As everyone knows who’d ever had a mother or a father – or a partner – the relationship between the sexes is anything but simple and one-sided. It’s complex, multi-faceted and goes to the heart of who we are.
You wouldn’t know about that complexity though, from listening to the conversation around sex and gender that’s playing out in our public conversations today. There unipolar certitudes rule the day!
We all have a deeply personal response to this conversation, and likely more than one. We may even have different voices ourselves at different times, a different one with our close friends or loved ones, for example, than we say publicly.
I’m curious about what the conversation looks like where we can get beyond that, where we can hear our own – and perhaps others’ perspective and get a fuller picture. I want to know what’s true for us around sex and gender in the deeper parts of ourselves.
Recently I had a beautiful experience of this in an exploration with Stina Deurell who does a multi-viewpoint exploration of different parts of our experience she calls Wider Embraces. Our exploration had sex and gender as a theme and it could be that there’ll be more of that.
The public conversation between women and men is an edge for me. Though I have many strong working relationships with women, I’ve solved some of my own problem by avoiding intimate relations and staying “friends.” And I can feel angry at what I see as misinterpretation of men’s experience in the media and sometimes fear speaking out clearly about it.
I know it’s not just me that finds the conversation challenging – and exciting. A listening place between women and men is evolutionarily new! Neither women nor men have never spoken to each other clearly about our experience of sex roles – certainly not in the way that we’re now expecting ourselves to have instant wisdom about. Instead, in the past women and men alike have been deeply immersed in roles we had little conscious understanding of. We have strong theories about that past now, with the wisdom of hindsight, but there were no theories just a short time ago.
Here’s the thumbnail sketch of that past that I subscribe to. It’s not the mainstream collective understanding but it’s firmly based in biology and a view that many who are experienced with multiple perspectives relate to well.
Men and women have evolved through a cooperative effort to provide a safe place for children to thrive and for the tribe to continue. Because the women are at the heart of child rearing, human culture has put her needs first. From this point of view, there’s no systematic attempt to suppress women, rather an attempt to support her in child rearing. Because of the centrality of this need, human culture tends to be centred around women’s needs. Men and women both have given their support to the common goal.
We’ve each done it differently of course. Women and men represent two ways of understanding the world. On the one hand there’s the nurturing yin aspect that is biologically and culturally most associated with women. On the other, there’s the agentic active way that’s most associated with men. This deep specialization has given unique benefits – and unique pains – for women and men both. A central point, for me, is that we’re all in it together.
At present there’s little social understanding of the mutuality of women and men and how our natures are formed by the other. Popular culture, and most of us because we’re part of that culture, don’t see that both sexes play an essential role in the every part of the drama that we call sex. (Here’s an overview of the biological co-evolution.) We’re all part of and responsible for what happens in the extraordinarily complex and mysterious human sexual dance. I’m not talking about criminal or extraordinary behavior here but about the common biological and instinctual drives that we’re all deeply rooted in.
How could we talk about this in a way that serves women and men of good will? A place for #wetoo! Stina’s work gives a hint and so does the work we’re doing in the We-Space Lab. The conversation around our sexual experience is messy, highly individualized, not simple and, because it’s so new, often not fully informed or conscious. We’ve lots to explore and learn!
Come join an upcoming WE-SPACE Open Space call!