[VIEWPOINT]Love needs understandingAccording to research conducted by the Korean Institute of Criminal Justice Policy, South Korea ranked second among 12 advanced countries in the world in the rate of outbreak of sexual crimes such as sexual harassment and sexual violence. Although the wind of women’s power has started to blow in our society, the male-dominated culture is still one of the reasons for the distorted notion that women are regarded as sexual objects. However, more fundamentally, this distortion happens because people don’t recognize that the psychologies of men and women are different.
Men and women have different views on sex. According to a survey, men become more jealous when they imagine their partner having passionate sex with another man one night, but women become more jealous when they imagine their partner falling emotionally in love with another woman. Also, when women reject sex, men think it is because there is no emotional love, but when men refuse emotional intimacy, women think of it as a rejection of sex.
The differences in opinion also cause distorted sexual communication. Many men think that when women say “no,” they tacitly mean “yes.” Thus, men reckon the degree of women’s shame and anger lower than it really is.
There are also differences between the two genders not only regarding the verbal rejection of women, but also in the interpretation of small gestures. Smiling, making eye contact, reacting positively during a conversation, or light physical contact are actions that can take place not only in a sexual situation, but also in a platonic one. However, men tend to misinterpret amicable and friendly gestures as an expression of sexual interest or intention by women, and sometimes take them as gestures allowing the men to take sexual action.
University students, both male and female, were asked to watch the first meeting of a man and a woman, and to analyze the content of their conversation.
The results showed that both male and female students thought there was no sexual content in the man’s dialogue. Female students thought there was no sexual content in the woman’s dialogue, either, but male students thought the woman’s dialogue included sexual content. In other words, men have a tendency to interpret the natural expressions and actions of women as having sexual intentions.
The inability to understand the differences between men and women often causes men to make improper sexual demands on women who are close to them, such as their lovers or spouses.
Therefore, men must understand that there can be differences between what women intend to do and the way men interpret those intentions. And women must express their opinions more concretely and clearly.
One experiment showed that men understood the intentions of women more clearly when the women clearly stated why she was rejecting the man.
For example, if we compare a case in which a woman said she would rather wait for sex until “after we get married . . .” with a case in which she said, “after we come to know each other more . . .,” which seem to be quite similar expressions, men understand the women’s intention more clearly when she used a more concrete word like “marry” instead of “know more” to explain the reason of rejection, and was able to respect her wishes.
Laws and systems that punish forceful sex in close relationships such as sexual harassment at work or forced sex by a date surely have come a long way compared to the past.
But if we do not overcome wrong fundamental perceptions and the difference in the understanding of sex between men and women, such problems will not be resolved easily.
Men and women are attracted to each other because of their differences.
However, if we force “I” to the side without properly understanding the differences or considerations of the other sex and show an attitude of “my opinion” is “your opinion,” this can be a seed for friction and violence in a close relationship between the sexes.
Thinking of “the other side” on the basis of “me” is the biggest cause for unfortunate incidents between men and women. Forcing a person one-sidedly is not love. Let’s think whether or not we are wrongfully forcing someone dear to us to do something on the pretext of love.
* The writer is a professor of psychology at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kwak Keum-joo