I am a great admirer of Aussiescribbler's work, although I have only so far reviewed his Lusting While Dusting as unfortunately his characters can be careless about safe sex. Aussie's stories make me wet, usually because I laughed so hard I wet myself, although they are also hot, with heroines who are nearly as appealingly quirky as he is himself. We had a great discussion by email recently about my review of a cartoon I found sexist (admittedly I was in a very bad mood at the time I wrote that review, LOL), and he has kindly agreed to reproduce his thoughts in a guest post essay on the subject.
|AussieScribbler's work is on |
Smashwords, his blog
how to be free.
Throughout recorded history, sexual desires have been a source of much strife for we humans. Many have wanted to do to others what those others didn't want done to them. Many have done things with others which still others have thought they didn't have a right to. Never has anything which could be the source of so much pleasure also been the source of so much suffering.
At base it's so simple. Skin on skin... erogenous zones... genital friction... We have the capacity to give and receive pleasure.
It's with the psychological element that it gets complicated.
For a start, the triggers of sexual desire are unreliable messengers. A man may be attracted to a woman who registers to him as "pretty". What we generally mean by this is that she has neotenous, i.e. child-like, features. This association with youth suggests a loving disposition free from any of the bitterness that may come with harsh life experience. Or he may be attracted to large breasts because he associates them with the loving nature of a mother. Large breasts and wide hips combined may indicate a healthy breeding partner. A woman may feel an attraction to a man who is strong, well-formed and confident, as these register as traits of a good protector and healthy breeding partner.
But cruelty may lurk behind a pretty face. A woman with child-bearing hips may be barren. And the handsome man may be a psychopath.
Being fooled by appearance is not the main problem. A larger problem is that of objectification, the oppressiveness of being seen only for our outer shape.
This is not just a problem which occurs with lust. Romantic love, being largely a projection of an idealised vision upon a real person, can leave us feeling denied the freedom to be our warts and all self.
On the other hand, if we tried to prevent ourselves from lusting and romanticising in this way, then our state would also be one of oppression. Physical sexiness gives us much joy, whether we are lucky enough to be in possession of it, or are an appreciator of it in others.
The problems of life, psychological and social, are largely problems of communication. If we have good communication within - we think clearly and truthfully - and without - we make our needs and desires known without misunderstanding and are honest about our deeds - then harmony is usually possible. In reality this is rarely the case, and so we get into conflict with each other and the resultant frustrations lead to accumulations of anger and resentment. And, if we take on board the criticisms of others, or are loaded down with unliveable ideals which leave us disappointed in ourselves, we may develop feelings of inferiority.
All of these things are liable to feed into our sexual desires, making them more than a longing for equally-shared pleasure. Attracting the sexual attention of others may be a way to boost our ego. Or sexual "conquests" may become "notches on our belt". Sex becomes something which is about more than just sex. And then there are fetishes where something not inherently erotic becomes erotic for us through a psychological association.
Sex in its most intense form is an act of love. Love is a form of communication characterised by openness, honesty, spontaneity and generosity. A sharing of erotic pleasure in an open, honest, spontaneous and generous way is something which heals the frustrations and resentments of life.
So how do we minimise the strife and maximise the love?
We won't minimise the strife by repressing it. The psychological poisons in our souls don’t go away through repression, through cutting off opportunities for their free expression. All that does is to cause these poisons to stay there festering away beneath the surface, becoming more and more dangerous. Of course, some control of where certain things can be expressed is necessary for the maintenance of civil society.
This became a very personal thing for me at a time when I became involved in an environmental organisation and was also involved in the peace movement to a degree. So I started reading a green/socialist newspaper. There I read a lot of writing by feminists of various viewpoints. I was then, and still am, a huge fan of exploitation cinema, including films with lots of misogynistic dialogue, women being treated as sex objects and women being beaten and raped. Now I was reading articles saying that such forms of entertainment were unacceptable, and part of a “rape culture”. This twisted me up inside, because I don’t hate women, and I don’t want women to suffer. I don’t want teenagers to be be-headed by maniacs either, but I like watching slasher movies. And I’m a pacifist, but I can enjoy the visceral bloodshed of a trashy war movie. The conscience is an oppressive thing. As a moderator of behaviour it is sometimes a necessary evil. But to be made to feel guilty about your thoughts and feelings - thoughts and feelings which are not expressed in inappropriate behaviour - is to have your very soul bound in a straitjacket.
The conclusion I came to was that the liberating effect of being able to watch misogynistic movies makes it easier for me to have more positive feelings towards women in real life. It is an outlet for the poisons.
We all accumulate poisons of one kind or another through the frustrations and injuries of life. The degree to which these poisons take the form of generalised prejudices is dependent on how disturbed our state of mind is by internal conflict or trauma. If we exist in a state of relative mental calm, we can easily recognise that behaviour of one person of a race or gender is not indicative of them all, for instance. But intense psychological turmoil feels the need to over-simplify. A woman who has just been raped may feel unable, for a time, to trust any man. This generalised feeling based on gender is not rational, but the traumatised mind doesn’t always have the luxury of rationality. A man who catches his wife cheating on him, may experience such a painful blow to his ego that he will say : “All women are sluts”. This is similar to when we are feeling depressed we will say : “I can’t do anything right.” Intense feelings require simplicity even when it contradicts reason.
So what we need is the freedom to express ourselves in potentially offensive ways, in order to exorcise the poisons. And then the reason to distinguish a more rational assessment of reality.
Now some might say, “Allowing expression of sexist or racist feelings in popular culture puts across the idea that these things are acceptable, it normalises them.” There are two sides to this. On the one hand it may put across the message that it is acceptable to have sexist or racist feelings. This is a positive, because if we accept our sexist or racist feelings they die down. These feelings are defensive, having originated in hurts and frustrations. If we accept them as feelings, rather than attacking them, then their defensive purpose disappears. On the other hand, if such expressions give the idea that offensive behaviour towards other people based on such feelings is acceptable, that is a problem.
When it comes to sexual fantasy, particularly, I think conventional concepts of healthy behaviour generally needn’t come into it. I think that very few individuals who like to dress up in Nazi uniforms for sex are actually believers in authoritarian political systems. Women who fantasise about being raped don’t really want to be raped. One of the roles of fantasy is to compensate us for living within the limits of humane civilised behaviour, just as watching a Rambo movie is my compensation for being a very peaceful, non-aggressive person in real life. Freud said : The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life. He was talking about the dreams we have at night, but I think the same thing applies with fantasies.
How do we bridge the gap between us when it comes to sexual desire? Through playfulness. If a woman has to dress sexy to be accepted, then that may be oppressive. If she does it because she has fun with it, then it isn't. Dominance and submission are both unhealthy in real life. But playing sexual games in which we chose for the length of the game to adopt a dominant or submissive role may be very liberating. And if we share a fantasy as a piece of ourselves without any expectation that another person will necessarily want to satisfy it, then the problems that can arise from mismatched desires can tend to evaporate. If our fantasy is accepted as a fantasy, it will tend to lose its hold over us, so that we are free to explore in ways that may bring us closer together.
Erotica is the playing field for this process. Through sharing fantasies we learn more about ourselves and each other, finding what we have in common, and perhaps that our differences are not as great as we at first thought.
It is a realm where good can come from both the sometimes disturbing expelling of our accumulated poisons and the forging of visions of healthy, fun and respectful erotic relationships.
Keith Johnstone, Impro : Improvisation and the Theatre.