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 men pull away

relationship, marriage, wife, husband

One of my men (my favourite because he seems to read my mind and know exactly what I want) pulled away for a few days. I did not hear from him for 5 days and I was disappointed, but my skin is thickened so I sloughed it off and moved on. As these things happen, as soon as I had forgotten about him he got in touch. I was shocked to see his email in which he wrote that he feels I am the woman for him and he would like to take our relationship to the next level. He said he wanted to talk to me that night and we spoke for 2 hours as he asked me about what I want in a relationship and what he would give me. We spoke again on the phone for 2 hours the next night. (He is travelling for work).

I remembered hearing this is what men do – pull away right before they decide to get serious. Of course, I had never experienced it because I never gave anyone enough breathing room to let that happen! When he called, he was surprised to hear “a smile in my voice” and I said, “Well, I’m happy to hear from you!” Before I probably would have tore a strip out of him and possibly ruined a chance to get to know a guy who could be a compatible partner. All out of my own pride and controlling expectations of the way a man should behave.

I read somewhere about embracing the surprises in life, that you don’t have to always know the outcome, what’s going to happen and when, and that’s they way I want to be with this man. He wants to know the real me, communicates authentically, and he cares about whether I get enough sleep, whether my children are having their needs met, and how I am feeling. He is constantly asking about me and I am so happy to bask in that attention that I forget to ask about him. I am being a little bit selfish and he seems to like that. He accepts the fact that I’m not having sex (oral or otherwise) until marriage and says he will support me in that.

I am going on a date tonight with the athlete who had to cancel last week but I will be thinking of my man. For now, I am taking things day by day but I feel I have found someone very compatible with me.

Lust, Fear and Duty: Buddha

“There are three impediments to enlightenment: lust, fear, and duty.” -Buddha

That’s a quote from my morning meditation that gets delivered to my inbox daily. Lust is treating another person like an object rather than a human being so it’s obvious how that keeps you in the dark. Lust has become an accepted part of our culture, even celebrated. I didn’t see anything wrong with it until I gave up sex and found that my lust was keeping me trapped in a lower form of living. Unenlightened.

Used to be if you caught a guy staring at your ass he was in trouble. Now we encourage it with words written across our behinds and tight lululemon pants that are designed to make your ass appear attractive to the opposite sex. Used to be that pornography was a dirty secret that no one would admit to partaking in because it as an embarrassing sign of a soul sickness. Now, it’s as mainstream as any sitcom. And more than ever, women are contributing to their own demise. Before, we could say porn stars had sex on camera for money and that way we could somehow grasp how a woman could so debase and humiliate herself. Now we have Girls Gone Wild where they do it for free!

Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is what stops us from going to that uncomfortable place where we grow and become the best person we can be. Fear keeps us stuck. Fear keeps us safe but in the most horrible way. Fear makes you wonder what you could have been if only. Fear makes you envious of others who are fearless. Nothing good ever came from fear.

Duty is doing something because you “have to”. Duty is obligation and it takes the joy out of everything. I believe duty is related to the attitude with which we approach a task rather than the task itself. If we can find a way to accept or even embrace the task at hand it ceases to be a duty and becomes fulfilling. Duty is something for which there is no payback; something you do and get nothing in return. Like the punishment I heard of a soldier being forced to dig a hole six feet deep only to have to fill it in again. Devoid of purpose.

Lust, fear, and duty. I want these all out of my life. Starting with the first one.

Modesty and abstinence

sex, abstinence, modesty, celibateToday I was thinking about the road I was going down before I decided to remain celibate for a year. It was a dangerous and dark path involving sex without love or even like, multiple partners (not at the same time, although having two men at once was a strong desire of mine), and an unfortunate incident in which I actually had sex with two different men on the same day. Modesty was a foreign concept to me because I was so detached from my body that I just didn’t respect it or care enough about myself to think it was worth protecting.

About two months into my celibate year, I went to Vegas (I know; it was a work trip) and at the airport when I was going through security, the officer asked me to remove my blazer under which I was wearing only a very skimpy tank top–more like an undershirt. Before, I wouldn’t have thought twice about taking off whatever they asked me to; I just didn’t care who saw my body. After just two months of abstinence, however, I had become reacquainted with my body and something inside me said “no, I’m not exposing myself to these strangers” (especially in such a horny city). So I had to be patted down by a female officer. I apologized and told her I wasn’t trying to be difficult but I just didn’t feel comfortable removing my jacket, and I couldn’t believe it was me speaking the words. She didn’t mind at all and said, “That’s why we always give you the choice”.

I think it was at that moment I decided to adjust my mode of dress to one that did not draw attention to my body. To get away from the tight jeans and short skirts, strapless dresses and revealing ensembles which were designed to attract men. I began wearing long blazers that covered my backside and decided no more strapless or sleeveless anything, no skirts shorter than my knees, no cleavage, and nothing backless. Basically, I was taking back my body and declaring it private rather than public property. It’s taken some getting used to as I used to get a lot of my validation from the way men appraised my physical self, but now I”m happy to say that’s not where I derive my value anymore.

Relationship patterns

honesty, relationship, abstinence, celibacyI’ve been going over my previous relationships; you know, so I spare myself making the same sorry mistakes again. I see a pattern emerging which I used to think was men are all unfeeling bastards, but which has actually been my own dishonesty. I never told any of the men in my life what I wanted or needed in any meaningful way and I never set personal boundaries: if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve only just discovered that boundaries exist at all.

I’ve had sex with men when I didn’t really want to because I thought it was what they expected and I needed their approval; or I’d do it to put him in a good mood so I’d have a happy man to spend time with afterward; or I engaged in sex because my ego liked the feeling of being desired and wanted. I’ve rarely, if ever, had sex based on a mutual connection with another person. It has always been dishonest, manipulative (on my part), seedy, and devoid of love.

I’m getting really honest with my sexual past here because if I’m going to find a new way, I have to admit to myself the dishonesty of my actions. If I had spoken up about what I need, it’s possible I may have received it. Who knows? But I was so frightened of rejection and so convinced that I was unworthy of something that pleased me, that I engaged in sex that chipped away at my self-esteem and made me feel dirty. Rather than honouring me and making me feel connected, sex made me feel used and ashamed. I covered those feelings up with lots of false bravado and loose talk. I wonder how many other women are doing the same thing?

Sex is not food, clothing or shelter

I can’t believe the day has come when I really don’t care about men at all. Seven and a half months ago I thought I would die without their attention and physical contact, or at least disappear in some way. I couldn’t imagine life without them. I feel such freedom being able to walk around without any thought about whether I’m going to meet a man or the next time I’m going to get laid.

I used to think sex was a physical necessity. It’s not. Food and shelter are physical requirements. Sex is a whatever. I can’t believe how much weight I put on it, as though I couldn’t survive without it. Now all that energy I used to put into sex, which includes preparing myself in order to attract a man, is getting put into constructive pursuits… like making myself a better person. Yay!

Objectification kills the spirit

I’ve been encountering sexual harrassment on a fairly regular basis since I was 15. My English teacher made an advance at me (he actually told me “how to get an A”) and I remember feeling so stunned I just froze. I was praying that he was joking, with the sickening feeling at the same time that I knew he wasn’t. We were alone in the room so I was a little scared but more shocked. I remember him looking at me for a while and when I didn’t respond after what seemed like an eternity he let the matter go. Thank God.

I’m only realizing now that I should have told somebody about the event to spare another girl the same fate. Whether or not anything physical comes of that kind of exchange you are left feeling dirty and ashamed; damaged in a fundamental way. Because of that abuse of power and another soon after in which my boss did the same thing in his office (I was still 15), my view of men changed radically.

Until that point my father had been the primary man in my life and he was honest, hardworking, responsible, always there for me, if a little emotionally detached. So my image of a man was somebody who protected you and whom you could look up to and count on. After those two sorry incidents I began to see men as predators, not to be trusted, and who only ever want one thing from me.

Sadly, I’m not too far off in that estimation. A comment by a male reader backs up my fear.  He says that when men look at us they are indeed only thinking of sex. For that reason, I am doing my best not to let the looks bother me as I don’t want to punish myself for somebody else’s bad behaviour. The thing is, though, that men do not realize the harm they are doing when they look at us that way.

A BBC series in the 70s called Ways of Seeing addressed the topic of men gazing at women in this way. Narrator John Berger said that women grow up with the feeling that they are being looked at and judged by men constantly, that in this gaze a division is created in which the man is the subject (watcher) and the woman is objectified (watched).

Instead of gazing back at men in the same way, women instead internalize this male gaze and see themselves being watched. It is the reason why women have 14 “I hate my body moments” per day. They did a study. Women hate their own bodies because they are taught to believe that their value lies in what men think of their appearance. Since men are force-fed idealized images of women that only 5% of the female population resembles, the other 95% feel they are failures in a fundamental way.

When women look in the mirror we objectify and judge what we see. I’ve done it and I still do even though I’m working really hard to stop. And I look fantastic. (That’s not an ego thing; just some perspective on how ridiculous this business is.) In the post “Women: Humans or Objects” scientific proof is offered of the way the male gaze silences women in its grasp. I’m working on stopping the self-objectification. It will require a massive and fundamental shift in my psyche but I like a challenge.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lust and fear

It’s been over six months since I had sexual relations (or relations of any kind) with a man. When I first started on this journey of abstinence I thought at the halfway point I’d be relieved and begin counting down till the time I could do the deed again. But it’s not like that. I’m beginning to love myself in a way that has nothing to do with being seen through someone else’s eyes.

I feel a new freedom that comes from not caring anymore what men think or want. I used to dress in a way that I thought would appeal to men. No man in particular, just men in general. Now I dress to please myself and I may have mentioned before that I have become more modest in the way I dress, too. I no longer wish to show off what I’ve got. I no longer wish to dress in a way that stirs lust in men and I no longer wish to feel lust toward men.

I went to a spiritual retreat over the weekend and the woman who organized it said it is easy to confuse panic and lust. Apparently both make your heart race and raise your adrenaline in an eerily similar way. Hearing that represented an a-ha moment for me, explaining why I was often attracted to men who scared me, or I couldn’t tell whether I was frightened or attracted, and why I would sometimes feel revulsion and lust at the same time.

Choosing men who scare me and wanting to be dominated by them is something I need to address. I don’t think it’s normal to want to be submissive to someone unless of course you’re doing some sort of kinky role playing. I often say I need a man I can admire or look up to, but maybe I should be thinking of men as my equals and not putting them on a pedestal they can’t possibly keep from falling off.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 3:46 am  Comments (1)  
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Seven Deadly Sins

Brad Pitt & Morgan Freeman in Seven

A celibate Christmas. It got me thinking about the seven deadly sins: what are they again?

Lust (a-ha!)

Gluttony

Sloth

Envy

Greed

Pride

Wrath

I’m pretty sure those are the famous Seven. And I’m pretty sure I’ve engaged in every one of them at some point in the past. And, you know, I didn’t believe they were sins at all. In fact, I thought these seven qualities were necessary, even good; definitely not evil. That’s because my ego was running the show and what my ego wanted, it got. I was impulsive, impatient, seeking instant gratification, shallow, elitist, and ignorant.

Lust, what could possibly be wrong with that? That’s just admiring another for their sexy qualities and indulging in some harmless play. Well, no, it’s objectifying another person, reducing him to his sexuality and not seeing him as a person with thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It is demeaning both to you and the other person and reduces you to your base urges…in which case you may as well be an animal.

As for gluttony, what’s the harm in over-indulging? Especially at Christmastime when there is so much around us to enjoy? While it’s true that denying ourselves food will not make the hungry less so, when we include intoxicants in this category we see where the harm lies. Overindulging in alcohol can lead to disastrous results including deviant sexual behaviour, neglect and abuse of loved ones, and a flouting of personal ethics and social mores. In many cases it can also lead to death.

How did sloth come into my life? The least effort for the most monetary gain was my motto; work smart not hard, and definitely don’t work for free. I have recently discovered the satisfaction of cleaning my own house when I used to pay someone to do it; of working hard all day and sometimes into the night to complete projects I’d previously procrastinated on; and of volunteer work: being of service to others, reaping no monetary gain but nourishing my soul in many beautiful ways.

And what of envy? I thought it healthy to look upon another with covetous eyes. Inspiring was the way I described my feelings of jealousy. You have what I want so I’ll pretend to be happy for your success when really I want it for myself. Secretly, I don’t believe you deserve that for which I envy you … Be honest; most of the things you envy are material anyway, not at all what God wants for you, but what your ego tells you you need. That’s why soon after you acquire it it loses its cache.

"Greed is good": Michael Douglas in Wall Street

It’s fairly obvious why greed is a deadly sin, but our society often confuses us by encouraging it. Even the so-called spiritual self-help movement (The Secret et al) would have you believe that wanting wanting wanting luxury goods is perfectly natural and ok and here’s what to do to get them. All that wonderful energy could be put into doing good in the world and instead they are encouraging you to use it to obtain a Maserati? No matter how you look at it, that is some faulty philosophy.

In the movie Seven, pride is represented by a model obsessed with her looks. The antagonist slices off her nose (to spite her face) and then leaves her with a bottle of pills (enough to kill her) taped to one hand, and a telephone receiver (to call for help) taped to another. Rather than live with a mutilated face, the girl opts to swallow the pills and end her life.

I’ve put my personal appearance ahead of my spiritual health for a long time. In fact, the better I’ve looked the worse I’ve felt, creating a complete disconnect between my outside and my inside. I’ve worked to change that by being easier on myself, dressing more comfortably, and daring to leave the house without make-up once in a while. I am slowly letting go of the need for external validation based on my appearance and asking to be loved for what’s inside, even by my self.

Wrath: although I’m uncertain about the exact meaning of this one, I have an idea it is about venting your frustrations on others. Letting loose a pile of vitriol on those who would dare to behave in ways that are not what you had in mind. It’s called control and it’s probably the sickest behaviour of all. Wrath’s close cousin is anger which is really a demonstration of powerlessness. Wrath can also be inflicted as retribution for a perceived wrong (the death penalty, for instance).

The opposite of wrath is forgiveness which I now practise every day, especially toward myself.

And in case you were wondering, the Seven Virtues are:

Chastity

Temperance

Charity

Diligence

Patience

Kindness

Humility

Leaving Las Vegas

I travelled to Las Vegas this past weekend and abstained from the two things I normally spend most of my time doing in Sin City: drinking and having sex. I was sharing a room with two friends who don’t drink much and since alcohol makes me horny and often leads to sex, I ended up abstaining from that, too. It was the cleanest, tamest Vegas trip I ever had: surreal, bewildering, and a little liberating.

I noticed a lot of things I had taken for granted before; for instance, men look at you as though they’ve spent the last ten years behind prison walls. Have you never seen a woman before? Every time one of us girls would venture out on our own we’d count how many times we’d been virtually raped by somebody’s eyes. Kinda gross and not flattering AT ALL.

I’m not sure what men hope to achieve by staring at you like that. It’s clear they don’t really want anything because if they did they would actually speak to you. Staring at you intently as you walk by…what does that achieve? Am I really that interesting-looking that I warrant an intense and focussed stare for the full minute I’m approaching and walking past? What does it mean? I am truly baffled by this behaviour on the part of men. I wonder if it’s instinctual or if they believe they are paying you a compliment, or if they think you will throw yourself at them if they just stare long enough. These are the things I didn’t consider when I was busy hooking up in Las Vegas. I do know that a man had to actually speak to me if he wanted to get lucky, though.

Take my last trip to Vegas. Making my way across the floor of one of the big hotels, I was interrupted by a line delivered in a gorgeous Dublin accent. I turned around to find the most delightful-looking Irish boy (think the ruggedness of Colin Farrell blended with the prettiness of Cillian Murphy) who continued to engage me in conversation the second he had my attention. That’s the way it should be done and of course he got lucky that night. The accent didn’t hurt his cause, either.

Las Vegas is soaked in sex. The men have seen so many naked women after a couple of days that I think they lose touch with reality. Possibly, they believe you’ll disrobe if they look at you long enough because they’ve seen so much of that kind of “entertainment” in which women spontaneously take off their clothes and gyrate for no reason at all.

Objectification of women is rampant in Las Vegas and it’s a place that preys on men’s inability to intelligently analyze the way women’s bodies are being used to separate them from their cash. Men’s brains just turn to mush at the sight of naked women. It’s dangerous, though, because the vast majority of men don’t seem capable of separating the entertainment from the reality. Most women don’t enjoy being objects for men’s pleasure and we wish to receive as well as give sexual satisfaction.

So, for this trip anyway, there was nothing for me to leave in Las Vegas. I did take away a healthy pity for men and their powerlessness against their own drives and the way it removes their ability to think or analyze a situation in an intelligent way.