This Gender Drama series is about the spiritual implications of sex and romance… how our worldly passions and our spiritual pursuits might affect each other. I’m trying to focus on the devoted boy-girl, man-woman relationships that have defined and perpetuated our species down through the ages.
The variations on that theme—tantric yoga, casual sex, homosexuality, celibacy, masturbation, transgender, sex addiction, prostitution, incest, rape, lechery, pornography, child porn, child sexual abuse—may be addressed in some of these articles, but not in any great depth.
Anyway, the general rule about all of these behaviors is that they can be spiritually rewarding if they end in loving feelings for everyone concerned… or they can become a spiritual burden when a pattern of behavior causes shame or pain or suffering for ourself or for others.
Within that general rule there are a lot of exceptions and complications, and those are the things I’m trying to sort through in these individual articles… this one dealing with human genes and hormones.
It’s not easy to stay spiritually focused on Earth… and one reason seems to be these darned hormones coursing through us, along with the genetic hard-wiring that helps regulate them.
Scientists have long known that gender hormones—testosterone in men and estrogen in women—have a whopper of an impact on human behavior, especially in the areas of sex and aggression.
Recently they found 16 genes in the brain (the hypothalamus region, to be specific) that channel those hormones in different ways… that make us perform differently in rousing situations.
The sex hormones carried through the bloodstream are like vehicles streaming along a video game highway, and the individual genes are like exits leading to places where you can get into a brawl, where you can get laid, or where you have to defend yourself or your family against aggression.
A four-year study found, for example, that:
Disabling one gene (Brsr3) makes males horny and hot-headed… eager to plunder a female or to pummel another male… whichever opportunity presents itself.
Disabling another gene (Cckar) makes females disdain male advances and sexual bravado… so when she says, “It’s not you, it’s me,” this time she really means it!
Disabling another (Irs4) detaches moms emotionally from their kids. Intruders are allowed into the nest unchallenged (we’re talking about mice, by the way, whose reactions in the lab usually parallel human reactions), and the moms let their babies wander unsupervised.
So, as you might imagine, our hormones and genes often work against our spiritual integrity. They stir up conflicts in our lives, and it takes an effort on our part to transcend the drama and restore inner calm… spiritual balance.
How do we do that?
The ultimate human experience is finding conscious connection to the source, which involves building a bridge between the conscious mind (in the head) and our highest mind, or soul (in the heart). As through practiced meditation.
Making that connection between our outer self and inner self can provide the ultimate source of power for each of us while we’re alive here on Earth… helping us to transcend the dramas going on around us.
But is it able to solve all of our problems?
Yes, and no. A spiritual approach can solve almost all human problems, or it can solve almost none of them… depending on how we look at it.
Here’s one extreme example of the dichotomy that we might consider while contending with our own milder dramas:
A man who’s starving to death in an overpopulated land where resources are scarce won’t suddenly become well-nourished simply by meditating. On the other hand, through practiced meditation he’ll see his material surroundings and his suffering as illusions within a grand reality of which his own life and all living things on planet Earth are miniscule, nearly inconsequential. He’ll experience inner peace and bliss as his body deteriorates, then he’ll find himself alive and awake in a healthy astral body in paradise once his physical body dies.
Many people today—perhaps most people, since we live in materialistic times—would look at the spiritual approach above as a fantasy… a mere cop-out that the dying man might employ to cope with his pathetic situation.
I can tell you with certainty, from my own experience and from the experiences of many others, that the spiritual approach is not a cop-out. It’s the ultimate truth.
Suffering on Earth is the fantasy… the illusion.
Being totally wrapped up in the illusion is part of the game that we all start to play the moment we’re born… and the way to win the game is to transcend the drama through spiritual understanding and spiritual practice before we die.
We may not be starving to death, but to be human is to experience some suffering. Fostering our conscious connection to the source and turning our problems over to the higher power can put our suffering in perspective and make life well worthwhile, no matter the cause or extent of the pain. Like the starving man, we can minimize the drama by going within. By forging a conscious connection with that higher power resting at the center of our being, we can find peace amid the drama.
This is especially true of broken hearts, shame, and other romance- and gender-related issues, which usually are not a matter of life and death. A spiritual approach can help put these problems neatly into perspective.
It’s unreasonable, though, to expect spiritual practices to completely overrule our hormonal compulsions. Even spiritual masters get themselves into trouble from time to time. And it’s not just celibate Catholic priests. Even some gentle, beloved Buddhist teachers do it.
So spiritual pursuits can help us manage our raging hormones, but may not be the complete solution.
It also helps to have a good, down-to-earth understanding of what we’re up against in the gender drama… to know what makes the opposite sex tick. That sometimes seems like a bigger job than finding God!
Social scientists report marked differences between males and females, which I suspect can be traced to our hormones and genes. I adapted the following descriptions from a classic sociological text, In a Different Voice, by Carol Gilligan:
Children’s games. Boys tend to play competitive games outdoors in large groups. The games are often long-lasting and involve a lot of skill. Disputes break out fairly often, but boys seem to enjoy resolving conflicts as much as playing the game. Boys are preoccupied by game rules, referring to them frequently to work out disputes. While playing, boys learn competitiveness, independence, and organizational skills that will be helpful later in life in coordinating the activities of large, diverse groups. Meanwhile, girls like to play indoors, usually in small, intimate groups. The games are less competitive, more cooperative, and when disputes break out the girls usually end the game rather than threaten the relationships. Girls are more flexible than boys; they are more likely to bend the rules and adopt any changes that will result in greater fairness and less pain all around. Girls learn to cooperate smoothly while nurturing and preserving interpersonal relationships. They become open-minded.
Law and morality. Women generally have a more difficult time than men making moral decisions because they consider many variables. They analyze a situation, looking for the “right” option — the one that will cause the least conflict and pain. Men seem to prefer making hastier, more rational decisions. They eliminate many variables by creating legal and moral boundaries and rules. To make the “right” decision they simply consult the rulebooks. They want quick, neat justice… even if it sometimes causes pain to individuals and puts a strain on relationships. Women want to nurture healthy relationships, even if it requires more time, more creativity, and a bending of rules to come up with the “right” solution.
Communication. Women tend to express their feelings openly. Men generally don’t. Girls while away hour after teenage hour exchanging their feelings and analyzing relationships over the phone or in hushed, excited conversations. Boys talk about cars, girls, sports, studies… virtually anything but their feelings. Boys and girls each think that the other gender’s subjects of discussion are trivial.
Interpersonal fears. If men and women were to make separate lists of the social conditions they fear most, women might have a sense of separation and isolation near the top of their list, along with being held in suspicion or being rejected by others for being too successful and competitive. Men might have among their greatest fears feeling entrapped or betrayed, humiliated by deceit, and smothered in a clingy relationship. Coming together intimidates men, while moving apart intimidates women.
The gender differences between men and women are reminiscent of two other opposing forces… the sun’s gravity and our planet’s centrifugal force — one trying to pull our solar system together while the other tries to push it apart. If either force were to prevail, the system would be destroyed, but when working together they keep our sun and Earth in comfortable harmony.
A peaceful family, a peaceful workplace—indeed, a peaceful world—depends on the efforts and skills of both genders working together in comfortable harmony, in mutual respect and understanding… but worldly understanding will always have its limitations.
The pervading force that can ease conflicts, foster love and good will among the players, bring inner peace, and restore cohesion throughout human social systems comes from that higher power within all of us.
In many cases the best way to approach worldly problems is spiritually. Once we learn to tap into that higher power within us, we become part of the solution. And we find inner peace.
The Gender Dramas Series: