Musings Of A Spiritual Atheist
Sex And Friendship

Relationships between individuals are really nobody’s business but the two individuals concerned and it makes no difference whether the two are both male, both female or one of each. The exception to that is when the two people are married to others. Of course, the spouses would want to know what the relationship is and probably would want to be included. Due to the potential for misunderstandings, it is not always wise for a man and a woman to be close friends when they are married to others. Whether there is any physical, sexual attraction involved or not, the spouses will likely not be accepting of it and it can lead to serious problems within a marriage.

Humans, being as sexually focused as we clearly are, nearly always see some kind of sexuality involved in close friendships, regardless of the type, but I think it is not always necessarily the case and that there are many close friendships that are completely platonic, where two people just enjoy each other’s company without any desire to put their hands on each other. One has to wonder just how much damage has been done to individuals by others making sexual assumptions about people who are friends, then talking about them as if their assumptions were fact, when they are merely figments of their own sexually focused minds.

Much of this comes from traditional attitudes in societies in which men and women rarely had much close contact with each other except to marry and have children. In many societies this is still the case, and the two sexes are expected to inhabit two different worlds. In some cultures this even led to different writing systems, or different dialects for men and women. It is undoubtedly the basis for the discrimination against women in our own society and the assumption, still encountered, that they are somehow inferior to men in intellect and capability. Having worked with many women all of my life, I can attest most emphatically that the assumption is absolutely false.

The fact is that if we could wave a magic wand and remove the physical evidence of sex from people we would have the greatest difficulty identifying any difference between men and women. That is because sexual dimorphism is the only significant difference between them. In the mind, in intellect, in capabilities, in ambition, in competence, in every other way, the variability among one sex overlaps the variability among the other, so much so that the range of possibilities is the same for both. The only reason that women are treated as somehow inferior to men is because of tradition in the cultures around the world, including our own Canadian culture. The Charter of rights and freedoms says discrimination on the basis of sex may not be practiced, but we all know it is, whether by direct speech or body language or wage rates or employment opportunities. We still have a long way to go .

In an effort to bring about a more equitable society as far as sexual equality is involved, there have been some attempts to force it through preferential employment or preferential acceptance into educational programs, and preferential treatment in other areas as well. Usually, these programs are designed to increase the numbers of a particular group, women in this case, although it has also been used in communities where there was a severe bias against employing people from some visible groups, not always minorities.

I have always been in two minds about these programs, although I do understand why they are used. Obviously, preferential acceptance into an educational program both ensures that there is equality of opportunity for women and redress for past discrimination. It is, however, at the expense of males who want the same opportunity for themselves and who may be among those rejecting the premises of the past and acknowledging sexual equality as the norm. Using these preferential programs does require that we accept that there must be a short term inequity against males in order to bring about a long term equality for females and redress the disparities that have been produced by past discrimination. Overall, then, I reluctantly support preferential selection because it is the only practical way to redress the inequities that now exist as a consequence of sexual discrimination in the not too distant past. Hopefully, when an equitable distribution of the sexes is reached in the number of graduates in the work force, the selection of those admitted to programs will be set at about 50% of each sex to reflect the distribution in society.

While there has been some amelioration of how young people choose careers, there are still some that are viewed as predominantly female. Nursing is one such and a disproportionate number of women become nurses, although it is undoubtedly less attractive as a career than it was in the past. This is probably due to alternate careers being more easily accessible coupled with changes to the responsibilities of registered nurses. My own line of work is similar, with more women working as medical laboratory technologists than men. Interestingly, in neither of these cases do we hear of preferential selection being used to address this anomaly. I am not sure why this should be so, but it might be because men do not want to do what has been traditionally seen as “women’s work” in the past. I do believe it is necessary to get beyond this. There surely is no “men’s work” or “women’s work” any longer. All careers should be available to both men and women equitably.

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