Man or Woman. A difference that matters

Man or Woman. A difference that matters

Rethinking human sexuality is a very important task, especially in a cultural context such as ours, in which social and work transformations offer behavioral models that are characterized by a remarkable sexual indeterminacy. In Man or Woman. A difference that matters, Antonio Malo, professor of anthropology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, tries precisely to rethinking this subject with equilibrium and intellectual rigor, using the approach of philosophical anthropology, since sexuality does not only affect biological aspects or social conditioning, related to sex, but above all the essence of the relationship between man and woman. Here, according to the author, lies the foundation of the identity of every person and also of interpersonal communion, which is the necessary premise for building a society with a human face. In this essay, therefore, sexuality is considered as a deeply human and humanizing reality, and not only as a biological function, a cultural model or a personal choice. But to fully understand this approach to sexuality, it is necessary to recover the relationship between body and soul, which seems to have been almost completely forgotten by contemporary society.

The contribution of philosophical anthropology

The sexual difference, which is the core of this book, is understood here not as a biological or social limit against human desire, but rather as a different numerator of a common denominator: the person. Thus, according to Malo, neither the experimental sciences nor the human sciences succeed in explaining the ultimate meaning of human sexuality, since both limit themselves to analyze a series of more or less important aspects, without reaching their essence. Instead, philosophical anthropology, because it deals with personal being, is able to reach an overview of the question, to establish links between different knowledge and, above all, to treat sexuality and its human sense starting from its origin and from its end.

It starts from the gender theory

Malo-s reflections begin with the analysis of gender theories, which emphasize the social dimension of sexuality as opposed to its biological character, the so called sex. After following the historical evolution of the concept of sexuality, the author concludes that the two most important current visions distort its essence in the same way. In fact, both the naturalistic conception, which sees the difference between man and woman as something absolute, and the postmodern conception, which judges the gender as a socio-cultural acquisition, represent two extremes - less distant than it may seem - of a conception of sex that concerns only the body or, even better, the biology, without considering its personal importance and, therefore, its ethical and relational dimension. The idea of male domination and, consequently, the conflict between the sexes depends precisely on this "partial" biological vision and on the type of relationship between the two sexes that derives from it. Against the power of the sex based on biology, libertarian dualism reacts, by overemphasizing the influence of freedom and society on the very concept of sexuality and its exercise. Although there are some reasons for this criticism, what they propose as a correction is tremendously inhuman: further detaching sex from biological data to link it to an individual choice. Thus, according to Malo, the limitation of the radical feminist approach does not depend so much on what they affirm (the social character of power relations between the sexes, and the naturalistic ways of understanding sexuality), but on what they deny: the relationship of sexuality to the body, because by rejecting its body dimension, they end up sustaining a limitless creativity of freedom, which transforms the body into something that is used at will or even manipulated.

Faced with these extremes, the author of this essay proposes a vision of sexuality as a personal condition, received at the time of birth, but which develops, grows and matures through family and social relationships, which are sexed without necessarily being sexual. They configure the personal way of being a man or a woman, beyond stereotypes and rigid behaviors learned.

The concept of sexed condition

On the other hand, the separation between sexuality and generation, typical of gender mainstreaming, leads to the diffusion of new ways of understanding the family, fatherhood and motherhood, which causes great confusion in some people, especially in the stages of growth, up to the limit of the absurd, as can be seen in the press releases and direct testimonies. Faced with these and other challenges of our society, the essay invites the reader to reflect on the complexity of human sexuality or what the author calls the sexed condition. Even if based on an original sexual difference, sexed condition covers many aspects: physical, psychological, social and cultural, as well as behavioral patterns and, above all, the personal integration of sexuality, through the gift of oneself in marriage or in celibacy. The sexed condition should therefore be the model of human relations and also of the respective social roles. Thus, when the sexed condition is analyzed, it is found that it is the basis of the stages that human sexuality must cross to let open the person to others: from the physical and psychic inclination towards the other sex, passing to the desire of the other, up to the mutual gift in marriage, which generates family and children. Therefore, the difference between the sexes should not be understood as a privilege, much less as a factor of discrimination, but rather as an opportunity to enrich one another.

The paradigm of man-woman

If the ideology of gender (the practical, irrational and aggressive variant of these theories), ends up deconstructing sexual difference , and then rebuilding it according to personal will, not to say according to the fashion of the moment, the sexed condition indicates instead the necessary steps to achieve a good man-woman relationship. Therefore, while gender ideology seeks to eliminate the gift from human relationships, the sexed condition emphasizes it as the cause of family and social generativity, which leads to the maturation of the relationship between parents, as well as to the education and formation of the identity of the children. The last pages of this study deal with the theme of family education and intergenerational relationships, as one of the best means to communicate and transmit beliefs, skills, culture and traditions between grandparents, parents and children.

In short, "there are two ways of being a person: man and woman who, despite being dependent on an original difference, are equally personal, and that is why they have the same dignity ". The study of sexual difference in the perspective of philosophical anthropology reveals in this way what Malo defines as the "paradigm of relationship". Composed of three elements: dependence, autonomy and donation, it is the key to understanding the beauty and greatness of human relationships, especially between men and women. The book thus closes, indicating a relational itinerary that gives wings to hope. Thus, the extraordinary book of human life can continue to be enriched with new pages not yet written: love stories, extraordinary and ordinary, but always complex and difficult from "marriage and the family", the title of the Congress organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Croce in 2017, which, as the author reports, was the first seed of this essay.