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December 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Mirror Image of Sex

Imagine if we had a matriarchy where sex was decreed to be men performing oral sex on women. Occasionally the women would want intercourse and the male would have an orgasm, but intercourse was considered foreplay and not a real part of sex.

Most often, sex would involve men performing oral sex on women and nothing more. Women would have an orgasm and the men would just be happy to satisfy their partners.

That doesn’t seem so fair, doesn’t it?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Story – Freud Upside Down

A page from a future textbook – Freud turned upside down….

Sexual Development Theory in the Cooperation-based world of 2053

Normal Development

A child, when first born, learns immediately through the mother’s breastfeeding and attention that the mother provides her with nourishment, love, safety, and comfort. As she gets older, the child’s view is reinforced by the mother’s continued caretaking and nurturance. The child, appreciating these efforts, identifies with the mother. She both wants to be like the mother and to have a mate similar to the mother. The presence of other children propels the child into the “competition stage”. The child wishes to be the only recipient of the mother’s attention. Eventually the child develops the higher attributes (now called “world skills”) of cooperation, compassion, and harmonic coexistence as she moves into the more mature “cooperation stage”.

The father, being less involved in the process and in many families often non-existent, is seen as a distant and punitive figure, one not capable of relating on the more complex interpersonal and emotional levels. The child grows to realize just how fortunate she is to have been born a female and to be able to nurture relationships with other females, forming relationships based on the higher attributes of compassion, cooperation, similarities, and interpersonal abilities. The child at first finds it disheartening to find the father so incapable of emotional involvement (the “despair stage”), but later comes to understand that males have only one complete X chromosome, the other being broken (the “acceptance stage”).

The experience of the minority

Some children are born male. They do not have a “time of the month”, because they are affected by hormones every day of the month, leading to a greater likelihood of physical and sexual aggression. In addition, these children learn that they do not have the greater interpersonal abilities of communication and cooperation, or the greater emotional development of the female. They compensate by developing their physical strength and stressing competition over cooperation and compassion. Historically, these males dominated the more superior females by virtue of physical strength, and relegated women to the ranks of the dependent. Society, formed by these men, reinforced their notions so well that women learned to devalue their own superior strengths. The males limited the females’ contact with each other and trained them to be dependent on the male, thereby ensuring that for many centuries the males could overturn and control the natural order of the world. The males’ stress on competition led to many divisions in the world, between rich and poor, between countries, between the sexes. Many lives were lost to starvation, many to wars, many to subjugation.

The males’ control has ceased to exist, but males still compensate for their less developed abilities by overdeveloping their physical selves and by trying to stress the ancient, less productive ability of competition in the modern, progressively cooperative world. Instead of accepting that they are lacking a second fully developed X chromosome and trying to learn appropriate world skills as best they can, these males fall victim to “X envy”. They realize that they are basically “incomplete women” and to overcome this feeling of being second-rate, they remain fixated at the competition stage, always trying to prove themselves. As if to make up for the lacking part of their second chromosome, these males place inordinate emphasis upon their penises and they remain fixated at the immature penile orgasm stage.

A small number of men are able to overcome their biology and fit into the world. These men accept their genetic inferiority and are able to move past their “X envy” stage. They do the best they can to learn world skills such as cooperation and compassion, and they are able to experience mouth orgasms. Learning to appreciate the mouth orgasm is an important indicator that a man has reached sexual maturity and can finally, truly please those women who choose to have sex with a male.

Abnormal Development

Some children are very disturbed by the distance of the father figure and through a genetic disturbance, are more likely to take the father’s distance personally. They become fixated at this “despair stage”, and without therapy, will spend the rest of their lives trying to nurture relationships with men. These women are called “heterosexual”. They are consumed by a need to “tame” a man, to somehow help him grow and mature so that one day he might be more similar to how women are naturally, all in a misguided attempt to solve their childhood frustration at the alienation of the sperm donor. Women who are fixated at this stage are unable to fulfill their potential as humans, for their misspent energies keep them from developing normal, healthy relationships with female mates. Instead of growing in a relationship which supports and celebrates femininity, in which both participants are capable of higher interpersonal skills and cooperation, these fixated women are doomed to relationships with the less developed male of the species, relationships in which the women are held back.

The males in these relationships are threatened by the two complete X chromosomes of the females and respond with the ancient tactic of trying to make the women believe that interpersonal and cooperation skills are inferior to the competition that the male favors. The women in these relationships, without help, will never move forward into the “acceptance stage” and will never fulfill their potential.

It is hypothesized that nature will always produce some women who are genetically predisposed to become fixated at this stage, so that babies will be produced for the continuation of the species. It was long ago shown to be a myth that females born to such women and raised in such households are more likely to turn out to have this “heterosexual deviation”; the number of such abnormalities is just high enough to maintain population levels.

Healthy Compensation

Those males who do recognize the superiority of “world skills” seek out other similar males with whom to form families, thereby attempting to emulate the success of equality based female-female relationships. While they cannot fully complete their identification with the mother figure as they are not themselves female, they at least are not fixated at the competition stage as are other men and do not cause the societal fractures which lead to repressed women, wars between countries, or poverty.

Story – A Tale of Two Dogs

I have a black and white dog named Spot who is the love of my life. Spot has been with me for a very long time, and during the worst times of my life he has always been around to sit with me with his head on my leg. Spot and I found each other in Georgia around 13 years ago. The vet told me that he was at least a year old at that time, so he’s at least 14 years old now. Spot has the greatest personality. He’s a very happy and laid back dog. He loves people and he is always excited when company comes over. He likes checking out new people, trying to tell where they’ve been by their smells, and he likes the attention that they give him. He makes little jumping movements with his back legs when he’s so happy.

Even though Spot is a male, when the pregnant cat I took in gave birth to kittens, Spot would sit with the kittens and allow them to cuddle in his belly. I would have to take the kittens away sometimes so they could nurse, because he would growl whenever the mother would try to come near her own kittens. I kept one of those kittens, and his name is Koshka and he is now 8 years old and thoroughly imprinted upon Spot.

Spot doesn’t see very well anymore, and he hasn’t been able to hear anything at all for a long time now. He has a lot of gray now where once there was black, and his back legs are getting pretty weak. Spot has never had any fear of strangers, even though he spent his first year of life as a stray. Since he can no longer hear, he doesn’t bark at noises outside or at the sound of the doorbell. But he never really did; rather, he was always happy because noises meant company might be coming in for him to meet. To Spot, the world has always been an adventure, something exciting, something good.

About 8 years ago, when Spot was six years old, I happened upon a little black dog in Mexico. She was a stray and was only a few months old. I named her Sobaka, and she turned into a happy, energetic, loving, and loyal dog. She follows me from room to room and always sits next to me on the couch and sleeps with me on the bed. Her bark becomes a high-pitched screech of excitement when I come home each day from work.

But her personality is really different than Spot’s in regard to the outside world. She is very suspicious of people and has even nipped ankles twice. I now either keep her locked up when someone new has come over, or I put her muzzle on her. She is particularly protective of the couch and the bed – if someone approaches one of them, she jumps up on it and barks at the person and won’t let them sit down. I’ve always assumed it was because those are the places I sleep and she knows I am most vulnerable there. When I take a bath or shower, Sobaka always sits in the bathroom doorway, facing out, as though she is on guard. She barks at the slightest noise, she barks at the doorbell, and she even barks when she hears the familiar voices of the neighbors outside. She seems so on guard all of the time.

What I find most interesting is that the personalities of my two dogs exemplify two different sides of my own personality. I wonder sometimes if the different stages I was in when I got each one of them shaped them into dogs with two such different views of the world. When I got Spot, I viewed the world in much the same way as he does. Things had always gone well for me, I never wanted for anything, and change was always something that was for the better. New people were interesting and exciting. Life was an adventure, something to charge into and explore. I didn’t pay much attention to “red flags” because nothing bad ever came of them. I was in a long-term relationship in which I felt very loved and safe, and every day I was getting closer and closer to my professional goals.

By the time I got Sobaka, my life had changed completely. My ten-year relationship had ended, and the pain and my inability to deal with that pain had led everything in my life to fall apart. I left graduate school, I moved across the country, and I began living a life very similar to a fugue state. And I lived in absolute fear – fear of the creditors I could not pay, fear of the hoodlums in the huge city I now found myself, fear of losing my low-paying job, fear of being so close to having nothing. I was afraid of answering the phone, I was afraid of checking the mail out of fear of finding more bills, and I was afraid when the doorbell rang. My house was burglarized twice during this time, and I have no idea what may have been done to the dogs by the burglars.

I no longer found new people exciting and very seldom invited people to visit me, because they might be people who could hurt me, whether physically, financially, or emotionally. I no longer saw life as an adventure, because now it only seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I felt defeated and afraid. I became increasingly isolated, and I found solace only in the privacy and solitude of my own home. I didn’t want anyone to bother me there; I wanted just to be left alone. The outside world wasn’t welcome in my house, because it only represented unpredictability and caused me fear and anxiety. Change was no longer exciting, because now it only brought trouble.

Looking back, I can see how Sobaka so clearly manifests the same attitude towards the world as I had come to develop. I had stopped trusting people blindly and went to the opposite extreme of not trusting them at all. I sought isolation as a means to keep the danger of people away from myself. With those people I couldn’t avoid, I kept interactions very superficial and emotionally distant. Similarly, Sobaka is always on guard, particularly when she knows I am bathing, sleeping, or interacting with another person. She is most relaxed when we are all at home, sitting together, with no outsiders around. It’s almost as if she is the physical manifestation of my own defense mechanisms.

Spot and Sobaka are such different types of dogs, that it’s difficult to take them out for a walk in public at the same time. It’s emotionally draining and makes it hard to enjoy the walk when one dog is too vulnerable because he can’t see well or hear but wants to go excitedly and unwarily out to explore, and the other dog wants to bark and growl and chase any other people away.

I wonder if there is some way to shape the dogs to be a little more like each other and embody less the extremes. So that they aren’t cheerfully racing off blind and deaf into possible danger, but they also aren’t so guarded that they can’t even experience and appreciate non-dangerous situations and people.

Postscript: Spot died on July 19, 2004 at the age of 16. I’m hoping to honor the memory of my old friend by continuing to reclaim the side of my personality that he himself never lost.

Story: The First Sign of Spring

The Northerner was no stranger to winter storms. There were always predictable signs foreshadowing a storm’s approach and certain well-used actions the Northerner could take to ameliorate the storm’s impact. Her job required her to work in the forest and she was often called upon to rescue frightened hikers stranded by inclement weather. She was always able to find the quickest way out of the stormy woods and return to safety those dependent upon her expertise.

Late one fall, however, the season changed to winter suddenly and without warning. The Northerner was deep in the woods, absorbed in her work, and she was caught totally unprepared by the worst storm she had ever seen. Just as the sun waned and dusk settled in upon the forest, the Northerner discovered that the swirling snow was quickly covering the path leading home. Instinct told her leave immediately, but in her panic and confusion, the Northerner left her snowshoes behind at her worksite, so her progress through the rapidly accumulating snow was greatly hampered. In addition, her trusted compass, which had always served her well, seemingly was not made to withstand a storm of this strength, for she couldn’t get it to work.

Without the compass and with blinding snow swirling all about her, the Northerner’s bewildered guesses led her far astray. So the Northerner just kept trying to outrun the worst of the storm, not even aware of where she was going. She had an eerie feeling that no matter which way she turned, the storm was following her. She finally came upon a clearing and took refuge in an unfamiliar cabin, uneasily settling in to wait out the storm.

But that first storm of the season, that blizzard that came from nowhere, was fated to last the whole winter. The Northerner was cut off from the rest of the world, her adopted cabin buried in snow and ice and encircled by threatening winds. She became increasingly afraid to venture out, afraid of what might lie in this unfamiliar part of the woods, afraid to take a chance without the security of her usual compass and snowshoes. Soon the cabin windows were covered in a thick sheet of ice, so that her view of the world beyond was impeded and distorted. Oddly, this almost comforted her, for not being able to see the world outside helped at first to keep her from being totally overwhelmed by her plight. She had never encountered a storm of such proportions, one which she hadn’t expected, one which she couldn’t beat. She had helped so many people out of the woods in bad weather and yet now found she was unable to help herself. She began to feel very ineffective and defeated.

In addition, she didn’t even know how to let anyone else know that she needed help. The Northerner had never needed help before; in the past she had always been the one to help others. Yet now that she herself actually needed help, she had withdrawn to such an isolated position inside the eye of the storm that even if help happened by, she wouldn’t be able to see it through the ice-covered windows of her well-barricaded haven.

From time to time she could hear the sounds of animals rummaging about outside the cabin. They might have been nothing more dangerous than squirrels, but the Northerner had become so afraid, that it felt safer to assume the worst and stay away from them. She just made the cabin her whole world and tried not to think about the threatening hazards that lie outside the door. There weren’t many provisions in the remote cabin, but she thought there might be enough food to survive if she were very mindful not to let herself have too much nourishment in any given day. She used the firewood very sparingly to make it last, and the resultant constant chill in the air made her begin to doubt that she would ever even be capable of feeling warmth again.

Days passed, then weeks. The cabin was filled with shelves of dusty books, so the Northerner spent a lot of her time reading, finding some solace and reprieve in the distraction. The rest of her time was spent cleaning this new backwoods home of hers, trying desperately to feel some sense of organization, of belonging, of normalcy in this unfamiliar, sequestered world in which she had sought refuge. Mostly she was trying to keep her mind off of the storm swirling all about her. She was filled with such loneliness, with confusion, with despair at the meaninglessness of her current life, and with an overpowering sense of great loss. Perhaps it was a result of the coldness and isolation that enveloped her, or perhaps it served as an escape from the magnitude of the pain that threatened to consume her, but she often found herself in an exhausted state of near numbness and emotional paralysis.

But the numbness never lasted. Often during the night she would have dreams of the life she used to lead, dreams in which she was confident, happy, and successful. When she awoke and realized anew her situation, she was overwhelmed by a terrible aching, her heart feeling like a knife was being twisted deep inside of it. In those early morning hours, no matter how often it happened, it was each time like a brand new devastating shock to her system. Her head never forgot the reality of her situation, but when that reality would surreptitiously confront her unguarded heart upon awakening, it simply devastated her whole being. She would sit in bed doubled over with her head in her hands, trembling violently and feeling very disoriented, frightened, vulnerable, and – above all – alone.

No one came looking for her. Perhaps they didn’t know she had been caught up in the storm. But still, no one seemed to miss her. On top of her feelings of fear and isolation, she now began to feel very unloved and unwanted. No one cared enough to reach out to her, to rescue her from her winter prison. Her depression at her situation grew and grew until she no longer felt like she even deserved to be rescued. For after years of rescuing others, she now found that there was no one to rescue her. It was a devastating and far-reaching realization, one which only contributed to her growing feelings of unworthiness.

There was nothing the Northerner could do to abate the storm outside. She grew to feel a pervasive sense of powerlessness about her fate. The storm simply raged on and on, and as the months passed the Northerner actually began to doubt that she had ever really had the previous life of her memories. The past all seemed so unreal and far away now. All she knew now was her isolation and fear. All she was certain of was her need to stay safe from that tremendous storm. It was no longer a question of hoping to return to her previous life. It was now nothing more than the here and now, trying to make it day to day. Hope had faded almost as quickly as had her former warm, predictable, and secure life.

One day, after what seemed like an eternity buried in that cabin, the Northerner heard a bird singing outside. It was as if she were calling to her, beckoning her to come out. The Northerner tried to look out of the windows to see the bird, but her view was still distorted by the thick sheet of ice. From inside the cabin it still looked very cold and threatening outside. But the bird wasn’t afraid of the storm, and day after day the Northerner would hear that same bird, always singing, always calling.

As the dreary days passed, the Northerner came to look forward to the bird’s appearance from the moment she left until she would appear again the next day. She wanted to see who the bird was, and she also wanted the bird to know that even through the ice-covered cabin walls she could hear and appreciate her song. She was afraid the bird might abandon her and not sing her song everyday. The Northerner didn’t want to lose the only beauty in her forlorn new life – she had already lost so much. She wrestled with herself everyday, trying to gather the strength to open the door to the outside, but it just seemed too risky, too frightening.

She knew that before she could let the bird get too close, she had to make sure she wasn’t a vulture trying to lead her into a trap. She had to make sure she wasn’t a mockingbird imitating the song of a kinder bird, just playing games with her. The Northerner’s trust and faith had worn thin. She wasn’t sure if she could even trust in her own judgment anymore. If she was a good bird, perhaps the Northerner could depend on the bird to lead her to safety, for she might know the way out of the forest. But if it was all in her imagination, if she was merely hearing the song of a bird who wasn’t really out there, it would be just one more heartache in her winter of pain.

It was a terrible dilemma. The Northerner couldn’t go back to the life she had once led without leaving the safety of the cabin, but to leave the cabin she would have to face the storm, and she just no longer had the strength, tools, or confidence that it would take to battle it. The fierce winds could encircle her once she opened the door, and they might propel her out into the worst of the blizzard. Or the drifts of snow could come cascading like an avalanche into her refuge of a cabin and make it no longer habitable. It wasn’t the home she wanted, but it was all she had, and she couldn’t let the storm now take away the little it had left her.

But still, there was that bird. The Northerner was becoming increasingly afraid that the bird might leave if she never let her know that she could hear her song, but the only way to do that was to open the door and risk exposing herself to the dangerous winds of the storm. The Northerner became very consumed with this internal struggle, trying to decide whether to open the door or not. It seemed a very important decision, but also a very frightening one. She sensed that if the bird left, her only chance for salvation would fly away with the her; it was imperative that she somehow signal the bird that she wanted help. So finally she took a chance and began to peek through the slightly open door to watch the bird and listen to her sing, trying to see her well enough to know who she was. The Northerner was too afraid of the powerful winds and still too distrustful of the unknown bird to open the door very much, but she did keep trying every day by opening it just a bit and watching.

As the Northerner watched, the bird started perching closer and closer to the cabin, and day by day the bird began to seem more familiar and predictable. Reflexively, the Northerner opened the door a little wider one day and was surprised when the bird flew inside. She made a few passes about the cabin as though she knew her way around and then came to rest in the doorway. She kept singing her song, seemingly inviting the Northerner to follow her outside, as if by accompanying the bird the Northerner could face the storm and not be overpowered. In shocked astonishment, the Northerner realized that the season must finally be changing, for the bird was a robin redbreast, the first sign of spring. Spring, the time of rebirth, of change, of green, and of gentle winds.

It would certainly take some work for the Northerner to trudge her way through the snowdrifts, but she realized she would now be able to do it. For just as she opened the door, the snow began melting enough for her to see the first steps back to her home. All those months of isolation and fear and self-doubt had numbed her to any hopes of being saved. If the bird had never appeared or had flown away, the Northerner might have never chanced opening the door. But all it took to restore the Northerner’s hopes for the future was the appearance of that bird and the Northerner’s opening up the door enough to recognize it — the robin, always the first sign of spring — always the harbinger of growth, warmth, hope, and new life.

***** Written as a “thank you” to a wonderful San Diego therapist named Robin.