When I was young and green about the ways of men, she told me this:"Don't you know, Robin? All men think with their dicks."
This comment on my recent posting on male-female friendships made me rethink my easy dismissal of sexual tension. After some more soul searching and consultation with other men, I can't (and shouldn't) deny that Robin's friend speaks a truth; what I can still argue is that it doesn't have to be a barrier to true friendship.
It's true that most of us men think about sex more than most women. We strain our necks at cleavage, fantasize, and dwell in sweet memories more than we tend to admit to the women or even men in our daily lives. Maybe makes you uncomfortable. Actually makes me uncomfortable, sometimes wishing my male mind wasn't so wandering. And undoubtedly makes my wife uncomfortable.
As one man in our recent men's circle said, our wives don't want us to be that open about our sexuality. A sad part of the monogamous culture we have created isn't that we are expected to behave property, but that we are expected to turn off this part of our natural energy, or at least hide it deeply and pretend it doesn't exist.
But that same libidinal energy - that same raw natural hunger and appreciation and creative expression that perhaps in this blog makes me sound lecherous and untrustworthy - was once an important, powerful part of my identity. As a young single man it attracted as many young women as it scared away.
Yes, there were many times that that energy was too dominant, led to bad decisions or hurt or misplaced priorities, and was indeed the barrier to friendship that Robin's friend pointed out. But the problem wasn't the existence of the energy, but my immature inability or unwillingness to channel it appropriately.
All this is a prelude to a more simple response to Robin's friend: we grow up. While we still have a natural attraction and interest and appreciation of women - however deeply repressed or hidden - we learn how to work with it. It gets sublimated into our art, fed into our hunger for our wives, and tasted in the smiles of our sweet memories. But it doesn't have to be acted on, and doesn't have to block our friendships. My hands have learned to stay on the back of a back massage, and my heart has learned how to keep a friendship a friendship.
So, Robin's friend, you were probably very wise in warning your young innocent friend about wild young men like me. And there are many men - and women - who still haven't learned or chosen to harness that energy in a healthy way. But please tell your older and wiser Robin that men do grow up, do calm down, and do become more and more worthy of trust and friendship. Let's together - women and men - find that place of trusting ourselves and each other, and open a space for the more mutual understanding and beautiful connections.
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