Is There a Perfect Woman?

Beauty is not one-dimensional

Look at many advertisements and you might be forgiven for thinking that the key to happiness lies in possessing the best car, the cheapest home-insurance, or the tastiest ice-cream. Oh, and also the most beautiful woman imaginable.

Many external forces are getting us to think that we need to be hotwired into a world of glamour if we are to be happy. The idea of the ‘perfect woman’ falls into such thinking.

In a survey conducted by someone who is an expert on relationships between young people, the question was posed to young women: “What do you want in a man?” Out of 1,000 answers submitted, the top response – 429 – was that the young women wanted a man to treat her like a lady.

This suggests that idealised or romantic visions of the ‘perfect woman’, while perhaps offering immediate excitement, will only end in frustration. Young men ‘on the prowl’ are, deep down, a real turn-off to women. Instead, women need to be treated with the utmost respect and care. When a man looks at a woman he needs to go beyond what he sees in her physically and explore the features that a woman most shows forth: her tenderness, her special ability to suffer, her ‘inbuilt’ capacity to give life. Pope John Paul II was keen on this latter point (John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem 19).

Love is an absolute priority

Love flourishes where mutual respect is given a high priority. This requires purity of heart. Now purity of heart does not eliminate sexual attraction and desire. The pure man will experience the same desires as any other man, but there is a difference. He will not let the beauty of a woman’s body distract him from the dignity she deserves.

A lustful man, on the other hand, will judge the woman’s physical features (perhaps subconsciously measuring them against an idea he has of the ‘perfect woman’) to be what is most important and attractive about her. Such an approach is sure to end in disaster, since, as St Augustine once said, speaking of his own disordered past, ‘lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity’ (Confessions, VIII).

There is only one Perfect Woman. She is the Virgin Mary. And through praying to her in simple and unflustered trust, men can be strengthened to see women as the precious gift of God that they are.