The Point

Rescuing Masculinity from Patriarchy September 2, 2008

Filed under: Modern Culture — thisisthepoint @ 12:14 pm
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Masculinity in America, part two

 

The need to redefine masculinity is imperative.  Part of this is the necessity of removing patriarchy from masculinity.  More than one man has noted the common interchangeability of these words, though they are very separate concepts.  Many of the more traditionally negative aspects of masculinity are in fact a function of patriarchy (aggression, domination) and not of inherent masculine energy.  Patriarchy may represent the unbalanced expression of masculinity, and the purpose of redefining masculinity is to free man from the shame of patriarchy’s historical tyranny and the resulting fear of deep masculine experiences.

 

Women are not the innocent pawns in this game, however.  We are all in the quagmire of strange gender interaction (a whole other essay), and women lack a masculinity to refer to and can sense that same lack in men, leading to a frustration that is nobody’s fault but will not correct itself without conscious effort.  “The destructive friction between men and women-our failure to attain a mature communion-may underlie the various global political and socioeconomic crises afflicting our world.” (D.Pinchbeck, 2007)

 

Some have asked why we even need masculinity?  Why not transcend the whole thing and throw off the chains of gender roles?  I have also heard it said that the ideal situation may be to live in a genderless society, and that using the terms masculinity and femininity only enhances the sexism that already exists.  Though it is nice to think about a time in the future when men and women are secure enough in their psyches that they can interact in a solely human way, I don’t think we can progress to that place without a few steps in between.    I could describe masculine ‘characteristics’ in the context of just what makes a good adult human, but for now, it seems that the traditional dualism of masculine and feminine are, in my opinion, more pressing.  The discord between the sexes cannot easily be brushed aside, and must be consciously shifted, thus the importance of addressing these qualities head on,  from a perspective of power.  If we remove the unconscious control the media has on our cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity, the power is in our own hands to do with it what we will.  If that means using it to transcend gender so be it, but to deny that there are dualistic dynamics is mere lotus eating of the future and a rejection of the present.  We must not shy from our own complicity and responsibility in the creation of masculine and feminine identities.  

First we need to grow up.  Only adults who are not in the throes of subconscious patterns, who are present, conscientious, and disciplined can evolve into more enlightened states of being.  The main issue in North America is that many men are not grown up, and many women are not either.  Having a way to define what it means to be a man in effect defines an Adult (hence the need for rites of passage).  The difference between biological maturity and the maturity of the psyche are distinct, and what constituted an adult in the society of early man was not the same as what it constitutes now.  With the advent of civilization and the social contract, new aspects of adulthood emerged, along with new rights and responsibilities.  

 

Right now in America, there are only a few ways a man can define his masculinity.  The military is perhaps the only opportunity for a right of passage within the constructs of  the dominant culture.  The training is intended to break one’s ego down.  The other path is that of money.  Most men who have been asked responded that finances figure highly in how they assess themselves as men, which seems appropriate as it is directly related to the provider imprint that cannot be easily shaken (nor, perhaps, does it need to be).   The Xer generation (those age 27 to 47)  is the most abandoned generation perhaps in history, and more children grew up without fathers than ever before.  Talk about the feminist revolution stripping men of their provider role.  And without a new definition of masculinity, men had no idea how to act in a broad cultural sense, and made it up as they went along, many times leaving their families financially and emotionally (perhaps as a punishment for attacking their identities).  There seems to be no debate any more as to whether this is good for a child.  It is not.  So when an entire generation of young men grow up without fathers, or strong masculine role models, and a greater culture does not pick up the slack, we have the hyper-male myth of the military hero or the rich man archetype, both unrealistically expressed in the culture today.

 

But back to reclaiming the definition of masculinity:

There a few ways to go about this, and the following list refers to brainstorming sessions with a few bottles of wine over a few nights with varied company.  To be balanced, I include a list on femininity.

 

Masculinity

 

Integrity, accountability, supportive, courage, protective, strength, assertiveness, determination, will, high regard for love, power, energy/active, physical, sexual, present, trustworthy, fierce, raw

 

 

Femininity

 

intuitive, flexible, tolerant, compassionate, creative, emotional, nurturing, capable, practical, graceful, gentle, sensual, receptive

 

To be clear, this is not a list of how people should act. Women need to be assertive  and men need to be compassionate.  Some men behave in feminine ways, some women in masculine ways, and there is nothing wrong with this, as long as one does not judge these individual qualities as better/worse. Every person carries a unique balance of these energies, and the key is to not restrict them or judge them.   In the traditional eastern Yin/Yang symbol, it is shown how in each dual pair there is always the aspect of its opposite, or even, that trying to identify each idea/concept without its ‘opposite’ is only possible philosophically, as they are inextricably linked in this world.

 

The negative reaction I have elicited from some people using archetypes and dualism as semiotic base references come from what I believe to be cultural connotations that incorrectly reflect the true meanings of these concepts, and how they relate to the subconscious and the psyche.  In America, dualism seems to popularly have taken on a zero-sum nature.  It is exactly the interactions of dualities that I refer to, the description of reality in a manner that relates reality to itself.  Though it could even be seen in greater american culture, the desire for zero sum duality; that there is only love, no fear.  Only light, no dark.  At least marketing seems obsessed with the idea.  That if only we could escape that darned dualistic nature to life, and achieve a purity of experience, we could be happy.  All happy, no unhappy, that is.  This is, of course, impossible.  

 

So how do we extricate the masculine from the patriarchal?

By understanding that patriarchy is the weakest form of masculinity, and represents its extreme misuse.

 

The weakest expression of power is tyranny

The weakest expression of assertiveness is aggression

The weakest expression of protectiveness is war

The weakest expression of accountability is control

The weakest expression of determination is stubbornness

The weakest expression of strength is violence

The weakest expression of will is domination

The weakest expression of sexuality is rape

and so on.  

 

What needs to happen is the reclaiming of the powerful aspects of these qualities as masculine, the distinguishing of these qualities from their extremes.  All humans are capable of all qualities, and it is the choices we make and the areas we focus on that define us as individuals.  But we do not make these choices by ourselves.  Our parents and our greater culture inform us.  Right now, young men have mostly the old patriarchal expressions of masculinity to aspire to, or a form of gender passivity.  What we need are grown up masculine role models within our cultural context, and a clear path on how to achieve these goals.  

 

Two of the benchmarks on the path may be these:

 

1. A rite of passage 

   In which the old self passes away and a new self is allowed to emerge, which may or may not necessitate meeting one’s death.

 

2. Cutting ties to the mother

   In which the proverbial apron strings must be severed both emotionally and financially.

 

 

Part three to come soon…

If anyone can think of  anything to add to this, please comment.

 

Hero Worship in the USA August 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — thisisthepoint @ 1:51 pm

John McCain vs The Dark Knight

It doesn’t take much to be a hero in north america these days.  If a dude saves a kitten from a drainpipe, or a passerby calls 911 for some emergency, they are suddenly  heroes.  If you go shopping during wartime, you’re a hero.  Perhaps the casual use of the word is for local tv ratings or is just a form of political masturbation about the American People.  But the utter lack of gravity surrounding the awarding of this title says more about our culture’s complete lack of faith in humanity, than how many heroes we have in our community.  We have people in our community.  People are supposed to help each other out every once in awhile.  Anyone who doesn’t engage in this sort of community supporting behavior would probably be labeled narcissistic or sociopathic.  Even the military sometimes consciously misuses the term.  Injured military men are awarded purple hearts for getting shot so they don’t complain about the lame veteran’s hospitals once they get stateside.  John McCain’s only claim to fame is that he got captured, tortured, and broke under torture, signing all sorts of papers renouncing the USA.  Somehow he walked away from victimhood as a hero.   It’s cool that McCain served his country, but there are many enlisted men and women who are truly heroes, who go out of their way, risking their life, facing their own fear to save others and remain strong throughout ordeals of the body and mind.   Are we to say that any person who engages in warfare under an american flag is a hero, because he or she made that initial sacrifice?  In that case, the selling of heroism to young american men is no different than the selling of martyrdom to young muslim men.  

Our complicity in the hero-lie is reinforced every time we affirm regular human behavior as heroism.  Why do Americans need heroes so much?  Do we have such a low opinion of the common person that we need to deify what are regular positive human traits?  Americans equate regular human behavior with heroism, and heroism with supernatural powers.  And where do Americans display their love of heroism?  On the tv and movie screens.  

The Batman movie, The Dark Knight, both confronts heroism in its story and its success.  Not only is it a great movie, but the sheer success of it begs the question, why all the superhero movies? In the last few years, more superhero movies than I can count have graced the big screen, certainly more than at any time in my memory.  And though CG and the high quality effects available today may be part of it, it seems the message we really need is that of the hero.  This coincides with the theory on masculinity in america (see below), in that what society need as a whole, are men who fulfill certain archetypes, most importantly, the hero.  If there weren’t such a disastrous lack of true hero archetypes, there wouldn’t be such a desperate and ongoing cultural obsession with hero-worship.  

(hero –  a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities)

Jung states that it is the archetype with which we have the most difficulty that we will project onto those around us. The hero archetype usually means ‘the man who has elected to take his own journey of exploration.  He is able to consider options and decide his next move.’  In effect he is an autonomous, confident man.  A powerful man who overcomes fear to elevate himself for the betterment of society, though all consciously within the context of his own growth process.  A hero chooses his acts.  He has control over his life and his self.  These are not qualities anyone would particularly associate with an American man. 

Humanity is the better solely for having adults consciously following their own paths.  We live in an individuated society and it is our birthright to have a personal journey, but many of us do not take up this opportunity, and instead let cultural pressures, consumer choices, and sanitized wilderness tours stand in the place of an authentic personal journey.  

The return of the hero archetype to a place of attainability and not just supernatural realms will be necessary to create a future with healthy, actualized men.  A hero does not need to fly, but he must stand on his own two feet.  The true hero lies somewhere between John McCain and Batman.  Is anyone thinking what I’m thinking?

 

Masculinity in America August 18, 2008

Filed under: Modern Culture — thisisthepoint @ 8:38 am

Part One

 

This is an ongoing subject, and will be arranged as it evolves.  Please feel free to add your own thoughts on what it is to be  a man in North America today, and your responses to my theories.  I would like to add that I have very little traditional education in this subject (I was a geology major) and it is possible that these ideas have already been discussed to death in gender issue classes at universities, in which case, I invite enlightening comments, and apologize for any redundancy.  However, I also think there is a certain purity in conversational, intimate inquiry without the restraints of metaphilosophy or anthropological dogma.  So here goes:

 

This is a touchy subject.  While I’ve been researching and speaking with men and women over the last couple months on this subject, I have encountered a lot of latent fears and assumptions about masculinity and femininity.  I have been surprised how many men have been honest and vulnerable with me, and how many deep conversations I’ve had with men I don’t know that well.  And how careful I had to be to distinguish myself as a non-man-hating woman, and tip toe around the word feminist, because of the strangely negative implications this has, which was sad and confusing for me.

 

For ages, the topic of injustice has interested me both emotionally and intellectually.  Then an example of environmental injustice surfaced in front of my face.  A couple months ago, my neighbor cut down almost all the trees in his property.  The weeks before had been full of two other neighbors cutting down tons of trees as well, and most of the brush, in order to make space in the jungle to build cement monoliths to live in and rent out.  They are all men.  They all come from latin countries; Argentina, Uruguay, Italy.  And they are all white.  Nothing I have said to them about their properties has mattered in the least, such as this is a tree in which two Trogons nest every year (a rare species related to the Quetzal) or this is the tree that bears the fruit the Toucans like.  Predictably, they didn’t care.  It was very frustrating for me, and disempowering, but instead of getting uselessly angry, I tried to deconstruct the situation in a more archetypal sense. 

I continued to think about men wreaking their authority over the landscape, and extended it to other areas as well and came up with this conclusion:

That most of the destruction, be it through physical violence, environmental violence, economic violence, or socioeconomic violence in the whole world, was and is perpetrated by white men. 

There are many reasons for this, a lot of them being racism and sexism limiting power distribution throughout history.  I would like to make it clear that I am not placing blame or judgment, this is just an observation, and it is just a step.  I am also not implying that all white men are part of this, or that women or people of color are not involved.  I am generalizing.  From here I wanted to know why this would be.  

My inquiry comes from a real place of love, and respect for human beings, and mostly I don’t like being angry at my neighbors every time I see them. 

  I coincidentally happened to be watching a movie on the ego at the time, and how the ego is the true enemy of humanity.  That the greatest deception the ego ever committed was convincing people that the devil lay outside of ourselves, that it  had created the devil to distract humanity from breaking down the evil within, the ego.  And that the path to true power lay in reclaiming the power from your own ego. 

In psychology, among long-winded explanations, the ego is credited with the creation and support of one’s individual identity.  It filters the experience of reality through the self.  It is what separates you from the rest of the world and upholds that perception.  It is the opposite of interconnectedness and trancendence.

When I think of my neighbor chopping his piece of jungle into a dirt lot, I balk at his ability to distance himself from the effect he has on the world outside his plot of land.  I consider him to be acting from a place of pure ego, from the childish reasoning that he can do something just because he wants to.  

The most infuriating thing about men who act from their ego is the shaky self assurance that they are MEN.  I have always thought that misogynistic or chauvinistic cultures are actually cultures filled with disempowered men.  Because if a man was truly in his own power, why would he have to belittle or be afraid of women?  What purpose does it serve except to reinforce the ego?  Feeding the desire for domination and power which is essentially unfulfilling and unending in both its destructiveness and its uselessness.  I have learned that whenever I see inequality, to look to the leader of the power dynamic, and see the true weakness masquerading in the trappings of power.  Because true power is subtle until it is called upon.  

As far as I can tell, the ego’s desire for domination comes from insecurity.  One thing about true power, is that it bestows upon its wielder a security and a confidence that do not need to show off.  I define true power as serving the whole self; physically, mentally, spiritually.   There are many ways to convince the ego that it is powerful, to only fuel the ego, and these can be intoxicating, though unfulfilling.  If one does not know their true power however, ego-power will seemingly be enough.  

“When the ego has become split off or separate from other parts of the personality, we do not experience the world correctly.  We become selfish and untrusting, have difficulty in relating to others-and often cannot accept anything except our own viewpoint.  The proper balance necessary between the inner and the outer, between logic and intuition, or reason and imagination means that the ego must be brought under control, although it can never be given up altogether.” (P.Ball, 1996)

 

Next part of the equation:  That human beings find empowerment and security  through how well they fulfill their idea of a good human being, and a good man, or good woman.  This is related to the psychological idea of the anima/animus.  That each person carries with them an imprint, or idea, of what a woman is, and what a man is, and how well you fit into it reflects how confident and self-assured you are.  This is affected by culture more than anything else, as each culture has its own gender roles.  There are, however, archetypal feminine and masculine traits that the unconscious is drawn to, and transcend cultural differences.  

 

For years and years I tried to figure out why I disliked the aura of being in the United States.  Not in towns and friend’s houses, but in the grand dominant idea of the USA.  Until I realized that the ideal woman of the dominant culture of the USA is a woman I can never be, a shoe I can never fill, and she followed me everywhere, because I had no other sense of femininity.   I find it much easier to be in America with a better sense of my own feminine power, though I am still not impervious to occasional imprints of the american definition of woman.   The femininity promoted in the dominant white culture of America is a far cry from archetypal femininity, and is being used to mainly part women and men from their money, with the side effect of causing untold amounts of eating disorders, competition, and general insecurity.  Why are all the women in the states on diets?!  Imagine the amount of time women could be spending on other things instead of thinking about food and calories and hair and body positioning.  However, there is also another side to this.  

In the most recent feminist revolution of the 1970s, women’s definitions were broken down.  No longer did the archetypes of housewife, teacher, nurse, etc, limit the ambitions of women.  Women were in fact, given the possibility to define themselves how they want (theoretically), and today enjoy an equality mostly taken for granted, if not yet a parity.  Women can be as loud or brilliant or soft-spoken as they want, and men were told to step down from their posts as protectors and providers.  And therein lies the problem.  When women gained new definitions of self, men lost theirs and were given none to replace it.  The backlashes against feminism happened because of the fact that men, as of 1988, almost always defined masculinity as the ability to provide for one’s family.  I am not sure what the statistic is now, but almost all white men I asked to define their masculinity had no answer.  In fact, there was only one man that had positive, proud things to say about being a man.  

 

“I grew up without any meaningful vision, any convincing role model, of what it should mean to be a man.” (D.Pinchbeck, 2007)

 

After all this preamble, here is my thesis:  (white) Men in America have no definition of masculinity, have no image to compare themselves to as men, and so give themselves over to ego power, nihilism, or depression.  

 

The distinction about white men and men of color is important.  Because though everyone is affected by dominant american culture, many people of color in america live in racially segregated sub communities, or are recently immigrated, all creating a retention of culture that is diversified from what is affecting the average white male.  And those other cultural influences still have stronger gender roles and defined masculine ideals (even if they are themselves outdated).  I personally believe the reason white boys from the suburbs dress in a contrived hip hop style is that hip hop/urban/black culture  has a defined sense of masculinity, and thus, a path to empowerment and self-confidence.

 

After much discussion about these topics, we came to the conclusion that much of a sense of masculinity comes from rites of passage.  Women go through three distinct rites of passage, marking the transition from girl to young woman with the onset of menses, young woman to mother with birth, and mother to elder with menopause.  Men have a fluid adolescence that lasts for about ten years and has no defined start or end.  “In tribal societies, boys must pass through initiatory ordeals in order to become men, confronting fear and accessing inner resources of courage and ferocity.  In our culture, men do not receive initiation into non-ordinary states of consciousness and spiritual responsibilities.” (D.Pinchbeck 2007)  What happens in these ordeals is the breakdown of the ego, the sloughing off of a childish identity and in that fertile space of possibility, a new self can be met.  It is under debate whether it is necessary to face one’s own death to pass through this initiation, and I am of the school of thought that says yes, you must face death in order to be reborn.  When women give birth, they face death.  This is becoming less and less a given with the intervention of elective cesareans and births that no longer include labor, and though it could still be said that surgery is facing death, one’s fate lies in someone else’s hands, the doctor, the surgeon.  What has to happen is the symbolic and literal splitting off from the community, the sense of one’s aloneness and the willingness to claim your power, to claim your survival, your place in the world.  Only then can you reenter a community as a new person, an adult.  In a culture like we have in North America today, all is aimed at comfort, freedom from fear, and constant security.  One never has to confront death by choice.  Because it is the choice which is significant.  If one perceives their life as a series of events happening to them, there is no engagement of life, no courage, no fierceness, no power.  Being an adult is about actively taking part in life, and accepting the consequences of one’s actions.  You cannot otherwise become a fully realized man or woman.

 

Part Two is in the works and coming soon.

 

 

So how to define masculinity?  And how to create an ideal of masculinity to save a generation of young american men?

 

If the old definition had to do with being a provider,  how do we find an appropriate archetype for men in today’s age?  And how do we implement it?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pleasure Manifesto August 6, 2008

Filed under: Modern Culture — thisisthepoint @ 12:14 pm

Pleasure as a Path to Enlightenment

 

First, I argue that pleasure needs to be reexamined.  Because it has connotations of excessive sensual indulgence, it has become a word not many would associate with higher ideals or spirituality, as if one would be so self involved as to neglect all obligations of daily life.   I am not advocating lotus-eating.  I am saying that by using pleasure as a path through life, one can grow ever closer to enlightenment, or in more practical terms, one can have a more genuinely enjoyable life.  The key is that pleasure has two sides to it as it exists today, true pleasure and false pleasure.  

 

A definition of pleasure is the feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment.  

 

False pleasures satisfy only the body or the mind, and true pleasure must be a synthesis of both the mind and body, and will therefore serve the soul, or the complete, integrated, present person.  True pleasure is inherently righteous.

 

The path of pleasure is a solitary experience of one’s own soul, mind, and body together.  One can have no true pleasure if these are not in accordance.  For instance: Opium or drugs would dizzy the head into believing physical pleasure to be total pleasure.  A glass of wine can be pleasurable, however, because it is valued for its flavour, its health aspects,  and not its ability to numb the senses….  Each person’s pleasure is different, but I’d wager that there is a common link throughout all human cultures.  Along the lines of:

 

Love, friendship, sex, affection, 

delicious food or drink, time to oneself, 

music, creative expression, beauty

exercise (dancing, running) , conversation, 

nature, freedom to choose one’s destiny, 

experience of the present, a state of health, 

service, reading, laughing, sleeping peacefully, 

dreaming, justice, playing games, security.

 

 

Pleasure has had a bad reputation for ages, and living in a country settled by Puritans isn’t a great start, but it is my belief that false, ignorant pleasure is what should be maligned and that true pleasure can lead one to happiness, to healing, and to  enlightenment.  Epicureanism has mostly been misunderstood in modern culture, and Hedonism has always had negative connotations.  To define them:

 

Epicureanism noun

an ancient school of philosophy founded in Athens by Epicurus. The school rejected determinism and advocated hedonism (pleasure as the highest good), but of a restrained kind: mental pleasure was regarded more highly than physical, and the ultimate pleasure was held to be freedom from anxiety and mental pain, esp. that arising from needless fear of death and of the gods.

 

Hedonism  noun

the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.

• the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.

 

 

A certain purity can be attained by discovering what is truly pleasurable to oneself.  On first glance, following your pleasure may appear to be a very non-buddhist way to live your life, but the indulging of one’s true pleasures, and discriminating from the false desires we have releases us from unconscious bondage to what is not righteous. 

 

Many people I know have problems with allowing themselves pleasure.  With treating themselves well, or indulging themselves.  And perhaps they feel this indulgence is harmful because they judge the desire to be harmful.

This comes from the learned assumption that there is something wrong with personal pleasure.  This attitude leads to all kinds of pathologies and neuroses, and perhaps in a sexual context, fetishes.  I would also put forth that one can sublimate the very desires one is trying to deny by pursuing true pleasure.  It is the difference between martyrdom and empowerment.

 

I certainly grew up being accused of hedonism for making myself plates of fruit to languish with in bed while I read when I was a kid.  Or taking bubble baths on a regular basis.  Yet I always thought there was something off about the accusation.  And the accusers.  Who were, and are, for the most part people who deny themselves pleasure for reasons of culture… when asked they say they were raised that way.

It may seem ridiculous to accuse North America of a lack of pleasure, when everything seems geared towards the pleasing of one’s whims or desires, evidenced by the rampant consumer culture… because people are not buying filing cabinets, they’re buying paths to pleasure, or so they think.

 

Is pleasure in america based on willful ignorance?   A mind is required to remain ignorant of the consequences of one’s actions, such as shopping.  Can anyone truly take pleasure in buying a pair of heels they know were assembled by eleven year old bangladeshi girls?  Of course not.  One can only be pleased by purchasing and wearing the shoes if they keep their mind ignorant.  

Likewise, a man can feel pleasure when watching pornography when he does not think about the realities of the porn industry, it is necesary to keep oneself willfully ignorant to take part in the ‘pleasures’ offered in american society today (though it is not just america by any means)

When juxtaposed with, say, buying fresh lettuce and blueberries from a local farmers market, where you know that the soil has not been damaged, the health of rivers, fish, or humans jeopardized to bring you those products, then the experience of eating these things will be much more genuinely pleasurable than that of a Hershey’s chocolate bar, which implies child slave labor, indentured african servitude, heaps of fungicides, and fossil fuels to move it around the world.  These things won’t affect the taste, but they will affect the experience of pleasure, provided one has a conscience 🙂

If one stays ignorant to what it takes to provide the sensual pleasures of modern life, it is possible to enjoy them.  In fact, it may be the only way to enjoy them, which I see as one of the reasons people are resistant to becoming aware, as a whole way of enjoying life is then threatened.  But if people are willing to make that break from willful ignorance, and pursue true pleasure, transcendence awaits them.

Really all it is is thinking for yourself.  And deciding what you like and don’t like.  Being in your body and finding your inner compass.  My whole life I thought I didn’t like amaretto, licorice, or cherries because my mother didn’t like them.  They even tasted bad to me because of the creative reasons my mother had for disliking them.  It wasn’t until I was older and consciously tasted these things by myself, alone with the experience, that I realized I actually like them.  This is a small example, but represents the unconscious things we believe about ourselves until we examine the way we interact with our surroundings.  

Being alive is sensual.  Being present in your body is sensual.  And being present in your body, experiencing pleasure, can be zen, can be transcendental, infinity, divinity, whatever you want to call it.  

 

The path of pleasure starts off slowly, but will progrssively slough off the false pleasures, the desires that come from fear.

Maybe a plate of french fries is one’s pleasure right now, because it is something usually denied to oneself.  But if one eats those french fries, they will only be pleasurable for the moment, and with practice, will lose their draw.  

I argue that following pleasure will teach you about yourself, and lead you to desire only that which is righteous.  And by righteous, I mean genuine, wonderful, and ethical (minus the judeo-christian connotation that some people attribute to righteousness, or even morality).  Eventually, one will not desire french fries, because they are most likely full of lead and trans fats and in any case have no nutritional value and stress out your liver.  The pleasure experienced when eating them is purely physical, and dependent on one’s ignorance about their negative physical effects, and so false.  But if one denies themself the act of discovering their own lines in the sand, they will not be able to transcend the ignorant pleasure foisted upon them by society.

The more you know about the world, and yourself, the less pleasurable superficiality becomes.

 

Dominating Pleasure in America Today:

 

Food

Porn/ Sex

Alcohol and Drugs

Entertainment 

Music

Shopping

 

The two sides of pleasure as evidenced by the above categories:

 

Food.  Junk food would be considered physically pleasing only, and only briefly, thus a false pleasure.  However, healthy, freshly prepared meals from a friend’s restaurant can be pleasurable truly in that they are physically satisfiying, tasty, and accompanied by the knowledge that you have contributed to your health, well being, and to that of your community.

Sex.  Sex can be expressed as a false pleasure when it used to just experience orgasm, a physical satisfaction only.  It can be used to express true pleasure when two people are present and expressing love emotionally and physically, thus satisfying the physical and mental.

Alcohol and Drugs. When used medicinally, drugs can create the pleasure of health, but when used recreationally, or inappropriately, are physical manipulators only, removing the intellect to trick the body into only experiencing physical pleasure. Wine culture is a good example of pleasure dualism in that it is frowned upon as wasteful and indulgent to use wine expressly for the physical purpose of drunkeness, the pleasure of a foggy mind. One can enjoy wine on a physical level as well as a mental level, the flavor and the ability to bring forth a festive comraderie in a group of people.

Entertainment and Music.  A good book, or play, or film, or even news program can be truly pleasurable if it engages both the intellect and the physical attention.  The physical attention can be falsely pleasurable in a disposable action movie, and  the pleasure of watching a reality show is only physical, and often requires the willful ignorance of its exploitive nature both by television executives and the participants themselves.  

Shopping.   The phyisical act of acquiring the goods needed for one’s survival along with the knowledge that the products one buys are supporting other families as well as providing security for one’s own can be truly pleasurable.  Whereas the physical act of buying knick knacks mass produced in china to fulfill the desire to accumulate things, or to just have something new, this is a false pleasure.

 

Much of the time it is about the intention we have in our actions.  When we act out of fear,  the way many of the false pleasures would be sought after, we are not satisfied in our souls.  We are not present.  When we act out of love, we will pursue truer pleasures that enhance the enjoyment of life for ourselves and others.  

 

 

 I would love people to write in what their truest pleasures are. 

 

Right now mine is walking in the jungle with my dog, off-leash, having conversations about life and love and sex with my friends, and cooking delicious food for myself: tonight was organic arroz con pollo with brocoli, pejibaye, yucca, and turmeric.  I only wished I had some smarties for dessert, though that would have been a false pleasure as they are basically refined sugar with artificial coloring…

 

Sex and the Media, or how pornography made our men into disappointing lovers August 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — thisisthepoint @ 8:03 pm

First of all, I would like to say that  I do not want to imply that most men are bad lovers.  My friends who are in relationships are all very happy and satisfied. I just want to explore the possibility that porn can have a detaching influence on sex, removing the intimate, loving portion of a sexual experience.  I think we can agree that most men look at porn, in one incarnation or another, and a lot of women too.  But recently, I have been hearing from many women that with regards to sex not in the context of a relationship , men are not as good as they used to be.  

A few women have mentioned, after years and years of a sexual relationship with the same lover, that the experience has taken a mechanical turn. That men who used to be loving and present during sex are now trying to perform multiple positions, and to use their words, do it “like they’re starring in their own porno.”  After hearing this independently from many women, I started to form an idea.  A lot of other women who used to enjoy casual sex, say that the men are now trying to act out porn, and one of the most notable changes in the community that I live in, is the introduction of television, internet, and vcr/dvd players.  And undeniably, the men watch a lot of terrible porn here.  But is this the only culprit?

I would argue that the issue is much deeper, in fact, and that there are media models for almost anything in the whole world except a loving sexual experience.  Think about the last few movies that you saw.  It seems to me that Hollywood, and most filmmakers in general, have an aversion to loving sex.  If a love scene is part of the story, it fades out.  But if a sexual encounter is about anything other than love, it will end up with a ton of screen time.  Rape, power, anger, violence, vengeance, betrayal, guilt, humor, selfishness, or just plain joyful conquest, any of these are viable sexual options for a scene.  But love?  I cannot think of more than a couple of movies or television shows that ever showed true love and passion in a sexual context.  Even Sex and the City fades out loving sex.  When Carrie and Big are in wierd triangles and anger and confusion, we see extended sex scenes.  But when they are romantic and love each other?  Fade out.  How is anyone going to know what to do in a world where so many cues are taken from the media?  

Think of the neck kiss.  On television and the big screen, the ‘normal’ kiss is on the mouth and then the man kisses the woman’s neck as she leans back in (premature) ecstasy.  When asked, most women agreed that this is how they are kissed by men.  At least at the beginning of a relationship.  And there is nothing wrong with the neck kiss, it is a completely sensual area of the body, and a delicious part of foreplay, as most women agree.  There are, however, many sensual parts of the body, and many sensual things one can do.  My argument is that in a cultural climate so lacking in romatic instruction, what else can you expect than the same kiss, neck, kiss repetition we are all programmed with.  In fact, I would argue that the whole sexual act from kiss to orgasm (hopefully) is orchestrated by the media.  And because hollywood is not conscious of this power, there is no integrity or conscientiousness involved in how we instill sexual values in the youth of the country.

Human beings  are mimickers.  In america, with such a distaste for public displays of affection, where do young people see sex except in porn, tv, or movies?   Especially with divorced families, in which many children grow up with only one parent and without an example of love or sensuality to take with them as they become adults.  With love and sex as such an important aspect of life, to be so underrepresented or even undereducated is a complete disservice to all society.  We are left with only templates of pornography or imaginary invisible sex.

‘Making Love’ is a term that makes most people under the age of 30 cringe.   Thats fucked up.

The boomer generation had ‘the joy of sex’ to refer to, but as of yet there is no reference for loving or sexuality except the media and experimentation.  And with enough experimentation, pleasure, love, spirituality, and experience, one would ideally eventually come to an understanding of what a beautiful sexual experience consitutes.  

Imagine the cycle of unimpressive loving.  A boy who has no real idea what to do during sex, and feels the pressure to perform, will end up with the only sexual imprint he has, porn or stories from his peers.  The ‘performance’ will be the goal, and he may even resent the girl for putting him in such an insecure state of anxiety, thus it will be easy for him to objectify or degrade the sexual experience.  The girl will wonder if this is what sex is really about, but will probably accept the status quo if there is nothing else to judge it against.  Possibly it could be argued that people should not be engaging in sexual activity if they don’t love each other, but this is totally unrealistic for most people.  Sex is a sacred part of life in my opinion, and even casual sex can be meaningful for people as long as it is true.  I suppose even casual sex can be about love, about joy, about consummating the present moment.  

The amount of people who I’ve spoken to who claim to never have made love, or even have a truly loving sexual partner is depressing to me.  It seems to be more the norm than the exception, and the only people I know having good, satisfying sex are in relationships.  This was not always the case.  

So who is controlling everyone’s sex lives?  Certainly not themselves.  What the solution is I don’t know, but I feel like educating the youth, when they are ready, when they ask for it, is an imperitive, not just on the physical functions of sex, but of love, and how love can be expressed sexually.  Otherwise the teachers of our youth will be anonymous,  cheap, disposable,  consumer porn.  “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.”  People want a deeper, more loving sex life.   But  I think people keep watching porn because it is junk food sex, it doesn’t offer anything nutritive, but appears to fill a niche. 

It is too easy to blame pornography for the sexual dysfunction of society, because it is so obvious a target, and representative of the dark side of the sexual psyche.  What we need is the other side of that same coin.  How that would look is up to us.  Any ideas?  How do we educate young people about love and sexuality?  

Every pop song in the freaking country is about love, basically.  So why do we leave the education of our youth up to business executives and teenage pawns?

 

Pubic Hair and the Shaving Dilemma August 2, 2008

Filed under: Modern Culture — thisisthepoint @ 5:53 pm

It is remarkable to me the amount of candor people were willing to exhibit on this subject.  In fact, everyone seemed delighted to talk about their pubic preferences, a normally concealed area, both literally and figuratively.  In magazines there are now references to waxing styles and grooming techniques, but as a whole, the choices each man and woman makes about their most hidden hair, and the subsequent implications, are quickly brushed over.  

Personal grooming is one of the most interesting facets of human life, in my opinion, as it is a very private affair in which many people are left up to their own devices to create their own rituals of shaving, washing, or plucking, and in many cases can reveal secret obsessions or cultural brainwashing.  Think about douching for a moment.  Does anyone under the age of fifty think this is normal?  And yet large parts of the boomer and silent generations (everyone over 50) not only partook of this, but thought of it as a regular part of personal hygiene.  And I know a couple of people who secretly spend hours plucking stray hairs deemed too dark or wiry or mispositioned, which on any other person would go unnoticed.  And Teeth!  I didn’t realize my teeth were kind-of yellow until the entire american population decided to get whitestrips and now have magazine smiles, which are striking but in my head represent the victory of marketing more than anything else.  Which is not to say I won’t buy myself some home bleaching strips when I get stateside.

The poll: How do you prefer your pubic hair, and how do you prefer your partners’?

The overwhelming response has been shaved or waxed.  Most of the ladies responded that they shave their side bits (that would show outside of a bikini, or panties) and the underneath bits, and leave only a small strip in the front.  Most men also responded that they trim.  There were, of course, exceptions, and many women noted that they do not maintain their shaving habits when not pursuing sex.

As far as I can figure, the purpose of pubic hair is protection, literally, scent holding, and lubrication of a sort during sex.  Hair in the armpits and pubic region grow at sexual maturity, and most women shave or wax their armpits, and I would say this is from a cultural aesthetic context.  Women who do not shave these parts of their bodies immediately identify themselves as belonging to a subculture or counter culture, either a hippy, or from another country where they don’t shave their legs…  Hair grooming has always been a means of identifying oneself.  So what is the message in a shaved pubic area?  What is the message you are telling your partner?

 

Which came first, the porn or the shave?  As far as I can tell, women started to shave their pubes around the same time that porn went hairless.  How that disseminated into popular culture, I’m not sure, but I think the internet has something to do with it.  Because both porn, and the way it is viewed have changed drastically over the last few decades.  Women in seventies porn.  They looked good.  I think most people agree on that point, both men and women could appreciate it, but today the magazine and movie porn industry has pubic hair phobia.  And if women shaving their pubic hair originated from pornography, does that say something about women’s desire to objectify themselves?  Because I’m pretty sure women don’t look at a bald yoni and think its beautiful.  It looks like sex, whereas I can appreciate playboy photos from the seventies with full bushes.  Is pubic hair a distinction between beautiful sex and dirty sex?

The main reason given by all women for why they removed most of their hair was to better receive oral sex.  That it is for the ease of the man, and thus, the pleasure of the women, to have a cleaner, neater vagina.  And many women said that they do not maintain their grooming when not having sex.  So I think I can conclude that it is about sex and availability.  I might also go so far to say it represents the constant sexualization of the female body.   

It is the natural female form vs the male-serving female form rendered by the pornography industry .  An always accessible, always viewable sex organ, the clearing away of the veil of feminine sexual mystique.  I also think it has to do with feminism and women’s fears about a powerful woman being unattractive.  That somehow, equity was too threatening and so the shaved pubic hair says, I can still be a porn star for you,  I can still be a sexual object, don’t worry.

 

Part of feminism is respecting a woman’s right to make choices about her own life and I am into each woman being able to do whatever she wants to her body, but it is the overwhelming cultural choice for women’s pubic hair to be pruned which I find troubling.  

Mostly because I never got the memo.  I woke up one day and all my friends had landing strips and waxing appointments.  How did everyone make this decision on their own?  It never even occurred to me until midway through my twenties to shave anything but what would show outside a bathing suit, and no boyfriend has ever complained or desired it otherwise ( I started to ask).  

I suspect that when asked, most women would say that it was a boyfriend that first asked them to shave, and I invite you, the reader, to answer the question: when did you first shave your pubic hair, and why?

 

Now to the men.   Men say that they shave/trim their pubic hair for hygienic purposes but also to make their penises look larger.  It is not that men haven’t always been obsessed with large penises, it is the fact that this visual effect is in concurrence with women’s desire for visual effect in a similar manner that is interesting.  Again I come back to porn, which has laid a heavier value on visual cues to sexual arousal than ever before in a broad cultural context. 

Removing the hair will remove the binder of natural pheromones that biologically lead to sexual interest and arousal.  Is it all to transcend biology?  

By most men and women, pubic hair is sometimes considered dirty.  Because  sex is dirty, perhaps.  Or base.  Sex is the last thing humans have in common with every other animal on the planet.  Modern life and technology have made it so that most people do not, if they wish it, have to be aware that they are animals at all, they eat from boxes and cans, sleep in beds of white linens in houses of metal and stone, drink coffee to stay awake, take pills to go to sleep.  Sex is the last juicy, smelly, raw, indulgent, physical, pleasurable animal act.  Perhaps shaving the hair is a way to deny that connection to the physical world, to our bodies, a way to pretend we are not all born of blood and strain and danger, that the vagina and the penis are controllable.

I was surprised to see that many men preferred a trimmed pubic area on themselves and on others.  Granted, that I live in a hot humid area and hygiene is actually a factor here, but there was great debate to whether or not lack of hair (and a supposedly larger looking penis) was somehow less masculine because of the implications of testosterone in hirsuteness.  

In ending, I have to add that I would like anyone to add their comments and insights into this topic, as all data is fairly unscientific and open to much discussion.  Also if anyone knows more about this topic on an anthropological level I’d be very interested.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone.  Shave or don’t shave.  It’s not gonna stop climate change or anything.  Peace.