The Burdens of Sexual Responsibility

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci

The Burdens of Sexual Responsibility by Mary Beth Bonacci

"Why is the responsibility for chastity always put on the female sex?" Why does it seem like guys have no control, and girls are always the ones to say no?"

Several years ago, I was on a talk show with a "sexologist.

In the course of that hour, she made several statements that I found surprising. But nothing surprised me more than when this supposedly "enlightened" woman said that mothers need to warn their daughters about "foraging males," and that "it is perfectly normal for males not to take 'no' for an answer.

What was she saying? Are males not responsible for their sexual behavior? Does 100 percent of the responsibility for chastity remain with the female half of the couple?

Of course, my friend the sexologist is not the first to make statements like this. Women have always been told that they bear a special responsibility in maintaining chastity in a relationship. But how much of a burden is that? How much or how little responsibility do males carry? Where did thinking like this come from?

First of all, let's talk about the basis for this kind of thinking. Biologically, there is a fairly significant difference between males and females (aside from the obvious). Males reach their "sexual peak" much earlier than females.

"Sexual peak?" What is that?

The term is not a reference to any certain age when sex is "best" sex or most enjoyable. Studies consistently show that the "best" sex is sex between happily married people of any age. Sexual peak simply refers to the age at which a person is the most easily sexually aroused. Because men and women have different hormonal systems and different developmental timetables, sexual peak is different for men than for women.

Sexual peak for males, according to most of the literature I have read, happens about the age of 18. This means that 18-year-old males are more easily aroused than they will probably be for the rest of their lives. This doesn't mean that sex is best for them at that age.

Females, on the other hand, don't reach their sexual peak until about age 35-almost twice the age for males.

Do you see the potential for trouble here? Say there are two teenagers in a car. She is scheduled to reach her sexual peak in about 19 years. He is scheduled to reach his sexual peak ... right about now. She is probably enjoying all of the cuddling and closeness, and is still quite easily able to control herself. Meanwhile, he is having a very different kind of reaction.

It's very important, in the course of affectionate dating behavior, to understand that men and women are not sexually "wired" in the same way. Teenaged men tend to be much more easily aroused. As women get older, the balance changes. It is important to understand, however, that just because you may be reacting in a certain way, your date may be reacting in a very different way.

For this reason, women are often encouraged to take a special responsibility in maintaining chastity. The assumption is that, especially in a young couple, she will be less aroused than he is, and more easily able to keep things under control.

However-pay attention, this is important-it is absolutely, categorically incorrect to say that the responsibility for maintaining chastity rests with the woman alone. Sexual peak should not be seen as a license for men to abdicate their moral responsibility. Men of a certain age may have a stronger sex drive overall, but that does not mean that they cannot, or should not, control that sex drive. On the contrary, if they are more easily tempted then they should be particularly vigilant about getting into tempting situations.

If a man is on a date, he is responsible not only for maintaining his own purity, but for protecting the purity of his date. The same goes for his date. They each need to take responsibility for themselves, as well as making an effort to protect each other. And they need to take that responsibility seriously. Each needs to be willing and able to say "no" if necessary, because sexual activity would involve putting them both at risk. That wouldn't be a loving thing to do to each other.

And loving each other is what dating is all about.

This article appeared in the January 4, 1996 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.