The "Other" Sex: Understanding Men and Women

A student from Rutgers University wants to know...
Men claim they are looking for independent women, yet when they get involved with one they often can't handle it and run away. Why?
Female, Senior

Dr. Caron's Answer:
This is complicated. Some men may be genuinely interested in a relationship with an independent woman, while others may say they are and realize later they are really not. Keep in mind: We don't always look for what we really want; our desires may be elsewhere. It may be popular or "politically correct" to say you want an independent woman. In addition, we don't always consciously know what we really want.

A student from UConn wants to know....
Why are guys embarrassed to admit to being virgins?

Female, Sophomore

Dr. Caron's Response:
We give many, many social messages to boys as they are growing up to be competent, to be knowledgeable, and to be in charge - in such areas as sports, social performance, etc.  Thus, in this way, young men assume they are supposed to know and be competent in everything - even in sexual matters - before they have the experience. Everyone is a beginner sometime.  There is a first time and that can be very special.

A woman from the University of Maine wants to know:
Why is it that men have a harder time being close? Why isn't intimacy as important to them as it is to women?

Dr. Caron's Answer:
Dr. Caron's answer: I think it is just as important, but for some men it is more difficult to show or express. Keep in mind that, even today, many men do not get the opportunity to build "intimacy skills" while growing up. Women tend to have more practice in this area. Little girls are allowed to stay close and connected to their mothers - while boys are "pushed out of the nest" so to speak. Girls are allowed to touch each other - while men can touch only in specific situations (for example, during sports or during sex). Research has indicated that women are more likely to call a friend "just to catch up" - while men talk to each other about doing things. It's more acceptable for women to share feelings; many men are still being raised to think it's "unmanly" to cry or say they feel hurt. It takes time to unlearn some of these messages and to recognize the benefit of feeling free to express yourself and feel close to someone. Developing intimacy takes time. Fortunately, more and more men are recognizing their desire to develop this ability.

Question from a student at MIT:
Why do women always want serious commitments? I've never been able to have just a casual dating relationship with anyone I've ever dated. Male, Junior

Dr. Caron's Answer:
I think it's true, generally, that many (not all) women prefer commitment to casual dating relationships. You should be clear with yourself about what you want in a relationship. If what you want is a casual friendship without a commitment, it is important to be clear about this both with yourself and the women you meet and date. Sometimes men implicitly make promises about "always being there" for the other person without realizing it. Some examples of "implicit" promises include statements such as, "You're really special," "I've never met anyone like you before," or "I can't wait to see you again." Think through your initial relationships of the past and see if you have made such promises, either verbally or nonverbally, in order to enhance you relationship at the time.

Question from a student at Antioch College:
Are guys always ready for sex? And why do most guys stop after they are satisfied?
Female, First-Year

Dr. Caron's Answer:
In response to your first question: It's hard to generalize; some men are and some men aren't. There are women who like sex as much as men, and some women who like it more than men. In response to your second question, some men stop after they are "satisfied" because that's what they have learned. The message has been that sex ends with his orgasm. If you are experiencing this in your own relationship and it is a problem for you, you need to communicate this to your partner. He may not realize that his self-centered behavior bothers you. There are other ways of experiencing sexual enjoyment together where you can both feel satisfied.

Question from a student at the University of Maine: Why do most girls say they want to have relationships with nice guys but go out with jerks (and keep going back to them when they treat them like dirt)?
Male, Sophomore

Often, our past experience - even as children - preconditions us to feel more comfortable, more at home, in destructive relationships. People who have grown up with damaging experiences often can change the direction of their lives with the help of counseling. Of course, not every woman seeks this type of relationship; but for those who do, counseling and psychotherapy are often helpful.

Question from a student at Syracuse University: Why do men use women for sex and how can a woman tell if a guy is using her for sex before she sleeps with him?
Female, Sophomore

Not all men use women in this way. Many guys want to have sex only within the parameters of a meaningful relationship. A meaningful relationship is not an instant achievement; one doesn't develop a meaningful relationship at a single party, in a casual conversation, or because you bumped into each other in a bar. Friendships take a while to build, and develop best on a basis of shared interest and experiences. If there is no meaningful relationship and no friendship, there may be no way for you to tell why another person wants to share a sexual relationship with you.

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