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Sexism, Pornography, and War

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the European Men’s Workshop in the Netherlands, November 2015

We men have distress in the way of our connecting with others. It gets in our way in several ways. It’s part of sexism. Women recognize it on us. They see our struggles to actually pay attention to them. They also see the frozen fascinations most of us have with their bodies. (laughter) Some of us have those fascinations with men, and some of us with women and men. Such a serious topic—you sit solemnly and nod. (more laughter)

It’s distress, like every other distress, but it’s ours. However it happened, however we got hurt, it’s now ours. No one else can change it but us. We know it spoils our lives, even if some parts of it seem to feel good. Certain distresses are addicting; it feels good to let them play in our minds. For most of us, sexual experiences feel good, even if we are not quite fully conscious or aware. We feel better than we felt before. (laughter)

But you might notice that you do the same things over and over and over again. And they don’t lead anywhere. It’s like you can’t learn anything. But because you are addicted, that doesn’t stop you from trying it again, in exactly the same way, with the same person, or with someone just like that person. If you look back at your history of the people you’ve had relationships with, they often have a strong similarity to each other. That probably wasn’t because you were making rational choices. (laughter)

You sit and watch crowds of people come by, just as small children do. The children are still looking for eyes that are alive. And so are you, but you will settle for something else, (laughter) because it might give you at least a hint of not being alone.

Most of us don’t have sexual fascinations that make us want to hurt someone else. Some of us do; we got hurt that way. But for those of us who don’t, the standard fantasy seems to be as follows: we don’t want to hurt anybody, we don’t want to be hard on anybody, but we want to find someone whose fascinations fit ours perfectly, so we can do exactly what we feel desperate to do, and they can do exactly what they feel desperate to do, and that’s “happiness.” (laughter)

Sound a little familiar?

The problem is, acting out our distresses doesn’t go anywhere. Actually building a connection with someone means trying for connection and discharging on anything that pulls us to be unaware of each other. We almost never have an opportunity to do this.

What you need to do is tell somebody about your distresses around connection, closeness, and sex. You need to tell someone all the things you never told anyone, all the parts of these distresses that you’ve kept secret. This is important for your relationships, for your chance to have relationships, and also just for your own mind.

There’s an additional reason: You are vulnerable here. You are vulnerable to other people’s irrationality, to being manipulated by other people’s distresses. Where you can’t think, you can do stupid things. And some of them can be dangerous—to you, to your relationships.

Capitalism loves that you are vulnerable here. Capitalism makes billions upon billions of dollars because it can manipulate you in this area. The whole advertising field is aimed at your material, especially this piece of it. If you stop thinking, you’ll buy things you don’t need. The example I like is car shows—the beautiful cars with beautiful women leaning on them, smiling. The clear message is, you buy the car, you get the woman. You know it’s not true, but you stay there. You know it doesn’t work, but you can’t stop being fascinated. You don’t even want to think about that woman that way, but you are fascinated.

PORNOGRAPHY

The harder piece to talk about, of course, is pornography. Everybody here has seen pornography. It’s pretty much unavoidable. I was around at the beginning of the Internet. When people first began putting porn out on the web, there were no filters. I would come in every morning and turn on my computer, and it would scare the hell out of me. Some mornings I would open my mail and then turn off the computer. Really harsh pornography just filled the screen, over and over again.

Because we have distresses about sex, we get fascinated. We may be vulnerable to some particular type of pornography—whether it involves women or men, young or old. These fascinations come out of our distresses. You know how often your mind gets trapped fighting that strange battle.

People like to argue that it’s a private matter. “It’s just me, sitting alone in front of the screen. It doesn’t hurt anybody.” But it corrupts all our relationships, and it confuses us about what relationships are. So we have to consider it like other addicting patterns. We get to counsel on it. We get to tell our counselors about it. We get to stop giving in to the pull to act on it. This can be a very big battle.

It’s hard to find someone we dare counsel on it with. But you’re going to do it right now. We’re going to do a six-minute-each-way mini-session in which you get to tell your fascinations. Whether it’s just looking for that special person, or it’s gotten attached to pornography, or it’s just a dream you have every six months.

One more thing: It’s okay that you have these distresses. I’m sorry you do, but this happens to all of us and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is done to us by an irrational system. It’s sad, but okay, that we have these distresses. It’s not okay that we keep them. That’s the work we are doing.

DAY-TO-DAY IRRITATIONS, AND SEXISM 

I’m going to talk now about the day-to-day irritations. (laughter)

If you are living with a woman partner, she probably irritates you—often, in many little ways. And you hide it well—you think. (laughter) But it’s not as if she doesn’t know. And she has to interact with you anyway, knowing you are going to be irritated, especially if she interrupts you living your life. (laughter) Couldn’t she see that you were busy? Apparently she couldn’t. You know that feeling? (laughter) That’s sexism. That’s part of the daily sexism that interferes with our relationships.

You feel irritated. And you feel justified in feeling irritated. But you are mistaken in two ways: It’s never correct to let your distresses get the best of you, let distresses gain control over you. You just lost a battle. And, if you’re irritated, how do you know she’s not right? You’re irritated, so clearly you’re not thinking well. Maybe she is right. Maybe the irritating thing she always does makes sense. Damn. (laughter)

So what do you do? You, who are sitting there in bitterness? I can tell you what I decided to do. It doesn’t work to show you are irritated. It never works to act out your distress. And it’s likely to restimulate her. She knew you would be that way, and, yes, you are that way again. So what I’ve decided to do is to do, enthusiastically and fully, whatever it is she is asking. I don’t say, “In just a minute,” which she knows means, “I will do it as soon as I finish the important thing I’m doing that you did not recognize.” I don’t resentfully do what she’s asking. I decide each time that she’s right, and I try to put my full heart behind doing what she asks.

It’s an interesting process. And we don’t want to do it. (laughter) At the beginning we don’t want to do it. We want to stay small and bitter and sit in the middle of our distress until it’s recognized and she apologizes and makes up for it. We know that has never worked. It’s where we got stuck as children. It doesn’t work.

What we have command of is ourselves. We can decide to handle things differently. We can do things against the pull of our distresses. We can also decide to try hard for someone we love. At that moment we don’t remember that we love her. We’re lost back in our struggles. So we have to decide that we are upset, we are confused, and that we can change it.

Here’s my experience: It took a few tries, (laughter) and now I like it. It changes everything. I get up from my desk and say, “Where is it? Where is the thing to do? Show me how you would like it done.” And I go and do it happily. I can actually do it happily. It changes my whole mind. And it’s been interesting watching the effect on her. She will come and ask me sooner. She doesn’t have to get up her courage to face my upset. She doesn’t have to get restimulated before she comes to me.

I’ve been talking about this in the context of a long-term relationship with a woman, because it’s part of sexism; it’s part of trivializing women’s thinking and decisions. Of course it happens in other relationships, too, but it doesn’t feed on the same oppression. If you are in a relationship with a man, you’re going to have a different set of restimulations. You’re still going to have restimulations. (laughter) But they won’t tap into that particular oppression. They will tap into the oppressions involved in that relationship. If it’s a Gay relationship, they will tap into the oppression aimed at Gay people.

The basic idea remains the same: to be able, at that moment, to choose the person over your restimulation. The person is always more important to you, even if you can’t remember it. And each of these moments of restimulation between the two of you is an opportunity to challenge what separates you, and to reach for each other in spite of it.

The even more general statement is, every restimulation is an opportunity for progress.

WAR

There is a third thing I want to get to. As men, we are mistreated and oppressed for a purpose. To maintain an oppressive society, somebody has to be the last tool of oppression. When intimidation isn’t enough, the society tries to physically oppress people. That’s been our job as men. Whatever else we were trained to do, we were trained to be a weapon of oppression. We were trained to be restimulated and manipulated enough that we could hurt other people. That’s what all of the fighting in childhood is about—to toughen us up. It wouldn’t happen if there were no wars. War is the last desperate attempt of oppressive societies to hang on.

We have lived in oppressive societies for a long, long time. And because we’ve lived in them, we have heard stories of war. My sixth-grade teacher had recently come back from war, and occasionally—he couldn’t stop himself—he would have to tell the class a war story. I don’t think he ever told anyone else. He had a captive audience. We would hear how horrible men could be to other men.

Many of us had relatives who talked about war when they returned, or wouldn’t ever talk but the effect of war showed on them.

We need to work on how this distress came to us, because we have to stop war. And to be able to stop it, we can’t stay horrified and vulnerable. We need to talk about the people we’ve seen who have been hurt by war. We need to talk about the stories that have been handed down in our family and from our people—old, old stories that we still feel the effect of. We get to discharge all of the hurt, so we can think about how to end war and help other people discharge about it.

This is important work. In some periods of history, it wasn’t as important. In this period, it’s very important. Society is collapsing, and there are and will continue to be many desperate attempts to keep it going. There will be many desperate attempts to keep people divided against each other. These attempts are all around us already. It won’t get better soon. When we have enough rational people, societies will change without war. I don’t think we have enough rational people yet.

This is a reason to build your RC Community. We are one of the best producers of rational minds, and in a crisis we need as many of those minds as possible. Don’t think that building the Community is a small, personal thing. It has a big implication in this period. The more we build, the less destruction will occur and the better the result will be. We can play a significant role. You can play a significant role. None of us are quite ready yet, and none of us were ever told that we could play a significant role, but we can decide to do it. Someone has to go first. It may as well be us. We can try, and find out what we can do. We need to discharge on war to be able to do that. We need to be able to fight with our full minds, without violence. That will be a new phenomenon; it will be interesting.

I once interrupted a fight between two guys. One had the more aggressive pattern. I said, “You can’t do this.” And he said, “Or else what?” I said, “You can’t do this. There’s no ‘or else.’” (laughter) That interrupted it. Maybe it confused him, I don’t know. But I think I had the right attitude—that this must stop. There is no other alternative. Progress is in that direction.

We are going in that direction. It may be hard. We may be slow. We may make mistakes. But we are going there together. We have to discharge the distresses that confuse us about that, and one of the big confusions is that in desperation we must be violent. I don’t think that’s true, but none of us can remember it well. So we have discharging to do so the perspective is solid in our minds.

Have fun! It should be fun. Doing hard things should be fun, because we get to move the world forward, together. I think that’s what every child wants at the beginning. So we get to fulfill our childhood dreams. I’m sorry we are so late in getting to that, but let’s do it now.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 185, October 2016)


Last modified: 2020-07-01 09:06:00+00