Leading a Worthy Life p.176

Human aspiration depends absolutely on our being creatures of need and finitude, and hence of longings and attachments. Pure reason and pure mind have no aspiration; the rational animal aspires in large part because he is an animal and not an angel or a god.

Once again it is our in-between status – at once godlike and animal – that is the deep truth about our nature, the ground of our special standing, and the wherewithal of our flourishing.

Perhaps the most profound account of human aspiration is contained in Socrates’ speech about eros in Plato’s Symposium. Eros, according to Socrates’ account, is the heart of the human soul, an animating power born of lack but pointing upward. Eros emerges as both self-seeking and overflowingly generative – at bottom, the fruit of the peculiar conjunction of, and competition between, two conflicting aspirations joined in a single living body, both tied to our finitude: the impulse to self-preservation and the urge to reproduce. The former is a self-regarding concern for our own personal permanence and satisfaction; the latter is a self-forgetting aspiration for something that transcends our own finite existence, something for the sake of which we spend and even give our lives.

Other animals, of course, live with these twin and opposing drives. But eros in the other animals, who are unaware of the tension between the two drives, manifests itself exclusively in the activity of procreation and the care of offspring…

But eros comes fully into its own as the arrow pointing upward only in the human animal, who is conscious of the doubleness in his soul and is driven to devise a life based in part on the tension between the opposing forces. Human eros , born of this self-awareness, manifests itself in explicit and conscious longing for something higher, something whole, something eternal – longings that are ours precisely because we are able to elevate the aspiration born of our bodily doubleness and to direct it upward toward the good, the true, and the beautiful. In the human case, the fruits of “erotic giving-birth” are not only human children but also the arts and crafts, song and story, noble deeds and customs, fine character, the search for wisdom, and a reaching for the eternal and divine – all conceived by resourcefulness to overcome our experienced lack and limitation and all guided by a divination of that which would be wholly good and lacking in nothing.

 

Leon R. Kass – Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times p.176

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Leading a Worthy Life p.62

Though maleness and femaleness are natural facts, manhood and womanhood are, in fashionable opinion, culturally constructed norms, at least to some degree. It is no accident that the meaning of being a man or being a woman has been radically transformed in a society that celebrates freedom and equality, encourages individualism and autonomy, rejects traditions, practices contraception and abortion, sees marriage as a lifestyle, provides the same education and promotes the same careers for men and women, homogenizes fathers and mothers in the neutered work of “parenting,” denies vulnerability and dependence, keeps mortality out of sight, and raises its children without any sense of duty or obligation to future generations.

 

Leon R. Kass – Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times p.62

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity p.135

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the challenge came in the form of Darwinism and its seeming opposition to biblical religion, a battle initiated not so much by the scientists as by the beleaguered defenders of orthodoxy. In our own time, the challenge comes from molecular biology, behavioral genetics and evolutionary psychology, fueled by their practitioners’ overconfident belief in the sufficiency of their reductionist explanations of all vital and human phenomena. Never mind “created in the image of God”; what elevated humanistic view of human life or human goodness is defensible against the belief, asserted by most public and prophetic voices of biology, that man is just a collection of molecules, an accident on the stage of evolution, a freakish speck of mind in a mindless universe, fundamentally no different from other living – or even nonliving – things?  What chance have our treasured ideas of freedom and dignity against the reductive notion of “the selfish gene” (or, for that matter, of “genes for altruism”), the belief that DNA is the essence of life, or the teaching that all human behavior and our rich inner life are rendered intelligible only in terms of their contributions to species survival and reproductive success?

 

Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.135

Why Gender Matters p.242

There are still many unanswered questions about sexual orientation, some of which seem (to me) to be urgently in need of answer. For example: Researchers in the Netherlands found that a gay man who is in a relationship with a gay man is eight times more likely to commit suicide than is a straight man who is married to a woman; by contrast, a lesbian woman in a relationship with a lesbian woman is no more likely to commit suicide than is a straight woman who is married to a man. The researchers point out that the Netherlands is one of the most tolerant and accepting countries in the world for gay men and has become even more tolerant and accepting; but in this study the younger men were at the same high risk as the older men. There has been very little research directed to understanding the reasons behind this finding.

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.242

Why Gender Matters p.128

The anthropologist Peter Wood… in answer to [a] Yale woman who said that plenty of women enjoy having casual sex, observed:

If the cost of that view is not immediately apparent, it is still real. The woman who treats her sexuality as something detachable from strong mutual attachment to a single partner sooner or later discovers that men regard her as expendable… The pretense that sex is just sex is never true…. There is no such thing as sex without consequences…

The sexes are complementary. The distortion of women’s sexuality plainly distorts men’s sexuality as well, though in a more deferred way. Men, instead of learning how to be responsible committed partners and eventually husbands and fathers, learn that the pleasure-seeking dimension of their sexuality can be sustained with relative ease. As a result, the men shun social maturity. The women who are veterans of the hook-up culture find that , once they are in it, their options for getting out are reduced…. All of this distorts and diminishes the lives of those who are caught up in the pursuit of sex without attachment. They eventually become those for whom genuine attachment is far more difficult…. The [true] meaning of sex is that it leads somewhere – somewhere beyond orgasms and the excitement of strangers. An older generation called that “somewhere” marriage.

The end result of multiple sexual encounters outside the context of a romantic relationship may be a lessening of the ability to form and sustain a healthy and lasting romantic relationship. And that may be true for both girls and boys, for both women and for men.

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.128

Why Gender Matters p.122

What’s the relation between love and sex? The neurochemical basis for both love and sex in females involves the hormone oxytocin, the same hormone released when a mother breast-feeds her newborn baby. “Oxytocin’s effects on both [romantic] attachment and sexual behavior are estrogen dependent and gender specific,” observes neuropsychologist Lisa Diamond, adding that there appears to be “more extensive oxytocin circuits in female than male brains.” In males, on the other hand, the hormone underlying sexual drive is not oxytocin but testosterone, the same hormone that mediates aggression in males.

Many researchers have used functional MRI to look at brain activity in women and men during sexual arousal. One consistent finding is that men show comparatively more activity in the older, more primitive areas of the brain such as the amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus, while women show proportionately more activity up in the cerebral cortex; that’s true even when the women report feeling more sexually aroused than the men. And these differences are apparently not affected by sexual orientation: reviewers found no significant differences in the patterns of brain activity of straight men compared with gay men but large differences between men and women, regardless of sexual orientation.

These sex differences suggest that women’s sexual experience is “happening” more in the cerebral cortex and is therefore more connected with the rest of what’s going on in their mind. The sexual experience in men is less connected with the cortex, less connected with the outside world. One recent study actually showed that in young men sexual arousal decreases functional synchronization between cortical areas of the brain. That’s a fancy way of saying that when a young man is sexually aroused, his brain literally comes unglued, and the different parts aren’t talking with one another.

The weight of the evidence strongly suggests that males and females experience sexual desire differently. As UCLA psychologist Anne Peplau observes, “women’s sexuality tends to be strongly linked to a close relationship. For women, an important goal of sex is intimacy; the best context for pleasurable sex is a committed relationship. This is less true for men.”

You can say that again. For boys and for some men, especially younger men, the sexual urge is closely tied to aggression. That’s not surprising when you remember that in males both the sexual urge and the aggressive urge are mediated by testosterone. In one carefully designed study, a surprisingly high percentage – 35 percent – of “normal” college men said that they not only fantasized about rape but would actually rape a woman if they had the chance and they were sure they wouldn’t be caught. In another study of “normal” college men, more than half said they would actually rape a woman if they were assured of not being punished. Researchers have found that more than 80 percent of popular porn videos include some form of degrading violence against women: most often the woman is slapped or gagged or spanked or has her hair yanked. But the men who watch these videos are not necessarily Neanderthals. In fact, researchers have found no association between a man’s gender-role beliefs and the likelihood that he finds rape sexually appealing. Some men who are strongly in favor of equal rights for women, who approve of women in leadership roles, and so on also say that they would rape a woman if they had the opportunity. In one recent study, men who watched pornography were actually somewhat more likely to endorse equal rights for women, compared with men who don’t look at porn. Nor is there any association positive or negative, between a man’s intelligence and the likelihood that he will be sexually aroused by depictions of rape. Highly intelligent men are no less likely to fantasize about raping a woman than are men of below-average intelligence.

Men and women experience sexuality differently. A significant number of men may feel tempted to engage in sexual assault, even if they are otherwise intelligent and believe in equal rights for women. Women are much less likely to feel a strong temptation to engage in sexual assault. These differences between women and men can be traced at least in part to biological causes, including the differences between testosterone and oxytocin. A sensible, commonsense approach to preventing sexual assault would begin by recognizing these hardwired differences.

Young men are much more likely to find pornography satisfying and fulfilling. Few young women would use the word “fulfilling” to describe the experience of masturbating over pornography. But pornography has gone mainstream. The pop star John Mayer proudly told Rolling Stone magazine that he is “the new generation of masturbator”: he would rather masturbate over pornography than have sex with actual women. I haven’t heard of any leading female celebrities who have boasted that hey would rather masturbate over pornography than have sex with real people.

The motivation for sex is different for most teenage boys than for most teenage girls. Many teenage boys want to have sex to satisfy sexual desire. It’s a gut-level, base-of-the-brain impulse not far removed from the need to have a bowel movement when you feel the urge. Many boys will tell you that the urge feels just that irresistible.

Not so for most girls. As psychologist Roy Baumeister has observed, “male desire aims at the sexual activity itself, whereas female desire aims beyond it toward other outcomes and consequences.”

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.122

Childhood Unbound p.42

The flip side of the new freedoms was a new anxiety. It was infused by endless access, early decisions about high-risk behavior, the ability to do “whatever” without concerns about being seen, and by the overwhelming reach of technology and the warp-speed of life itself. The free-est generation began to shimmer with neon-bright anxiety. This was different than internal neurotic anxiety, by which I mean symptomatic, psychological conflict, thought to be the result of guilt between “right” and “wrong,” the struggle between “id” and “superego,” and the fear that “bad” thoughts meant being a bad person. In children this anxiety can lead to a raging battle between pleasing parents and pleasing oneself, and even to feeling personal responsibility for the very lives, health, and well-being of one’s parents. This type of internal conflict had been the bread and butter of psychoanalysis during the time of the greatest generation and its boomer children.

No, by the second millennium, the kids of older boomers and post-boomers were suffering from a different breed of anxiety, generated by real-life forces: intense social, academic, and techno-driven pressures.

 

Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.42