Men Discharging on Pornography

At the World Conference there was much discussion about adding something about pornography addiction to our requirements for RC teachers. It was another sign that our Community is, more and more fearlessly and deliberately, challenging the patterns installed on us by an oppressive society. Each of these patterns freezes some part of our intelligence into immobility and limits what we can do collectively to handle the challenges we face.

A concern I have is that men, in particular, might be asked directly whether or not they use pornography. Are we (the Community) ready to ask that question? Are we ready to give honest answers? Are we ready to handle our responses to the answers in a human way?

As RCers we understand that no human is free of the patterns installed by racism, class oppression, sexism, anti-Jewish oppression, the oppression of young people, and so on. We acknowledge the goodness of humans while we assist them to discharge the patterns. We remember that people are not “evil” for having patterns, including addictions, and that they resisted their imposition as best they could, given the entire situation at the time.

It seems to me that we are less able to hold these perspectives with addiction to pornography. It is generally seen as more personal and morally reprehensible than other patterns. So we have been much more silent about it.

As a Community, we have found many effective ways to work on sexual distresses, and many of us have dramatically improved the quality of our relationships as a result. However, we have only been able to go so far,1 because of how deeply we have all been hurt in the area of sex.

We need to build more safety. We need to find ways to work on the distresses that will not risk the good relationships we have with each other. Heterosexual men, in particular, are concerned that they might lose the good relationships they have with women if the women know everything that is in their minds.


Here’s what I have done in men’s support groups and classes since the World Conference:

I have said that the work done so far on male domination and sexism has brought us to the point where we are ready to take on2 some of the institutions of male domination and sexism and capitalism—a major one being the pornography industry.  And I’ve said that I think this work should be done in the spirit of the Men’s Commitment, which states in part, “I will permit no slandering or disrespect or blaming of any man for the hurts which have been placed upon him, and I will seek to restore safety to all men to discharge these cruel hurts.”

As men, we tend to be secretive about our distresses, or, in desperation to escape our isolation, we vomit up all of our feelings without regard to the listeners’ attention.  After doing the latter, we look around and see horrified people who have completely lost their attention for us—and we find ourselves alone again, at the end of a very long limb.3 This is humiliating and has happened to most of us. I wanted to create the safety for men to be able to effectively discharge their sexual distresses. My judgment was that, at present, this would happen best if they did not say too much.

The goal, of course, is for men to be able to be open about everything. But I’m not sure we are capable yet of hearing all of what goes on4 in men’s minds and still feeling caring for them. So in these groups I did not want to hear any “confessions.” I suggested that if the men were going to say anything, it should be something like, “Pornography has colonized my brain.”

I think that is true, whether men have deliberately used pornography or not. Pornography, at least in capitalist countries, is on TV, in advertising, in movies—is everywhere. 

Some RC women have told me that their minds have been “colonized” as well. This “colonization” seems to be achieving its purpose of reinforcing sexism and male domination and damaging the relationships between the world’s two largest groups of humans.

So far the men’s sessions have gone well. Being able to reveal any struggle at all in this area has been a huge relief, though very scary. And the men have found a way to discharge without too heavy a load of feeling bad, which would shut them down. I should add that they know that I love them. I have backed5 these men in difficult areas before.

I think we are ready to do this work—and that it will move both men and women forward. To challenge these distresses, even in the slightest, will be liberating to everyone and lift a great weight off the world. Just to know it is being done, and to see people survive the experience, will be a huge relief.

Dan Nickerson
Freeport, Maine, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail 
discussion list for leaders of men

1 “So far” means a limited distance.
2 “Take on” means undertake.
3 “At the end of a very long limb” refers to the limb of a tree and means in a very  difficult, vulnerable position without enough support.
4 “Goes on” means occurs.
5 “Backed” means supported.

Last modified: 2014-06-14 05:09:37+00