Tag Archives: relationships

On being irresistible

31 Dec

Perhaps I’m contrary and ungrateful but I never felt good about being told by a lover  “You are irresistible.” I’d much rather he or she said something like  “I can’t resist you” and in that utterance, joyfully assumed the burden of supernatural compulsion instead of burdening me with it.

It would also be much more honest if things went wrong and my lover said “I now can/must resist you because my wife caught me, or I found someone else, or I’ve changed my mind” or whatever event provoked a change in his or her assessment of the situation. Instead of undermining my sense of myself with their change of heart, the responsibility then properly rests with the one whose desires, for whatever reason, have shifted.

I’ve never in my life found anyone to be irresistible. I’ve been overwhelmed by desire, overwhelmed by love, overwhelmed by seriously significant stupidity, but overwhelmed by my own sensations, the agent of my own downfall, not a victim subjected to another’s supernatural powers. In the end this matters, this sense that if I am drowning in love and desire, however recklessly, I am doing my own drowning the other isn’t bewitching me into it.

This may seem like unimportant hair-splitting carping, but it’s actually about taking responsibility, and empowerment. The statement “You are irresistible” gives the other all the power, and denies me the opportunity to take responsibility for my own actions. “I can’t resist you” takes all responsibility, and taking honest responsibility always empowers. The inability to resist is not in itself a negative thing. Denying it as part of one’s character might well be.

And there is something endearing about a human being who can admit an inability to resist as an aspect of his or her own self, rather than it being the fault of an irresistible other.

For women, being thought irresistible has caused and continues to cause us no end of grief, abuse, and in some instances, death. If we are credited with supernatural powers, we will also be made to pay for them. Excessive restrictions are placed on our freedoms in an effort to contain and control our perceived potentially uncontrollable natures. Those who abuse us may be leniently viewed in the light of our magically seductive powers. At its crudest, the irresistibility narrative says wearing short skirts will make men rape us, and there is a continuum from there. Telling a woman she’s irresistible is always an abdication of responsibility. You can’t resist her. It’s your thing, not hers. Own it.

End of rant.

Happy New Year.

 

irresistible

 

 

 

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Intimate images: after the love has gone

24 Oct

So, won’t you let me see, /I said, won’t you let me see, /I said, won’t you let me see/ your naked body?

 

The Victorian Parliament has introduced draft legislation that makes distribution or the threat of distribution of intimate images online without consent a criminal offence. There is, it appears, a burgeoning of “Revenge Porn” sites where aggrieved and bitter ex lovers can post photos taken in happier times of their partner’s private bits, often selfies taken by that partner. Anecdotal evidence has it that perpetrators of revenge porn are mostly male, however, it is not unknown for wives or girlfriends to post sexually explicit photos of their former partner’s new lover online, if they’ve managed to get hold of them.

Common advice as to how to avoid having your lady bits made available to the public gaze without your consent includes never taking or allowing photos of them to be taken in the first place. This is tantamount to advising us to avoid rape by staying inside unless we’re accompanied by bodyguards – the fault lies not with those of us who’ve given lovers intimate images, but with the lovers or their associates who distribute them without our consent. This ought to be self-evident, after all, who is ever advised never to leave home if their house is burgled, but because it involves sex and female bodies, responsibility defaults to women to protect ourselves by crippling our lives.

As a woman who has (for the first time in her life and at an age where one would not expect to do such things) taken intimate photos of herself and given them to a lover, I feel a certain interest in this topic. When my lover first asked for photos I inwardly baulked. I was a long way from my twenties, I had never before even thought of engaging in such an act. The most I had seen of my own bits was when, like many other young feminists, I squatted over a mirror and had a good look, then later when my sister crouched between my legs with her camera and recorded in astonishing detail the birth of my second child. As a delaying tactic, I asked him what he actually wanted to see. You know, he replied. Not your toes.

I wrestled with this. Deeply in love, I didn’t want to refuse. I feared my reluctance was to do with sexual inhibition that I would do well to overcome, and much of our relationship was about both of us testing sexual boundaries, creating a list of what he called our “firsts.” I love him, I reasoned, so I can do this for him. I began with my breasts. I was pleased with the result, and so was he. We added this to our list of firsts. We moved on to even more intimate bits and I began to enjoy myself, it was exciting, it was fun, it brought us very close to each other, and so I wouldn’t feel alone in the venture and in good faith, he sent me pictures of his bits as well. I loved them because I loved him, but truthfully, a bloke’s bits don’t come near a woman’s for beauty and complexity.

Never in my wildest imaginings did I consider I might one day regret all this.

But I do. The relationship came to an emotionally devastating end. For the last few months I’ve fretted and churned about those pictures that I no longer want him to be able to look at. Several times I’ve contacted him by email, snail mail, and phone messages, asking that he let me know he has deleted the photos and that I don’t have to worry about them anymore. He has not responded to any of my requests. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. Is he exercising vengeful power over me, by refusing to tell me what has become of my intimate photos? Is he determined to keep them, and rather than lie to me has decided to say nothing at all? While I cannot bring myself to believe he would misuse the photos, I don’t know that others with access to his computer would be as discreet, and besides, I don’t want anyone else even looking at them, as they shouldn’t without my consent.

The reality is, once I sent those images to him I relinquished any control over their fate. Sent in deep love and absolute trust, a powerfully bonding “first,” I now no longer have any idea who will see them and in what circumstances, and my former lover seems to want me to live with that distress.

Although I regret engaging in this “first” with someone who was obviously entirely the wrong person to trust, I don’t regret overcoming my inhibition. I don’t regret the deeper acquaintance with my body, though I wish I’d shared that discovery with someone who was trustable. I’m beside myself with rage and hurt at his refusal to reassure me as to the fate of the photos, and at my powerlessness to do anything about this. It is indeed a foul betrayal, and I can only imagine how much worse it is for women whose ex partners actually do post intimate images online without consent. The problem lies not with those of us who share images of our bodies with lovers, but with lovers who lack the sensibility to honour the intimacy of that sharing, and instead choose to cause us fear and distress in their abuse of our trust.

As Leonard Cohen tells it, I don’t have to be forgiven / for loving you that much…

 

The Slap: a middle class morality tale

7 Oct

I haven’t read the book but I watched the show.

The first thing I thought was how absolutely awful that middle class marriage looked from the outside, and I thanked God I wasn’t in one. He’s drinking, smoking, snorting coke and considering an affair, all to escape the confines of a relationship that he looks to be pretty fed up with, and the responsibilities of fatherhood he seems to be pretty much over as well. I mean, telling your slightly plump young son to get off his fat arse isn’t loving, especially after you’ve yelled at him for eating potato chips and being sedentary into the bargain. Is it?

She’s harassed, feels she’s responsible for everything he doesn’t want to be responsible for and therefore is unfairly burdened, and on top of that she’s got highly manipulative in-laws he won’t stand up to, who want to ruin the only couple holiday they’ve planned in years by taking them all to Greece instead. He is not overly concerned with this interference, leading one to imagine he wasn’t that keen on the couple holiday in the first place.

Somehow we are meant to believe that the slap itself brought about a complete change of heart in him, and in the much younger woman he was planning to conjoin with as a temporary reprieve from his miserable life. The slap apparently shocked them both out of their  lustful fantasies, and caused them to within half an hour or so re-evaluate their lives and conclude they’re very lucky and they’d better not screw it up, so to speak.

I don’t find that instantaneous change of heart in a moment of shock entirely credible as a long-term prospect, but perhaps I’m a cynic.

An urgent post-slap marital root on the kitchen bench that seemed to afford passing satisfaction to him and little if any at all to her, acts as a temporary circuit breaker, and she grudgingly agrees to find ways to capitulate to her in laws’ travel plans.

An aside – I’ve never understood those sex scenes in which the woman is banged hard against some unyielding surface without any foreplay whatsoever, and likely very little skin on skin contact where it matters most, and apparently is left totally satisfied by the encounter. This doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Yet it is probably the most frequently employed portrayal of heterosexual sex in movies and on the telly. I get how it’s fine for the bloke, but…

Back to The Slap. You just know that the next morning or the next, however long it takes for the post-coital glow to subside, they’ll be back at it, him on his various drugs of choice, and her on her overburdened, aggrieved and resentful trip. This is the warp and woof of the marriage. Brief interludes of sex and drug induced relief punctuating vast expanses of chronic, unaddressed ill-feeling.

Mrs Chook, I’m sorry to say, slept through the slap, not the entire program but the actual swipe. Who did it, she muttered, rousing herself from her slumbers, who did the slap? Christ, I told her I can’t believe that of all the bits you could have happily slept through you chose the central event around which all else revolves. Shut up, she said. I’m tired, she said. I’ve been talking to phone people all day trying to get your bloody smart phone organized since you jacked up and said you were effing over it.

An aside: my daughter-in-law persuaded me onto Skype. I did it straight away before I could frighten myself out of it. It was so easy! Last night I talked to the new baby as he lurched about in a milk coma while his mother held him up to the camera and told him I’m his grandma. I still have to get the smart phone, but they’ve let me off Facebook. Compromise and negotiation: this is what gets you a happy family life.

Back to The Slap. I usually refuse to fill in bits people miss when they fall asleep on account of it gets tedious and they should just go to bed and let me record it for them. But I made an exception in this case, as it was pivotal. Mrs Chook said I was being uncharacteristically pleasant, but I let that pass on account of her generous attention to my smart phone difficulties.

It was not OK for that bloke to slap Hugo, nobody’s going to get an argument from me on that. At the same time I totally understand what led him to do it. Whenever somebody inflicts pain on us it’s instinctive to lash out, and the kid served up what must have been a very painful kick to the bloke’s shins. In what looked like a completely reflexive reaction, he delivered a hard retaliatory slap. Not premeditated. Totally reactive. Totally useless. Wrong. Understandable.

So what are the moral lessons we are to take from this first episode of what looks to be shaping up as a middle class morality tale? Well, there seems to be an inference that if you breast feed a child longer than the culture feels is necessary, you’ll end up with a brat everybody hates, and even if that isn’t why everybody hates him, it won’t help.

The second moral seems to be that an undisciplined child can wreak havoc far beyond his immediate family, and so middle class people have a moral obligation to properly discipline their children. Apart from anything else it’s just good manners as nobody wants their party ruined by a fractious, willfully disobedient, destructive escapee from South Park.

The third moral I took from the first episode was that it doesn’t matter how grubby your middle class marriage is, you have to find ways to make it tolerable for yourself because the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate. Even if that means having an affair, and everybody knows that marriages frequently survive affairs, and that affairs can often be, in the long-term, quite good for a marriage if not for the cast-off lovers who are dumped in favour of maintaining the institution.

The fourth moral I took was that human beings are frail and fragile, and we generally expect too much of them, whether it’s ourselves or somebody else.

I thought the acting was pretty good, the story interesting, and I’m not troubled by foul language. The smoking has copped a bit of criticism but people still smoke, and it does go to establishing character. The cigarettes were an important symbolic connection between Hector and the much younger woman he wanted to root, I think, and anyways, you can’t censor everything unsavoury and unhealthy out of stories or you’ll have no story left, unless it’s the Wiggles, or Mr Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck.

I’m going to keep watching.

Gillard and Abbott and the art of verbal abuse

27 Mar

It ain't over till it's over. by Dr John Bullas via flickr

 

Watching Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott go at it is a lot like witnessing a couple trapped in the death throes of a hideous relationship. They’ve got to the point where verbal abuse is not a side issue: it’s the issue. Whatever the specific conflict, it gets buried in a hail of verbal salvos designed to accuse, blame, denigrate, manipulate, control, and put down.

The couple sees each other only as adversaries. Their goal is to bring the other undone, and achieve domination. They struggle to achieve this in some or all of the following ways:

The verbal abuser refuses to responsibly communicate. She or he establishes what can be discussed, or withholds information, making genuine discussion impossible. She or he can prevent any possibility of resolving conflicts by employing this blocking tactic.

Diverting from the matter at hand into abuse that the other then feels obliged to defend or return is another impediment to discussion of real issues. Climate change, the economy, gay marriage – no matter what the topic on the table, it is always subsumed under the couple’s compulsion to do one another in.

Doing the other one in has become the raison d’être of the relationship. In a worst-case scenario, it has become the participants’ entire reason for getting up in the morning, and has taken on the qualities of a life-controlling addiction.

A verbal abuser will often accuse his or her partner of some wrongdoing or breach of the basic agreement of the relationship. This always distracts from the current issues, and puts the partner on the defensive.

Then there’s judging and criticizing. The verbal abuser may express their critical judgment of their partner. This is often disguised as being helpful and when in enacted in that form, can be particularly insidious as any retaliatory accusation of wrong-doing can be disingenuously denied, as in “Wot, me?”

Sometimes verbal abuse is disguised as jokes. While the comments may be presented as humor, they have poisoned barbs. They may be delivered inelegantly, or with great skill, but their intention is to diminish the partner, and throw her or him off balance.

Trivializing can also be a form of verbal abuse. Trivializing is the attempt to make what the partner has said or done, insignificant. This tactic can be quite hard to identify and name, although you know immediately and viscerally when it’s happening to you, and it makes you want to hit back, or crawl under a stone, depending on your particular learned method of self protection.

Undermining is another tactic. The abuser will attempt to slaughter an idea or suggestion with a few pointed comments, or derisive laughter.

Name-calling is also a classic tactic of the verbally abusive, as is reference to the hated other’s appearance, mannerisms, and past mistakes.

All these tactics can be employed in the privacy of home, or in public, often at dinner parties and barbeques, because couples in this state do best with an audience. An audience offers a golden opportunity to shame the other, and hopefully get somebody else on side. So delusional are couples by this stage, that they really do think what they say is taken seriously by those poor sods unwittingly subjected to their folie à deux. They have no idea that all anybody wants is for them to leave and never come back.

It can be disconcerting to be anywhere near couples dedicated to destroying one another. It can remind you uncomfortably of your own parents, or adults you knew as a child who were set on this path. It isn’t unusual, unfortunately, and having to witness it in adult life can provoke flashbacks.

In a verbally abusive relationship, there is no specific conflict. The issue is the abuse, and this issue can never be resolved. There is no possibility of closure.

This does not bode well for the Australian people.

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