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Deep in her heart, every woman longs for a man to see her beauty and cherish it. We long to be pursued and courted, and to make love to someone who truly loves us for keeps.
Yet today, 'healthy and normal' implies giving ourselves sexually with no expectation of depth, intimacy, or commitment. We're expected to handle our relationships with men with no jealousy when they're threatened, no fear of their ...
Deep in her heart, every woman longs for a man to see her beauty and cherish it. We long to be pursued and courted, and to make love to someone who truly loves us for keeps.
Yet today, 'healthy and normal' implies giving ourselves sexually with no expectation of depth, intimacy, or commitment. We're expected to handle our relationships with men with no jealousy when they're threatened, no fear of their ending, and no grief when they do. The proof of our equality with men has become our ability to flatline a broken heart.
Compassionate counselor Paula Rinehart understands the high price a woman pays in loosening her sexual boundaries, and the unique role sex plays in forging a bond meant to last a lifetime. She shows you how to break free from the bondage of misused sexuality and how to create a whole new start with men.
Our society is filled with people for whom the sexual relationship is one where body meets body but where person fails to meet person.... The result is that [relationships] lead not to fulfillment but to a half-conscious sense of incompleteness, of inner loneliness, which is so much the sickness of our time. Frederick Buechner
Carol gathers her clothes off the floor, tiptoeing silently around the bedroom in the early dawn, hoping not to wake this man. Snoring in quiet, even rhythm, it will be hours before he gets up. When he can, he likes to sleep until noon, and she has a ton of stuff to do today. Besides, it's easier to slip back into her place before her roommates awaken-fewer raised eyebrows and sly smiles to contend with that way.
Driving back to her apartment, Carol muses over how their relationship began. Who ever would have thought that cochairing a political committee would lead to this? They began as good friends, challenging each other's opinions with an occasional lighthearted jab. But one thing led to another, and after a few months, she began to stay over at his place. It made for less hassle. How or when or where the relationship turned sexual, she isn't sure. She just knows that she is starting to have feelings for this guy, and that this could be a problem.
There are no guarantees in relationships now. How many times have her friends drilled that into her? "You just have to go with the flow" is the mantra she hears. "Don't say much; don't ask for anything. Just play it cool and see where the relationship goes."
The problem is that Carol has already done this twice before.
* * *
Something cataclysmic is happening in the sexual lives of women today. A breathtaking amount of change in the way men and women relate to each other has taken place in one short generation. The great mating dance that was repeated for centuries has been shortened dramatically. A man and a woman fall into bed now with no promises made and no expectations to which they can hold each other. Love and romance take a backseat to the more immediate pleasures of sex, which, in its many forms, can be experienced with no immediately apparent effect on the invisible world of soul and spirit. I doubt that even Aldous Huxley would recognize the brave new sexual world we inhabit.
As a counselor invited into the inner sanctum of one woman's life after another, I have the privilege of entering women's lives and hearing their stories. It is a unique perch from which to observe the monumental changes taking place. Women from every background-in college and in emerging careers-talk about the challenges they face in a world where the vintage road maps between men and women seem as though they were drawn in fading ink.
In many ways, of course, regardless of age or background, we all are telling the same story-of losses that are difficult to absorb, fears that keep us awake at night, and dreams that have been incubating in us since we were quite small. But a new common denominator exists now-in the lives of younger women especially-a different narrative thread repeated in endless variation. Women's lives are being shaped by a culture with a sexuality gone mad. Women are paying a tremendous price for the loosening of sexual boundaries-in broken hearts, in lost time, in confused sense of self. Perhaps these voices are recognizable:
Shannon is desperate for something that will curb the panic attacks that descend on her unannounced. Her job as a news reporter is being threatened by these sweaty emotional monsters. Shannon has just broken up with a man named Ben-a great guy she met last year in college and followed to the city, where they both landed their first jobs. She feels bad about beginning to sleep with Ben a few years ago. It violated her convictions as a Christian, but she developed her own way of justifying their sexual relationship. At least it was better than so many women around her. This was no one-night fling-she and Ben were planning a future together.
Two things caught Shannon by surprise. She hadn't anticipated that her growing attachment to Ben would be met with a reaction of his own-she was slowly caricatured as this woman "with too much of a hold on him." The more attached she became, the more detached he got-until she finally wanted out altogether. And Shannon had no idea that leaving Ben after this investment of herself would feel like a miniature divorce.
Donna says she has always been sexually curious. Movies she saw in middle school, stories of her older siblings' late-night capers, and easy access to soft porn left her primed for her own sexual adventures. When a boy showed interest in her, it was she who upped the ante, moving things to the next level of sexual intimacy. By the time she left high school, she had been with a good number of guys.
Now, in her second year of college, Donna finally has begun to wonder where her sexual activity is headed. What is the point? she asks. Why does she feel numb inside-as though her body is disconnected from the rest of her? Donna watches other couples and wonders if she will ever know what it feels like to have a man love her-just for her. A vague sense of regret and loss she cannot name follows her around. She longs to retrace her steps and find the innocence of soul she once knew.
Emily's introduction to her own sexuality came from the most injurious of all possible routes. Her favorite brother used to slip into her room at night, just as she was turning twelve, where he held her in his arms and fondled her changing body. The bittersweet experience of hating yourself while you enjoyed intimacy never meant to be was profoundly ingrained in Emily's psyche. Being date-raped in high school just seemed like one more act in a bad play. With the sexual walls in her life broken down, Emily accepted the terms of the inevitable: a relationship with a man comes with a sexual price tag. Sex is part of the dues you pay to keep the relationship-and she has had quite a few of those. The fog and pain after each breakup leads to one poor choice in men after another.
Emily feels as though she steps in and out of two lives. On Sunday mornings she plays the flute in a worship ensemble. She sincerely wants to follow God, but her sexual life feels out of her control. She can't reconcile her lifestyle with her beliefs about God.
In any direction you turn now, women feel not just the opportunity, but the pressure, to be sexual. I am sure the checkout lane in your grocery store looks just like mine. On any given day, I can reach for at least two magazines that will give me the latest tip on how to "do" a man-as though sex is assumed between two mature adults, as though it is a woman's job to provide the best experience possible, as though a woman should be able to shield her heart while she bares her body on cue. Although in the Christian community we subscribe to a different vision, we find ourselves swimming in the same cultural soup. We cannot help but be affected.
I hear similar stories in any part of the country. When I give a seminar to college women or single women in the marketplace almost anywhere, they say the same things. "I was swept into major sexual experiences early on, before I even knew what was happening." Women often feel like they've sexually traded little bits of their soul they can't get back. "I was so afraid I'd lose this guy that I felt like I had to have sex with him." It's hard to hold a line when a woman feels like a guy can get what he wants from three other women if she refuses.
Not every trend concerning women's sexuality has been negative, however. Some changes deserve a round of applause-the validation of a woman's experience of sexual pleasure, the insistence that a woman's life is her own, given to her by God, and not defined solely by her attachment to a man. These truths are timeless. But the sexual revolution that my generation ushered through the door has taken us way beyond both-and far down a costly path.
"Revolutions" are supposed to usher in a braver, better world. Why, then, are women not happier than they seem to be?
This strange lack of happiness is being articulated now by a small cache of young female writers-savvy, intelligent, brutally honest women who wonder out loud why their peers, liberated from all the constraints of previous generations, do not seem to be prospering as expected. One particularly fresh voice with a daring message belongs to Wendy Shalit, an orthodox Jewish writer, who openly began to challenge the ease with which men and women get intimate. While a student at Williams College, she exposed the absurdity of men and women trying to share the same bathroom facilities, as though their physical differences could be neutralized. Soon after graduation she wrote the best-selling book A Return to Modesty, essentially pleading with other women to consider the physical and emotional cost of the loss of romance and courtship. She calls what is happening among younger women today "an invisible American tragedy." Her words are not too strong.
While there is indeed much promise in this generation of women, there is also an incredible amount of pain, especially pain that is rooted in mistaken sexual choices. The carnage of the sexual revolution blows into counseling offices like mine with great regularity-women who have so much going for them but who have sustained blows like one-night stands, abortions, and deep bonds with men they must find a way to dig out of the soil of their hearts.
Over and over I am struck with a desire to gather these women and bring them home with me. I want to pour them a cup of tea and invite them to talk. As a woman born in another era (when bell bottoms were popular the first time) and having slept with one and the same man for thirty years, I think this is a hard time to be female. It is true that nearly every conceivable door of opportunity is open to women now, but there is scarcely anyone standing in front of some of these doors and saying the obvious: This path does not lead to a life you want.
A Longing for Romance
In survey after survey, women insist that, while they value having more options in how they relate to men, they miss the sense of romance, of being pursued by a man. There seems to be a growing awareness that something beautiful between men and women is being trampled in the rush to the sexual. Some call it "lost civility." The notion that a woman is a prize in her own right, worth crossing the dance floor of life to get to know deeply, is no longer assumed. Indeed, the "death of romance" we are experiencing now has become a universal moan among women.
In researching this book, I also interviewed women from earlier eras-ones who danced the night away to the music of a twenty-piece band or who kept love going in wartime through letters to a soldier half a world away. Their stories are almost lost to us now. Theirs was not an easy time, either, for they faced pressures of a different sort. Their options in life were notoriously limited. Becoming a wife and a mother was invariably the next step in a scripted life that presented far fewer choices.
Yet there was a beauty and an elegance to their relationships with men that one too rarely sees these days. Fraternities from the state university, for example, held their annual spring galas at the beach. Men in tuxedos and women in beautiful ball gowns really did dance the night away in a ballroom overlooking the sea-because both parties knew they would retire to separate quarters before the morning dawned. So much more was required of a man. He actually expected to have to court a woman's affection-sometimes riding the train for the day to see her for a few hours, expecting nothing more sexual than a kiss. When a man took a woman out, her care and her good time were his responsibility.
Perhaps the most engaging story that came my way, though, sheds some light on the respect and gentleness men and women tended to offer each other even if they never married. Charlotte, a lovely, silver-haired woman in her seventies, told me how she fell in love with a man she met on a slow boat to Europe while she was in college. They had hours to talk, watching the way the stars shine when there is only sky and sea. Frank continued to write after she returned home; he even came to see her once or twice. But she knew, as she had always known, that she would marry Joe, a man in her hometown whom she had dated for a couple of years. When Charlotte married a year later, out of kindness she sent Frank an invitation to the wedding. He replied with a gift-a leather-bound, early edition of John Milton's classic, his calling card tellingly stuck between the pages of Paradise Lost.
We can't turn back the clock, and our current problems would not evaporate even if we could. There are flies in the ointment of love in every day and time. The chastity of women in days gone by was rarely a reflection of real virtue or the thoughtful consideration of sexual ethics. Good girls didn't have sex-it was about that simple. The fear of pregnancy kept many women chaste. Thus, they did not have to do the hard work that women do now of wrestling with the spiritual and emotional implications of joining one's body to another.
I share their stories as a way of gauging how far we have come in a relatively short span of time. "You've come a long way, baby" was the slogan that made Virginia Slims cigarettes famous. Indeed, we have come a long way. The question we must ask ourselves is, when it comes to relating to men, is this where we want to be?
In every generation, we must reach for truth that is timeless-that goes back further than any of us can remember. The only way to construct a life we can live inside is to build on something more solid than ourselves.
Opening Pandora's Box
The dance between men and women was carefully scripted until the late 1960s, when my generation discovered sex-as though it were some recent invention. I have friends who passed through college before sexual restraints broke loose, and their stories sound almost quaint by comparison. They speak of fraternity parties where men were required to appear in ties and dress shirts, weekday curfews of 10:00 p.m., and housemothers who ensured that no man ever saw more than the foyer of female living quarters.
Excerpted from Sex and the Soul of a Woman by Paula Rinehart Copyright © 2004 by Paula Rinehart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|1.||A Rose Every Friday||12|
|2.||What Women Lose||28|
|3.||A Woman's Power||44|
|5.||Stepping on Each Other's Toes||72|
|6.||What Really Happens in Sex||87|
|7.||Getting Back Your Heart||106|
|8.||Recognizing a Good Man||124|
|9.||Giving Yourself Away||138|
|10.||The Good Relationship||150|
|11.||The Making of a Man||167|
|About the Author||191|
Posted March 27, 2010
I wish this book had been written decades ago - and I had read it! As a professional counselor, Ms.Rinehart has the "inside scoop" of how un-fulfilling and downright destructive having "casual" sex can be for a woman. She writes from a Christian perspective but in a gentle, non-judgmental way. Many of her sources are secular. I think every teen girl should read it before they start dating. She is talking to unmarried women in this book and does not address the situation of having made the poor choices she warns of and gotten married. (Another book?)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2007
This book was heaven sent for me. I walked around the self help isle looking for help dealing with the pain of another broken relationship only to wonder into the religious section and find Sex and the Soul of a Woman. By just reading the back cover I knew that this would indeed be a good read. It does not make you feel guilty about the past but gives you the hope of God to be in ANY future relationship with a man. It is truly hard to put such an inspiring book down! It really gets to the root of your heartbreak and understandably because of the gravity of what you have been willing to share with someone without the promise and commitment of forever. The author opens your eyes to what it is that you are supposed to be loving about another person minus the entanglement of a bond of sex. I recommend this book to any and every sexually active woman that is not married.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 7, 2004
I read this book after breaking up with the man I loved for almost 2 years. The words of these pages jumped out at me and put my life into perspective. They helped me to open my eyes to the truth of why I had become the way I was. After reading this book in 2 days, I have a new perspective and a new hope for my future. It helped me to realize God's will in my life, and not my will.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 16, 2004
My best friend gave me this book when I broke up with my boyfriend after three years. I had no idea how much sex became the determing factor as to who I am and ultimately what I am in search of. If relationships have felt meaningless, and you've been sexually involved, this book needs to be your companion! I finished it in a few days, its an easy read, but don't expect to walk away unchanged. You'll never be the same!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2009
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