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AUTHOR Twohey, Denise TITLE Can We Talk? Case Studies Regarding Gender and
PUB DATE Aug 93 NOTE 30p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the
American Psychological Association (101st, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, August 20-24, 1994).
PUB TYPE Speeches/Conference Papers (150) Reports Descriptive (141)
EDRS PRICE MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage. DESCRIPTORS *Attachment Behavior; Case Studies; Females;
Interpersonal Relationship; *Intimacy; *Language Attitudes; Males; Psychological Patterns; Relationship; Self Disclosure (Individuals); *Sex Differences; *Sex Role; Sex Stereotypes
IDENTIFIERS *Gender Aware Therapy; *Gender Issues; Mutuality
ABSTRACT Gender inevitably influences intimacy. This paper
examines how gender differences can inhibit intimate relationships. In the analysis of two cases, it was observed that the researcher unconsciously had a tendency to defer to male perspectives regarding intimacy, and suggests that many female clients may do the same. Researchers have speculated that women and men express themselves and respond differently: women strive toward relationship and mutuality, whereas men seek autonomy and authority. The key issue revolves around "voice." Frequently, society misrepresents a woman's voice-a metaphor to represent self-definition--deeming it ill-formed in some way. Women who desire increased mutuality and a deeper emotional connection with their partner should be encouraged and not be treated as aberrant. In the above cases, the men's incapacity or unwillingness to provide a context for the women's continued growth created difficulties. The men strove for independence, making the women seem cloying or needy. The women seemed unclear about what they wanted--their relational "selves" had been invalidated by a culture which emphasizes independence over relationship. It was found that even an effective therapist for these women can become caught up in the hopelessness of these women's implicit requests for greater mutuality and intimacy. (Contains 39 references.) (RJM)
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Can We Talk? Case Studies Regarding Gender and Intimacy
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Office of Educational Research and improvement
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ePointsofyieworommonsstMedmthiscloc, men) do not necessarily represent official OEMmsitionmPonCy
Denise Twohey, Ed.D. University of N. Dakota
Box 8255 University Station Grand Forks, N.D. 58202-8522
(701) 777-2635 or (701) 775-3695
CO Paper presented at the symposium "Who Said What--Men and Women in %.0 Communication", 101st Annual Meeting of the American Lc\ Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada, August 20-24, 1993.
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Gender and Intimacy 2
Two case studies were originally selected to portray gender differences in definitions, needs for, and expressions of intimacy in heterosexual relationships. As the manuscript developed, however, the author's own struggles with gender biases within psychology began to parallel those of the clients described. The author concludes by challenging the concept of "independent" self (both personal and professional) and by demonstrating how gender constructs not only intimacy but professional relationships as well.
Gender and Intimacy 3
If you were the woman and I was the man Would I send you yellow roses Would I dare to kiss your hand?
Gender inevitably influences the expression of
intimacy. In fact, women and men. usually experience
intimacy in different ways (Bergman & Surrey, 1992;
Kantor & Okun, 1989; Osherson, 1991). According to
Pollack and Gilligan (1982) men fear intimacy because
it threatens independence, while women fear
independence because it threatens intimacy.
Mindful of the biases involved in either
overstating or understating gender difference (Hare-
Mustin & Marecek, 1988; 1990; Wilcox & Forrest, 1992),
this writer demonstrates how gender differences
regarding intimacy can create problems in
relationships. Through the analysis of two case
examples, the author points out her own (previously
unconscious, but becoming conscious) tendency to defer
to male perspectives regarding intimacy, and suggests
that many female clients may do the same.
Gender and Intimacy 4
Intimacy, Sex, and Love
Levine (1991) believes the capacity for intimacy
rests on three separate abilities: (1) knowing what one
feels and thinks; (2) using words to express these
thoughts and feelings; and (3) saying them to another
person. In addition to self-expression, intimacy also
requires obtaining a response. According to Levine
(1992), under ideal circumstances the response conveys:
(1) non-critical acceptance of what is said; (2)
awareness of the importance of the moment to the
speaker; and (3) understanding. Intimate partners need
to feel as though they arc heard and understood.
Both Gilligan (1982) and Levine (1991) suggest the
motivation for self expression and response differs for
women and men. This difference occurs because women
generally strive toward relationship and mutuality,
whereas men more often strive toward autonomy and
authority (McClelland, 1975; Tannen 1990). This
difference often causes misunderstanding between women
Another source of misunderstanding concerns the
relationship between intimacy and sex (Jacobson, 1989).
Gender and Intimacy 5
Time magazine recently called this confusion a chicken
and egg dilemma (Gray, 1993). Which comes first,
intimacy or sex? The answer may depend on
Scarf (cited in Kantor, et al., 1989) states that
for her emotional intimacy increases sexuality. She
claims that trust is sexy. The opposite view, which
attributes sexual interest to mystery, uncertainty
and/or an intermittent reinforcement schedule is more
prevalent in the psychological literature (Berscheid,
1983; Sternberg, 1987). However, intimacy does not
equate with trust, nor does mystery preclude trust.
Levine explains that "we gravitate toward our
theoretical simplicities in our need to understand or
create the illusion that we understand" (personal
communication, June 4, 1993). Additionally, Levine
wonders if Scarf understands the meaning of the word
sexuality at all.
Yalom (1989) distinguishes between intimacy and
falling in love. For Yalom, intimacy is a "giving to"
not a "falling for." Both Yalom (1989) and Levine
(1991) emphasize the psychological aspects of intimacy
Gender and Intimacy 6
over the physical. Thus, these men counter the
cultural stereotype, whereby men simply equate intimacy
with sex (Levant, 1990; Livermore, 1993).
In 1977 Klassen explained:
In our euphemistic intellectual jungle swamp
we may think intimacy means sex and/or sex
means intimacy (p. 2).
But we would be wrong, he implies. He then articulates
what he sees as gender related difficulties with
romantic love. Conditioning teaches women to be sex
objects and men to objectify them/us (see also
Stoltenberg, 1990). And then, according to Klassen
(1977), we strike a deal exchanging sex for intimacy or
intimacy for sex. Under these conditions the intimacy
is often lacking, and the sex is disappointing.
What has changed since 1977? Levant (1992) still
identifies aggression as a core feature of masculinity.
And although aggression is not always negative, McGrath
(1992) and the APA task force on women and depression
(McGrath, E., Keita, G., Strickland & Russo, 1990)
report that over 50% of adult American women have had
Gender and Intimacy 7
at least one significant incident of physical or sexual
abuse before the age of 21.
Returning to a female perspective, Weingarten
(1991) stresses equality, reciprocity and the mutual
construction of intimate moments in relationships.
According to Weingarten, the accumulation of these
mutually constructed intimate moments (which may or may
not include either sex or self-expression) creates
intimacy in relationships.
Intimacy requires voice, a metaphor used in
feminist literature to represent self-definition
(Ellsworth, 1989). Care and justice, examples of
certain culturally developed voices, refer to how women
and men often differ in approaching the moral dilemmas
in their lives (Gilligan, Ward, & Taylor 1988)