Sexuality, Intimacy and the Masculine/Feminine Archetype

Are you the man or the woman in your relationship?

Posted Feb 07, 2009

A great deal of couples work focuses on intimacy and sexuality or, more to the point, the lack and loss of it. In a recent post, I mentioned the differences in the way that men and women approach emotional connection and sexuality. A bit of reflection upon that model begs an exploration of the role of masculine and feminine archetypes in this, and how those constructs complement and conflict with socially defined gender roles.

It's no secret that there is what we might call a cycle of declination when it comes to sex in relationships. We typically start out hot and heavy; we can't keep our hands off each other, grabbing a quicky, being adventurous, and trying new things, exploring each other and our limits. Fifteen years, a house, a dog, a mortgage, and a few kids in, most couples I talk with aren't even sleeping in the same room.

There are all sorts of reasons for this, questions often better left to experts on the subject, but the psychodynamics of this change tend to be expressed by couples in a fairly consistent fashion. Plainly put, women point to the emotional unavailability of their partner, while men point to the sexual unavailability of theirs. Thumbnailing the content of the previous article:

Men are, as a general rule, physical creatures. We are hunters and typically associate availability with proximity. There is no real magic or mystery in this; it is something that is hardwired into our DNA. Men are physical first -- which in this case includes the sexual -- and emotional second.

The physical availability of a man's partner for him points to emotional and sexual availability and, because this is in some ways assumed, it is something that men (quite mistakenly and often to our disadvantage) do not necessarily feel the need to communicate.

Women, on the other hand, are contemplative creatures. They are the thread that holds the fabric of society together and, by nature, tend to think about the whole cloth, not just the part that they can see or touch. For women, physicality grows out of emotionality in that it is emotional availability that activates their physical, and by association sexual, natures.

The bottom line is that women are more apt to show up physically and sexually when their partner is emotionally present, while men tend more to just show up, with their emotional presence being something of an afterthought.

If we peel away the gender roles here and look at the manifestation of the masculine and feminine archetypes in terms of personality and social presentation, something interesting happens. We get a grey area. It is no longer that men are linear and women global or women are contemplative and men physical. What arises is an awareness of the delicate balance of social roles, gender roles and archetypal tendencies.

To personalize it, my social presentation is very much what might be termed, for lack of a better idiom, androgynous. While on the one hand very much a "man's man" - rugged, athletic, physical, good with power tools - I also possess a number of qualities that would typically be ascribed to the feminine archetype. Those qualities - compassion, creativity, sensitivity, a manner that is both gentle and gentile - are what allow me to be good at what I do, as a professional, as a partner and as a human being.

Back to our point, for me a lack of emotional investment on the part of my partner is going to translate into a lack - or at least a diminution -- of sexual investment on my part. I'm the "girl"! Seriously, the fragile balance evidenced here between overt personality and meta-personality makes the "I'm a guy - let's have sex and I'll love you later" dynamic a bit more subtle than it may first appear.

On the other side of things, I have a very close friend who is quite the opposite. In our conversations, she expresses her frustration with her partners in that - while we are not, nor were we ever, partners - she tends to chose men like myself. She does this in a psycho-energetic attempt to balance her own personality/meta-personality structure (a different conversation/post) and then doesn't understand what they are asking for or what they need from her.

Very much a woman, the depth and breadth of her masculine archetype - and its evidence and manifestation - prompts her to be the "man" in a relationship. She is roundly emotionally unavailable, greatly lacks an understanding of intimacy and intimate expression, generally unexpressive and her sex play is very "male" - fast, genitally focused and narcissistic. Consequently, she will maintain a relationship long after the relationship itself - and her investment in that relationship - is over because the sex is good and despite her frustration with what she perceives to be her partner's "neediness".

There are two "take away" points here. The first is that there is a distinct and demonstrable difference in the way that men and women approach issues of intimacy, sexuality and emotionality that is clearly the engine for much of the conflict and tension we find in transgender interpersonal relationship. The second is that it's not so cut and dried as it seems on the surface, and that warrants attention.

Just because you encounter a man with a "big-tough-biker-dude" persona or, conversely, a woman with a soft, sophisticated "Upper-East-Side-debutante" persona don't make assumptions about their interior landscape. You might find that, in their heart of hearts, your biker dude writes poetry and your debutante throws beer nuts at Monday Night Football.

© 2009 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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