Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Men's Friendships

From my womanly perspective: most men relate to each other primarily extra-emotionally (outside their emotions). You rarely see men sit down and parse through their feelings together. Men are act-ors- they DO things. They play sports, discuss literature, make music...


portait of William Bulter Yeats, John Singer Sargent

"My male friendships are usually formed on shared interests and projects: be it pursuing women, work, music, the faith, whatever... I am usually not intimate with my male friends. That said, in a secular-ish society, one of the most revealing and intimate things you can do with someone is pray, and whenever I've prayed with my male friends, it's been a little bit uncomfortable and pretty powerful. Male friendships also tend to have a significant undercurrent of competition, envy, and resentment. Even if God had not created women, men would find something to fight over. In Helen's absence, any minor insult could have launched the thousand ships." -a baller male friend of mine

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Hook Up Buddy

"The hooking-up phenomena has been traced back to the 1960s and the 1970s, when male and female students were thrown together in apartment-style dormitories..."- Brenda Wilson, in NPR's recent article on the hook up culture.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge: La Goulue and Her Sister

I'd like to give an honorable mention to the "hook-up buddy" before launching on ambiguity. The hook-up buddy is a friend, acquaintance, ex-lover, or stranger with whom one enjoys a no-strings-attached sexual encounter. Think... Sex and the City. In fact, read some wikipedia on it, and discover that this show "expressed true adult comedy and sex in an up-front way." Oh so now that you're an adult, you're mature enough to enjoy casual sex? As opposed to before, when your emotions were hard to control?

My problem with hook ups is this: in hooking up, you engage with a person on an intimate level that does not reflect any intention of commitment. You're expressing something with your body that you deliberately withhold with your intentions. Hook ups aren't about meeting persons. They are about meeting bodies. They are a mutual agreement to have a good time. Can anyone say dualism?

If you're a woman, you're also shooting your emotional stability in the foot. A mere twenty second hug releases oxytocin, a bonding & trust hormone, in a woman's body. The morning after a hookup, a woman is chemically changed- she has been emotionally glued to her hook up buddy in some way. Sure, she can convince herself that it's no big deal. Hookups are transient happiness, however, and probably aren't worth the lasting emotional baggage.

...And a brief word of thanks to co-education. Co-ed dorms: making physical intimacy without corresponding commitment an easy possibility, every day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Confidant

Winslow Homer's Boy and Girl at the Hillside

The confidant is a particularly wonderful resource for a woman (no sarcasm). He can be a best friend from high school chemistry, a next-door neighbor from childhood (with whom you used to run wild on golf courses), an ex-boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend's best friend... In some instances, a woman only calls upon her confidant during times of emotional burden, extreme confusion regarding the opposite sex, or exciting news. In other instances, he is the keeper of all her secrets and hopes.

Good confidants are gems of insight, and deserve their own day right up next to Father's day and Valentine's. I do worry, however, that the confidant relationship has gone awry. There is a fine balance between trusting a guy friend with concerns, and treating him as one would a fellow girl.

Of course, this begs the questions
1) How do women relate to other women? In what way is this different from men relating to men? In our ambiguous society, is this even a legitimate question?
2) If each sex does, in fact, have its own self-relational standards, is cross over bad?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Unrequited Lover

Take the "friendship" of a man and woman who have no professed attachment to each other, made bittersweet by the hidden love of one for the other-

Rockwell's Losing the Game

... Bluntly, this is bad.

1) Emotional input is not equal. Being romantically (but secretly!) interested in another human being consumes a lot of energy. This can lead to exhaustion, exasperation/feelings of neglect, and confusion on part of the "lovee." (a better word?)

2) Disproportionate attachment, where one friend needs the friend more. A note on word choice- a feeling of deep "need" is generally more characteristic of the connection between lovers than that between friends.

3) This friendship can lead to the "stolen single-ness syndrome." Imagine the message sent by a friend-couple that arrives at a party... most persons will assume they're an actual couple unless they bother asking around. If a girl is busy hanging out with her best guy friend (who she secretly adores), it's possible she'll miss out on the guy who might actually be interested.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Infidelity

After a three month pause, I've decided to begin thinking again...

I recently read a WSJ article on rising infidelity in newly-married couples. In 1991, 13% of men and 11% of women under 30 reported cheating on their spouse. In 2006, the numbers rose to 19% and 13%, respectively. What's behind the rise? We can't blame co-education- that happened gradually, and years before. However, the author notes,
"It is very common, for instance, for 20-somethings to form close, long-lasting friendships with members of the opposite sex." (reaction- A non-romantic friendship across sexes can pose a threat to a romantic relationship?!)

The co-ed college scene offers plenty of opportunities for non-romantic friendships, especially with the disappearance of traditional dating (to be defined/ defended later). I'd like to spend a few posts investigating the nature of these non-romantic relationships.


Raphael's Plato's Academy

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Are We?

... So it's occurred to us that we have not properly introduced ourselves. Well, allow us now to take a moment to tell you a little about ourselves and what we aim to achieve with our ramblings. We are two undergraduate female students at the University of Virginia who enjoy asking questions and thinking about possible answers. We like to read and write, especially about issues that arise in conversation with our peers.
As students, we recognize that we know just about nothing, save our names, dining hall hours, and our social security numbers. Heck, we often can't even remember basic rules of grammar- yet we still seek to explore love, friendship and the sexes. We hope the reader understands that our musings are the humble outputs of an enthusiastic search for answers to questions that face us in daily life, in particular, concerning relationships. We do no purport to be experts in any field, and when we write, we do so with the intention of inquiry into topics that interest us. Ours is not an academic endeavor, but more of a cultural investigation that is influenced by many disciplines. In addition, we admit that we have a biased view as two women. For this reason, we welcome input from readers, particularly those of the male variety.
Honestly, we just want to take a look at the way men and women interact today and ask if it can't be better. That's why we write. We're asking questions and seeking answers--if such answers are to found. Thank you for reading and it is nice to meet you!


Renoir's Two Girls at the Piano

Friday, March 13, 2009

Woman as Gatekeeper?


Manet's Chez le Père Lathuille

Our readership has called us in for questioning. "Who are you," they ask, "to talk about friendship between woman and man? You are hopelessly one dimensional. You're both women!" This question isn't a jab against the female sex. It is not a shameless plug for the dialectic mode of reasoning. It is an exploration of the legitimacy of a woman-led social dynamic.

In a commentary on "Social and Domestic Relations" in Democracy in America, Tocqueville writes, "No free communities ever existed without morals; and, as I observed in the former part of this work, morals are the work of woman. Consequently, whatever affects... their opinions has great political importance in my eyes."

Tocqueville brings up an interesting and extremely politically incorrect point. He identifies woman as the source of society's morality. The key is he claims that woman is the source of morality, not the embodiment of morality. Woman is not necessarily more moral that man. Woman is, however, more aptly suited to take on the moral education of her society as her burden. We interpret this quote as an indication that Tocqueville took sex differences very seriously. His position, while it may appear limiting (man depends on woman in his development toward independent practical reasoning?!), resonates with something still relevant in today's culture. Men and women are different, and have different, biologically-influenced strengths and weaknesses. It is the task of the woman to guide man in those things at which she excels. We'll put it out in the open- we think that woman excels at nagging is perfectly justified in offering suggestions on how man ought to relate to her. We also propose that woman is better suited to face some of the challenges of male-female relationships, although certainly this goes both ways. (Disclaimer- we are not advocating that woman has an intimate interest all of man's activities.)

So men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. Take, for example, the folklore that men respond to the physical, while women respond to the emotional. Pish posh, one might say- woman can be just as sexually responsive! They are just as physical! However, only about 30 percent of Internet pornography consumers are female (Internet Pornography Statistics, 2008; Nielsen//NetRatings, April 2005) Women might also engage in such and similar activities, but they enjoy more freedom from addictions to socialized means of objectification. (Yes, we did just call porn an objectification. More to come...) This example is not meant to dissuade the interest or concern of man in porn-related debates; it is meant to demonstrate a particular advantage that woman enjoys (her relative freedom from addictive, physically sexual addictions) and propose the legitimacy of her involvement in said realm.

In traditional cultures of courtship, woman is the object of a pursuit, a biological and social chase. Her position, that of "object of the game" allows her to set every rule. Whether or not one subscribes to this particular model is irrelevant- woman has the capacity to wield an incredible amount of influence over the rules of male-female interaction. In any male-female relationship, woman has every power and every right to "set the tone." Indeed, her role as primary educator might even extend beyond the male-female dynamic. Into the family? The inculcation of virtue in children, perhaps? Their socialization? We'll leave the exploration of woman's potential propensity for education for another day. For now, consider this. To quote the best summer blockbuster ever (Spiderman), "With great power comes great responsibility." It seems that, in one realm at least, woman has quite a bit of responsibility over the tendencies (if not morality) of fellow man.

We encourage our fellow women and men to comment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sex Differences Explained, Part I


Mary Cassatt's Children On the Beach


Men and women are different. This statement forms the foundation upon which we seek to construct a new understanding of interpersonal relationships between men and women. We suggest that a greater appreciation and respect for these differences will yield relationships—both platonic and romantic—that preserve the dignity of the human person.


As we previously discussed, the overwhelming majority of human beings are born either male or female. And generally, it is understood that male and females exhibit characteristics unique to their sex. For example, it has been observed that typically, women are more person-oriented, nurturing and compassionate. Men, on the other hand, are generally viewed as more task-oriented, protective and competitive. While one could dismiss these traditional understandings of the two modalities of human sexuality it becomes increasingly difficult to do so when observing small children. Take for example, Professor Marc Breedlove from Berkeley, who formerly believed that the characteristics ascribed to men and women are socially constructed. After observing his little girl in juxtaposition with the little boys she played with, he acknowledged the existence of significant inherent differences between men and women, and went on to call anyone who failed to recognize these differences, “childless.” After spending just a few minutes around little kids, it soon becomes apparent that little boys are very different from little girls. While little boys love trucks and tools, little girls usually enjoy playing with dolls and games more than their brothers’ toy guns. While this is a generalization, it is one rooted in the experience of many.

The scientific evidence for differences between the sexes is overwhelming. Steven Rhoads, in Taking Sex Differences Seriously, does a thorough job outlining a great number of them, and his book would prove to be an interesting read to anyone interested in the topic. One study highlighted by Rhoads showed that when day-old infants listen to a recording of a baby crying, female infants cry longer than male infants, pointing toward a greater capacity for compassion on the part of the baby girls. This ability to sympathize and empathize is a power that perhaps comes more easily to most girls than boys. As a result of the advanced networking between the left and right sides of the brain, females are more able to build emotional connections. This doesn’t mean that males are unable to connect emotionally to others, but due to the wiring of the brain, women are typically better able to respond to others on a personal level.

A key difference between men and women are their brains (and one could say too, their minds). Women's brains are 11% smaller in size, though not in intricacy. Man's brains are larger, supposedly evolved to sustain blows to the head. Men's brains are more compartmentalized, while a woman's brain functions more as network, with far more synapses connecting the left brain and right brain. This could explain why women are better at verbalizing emotion as the left brain is associated with speaking and the right brain with emotions. Evolutionary pyschologists also suggest that 99% of genetic inheritance comes from the time when humans were hunters and gatherers. In this way of life, women took control of the foraging, and developed a more finely tuned memory for spatial location. Foraging for plants and vegetation season after season led to the development of a better spatial awareness than men. This still holds true today. As Rhoads points out, think of the many times when a man loses his car keys or cell phone and his wife, sister or daughter was able to find it more quickly than he.

This is just a small sampling of the many examples and experiences that support our belief that men and women are different.
Our goal in focusing on sex differences is to shed light on how they impact our interpersonal relationships. Because men and women are different, they generally think differently and act differently. This fact heavily impacts the way males and females relate. To ignore sex differences in relationships is to open wide the door to confusion and misunderstanding; two thieves that rob relationships of the potential to help men and women grow as human beings.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Two Modalities


Renoir, Conversation

"In the fact that human beings exist in two modalities--masculine and feminine--one can, (to my mind one should), find a clear and original confirmation of the thesis that man has need of others in order to perfect himself. Any genuine fulfillment or development of the human person can not be achieved without adequate sexual interaction." -Cormac Burke, Man and Values

In a previous post, we discussed the relationship between man's existence and man's material, bodily self. Here, we'd like to describe the effect of the material self on sexual identity. Cormac Burke describes the root of the human existence in two modalities , male and female. His word choice, modality, (defined in the Oxford American Dictionary as "a particular form of sensory perception"), points to the essence of our human interaction, as dependent on the physical. We are rational beings, yes, but rooted in our material world.

Man's essential physical characteristic demands that we examine our physical same-ness and differences. If we are so physical, then the physical world holds significance for us! We observe that, in general, man exists as male and female, each with a distinct set of sexual characteristics. (We note the primary sex characteristics and the secondary sex characteristics.) It seems these physical differences serve a function, namely (at least) the facilitation of reproduction. From this observation, we can conclude that distinct maleness and femaleness characteristics, within the narrow category of physical reproduction, are necessary for the propagation of the species. Humanity's survival depends on the existence and distinctness of these two modalities. Even extraordinary means of reproduction, such as artificial insemination, generally work off a model of reproduction based off the male-female sexual interaction.

We posit that maleness and femaleness is not just significant to humanity on a macro, species level. Just as Aristotle proposes that the polity is necessary for the development of the individual virtuous man, we propose that sex differences, embodied in distinct maleness and femaleness, are a necessary social ingredient for the development of the individual. We will address the particular nature of these sex differences, and why man needs both modalities in a future post- for now, we concern ourselves with the dangers of divorcing ourselves from our biological realities.

Man is a social animal. He needs other humans. The question remains, however, why does the individual need to be manifest one sex or the other? We can imagine a world (let's call it Trumbull) where we relate to each other with varying degrees of relational androgyny, where as long as our physical sexual characteristics exist distinct, we, as a species, exist. (In this occasion, we take androgyny to mean the absence of particular male or female characteristic in a male or female, respectively.) The distinction is that in Trumbull, man exists but man does not flourish. For while Trumbullites see male and female sex differences as only relevant to biological reproduction, and not relevant to how they ought to act, Trumbullites miss what their sex differences have to offer them. For example, if the virtue of motherliness, which is typically associated with womanhood, becomes the norm in Trumbull for both men and women, Trumbullites will lose the full conception of what it means to "mother." We are not, here, trying to determine man's capacity to function as well as woman in the role of motherhood. What we concern ourselves with is the obscuration of the root of the virtue, and the divorce between virtue's origin and practice.

Burke comments, "The human person cannot develop adequately - that is, become fully human - within a framework of purely masculine or purely feminine values (a society itself may be excessively masculinized or excessively feminized)." Virginia Woolf adds, "It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only?" The turn away from sex differences opens up a world of possibilities- a world that is distinctly non-human, because it has lost aspects of our humanity (aspects such as motherliness). Femaleness and maleness have roots in biology. Yes, gender roles may have social foundations, but they are not entirely social constructs. They are constructions upon a foundation. If we divorce our biological sexual characteristics from our persons, and label maleness and femaleness as constructions, out-dated and fit for recycling, we have yielded to the lure of dualism and have robbed ourselves of the opportunity to flourish as human beings.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We Are Bodies


Thermae Boxer

"I exist and live as a body in a world of bodies. We bodies contact each other and by this contact we create the world-space. To be a body, however, is to exist only in process: forming and decaying, appearing and disappearing, recurring and undergoing modification, development and growth. Although at times we seem as inert as sleeping dogs or rocks, we are never simply there, but are always becoming or perishing... Nowhere and at no time do I find myself to be anything but my body."

- Benedict M. Ashley, "Theologies of the Body: Christian and Humanist"

I stumbled upon Ashley's impressive work and was surprised by his visceral images and both practical and reverent take on scientific facts. The grittiness of his conceptualization of human beings struck me deeply. For about a week after picking up "Theologies of the Body," this 770 pager was my constant companion. I read the first page to anyone who would listen. I found an ontology that appealed to me; an ontology that begins, almost exclusively, scientifically and empirically.

While our particular concerns here are humanist, and not theological, Ashley's quote synthesizes well for our purposes of inquiry. We (humans) are bodies. We are lodged, quite firmly, in the material world. Even an out-of-body experience requires input from material surroundings. The feeling of high euphoria associated with an escape from the material world depends on material substance, whether induced by synthetic drugs, natural hormonal changes, etc. Man is a sophisticated homeostatic system. Biochemically, man's cells operate on, and are acted upon, their environment. These basic units are models for homeostasis, which is the tendency toward stable equilibrium. On the personal level, man remains constant, in continuous motion as he flexibly stabilizes both himself and his external world.

We posit that while man is partially a socially constructed being, at the same time as he is a physical being. We suggest that man's physicality is intrinsic to his person. While there may be various other components to his being, we can at least agree that man experiences the world first as physical.

We perceive and we react. As sensual beings, we cannot divorce ourselves from our material, no matter how convenient we find Cartesian Dualism. Descartes responded to the philosophy created by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, that was unforgivably, in his eyes, dependent on the senses and chained to the physical world. He attempted to create an understanding of man as greater than his mere physical experience. His famous, "I think, therefore I am" neatly describes the Cartesian understanding of the essence of man's being as something distinct from the physical world. We see the effects of Cartesian thought in the passive acceptance of man's divorce of his human person from his actions. We consider this a skewed perception of the human person. Regardless of how man feels about his current person or actions, he cannot divorce himself from his physical body.

Take, for example, the dualism of Virginia students on a Friday night. We'll call our case study Christine. Christine gets drunk, streaks the Lawn, and gets caught by the police. She (in all likelihood) doesn't want to take personal responsibility for what she said and did on Saturday at two am on the Lawn. However, regardless of whether Christine mentally detached herself from reason, emotion, or her physical person, Albermarle County will still charge Christine for the felony she committed while under the influence. While Descartes would identify Christine's most complete reality in Christine's mind, Christine's feelings on the subject really have nothing to do with her current predicament. Her body (quite literally) was intimately involved, and therefore, so was Christine. The law doesn't ask whether Christine felt completely like Christine in the preceding moments before handing her a ticket. The law expects a unity between body and thought. Welcome to reality, Christine. Here, we can take the law's custom as an indication of what we can arrive at without complex legal statutes: we are our bodies! For a less ironic example, take your morning ritual as proof of the absolute connection of the person to the body: look in the mirror while brushing your teeth, and you will see you, your person, that one with the bed-head. The matter that you perceive in the mirror is the same as the being that does the perceiving. There's no getting out of it.

We use the five senses to gather information about our surroundings. We do not just take information in passively. For example, in the act of smelling, we physically consume tiny particles of our environment. In addition, we also use the material world to manifest ourselves. We are bodies that express persons. Our unique capacity of communication unites the mental with the physical; language is the materially expressed symbol for thought. Just as we depend on other persons as a social being, we also depend on our physicality to form and communicate ourselves as physical beings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

V-Day Special: Androgynous Nation













Ahhh. Valentine's day. Love is in the air. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and floristry is experiencing its annual rally on the NYSE. Today is the day to express your love and devotion to your beloved. Today is the day to tell your friends how much you love them. Today is the day, on college campuses, that young couples walk hand in hand, as fellow students greet them with heart-warming slogans such as "if you're headed to the candy shop, don't forget to wrap your lollipop." Ahh, young love.

Huh? Did we miss something here? This juxtaposition of genuine expressions of human love next to crass disrespect for human sexuality gives us pause.

An so today, Valentine’s day, is the perfect day for us to begin to investigate the current state of male-female relations in our culture. We have begun to explore the meaning of friendship and love. Now that we have defined terms, let's get into the meat of the issue.

Why are we writing? Why have we found it necessary to address the issue of male-female relations? The answer is written in our experiences and observations. We have taken to our keyboards because our culture's push for androgyny has stripped men and women of their unique differences. This disrespect and lack of appreciation for the differences between men and women has significant implications for the relations between the sexes and has resulted in the deterioration of the male-female dynamic. But there is hope for an alternative.

Our culture has worked tirelessly to dismantle the unjust structures of gender inequality. Women have championed the cause of full integration and demonstrated their ability to participate fully in the world. Integration between the sexes has righted imbalances in the political and societal spheres. In a testament to woman’s determination, man’s adaptability, and our potential, we have sought to bring about a more just society.

While we praise the achievement of equality of the sexes, we understand equality to be distinct from the agenda of androgyny. Without a doubt, men and women have equal inherent value and ought to be afforded the same opportunities according to their abilities. But, unfortunately, the push for equality has been trumped by the promotion of sameness and androgyny—the belief that there are no significant differences between a man and a woman.

On campus, we are told to "celebrate diversity," yet are ridiculed when we celebrate the diversity between men and women. We are told that gender is a social construct that must be overcome. Rather than recognizing that men and women complement each other with differing strengths and weaknesses, our culture has sought to obliterate sex differences.

This widespread and utter failure to recognize the differences between men and women has led to confused relations between the sexes. Without societal guidelines, young men and women interact with one another with little or no understanding of their unique characteristics as members of opposite sexes. This has an incredible impact on all manners of relating, especially friendships and romantic relationships. What we face today is a crisis in male-female relations.

The simple fact we suggest is this: guys are not girls. Let that sink in. Girls are not guys. Radical idea, we know. The implication of this fact requires that relationships between the sexes must proceed with recognition, respect and celebration of differences. Unfortunately, without this respect for diversity, our culture has become the breeding ground for confusion. It has become the scene of harmful hook-ups and countless ambiguous male-female relationships, which may be regarded as potentially fruitful friendships between young men and women that disintegrate for want of clarity.

We hope the simple truth that “guys are not girls,” which we will begin to explore on this page, will help to mend the growing rent in the fabric of our society.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eros


















Gustav Klimt The Kiss

"Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give." - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

What is Eros? We classically associate Eros with sexual desire, with that feeling of "being in love." We immediately think of the story of Cupid, the Greek equivalent of Eros. Cupid takes out his weapons of love, his bow and arrow, and shoots an unsuspecting individual, who falls violently in love with the first person in sight. Beware of the plague of love! Eros, however, is much more than just base attraction. It is not just plain animal desire. The love between a man and a woman is uniquely more because the object of desire is unique. Cupid's victims are not raging bags of hormones, desiring sexual satisfaction in all surrounding subjects. Instead, they attach themselves to one person. They may do so irrationally, but not flippantly or erratically.

Eros is enrapture in another person who is distinct from all other persons. Man in love would not be satisfied with just any woman. He is only satisfied with his lover. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, Eros wants the Beloved; sexual desire wants sex. Eros is a transformation. It transforms lust to love. It grasps together desire and intrigue and results in a search for an individual. The object of sexual impulse is pleasure, a calculable subjective good. But eros takes sexual impulse and creates a desire for something intrinsically good; a fellow subject. The desire for sex becomes ordered when man seeks, not pleasure, but a person. Man loves in order to share an objective good, to participate in another's existence.

In Eros, lovers seek to possess the other’s heart. A lover wants to know all about the other person and make the other a part of himself or herself. It is a jealous love. In friendship, however, two individuals stand side by side, looking toward common interests. The beginning of friendship is a moment in solitude, which rejoices in the discovery of a third. Friends discover each other, drawn like children to the M&Ms in a bag of Costco trail mix. Ten minutes later, at the realization of the very healthy and decidedly chocolate-free trail mix, the group often scatters. While some might stay behind, chatting over the undesirable cashews and raisins, the interaction that follows is not defined by a hunger for the other person, unsatisfied or even annoyed by the intrusion others. Friends are happy to share their friendship with another worthy person. In Eros, however, lovers want to possess the other; consume the other; to become one.

Who would have thought such a colorful canvas of human emotion could appear from the base palate of animalistic sexual desire? Yet, all around us, we see the perversion of Eros into lust. We might even justify such a degradation of this love as a by-product of the necessary sexual component of Eros. But lust alone is not the totality of love.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Friendship

We believe men and women are different; equal yet different. These differences should be recognized and respected, particularly in the manner in which men and women relate to each other. In this way, friendships between men and women carry with them boundaries that do not exist in friendships between two women or two men. With this understanding, we will explore the special nature of male-female interaction and attempt to propose an alternative to the current culture of ambiguity. We'll do our best to address issues that we know from experience and observation to be prevalent problems plaguing young people today. We will explore how interaction between the sexes currently is and suggest a way how it could be. So, to begin, let's define terms. We'll look first at friendship.

"... for without friends no one would choose to live."
(Book XVIII of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics)

The topic of friendship has inspired more books than one could read in a lifetime. Search "friendship" on Google books and enjoy browsing over 368,000 titles. Why so many? Because man only makes sense in the context of others. We need friendship. Thus, it makes sense to analyze here, the nature of this indispensable element of our experience. But we'd rather not reinvent the wheel. What we present here is our image of friendship, inspired by Aristotle, supplemented by our professors, and proven by our experiences.

Man is physical. He creates himself by interacting as a person with the environment around him. His interior disposition is a reflection of his actions in the physical world. As a social being, man seeks the company of other persons. Friendship socializes man in childhood and entertains him in old age. In an environment with other people, man seeks to break the solitude of egocentricity. Friendship is the link between man's experience and the human experience. Outside of himself, man can fully experience his "humanity." The human experience is the common search for the true, the good, and the beautiful. In communion with others, man participates in the reality of discovery. In solitude, man is his own measure. So man needs man. But in what capacity?

Aristotle divides friendship into friendship for the good of utility, for the good of pleasure, and for "good qua good" (good as itself). This third type of friendship fulfills man not just on an organismic level, or on an animal level, but on a personal level. It is only in the pursuit of the good as itself that man can enter into an exchange which satisfies man's search for meaning and discovery. The object in this friendship is the well being, the good, of the friends.

True friendship occurs between two persons who seek the good (defined as well-being by Aristotle) in itself. This eliminates from our definition of "genuine friendship" any relationship of utility or pleasure, where man seeks only the utility or pleasantness of the friendship. Friendship must be good for both individuals. It is impossible to love something "not-good;" love is pursuit of the good. Friendship-love cannot exist oriented toward the "not good." It also must be a two way street; one man can't be friends to another man in solitude. Friendship requires time; one man must find another likable. It is not enough to enjoy initial attraction. We emphasize the verb "find." The act of finding requires cognitive effort, and a material discovery. Friendships aren't stumbled upon--they are cultivated. Finally, the virtuous man is a better friend. We improve our friendships by improving ourselves.

"... and in loving a friend men love what is good for themselves; for the good man in becoming a friend becomes a good to his friend. Each then, both loves what is good for himself, and makes an equal return in goodwill and in pleasantness; for friendship is said to be equality, and both of these are found in the friendship of the good." (Book XVIII of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

In light of what we have written here, perhaps we should all take a moment and consider, who is truly my friend?



Winslow Homer Boys in Pasture

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Compass

Welcome to the Compass for Friendship & Love blog. We are two undergraduate students at the University of Virginia who have undertaken to present an alternative to the current crisis of the male- female dynamic. We see random hookups and quasi-romantic friendships as a signal of the deterioration of the broader world of male-female relations, particularly on college campuses.

The situation is bleak. Dating is nearly extinct, and random hook-ups are rampant while those who reject the hook-up culture are left to navigate the labyrinth of relationships without a compass. Some may say, “So what?” And many do. But we consider the situation to be problematic. There are no more guidelines for the interaction of the sexes. There are no more boundaries and there are no more rules. It’s as if we’re playing a game of soccer without any sidelines—and often without goals either. The world of male-female interaction, especially on college campuses, is plagued by fouls, injury and emotional exhaustion. The injured list is growing and both girls and guys—but especially girls—are filling up the roster.

Men and women are searching for love and companionship, but too often do not have a compass to find it. For far too many, our compass is broken. Exposed to the magnetism of our culture, the compass no longer points north to an understanding and respect of the differences between men and women.

We hope you will join us on this journey as we seek to regain our bearings.