“..I bit my tongue and stood in line
With not much to believe in
I bought into what I was sold
And ended up with nothing
This is not my idea of a good time ..”
– Garbage, “not my idea”
This started as a comment at Poetry of Flesh’s blog… but it got too long, and meandered in different directions. None of this is an argument for anything, it’s more along the line of thinking out loud, ideas that floated in my mind while reading
Words that we use, labels that we adopt, in describing ourselves and others, often reflect the ways in which we perceive reality. Reality as we encounter it, reality as it encounters us. They also reflect how we have been taught and conditioned to perceive reality, as we encounter it.
Not every perception is accurate, we sometimes misperceive things. So every perception has the trace of the real lingering in it, a faint trace like a scent of perfume, as we step into a space previously occupied by someone else. Sometimes a stronger scent, and sometimes a weaker scent.
As we encounter each other as human beings, this mundane daily meeting of people has power lurking under the surface. This increases when the encounter is emotionally intimate. That intimacy can be of friendship, it can be of combat (for there is an intimacy between enemies), it can be a sensual intimacy, or a sexual intimacy (for the two are not necessarily the same). Of sexual intimacies there can be amour, love, and Eros, lust and desire. Lust gets a bad rap in modern English, the word originally had a deeper meaning than it does now. Probably because people were once capable of feeling and experiencing things in a deeper way.
Deeper is not always better, but it remains deeper.
A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with a few friends, Tom L., A. K., a couple of her friends from Russia, and a few others. Somehow the topic of the Arab Israeli conflict came up. I’m obviously Muslim, Tom is a former Catholic (who typically make the best Heretics, or at least the most logical heretics) and his position against the Jewish State is more hardliner than mine. A. K. is very sympathetic to the suffering of Palestinians under occupation, and very conscious of the history of abuses that European Jewish immigrants perpetuated in setting up the state. I am finding that many Jews are extremely cognizant of things done that few like to speak about. And I am finding many have the courage to call bullshit bullshit, and call evil evil. A.k. also has family in Israel, she has been to Israel. There are generations of people now living in Israel who settled there, where the sins of the parents may be theirs, what of the children for whom this is home, that they have only known?
And so we argued and debated and discussed and danced around, trying to speak honestly without also speaking hurtfully.
A.K finally threw out a provocative card on the table, the statement is one of those sort of things that can hit you in the forehead whether you want it to or not. Quoth she:
“The only thing that is going to stop all of this, is if you have a bunch of Muslim Palestinian men together with a bunch of Jewish Israeli women, and they get together and they fuck. So they marry and fuck and pop out a bunch of babies who are both, and then they can put an end to this bullshit.”
She put this bluntly, on purpose. There may be something to this.
Labels can be accurate, or less than accurate, to the degree human language is able to convey meaning. Sometimes our language isn’t capable of conveying and describing fuller ranges of meaning. So if we draw up absolute beliefs, based on relative descriptions, then we risk falling into delusion.
All delusion has a core of fact. This is sharply, keenly, the case when it comes to sex, and love.
Other people’s delusions about love marriage and sex, or our own sexual romantic marital delusions, have some core of fact, in experience.
There is something we encounter, that hurts us or benefits us. The whole danger is universalizing what’s particular, and using words in a way that conceals some shades of meaning and reveals others.
“Prick”, “cunt”, “tease”, “slut”, “whore”, “stud”, “sexy”, “hottie”, “mudturtle”, what have you.
Such words, through which we describe the sexuality of ourselves, or others, also affects our very perception of sexuality. It is a feedback loop. We choose words that seem to fit partially, and the words mold how we see things increasingly.
So if I call a woman a girl and a man a guy or a woman a gal and a guy a boy, these choices of words influence perception.
If I call a woman lusty and wanton, or if I call her a slut or whore, if I call a man a stud, or alpha, or a douche, or rake, or man whore, or beta, or wimp, or nice guy, and so on – my perceptions of that person are influenced, to some degree, by the term I choose.
There is no such thing as “just words” words are among the most powerful things there are.
All of the terms may be accurate in some way, and inaccurate in other ways.
Great power seethes beneath every encounter with each other, power to influence and be influenced, by someone’s perception of reality, in some way.
This is power that is easily misused. This is power that can be used for mutual benefit, mutual joy, mutual pleasure, and mutual wonder – and this is power that can be used to gain advantage and benefit, without mutuality, in which only one party benefits, at the expense of the other.
None of this is absolute, it has degrees.
How we describe ourselves, and each other, and how we relate to each other matters. What we call each other, all of it matters.
In a strange way other people’s labels and names also affect our own perceptions. We filter reality as we perceive it largely through the screen of the words we use to describe it, and the concepts these words represent, and other people’s words and labels influence us.
Someone might be driven nuts to realize that for many people, one’s desirability is not based on one’s brain, or character, or morals, but their appearance, and that this is socially accepted and not questioned.
But isn’t this both the case for most men and women alike, while also only being part of the full story for both? And isn’t it the case only to some degree, and degrees not absolutes?
Perhaps there is a basic division in this between males and females, where men are primarily attracted to women on more visual and appearance criteria – if a woman’s primary desirability to many men is mostly visual this, then, annoys many people. It also delights many other people. In any case it very well may be part of a male’s biology, something nature herself engendered.
A corresponding tendency can be seen in females self display and self adornment. This tendency may be easily influenced by society and culture, but in itself remain natural and innate and just a social construct. Both of this implies a type of reciprocity here. Nature is molded and influenced by nurture of course, cultures can amplify, or suppress, or stomp it into the ground on jackboot’s edge, but things still re-emerge once suppressed.. and with a vengeance.
At the end of the day girls tend to delight in putting flowers in their hair, and boys tend to look.
But it’s not the full story, for either boys or girls, men or women. Women too are moved deeply by a man’s appearance, some admit this others do not, but they are also moved deeply by character, by personality and traits, some of which feed into appearance (a strong healthy body is beautiful and it reflects an inward strength, or ability, or prowess, which is more deeply attractive.
Does anyone remember that band from the 90’s “Chixdiggit” ? Amusingly enough the name says it all. I’ve got Chixdiggit playing on my CD changer now, sandwiched between Junkyard Band’s “Sardines”, and Black Flag’s “Loose Nut”. Tchaikovsky follows on the rotation, then Ministry.
Listening to Chixdiggit I’m convinced that one explanation for the band’s music is, well, that chicks digit. There are girls who only go for band boys, it doesn’t matter how mediocre the band is they will drop trousers for them (which isn’t a dig at Chixdiggit, I sort of like them. They sound like every punk band from 1988 to 1996 I’ve heard. But they are competent musicians.)
How many hot girls go for freestyle rappers? The ability to confidently and smoothly freestyle is deeply attractive to many girls, it’s a form of prowess, of manly display. Last week I was hanging out in Lexington, at Common Grounds, and a local freestyler started mingling around the room. Delighting gaggles of Kentucky bred girly girl middle class college students. They tumbled over themselves giggling over themselves, with the exception of a couple of lesbians at a nearby table who seemed somewhat unimpressed.
How many girls go for skateboarders? How many boys learn to skate, or to rap, or to lift weights, or to write poetry, or to play guitar, or to write songs, or to do any number of things as a form of display to catch the eyes of cute chicks?
At the same time, the athlete’s body, or physical beauty as perceived by a woman may be different than how a man perceives it.
A long time ago I dated a girl who blurted out that I was ‘pretty” and how that was weird. I asked how? She said that usually what she finds attractive in a man’s features reflects his “character” a scar, or wrinkles, or an asymmetric nose. A roughness turned her on. She mentioned a couple of actors who I considered to be ugly, and she thought they were beautiful. I mentioned Johnny Depp and she thought he was horrendous. Why, I asked, “because he’s pretty” well what about me “well you’re an exception”. Interesting….
I think that there are many things in our culture that influence the way in which men and women see each other.
We see, but do we truly see?
And what do we see when we look?
I think it’s safe to say that what moves many women when it comes to a man’s attractiveness is less about male beauty and more about the man’s character and how his appearance reflects it. So what many women may find more attractive is a matter of behavior or state, and how a man’s behavior or state makes her feel. Men, I think, largely are worshipers of the physical form. There are exceptions in both cases, and it’s a matter of degree. It’s more complicated than all of this, I make no attempt to avoid gross simplifications here.
All of this can be made into stereotypes, and stereotypes while based on the real can also obscure the fullness of the reality of what’s going on. Like, with many female friends I’ve noticed there clearly is a matter of a man’s desirability based on his appearance, just like for men. But it’s a matter of degrees. And in both cases looks can get you in the door, but then you may need to have something else to back it up with.
With both, for all but the most crass, there are other aspects to desirability, like character or mind, but all of it boils down to how a person makes us feel. No one tends to make mating decisions on strictly logical grounds. Sexuality reflects us all at our most deeply irrational.
Who do men choose to marry, who do women choose to marry, how does this differ in more traditional cultures, versus in Western Europe or America (or the anglosphere in general)
Can it be that our cultures accentuate and suppress certain things – molding them and perhaps even distorting them?
If we travel a bit do we see how women and men in often find things other than appearance more, or less, desirable? But “sexual love” is physical love, so it makes sense that the physical affects our desirability. But is it not other than physical? How much is psychological, how much is emotional?
I think there is much about these matters that we are not being told.
At one time, finding a mate, and growing or building a family was part of the very purpose of our lives, not something we settled for. At one time this was the foundation of society. Everything that men and women did then, as now, was to choose or court, find or support, a mate, a lover, a bride, a groom. But now, unlike then, it acquires a sort of serial temporary sequence. The words we use to describe all of these things reflects our perceptions of them, one useful thing for us, perhaps, is examining and cleansing our words.
Our societies have changed, whether for better or for worse without a doubt they have changed. How do we adapt to those changes in ways that bring us closer to our true desires and yearnings? The deeper ones, not the shallow ones. What do we truly want, and what do we think we want? What do we truly need, and what do we think we need, what does our true heart desire, and what is it that we think, or that others have told us, our heart desires.
These are questions, for which I am presenting no answers. They are questions to mull over and muse over.
What is clear is this, for all of us, we have very little time to seek what we want to have in our lives.
24 hours brings us closer to the grave, our years stretch on, our bodies change, our minds change. It makes no sense, to me, to play mating games through our 30s and even into our 40s. The words and labels we use influences our perceptions. We speak of “settling down” someday, and we settle down with someone. We do not always speak of finding someone as much as settling down with. The finding is made to seem random, the settling is a matter of settling for second best perhaps, or least worse. There is the idea of losing our dreams and getting on with the business of life.
If there is something we want we should intelligently seek it, when where and how we can, and not waste too much time in doing so. I think our culture cheats us of much deeper fulfillment by fostering the idea in all of us that we have a long time to get to where we want or need to be. We don’t. 24 hours and a day is done. 360 days, and a year is done. 83,93 years maybe, and a life is done. When we look back at it, 40 years from now, what memories will we treasure?
And what will we regret?
Where Darwin believed that females choose, and males court, someone who thinks that it flips both ways has arrived at a greater truth.
I think that Darwin was often both correct and incorrect in certain matters, to the degree at which one can find oneself looking the relative as being absolute. Where what we really have is a dance, a dance in which there is reciprocity. Much probably depends on the value of the man and woman in question, the social value, the value as a mate.
Some are more highly valued, and will be chosen and courted at the same time, in those with higher perceived value will have multiple competitors vying. Older societies had a more clear understanding of the factors beneath our mating value, for example a thousand years ago, give or take, the Moroccan jurist Ibn Abi Zayd indicated among the many things governing the compatibility and suitability (al-kufuw) of a couple, and in deciding the dowry a groom would give to a bride, and similar matters, that along with birth and lineage, simple physical beauty conveyed higher status, among men other criteria ruled.
Such things are easily misunderstood, he was describing the social effects of our lineage, or lack thereof (something impossible to fully understand in a society in which bastardy becomes the norm) or are family name, or our occupation, or even our physical appearances. Which matters in both the case of men and women, but in one case the social effects and reactions to beauty differ.
Look at Shakespeare’s plays and read Chaucer, or look at the Japanese Tale of Genji. Everywhere where people became civilized enough to learn the arts of writing, look at what they describe as desirable for women, and for men. Look at how they differ, and look at where the similarities lie between all of this.
Throughout history, in every culture, clime, among every race of man, men and women both court, while women are mostly choosers, but there are men who too are choosers, and in both cases we just go about it in a slightly different way. Male choosers seem to be fewer in number than female choosers, but those few women court with passion.
So we return to labels. How we actually describe what we see in our own lives, in the lives of others, both our friends and enemies.
Our experiencing happiness or sadness, when we encounter people, each other, situations, and those people, and situations, are named or labeled in certain ways, can condition our further perceptions.
This is unavoidable, what can be changed is our perception of labels, names and words, and our perception of how others receive them. Being aware of this.
Labels are unavoidable, we speak and describe the world, what can be done is to make our labels more accurate, to better perceive how other peoples labels affect the way we see ourselves, the way we see them, the way they see ourselves, and the way they see their own inner realities.
Describe one woman as an easy slut, and describe another woman as a prize to be won, and our perceptions both of them and ourselves, based on our actions, starts to change.
Describe one guy as an alpha stud, another guy as a beta nice guy, and our perceptions shift. We perceive what is commensurate to the label, and sift out what is not.
What tends to get lost is what is it that we want, truly want, and what out of it can practically achieve, and why.
A broad problem with both Men’s Rights/MRA and Women’s Rights/Feminist bloggers, and with sexual or relationship bloggers, is an inability to truly question assumptions and beliefs without simply making them relative. Universalizing the relative. This is particularly the case when trauma results.
One of my best friends made the mistake of marrying a woman who… well, since she’s rather well known around these parts and probably to people reading this blog, let’s just say the two of them were not well suited for each other. He’s a handsome guy, a musician, very charismatic, and a consummate nice man, almost a worshiper of women. His experiences with his ex, and with other women he’s been dating, have jaded him to the point that he now has this “assholes get ahead and nice guys don’t” attitude. When he sincerely treats many women well, he gets pissed on (truly) and if he out of jades anger simply acts like an asshole this somehow brings him more respect from women around him. A rare occurrence for him because he’s genuinely nice (not in a supplicant or appeasing way, he’s just very pleasant and non demanding and likes to be nice to people)
He’s not a simpering wimp, he has options, being a very handsome musician means a certain percentage of women naturally would drop trousers for him anyway, but it is his nice gentleman like behavior to the women that come his way that seems to get him pissed and shat upon.
I’m increasingly convinced that part of the problem is his filter, the women he is choosing to be in his life are broken little dolls. Women with severe daddy issues, women who were raped, molested, dicked over and otherwise had horrible experiences growing up with men. So they don’t actually heal from these traumas rather they look for this sort of dynamic. And if they end up with a man whose life doesn’t fit in this dynamic they seem to try to actually precipitate it with drama. As if they are unhappy with a man unless he’s about to beat them with his belt buckle until they bleed, then throwing them over the side of a sofa arm and having his way with them. I said “as if” – in reality what is happening stems from incredible trauma and incredible pain – but conjoined with a lack of self consciousness and emotional maturity.
He himself has had incredible trauma, he probably could have other options with girls who emotionally are sounder, but it seems that there are so many broken dolls, and it seems that the broken dolls are the prettiest, at least in some milieus.
So this is a form of selection, mutual selection. Neither man nor women will find greater happiness until they select each other on healthier grounds.
What I am starting to notice, looking around me, at my friends, family, and my own life, is that we choose those we choose for a reason. The reason is not always good, in an objective way. I could explain it as a learning experience, which would be true, but there are certainly easier ways to learn. But would we be who we are today, had it not been for the choices we made in the past?
Would we indeed?
There is a fundamental problem with men and women, and that lies in not looking broadly at the world and each other, as we are, as the world is, with all of the nuances, both those confirming our views, and those contradicting our views. And then trying to make a synthesis, a joining of perceived opposites.
What I am finding, more and more, is that everyone has a view of the world that is more than just a “belief system”, rather is a real reaction to facts they encounter, and it is unique and nuanced and filtered through their subjectivities.
The enemy of our happiness, emotional, erotic, intellectual, spiritual, on any level, lies in delusions.
Both in the delusions of others and our own delusions. The more we question other peoples’ labels words and descriptions, as well as our own, and the more that we examine views and beliefs of others, as well as our own, without some sort of shallow “Kumbaya” relativistic attitude, but truly looking into the basis of other beliefs and our beliefs, then the more easily we may be able to sniff out what is truly authentic and real, and what is truly delusional and false, in our own ideas and beliefs about reality, about love, about life.