they have?

8 Comments

  1. Generally, it would seem that men are more action oriented and women are more relation oriented. However, this is largely a contribution of social learning I believe. Society is not very kind to those who do not fit what is considered normal. It has long been established that men should be strong, aggressive, without tears and should define their manhood by the number of women they can bed. On the other hand, women are expected especially in marriage to take care of the home, persevere in ensuring that the children are catered for even when she is not getting her relational needs from her husband and stay faithful. There is a double standard in the society, which seems to ensure male dominance. Even with legislations that advocate for equality among males and females it has not been attained yet and social learning has contributed largely.

    Sociobiology’s view of men and women being hard wired to reproduce after their own kind, I believe originated from God’s plan to have the earth filled with people. Without reproduction, the human race is in danger of total eradication. Many women are relational and have learnt that being a mother is considered an honor in society. It also provides the need for relationship that women do desire.
    Touching on the issue of manhood and woman hood, I would consider man hood and woman hood to be two parts separated that when joined together become one. Just as the bible talks about a man leaving his home to join with a woman to become one, manhood and woman hood though complete as separate entities require each other to provide the needs that the other lacks. For when God separated a rib from Adam to create Eve, she became the essence of the part of Adam that was separated from him. Eve, the separated part of Adam still needs to fit the hole which she was separated from. In dressing with modesty, there is a level of responsibility to show love for others by considering their needs. There fore, man catering to the needs of women and women catering to the needs of man is the composite of true man hood and woman hood; as neither is all-encompassing without the other.

  2. The guiding principle of scripture is to act with love towards all people. More specifically, we are instructed not to do anything that may cause our “brother” to stumble. When men struggle with lust and ask women to dress more conservatively, it seems they are drawing on this principle.

    Based upon my own culturally derived values I have no moral objection to women dressing attractively (within reasonable limits of course). However, early Christians were often asked to refrain from doing things that weren’t in and of themselves wrong, so as not to cause their brothers to stumble. This, of course, puts additional pressure on women to live virtuously, while seeming to excuse the men from the responsability of controlling their lustful desires.

    Whereas I think it could be virtuous for women to take on this extra burden if they have the strength of will, it should not be requested or expected by men as a means of avoiding their own responsability; which I think is often the case, or often percieved to be the case.

  3. For years I have gone back and forth on the issue for appropriate dress for men and women.
    My current stance now lies in shared responsibility. I have consistently heard the argument that it is a woman’s “job” to dress conservatively because men’s weakness are in their eyes. While there is some merit in this rule, there is still room for harm. For one thing it advocates for a complete imbalance of responsibility. It has also fueled the myth among sexual abusive situations in which the victim is blamed based on their clothing.
    It bothered me when girls were required to wear T-shirts over their bathing suits and men could go topless with their swim trunks at church water activities. One wife at a pool party felt agitated that she had to wear a t shirt and cajoled her husband to do the same because, as she said, “he has a good body and I don’t want a bunch of girls looking at him either!” From her tone I had the feeling that her instance on him concealing his upper body from the looks of the other ladies had less to do with being conservative and more to do with her dislike for the imbalanced dress code.

    In class we recently learned that studies reveal that women may also experience arousal from what they see.

    While I do not believe that men and women should skip about naked, I do believe that both genders share responsibility in monitoring their wandering eyes and minds. From a wife’s perspective, I would appreciate if well endowed women (of any accessories) would leave a little more mystery to their gifts, and men with good butts would wear looser fitting pants.

  4. I love what Adrianna had to say about manhood and womanhood being two sides to the same coin, two parts of the same whole. I agree completely – the Lord created both male and female with each other in mind. The woman is to be a helpmeet for the man, and the man is to serve and care for the woman as well even as he has headship over her. Even outside of marriage, we are to submit to one another as to Christ, and I think this should translate into modesty as well. It drives me crazy that women dress so provocatively, particularly when they appear offended to be ogled by men. It reminds me of a joke in which a woman, dressed seductively, berates a man who accidentally thinks she is a prostitute. He gives her an analogy of a person dressed up as a police officer, but who says angrily when you approach that he isn’t a policeman. The point was, don’t dress like one if you don’t want to be mistaken for one! It’s a funny joke, if only I could remember the whole thing…

    Anyway, modesty is an important way that we can serve one another. Manhood and womanhood clearly involve our sexuality, and we are to be aware of that sexuality and manage it appropriately. This means not tempting, not seducing one another by the way we dress (or don’t dress, as the case may be). But it is a pet peeve of mine that women are often told to dress modestly, while men can do what they like. It’s true that stereotypically men are more visual, but that doesn’t mean that an attractive man walking around shirtless doesn’t arouse some attraction. I think we could all benefit from considering what we are wearing and how much skin is being shown, and what effect that might have on another person. Men, just as we ladies ought to dress modestly to protect your eyes, please do the same for us.

    As an aside – I believe men and women should be willing to lay aside their personal freedoms in the interest of not making their brother or sister stumble. We’re too caught up in this individualistic, don’t-violate-my-rights kind of society and not concerned enough about the implications that our behaviors have for others. As Christians we are called to love before all else, and part of love is mutual respect and submission, protecting our brothers and sisters from sin whenever possible. Do I really need to wear that halter top or short skirt? Doubtful. Is my brothers’ purity more important? I’d say so.

  5. Yes, I agree. Adriann makes a nice point about maleness and femaleness. Also, both males and females reflect the image of God. Do we do so differently based upon our gender? It seems that we would, unless relationships themselves reflect this, but even we relate to one another differently by virtue of our gender.

  6. I thought that McMinn’s description of the sociobiological and the social learning theories of the difference between genders was detailed and balanced. I would agree with much of what she states on both sides of the issue, I believe many aspects of masculinity and femininity are biological and many are taught to us by our culture. I have never felt the need to fight for women’s rights or equal standing with men, not that I think it is unimportant or that it already exists but I believe that the culture is already moving in that direction and little can be done to stop it. This would be an example of the social learning theory, and how our culture changes what it teaches us about our gender roles. As far as a composite view of manhood and womanhood, in the ideal sense I think of two groups of people working together to better each other and therefore the whole. While is also how I think of good marriage- two people coming together to make something better than when they are apart, to serve each other and the culture. In reality, I think more often men and women are put together and conflict emerges to be better or more powerful than the other and this causes the issues described in McMinn’s chapter. Men want to be more powerful so messages are sent through the workplace and their treatment of women (in general not all men and it may but be intended). At the same time women want to be more powerful, some intentionally some not, and they use their sexuality and treatment of men to get there. My ideal version sounded like it would work so much better…

  7. Differences between men and women are complex and multilayered; a composite view is definitely necessary when conceptualizing the greater understanding of male & female differences. In focusing on the specifics of what we discussed in class regarding appropriate female dress however, I feel comfortable espousing a more social learning explanation for gender differences. This is because; I believe the culture decides and even writes the social scripts we use to determine what is appropriate for males and females regarding apparel, and appropriateness of sexual expression. Female clothing is regulated by the overarching cultural standards, this is exemplified by the fact that in many African cultures the breast is nonsexual and women openly breast feed their children, whereas the cultural script in the United States for women is that the breast is sexual and thus provocative and not shown publicly unless in an eroticized depiction.

    Modesty is a controversial topic in the church that seems to have led to great division among males and females in the church. It is my opinion that if the dialogue begins and ends with modesty exclusively, it can become a red haring that distracts the greater Christian community from addressing the root issues underlying the heart issues inherent in both males and females iin the dialogue. Addressing modesty exclusively produces a polarization that leads to an individualism stance. But I think, the topic of modesty can actually be the fruit we need to help us as a community explore and hopefully identify the root issues that are producing the tension and disagreements between males and females. When a male says, “women need to change the way they dress…” there may be a root of lack of self control, criticism, lust etc. On the other hand, When we hear females say “get over it, guys need to get their lust under control” a root of selfishness, pride, and lack of compassion- probably needs to be addressed. I believe the Lord has placed us in community so that our core underlying issues come to the surface so we have a chance to deal with those things rather than to allow our self righteous tendencies to blind us from our own root issues. To stop the dialogue at the fruit, rather than getting to the root, we loose key opportunities for personal as well as community growth. I’d like to see more of a heart issue discussed in this conversations.

  8. The topic of modesty oftentimes seems to be controversial in Christian settings. As I have been reflecting on McMinn’s chapter I find myself recognizing different aspects of the topic. As with all areas of life, I think it is important to consider how decisions impact others. I think this applies with the topic of modesty as well—both with males and females. I think that a shared responsibility by both males and females could be ideal. To further “muddy” this topic, it seems that there are differing viewpoints of what constitutes modesty. Perspectives of male and female modesty seem to vary with geographical area, cultural group, religious group, denominational group, and even within denominational groups. Overall, I think it is valuable to be open to the input from the opposite sex (such as the example McMinn gave with the wall at Wheaton).

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