17 February 09

Pornography as the Mirror of Denial

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Kelly from the Book of Blue. Photograph by Eric Francis.

THE ORIGINAL pornographic images described prostitutes and what you could do with them. Their point was to get you interested, then you could do the real thing for a fee. In perfect market economy form, the advertisement has become the product. Pornography as we think of it is a media-based form of prostitution. You purchase the image of a person for your private sexual use, in lieu of the original.

For the purveyor, it’s extremely efficient. For a relatively small amount of money, an image can repeatedly be sold to hundreds of thousands of people.

For the consumer, the only problem is that it’s a picture and not a warm, sensating person. When this picture is masturbated to, it’s an indulgence in the experience of entering that cosmic, metaprogramming bliss of orgasm and imprinting oneself with unfulfilled desire. Ejaculating at the behest of a sexy picture and your fist is not the same thing as letting go into a woman whose eyes see yours and affirm your existence as you surrender.

The feeling most men have when confronted with the resulting semen is nothing at all like the thirsty, sweet faced experience of their girlfriend eagerly swallowing it, or receiving him compassionately into her pelvis. One’s first impulse is typically to go running for paper towels. This sense of disgust with oneself while expecting others to be perfectly thrilled with you and/or your bodily secretions is encrypted in the whole message of pornography and its use.

Now, I recognize I’ve made a bunch of heterocentrisms here; my focus in this article is on male-female relating. I’ve assumed in my text above that women don’t look at chick porn, and they do. But let’s stick to one paradigm—men using pornography involving women. It’s rich territory. A lot of people are involved, and feelings, and cultural memes.

How we respond to pornography is extremely private. It’s one of the places were we strive to overcome the powerlessness of not being able to get the sex we want, and that powerlessness is a very sensitive space. If we bring porn here, in this space we can overcome some of that helplessness, we can exceed the bounds of the appropriate, we can transcend morality and imagine things that are difficult to arrange—such as having two or three lovers to play with at once.

Much like fantasy, porno is one of the places we seek the mental refuge of eroticism without complication. This is one solid reason why it’s a form of the prostitution which gave rise to it—the woman depicted in pornography becomes a figment of your imagination; she does what you want, when you want; she doesn’t give you any lip, set conditions or get her period. She doesn’t get pregnant and she doesn’t want to get married; at least not to you.

There is just one problem—she’s not really there. She cannot feel you and you cannot really feel her. You cannot really have her, but you can pretend. And deep in the honesty of orgasm, when someone lets go to the thought or image of her, is the feeling of surrendering to not having her and to not being felt by her. Pornography on this level is the erotic celebration of need, desire and rejection.

We do a lot of not having in our market-driven society, so we need this release, or this indulgence in an extreme form of not having. There are a lot of things we don’t get to own or do, and for those whose desire nature is alive and active, it’s clear that there are a lot of people we don’t get to have. Without going into a dissertation on the differences between male and female desire nature (and the ways we all express both), testosterone feels different then estrogen.

The urge to fuck her now, whether she wants it or not, is one of those little messages scripted into testosterone. All of human biology and sociology seem to make an allowance for this need, granting men an unusual degree of dominion over women; a certain generally accepted presumption of entitlement that can be invoked from time to time. Most men have little clue how to do this, however, and anyway, if you’re polite, you ask; and if you ask, you’re likely to face rejection many more times than acceptance. For most men this is a way of life; it comes with the territory. Hopefully the humiliation is worth it when you meet somebody who says yes—and hopefully not too much of that humiliation enters the room with you.

Patrick Califia-Rice, the former lesbian erotic writer and journalist who had a sex change, hooked up with another female-to-male transsexual and had a kid, described his early moments on testosterone. “My voice is deeper, and my sex drive has given me newfound empathy with the guys who solicit hookers for blow jobs,” he wrote recently in the Village Voice.

Despite rejection and so many blow job related scandals, desire lives on, and sexual need lives on. Though some could do it with a little more finesse, all men have to cope with, accept and somehow embrace the fact that they are not going to get to fuck all the attractive women they want. In truth most guys are going to fuck very, very few of them, which on one level is humbling and on another level humiliating; it seems such a waste. Lack of male finesse on this issue can translate to anger, resentment, or a redoubling of that sense of entitlement that so often goes at the top of the feminist rap sheet. Rejection is a direct invitation to push harder (some women consciously play this game). She must want it (sometimes she does); she’s playing hard to get (often she does); she will eventually give in (this often happens).

More to the point, she’s not going to approach you for sex, so you better approach her if you want anything to happen.

The guys who do have finesse might be inclined to be feminized, empathizing with the female condition and not wanting to impose or intrude on its sanctity. That generally does not lead to so much satisfaction, because women are conditioned to respond to assertiveness and a measure of arrogance. Besides, you’re a guy! You’re supposed to want her, and if you don’t she may blame herself. You’re supposed to know that she wants you, even though she would rarely admit it. And this is not just for romance. Plenty of women have fantasies of being fucked or eaten by guys, sometimes many guys, who just want them for sex and and don’t care otherwise. Many explore these experiences.

Such a lack of empathy is precisely what men get to play with when they apply male desire to porn. Rachel Asher, who wrote a piece in this series (to be published next week on Planet Waves), said that when she uses porn, it’s fun, but then she starts to empathize with the women who are depicted, such as how they feel about their job, or about putting themselves out there. I sincerely don’t think most guys have that problem. This denial of empathy is specifically one of the freedoms afforded to men when they use images of women in the form of pornography.

In these settings, men bring themselves to orgasm not having the woman respond to him, and not having to respond to her. And in this way, along with many other ways, we eroticize not having. Desire itself becomes the thing desired. The lack of fulfillment that so often confronts us becomes the erotic focus. For men using pornography, there is release, but the release is not received. Or if it is, it’s received by paper towels. Consider the thousands of gallons of semen mopped up every day, the direct product of pornography, and all the mixed feelings experienced in the moments after: from regret to remorse to guilt to some measure of at least physical satisfaction.

If porno is a celebration of denial, it may also be a celebration of desperation. It’s a craving for that form of refined (or is it crude) female sexuality that is so rare to find: the Sacred Whore who never says no, and who most men never get to meet. Or it’s just desperation in general to experience, feel or make a mark on this pristine thing we witness and call female.

WHAT IF we replaced that pornography with a mirror? I think that pornography is a mirror that men use to get off, but in that mirror they see a woman. They see The Other, exalted with a kind of purity: the pure whore; the one purely in touch with her desire nature. Her presumed job is to be the one who represents accepting male sexuality. The real woman in the picture may not be vaguely interested; she is a picture and can’t really do any accepting at all; we are talking about a symbol.

And the symbol is, she says it’s OK to want her and to let go. She serves a vital purpose: she accepts the inevitability of male sexuality, which is often experienced as unbridled lust and the need to ejaculate on every woman he sees.

There is an extreme form of pornography that I find interesting, called bukkake. It’s the Japanese word for pouring soup over your rice, and the porno culture word for a scene where a woman becomes the projection screen for cups and cups of semen, to which she becomes a kind of receptacle: men cumming over and over again on her body, into her mouth, onto a plate which she licks up, and so on.

The real woman is not available to a porn consumer, but she serves as a kind of mirror in the imagination; the symbol of the woman who takes it on. A common male expression for ejaculation is blowing one’s load. Load is equivalent to burden and it is the woman whose role it is to take on this burden, symbolically or in reality.

Imagine if we put an actual mirror there in place of the image of porn, and the guy masturbating had to be the one who did the witnessing; who encouraged himself to feel good and let go and receive himself. Given that usually this role is projected onto a female, he would likely need to contact his inner female to do that particular bit of service.

This whole ritual potentially evokes homophobia from the get-go. After all, a guy is watching him and he’s getting off to the image of a guy doing so. That is awfully queer! There is no stand-in for femininity; he has to find it in himself, or throw it off entirely and relate male to male. There is the implication of narcissism, or the reality. It’s not just a guy he’s getting off to—it’s himself! This is queerer than queer. It’s altogether easier to have a hot looking chick spreading her pussy lips for the occasion. Those pussy lips say, go ahead, it’s OK. I know what you feel. Feel it now.

But suddenly, when there is a mirror, there is a live human being available to do the empathizing. He just looks a lot like you. And the results of the experience stain the mirror. One cums onto the image of oneself, and that mark can remain there on the mirror, existing between oneself and one’s image of oneself. That self-image can be continually decorated, clouded, and seen as a constantly changing, developing image of oneself covered with the results of one’s own desire nature.

In many ways, this is the lens through which men look at women. And the influence is so strong that it’s the way that I think women see themselves: their reflection is seen and indeed searched for in a cum-coated mirror.

Yesterday, I photographed a 65-year-old woman looking into that particular mirror. Before we started the photo session, she said: “You have no idea how literally this reflects my experience.” She told me the story of working for a lawyer who was always getting his cock near her (while she was sitting and he was standing) and finally she came into work one day to find her keyboard and monitor covered with his semen.

Which from the point of view experienced by so many men is perfectly groovy, because someone else has to deal with it. And on this basis I say: skip the porn and get a mirror. Don’t clean it off. Let it accumulate, and associate your self image with what you see in that mirror. Give it a try—try seeing yourself as others may see you, or as others have to see themselves in the results of your feelings.

Would you clean up that mirror by licking it off? Or would that be too gross, too queer? If not, then you know exactly how your female partners are capable of feeling when they don’t quite want you that way, but receive you because they feel they must, or out of simple compassion for your need. And if you get to the point where you do clean it up that particular way, you will feel some of the emotional surrender that your female partners feel when they accept you that particular way.

The first thing you may have to encounter about your inner female aspect is that she doesn’t want you so much. She is alienated from you. But if you can form a relationship with her, and cultivate some mutual desire, you may be able to shift your relationship with women just enough to get some of what you need. At least you will learn to live with something about yourself that others also must live with, but which in the gleaming mirage of the male ego is often so conveniently denied.

It would have to be. Imagine a chief executive officer with a cum-coated shaving mirror on his desk, instead of a picture of his wife. It would not exactly command authority. Anyone who glimpsed in that mirror would see something too closely akin to the truth.

I HAVE ANOTHER fantasy, which is that every image of a woman depicted in porn have an inset photo of a man masturbating right next to it. This is a little like an actual mirror—only it’s worse, because it’s another man. We could take this a step further: the image of you is what’s going to be broadcast alongside the porn model, who is usually the only one exposed. You’ll appear in a pop up window, your face exposed.

The side of porn we see is specifically the model rather than what she inspires. The resulting male masturbation that is absolutely synonymous with pornography is the shadow side of the equation. There is a presumption underlying this: the shameless image of the woman is the vessel of purity, or of publicly accepted sexual corruption or shame (whores and porn models oddly stand for both). The shadow, male masturbation, is secreted away; masturbation is a closeted activity (and most of us prefer it that way, because when male masturbation is exposed, it’s pervy).

I suggest men claim this perviness. I suggest you claim it like queers claim queerness and the term queer. I suggest you put away your porn and trade it for a mirror, and never wipe it off. Look at it every day.

Imagine what it would be like for the women in your life, or the women you desire walking down the street, to see themselves in this reflection. Imagine if they could study you reflected there. Imagine that you see them all in this smeared image of all that you project.

Look at the mess we’ve made.

6 January 09

Visitation

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annie, catalog image, courtesy of Wing Shui.

“You’re overidentified with women. If you could see the personality cords, you would see that each woman you identify with becomes an attachment that you have to support. Second is that you don’t know you’re projecting. You don’t know it’s all you. It seems impossible, but it is.”

“And you want me to see that I create her, whoever she is.”

“Right.”

I did as he suggested and purchased, well, a love doll. A beautiful one. I noticed some resistance because of how ridiculous the idea really was, but then it seemed like an interesting enough experiment; and safe enough to project onto a silicone doll rather than a human being. I ordered her from, of course, Asia, chosen from among many options because I loved her face.

I unpacked her, seated her on the couch, and disposed of all the packing materials so has to have no further mental cues with them.

I called her annie. I named her, so in a sense, she became my child: but I was taking her as my lover. With full knowledge that she was inanimate. But for a doll, she was lovely, and there was something a touch real about her.

I reminded myself that she was always available, under any circumstances. Now it could become clear that any time I was not getting what I wanted or felt like I was not getting, it was of my creation; my script. I could have her any time I wanted her.

I tried not to think about her that way, and realized that I was putting that on her – reluctance.

She arrived dressed in white transparent undies, modest ones, which clung gently to her. Her face reminded me of California. I had a flashback to a memory of being there with her, of buying her clothes.

Then I realized I was hallucinating her existence; hallucinating her into existence. I had a strange moment. I became aware of the process that Beck was describing: that I was creating the responses of the women in my life with my own projections. I built up their whole personality with little regard for who they actually were, as a compulsive process. It was true, and I could let go into this space of awareness if I wanted. Then I realized I could not really turn back from consciousness. I was already there. I had to meet the issue directly. It was time.

I glanced at her hips and the space between her hips, and I knew I would be disappointed because she didn’t have a real woman’s scent. As if that were all I really needed. Then I knew what I would do.

4 January 09

Pay attention

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Book of Blue studio setup for Heather Fae session, autumn 2007, in my home in Kingston, NY. Photo by Eric Francis.

I think that whenever someone expresses rage or hostility toward any form of sex, it’s time to pay attention. It seems so normal; it’s like we’re all entitled to think one form of sex is disgusting, or at least we accept that people do. Heck, we live in a time when people are passing constitutional amendments to ban certain people from getting the official Puritan sex permit, the marriage license.

However, I think we need to be particularly suspicious of anyone who thinks masturbation is disgusting, or at least suspicious of the viewpoint. It is a form of rage not just at sex itself, but of a human being’s privilege to be introspective, to feel, willing to allow themselves some time of psychic freedom. You know, the freedom of pleasure and of existence.

It’s basically impossible to ravage another person’s pleasure and not be projecting your own hangups onto them. Of course, it’s a lot easier than looking at those hangups, which is probably why it’s so popular.

The other thing I find interesting about a feminist attacking masturbation is that one would think that the essence of feminism is women letting go of total dependency on men, which would imply some sexual independence. So here we have one of the world’s supposedly most radical feminists telling women that it’s disgusting if they’re independent. Go figure.

I can tell you that speaking as a man, if I didn’t have a rich inner life sexually, and were I not capable of taking care of myself, the games that so many women play with their sexual power, the lack of directness and the focus on motives besides sharing warmth and pleasure, would leave me suicidal or close to it.

1 January 09

Looking in the Mirror of Feminism

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Simone. Photo by Eric Francis.

After my email exchange with Betty Dodson last night, I went digging through the index of The Whole Woman and looked up masturbation. And I got an eyeful. After reading Betty’s article posted below, I had a feeling that Germaine Greer was not going to be particularly friendly toward a subject that just about everyone loves so well, but I was actually surprised at how hostile she was.

If you look in the index, masturbation is first listed on page 191, and when you get there, the chapter is called “Sex.” The discussion of “sex” begins with an attack on pornography, what she terms the “sex of the millennium.”

Here is what she says.

“Pornography is the sexuality of the information revolution, elaborated to achieve all the staggering impact of which the megamedia are capable, projecting the images of the best known sex objects as far as distant planets in galaxies unknown.”

I get her point, but there was porno before there was the Internet. She’s never heard of Playboy? As a hobby astronomer I can tell you she’s exaggerating the bit about broadcasting to other galaxies. I don’t think the Internet reaches Andromeda. If it did, Time-Warner would be sending bills. She continues:

“Tommy Lee videoed his conjugal relations with Pamela Anderson because he was more deeply in love with pornography than with her. He was signaling his fellowship with all the other men who spill their seed on the famously, preposterously erotic image of his abused wife. Women are not the point of pornography. Pornography is the flight from women, men’s denial of sex as a medium of communication, their denial of sex as the basis of relationship, their rejection of fatherhood, their perpetual incontinent adolescence. The victims of pornography are men, not women. Pornography makes men leaky vessels, and undoes the principal male virtue of continence. As men’s real power dwindles, pornography is their refuge.”

Gee fucking whiz. That’s what it is? I thought it was, you know, less complicated than three dates.

Planet Waves blogger Fe Bongolan is sitting at my kitchen table and I just read that to her. “Does she know what sex is?” was her response.

Recently, I took a survey of readers over at my other Web project, Planet Waves. The survey was titled “Sex Survey” but also it was partly a masturbation survey. Sixty-three men answered and 303 women answered. It was not a scientific study so the error rate may be plus or minus 100%.

Here are some quick and dirty stats. Of the 303 women, 181 masturbate a few times a week and 176 masturbate with their partner present. One-third want to masturbate with others present even if they rarely or never do so. Two-thirds use sex toys. More than one-third use Internet pornography and one-third use printed pornography. Only 69 use a mirror. This part I thought was interesting.

Of the 63 men, 34 (a bit more than half) masturbate a few times a week and half masturbate with their partner present. Just under half want to masturbate with others present even if they rarely or never do so. Nearly half use sex toys. Three-quarters use Internet pornography and less than half use printed pornography. Only 14 use a mirror.

From this we learn that women masturbate, and that a lot of women use pornography. We get a sense that people are figuring out that masturbation is relational; that it is a way to connect.

“The substitution of masturbation for seduction means even more loneliness for heterosexual women, loneliness that is keenest within the embrace of a lover,” Greer says. I tell you, I’ve read this about six times and I’m still not sure whom she is accusing of what.

31 December 08

Confessions of a Career Masturbator

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Zoe with Tia. Photo by Eric Francis. Photo of Tia by Neal McDonough.

BY BETTY DODSON

Betty Dodson sent this in response to my article referencing Germaine Greer, below. The Eric mentioned in this article is not me, but rather Eric Wilkinson, Betty’s longtime companion.

IN THE LATE SIXTIES, Germaine Greer became one of my feminist heroes when I first read her article, “Lady, Love Your Cunt” in Suck, Europe’s sex magazine, then again in 1970 with her book, The Female Eunuch. Thirty years later in 1990, Marie Claire ran an article by Germaine titled “Self-Love or Self-Abuse.” Below is an excerpt from the article in which my name appeared six times. It was spelled correctly I might add, for which I am grateful. After all, we’ve been told there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

“To become a career masturbator like Betty Dodson is to spend your intellectual and spiritual powers on vacancy. Masturbation is like housework; doing it once only leads to doing it again. It is an exercise in futility, unless like Betty Dodson, you invest it with displaced significance…by calling it liberation and praising the masturbating woman as truly independent.

“Betty Dodson imagined that her crusade to make masturbation respectable was an important contribution to the liberation of sex. Her egregious blurting out of her own power trip makes obvious the fact that she is simply a pawn in the commercialism of sex. The TV porn industry has gone ahead without her, not only in the middle tech blue video business, but in the highest tech of all: advertising. Whether we come to orgasm in the arms of another or with ourselves, we have become a masturbating society.”

Germaine ends with: “Whatever became of dignity? And passion, what of it?”

My letter to the editor was ignored: “To refer to self-sexuality as self-abuse is to dip back into the darkness of the Victorian closet with all its moral judgments and narrow definitions of sex. When youth fades and hormone levels drop, a woman’s best friend just might be her vibrator along with her favorite dildo. I’d rather have an abundance of electric orgasms than end up a bitter old woman who dislikes sex because I never found my perfect prince. I’m only 61 now, so he might come along any day. Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with a princess.”

In 2003, Germaine came out with a book titled The Beautiful Boy, an art history book about the beauty of teenage boys illustrated with 200 photographs of what The Guardian called “succulent teenage male beauty,” alleging that Greer had appeared to reinvent herself as a “middle-aged pederast.”

Greer described her book as an attempt to address women’s apparent indifference to the teenage boy as a sexual object and to “advance women’s reclamation of their capacity for, and right to, visual pleasure.” When she makes statements like that, I remember why I originally thought she was so terrific. Of course women have the right to develop an erotic eye for male beauty, which is usually, if not exclusively, the realm of youth.

Not to brag, but in 1999, I fell in love with a beautiful boy. Eric Wilkinson was twenty-two finishing up his last year of college. I was sixty-nine, about to enter the youth of old age when I would turn seventy in eight months. He contacted me after reading my book Sex for One, telling me it was one of the best sex book he’d ever read. We not only had a torrid affair but he moved in with me and he’s still here in 2007. So after many years of happily masturbating and enjoying the occasional casual sex encounter, my prince charming did indeed show up. I’ve watched him grow from a beautiful boy into a handsome young man who is my protégé.

At first I saw Eric’s time with me limited to a short period of sexual fun, but within six months he’d replaced my assistant and was working with me full-time. We were having partnersex nearly every day. I always enjoy looking at him moving around the apartment naked – a living work of art with his broad shoulders narrowing down to a firm tight ass with strong muscular legs. His youthful playfulness is charming and he’s always available for any kind of sex with a perfectly sized penis and a perpetual hardon. I’d found the perfect boy toy.

Meanwhile, I kept expecting him to move into his own place with a roommate so I could reclaim my apartment. I knew it was a disaster for two people to live, work and have sex together under the same roof – a dynamic I counseled couples to avoid. On top of that, I’d promised myself to never have another roommate or to ever live with a lover again. I was breaking all of my own rules. At one point I blamed this temporary insanity on Y2K fears that the world could quite possibly fall apart if computers failed.

At the end of our first year together, I stopped trying to get rid of Eric and embraced the joy he brought into my life. I decided he was a divine gift from the universe, my reward for years of promoting masturbation and teaching thousands of women how to have orgasms. After all, the combination of older men with younger women has been a part of history since the beginning of time. People accept and even admire men who do this. However, when an older woman claims the same rights, it threatens our authoritarian society that wants to maintain the sexual double standard. Given that I’m competitive, I decided to enjoy the same privilege that men have always taken for granted.

In many ways our mentor/student relationship made sense historically. My Native American ancestors had a tribal Fire Woman, a wise elder who taught sex to the young braves. In the Tantra tradition, older women were the teachers. When people worshipped a female deity and sexuality was revered, the Goddess’s consorts were young men whose sole purpose was to provide sexual pleasure. Besides, there isn’t a single discipline that doesn’t value mentoring.

When we first began living together, I received a lot of kidding from friends who took an excessive amount of pleasure reminding me of all the years I’d bad-mouthed couples who were joined at the hip. I often referred to them as living in “pair-bondage” as I detailed the pitfalls of co-dependent relationships to anyone who would listen. Needless to say I was brutal when it came to criticizing romantic love. I know because I’ve had a lot of experience falling into love with men who never measured up to my idealized expectations, which is not really their fault, now is it?

Over the years Eric has heard all the accusations about having a sugar mama, being a star fuck, a gold digger and a mama’s boy. I’ve been told I’m robbing the cradle, spoiling him, and because of me he’ll never grow up. His friends think I’m taking advantage of him and my friends think he’s taking advantage of me. While all of this may or may not be true, it’s precisely our age difference that allows us to have fun together. We are both equally dedicated to exploring and refining the art of partnersex. I adore having him as my apprentice, my assistant and my consort. Before jumping to conclusions, let me assure everyone that we have never been monogamous and I don’t expect our erotic love to last “forever.” It will last for as long as it’s good.

So Germaine, my dear sister feminist, some career masturbators end up happier than some traditional women academics. However, I will always admire your ability to shake things up, to speak your mind no matter what people think, and in the end, I have agreed with most of what you have written with one exception: That masturbation is a worthless activity. I believe that until society accepts masturbation as the foundation for all of human sexual activity, people will continue to be manipulated by authoritarian governments and religions.

My reply to Betty Dodson

“Whatever became of dignity? And passion, what of it?”
-Germaine Greer

Hey Baddy

I think that what we call dignity is the enemy of truth. It is the excuse for keeping secrets, the stiff upper lip and the avoidance of embarrassment, which is the avoidance of pleasure. I think that much of our true liberation begins when we are willing to enter to the places that we consider shameful, and claim back the fragments of our soul where they have been stolen away from us.

Greer’s issue with masturbation to me reveals something seriously problematic in her psychic posturing, and correctly or not, it throws my perception of her into reverse. I am willing to forgive Wilhelm Reich because of the age of which he’s the product, and because he was raised in the shadow of Freud. Reich at least understood that masturbation is the sexual bellwether, even if he considered it immature in some ways.

I think we have just begun to scratch the surface of masturbation as a sexual theme and existential truth. I think the reason it’s not “taken seriously” is 1. Most people are embarrassed to do so and 2. The Relationship is still the badge of honor that allegedly makes you human, and if you reference masturbation as a serious subject, you are supposedly admitting that you are unworthy of that honor – or worse, that you are too vain to love someone else.

e

30 December 08

Photographing Simone

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Photo by Eric.

I love photographing this girl. It’s a fun hour I share with her a few times a year. This is what she does; she’s a nude model. She’s mysterious, disappearing to other cities for months on end on adventures and misadventures that I hear rumors of and ask her about later. They usually turn out to be true.

One thing I appreciate about Simone is that she’s conscious with her eyes: she holds them open and the room disappears around her. She creates expression I can see and feel vibrating through her small frame. There is a sincere generosity in how she presents herself as a photo subject. She wants you to have a lot of her: her heart-rending facial expressions, her matisse skin, her plump little breasts, whatever I need to see: devotion to creating the photograph.

Psychically, she is a doe. Sincere, gentle, graceful, quiet but answering any question; and she said that a bruise on her hand was from punching a wall the other night.

27 December 08

Germaine Greer: 'Keep Your Sperm To Yourself'

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Silver Platter. Photo by Eric Francis.

I recently discovered Germaine Greer. I knew little about her till I was possessed with curiosity the other day, plunged into the Internet and made a visit to Barnes & Noble. What I knew of her previously was an excerpt from a speech that I had heard over and over, which leads the Universal Mother album by Sinead O’Connor.

Her balls to the wall vision of feminism is refreshing, as many have noted. She’s not an academic or an intellectual; basically she’s a straight-talking journalist and social observer. Most of what she observes is the plainly obvious. Reading her book The Whole Woman, I found a comment that I’ve never read anyone else write except for myself, which is that men need to learn to keep their sperm to themselves. You would think there would be more conversation about this, but apparently it’s got a little taboo thrown over it like an invisible blanket.

How would this look? To me, it would look like a consciousness movement among men who demand that men honor this basic necessity of a woman’s safety and equality. It would look like no sex without condoms, unless explicitly agreed, in advance. It would look like a pregnancy plan being part of any sexual experience where pregnancy is possible. It’s time to get the abortion debate out of the news, and take it up as a personal responsibility.

I have a huge issue with the recklessness with which so many women approach the subject of birth control. While there are no good methods of female contraception and very few worth even trying, I require any woman I have sex with to at least tell me the truth and possess some basic knowledge of her own reproductive biology. In the 28 years that I’ve been sexually active, I have seen this situation degrade steadily, with ignorance prevailing even in people who have educations and a good reason to decide when they get pregnant and when they don’t, to the extent that this is possible. I recognize that it’s not always possible, but the reason that most condoms fail is because they were left in the night table drawer.

This being said, men need to keep their sperm to themselves. Even if their female partner is unwilling or unable to prevent conception, or if she is having a seizure of the biological urge against her common sense and career plans, or whatever, I believe that it’s up to men to take care of this matter first and last.

Not if we are asked, told or negotiated with; but as a matter of conscience and common sense. I am aware that some men have come a long way on this issue but I don’t think that the majority give a toss what happens once they ejaculate into a woman. After all, she’s probably on the pill and besides, it’s her problem anyway. Personally, I think that any man with that attitude is not deserving of the name, not deserving of the privilege and luxury of a woman and should have his semen handed back to him on a silver platter.

This would go for blowjobs as well. It’s assumed that a woman is going to swallow whether she likes to or not. It’s supposedly her job. About a year ago, I was reading a post on a website that my friend Christopher started, called Whispering Lilly. The woman writing said she was frequently asked to give blowjobs and swallow by her male partners.

Her response: sure, I will if you will. She would ask them to first ejaculate onto a plate or into a shot class and drink it. Most were disgusted by the idea. A few of them went ahead and did it. The writer became one of my sex heroines.

25 December 08

Sexpositive subversive

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Chart for the evening of Dec. 25, 2008, cast for Kingston, NY.

Exploring masturbation is subversive activity. That it takes something secret and brings it into the open offers a clue about this. That ‘something secret’ turns out to be how we actually feel about sex and the people we share it with. It includes the truth about our desires, fantasies and our relationship to ourselves, which exist at the core of every relationship to someone else.

How ‘unromantic’ it seems tells us a lot. Sharing masturbation violates every pre-programmed cue we have around sex: that it’s something that one person does to another one; that you’re worthwhile as a person only if you have a lover (or preferably a marriage partner); and as a lover if you can do it well (to another person, which stands as proof of love); that you’re not supposed to be self-serving; and this covert little fact there is both a risk and a commitment involved in sex other than being honestly yourself.

Sharing M rotates the stage, and out into the open light emerges the most secret, besmirched and beloved erotic gesture of self-acceptance. This also turns the tables on awareness and the quality of the erotic transactions that we have.

This most significant factor – the honesty – is plainly not romantic. Neither is talking about the potential consequences of sex. All of these things can be worked with just fine, but not if we don’t talk about them. Which most people do not. Which I think is just stratospherically weird.

The potential exchange of karma involved with sex is merely symbolized in these potential consequences. They represent something deeper, something usually kept deeply unconscious.

Along with the package comes this contract that you don’t know you’re signing when you have sex (in astrology, sex and contracts are covered in the same house, the 8th). Often, having sex is like signing your life away; it’s like signing a credit card application where the terms and conditions are covered in a separate book, which includes agreeing to all future terms and conditions that may be issued. Skip the condom and the conversation and you really are signing in blood.

My friend Genevieve has said that for a long time she didn’t think she could have sex with someone without moving in with them.

What is really strange is how appealing and normal this flirtation with lifelong commitment is to so many people. I understand that sex is deeply programmed into our DNA and that it seems to have the specific purpose of reproduction, which potentially implies householding, and this could come with all kinds of ‘skip the condom’ overrides. We don’t treat it that way consciously. It’s like we pretend we don’t know. Over and over again. Generation after generation. And now we are famously living in times where one generation pretty much balked on passing information to the next, unless it was done in private; for decades the public schools have shunned frank discussion of sex, teaching kids that birth control does not really work, in favor of government-sponsored ‘abstinence education’.

And what is funny is they teach abstinence and not only don’t teach masturbation. If you ask about it you can be treated like you need counseling. I have seen sex educators refuse to admit that masturbating together is safer sex activity and a way to biologically avoid pregnancy. According to this plan, you’re supposed to go through all of adolescence and young adulthood and…not have any orgasms at all? While your hormones are surging? Um, right. After all, sex is for reproduction only.

Someone named Wilhelm Reich proposed back in the 1930s that we have all of this backwards. Sex is creative. it raises creative energy and inspires creation, action and change. In humans, the fact that it is procreative is an extension of this idea, but not the core idea itself. Note that the vast majority of Christian preachers run around saying that sex is for procreation only, otherwise it’s a sin. It’s not for fun; not for same-sex people to do together; not for anything other than making babies.

Sharing masturbation is subversive because it sets aside the contract, the potential deception, the act, the flirtation with your life and the potential to unconsciously bring new life into the planet – and goes straight to the creative essence of sexuality: the beauty, vulnerability and cosmic witnessing. An entirely conscious gesture.

24 December 08

Sexpositive celibacy

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Black Mirror (or splashguard). Photo by Eric.

I have a friend who is a magazine writer in Los Angeles, and whenever she gets a sex assignment she calls me up to shoot the breeze and brainstorm. I love working with other writers on their assignments. It has an illicit aura of helping someone with their homework.

She was calling to interview me, however. The assignment was something like “sexpositive versus celibacy.” She saw the false dichotomy and added, “I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive but that’s the assignment.” This was for some natural health magazine, I think the Pure Man Quarterly

“What about sexpositive celibacy?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” She always says that, even if she knows exactly what I mean. She either needs quotes or likes to hear me describe this stuff.

“I mean sharing masturbation as a way to explore eroticism and still be celibate, in a sense.” In case you stumbled upon these pages from somewhere other than groovy old San Francisco, sexpositive means having a friendly attitude toward sex. Not tolerant; not kind of nonjudgmental; not willing to consider sex as a function of commerce if the price is right; but rather actually all-for whatever feels good for whoever it feels good for, assuming everyone agrees. Those of us who are sexpositive can feel like the yellow bellied sapsucker fluttering about in Central Park. People you would never suspect have bird glasses are suddenly leering at you.

Celibacy as a concept is somewhat more vague and presumably less interesting to look at. I personally find it to be an erotically charged idea (nun fantasies?), but that may be because the only time I try it is when it seems compulsory; which is fairly often. But the reality is not as much fun as the phantasy. Which is not really celibacy; that would presumably be presumably a choice and not a state you find yourself in, or something that is enforced.

There are also different potential rules for celibacy, for example, do you get to masturbate? Or is that cheating? Or do you just not fuck, not do oral, etc.? Or, do you do anything but fuck? Or do you refrain from any erotic activity at all? What about mutual nipple play? Is fantasy allowed? These kinds of existential questions to which only the Buddha knows the answer.

Anyway, as for celibacy, I prefer not to use terms that are vague and ambiguous (usually they are vague intentionally). So I have my own concept, which is masturbation celibacy. That is, not having sex in the conventional sense, but rather, masturbating with someone, or with people. This, as an intentional choice, and potentially part of a longterm relationship. Also potentially with total strangers, kind of how lots of people used to fuck (and many still do): immediate and anonymous. Or cousins. But not fucking. More like facing one another naked on an old futon in the attic.

And what’s so great about that? Like everything else about Buddhism, you have to ask yourself. I do think that it is a lot of fun and very useful. Sex where nobody gets pregnant and subverts all possible disease contact is the kind of invention that deserves the Nobel Prize.

There are lots of circumstances where you might try this. For example, if you have a friend where there is some erotic energy but for some reason you don’t want to fuck, or you don’t feel right doing it. But sharing masturbation, you can get a nice feel for who the person is erotically, all the senses get involved, you let them see and feel you, and you witness one another’s realities. I could see this being a beautiful aspect of a friendship for years. Yet there is also a fleeting quality that is beautiful. Maybe you never know the person’s name. Maybe it’s your oldest friend.

Or, two people who are sexually interested in one another can try this as a way to ease into erotic sharing; as a way to get to know one another sexually, and emotionally, and psychologically but without the urgency of commitment and all the unspoken risks. Normally we plunge into sex and all that it implies, with one person getting on the top and the other on the bottom, always creating a corresponding power dynamic of some kind. This is meeting face to face in a level world.

This can be so hot you might think you discovered actual sex rather than the imitation that is currently going around. From there, the possibilities are endless. Or, you have one episode of masturbating together and you think, well, that was nice. And I’m glad we didn’t go further.

24 December 08

Compersion bed

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Inner space. Photo by Eric Francis.

When I moved into my apartment last August, the prior tenant, Emily, didn’t need to take her bed (she was moving in with her girlfriend), so our landlord arranged for me to buy it. I was arriving from Belgium with a suitcase and laptop bag. I’m not the used bed kind of person, but this one was only two years old, and I did need to sleep somewhere. When I met Emily, any reservations I had vanished.

Her indescribable eyes filled the room with the color of a sunlit forest. Space seemed to bend around her. She looked directly at me with an expression I will never forget. I knew very little about her except that she was bisexual, a musician and had a collection of Planet Waves horoscopes torn out of a local magazine that went back some years. I wanted to stay right there and look at her and feel her, but it was a busy moment and people were around and so I politely shook her hand and thanked her, and didn’t see her again for a while.

This was my first bed of my very own in about four years of traveling and living in Europe, Canada and the United States. So I did it up nicely, with a heavy down comforter from Eddie Bauer and thick flannel sheets and a lot of pillows. It was my bed in style, but something about it was and is Emily’s bed.

At night when I am alone and my imagination is running free, I remember her. I imagine who she made love to there, how she felt, the and the sounds and images of her expressing her beauty and love with those she chose to share herself with.

Mostly I think of the hundreds of times she made love to herself right there, right where I am laying, snug and warm and alive. I think of her relaxing her being, honestly feeling her need, her naked body in the sheets, her breath, and her conscious choice to let go. A few times I have come so deeply vibrating with her energy, I felt like I was going to plunge into the center of the Earth.

21 December 08

Cell Block 12 or (The Gate is Open)

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Plateau. Photo by Blue.

I remain, as ever, fascinated by the fact that most sex happens in the imagination rather than in what we think of as reality – the best guarded secret in the universe. Yes, there are people who are getting the sex they want or need. There are the married couples who are just not compatible, and who do themselves instead. Others – I suspect many – choose consciously to stay out of sex and relationships because it’s too complicated and masturbation does the love thing just fine. There are the virgins and the older folks and those in lesser sex populations who have themselves alone. And then there’s everyone else.

I would guess that if we could have actual statistics, 80% of the orgasms that happen are from masturbation. Um no that is absurd. Let’s do a quick and, well, dirty test. How many of your orgasms come from masturbation and how many from partnersex? Get out your abacus…

...and what pray tell are you doing & thinking?

I offer homage to the women who do not orgasm with their partner, or must do so by giving themselves the coup de grasse. Here’s a big heartsong to every girl who faked her surrender today, then went home and gave it to herself. And good. And honest. (And she faked it because she loves him and it makes him happy.)

Here is to every man and every woman home alone watching porn, who knows they are going to masturbate, or who are doing so now…or surfing yourself to this particular shore…it’s a little game, what threads your imagination and sets you in your own direction…it could be her face or the sound of his voice or someone who reminds you of something or three words put together and then there is no turning back.

Here is to everyone listening to a couple fuck on the other side of a hotel wall.

Sparks to all same sex friends who are about to masturbate together tonight for the first time in their lives.

To every babysitter awake in a quiet house at 4 am.

Here’s to the vast cohort up late sniffing panties.

If you can only be secretly queer when you close your eyes

If you know you’re beautiful or fear you’re ugly and you can’t find anyone who wants you or who is willing to share with you

If the person you love with is with someone else right now

Everyone who can’t cum or who has never cum and is angry, grieving, yearning, needing, craving human contact.

To everyone masturbating in front of a full length mirror, here we all are, isn’t this existence. Isn’t this a thousand storefronts in the Marais. Isn’t this Max Factor skywriting: those girls make me wanna unravel. Are my visual cues to orgasm programmed by Madison?

An ocean of mercy to every man who masturbates with a sexworker instead of making her fuck him. (You are doing the world a universe of service.)

Here is to every guy who’s gonna lick his cumm off a mirror thinking of his mother.

20 December 08

The longest night

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Blue Pool. Photo by Eric Francis.

It’s solstice night in a very snowed under Kingston, New York. This is a small, all but forgotten city in upstate New York about two hours away from Manhattan. But before I go on, I’m going to light a few candles, and then continue speaking into the darkness. Okay…some tea lights, a blue candle on my altar that’s been burning for about five days, white sage, and The Silmarillion on the old iPod that I got in 2004 when I first arrived in London. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is the pre-history of The Lord of the Rings, with stories reaching back to the creation of the universe, the birth of the gods and goddesses, and the creation of the dwarves, elves and humans.

It makes very dense reading (there are a lot of difficult to pronounce names in nearly every paragraph) but is excellent to take in by spoken word, particularly read by a British actor called Martin Shaw. I could write about this for hours. It’s a collection of hundreds of legends, tales and mythologies told as they happen. Most involve the deeply troubled Noldor elves. If you are someone who enjoys reading The Lord of the Rings from time to time, your experience will expand by several dimensions once you’re familiar with the stories in The Silmarillion. The story leaves off at the end of the Third Age, as the last elves are departing to the eastern lands and humanity is taking over the planet. It’s here that the events of The Lord of the Rings take place.

I’ve set the program to CD 12 of 13, where you learn the fate of the Silmarills and then, in a chapter attached like Revelation was added onto the book in hotel rooms, you hear the story of Numenor, the fallen civilization. (In all of these stories, Tolkien never hints at the origin of the hobbits; not the subtlest clue. They simply appear.)

This time of year has some strong associations for me. One of them is that I’m always involved in the annual horoscope. It takes me weeks to get warmed up to the writing, and I’ve finally got a little momentum. When I can clear the rest of my responsibilities out of the way and sink in, it’s a pleasure to be so deeply immersed in astrology…to swim in it for a while. The horoscopes alone are more writing than anyone should have to do in a few weeks, but fortunately with astrology it’s possible to describe something that is already there. I don’t really make it up. I am a scribe, with a bit of creative license.

The planets arrange themselves in entirely new ways each year, and that sense of movement, friction, shifting themes and new developments has a way of carrying me along. Today I worked with two archetypes I haven’t used much – Astraea, the 5th asteroid and harbinger of Neptune, and Eyrydike, the 75th asteroid and consort to Orpheus.

Working with the astrology gets me so far, though. When I am doing the deepest esoteric work, I’ll dip into Tolkien’s ancient history of the cosmos. It reminds me that so much happened on our world (and beyond) long before we got here, before our modern civilizations arose, before anything that we know of or have even vaguely heard of.

The last two years at this time, I was experiencing an unbearably deep movement of sexual orientation. Feeling this was like the sensing the world stop and turn in a new direction, on a new angle. In 2006 I was in Belgium and published for the first time a photo called “Anonymous Self Portrait.” This was a nude self portrait, dark and shadowy, with a woman (whose arms are visible) holding a smeared mirror into which I am looking. But due to the smears on the mirror, my identity is slightly obscured, so it has an anonymous quality; but profoundly personal.

I can’t tell you how terrifying, revolutionary and hot it was to post this image to the world. It was, to my witnessing mind, impossible that I do so, yet this image could not exist without seeing the light of day, albeit, the shortest day. The sense that there is no turning back was enmeshed with the sense that I will never be the same person again mingled with oh my god how will I ever live without all that fear I was dragging around. Then the sense of being free. Which to me is an extremely vulnerable state. That’s how I know I’m there.

This kind of self-release is a metaphor for death (the classical meaning of the Death card in the tarot being ‘point of no return’) and it is about letting go of some part of myself, something necessary to release and which I have felt much better without. That winter I was in a very old city called Brussels. It was at the geographic endpoint of my European journey, and a place where I felt detached except by a strand of awareness from the familiar world. Exposing this image cut that strand to a fine thread.

One year later, that is, exactly on year ago, I was in New York, writing for the first time a piece that was eventually called “A Page from Book of Blue.” I was allowing myself to type into a diary window the story of giving my first blowjob. To do this and to write it, I had to surrender to the possibility that it was what I wanted or needed more than anything. Just the potential was enough to move my reality on a pivot around which my whole consciousness gradually turned.

The feeling, this is so incredibly scary or embarrassing and yet beautiful to reveal is parallel to so many other self-revelations, like showing someone your painting for the first time; performing on a stage for the first time; telling something deep about yourself to a partner or to your parents.

Intertwined with my swiftly heating, tipping emotions, the stark erotic imagery and my disbelief that I could describe out loud what I had created and done for myself, was mixed a sense of inevitability that the words would be seen and known.

I wrote the piece, illustrated it with a photo taken at the beginning of that morning’s erotic journey, and posted it for about six hours to the open side of this diary. I left it there and floated in the stunned sense of liberation that had taken me over. I felt like I was reaching into a nadir of my dark inner side and bringing it to the light. I touched the notion that I might simply need to be queer, and the hetero aspect of me was on his knees, looking at the scene with wide eyes, trying to understand.

And it occurred to me: Oh, this is what people run from.

I knew I was swinging as far into this idea as I would go for a while, so I let myself be there. I can tell you that something I noticed while I was in that space is how incredibly complex my attachment to my heterosexual identity is.

To stand apart from it, to look honestly at that identity, and to question whether it was real, I became stronger in it and more clearly myself there. As the next seasons passed, I went into a new depth of surrender for my need to connect with Woman; and stretched into a third mudra, the need to not be sexual with another person at all, except for masturbating together. And I never forgot how good it is to suck a man off with total abandon.

20 December 08

In search of that sweet chick Erica

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Genevieve, from Book of Blue. Photo by Eric.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that my fixation with certain women, including years of unrequited love, was a search for some version of the ideal Feminine. This found its way into my relationships. Then I started to figure out that my perception of women was in many ways a projection of my own thoughts. It wasn’t really about them as much as it was my own vision of what I thought a woman was, miraculously dramatized in the world.

One clue that cracked my preconception was how often a woman turned out to be someone other than I thought she was. I always thought it was her and not some dissonance within my psyche; between perception and the reality of what I was trying to perceive. This was the first of several splits I discovered; for a while, it was more about adapting to a better course of reality than it was a conscious thought; it became conscious as I figured out that it’s easier to get to know the truth of who a woman is if I am not fucking her, or if that was not my primary orientation on her.

This does not subtract the sexual element for me. When I want someone I want them and I’m real in that space. Exquisitely thin lines of propriety divide a sense of respect from one of feeling transgressed – this is true for me as well. Yet I felt my own weight of consciousness settle as I paused in this thing I do, which is apologize for myself; for being myself; in other words for my existence. Said another way, I paused in being and feeling apologetic (which is another way of saying guilty) that I wanted to know a woman, lick her pussy, love her, make love to her, be her friend, or whatever I might be feeling.

Growing closer to women as I found myself in less conflict, my desire gradually shifted from wanting to see the gently explicated face of female desire; to leting go into my own need to be seen, into embracing my own need to be seen and felt.

Whether it was a delight to fuck a woman became oriented mainly on one thing, how I felt as her face watched me let go of myself, as I split myself open and poured into her. I wanted to feel pinned with my back against the universe, witnessed in my abjection by her eyes only, reached into and held in contact with myself that way.

I understand what I am doing, which to melt off this encrusted maleness and let free some softer aspect of my nature. Or it’s using her for my pleasure, using her to push me into letting myself go: though with her consent.

Orgasm with a woman there sometimes helps conceal the rift in myself. The part I don’t have to own when I orgasm into her is my shame. That’s much more apparent when I cum alone. If she’s receiving me, I have an excuse for feeling okay with myself, though it used to be really hard to do even this. If she was drinking me when I was in those spaces, she was drinking my shame.

I don’t think of shame as an emotion but the result of an interior conflict over existence…perhaps life a or death struggle. It may be between heat and cold; life and death. Tropism and entropy.

I don’t recall anyone ever explaining what Freud thought of a psyche caught between eros and thanatos, that special struggle between the urge to orgasm and the urge to suicide, core attributes of his model of consciousness. I have read how he addressed the parts, but not the nature of the conflict or the split. I am sure this would lead to neurosis or worse in his theory. Worse would be psychosis, which I think of as a fracture in the mind. Which would make sense because I seemed to be projecting a lot of that inner split outward into my relationships. This may be one way that cumming into her concealed the split but did not heal me. I would ‘unify’ myself with or within her and be relieved of feeling the division within myself.

I first saw, or rather felt, the split within myself when I was alone. I set out to heal the split alone, too, but I knew I needed help. From then my journey with women became a conscious quest for the woman I am; to find her feelings and her voice.

As a man, I had to learn to step aside from this, or to let his maleness, that is, my male ego, be melted out of its rigidity. Then I could learn to meet her, see her, I could defer to her; I could help her meet her needs. It helped a lot when I was simply willing to admit that she has needs, and not make her apologize for them.

And when I did that, she came to me, the exemplar of humility, and the strength of honesty, and asked me for some of the same things that certain women outside myself seemed to be withholding. I had a choice to give them to her, and I have that choice every day.

Meanwhile I dance with the women around me like this: I want them to be friends with my female side, which means they may safely drop their guard and express some vulnerability, but it’s sweet and does not cling; & they need, I think, to trust that the horny boy or dirty man or simply the Man is not going to take advantage of this opening, or create an uncomfortable situation.

That’s a kind of paradox. Because sometimes she wants him to, and having strength and presence in the relationship, she would need to be honest about what she wants. And when he wants to dig her scent or get into her, that’s what he wants. (And when he doesn’t he doesn’t.) The softest balm I’ve found is to not feel guilt. To relax and be honestly me, whoever I am.

17 December 08

Fire Walk with Thee

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Kelly Day. Photo by Eric.

I once flipped open a book in the Pathwork series to a page on the nature of pleasure.

This was the sum total of my exposure to that process, about two paragraphs, and here is what it told me. In the view of the authors, the human creature needs and thrives on pleasure. This is so vital to our continued existence that when we lack sources of pleasure we will figure out a way to take pleasure from pain. This becomes a habit and we might find ourselves trapped in a loop of pain-oriented experience and not understand why; not have a rational explanation for something that seems below our intelligence or instincts.

And, to wit, presumably not be able to find our way back to pleasure. Lost in pain. This does describe the world, many days.

I have often remembered this in the context of my erotic flirtation with the unavailability of women.

I would go through overt pain about this, freaking like a child at times; often.

I was aware of what games some women played with availability, what conditions they set, and how much went painfully unspoken. I now know that the human race has the corner on this market, not any one sex. The real mistake I was making was to take the issue of unavailability personally. It certainly felt like an affront. What I hadn’t figured out yet was that everyone had to deal with this at some point and a lot of people a lot of the time. Some, it seems perpetually: a big shout out to you and an echo back.

Anyway, whether you get loved or laid, we are, or I notice that I am, met with unattainable beauty all the time; I mean, that could be the quest for beauty itself, to follow or run with the impossible.

There is so much not having that we have to take pleasure in it. Advertising knows we seek that missing pleasure and crave a product, yet what is possible is a universe of surrender.

This, in a world where so much of one’s selfworth is based on having a partner, or who that partner is.

Embarrassment is the death of dignity.

This is a necessary step to surrender. You can always see it in the faces of the women whose orgasm is dignified that they are still holding on. I know this about myself, and I think it’s the feminine in me, that sweet chick Erica.

This is interesting territory because, who really wants to talk to you about what they lack? Stupid as it sounds there is part of us that might feel like a loser for admitting such basic wants are unfulfilled; in the midst of total potential abundance. That is funny in a way, it mirrors the banking crisis in reverse. We are in a world of oceanic abundance of love, at least in potential, yet it seems to be the thing we want the most and sometimes the thing we have the least.

The paradox verges on thrilling. It points out the obvious question, do we withhold love, or do we withhold the willingness to receive love; vulnerability. Maybe more people would be more loving if we declared it safe to love us.

15 December 08

A love note to your imagination

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Mirrors or windows, in less spattered days. Photo by Eric Francis.

Most of our lovers, we have in fantasy. I know there are some people getting the sex they want, but a lot of them have delightfully interesting fantasy lives, too.

Those sometimes verge on a kind of imaginary cosmos or a parallel world, though we assume them private. Part of why I can say the things I say in this diary is because I know there’s no point concealing them; consciousness is transparent.

I think it’s fun to imagine that all the people you’re phantasizing about know and feel what you’re up to. It’s perhaps less fun to imagine that one’s partner knows what you’re up to in your secret cosmos. But think of it this way, we seem to live in a mirrored chamber; the psyche always seems to be staring itself down. Yet from a certain viewpoint of the mind, those mirrors turn to clear glass. Sometimes they transmit sound and sometimes we cross over into someone else’s psychic chamber.

How you experience this may depend on the presumption you live with. We generally don’t have experiences that threaten our belief systems, the reason being that it’s fairly dangerous. What do you think is possible? What clues do you have about this particular nature of reality? Would you like to make yourself available on the phantasy plane for others to experiment and explore with? You can offer yourself. You can veil yourself if you want, as well.

Sometimes I’ll create a consensual phantasy agreement with a friend. We agree that it’s okay to think about one another in those moments of private ecstasy. People I do this with, I usually have no physical sexual contact with. It’s a game we can play when there is obvious energy and/or some impediment on availability. Some women I’ve liked a lot, knowing they couldn’t be with me but having compassion for my desire, gave themselves willingly and at times I have done the same thing.

We all know that no matter what anyone says, we can go to our secret room and have any vision we want. This is really good for those people who cannot get any of what they want. I know you’re reading and it’s no shame and you deserve to feel really good however you can do it.

I can imagine a lover who accepts me exactly as I am, and who chooses me because she is free.

I can imagine I live in a world of sexually satisfied women with no lover of my own, exposed to their psyches in a continuous state of introspection and compersion.

I can imagine I am in a community of people who are dedicated to being their own lover, and doing so openly. And taking this as a conscious journey with devotion and communication.

14 December 08

The Attacher

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Spatter. Photo by Eric Francis.

In order to create the space for the women around me to be sexually and emotionally free, I must voluntarily submit to that freedom. Many have commented on the pain of jealousy, but somehow the conversation rarely seems to shift to what happens when we let go of of it, and all the control that is involved with the experience.

We have all heard the phrase ego death. This is a good example. The ego is the part of us that attaches, rather than the part that actually loves. Without intending here to cut the psyche up into slices, let’s call the attribute that attaches…the attacher, and the part that loves, the embracer. The attacher must let go, in order for both the pain to cease and the pleasure of love to begin.

11 December 08

Into & out of the gray void

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Laura as a young widow. Photo by Eric Francis.

If consent is the demarcation line of rape, and if consent is rarely given, then we can surmise that most sex is rape. If it does not feel that way, it’s because we are just starting to learn the difference. But what does “feel like” mean? I think that most of the sexual pain that society in has some association with this issue. It would help if we could feel and admit our sexual pain.

“People don’t ask, they just take,” a friend said to me this week. Like many people, she struggles with sexual communication, often finding herself in situations where she simply cannot speak her truth. She can barley say yes or no, and she can ask for what she needs only in the rarest circumstance. I know from experience that this makes life very difficult for her, and for the people around her. She is not alone, though I know she often feels alone.

This lack of ability to express our feelings, or the terror of doing so, explains why so often we end up in relationships we don’t understand. Why would we understand them? What basis would we have? All we’re doing is guessing and making people play guessing games. That is frustrating and leads to resentment. Resentment is not good for sex, or for friendship, or for love. But we swim in the stuff.

Could this have something to do with being unwilling to commit? Yes or no is a commitment; admitting how we feel is a commitment; being who we are and lying to ourselves are commitments. I recognize that this often has the effect of a skunk walking into the room.

“The minute I’m honest about sex, people run from me,” another friend said this week. She struggles with feeling like the Scarlet Whore of Babylon because she expresses her sexual appetite and does not put on airs of being chaste. But the men she attracts as emotional partners don’t understand her; but she cannot shut down her sexuality for their sake, and she says that because she is horny, she hurts people.

I think everyone has at least five stories of being honest about sex landing them in the doghouse or the whorehouse. At least with a sexworker, you can be honest about what you want. Most people are not; still they just take.

With a sexworker or with any woman, much of the pleasure exists in feeling her power in that moment; the minute I drop any presumptions or privileges normally afforded to my maleness and treat a woman as autonomous, the equality – perhaps her superiority, but in truth, I think her equality to me – is stunning; it can be a psychic space deeper than orgasm.

When you leave the gray area, that is what you get, vulnerability that is based on clarity and being real. What you lose is the high of dominating someone, or the high of fooling them, which are trips associated with lack of vulnerability. Seeking mutual consent is precisely about expressing vulnerability, though many would argue that being victimized is some equivalent of vulnerable. Can we give this up?

I once had a spiritual teacher inform me that I was being overly controlling because I prefer to masturbate with someone before I have sex with them. That’s my solution to the gray morass where there is neither yes nor no. If you’re going to masturbate with someone, it’s unlikely to just happen. It must be negotiated and agreed. What you are negotiating is a space of equality. It includes the understanding that you’re not going to go further than you agree, even if the other person would not be able to resist.

I think that from this space it’s possible to begin an authentic sexual dialog; a dialog about what we feel, think, need and want. This feels like a dangerous space, “more intimate than sex.” For me it’s the safest sexual space I’ve ever encountered. But then I like to live on the edge. Or maybe it’s living from my core.

7 December 08

Masturbation is the opposite of rape

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Lucille in the Erodome at Burning Man. Photo by Eric Francis.

How do we solve the problem of rape? We need to understand it, and be honest about it. Rape is the second most violent act of aggression directed at a woman (the first is murder, and as Inga Muscio points out, the two often happen together). Rape is the toxic eruption of the male sex drive, conflated with violence and domination.

The ‘reasons’ for rape are as many as there are ‘reasons’ for the projections of rage at women. That anger – whatever its supposed source – can and must be internally mediated within men. So, too, must the sexual urge that so often gets mixed up with it.

Yet the problem is wider than any individual. Our society is a setup for the dynamics that lead to rape. Rape is romanticized; the conflation of violence and sex is made to seem ever more normal. Then, sex is presented in the media as both an entitlement to men and something that is to be made unavailable by women (teased but not delivered; or morally derided), resulting in a profound degree of frustration for many. This is a fermentation tank for the sexualizing of rage and frustration. It does not help that hardly anyone is taught how to deal with their anger or their erotic impulses. It does not help that we tend to see rape as an isolated incident and not the product of an environment or a two-sided energy equation.

Women and girls are too often not taught how to set boundaries and men are taught even less often how to respect them. Most women cannot actually say no and too many men cannot take no for an answer. That most women lack the ability to actually say yes (rather than insinuate it) does not help the assumption that no means maybe and maybe means yes. It may be taboo for women to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ directly to men, but that is an extremely dangerous situation.

Masturbation is the opposite of rape, and may be a key part of the solution to rape.

Apart from the fact that rape is ugly and masturbation is beautiful, this is so for three reasons, in my view. If rape is sex without consent, masturbation is sex with the assurance of consent.

Next, it provides for men not only an outlet for their sex drive and sexual aggression, but also the embodied statement to oneself that “I am responsible for dealing with my sexual urges, not you.” Masturbation is a step in the process of calling back sexual projection. Done consciously and honestly, it is a space wherein they may process sexual frustration and the resulting rage. This may not solve the more deeply pathological forms of rape, but it surely helps with the more common taking of sex from unwilling women that absolutely qualifies as rape.

Finally, for women, masturbation provides an opportunity them to say yes to themselves, and in the process clear their sexual energy field and raise sexual awareness. In a way parallel to men blowing off their sexual urges with the conscious use of masturbation, women can relax into a space of freedom with themselves and let go of the internal sexual tension that could and often does make them a target for male sexual aggression. For those women who have rape fantasies, exploring them consciously and without guilt is an opportunity to not have to live them out unconsciously.

It is an opportunity to say yes to themselves and therefore have a more solid basis for saying, and meaning – and energetically signaling – no to others. Explored consciously and honestly, it is an opportunity to be more sexually aware, which (along with common sense) will help women avoid situations where rape happens – and many of these situations can indeed be avoided.

For both men and women it can be an expression of self-approval that could nullify violent impulses.

I can offer at least one example of how this might work. A sexworker I know in Amsterdam said that one of her male clients who wanted to have sex with children would, instead, come to her regularly and masturbate while confessing to this urge. He would leave his mess on the tiled floor of her studio and not send it ripping through the lives of those who had no business about it and might never recover from the damage and pain that it caused them.

30 November 08

From the invisible to the nonexistent

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Blue Vault by Eric Francis.

Looking deeper into our unreality on this planet, it’s not just that we don’t see ourselves; it’s that we’re not sure we exist. I have encountered this everywhere from my own therapy process and the long experience of discovering that I am in the world entitled to take up some space and make my contribution, to working as an astrologer. In that capacity I have helped many people sketch out the fact of their own existence, and the circumstances of what I call the existential wound.

The question of existence has a very special way of coming home in the area of our sexual identity. Where there has been rape or incest, the problem is significantly compounded, but sexual abuse comes in many forms, for example, most versions of Christianity, which attack and undermine self-actualization by turning love, pleasure and creativity into a sin.

Finding our identity can take us a long way toward home. Ask anyone who has come out of the closet as gay or lesbian, for example, how they felt before and after coming out. Usually that point in time where real existence begins. Coming out is one of those “If I can do this, I can live my life” moments.

Heterosexuals don’t generally come out of the closet. As far as I can see, this is the problem, and it’s a bigger one than is acknowledged. Even the movers of the gay community have had a good laugh when I tell them ‘straight’ people need to come out. (I’ll get to what that might look like in another diary. I have some fun ideas.)

The heterosexual pattern is to hide, to lie, deny and then to transact sex as a business deal or recreational activity, usually drunk. This is about being a closet case. I am not saying that sex with someone your own gender is better or worse than with the other gender; the distinction is in the process of declaring oneself bi, trans, gay, lesbian, solo or whatever form of queer necessitates coming out; and living with that as a public fact. Coming out is about living with your sexual truth.

It works out that most heterosexual sex happens in secret fantasy. The reality is often experienced as unavailable, immoral, scary, or does not actually exist. It’s easy to see why this is so. We often lack the guts even to say what or who we want; the boldness of heart to feel our feelings without feeling guilt over them. In such a state, sex is easy to sell or trade, and, oddly, demand always seems to outstrip supply, keeping the price high.

It’s more difficult to see that the feeling of not existing manifests in our relationships as being in relationships where we don’t exist.

This comes as a direct result of not seeing ourselves, another way of saying being uncertain about our own existence. There is a simple way to remedy that situation, which then becomes complicated; feeling empty, with nothing to offer and no actual self in there, we construct one. But it’s not real, as in authentic, and when we find ourselves needing to be who we are, that facade does not work.

The lie that existence has become, itself becomes exceedingly complicated because it (seemingly) must be maintained where this is untenable; extremely uncomfortable. It is not a substitute for existence, for making decisions, for creative process. And in this state, we tend to do one thing, which is hide. Hide in that room in the mind. Growth and relating threaten the lie of nonexistence and all the lies that believing that we don’t exist compels us to make up. When we have an opportunity to be present for something we really want, into the lie, sadly, can and often is the first place we retreat.

If you’re wondering why so many are so lonely on a planet where all there is, are people; and why so many are deprived of sex and the corresponding sense of contact, when we all need it and can all offer it – here you have a clue what’s up.

30 November 08

Seeing oneself

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Runway model at rehearsal, Brussels, autumn 2006. Photo by Eric Francis.

Maybe it’s a Capricorn thing, but Zoe had summed up the nature of reality in one sentence when she said, “I can’t see myself.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and a wave of compassion opened up in the room as I sat with this absolutely gentle, vividly intelligent and beautiful young woman. She had handed me a clue to one of the central (and most troubling) questions of my life, which is how it seems that the way I see a woman and the way she sees herself are so different, what that difference is, and why this rift in perception can cause so much alienation.

It can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful, for someone when you adore and admire them and they, in turn, have no sense of who they are. That missing inner sense can make any praise or appreciation seem hollow or cynical when it’s really intended to be authentic and sincere. If everyone thinks you’re amazing and you think you’re shit, that can lead to the next logical step, which is that obviously you are a phony.

Some would say better to be evil and real than perceived as ‘good’ and be a fake. Or, convinced of your own lack of worth, everyone must be an asshole for liking you.

There are a lot of ways the extremely delicate psyche of a young woman can crumble, and any of them can gradually convert an otherwise gentle person into someone on a cold, prickly power trip turned back on the world: the ice queen, who doesn’t know who she is but who knows she has some unusual power over the people who envy or admire her, for reasons she cannot understand. Deep within that apparent coldness is usually simple vulnerability and an insatiable craving to be approved of.

When sexual power comes into play, this can be extremely dangerous; if you feel ugly on the inside and men are turned on by what they see in you, you might equate them with the ambivalence or disgust you feel about yourself. You might feel more comfortable with people who disgust you and who use you as a receptacle of their own ignorance, rage and doubt.

If a person is kind and sensitive and is committed to staying that way, they may simply feel the attention is undeserved; they may feel small in the presence of admiration that seems to have no real place; and the result can be equally alienating. We don’t have to look much further to explain why so many women are drawn to men who hate them; and why so many men are drawn to women who are cold and refuse to nourish them. If we drag around the feeling that we don’t deserve love, it’s one of the easiest things to manifest on our plane of reality.

What followed was a deep conversation about the nature of self-respect, and how it gets to be in such a damaged state, and what we can do about it.

Respect means to see again. Self-respect would be to see oneself again; to recognize oneself. Presumably it’s is only possible to recognize what you have already met or encountered. This is what we seem not to do very often – to see ourselves in the first place. It is that initial witnessing that is missing from the story of our lives; the moment of initiation when someone who knows says, this is who you are.

We are, of course, blinded to our own beauty. We live with this as self-judgment, feeling stilted in everything we do, and the fear of being found out. And in many worse ways.

The factors involved are so many that it would be impossible to name them all, but the many injuries and humiliations of childhood are impacting a psyche that is not fully formed, and cannot make any sense of the feelings involved. It’s different for every kid in every family, but consider how many attempts at expression are shut down; how jealous adults make it difficult for a child to shine and express herself or himself; how rage directed at us makes us doubt ourselves; and the insane drama around sex that consumes so much of our identity.

The emotions associated with erotic feelings are some of the most poignant a person is capable of. Their intensity in adults is a direct reference to the clear perception of children, for whom the smallest facet of life gleams out with the newness of all perception. To corrupt that with shame, which is fear turned onto itself, that is, the deep and abiding fear of oneself, can be entirely paralyzing. But we are ashamed to go there and seek healing, because we were told it’s wrong, and this is “proved” by our shame.

The journey back to sanity is looking and seeing, first that there is nothing to be ashamed of, and then that there is only one deserving of love. This has been one of the hardest lessons of my life, and it’s taken a long time, too long, to feel good about myself every day. So, I can relate.

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