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March 19, 2010


women's studies student

I LOVE this post--you articulate the problem beautifully. It's so supporting to know that there is another message out there aside from the one feminist discourse usually gives us.

One of the first things I remember hearing from my first Women Studies class went something like this:

"There is no such thing as an emotional hormone that is released after sex to make the woman more attached to the man"

That was the beginning of a semester that made us believe it is abnormal to feel emotional after sex, except for in cases of rape. If you do feel emotional after consensual sex, it is because "society" has taught us to be overly sensitive as women. Great...so my true self is a non-feeling robot? Congratulations to me.

Robin Goodfellow

Err, no, there is indeed a hormone (if it's a "hormone"? I thought it was just a brain chemical), that induces bonding after sex. Well, according to the article here (http://www.oxytocin.org/oxytoc/love-science.html), something like that goes on.

Can I ask a question, here?

See, I've been thinking about this too, and I'm thinking that women don't cry because they're ashamed of crying. That would be-with all due respect-silly. That would be like saying that there's no escaping it, and I'm against that sort of reasoning.

A while back, a friend of mine, asked me to define "shame". My quick response was that shame = self-betrayal of values. I mean, think about it: when you feel ashamed, the emotional product is basically disappointment in yourself, for doing something you said you wouldn't do, or don't believe in.

Anyway, about that question I wanted to ask.

My question is:

Do you think that maybe it's possible that the shame isn't so much about caused by the crying, as the possible realization that they've been lying to themselves about sex having no strings?

It's basically like going "OMG, I've been spitting on my own dignity".

(There's also the further repercussion of realizing that it hurts the men who would have never used them like that in the first place, who may feel less inclined to court them now... possibly leading these women to think they shouldn't even try to find relationships that treat them better.)


I think the other important thing to consider is that society-wide, for men and women, the attitude toward sex has become skewed. On one hand, we believe that sex is just sex and that we can have casual sex whenever we want, as if it it's a kind of small talk or something. On the other hand sex is constantly used as a metaphor for love in television and film, leading people to think that sex is the ultimate expression of love. The unfortunate result, I believe, is that men and women introduce sex into their relationships way before it is emotionally healthy to do so. Of course sex is an emotional thing, and we should feel a connection to someone if we are going to open ourselves up to him/her in such a way; but if we choose to introduce that, it should be commensurate with the level of emotional intimacy in the relationship. Empowerment doesn't mean breaking our own hearts by liberating ourselves sexually while ignoring the more important aspects of our identities. Life and love aren't about sex.

Erica Z

I think it's time that women realize that their emotional reactions can be seen as a big advantage over men.

Let me explain. In general, women are naturally more emotional than men. Becoming emotional, by definition, is an instinctive reaction to something. Therefore, women are more naturally skilled than men at getting in touch with their instincts. Crying is an expression of something that is really, really deep in a person - positive OR negative. If a woman is crying over a relationship, she should see it as a tool; she should say, "Wait. Something must be going on here." And then she should figure out what that something is.

A woman using her natural, intuitive instincts -- that's true empowerment.


Robin-I LOVE your take on this issue. I would hope that a lot of women would come to this realization after getting themselves involved with one, two, no MANY unhealthy relationships. However I unfortunately don't believe that's the case. A lot of the time, I think the second a girl finds another guy to replace the old one that almost emotionally destroyed her, she quickly forgets what it was that had caused her the pain from the first time and throws herself once again into another emotionally destructive relationship. That's what this society has taught us to be a fast and effective cure from a break-up-find someone else! We cry because at the time it sucks and we start to think momentarily that maybe we need to think twice about our values. But unfortunately for a lot of women I don't think the message is ever fully internalized.

Robin Goodfellow


Seeking any kind of advantage "over" men might not be the best way to prove your point. Men are very emotional creatures as well-we just display and internalize our feelings differently.

However, I will agree with you that women are likely to be more emotionally intuitive. I think that's what causes women to be more "tender", and is something that men do admire about women.


I'm glad you appreciated my take on things. I'd also say it's then up to women to tell other women not to give up on themselves or other men (the good ones). May you be happy with choosing to have NOT done the hook-up thing, and lead by gracious example.


Can we additionally consider women who actually feel *ok* about casual sex, or a casual hook-up? Is shame sometimes be derived from the fear of being judged? What if a woman is emotionally satisfied in every aspect of her life by intimate, non sexual, relationships ( ie- friends and family) and only looks to men for that casual relationship and sexual satisfaction? That may be all she needs from them- at. that. time.

Perhaps they are not pretending to be unemotional or vulnerable- they really are! But yet they are then taught or reminded, when they turn to their female friends for gossip sessions, that they should care or express remorse or wait for his call...

I think sometimes the shame cycle is culturally defined and enforced by society. I know a lot of women whose "shame cycle" begins only when they share their experience or decision with friends who do not share the same sentiment (or lack thereof...)

Christopher Stavros

Erica Z, women aren't "naturally more emotional" or "more naturally skilled" in emotions than men. This apparent effect is produced by wholly unnatural means: that is, by from a very young age beating, ridiculing and threatening boys who show their emotions until they learn to not do so.

Pamela Tougher

I agree somewhat with the first comment about shame. I'm not so sure that crying is a voluntary act that would give someone a sense of shame. I think what is causing the sense of shame is the knowledge that one has voluntarily objectified themselves. But after some time and reflection, the girl in the scenario described above will hopefully realize that she was a victim to the system of beliefs. A system that it's OK to have meaningless sex. We are human beings and have the potential for a profound sexuality so why does our culture project a demeaning illusion that human sex is equal to monkey sex?

Headless Unicorn Guy

Yet there is a paradox: In many ways, women's empowerment has been achieved by eliminating the perception of vulnerability or weakness in our dealings with men, to prove that we are their equal.

What bugs me, Jenna, is the use of the word "empowerment". More accurately, "women's empowerment" has been acheived by reducing male-female interaction into Power Struggle. And in a Power Struggle, there can be no equality. Only "I Win You Lose." Because Power Struggle has only two end/rest states: My boot stamping on your face or your boot stamping on mine. Top or bottom, dom or sub, powerful or powerless.

"The only goal of power is Power."
-- Comrade O'Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984


Headless Unicorn Guy,

I am not sure if I correctly understand your argument. Personally I do not define empowerment in terms of a "power struggle", rather I see the term as a way of increasing spiritual, economic, social, or political strength. Anyone can be empowered--its the process of one developing confidence in their own abilities.

Women's empowerment in my eyes is the confidence to proudly be a woman, and discuss those challenges we all face. Take for instance this blog itself.

Even men can be empowered to do anything--there need no reason to refer to the sense of self confidence in terms of struggle. If empowerment was all about power struggle, the world would be full of more conflict and apprehension.

Erica Z


Thanks for helping me clarify my point; when I said that women are naturally more emotional than men, I actually meant that they are naturally more emotionally intuitive - i.e. better able to get in touch with their emotions. I did not mean to imply that men do not have emotions, rather that that they don't express them as naturally as women do.


I do not agree with your logic that women being more skilled at expressing emotions is a result of pressure on males not to be emotional. Firstly, That women are generally very emotionally tuned-in has nothing to do with whether or not men are pressured to suppress their emotions, which I agree that they often are.

And I just don't believe that without these pressures upon men, you would see men going around crying, admitting their helplessness, and expressing their true needs and inner feelings.

Also, several scientific studies have emerged showing that women's brains and men's brains show anatomical differences... For example, the limbic cortex (which regulates emotions) was found to be proportionally larger in women than men.


It is not just about developing confidence in one's own ability. It's about giving meaning to why women have been oppressed for so long and are still today around the world. Any oppressed group of people who have suffered have to give meaning to their suffering and gender inequality in particular has unique qualities because in this case the oppressed love (potentially or desire for the love of) their oppressors. It's not as easy as just developing confidence. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who suffered in the concentration camps during the Nazi regime in Germany, wrote that despair=suffering without meaning which explains why certain forms of captivity and imprisonment (such as Guantanamo Bay) are inhumane. Yes there are equalities between men and women biologically/emotionally, but there is a HISTORY of oppression and this history has effects. Furthermore, gender oppression is unique in itself in comparison to other forms of oppression.

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