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When the Trouble with Men Becomes the Trouble with Women

By John Mallon
©Catholic Online 2004

There is a great deal of suspicion and mistrust between the sexes in our society today which I am afraid is creeping ever closer, in some circles, towards outright hatred. I would propose that the reason for this is permissivism, and the increase of casual or recreational sex. It is an age old complaint by women against men that men are only interested in "one thing"--namely sex. Some women today claim it as a victory that now women are able to enjoy that "one thing" just as freely as men traditionally have.

What is forgotten is that this behavior in men was always seen as despicable. The availability of birth control and even abortion used as a back-up if "necessary", are credited with giving women this new found freedom. But is it freedom? Was it ever a freedom even when it seemed that only men were free to enjoy it without risk? I would say no. I would say it is like any other addiction that leads its victim further into its clutches while satisfying less and less.

Sexual satisfaction demands much more than a genital orgasm to be truly satisfying. Our sexuality penetrates the deepest core of our being. If the heart and soul is left unsatisfied while the genitals are repeatedly satisfied, a tension is bound to develop. The genital pleasure will only serve as a shot of novocaine covering up the deeper aching needs of our heart to be loved, cherished, and belong. Our hearts cannot be fooled. Resentment will begin to grow as the candy of casual sexual pleasure diminishes our capacity to sit at the table of committed love and partake of the truly nourishing food of that our souls long for.

I am about to explode a male myth.

The truth is that men don't just want that "one thing". It is just that our society has disallowed them from risking the vulnerability of seeking to nourish the deeper hunger for love. Men are starved for love. They merely settle for sex. What is alarming now is that women, ironically, are becoming more like men in this regard. The increased availability of the casual sex that they always thought men enjoyed has caused them to put up the same emotional walls that have imprisoned men for so long.

Unfortunately, it is one of those apparent injustices of nature that whenever this illusion of sexual freedom appears it is inevitably the women who suffer more. Birth control methods have been shown to have troublesome side effects--when they work--and even the most committed advocate of legalized abortion will acknowledge that it is a very grim option indeed. (In fact, the fact that it lacks the emotional neutrality of, say, an appendectomy ought to teach us something.) In other words, as someone once said, "The sexual revolution was the worst trick ever played on women by men. And they bought it hook, line and sinker."

The fact is that it was a blessing for women that they were always more in touch with their own relationality and deeper needs, especially expressed through sexuality. That this sensitivity should be lost to the world today would be a terrible loss for all humanity.

Perhaps the fatal loss.

It would be sad if the women's movement, which has rightly pointed out so many of men's habitual flaws, should result in women falling into the same traps themselves as a result of the great deception that we can divorce our sexuality from the rest of our being. Women have always known we cannot, and were very good at reminding men of that fact through their love. If women forget this vital fact, life on earth will soon start resembling a "Road Warrior" movie.

Sexual intercourse was designed by our Creator as an act of total self-giving. The suspicion, mistrust, and potential hatred which has been growing between the sexes is the result of too many people getting "taken". Chastity is misunderstood. It is not puritanical restrictiveness and frustration; it simply the honesty of keeping one's physical relations in pace with the level of maturity and emotional commitment in the relationship. Sex is not a game; it resounds in our deepest levels. The act of sex involves giving from those deepest levels.

The level of maturity and emotional commitment, which signifies readiness for that level of mutual giving, is sealed in Marriage. A public commitment freely and happily made before God and the community signifies a readiness and willingness to embrace all of the joys and responsibilities of what sex involves in its fullness. Without this commitment of marriage one may be writing a check that will bounce, leaving one partner bankrupt and the other cheated. As some wise person said about sex, "Be careful not to write a check with your body if you can't back it up with your life." This may sound "oppressive" to some, but it is an honest statement of the facts of authentic human living.

Deep down, men are not, and have never been, happy by seeking after that "one thing".

Neither are women.

Instinctively we know it is settling for less than we were made for. The God who made us wants us to have it all--not only what satisfies the body for the moment but what satisfies the heart for a lifetime. It is worth waiting for, worth saving one's self for, and worth sacrificing for. And, with God's help it is never too late to start over.

-- This article originally appeared in the Observer of Boston College February 1990, which John Mallon served as associate editor.
-- John Mallon is contributing editor for Inside the Vatican magazine
-- An Archive of some of Mallon's articles may be found at: And his Blog, Mallon's Media Watch may be found at:


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