Propinquity as Aphrodisiac

Sometimes the truth is expressed in a clumsy, awkward way, like a beautiful person drunk at a party, stumbling and semi-coherent, trying to act funny.  Thus it was in the past couple of weeks, when two high-profile men, established in their careers, both formed in a past era now long-gone, held forth their opinions on the relationship between the sexes.


nobel scientist sexist speechProfessor Tim Hunt, F.R.S. (Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Noble Prize laureate in physiology and medicine) made a rather lame attempt at humour, or perhaps social commentary, when he said this in the midst of a speech:


Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.


This was followed a few days later here in Canada by retiring Defence Staff General Tom Lawson, in commenting on the numerous cases of sexual assault in the military in an interview with Peter Mansbridge of the CBC:


It would be a trite answer, but it’s because we’re biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable Tom Hunt Defencething to press themselves and their desires on others. It’s not the way it should be


Most women I have met, and I bet many  I have not met, dream of being courted, even pursued, by a outgoing and audacious man…


But, anon, even though both comments lack philosophical and anthropological finesse, they are, in the main, true.  Both men, however, were forced to make humiliating apologies, prostrating themselves to the implacable zeitgeist of political correctness.  Tim Hunt was given the choice on the flight back home, relayed to him via his wife, either to resign or be fired.  Tom Lawson was more fortunate, in that he is retiring in June on his comfortable military pension, but the media are still calling for his head, and that he resign immediately in disgrace.


Witness the effects on the elderly Dr. Hunt (he is 72), as he is brought to his knees:


“Tim sat on the sofa and started crying,” says Collins (his wife). “Then I started crying. We just held on to each other…”

Hunt is under no illusions about the consequences. “I am finished,” he says. “I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but I cannot see how that can happen. I have become toxic. I have been hung to dry by academic institutes who have not even bothered to ask me for my side of affairs.”


Woe to those who cross the new and ever-shifting orthodoxy of the new Inquisition, where even abject apologies and repentance are not enough…


But why apologize at all?  I would like to have seen at least one of these men, who do not seem like beta-wuss-males, to tell their critics where to go.  What, pray tell, is wrong with saying that women may fall in love with their highly-intelligent boss in the laboratory (or men with their highly-intelligent female bosses, for that matter), that men and women are ‘biologically wired’ to fall in love with each other, and that men in particular are wired to ‘press their desires’ upon women?


These biological desires are natural and necessary for the continuation of the species, and to inspire men and women to, what was that quaint term?   Ah, yes, court and fall in love.  As Virgil so eloquently put it: Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori…Love conquers all, so let us too yield to love…


A wise man once said to me that propinquity is the greatest aphrodisiacProximity is being near to someone, propinquity is being near to them and interacting, often on a daily basis.  We may be proximate to someone on the floor above our apartment, as they live a scant fourteen feet away, but we may never meet them; they are but footsteps on the ceiling.  But we are propinquous to our roommates, our fellow office workers, our classmates and, of course, to our families, or at least one hopes.


When men and women interact on a regular basis, and especially when they strive together for a common goal, discussing, planning, laughing, sorrowing, eating together, of course an emotional bond will develop.  If the man and woman in question are nubile, that is, marriageable, then all the more will there be a tendency to ‘give in to love’, at least at an emotional level.  One may resist such urges with reason and will, but we must be careful in putting ourselves into such temptation.


That is why the Church and our common culture have always warned against mixed schools and workplaces, for the danger of sexual attraction, and ‘workplace crushes’ can never be fully removed.


I say ‘danger’, but it is not always so.  Sometimes, as in college and early-working years, it is natural and good for young people to fall in love and marry.  Of course, even here they must be aware of becoming smitten with the first attractive person to smile back at them.  The danger increases, however, if the people in question are already married (as in most workplaces), or they are looking for sexual satisfaction, so to speak, outside of marriage.


Yet here the modern acada-media pundits claim that you can put men and women into close, cooperative environments, and expect them not to develop feelings towards each other, or, ironically, to crush such crushes should they arise.  I have heard that the military has young men and women sleeping, snugs as bugs in a rug, in tents together in field exercises.  And at most universities, there are co-ed dormitories,  with ‘sleepovers’, of course, permitted even in single-sex dorms, for how dare we outlaw public and notorious fornication, albeit only in student handbooks?


The schizophrenia of the modern age never ceases to amaze me.  Our teachers resist abstinence education, declaring such chastity to be impossible, yet scream foul if a man ‘presses himself’ upon a woman.  What does that phrase even mean?  Asking her out?  Making a move?  Ogling?  Casual brushes of the hands as the beakers are passed during experiments?  Making ‘inappropriate contact’ while helping her clean her rifle?  I for one would not mind having a clear and precise definition of that vague term ‘sexual harassment’.


Of course, there is real and evident sexual assault, which one may presume is the end point of harassment, but the best way to avoid even venturing down that road is to avoid the occasion of sin in the first place, and that means some segregation of the sexes,  a delineation of each of our roles and expectations.


A return to courteousness and chivalry is in order, respecting the gifts and roles of each other as male and female, as man and woman, grounded in the truth of our created and bodily reality.  John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and his groundbreaking work Love and Responsibility are excellent places to start, and should be required reading for those making any policies concerning the interaction of the sexes.


In his ‘apology’, General Lawson says he will refer to former Supreme Court Justice Madame Deschamps’ ‘ten point recommendation’ in her report for the military.  I may have more to say on this, but in the meantime, it seems as though they will continue in their quixotic attempt to enforce the impossible, fostering all the while the very thing they are trying to avoid.


June 23, 2015