Shame, a film about sex addiction

Shame came out on DVD today. The film by director Steve McQueen stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a sex addict living in New York. I used to laugh at the idea of being addicted to sex – how ridiculous! Now I realize sex can be just like any other addiction – when you use something outside of yourself to fill a hole that only God can fill. The fellow in the movie was obsessed with sex, having daily encounters with strangers and prostitutes, consuming constant pornography both at home and at work, and masturbating several times a day at home and work. Ironically, even though he was swapping fluids with strangers, he was compulsively clean: a germophope. And fittingly for a sex addict he had no real intimacy in his life. When the opportunity came to have sex with someone he cared for he couldn’t get it up! Immediately he went and had sex with a stranger in a high-risk encounter. He was hooked on illicit sex but sex with any tenderness was impossible.

Brandon’s sister who has her own issues (perhaps alcoholism) comes to stay with him and turns his perfectly ordered life upside down. she speaks my favourite line in the film when she says to him: “We’re not bad people; we just come from a bad place.” To me, that ties into childhood traumas and how they can cause pain so deep that addictions seem the only way out.

Why do people lie?

My friend called me the other night in tears because she had discovered someone she was seeing was seeing other people. She wasn’t even #1 – more like #3. A few hints revealed the betrayal: the Victoria’s Secret bag she found in his room and her excitedly awaiting her lingerie gift which never came. His refusing to let her take off his t-shirt during sex even though it was 90 degrees hot – when she put her hands under his shirt she felt the scratch marks on his back. If he wanted to be with other women, why had he told my friend the two of them were in an exclusive relationship? Why had he lied?

I had told this friend about my addiction to unavailable men and she said she thinks she is addicted to men who treat her like shit. Because in spite of his lies and disrespect, she still wants this man and it is taking everything she has not to text him. She admitted to knowing she should be feeling angry and betrayed but she still finds it tremendously difficult to stay away from him. Now, let’s take a look at the definition of addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming (I’d add detrimental – ed.) to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. Clearly, my friend is under the thumb of an addiction.

Over the past week or so since I discovered how serious my relationship troubles are, I’ve felt traumatized and even a little depressed. I’ve had to let go of the lie that a romance is going to rescue me from my life. It’s a subconscious lie I’ve been telling myself for a very long time and it’s caused me to live my life “in the meantime”. Yes, I’ve done a tremendous amount of work on myself since I took a vow of celibacy in August 2010 but I’ve still clung to the belief that finding the right partner was what I needed to make me feel right, that I wasn’t enough on my own. It’s a lie that is sold to us by all forms of media including movies, romance novels, love songs and the like.

That type of romance – love at first sight, can’t eat, can’t sleep – is better described as obsession rather than love.  Look at any popular media image of love: love involves great struggle and obstacles to be overcome. Love hurts. Love takes you away from your real life. Love is an escape. Real life love is actually the opposite of movie love: love is easy; love is kind; love is not a struggle; and love does not hurt. One of the few films that shows the “ever after” part of the Cinderella story (which ends at the wedding, by the way) is Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple who fall in love and then fall apart. The film captures the realism of a couple who never took the time to get to know themselves and could therefore never be any good for a partner.

I’m a person prone to extremes and it’s difficult for me to comprehend that love might feel good in an even-keel kind of way. As the daughter of an emotionally abusive mother and a distant father, feeling good does not feel like home to me. For me, the familiar is uncertain, unpredictable, unavailable, and unsupportive. Accepting that about my parents was too painful so I went into a pattern of denial which has continued to present day. It is only today, LITERALLY, that I am accepting the fact that some people lie. And sometimes they do it to me. I keep repeating the same phrase when someone lies to me: “But they said… But they said…” Guess what? They LIED. There’s no excuse for it and it’s not the end of the world. Lying happens. And sometimes it happens to me.

The Single Woman

new kids on the block, relationship, marriage, men, women, dating, celibacy, abstinence, sex, God

“There is truth to the ‘just not that into you’ phenomenon. The more you accept that, the better off you are. Move on. Don’t think of striking out as a failure, or somebody not calling you as a failure…it’s just another step in finding somebody. Don’t fear rejection. Don’t put so much emphasis on it. It just may not be the right time or the right person. So what?” ~Jordan Knight via The Single Woman

I used to fear rejection so much that I’d do anything to avoid it, including having sex with someone I barely knew. Consciously, I didn’t realize I was seeking approval but in hindsight and after much self-improvement work, and nearly a year and a half of celibacy, I can see my motives clearly. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted because I was so busy trying to figure out what other people wanted, and altering myself to please them. It was truly soul-sucking and it wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to discover what made me tick – in other words what motivated me to do the things I did – that I could begin to change.

I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to realize I don’t want somebody who treats me poorly; I just wanted him to want me and it had very little to do with him as a person. He was more like a mirror to me of myself. If he rejected me, then I must not be lovable or acceptable. I had no inner core of wisdom to tell me I was fine on my own. For the past year and a half I have been on a mission to find self-love and I can honestly say I am finally there. Random thoughts run through my mind that say “You’re a lovely person” (and I am!) rather than “Loser!” or “You’re so stupid,” which is what my self-talk used to sound like.

If a man stops contacting me I don’t obsess on it or, heaven forbid, call him again. I know enough now to know that if a man wants to get in touch with you he will, even if it requires him to hire a private investigator – no lost phone number is going to stop him. Rather than fuming over a lack of attention, I acknowledge my need for a certain level of attention and if he can’t give it, he’s not the right one for me. Right now I have about 5 men interested in me. That would have been a big ego trip for me before, but now it is simply a weeding out process. 5 could easily and quickly become none. If he asks me what I want to do on the date, he’s probably not the one for me. If he doesn’t want to pick me up for the date, he’s not the one. If he goes three days without contacting me…not the one. I am learning what I want and don’t want in a man and it’s based on authentic desires rather than a desperate need to be accepted. I accept myself now, I really do.

Tracy McMillan for Huff Post: Why You’re Not Married

Tracy McMillan wrote Why You’re Not Married

I consider myself a marriage-bound person even though I’m not dating 🙂 I’ve never been a dater and have been in a few very long-term relationship including a decade-long marriage. I’m not afraid of commitment, but what I have come to discover about myself is that I’m afraid of intimacy. I tend to choose men who are emotionally detached (the “man’s man”) and who are incapable of sharing deeply with me. Of course, I’ve been incapable of the same thing but it’s easier to blame it all on them. It also normalizes the situation because people expect men to play their cards close to their chest.

According to John Gray of Mars and Venus fame and many other experts (it’s science, people), our survival as a species has depended upon men’s need to retreat into silence when they have a problem and women’s need to talk, talk, talk about it to lower their stress levels. I’m a quiet girl but I can attest to the fact that my need to TALK about a problem is so strong that I will blow a gasket if I try to keep it to myself. Sometimes it is in the talking that I find the solution OR I simply feel a release of stress even if no solution presents itself. I don’t just feel better after talking it out, I feel as though I have saved my life. Women bond by talking; men bond by doing.

I came across an interesting article by Tracy McMillan for Huffington Post called Why You’re Not Married. Addressed to single women she outlines six reasons why women who want to be married aren’t. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and provides a template to follow if you are interested in attracting a suitable man. My favourite is #3 since I used to use sex to avoid intimacy (ironically enough).

1. You’re a Bitch.

You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off.

2. You’re Shallow.

When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. Men of character are, by definition, willing to commit. Instead, you are looking for someone tall. Or rich. Unfortunately, this is not the thinking of a wife. This is the thinking of a teenaged girl.

3. You’re a Slut.

Hooking up with some guy in a hot tub on a rooftop is fine for the ladies of Jersey Shore — but they’re not trying to get married. You are. Which means, unfortunately, that if you’re having sex outside committed relationships, you will have to stop.

4. You’re a Liar.

You know if you tell him the truth — that you’re ready for marriage — he will stop calling. Usually that day. And you don’t want that. So you just tell him how perfect this is because you only want to have sex for fun! You love having fun sex! And you don’t want to get in a relationship at all! You swear!

5. You’re Selfish.

If you’re not married, chances are you think a lot about you. You think about your thighs, your outfits, your naso-labial folds. You think about your career, or if you don’t have one, you think about doing yoga teacher training. Sometimes you think about how marrying a wealthy guy — or at least a guy with a really, really good job — would solve all your problems.

6. You’re Not Good Enough.

Here is what you need to know: You are enough right this minute. Period. Not understanding this is a major obstacle to getting married, since women who don’t know their own worth make terrible wives. Why? You can fake it for a while, but ultimately you won’t love your spouse any better than you love yourself. Smart men know this.

What do you think of Tracy McMillan’s six reasons you’re not married?

Dating: Men, women, Fred & Ginger

Thirteen months ago now I embarked on a journey of self-discovery marked by an abstinence from sex and dating due to all the failed relationships I had endured and survived. Wanting to go into my next relationship with a little lighter baggage I decided to spend the last year gaining some self-awareness and trying to figure out where I’ve gone wrong when it comes to romantic entanglements.

The fact that I’d refer to relationships with a metaphor of conflict gives you an idea of my experience. Relationship to me always equalled drama and pain and I am now ready for a relationship that equates with peace and comfort and maybe a touch of growth and understanding. The most potent piece of information I’ve gained on my travels is something that I already felt in my heart and soul, but that “society” (family, friends, books, gurus, television hosts) had all but convinced me was wrong. Intuitively I had the sense that as a woman I was different from a man. I wanted different things, I felt differently, reacted differently, wanted a different role in the relationship. But society kept telling me that was WRONG.

Men and women are equal, they said.

Men and women are the SAME, they said.

Men and women want exactly the same things, they said.

I tried to believe them, I really did, but something inside me always rebelled. When I tried to behave like a man, my body and soul complained and I didn’t feel like myself. It felt wrong to ask a man out. It felt wrong to pursue a man, to call him before he called me, to compete with a man. But I was told that those were all things I should want and that in order to be successful in work, life and love, I would have to learn to do those things. Man was the standard and we were all to adhere to that standard, regardless of how we were born.

Obviously, by my history of failed relationships and that of the majority of the free world, we can see this model of “equality” is not working. Women have no respect for their men and why should they? We give birth to the children, then have to go out and make money to support them, and discipline them as well…what’s to respect? But if men do try to take their rightful place and “be the man” they are challenged by the woman who has been trained to believe that she should be the boss as well. But you can’t have two bosses.

It’s a relief to me to know that it’s OK to be a woman, that there are men who want to be men. I’m a former dancer so I can draw an analogy here in those terms. When a couple dances, the man leads. No self-respecting female dancer will ask, “Why does the man always lead? Why can’t I lead?” Or refuse to follow her partner’s lead. She knows if she does that the dance will fall apart. Is there anyone who will say Ginger Rogers isn’t as valuable as Fred Astaire?

Jumping the Broom

love, marriage, wedding, custom, black, african, american, husband, vow, wife, film
Jumping the broom is a marriage custom among Black Americans that has it roots in slavery: slaves weren’t allowed to get married so they demonstrated their love and commitment by jumping over a broom together to signify their union. I learned this from watching the film of the same name starring Paula Patton as a woman who gives up a life of casual sex and makes a vow to God to stop having sex until she is married.

The character Sabrina’s story mirrored mine because I was also leading a life of sleeping with nearly every handsome man I met until I realized that was not the path to a fulfilling relationship. Like Sabrina, I knew that if I were to ever have a healthy relationship I would have to take sex out of the equation and put God in its place. Sabrina asked God to send her a man and give her a definite sign that he was the one. Almost immediately, she ploughed into a pedestrian with her car. He turned out to be the one, of course, and she stayed true to her vow even while they were engaged.

Much ado was made about the fact that the man had to wait six months (!) for sex as though only men find it challenging to wait. I can tell you from experience and you know if you’ve read this blog that women find it hard to wait, too! I still doubt whether I’ll be able to wait for marriage to have sex with my future partner. That is a lot of temptation and the world accepts and encourages sex before marriage which makes it even more difficult to stay pure. I think the trick is to surround yourself with people who understand and support your commitment to save sex for your wedding day. Since I’ve put that intention out there more and more people are entering my life who “get it” and I’m grateful for that.

Worth Waiting For

sex, abstinence, celibacy, marriage

I can’t believe I’ve gone from thinking I couldn’t go without sex for a month, to actually going without sex for a year, to being increasingly convinced that I’m going to wait until I’m married to have sex. It’s difficult for me to commit to remaining celibate until I’m married and I realize it’s not so much because of the temptation as that I’m unsure I could ever find a guy who would wait for me.

A running theme in my journey is this whole idea about being “worth waiting for”. Although we can pay lip service to the idea, believing we are worth waiting for is another story. It saddens me to think I might sell myself out, compromise my principles, because I’m afraid I might lose a potential partner. Perhaps it’s another sign I’m not ready for a relationship, that I still don’t trust men and have a low opinion of them and their motives. I can’t imagine finding a man who will want a relationship with me that doesn’t involve sex. I need to keep working on my self-esteem until I believe I’m worth more.

Adele Rolling in the Deep

I can’t get this haunting song out of my head! The gifted Adele gives me goosebumps with her voice and the lyrics which tell the timeless story of a woman scorned are so dark and wonderful, kinda like a revenge fantasy. Here they are if you can’t make them out in the audio:

There’s a fire starting in my heart,
Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.
Finally, I can see you crystal clear,
Go ahead and sell me out and I’ll lay your ship bare,
See how I’ll leave with every piece of you,
Don’t underestimate the things that I will do.

There’s a fire starting in my heart,
Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bring me out the dark.

The scars of your love remind me of us,
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all.
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless,
I can’t help feeling,

We could have had it all,
Rolling in the deep,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)
You had my heart inside of your hand,
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
And you played it to the beat.
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)

Baby, I have no story to be told,
But I’ve heard one on you and I’m gonna make your head burn,
Think of me in the depths of your despair,
Making a home down there as mine sure won’t be shared,

The scars of your love remind me of us,
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all.
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless,
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
I can’t help feeling,
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)

We could have had it all,
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
Rolling in the deep.
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)
You had my heart inside of your hand,
(You’re gonna wish you never had met me)
And you played it to the beat.
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)

Could have had it all,
Rolling in the deep,
You had my heart inside of your hand,
But you played it with a beating.

Throw your soul through every open door,
Count your blessings to find what you look for.
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold,
You’ll pay me back in kind and reap just what you’ve sown.

sex, relationship, men, abstinence, celibacy, women

All a girl wants is for one man to prove to her that they’re not all the same.” -Marilyn Monroe.

I need a male friend. I’ve never had a male friend. I’m not the kind of girl guys want to be friends with. I’m also not the kind of girl who wants to be friends with guys. On the rare occasion in the distant past when a guy professed to be my friend he would inevitably ask for something more. So I have trust issues when it comes to men saying they want to be my friend. I find myself waiting for the moment when they reveal their true motive so I can get the disappointment over with. I don’t trust men at all. This is a problem.

If I don’t trust men at all, how will I ever have a partnership with one? I’m not sure if that’s what I want any time in the near future but, chances are, sometime before I die I might like to have another boyfriend. I feel as though I need a platonic relationship with a man so I can learn how to trust one. I feel like finding a way to trust half the population of the planet even a little bit is sort of a pressing issue. Because I am walking around with very bad feelings about men and it’s eating me alive. I do not see how it’s possible to be happy when you have a low opinion of half of humanity.

My wise friend said this man-wariness is part of my process, growing pains that I have to ride out. I didn’t expect to give up sex for a year and not have anything come up, did I? My irrational fear is that my mistrust of men is never going to end and I’ll feel like this for the rest of my life. My friend, of course, sees it is a phase, a necessary part of my personal development. She assures me there are lots of good guys out there and I will discover them soon enough.

Youtube movie kisses

Being celibate has made me go a bit soft. I never used to value the romance in kissing, probably because I wanted to get to the “good stuff” (sex). But this video montage from YouTube featuring a series of staged smooches is enough to make even the most jaded among us swoon.

Do you have a favourite movie kiss?