How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘traditional sex roles’

Single Women Hunger for Love

Whenever a woman meets a new man, she wonders,
At least for a few seconds, if might he be the one?
—Jayson VanVerten

Ours is a relentlessly romantic culture. The themes of love and the fulfillment it can bring and the despair that follows its loss, are woven into the warp and woof of our heritage, and permeate many facets of our social experience. Little girls grow up on romantic fairy stories, full of charming princesses and handsome princes, exotic castles and dragons to be slain, and those same handsome princes carrying maidens away on white horses. There are gala balls and magic slippers and starlight and the granting of wishes.

Snow White (Disney)

Snow White (Disney) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the culture in general is romantic, then the world of teenage girls is especially so. Their music reiterates the theme of meeting “the one and only” and romanticizes about how the encounter will be. Rock music puts it to a different beat, but the story line is much the same. The teenage girl is programmed to expect that one day she will grow up, fall in love, get married, and have beautiful babies, hopefully in that order. By the time she is eighteen—or sixteen (or even maybe fourteen)—she is ready to fall in love with someone. The television shows she watches, the movies she goes to, the books she reads—all reassure her that this is what is supposed to happen.

When it happens, but she does not exactly live happily ever after, the same gallery of advisers explains that what she thought was love must have been only infatuation. She is encouraged to try again, this time for the real thing. The brass ring.

Most single women, sixteen or sixty, want to be loved. And just as importantly, they want someone to love. Maybe by more than just one man, but at least one man who inspires them to look carefully at cashmere sweaters when they pass a haberdashery, someone they can think about when they are trying on lingerie, someone to care should they lose ten pounds or gain them.

A woman may or may not want to marry, and she may or may not want to have children; but almost without exception, she wants a certain someone to share with her the joys of a loving friendship. She wants, if nothing else, the exquisite vanity of living under someone else’s gaze.

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Women in Contemporary Relationships

I think we can all agree that romantic relationships have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

A mere two generations ago relationships and marriage were rather vanilla. Couples were heterosexual, of the same race/ethnicity, religion, social/economic and political background – so much for diversity. Also, marital roles were fairly circumscribed – men were the breadwinners and women the homemakers. There were shared expectations about sex roles for men and women, which were primarily based on what constituted masculine and feminine behavior. Premarital sex was taboo – at least for women. There were “good” girls and “bad” girls, and I don’t think I need to tell you what made a good girl good or bad girl bad. In any given couple, the man was usually older, taller, better educated, and financially better off than the woman.  All things that defer more power to the man than the women. Few women worked outside the home. And when they did, it was to supplement her husband’s substantially larger income.

Well, so much for the good ole days. Today’s relationships run the gamut of the rainbow – heterosexual/gay, interracial/ethnic, interfaith, binational, older women and younger men, couples from widely different social, economic, political backgrounds. Women have full fledged careers and they are financially independent. For women, being a virgin – or almost a virgin – is no longer a prerequisite to marriage.  All in all, women today have a range of options and opportunities that far outstrip those of our grandmothers or even our mothers.

It all sounds wonderful.  However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, many of our social values that govern love, sex and marriage remain markedly different for men and women in many ways. While both men and women may openly and freely engage in the pursuit of love and sex, how they reach their quest is not always the same.

"The world turned upside down" (gend...

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cultural traditions are strong and differences in the socialization and physiology of men and women remain a reality. And unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your personal views–many traditional sex roles remain deeply embedded in modern-day relationships – straight and gay. When these traditional roles collide with the realities of modern day – which they often do – couples find themselves in conflict.

While contemporary relationships may be much more rewarding than the those of our parents and grandparents, they are also much more complex and difficult.

Through this blog, I want to explore the relatively new emotional and sexual freedoms that women have gained through their struggle  for equality and freedom of sexual expression in contemporary relationships – including a woman’s option of having a lover(s) if she so chooses.

Each week I will post some specific thoughts about women in contemporary relationships for comment and discussion. Hope you will join in on what I believe will be a fun, enlightening and rewarding blog.

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