Setting the Scene

 I will use this 'editorial' section to comment on overall matters related to what I am trying to do with "Man+Woman" Magazine.

This project aims to develop some fruitful ways of thinking about the differences between men and women, revolving around sexuality in its personal and cultural dimensions. It seeks to identify how men and women can become closer, united precisely through their differences, not in spite of them. It is not an examination of all issues in relations between men and women, but an attempt to clarify a particular set of issues.

For example, marriage includes a major focus on motherhood and fatherhood, as well as on the pressures of work and individual vocations outside the family context. These are not addressed here, so the project is not an attempt to give a comprehensive account of married life. Rather, it addresses issues more closely related to the development of its emotional dimension. It is not directly about the physical aspects of sexual intimacy, but about the whole context of the relationship.

It is also not only a consideration of the social dimension of married life, but how the sexual dimension of life expresses itself in the cultural relations between men and women. It considers sexuality in the single life, and how this is related to marriage, but also how it is related to spirituality.

The issues this project addresses include the cultural conditions prevailing in contemporary Western societies. Some of the observations made might be more true in some societies than others. Since this is not an empirical study based on surveys, nor a study of other studies, no attempt is made to draw meaningful distinctions from any such differences, for the points being made are of a sufficiently general nature.

One of the prevailing conditions is a tendency to deny or minimise the differences between men and women, interpreting them only as issues of justice. The present project is not grappling with issues of justice but with problems whose origin is lack of understanding, not lack of goodwill. It assumes as its context men and women who do actually want to get on well together but are impeded by mutual misunderstanding. It is not saying that everyone is like this, but these are the situations being examined here. There are of course many other serious issues worthy of study which are not included in the aims of the present project.

The writer is a single man, so he cannot speak from the perspective of direct personal experiences of being married, or for that matter of being a woman! Such a work cannot appeal to direct experience of these kinds to enhance its authority, but appeals only to the inherent value of the ideas it proposes, to the extent that readers can verify them in their own experiences or recognise them as plausible and worthy of further consideration.

In addition, there is no appeal to data of a confessional nature to add any associated weight to the ideas. They need to stand on their own for whatever they might be worth. Having said that, obviously there will be matters I can address more directly by virtue of being a man. This means that some issues might receive a greater weight of attention simply because of that. However, generally I am seeking some rough balance of treatment, though not pursuing this in any mechanical manner.

The attempts to give a woman's perspective are those of a man trying to put himself in the other's shoes, which is the foundation of communication. To abstain on the grounds of not being a woman would be simply to abdicate the effort at understanding and communication. In any case, it is instructive, because the subject matter of this series is precisely that content of mutual understanding that might give some hope that the ‘dance of the sexes’ could become less clumsy.

Whatever women get out of it, I hope they at least come away with some helpful insights into men. Whatever my take on women's emotionality might be worth, it should at least be of value as evidence of one man's attempt at understanding the other. And if men are attempting such understanding it provides some feedback for women to take into their own reflections.

This project is not a work of ethics or moral theology. Perhaps it is best characterised as some kind of aesthetic-social-cultural reflection. Yet the writer's perspective already assumes a Christian moral perspective, specifically as articulated in the official teaching of the Catholic Church. At times this will provide some background, but the kind of issues considered are mostly a step removed from direct moral considerations. There has been in Christian tradition a concern to safeguard the nature of sexuality and this has led to the Church's position often being seen as predominantly about the negative. There are valid reasons for insisting on the moral character of sex, but the present work has the purpose of articulating the nature of sexuality in its positive goodness.

Since in the Christian perspective evil is a distortion or privation of the good, one has to know what the good is first, in its own right, otherwise one can inadvertently see something good as inherently problematic. Still, all this is assumed here as background, so when matters are considered that touch on the moral dimension these will mainly be explored from the perspective that the aesthetic-affective integrity of human nature in its basic goodness is already implicitly oriented towards what moral reflection can make explicit as good. More simply, we tend to be happier if we and others are good. This is not invariably the case, but the exceptions reveal by contrast the goodness already subsistent in sexual thought, feeling and action.

If there was no such underlying good, we could not identify its distortions. So this project explores aspects of sexuality that reveal the good through feelings, not in spite of them. We are perhaps more accustomed to hear Christian perspectives on the cases where we are called to be good in spite of our feelings, and moral reflection is indispensable in clarifying these cases. But prior to that, we need to understand what our feelings can teach us about the good.

Although this project is not specifically a work of moral reflection it does have a theological dimension. It includes an exploration of the spirituality of the body and sexuality. Again, this does not focus on the possible negatives, but on the positive possibilities for spiritual growth of men and women through their relationships, not as an adjunct to them.