The Disconnect

December 28, 2008

Here’s something I picked up from the Christian Nymphos in an interview Cinnamonsticks did with Shannon Etheridge:


Christian Nymphos: What are the most significant things that you see competing
with young people growing up with a healthy sexual understanding?*

Shannon Ethridge: Most teens think that if they are ever going to have good hot
sex, they’d better do it now when they are single, because once they get married
they probably won’t see much action. Where do they get that notion? From tons
of things they see in the media (frigid wives, frustrated husbands), but mainly
from their own parents’ relationship. Over 90% of teens say they don’t want a
relationship like the one their parents have, and most that I talk to insist
that their parents don’t even have sex. I usually laugh and ask, “How do you
think you got here if your parents don’t have sex?” Then they’ll acknowledge,
“Well, my parents must have had sex before, but based on how they treat each
other, I can’t imagine that they do anymore.” This is a sad report card, and a
wake up call for us parents.

To me, this perfectly captures a problem with marriage in modern times, and especially within Christian homes. There is a real disconnect between what we say we want for our kids and and what they are actually seeing from us. I can hear the song and dance espoused by church people everywhere about sex is a beautiful and wonderful thing within the committed relationship of marriage. True love is worth waiting for and yadda, yadda, yadda. Sex within marriage is WONDERFUL and WORTH WAITING FOR!

I’m sorry kids, but that is SO not true. It is a lie. It is such a blatant lie that it really and truly undermines every other thing that comes out of the church door. It makes the church a caricature of itself. Are church people really that stupid or are they deliberately just being deceptive? Because I am not seeing it in either quality or quantity. I see the potential for something much richer, but it does not seem to be playing out in real life. Or perhaps I am not old enough (and have not suffered enough) to see it realized. Of course, I’m talking about a genuine sense of trust and intimacy with regards to sexual relations.

So now I’m thinking about Proverbs chapter 7

6 For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
7 and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
8 passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9 in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.

10 And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
11 She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
20 he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”

21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23 till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.

Okay, I’m having a problem here. If I just look at verses 13-18 alone and omit everything else– You know what? I would kind of like that sort of attention! Seriously, who would not want to be sought eagerly and be offered the best seat in the house and be invited to take our fill of love till morning? I think what makes the guy foolish is that he only hears that part and ignores the rest. But that is the siren call that lures men away. Women are under the grossly mistaken impression that when a guy is viewing porn, he is looking at a body and she has to compete for that perfect body. Those women could not be more mistaken. It is the portrayal of availability and eagerness that makes the women of prOn more attractive. A nice body doesn’t hurt, for sure. But I know guys who are married to some pretty nice looking women who have struggled with porn. The struggle didn’t exist because of their wife’s looks, it was more her attitude of unavailability. Prostitutes make the bulk of their money from married guys who are not getting certain things done at home. And a lot of these porn/prostitute consumers are Christian married men.

On our end of it, we have to struggle with the attitude of our own entitlement. Our own selfishness. This is really where I am. There has been sex here (very little), but it has been bad sex because there has been so little intimacy around it. On FTN’s Quality Sex Metric (FQSM) I scored like a 4.5 or something. It was about as low as a couple could possibly have while being naked together. Arwyn was not really into it and my own realization of that did not help matters. The lack of eagerness, the lack of responsiveness to my touch, the lack of her initiating anything resembling intimacy….it has added up to a giant FAIL around here. The therapist has been 0% help here. We have not been meeting too regularly due to childcare and scheduling issues. And when we do meet, it does not seem to be very productive. I do notice that for a Tuesday night session, Arwyn will often be somewhat receptive on a Sunday or Monday night so there is a sort of accountability factor there. But she isn’t really into sex as a recreational activity. She never really has been although I think I was fooled into thinking it was early on.

So I am in a state of not being particularly festive. I have zero interest in going to a prostitute because what I really want is a relationship. I really want sex to be part of that relationship. Why am I being led to think that that is asking too much? And what of all the kids growing up in this sort of climate? There really isn’t a good way to talk about sex (or relationships) with them without being hypocritical about the mess that we live in. That I live in.

By not wanting sex with me, Arwyn might be living more authentically than I am. Why should I want intimacy with someone who seems to find me so unattractive? It’s not just about the sex. Stand back a minute while I noodle this out…

I say I want intimacy, which I define as knowing and being known. But it is also about being valued and having my values valued in a reciprocal fashion. I’m not exactly all sure about what that sort of reciprocity would look like exactly, since the person with the lowest desire for intimacy ultimately controls it. And that person is not me. In a sense it seems as though that the only people who are going to get as much intimacy as they want are the people who have the least need and desire for it. Such an odd and unfair economy. Arwyn exhibits very little desire for intimacy from me, or at least the sort of desire I want and need. She likes my time and my acts of service, but giving those does not translate into filling any of my intimate needs. Right or wrong, sex is a big part of that marital reciprocal expectation. If asking for more intimate acts are so far removed from Arwyn’s core values, she will never make any meaningful changes in that direction and it is unfair of me to ask her to make such an accommodation. All such sex would translate into mercy sex or pity sex or guilt sex, which it seems to be the most consistent part of the sexual diet. Ar least the diet consisting of two people. A one-person diet enables me to get along, but that might be part of the problem, too. I’m getting along miserably instead of being angry and confrontational. Geez, what kind of choice it THAT?!?!

Talking a bit about Chastity Devices

December 20, 2008

Okay, I’ve been too busy to post but not too busy to read and occasionally comment. I’m still alive!

While trying to keep up on my RSS feeds, a couple of articles really caught my attention. Actually a lot of them did until I read an article by one of the spice girls on the Christian Nympho blog. Cumingirl addresses a question about chastity devices, and my ears were totally up and zeroed in. After reading that, I went to visit our resident chastity expert, Tom Allen, to see if he had picked this little story up. He hadn’t, but his most recent post is certainly appropriate to the points that Cumingirl makes.

Cumingirl, meet Tom. Tom, meet Cumingirl.

Cumingirl fields a question from a guy who struggles with porn. At some point, he and his wife experiment with a chastity device in order to help him ditch the porn habit. After she loses interest in a few months, he is back to the porn. He asks what she thinks about chastity devices, and Cumingirl answers from her sincere Christian perspective, which is insightful whether you’re a Christian or not. Tom, who admits to being in the “not” category says the same thing as Cumingirl; if you have intimacy and relationship problems, no device or toy is going to solve it. A problem of the heart has to be addressed at the heart level. You can not solve an emotional or a spiritual problem with plastic or steel.

My own experiences into chastity confirm this. I was looking for a solution and while it provided a certain amount of short-term relief, it never did anything about the core intimacy issues. In fact, like Tom in his earliest forays into chastity, I ended up feeling even more neglected. Any kind of play where you are playing alone is going to come up empty and unfulfilling. It goes from being arousing to being lonely without the active and loving participation of a real intimate partner. First comes the intimacy. THEN perhaps, it can lead to higher highs.

I meant to address this back when I was posting on Schnarch last year, as I had some thoughts of how chastity played into differentiation. Basically, what I and most married guys who get into it are looking for, is more attention and intimacy but we are really attempting it through more fusion. The lock and key is an interesting metaphor for the fusion we are attempting. When attempted with a spouse who is naturally averse to greater intimacy, the result is fairly predictable. She may have some curiosity at first and perhaps some intrigue but it is mostly weird. Once she understands the concept she’ll be so reluctant that it will take all sorts of manipulation to get her to go along with it, however reluctantly. Using the idea of excessive masturbation, porn and cheating are all attempts to leverage shame, guilt or even anger into getting her to go along with something she is not really into. The idea is that once the wife gets a taste of the good life and you doting on her and doing all the chores and she gets all high on the power, that she will want to keep you locked up forever. VICTORY! Right?

No. Because at this point, some really stupid games commence. First off, the guy is going to do all sorts of stupid things in order to be punished. Or even worse, he’ll escape. Then the search is on for a more secure device. Tom really gives this myth of the escape-proof device some good treatment in his post, but it does need to be restated. There is no such thing. Some devices make escape more difficult but anyone with even a minimum amount of determination will be able to get out and get his rocks off. So security is a total myth. The IDEA of security can be immensely powerful, psychologically. But I’ll never forget the time I discovered how to pick the lock that came with the Curve. It totally wrecked that emotional dynamic. From then on, (after buying a better lock) I never tried to pick the lock again. Part of the attraction of this kink is the emotional roller coaster that Tom so eloquently describes. I really, really miss that but my wife would not be a participant in that and it would eventually lead to more resentment if I chose that path with out her active and at least somewhat positive participation.

Emotional fusion always leads to a dynamic where a person is either grasping and clutching or actively trying to avoid. Spouses tend to alternate roles, thus one spouse pursues while the other avoids until the pursuer tires and the then they switch roles. Instead of facing each other and squaring off, there is a tendency to always be facing the other’s back. So in the D/s dynamic that many chastity folk aspire to, the sub invariably tops from the bottom by some form of manipulation and the dominant (woman) may even go along with it for a time. But being differentiated means being able to live and share with someone intimately without being so enmeshed that any emotional anxiety they have automatically spills over. It’s one thing to be empathetic and supportive, but that’s hard to do when both people are going to pieces! Living with another person’s uniqueness is a really difficult thing to do, but it is developmentally crucial. Wearing a chastity device isn’t going to help at all. It can lead to temporary relief of a sort, but failing to address core intimacy issues will only result in a rebound effect that leaves even more resentment than existed before.

Cumingirl does not condemn chastity play and says it can be a part of a sexual repertoire just like any other sex toy. She admits that it isn’t her thing, but says it is okay if both partners are into it. I would extend her comments by saying that there might be a place for this type of play for Christian couples as they explore the effects of tease and denial. It can be a very powerful emotional experience for both as long as neither feels forced or manipulated into it. The most interesting scenarios I’ve read are when it is not truly a D/s thing at all. The guy knows he can get out any time he wants, but chooses not to. The woman, knowing this, also appreciates the gesture he makes in handing her the keys to his favorite toy. The key (and by extension, his manhood) becomes precious to her. She thinks of him and he thinks of her. It’s not something that is forced, manipulated or coerced. If a guy wants out, he should be free enough and willing enough to ask to be let out or at the least, safe-word out. If she gets tired of the game, she can freely opt out. There simply needs to be some understanding of each other’s needs in a way that is not destructive or that ignores other problems within the relationship.

Using a chastity device somehow in conjunction with the teaching in 1st Corinthians 7 seems like a better answer, to me. If it is by mutual agreement, it can be a tremendous time of emotional bonding where sexual tension can help increase spiritual devotion and attention. By sharing one another’s thoughts and sensations this is actually a way to increase differentiation (because the experiences are in fact unique between the one locked and the keyholder) and appreciating one another’s uniqueness and gifts without insisting they be exactly like us. I would really like to have that sort of bonding, but I do have my own issues of intimacy to deal with and work out. I do miss that psychological intensity where the chastity cage really focused me in on my wife.

Why aren’t I more like that all the time? Why rely on a $200 piece of plastic to get me to focus? For one, I’m rather thick emotionally and too full of selfishness and pride. The plastic cage does provide some amount of mental bending that leads to some extra opportunities for reflection. Like those 2 and 5 a.m. wake-up calls. Those really help knock my head into a different space. The awareness (and somewhat discomfort) make the subtleties of of my emotional neediness more blatant. Admittedly, that can get old for a woman who might be bothered by that sort of thing fairly quickly. She doesn’t need any more children and childish foolishness! But as Tom said, without the teasing the denial just turns into neglect and loneliness. I think that’s where the rebound comes into play. Once I get out from under the influence of the cage, I realize how little attention I have been receiving and get bogged down in resentment. And that’s all me, because I go into it relying on my wife to give me that extra attention. While wearing the cage I do become more needy for attention, but can subsist on smaller morsels. Hand holding takes on new and more exciting dimensions that would not otherwise happen. But I also become more keenly aware of the rejection and avoidance. And I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. There’s some comfort in numbness but there is also a lack of vibrancy, too.