Posts Tagged ‘masculinity’

2012 8 Feb

Manliness; Casual Sex for Ladies; Islamic Sexuality; and of course S&M

In mid-December, I took on the role of editing the Sex + Relationships Section at the gender-focused site Role/Reboot. Role/Reboot is a nonprofit organization that is specifically designed to talk about gender issues with an audience that has little exposure to them.  In fact, this is one of the things that excited me about working with Role/Reboot; like my sex-positive film series, it’s intended to create new conversations, to bring new people and new perspectives into the gender discourse.  The managing editors at Role/Reboot identify as feminist, although they explicitly prefer to position the site outside existing gender discourses.

This editorship is a bit of an experiment for me, and I’m interested to see how it will go. It’s an opportunity to highlight some work that I think is both excellent and accessible. I don’t choose every piece that is published in the Sex + Relationships section, but I choose a lot of them. Here are some of my favorites from the last six weeks:

* Mica: A Strange Binary, written by me! This is a storytime-type article in which I talk about how it feels to start a relationship with a gentleman who’s new to submission, and isn’t sure how to talk about it. And in the end, he and I switched BDSM roles, too … (I later reposted this article to my blog under the title, “The Strange Binary of Dominance and Submission”.)

* Virginity and Sexual Realization, written by Nahida (who blogs at The Fatal Feminist). Nahida is a really interesting writer whose main focus is the intersection of Islam and feminism. This piece is about her understanding of Islam and female sexuality, and her feeling that her Islamic culture is fundamentally more sex-positive than the Western culture in which she grew up.

* Born This Way: Black Box Sexuality, written by Noah Brand (who’s part of the blog team at No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?). This is an exquisitely constructed, hilarious piece about why we should treat sexuality as a “black box” — we don’t know why personal sexuality is the way it is, and it arguably doesn’t matter. (I’ve covered similar ground in my old piece on BDSM as a sexual orientation.)

* Picking and Choosing from the “Act Like A Man Box”, written by Charlie Glickman. Charlie is one of my favorite writers on issues of masculinity. This piece follows his earlier piece, The Performance of Masculinity, and it’s a wonderful discussion of the narrowness of our conceptions of manhood — plus ideas on what it means to create a “new masculinity.”

* Awesome Casual Sex for Single Girls, written by Adaya Adler (who blogs at My So-Called Polyamorous Life). If you’re a lady interested in trying casual sex, you couldn’t find a better place to start than by reading this article. Which is not to say that I think you “should” try casual sex; I’m not too interested in it myself. But if you want to, you know where to start reading!

If you’re interested in pitching me your own work, or you know someone who is, please do get in touch with me: clarisse at rolereboot dot org.

2012 9 Jan

One Blurred Edge of Sex Work: Interview with a “Sugar Baby”, Part 2

(This interview was completed for and originally published at Role/Reboot.)

* * *

Sex work is a controversial and polarized topic, and there are many perspectives on it. My position is complex — but for me, when it comes to how we actually interact with sex workers, one important factor is whether they enjoy their jobs. I am absolutely in favor of giving better options to sex workers who do not enjoy their jobs, and I am horrified by the idea of a person being trafficked or coerced into sex that they don’t want to have. But I also know people who have sex for money 100% voluntarily, and I do not want to deny their experience.

My friend Olivia, a 25-year-old graduate student, recently started advertising her services on a “Sugar Baby” site called SeekingArrangement.com. I think it’s important for more people to understand these kinds of experiences, so I asked to interview her. Many people have pointed out that once a person starts thinking about the definition of “prostitute”, it’s a bit difficult to define what exactly a prostitute is. Some of my sex worker friends have asked the question: what exactly is the difference between a person whose partner buys her a fancy dinner after which they have sex — and a person whose partner buys sex with money? Olivia has thought at length about this, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her perspective.

Please note that Olivia is exceptionally privileged. What you are about to read is a portrait of what the sex industry looks like for a person who is very privileged: she comes from a white upper-middle-class background, she is not desperate, she is being paid a lot of money, she does not have a drug addiction. Many other peoples’ experiences in the sex industry are different.

The interview went long, so we posted it in two parts. Part 1 is available if you click here. In Part 1, Olivia told us that she usually uses the site SeekingArrangement.com to find clients; she described the nature of a “sugar baby” site, and she talked about some things she’s learned about gender roles. Now for part 2:

Clarisse Thorn: In Part 1, you mentioned that you feel powerful in your relationships with these men. But there are issues of your safety, right?

Olivia: I think there are issues of safety anytime a person meets someone they don’t really know, especially if they plan to spend time in private. And especially if you’re dealing with topics as sensitive as sex or money. There may be more issues of safety with this because some people really do believe that money can buy them anything. But for the most part, when I meet people they seem very respectful.

Things I do to increase my safety are that I tell my husband and my friends where I’m going to be, I tell them exactly where I am. I’ll do things like take down a client’s license plate number and text it to my husband. I’ve been thinking maybe I should look at each client’s driver’s license too, and text the client’s name and driver’s license number to my husband. I think some clients might feel threatened by that, though.

The most important thing for my safety is that I’m willing and able to walk away from situations. I’m not desperate — I won’t starve or die if I don’t do this work. I meet all my clients in public first for a meal, and if someone sketches me out, I leave. I’m not so desperate that I’ll get into a situation that scares me.

I guess I am at risk if I meet a really crazy person who wants to chop me up and put me in a dumpster. But I could meet a person like that during a normal night at a bar, too.

The major risks that I see include that I might catch an STD — but I use protection. I might end up alone with someone who believes that the money he’s paying actually gives him the entitlement to do whatever he wants to my body, but I’ve never encountered anyone like that. The thing is, as I said before, I haven’t met anyone who I think would actually describe themselves as paying for sex. The terms on which I continue to see these men are probably less explicitly negotiated than an escort’s terms would be. I don’t have flat rates, for example.

I’ve heard escorts complaining that people who use sugar baby sites are unprofessional, and I think that from an escort’s perspective they probably are.

Clarisse Thorn: If people are unwilling to actually talk about sex for money, it must be hard to negotiate your encounters. Do you have a set of steps for negotiation?

Olivia: I haven’t been doing this for very long. It’s varied so far. Usually, I meet them for some kind of meal, and we chat. We have a perfunctory conversation, like — “How was your day?” Then one of us will say something like, “Tell me a bit more about what you’re looking for. Why are you on the site?”

Then we’ll explain our deal to each other. Like, he might say: “I’m divorced, I’m looking for companionship.” At some point, money comes up. I am always extremely vague when I talk about money. I’ve found a good deal of variation in how squeamish people are about money.

(more…)

2012 5 Jan

One Blurred Edge of Sex Work: Interview with a “Sugar Baby”, Part 1

(This interview was completed for and originally published at Role/Reboot.)

* * *

Sex work is a controversial and polarized topic, and there are many perspectives on it. My position is complex — but for me, when it comes to how we actually interact with sex workers, one important factor is whether they enjoy their jobs. I am absolutely in favor of giving better options to sex workers who do not enjoy their jobs, and I am horrified by the idea of a person being trafficked or coerced into sex that they don’t want to have. But I also know people who have sex for money 100% voluntarily, and I do not want to deny their experience.

My friend Olivia, a 25-year-old graduate student, recently started advertising her services on a “Sugar Baby” site called SeekingArrangement.com. I think it’s important for more people to understand these kinds of experiences, so I asked to interview her. Many people have pointed out that once a person starts thinking about the definition of “prostitute”, it’s a bit difficult to define what exactly a prostitute is. Some of my sex worker friends have asked the question: what exactly is the difference between a person whose partner buys her a fancy dinner after which they have sex — and a person whose partner buys sex with money? Olivia has thought at length about this, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her perspective.

Please note that Olivia is exceptionally privileged. What you are about to read is a portrait of what the sex industry looks like for a person who is very privileged: she comes from a white upper-middle-class background, she is not desperate, she is being paid a lot of money, she does not have a drug addiction. Many other peoples’ experiences in the sex industry are different.

The interview went long, so we’re going to post it in two parts. Here’s part 1:

Clarisse Thorn: Hey Olivia, thanks so much for being willing to talk about this incredibly complicated topic. Could you start by defining a sugar baby site? What is it?

Olivia: I use the site SeekingArrangement.com. I don’t actually know how many sugar baby sites there are, but I get the sense there’s more than one. It’s very hard to pin down exactly what it does. I guess it connects people, usually with a big age gap, who are interested in exchanging some kind of material goods or financial resources for some form of companionship that is often sexual — but not always.

As far as I can tell, the site’s founder is very against the claim that this is prostitution. He puts out a lot of publicity claiming that this site has nothing to do with prostitution. At first I thought that he was trying to evade legal consequences, but I think he actually probably believes that. The site has a blog that he controls, and you can look at it to get a sense of what he’s thinking. One post I think is really interesting is called “Sugar Baby & Sugar Daddy: The Modern Day Princess & Prince?“, which compares being a sugar baby to a kind of “happily ever after” princess fantasy.

So far, no one I’ve talked to seems remotely interested in hiring what they see as a “prostitute”. They seem to want to be having sex with someone they find very attractive who is also someone they feel like they can respect, whose intelligence they respect. For example, someone I see occasionally — the last time I saw him, he gave me money at the end and he said that he felt good about giving me the money because he knew I wouldn’t spend it on, quote, “a designer handbag.” He seems to think that I am reasonably ambitious and have my shit together, and he seems to feel more comfortable giving me money because he knows it goes towards my grad school costs and credit card debt. My ability to write with proper grammar, without overusing emoticons, appears to be my biggest sales point. Men have told me this outright.

That guy also mentioned feeling more comfortable because he thinks I’m from the same social class as he is. There are a lot of class issues coming up in these encounters, I think. Being white and from an upper-middle-class background may help me get clients. My background has also given me a ton of confidence that puts me at an advantage when negotiating. I do not think I radiate “take advantage of me,” and I (nicely) tell guys who start doing that to go away.

The guy I was just talking about — he also mentioned that he feels like he doesn’t want to have sex with someone that he doesn’t feel at least a little bit connected to. There’s a distinction between meaningless sex and casual sex. I think these guys want casual sex — maybe they aren’t at the point where they want to deal with having a partner, or they’re really busy at work, or they already have another partner — they want casual sex but not meaningless sex.

(more…)

2011 31 Dec

[open thread] OK, it’s time to deconstruct “Tangled”

I saw “Tangled”, the 2010 Disney Princess flick, over my Christmas holiday. Where to start? I don’t know, so I’m gonna do one of my all-too-rare open threads. (Also, I have concluded that I should catch up on work and email and past comment threads and make sure to thoroughly enjoy New Year’s Eve before I write another of my famous long posts. Also also, happy New Year, folks.)

Feel free to post things that aren’t about “Tangled” too. But like … the movie is a freakin’ goldmine. Here are some discussion prompts:

1. I guarantee that “Tangled” has already birthed many, many BDSM fantasies. I mean, see above. But recalling my frequent injunction that BDSM can be “love sex” too, I like this picture much better:

Disney’s always been good at that sudden, sweet, swoon-inducing moment of intimacy.

2. Obligatory gender roles analysis! How do we feel about these in “Tangled”?

3. Did we learn any lessons about manliness (or even pickup artistry) from Flynn Rider?

Why, it’s almost like the guy is both cocky and funny! But you know what else he is? Vulnerable. Flynn’s character kinda made me think of the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold cliché.

P.S. That “Blade Runner” reference towards the end. This isn’t even a question.

I am just saying. They can deny that they intended to reference “Blade Runner” all they want, and I’ll still be here, just saying.

(Images above show various characters from “Tangled” — including two in which Rapunzel has tied up the male hero, Flynn, using her hair. Please note that the image of the “unicorn moment” from “Tangled” is here via the fuckyeahtangled tumblr. Because there’s a fuckyeahtangled tumblr.)

2011 31 Oct

[storytime] A Unified Theory of Orgasm

Before I post my article about orgasms, happy Halloween:

I discovered this tiny sculpture (easily fits in my hand) at a friend’s party this weekend. Apparently it is known as a “Halloween labbit”; it was created by Frank Kozik and produced by the designer toy company Kidrobot. This discovery might just be the highlight of my entire life. Seriously. Study questions include, “What would you do if that were a real animal that ran into the room where you’re sitting right now?”

… Aaand on that note, let’s move on to “A Unified Theory of Orgasm”. This article was originally published at the girl-power site Off Our Chests.

* * *

I CAN’T COME.
and it’s poisoned
every romance
I’ve ever had.

masturbating doesn’t work. I don’t know why. I tried therapy too, but my smart, understanding, sex-positive, open-hearted doctor couldn’t help. drugs while fucking? check. I date attentive men who only want to make me happy, but no matter how fantastic they make me feel, I can’t get off. and believe me, I like sex. I love sex! how can it feel so good and not end in an orgasm? I tried experimenting, and I sure do love the kink. it feels great. but doesn’t get me off. I’ve tried everything. everything.

now I have the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. but just like every other one, he can’t get me off. big dick? oral sex? tons of foreplay? kink? it’s all there. nothing works. I used to lie to my boyfriends and say it was ok that I couldn’t get off. then at least they could enjoy sex without feeling guilty. but then they’d stop trying, of course. and this one is still trying … sometimes. I mean, it’s clearly never going to work. so I can’t blame him for not having the same passion for trying as he used to. and I keep thinking I should back off. after all, why put pressure on him to “perform”? he’ll just resent me if I keep asking for more, even if I’m gentle about it and compliment him and all that. since nothing he does works. it will never work.

and I try so hard not to get frustrated, but I can’t avoid the knowledge that I am fucked up, I must be broken. I mean, any normal woman would have come by now. so what do I do? I don’t know what I need. do I back off and focus on him? that’s what I end up doing, because I can’t face asking for a little more attention in bed anymore. what’s the point? he’ll just resent me when it doesn’t work again. so I back off. and I can’t help resenting him, just a little, for not noticing how much I’m hurting. and not trying, even if I am broken, and I will never ever come.

* * *

Contents:

I. Vaginal Pain
II. S&M
III. Frigid
IV. The Fight
V. Men’s Perspective
VI. S&M, Redux
VII. Figuring It Out
VIII. Study Questions

* * *

I. Vaginal Pain

When I wrote the above, I was actually pretty close to figuring out how to have an orgasm. But I didn’t know that. I’d dealt with the anxiety of being unable to come for so long — and I’d also recently begun to understand that my sexuality is oriented towards S&M — and so anguish just flooded out of me, into those words. I craved S&M, but acknowledging the craving made me feel like a “pervert”, a “freak”. It contributed to my already-overwhelming fear that I was “broken” because I couldn’t figure out how to come.

(more…)

2011 30 Sep

[storytime] Chemistry

Thank you, all my readers, for your patience. To make up for the long wait, here’s an extra-long post.

* * *

It’s a long story and a short one, but I guess all of them are.

I’m 27. It’s about that age: A lot of my compatriots are getting married lately — most monogamously, some to a primary polyamorous partner. I myself have a stack of relationships in my past. Some were monogamous, some polyamorous. Some have been on-and-off; some short-term; one that lasted six years. Lately I’ve been processing some tough questions about polyamory, but I’d like to stick with it.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want in a primary polyamorous partner. The kind of guy I could marry. I wonder if I’ll ever get to that point. I wonder if I’d know him if I saw him.

* * *

I met Mr. Ambition at one of the aforementioned weddings. Several people recommended that I talk to him, and we liked each other right away. Mutual friends used words like “zealot” to describe him; let’s just say he’s got an intense history of dedicated activism. Charisma, integrity, and pure energy pour off him. His words are almost always articulate and challenging. He can socially dominate a room without thinking. He works a challenging job ten hours per day; exercises two hours; socializes several hours; sleeps and eats when he can. He gives hugs easily, laughs easily, hands out compliments like candy.

Mr. Ambition is most definitely not a neutral personality. Of course, neither am I.

At the time, I was just coming out of the worst stage of my research on pickup artists — a subculture of men who trade tips on how to seduce women. Also, I’d just had one of those breakups where I was too busy feeling stupid to properly understand how hurt I was. (Don’t you hate those?) You can read all about those Dramatic Events in my upcoming book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. In the meantime, suffice to say that I felt … flattened.

Arguably, I should have had a sign taped to my forehead that read: “Emotionally Unavailable.”

I went to dinner with Mr. Ambition later that week. At the end of the meal, he sat back and looked at me. “You’re so authentic,” he said.

“I haven’t felt very authentic lately,” I said frankly, but his words felt good. Like a balm. Like I was healing.

* * *

We got along excellently, had a lot in common, etc. Typical this-relationship-starts-well stuff. One evening, after we’d been out to eat in a big philosophical group, Mr. Ambition noted the hotness of my intense theoretical bent. “When you were discussing social justice and ethics tonight,” he said, “I wanted to reach across the table and grab you.”

He mentioned marriage within weeks. “This has never happened before,” he told me. “I’ve never dated someone I thought I could actually marry.” Whoa, tiger, I thought, but I had to admit that he hit a lot of my Ideal Characteristics as well. Intelligence, drive, charisma, and morality: it’s hard to argue with that.

Our sexual chemistry was okay, but not climb-the-walls stellar. We’ll develop that, I told myself. He’s less sexually experienced than I am, and we’ll learn each other just fine. Fortunately he’s got some experience with polyamory, but in terms of S&M, he’s another of those vanilla-but-questioning guys (I never learn). When we did S&M, I had to monitor the situation extra carefully because it was so new to him.

And for all his intelligence, it was really hard to talk to him about emotions. It wasn’t that he was cold or distant; on the contrary, he’s one of the most fiery people I’ve ever met. But he had a lot of difficulty explaining what was going on in his head. Indeed, he told me that he had a lot of difficulty knowing what was going on in his head. He did things like laugh when a friend hurt his feelings, then deny that he was hurt, even though I could plainly see the stricken look behind his eyes.

I wasn’t surprised that he was more physical than verbal about S&M. Very straightforward: throwing me around, pulling my head back, digging his hands into my skin. He’s incredibly strong, and sometimes I called my safeword simply because his strength scared me.

There was one particular S&M encounter … early in the evening, I called my safeword because I wasn’t sure he was into it.

“Red,” I said, and he stopped. “Is this okay with you?” I asked, and he nodded.

(more…)

2011 27 May

I’m Not Your Sex-Crazy Nympho Dreamgirl

This was originally published on May 12, 2011 over at the Good Men Project.

There’s this cultural image of what it means to be female, and good in bed. The image includes being young and thin and cisgendered of course, and that can be problematic. But it also includes a lot of behavioral stuff: the way you squirm, the way you moan, being Super Excited about everything the guy wants to do, and Always Being Up for It — whatever “It” is. When people think about “good in bed,” for a woman, that’s often what they think.

Here’s a short list of some things I think are totally awesome:

+ Squirming and moaning during sex in a genuine way, out of genuine pleasure!

+ Acting Super Excited when your partner wants to do something you’re actually Super Excited about!

+ Being up for sexual experimentation and trying new things, while keeping track of your boundaries and saying no (or calling your safeword) to sexual things you really don’t like!

Those things are great. They’re great when they happen in all kinds of sex, and I have no problem with how people experience or deal with with those things — whether people get them from vanilla or S&M sex, or porn, or sex with multiple people, or queer sex, or whatever. All consensual sex is fine with me. (In particular, in pieces like the one you’re about to read, I often have to make it really clear that I’m not anti-porn. OK? I’m not anti-porn. Got that? Say it with me now: Clarisse Thorn is not anti-porn. Yay, it rhymes!)

What scares me, however—what continuously gets my goat, what still occasionally makes me feel weird about sex — is how easy it is to perform those three things I listed above. Because I have always, since before I even started having sex, known exactly what I was supposed to look like while I had sex. I don’t even know how I internalized those images: some of them through porn, I suppose, or art or erotica or what have you; some of them by reading sex tips on the Internet or hearing the ones whispered to me by friends. But I can definitely assure you that before I had any actual sexual partners, I knew how to give a good blowjob. I also knew how to tilt my head back and moan, and I knew how to twist my body, and I knew what my reactions and expressions were supposed to look and sound like — I knew all those things much better than I knew what would make me react.

There was a while there, where my sexuality was mostly performance: an image, an act, a shell that I created because I knew it was hot for my partners. I’m not saying I was performing 100% of the time — but certainly, when I was just starting to have sex, that’s mostly what it was. And, scarily, I can put the shell back on at any time. Sometimes it’s hard to resist, because I know men will reward me for it, emotionally, with affection and praise. It’s much, much more difficult to get what I actually want out of a sexual interaction than it is for me to create that sexy dreamgirl shell: hard for me to communicate my desires, hard for me to know what I’m thinking, hard for me to set boundaries.

And hard to believe that a guy will like me as much, if I try to be honest about what I want. Honesty means that sometimes I’m confused, and sometimes we have to Talk About It; honesty means that sometimes I say no, it means that sometimes I’m not Up For It. Something in me is always asking: Surely he’d prefer the sexy, fake, plastic dreamgirl shell? It’s not true, I know it’s not true, I swear it’s not true — I don’t have such a low opinion of men as that. I know this is just a stereotype, the idea that men are emotionally stunted horndogs with no interest in how their partners feel.

So sometimes, I have to fight myself not to perform. But it’s worth it — because the hardest thing of all is feeling locked into an inauthentic sexuality. I tell myself, I try to force myself to believe it: even if a guy would like me more for faking and holding back and being so-called “low-maintenance” — I tell myself it’s a stereotype, but even if that stereotype is true of some men — no man is worth doing that to myself. No man is worth that trapped, false, sick feeling.

(more…)

2011 8 May

Towards my personal Sex-Positive Feminist 101

There’s an aphorism from the early 1900s literary critic André Maurois: “The difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s opinion but to know it.” Even though I identify as an activist and genuinely want to make a real impact on the world based on my beliefs … I often think that much of my blogging has been more an attempt to figure out what I believe, than to tell people what I believe. And sometimes, I fall into the trap of wanting to be consistent more than I want to understand what I really believe — or more than I want to empathize with other people — or more than I want to be correct. We all gotta watch out for that.

But I’m getting too philosophical here. (Who, me?) The point is, I am hesitant to write something with a title like “Sex-Positive 101”, because not only does it seem arrogant (who says Clarisse Thorn gets to define Sex-Positive 101?) — it also implies that my thoughts on sex-positivity have come to a coherent, standardized end. Which they haven’t! I’m still figuring things out, just like everyone else.

However, lately I’ve been thinking that I really want to write about some basic ideas that inform my thoughts on sex-positive feminism. I acknowledge that I am incredibly privileged (white, upper-middle-class, heteroflexible, cisgendered etc) and coming mostly from a particular community, the BDSM community; both of these factors inform and limit the principles that underpin my sex-positivity. I welcome ideas for Sex-Positive Feminism 101, links to relevant 101 resources, etc.

This got really long, and I reserve the right to edit for clarity or sensitivity.

(more…)

2011 1 May

[litquote] The stories we tell ourselves about relationships

The following quotations are from the beginning of Phyllis Rose’s unusual and very interesting Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages. Rose, who knows an amazing amount about the personal lives of famous Victorians, starts the book with general insights about relationships — not just marriage, really — and then goes on to describe the marriages (Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, John Stuart Mill, Charles Dickens and George Eliot) in a charming and continuously insightful manner.

There are things here that I don’t agree with, or that I would frame differently. In particular, it seems to me that Rose probably doesn’t have much exposure to BDSM, and especially to explicitly-negotiated power play. She says a lot of things about power in relationships, how that power functions — and how it is disguised — that seem limited to me, as someone who plays with power on purpose very frequently. Nevertheless, I’ve drawn insight from those parts too, and generally think it’s all pretty brilliant.

Pickup artists may note similarities between Rose’s ideas and pickup frame theory.

* * *

In unhappy marriages … I see two versions of reality rather than two people in conflict. I see a struggle for imaginative dominance going on. Happy marriages seem to me those in which the two partners agree on the scenario they are acting, even if … their own idea of their relationship is totally at variance with the facts. I speak with great trepidation about “facts” in such matters, but, speaking loosely, the facts in the Mills’ case — that a woman of strong and uncomplicated will dominated a guilt-ridden man — were less important than their shared imaginative view of the facts, that their marriage fitted their shared ideal of a marriage of equals. I assume, then, as little objective truth as possible about these parallel lives, for every marriage seems to me a subjectivist fiction with two points of view often deeply in conflict, sometimes fortuitously congruent. (page 7)

* * *

… like Mill, I believe marriage to be the primary political experience in which most of us engage as adults, and so I am interested in the management of power between men and women in that microcosmic relationship. Whatever the balance, every marriage is based on some understanding, articulated or not, about the relative importance, the priority of desires, between the two partners. Marriages go bad not when love fades — love can modulate into affection without driving two people apart — but when this understanding about the balance of power breaks down, when the weaker member feels exploited or the stronger feels unrewarded for his or her strength.

People who find this a chilling way to talk about one of our most treasured human bonds will object that “power struggle” is a failed circumstance into which relationships fall when love fails. (For some people it is impossible to discern the word power without adding the word struggle.) I would counter by pointing out the human tendency to invoke love at moments when we want to disguise transactions involving power. … [W]hen we resign power, or assume new power, we insist it is not happening and demand to be talked to about love. Perhaps that is what love is — a momentary or prolonged refusal to think about another person in terms of power. … [W]hat we call love may inhibit the process of power negotiation — from which inhibition comes the illusion of equality so characteristic of lovers. If the impulse to abjure measurement and negotiation comes from within, unbidden, it is one of life’s graces and blessings. But if it is culturally induced … then we may find it repugnant and call it a mask for exploitation. Surely, in regard to marriage, love has received its fair share of attention, power less than its share. … Who can resist the thought that love is the ideological bone thrown to women to distract their attention from the powerlessness of their lives? Only millions of romantics can resist it — and other millions who might see it as the bone thrown to men to distract them from the bondage of their lives. (pages 7-8)

(more…)

2011 18 Apr

[guest post] Detrimental Attitudes of the Pickup Artist Community

This post was originally written years ago by a gentleman who has thoroughly investigated the pickup artist subculture (or “seduction community”). Chris’ main interest is writing about remedial social skills and shyness, but in the past he also offered some basic dating advice. Part of that involved trying to warn guys off the weirder aspects of the pickup artist world, which is where this post originated from. He’s since moved away from giving advice in that area and is concentrating just on social skills. His main site is available at SucceedSocially.com.

I first encountered this article when I started researching pickup artists, and I thought it was so interesting that I used it as part of a workshop. I was really disappointed when the author took down the site where it was posted, and I asked if I could repost it here. So, here is a guest post, originally titled Detrimental Attitudes You Can Pick Up Through The Seduction Community.

Please keep in mind that I, Clarisse, take no particular responsibility for this article. I think it’s fascinating for two reasons — because of what it says about the pickup artist community, and what the assumptions behind it are.

* * *

The Seduction Community is a strange subculture. Some of its odd ideas are just harmless quirks. I think some are plain counterproductive to your success though. Internalizing them will make you a less appealing person, and you may end up doing worse with women. The maladaptive ideas below can also appear in other subcultures which have members who are aiming to improve themselves along some dimension.

I can’t claim credit for coming up with many of the points below. I’m just throwing them together into one cautionary list. Some of these are fairly well known pitfalls in the scene, even if some of the guys who are aware of them can’t put them into words. Others you’ll recognize from The Game by Neil Strauss, which was good about drawing attention the the Community’s odder elements.

Feeling arrogant and superior just for being in the Community

In a general sense, many guys in the Community have that feeling of superiority that comes from believing you know better than most people. They think they’re in an elite class because they have this special knowledge about how to get girls, and about how things really work. They feel above all the guys who don’t possess the information they have.

This smugness has nothing to do with one’s actual ability to get girls. Guys in the Community can have swell heads whether they’re master pick up artists or complete virgins. It’s that they know certain things that supposedly puts them above other people.

Well actually Community guys can also feel superior because they really are doing well for themselves sexually, and look down on men who aren’t enjoying the same lifestyle. You’d think only successful guys could think this way, but inexperienced ones do as well sometimes. In their minds they honestly think that because they know how to get girls on paper, they really are players on some level. They’ll do things like scoff at a friend who’s having a dry spell, even though they haven’t had sex in even longer.

Seeing almost all mainstream guys as AFC’s

Community guys often see pretty much any guy that doesn’t know about the scene as an Average Frustrated Chump to be looked down on. Except for the odd mainstream guy who is naturally good with women, it’s a pretty Black & White distinction between enlightened Community guys who know the score, and the teeming AFC masses who make every dating mistake in the book.

Ironically many guys in the Community hardly get any girls, and many so-called AFCs do just fine with women, even if they are following traditional dating models that apparently don’t work. Many of the AFCs end with genuinely cool partners as well. They haven’t all settled for the first thing they could get because they don’t have the PUA skills to get truly quality women. Community guys end up with so-so women as well. They’re as likely to go home with a drunk, fugly girl from a bar as the next person. All types of men can do well, or not well, when it comes to dating.

The definition of what marks a guy as an AFC seems to depend on the situation as well. Even if a mainstream guy is doing well with girls on the whole, all he has to do is display one AFCish behavior to earn the label. However, when Community guys make these same mistakes (and everyone makes them, no one’s perfect) they don’t consider themselves as falling into this category.

(more…)