Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Many Levels and Forms of Attraction

Allow me, if you please, to open this post in a rather unorthodox manner. Displaying wounded pride in a public forum requires courage. This is to say, due to side effects caused by a variety of medications to treat a variety of ailments, my libido has never been anything I could take for granted. For a time, this was a reality that left me continually frustrated and discouraged. Among the myths our society propagates, masculine virility is a particularly prominent one. Years later, this matter is still problematic, but I’ve been seeking a way to live with it. The precise reason I raise this subject is to speak about the concept of romantic attraction and whether there is any truly valid reason to view it differently based completely on strict gender distinctions.

When I am in love, my most immediate response is that of strong emotional attachment. There is always a sexual component present as well, but it is far less prominent in the grand scheme. Supposedly, as a male, I’m to be forever seeking the next intimate encounter, but this process seems somehow to short-circuit that basic need. I know I’m in love when my enthusiasm to flirt with others or to engage in the eternal game most of us play with those we find attractive is simply no longer there. Whomever I happen to be infatuated with at that moment takes precedent in my decisions as well as my thoughts. The familiar feeling we call a “crush” or the state of being “in love” might seem vulgar and cheapened if it were viewed merely as an extension of carnal lust. Should biological urge take center stage, as I have always been told and always have read, then established theory may need to be swiftly revised.

At the times where sexual desire has not registered at normal levels, it has allowed me the ability to recognize the strong emotional component of attraction, infatuation, but also desire itself. I suppose it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise. Saying this, I will then concede, albeit reluctantly, that it is likely true that men have a basic default lens, that of unfettered sexual desire. However, age and time has allowed me the ability to acknowledge that drive, separate it from the rest of my thoughts and impulses, and see what lies frequently unexpressed. When I was younger, I found it more difficult to peer beyond one track. Much had to be learned and experienced first. And I’ve also acknowledged, based on direct observation and honest reflection with others, that a blend between the sexual and the emotional on the subject of attraction is always almost present.

Whomever chose to separate the two, to ascribe one form exclusively to one gender, and one form entirely to another did us all a grave disservice. Men often are confused and uncertain about how to deal with emotional attachment in relationships, and women are frequently unsure of how to best express sexual thoughts and feelings. I have known men who try to live a life of sexual conquests and shallow relationships, cutting messy ties when base desire begins to develop into something more complex. And, I have known women who are so afraid of their own sexuality that they channel it in “safe” directions, to express them symbolically rather than overtly, or embrace a kind of deliberate primness to cope with feelings they consider inappropriate, unfeminine, or both. I would argue that women have made more progress on this issue than have men, but I also concede that many of the friends with whom I spend most of my time are also Feminists or at least have Feminist sympathies. I am quite likely shortchanging men in this assumption, since I have noticed major generational differences between acceptable masculine behavior. I just want to see more progress made.

It would seem, then, from my observations, that each individual, if not every romantic pairing, contains a slightly different dynamic. Some past relationships of mine began with an insistent, persistent, strong emotional bond. Some were no less emotional in nature, but felt sexually charged almost from the start. We wouldn’t assume that every relationship was similar, so why do we assume that all men and all women react and think as one monolithic entity?

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