Friday, January 11, 2008

Bad Scripts

For years I have been trying to coax my wife into a more enlightened perspective on sexuality. Though she has long since abandoned her catholic upbringing, she clearly was influenced by years of being told about all of the things that good girls do not do and being told that all things that relate to sex are nasty and sinful. Don’t get me wrong she is very open minded, a good sport and even adventurous. So we have had some nice exciting escapades over the years. Many times she has even showed definite signs of enjoying herself. But she always feels compelled to discount her pleasure. A lot of this has to do with the scripting that we are given such as good catholic girl.

Unfortunately, a lot of it also comes from the negative examples of jerks. Recently, my wife, who teaches elementary school, had just such an experience. One of her students went from being a well behaved good student to being a royal pain in the ass almost over night. She called the parents and, as she suspected, things had not been so great at the boy’s home. The parents had split up and were fighting. She had a conference with the boy’s mother and they came up with some strategies for making the best of the situation. Not much was said about the father but my wife had the sense that maybe he was a good deal of the problem even though the mother did not say much about him; or maybe because the mother did not say much about him. About three weeks went by and things, while not perfect, had improved. Then the father called and said that he was very worried about his son. My wife scheduled a conference to meet with him and suggested that he ask the mother to come along as well. He said that he would ask her. But when he showed up she was not with him and my wife felt that he had not asked her.
As the man talked about the problems with his son, he talked also about the problems between he and his wife. The man seemed to be distraught over the break up of his marriage. My wife felt bad for him.

And then out of the blue he started saying that he needed to be disciplined. My wife was confused and thought that maybe he was feeling guilty about something that he had done to his wife or son. But it quickly became apparent that he wanted my wife to discipline him for sexual pleasure. He said things like “I have been very bad. I need you to spank my naked bottom.” I have a hard time imagining my wife in that situation but she convinced him to leave. She came home very shaken up - literally in tears. Her emotions were a mix of disgust, sadness and anger.

I can well imagine that the man mistook my wife’s natural compassion as something different. Also, she tends to be rather clueless about men coming on to her. In all likelihood, the man was sending signals and when she did not pick up on them he took it as tacit approval of what he wanted.

I ended up being somewhat of a jerk myself, because in my wife’s emotional state I tried to help her make sense of it by stating these speculations about her missing clues. She was angry at the man for insinuating his sexuality on her and for being so inconsiderate of his son and now she was also mad at me for not understanding.

In the end she calmed down and even agreed that it was possible that she may have missed signs. But her perspective is that there should not have been signs, what he did was totally inappropriate. I cannot disagree with that. Nonetheless, I cannot help but also view this as somewhat of a misunderstanding of value systems. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the man was a selfish bastard. But I don’t think that he had a clue that what he was feeling would be perceived as such a violation.

Unfortunately, in my wife’s mind, like that of most of our society, that sort of selfish disregard for others in pursuit of ones own sexual gratification is the big brush with which all sexual liberty gets painted. This event just happened last week. It is a big step back in the effort to get my wife to open up sexually. I can’t blame her. But at the same time I can’t help but feel that the same mixed up sense of sexuality our society has that helped make this man the jerk that he is has also helped shape her sex negative attitudes.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sexual Scripts

We need new sexual scripts. The ones that we have are very limited. There are two basic types of sexual scripts, those that deal with how to be sexual as an individual and those that deal with sexual relationships. The boundaries of these scripts are defined with terms such as perverted, sick, twisted etc. And it is not just the uptight religious right that defines the limitations of these scripts it is also many of us who seek a broader perspective. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone who is way into some fetish that most would consider perverted say something like “but I’m not into sick stuff like (fill in the blank with any of those things that you think are sick.)” We, as a culture, need to come to a more liberated and tolerant sense of sexuality.

The fact is that in most cases these things aren’t sick. They are, in fact, healthy. Just as dreams are our way of processing things in our subconscious, sexual fantasy and fetish is how we process them in our immediate, if not meta-conscious. We use our sexuality as a means of healing wounds and insecurities. Often we do this by sexualizing that which we need to process. For example, a significant number of people who declare BDSM to be their fetish have had traumatic sexual experiences as children. The more pervasive the fetish the more likely the correlation to past abuse. People into BDSM are not sick; they are healing. The more we know about the restorative powers of sexual fantasies and fetishes the better equipped we will be to make ourselves secure. This is a crucial aspect of actualizing human potential.

There are also scripts for how we are sexually within a relationship. The socially excepted script is one man and one woman who have no fantasies or fetishes but who enjoy warm intimacy within the confines of vanilla sex no more than once a week behind the closed and locked doors of their matrimonial bedroom. These people do not dwell on, or speak about, this basically dirty and sinful aspect of life.

There is another script as well. It is the script of the perverted. The perverted are any couple who act outside of the accepted script. This is a villain’s script, which is avoided and usually denied when taken. The only people willing to take on this script are couples with two very high libidos. Such couples are usually driven mostly by the physical pleasure. They tend to diminish the emotional aspects of sex. These couples are often very clear in the no-strings-attached nature of what they are after. The purely physical pursuit of this lifestyle tends to reinforce a negative stereo type for most other.

There are two major problems with this pervasive two-script world view. First of all it leaves a lot of people unintentionally living by disingenuous scripts, whether they are living the perverts script and seek psychologically deeper connections or they are stuck in the conventional scrip and seek broader expression. Generally speaking most men seek more and kinkier sex and most women seek deeper connection in sex. This dichotomous world view also leaves our sexual potential, which is essentially the same thing as human potential, crippled.

The mechanics by which this world view has been created and maintained are complex. And, like most complex things created over a long period of, it is durable and seemingly sustainable. Changing this world view will take time and energy. The fact is that we do not want to destroy this world view. There is more baby than bathwater in the whole system of human connections.

Yes, we are talking about the whole structure of human connection here. It is folly to consider sexuality, one of the strongest forces in the creation of human bonds, without recognizing the far reaching implications of such forces.

One of the reasons that our view of sexuality is so limited is because we have always considered sexuality only as a very personal and private thing. But in fact sexuality is one of the basic binding force on which we build all of civilization. Failing to consider it in the broader context allows such limited perspective as we have with the two basic scripts.

Those who think that the sexual revolution happened in the sixties and seventies are looking at the foot hills and calling them mountains. The sexual revolution is not what happens when we open the doors to our bedrooms; it is what happens when we open our minds to the power and potential of human sexuality.

Cross posted at