A while ago, in our local rag, a lady wrote a letter titled Gentlemen are hard to find. Its theme was how men focus on the physical attractiveness of a woman rather than her character and personality. This was the response I wrote (but never posted):

Being aesthetically challenged myself, I sympathise with the writer of this letter. Men focus more than women on physical beauty, partly because siring a child takes less than five minutes – including the time it takes to drink the champagne – but gestation takes nine months. From this perspective, males don’t have to look beyond physical beauty but women have to seek character in their potential partner.

Some wit said that marriage is the price men pay for sex and sex is the price women pay for marriage. This is a cynical assessment; however, marriage was designed to protect a woman from being a mere possession: to be used and then discarded at the male’s whim. So the male would have to be more selective when choosing a wife.

The statement is also a generalisation, and it makes several assumptions; such as that people were free to choose who they married, et cetera. People could also get around this ideal, by having ‘affairs’ or simply using prostitutes. However, the central principle – marriage was designed to protect women and children: the people who were considered to be socially, physically and otherwise weaker, or at least less influential.

Now though, Western society in general doesn’t insist that sex remains within marriage. We can take partners and leave them as we see fit. The result is that males are freer to indulge their wandering lust, so a woman’s looks become more important to him than her character. If she doesn’t insist that they wed before they bed, why should he?

In this way and in others, when we insist on our rights but renege on our corresponding responsibilities, we gain pleasure. We ask not, what can we do for our society, but what can our society do for us?

*Sigh*. Forgive me, for I have moralised. Why should any of us care what happens to other people, as long as we ourselves are okay? The answer has been given by a better linguist than I: ‘no man is an island … each is a part of the whole … therefore send not to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’

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