Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pornography Use and Other Violations: A Conversation Between Two White Men, part four

Here are the links to the whole conversation:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

CAUTION: What follows is a conversation between two men about their abusive behaviors toward girls, women, and others. Any survivor of child sexual abuse, rape, or other form of sexual violation and objectification may be quite triggered by portions of this exchange. All violative behaviors are named as such by at least one of the two people, critically, with remorse and/or regret. Both people do not currently use pornography.

Email #4 from Aussieguy:

You make some very useful points in your mail, such as describing my first story as "A memory of violation that you experienced as sexual". That really sums up a little thing that's been nagging at my brain for a while now, about how this stuff is not sex but is linked in my mind to sex. And it focuses on the bald fact that it is a violation. I committed a sexual assault at that age.

Your reminding me to think of the experience of the girl in that story is very confronting too. I think of myself as much more alert to a woman's experience of my sexuality now but I had not properly sat and thought about that particular girl's experience. It is frightening and very sad, reminding me of images of young children holding machine guns or other cruel intrusions of adult injustice into children's lives.

The idea that "males grow up to feel pervy, for example, but don't grow up feeling like systematic sexual violators" is also very eye-opening. It is something of a relief to really open myself and understand what I have been in my life, but it I am also very deeply sad. It is not like depression or despair, more that I want to have a good cry. Perhaps I will even be able to.

I am also excited by how clearly you explain the stuff about society appearing not to condone our abuse while actually requiring it, and also the point that it is the power of male sexuality that is dangerous. That last point is like the gorilla in the room: so glaringly obvious and terrible that no-one wants to address it.

Interestingly, I don't remember ever feeling any entitlement to look at women's bodies. I may have justified it or explained it away in some way but I think that in fact I just avoided reflecting on what I was doing. I shut down my awareness of my own experiences and with it my understanding of anyone else's experience too.

I am very confused about what the woman I saw in the shower felt. I saw that she was alarmed and she must have been embarrassed but afterwards she blamed herself. I apologised to her for looking in and she said she should not have left the curtain a bit open like that. I didn't tell her that I had opened it and I don't know if it occurred to her then or afterwards that I could have set up that horrible situation. I imagine her mulling it over in her mind and feeling revolted every time she considers the idea that I might have deliberately exposed her like that.

It was a fantasy of mine to be invisible too, and only for the purpose of hiding in women's rooms or shower blocks. Spy cameras and voyeur web sites are the high-tech equivalent of that fantasy, it seems. My fantasy is not quite reality for me though because I have so far resisted having the internet at home, so I do all my porn surfing surreptitiously on public computers. I try to set myself up in places where no-one can see what I'm looking at but it doesn't work very well. I have been caught probably half a dozen times that I know of and who knows how many times someone has seen what I'm doing and said nothing. My partner told me that if she was sitting next to someone and he was looking at porn she would be disgusted but also quite scared. She would not feel safe being near him. Even that, confronting as it is, did not instantly stop me from doing it.

I think a lot of it is, as you say, because I can. I can do it and I can get away with it. Even when I have been caught, it has not led to even moderate punishment, just momentary shame and that's all.

I saw a sexual health counsellor about this problem and she suggested setting things up to restrict my access to the internet. The counsellor I'm seeing now is not a sexual health specialist but he has been quite helpful already. Two things he told that have helped are that people usually take about 4-6 weeks to break a pattern of behaviour and start a new one, and the idea of saying "STOP!" in my head when my mind goes in the direction of porn or objectifying women. It's been really good to have a specified time period when I have to be 100% vigilant and then review where I'm at after that, instead of trying to just stop, forever, instantly. To know that I can expect my brain to have made a real change in that 6 weeks is a real encouragement to be firm and stay on track. And the "STOP!" thing is a good way to divert myself instantly before I get taken up with a behaviour pattern. My eyes will wander and start looking for a woman's cleavage as she bends over or something ad I say "STOP!" and look somewhere else, whereas before I may have stared at her, then at the next woman, then gone off actively looking for women to perve on, then gone to find a website to look at or a video with sex scenes in it to watch. So it helps me catch myself at the first moment of objectification instead of having to try to fight off the urge to watch porn when I've already followed my urges so far.

It's 4 weeks now, and I've been 100% vigilant so far. It feels like I'm really digging out some deeply held stuff.

There, I think that's enough for this one.
Until next time

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