A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Sleeping Beauty Fallacy

There is a dangerous myth permeating our society, a myth which I suspect has been around for a long time. It has to do with what men can reasonably expect from women in terms of romance, marriage, and sex. Men are led to believe that if they overcome all sorts of difficulties and trials set up for them by an implacable woman, her heart will melt and she will be become fully theirs. We see this theme played out over and over again in our arts, literature, popular media, and culture as a whole: "Oh, what she needs is a good man who knows how to unlock her heart!"

Baloney. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for people to get a clue. A man can battle the dragon, struggle through the thorns, kiss the unresponsive girl, and still not have her wake up to his love. What people don't understand is the brutal reality of human nature. Let me point out some things to my male readers:

1. If the woman you are attracted to is spiteful and disagreeable (to others, if not you) before she is committed to you, she will likely be so afterwards.

2. If you have to jump through endless hoops to prove yourself before she marries you, be certain you will have to jump through endless hoops after you are married.

3. If a woman has a low conception of who men are, don't think that your being attractive and appealing to her will change the fundamental problem she has with men. At first sign of hardship or your being vulnerable, don't be surprised if she turns on you. Remember, a snake charmer can only play his pungi for so long.

Like my grandfather said, "You breed hound, you get a hound." If a woman is self-centered and emotionally immature, it's not your job to fix her, nor should you be under the illusion that you can. That's her responsibility. She needs to get her life right with the Lord. And heaven forbid if her emotional problems are severe. Don't get the idea that your folk theories on how to manipulate women can do something for your sweetheart what professional psychotherapy cannot do.**

Happily Ever After?

Another aspect of the Sleeping Beauty Fallacy is the idea that obtaining a beautiful woman = happily ever after. I am concerned about people who just assume that getting in bed with the best-looking ladies is the goal of every sensible man. Oh, yes it is!! Just like it's the goal of little kids to eat ice cream all day long. Come on, folks. This is not high school. This is adulthood and there are serious life-changing ramifications to the messages we embrace about relationships.

Some must live in a parallel universe, because they apparently have never heard of the adage that beauty is only skin deep. I have something to say to those who are skeptical of my message: Um, beauty really is only skin deep. Why even the Word of God echoes this sentiment: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised" (Prov. 31:30, NASB). Imagine that! Given this very elementary observation, don't you think it is utterly stupid and ridiculous to approach men's problems on the basis of who and who isn't getting laid with beautiful women?

Men shouldn't be afraid of rejection from beautiful women. They should be afraid of being committed to the wrong person. Do you a think good waist-hip ratio and facial symmetry automatically translates into a woman being a good mother to your children or a good wife to you? Yes? Then take your pick of the bat-crazy, crack-smoking narcissists that fit that description. No? Then why are you wasting your time focusing on attracting these women? And why is your self-image wrapped up in such a pursuit?

The Two Fishing Ponds

Let me leave behind Sleeping Beauty for a little bit and take you on a fishing trip. There are two ponds you can fish. One is stocked entirely with prize fish you like, but the pond has unacceptable levels of mercury in it. Not all of the fish have mercury, if that makes you feel better. The other pond has edible fish, too, and there are various kinds in it. There are reputedly some you like in the second pond, but mostly it's others you like a little less and some that you can't acquire a taste for.

Now, there are men like you with their boats in the second pond and a handful are snapping up the rare kind you like the most (and the fish you like are indeed rare in the second pond). The rest of the men in the second pond are taking home other kinds of fish, but are generally content with what their going to have for dinner. What about that first pond? Yes, there are guys in it, hauling in the prize fish. But they are playing catch-and-release. So let's review your choices: you can play catch-and-release, hazard eating a prize fish full of mercury, spend all day trying to catch a prize fish in the second pond and probably not come home with anything, settle for something less than your favorite but which is still palatable just the same, or just refuse to fish in either pond.

You say, "I'll use my special lure and catch an edible prize fish in the second pond." But you're missing the point. Your fishing strategy doesn't begin with the tackle, but with the pond that you're going to put your boat in. That's my question to you. Don't tell me about your tackle gear and your custom fishing pole. Where is your boat at, dude? Because if you are focused entirely on prize fish without any concern about the safety of taking such home, then I know what pond you are in.

But if indeed you are in the second pond, then I gotta' say your special tackle gear will only take you so far. You may have a special lure to throw in the pond that attracts the prize fish like a magnet, but if there is only so many of those fish around, then you may be waiting a long time. That is especially the case if the other fisherman have lures as good as yours. And don't forget this: Some fisherman may not have a top-dollar lure, but they show up early when there are more prize fish. Since they are in the second pond, they don't play catch-and-release. Don't expect them to share their catch with you. The day is getting on and the sun is setting. What are you going to do?

Yes, Sleeping Beauty is like the prize fish. But you need to ask yourself is she worth it. Let's put things into perspective. A woman's physical attractiveness only lasts for a minor portion of her lifespan. It's maybe thirty years out of eighty plus years of living, if we are being generous. If you are going to be monogamous and honor God's law on marriage (as opposed to playing the catch-and-release game of bed-hopping), then think about what life will be like with your hypothetical beauty queen after she goes through menopause. Could you stand to be around her with her looks gone and your sex drive barely functioning? Maybe you could; maybe you couldn't. You need to be honest with yourself and look down the road, beyond the short-term perspective of our ADHD culture.

Conclusion

I come to the close of my discussion by revisiting my first concern: men thinking women will magically change for the better. I fear some people assume the problems men face boil down to the type of tackle and gear they have, as if the right tackle can turn a Pond 1 fish into a Pond 2 fish. Such an attitude shows no concern for the environment the fish was swimming in. It's total. Utter. Nonsense. It ties in with the Sleeping Beauty Fallacy. A leopard can't change it spots and you can't turn a slattern into a church girl by pulling a Svengali on her. Your are not Pygmalion.

We laugh at women who think they can change their men. But I guess some men are now drinking the same Kool-Aid and are thinking, "If I act a certain way, she'll respond in certain way." It ain't necessarily so, compadres. Women are not robots. They have a mind of their own and a lot depends on their personality, their life's experiences, their internalized values, their goals, what they want from you, and what they don't want from you. Men who confuse what it takes to attract women with what it takes to change a woman's fundamental character do so at their own peril. You've been warned. Don't be a dead guinea pig for a shaky theory. A lot of times, the sleeping beauties are like sleeping dogs--it's best to let them lie (and not with you).

**Note: Since the time of completing the draft of this piece, I have come across an informative website (shrink4men.wordpress.com). It's the blog of a trained psychotherapist and offers a male-friendly perspective on dealing with difficult women in relationships. A lot of the content reinforces what I am saying here. The key to change for an abusive person of either sex lies with that person, not you. There's something else to consider: the pathological views about men that are prevalent in our society. It's a pathology that feeds itself and escalates into the breakdown of relationships between men and women. I daresay it results in the proliferation of the kind of women mentioned in the following links. For my male readers, carefully consider these links:

1. Why Men Are Attracted to Crazy, Emotionally Abusive Women

2. 10 Reasons You Can’t Communicate with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

3. Why Couples Counseling Rarely Works with Narcissistic and Borderline Women

4. Will My Emotionally Abusive Girlfriend or Wife Be Different With the New Guy?

13 comments:

Ken said...

Very well said.

I'm glad you pointed out that women do this, too.

Men have been told to do this somewhat by well-meaning folks who erroneously state, or communicate in a way where it is all too easy for the audience to erroneously infer, that every problem is really the man's fault, as he is the head of the household.

For sure, if someone has chosen their spouse wisely and has fallen into a pattern of not treating their spouse well, the spouse may react by becoming the "sleeping beauty" who needs a special kiss to wake up. However, that it a far different situation than finding a rotting corpse and thinking that if you just kiss it long enough, it will spring to life. People who are looking for spouses should look for someone right for them who is READY NOW to be a good spouse - not someone who "could be" after they work through a lot of stuff.

Also, as you point out, the guys who care mostly about "perfect" physical beauty are not following Biblical principles in mate selection. Some of those guys freely admit this - they just want sex, not a spouse, and they don't consider the Bible relevant to their lives. While I will not defend that behavior, the larger problem is when Christian men adopt this priority of focusing on physical beauty too much. YES, in general, men are visual creatures and we literally can't function sexually without being turned on (women can use an artificial lubricant if need be), but all the physical beauty in the world isn't going to keep the marriage together if she is spiritual and emotional poison.

Thursday said...

Excellent post.

As for your pond metaphor, it works if you are comparing say a nightclub, where there is a high concentration of hotties, to a church, which has a high (or at least higher) concentration of marriage material. It doesn't work if you are comparing very attractive women in general to less attractive women in general. How good looking a woman is won't really tell you anything about her character.

Talleyrand said...

I am content with eating ice cream occassionally.

catwoman said...

Anakin,

This is your best post, ever. Good on ya.

catwoman

Eumaios said...

"If the woman you are attracted to is spiteful and disagreeable (to others, if not you) before she is committed to you, she will likely be so afterwards."

True, but low-hanging fruit. It is also crucial that you pay attention to her mother's characteristics. If the girl isn't obviously replicating or reacting against them now, she will be, and soon.

LadyElaine said...

I would also wonder that if the man or woman keeps encountering the same type of person in their dating relationship, I would also wonder if his basis of attraction and preferences(outside of already mentioned ideas about relationships and the opposite sex) aren't something that warrants further scrutiny alone.

J said...

Thanks Anakin. This was a very helpful post.

"That's her responsibility. She needs to get her life right with the Lord."

I agree with that statement. I also think sisters need to hold other sisters accountable for their behavior as well. (same applies to brothers)

You can't really love your friends if you don't call them out on sin and wrong behavior.

Often a rebuke from a close friend provides the impetus for change. I bet most "sleeping beauties" never receive a godly rebuke (from a friend).

What do you think?

Amir Larijani said...

A lot of Christians--men and women alike--tend to forget the "beauty is fleeting" warning in Proverbs 31.

I've also noticed--no offense intended at the smoking hotties--that the "beautiful" women often are short on character, and many of them disguise their shortcomings by being "sweet" and "nice".

In fact, I learned to treat the "sweet" and "nice" dispositions as red flags, as those are often covers for larger character faults that lurk beneath the surface.

My wife is rather blunt, and falls outside the conventional attractiveness range (although she obviously falls well within mine). She is not someone I would have picked 10 or 15 years ago.

What sold me on her? That's simple: I looked at the company she kept. The people who have been a large part of her life for the last 10 years. The families whose children she tended to during that time. The friends from college. The church leaders who spoke for her. The observable trend of growth in her life. The theological underpinnings that drive her and have driven her.

She's a firm believer in Ephesians 5--as are most of the women in her home church--and we're not talking egalitarian either. She wanted a man with some proverbial balls to lead. Her church folks had me under the microscope from day one, and I had no problem with that. (She also got to meet some of my friends, and they vetted her somewhat on my behalf.)

While there are no guarantees in life, I'd like to think we made about as good a decision as could be made in the online/distance relationship context.

But to make a long story short, neither one of us were under any "sleeping beauty" illusions, and sought--every step of the way--to ensure that we were being realistic about one another.

singlextianman said...

I observe that physical beauty does not correlate one way or the other with a personality inclined towards sexual generosity in marriage. It ain't so.

On the "sleeping beauty" meme we must take care not to read into the metaphor things that are not there.

Like Ken, I believe the post is well put. This is a separate thing than the meme played out in the "sleeping beauty" story that makes it a powerful narrative; which I think is the idea that a man can offer things to a woman which help her become fulfilled in ways that could not find expression in her otherwise. Parts of her are 'awakened". Likewise the same for men: A relationship in marriage can help him express aspects of his masculinity that cannot be expressed otherwise. Parts of him are "awakened." All of this is separate from the idea that he is incomplete or unacceptable to God or the fellowship if he is not in a marital state; an idea which I reject.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

"Sweet and nice", reminds me of an Eddie Murphy skit.

Amir Larijani said...

Anonymous said: ""Sweet and nice", reminds me of an Eddie Murphy skit.".

LOL! I don't recall that one, but I can envision Eddie Murphy doing something along those lines!

Amir Larijani said...

SXM says: "
Like Ken, I believe the post is well put. This is a separate thing than the meme played out in the "sleeping beauty" story that makes it a powerful narrative; which I think is the idea that a man can offer things to a woman which help her become fulfilled in ways that could not find expression in her otherwise. Parts of her are 'awakened". Likewise the same for men: A relationship in marriage can help him express aspects of his masculinity that cannot be expressed otherwise. Parts of him are "awakened." All of this is separate from the idea that he is incomplete or unacceptable to God or the fellowship if he is not in a marital state; an idea which I reject.
"

I would agree there, while including the caveat that there is a fine line between a "sleeping beauty" paradigm and the reasonable expectation of the fruits of sanctification.

The latter is something that can be difficult to discern, as that can be disguised as a person simply "turning over a new leaf" in order to impress a potential mate.

This is where the harder evidence is long-term change comes into play. And this is applicable to both sexes.

Ken said...

J wrote...

"You can't really love your friends if you don't call them out on sin and wrong behavior.

Often a rebuke from a close friend provides the impetus for change."

For sure. The first reaction to being called on something is denial/defense. If you call someone out, be prepared for them to be angry for a while. But if they are really seeking what's right, they will eventually come back to you and, whether they express it or not, they'll know you are a true friend, and you were right even though they didn't want to admit it.

We also need to keep this in mind when WE are the ones called out!