I’ve posted previously about profound comments made on Bones. The recent Bones episode, “The Gamer in the Grease,” offers an insight apropos to both my post on adultery the other day and my in-depth study of Theology of the Body. The episode has a subplot (involving a blatant plug for James Cameron’s Avatar) where three of the geeks in a show about geeks–Fisher, Hodgins and Sweets–are taking turns in the line up to see the aforementioned film in its first screening. Fisher has brought a small tent, a chair and a cooler of snacks and drinks. They take shifts of approximately 2 hours during the day and come up with excuses for being away from their jobs.
Early in the show, Fisher (one of Dr. Brennan’s rotating grad students) brags that he has fornicated with close to 100 women. This has the other two guys a bit envious.
Dr. Sweets is in an immoral but committed relationship with another of Dr. Brennan’s graduate students, named Daisy. While waiting in line, Sweets is tempted by a rather attractive young woman (who apparently must be on peak day of her fertility cycle), and keeps chanting “I have a girlfriend” to resist her advances.
Eventually, when the grad student shows up to take his shift, Sweets gives her reason to turn her sights to his allegedly polyamorous friend, and the two end up in the tent together. In the scene I’ve embedded below, Sweets and Hodgins are discussing Fisher’s alleged “conquests” and the feelings of inadequacy Sweets feels about apparently not being so appealing to women.
OK, so here we have the problem in a nutshell: man in his fallen state has been enslaved by baser animal instincts. He comes to see the ideal of masculinity not in the virtue and self-mastery demonstrated by St. Joseph, but rather in the power and fury of the gorilla.
This is of course one of the age-old dichotomies of human thought, getting to the origins of the word “virtue” itself, as it comes from the Roman word for “man,” and the Latin word “virtus” can mean “virtue,” “manliness” or “strength.” For Romans, strength was virtue–both because strength is achieved by hardwork and because might makes right.
Whether he evolved from apes or was molded from clay, primitive man was a hunter. Biologically, the male impulse is to conquer, to acquire. The male role is to acquire and to protect.
The natural instinct to acquire lies at the root of adultery. First, we all know how time seems to telescope. So a man spends the first part of his life, and some of life’s most vivid and emotionally charged years, seeking a potential wife. Certain mental habits are formed during this stage that can be hard to break, even for the happiest of husbands: habits of scoping a room out for pretty girls, etc.
It’s worse when even the natural desire to seek out a wife becomes distorted as a desire to seek women. Testosterone fuels a man’s desire to hunt, his desire to fight off attackers, his ability to perform difficult challenges for his family, and his desire to make love to woman.
Because this same hormone fuels these different motives, they can become confused. I think this, in a nutshell, is the biochemical explanation of most bad male behavior, but that’s a different subject.
Woman becomes a conquest, something to be acquired. Two related impulses can take control. In most areas where a man acquires, he desires to acquire much: whether he is a hunter or a stockbroker, in whatever manner he provides for his family, he desires to acquire more and more goods for his family. So the natural instincts that drive him to hunt more deer or kill more enemies on the battlefield, driven by testosterone may lead him to think that he has to acquire multiple women.
Secondly, whether a man is promiscuous before marriage or not, his instincts may, if not properly controlled, lead him to think, “I’ve successfully acquired this one; now I need another,” like a man who, having just purchased a new car, begins researching the next year’s models.
Now here is where, even arguing from the view of fallen man, and leaving out John Paul II’s confusing language and idealized concept of disinterested love, we can apply a key point of the theology of the body.
This one is unique. What we get when we try to put the theology of the body into fallen man’s terms is pretty much what is said in the above clip.
If a man has intercourse with 100 women, has he really “acquired” them?
Has he really proven his desirability to women? Maybe to some degree, but why does that matter? Somewhere in our psyche, the need to be not alone, the need to be accepted, gets translated into a need to be accepted by everyone, and, sexually, men often think that they need to be attractive to lots of women to feel fully masculine.
Yet the truth is just the opposite. As Dr. Hodgins says so eloquently, if a man has 100 one night stands, that’s all he has. He hasn’t really “acquired” or “conquered” these women, even if he wants to use that language. The soldier may kill multiple enemies. The hunter may kill multiple deer. But, in the end, the soldier hasn’t conquered the enemy unless the enemy surrenders in defeat and stops coming on. The hunter takes home the deer he kills and eats them.
A man who claims “conquest” by philandering is really not conquering anything . He’s certainly not conquering himself, and he is not conquering the women he has sex with. They go on their ways and never see him again. Indeed, if they’re truly one-night stands, they may not even say much about his own particular attractiveness: the women may themselves just be, as we put it in regard to animals, “in heat.” Her libido may just be extra high because she’s in phase 2, and like the poor girl in the Bones episode, she may be desperate to have coitus with any man who will take her.
On the other hand, the instinct to conquer can precisely be channeled for the good in marital fidelity, if the man comes to realize that “this one is mine,” even if objectifying his wife, he sees her as a unique gift for him, as someone who has surrendered her entire self to him, as someone whom he truly has conquered. He should hardly worry about his attractiveness if he has a woman who has chosen to dedicate her whole life to him, who continues to find him attractive after knowing all his faults and failings and weaknesses, who has seen him at his best and at his worst.