I found from my experience that I too easily fell into this trap. How could I have done it differently?
As a young man I left home to go and work in the theatre. This was not quite running away to join the circus, but it felt like it. There I learned about sex and power. The theatre world I became part of was full of misfits. We were people who didn’t fit normality, people who wanted to stand out, to be different. Sex was always a hot issue; dealing with it made me grow up faster than I expected.
I was young, fresh looking and clearly inexperienced. I was prey for women and men. This might seem to be an ideal situation for a young man, one that many would do anything to get into. I thought that but found that it wasn’t quite so easy.
It took me time to distinguish between fun, consensual sex for enjoyment and sex that was used by a person to dominate or control another. At first I found it impossible to distinguish between the two. After all sex is sex—right—what is there not to enjoy? As a guy it was difficult to understand how often I was not in control.
Sex and power
Sex is too often about power and dominance rather than simple enjoyment. I saw this in sharp definition when I went to work in a strip club in London’s Soho. In Soho terms the club was sophisticated: it had a bar so the show had an interval to enable customers to spend all their money. This was an innovation in Soho where usually all the strip club shows ran for a continuous two hours and were repeated 6 times a day.
Working as a stagehand in the club, I found that the most important job I had was to catch clothes. The shows around Soho were co-ordinated so the girls could appear in as many as they could in two hours. To do this efficiently they needed to take their costumes with them. So I had to stand at the side of the stage, catch the clothes as they were discarded and gather them together so the artist could grab them as she came offstage and keep running to her next slot.
I was unimportant to the girls because I meant neither money nor power to them. They despised the punters as the lowest scum, they just wanted strip club sex. To pay for sex through voyeurism was OK as long as the girls earned from it, but the men who needed to pay for this meant nothing. The girls meant nothing to me, they were just naked girls I spent all day with. This was a disturbing experience for a young man.
I found that sex came my way usually only because someone wanted something, either quick gratification or connection for a reason. Love or affection was sadly lacking.
Marriage and sex
Later on I got married and had children and I thought that was all behind me. After many years my marriage started to fall apart. I became angry with my wife and used sex to try and control her. Specifically I withdrew sex to try and dominate her and make her think how her behaviour was affecting me.
Did it work? Of course not, but I did not realise that until much later, when it was too late.
Dominance at its most extreme exists in marriage. Rape and sexual abuse are not restricted to strangers. It is a fact that abuse is far too common in intimate relationships. For me, though, it is the less obvious, more insidious control, or dominance that creates a culture where violence can happen.
How can men ensure this does not happen?
I have found it interesting watching the British ‘Apprentice’ TV show to see how much the men talk over the women. They do it all the time. The start of expressing power is not listening to the other person. This is especially so by men over women. This tells women that are not important.
Put sex in its place.
Sex is about experiencing something beautiful between two people. It was never meant as just self-gratification, whether on your own or with another. Pornography is a classic example of how the wrong view of sex distorts our involvement with it. It is about control, of yourself and of the partner you imagine being with. Sex is about something mutual, it is something to give to the other person.
It need not always be about sex. Intimacy, just being with each other and feeling that powerful glow, can sometimes by far more powerful than sex. For men, sex can be over quickly, leaving the woman high and dry, intimacy can go on for a long time and mean far more.
Do not use sex as a weapon.
Rape and abuse use sex as a weapon. Sex can also be used as a weapon in more subtle ways. I used it by withdrawing it from my first wife to try and hurt her. I wanted to show her how angry I was, and how much I wanted her to change. All it succeeded in doing was driving a bigger wedge between us.
Find another method of self-validation.
Many of us were taught when growing up that we could validate ourselves among our peers by showing off about sex. I was not very good at this when I was young so it took me a long time to feel good about myself. I worked this through by simply being dominant. That took me down a dead-end road that took me years to get out of.
Get in touch with your soul.
This has been the most successful way I have found to get beyond the idea that there is a legitimate connection between sex and power. It was only when I could truly understand that we are all connected through our souls that I could treat women as true equals. It was sad that I did not do that naturally, even sadder that I did not realise this for a long time.
How do you men look on women? What do you do to remove any idea of power from sex?
If you enjoyed this article you may like to read some other relevant articles by Graham Reid Phoenix:
- Today I Felt the Shame of Being a Man
- Great Relationships – Don’t Faint When I Say Men Can Create Them
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