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Posts tagged ‘behavior’

Love and Feminism

imagesUntil I read Bell Hooks books on feminism and love – Communion: The female search for love and All About Love – I would have sworn that I supported women (and men’s) liberation in every aspect of my life. But after the first few chapters I became painfully aware of the fact that I haven’t applied the same understanding and equality I try to faithfully practice at work, with friends, raising children and doing household chores to my intimate romantic life.

In Communion, Ms. Hooks says, “Some men cared enough to consent to feminist thinking and to change, but only a very, very few loved us – loved us all the way. And that meant respecting our sexual rights.”

I always think of my partners pleasure and satisfaction during sex and am turned on by her joy as much or more than my own sensations, but I also see how I have used coercion, control, emotional distancing and blame in the past to get what I wanted. I continually gave her the message (unconsciously and nonverbal) that she was never “good enough”. I always wanted her to be more sexual more often with greater variety and be different than she was or is, in order to fulfill my desires, perceived needs and fantasies. The underlying implications were “if you don’t change or be more like I want you to be, I’ll have to leave and find someone else.” It created a sense of fear and rejection.

Seeing this reality shattered my self-image of always being a loving, caring man and helped me acknowledge how often I and the continually reinforced messages from society, have caused such intense and long lasting loneliness for those women seeking loving, shared partnerships with men. Hooks states, “Feminist silence about love reflects a collective sorrow about our powerlessness to free all men from the hold patriarchy has on their minds and hearts. Our heartache came from facing the reality that if men were not willing to holistically embrace feminist revolution, then they would not be in an emotional place where they could offer us love.”

I began to realize that it is love and connection that I desire most, not sex. I no longer need sex to reassure me that I am loved or wanted. In the past, having someone desire and want me sexually meant that they loved me. If they didn’t have sex as often as I wanted I reacted out of fear and sadness believing it meant they didn’t love me completely. Out of this sadness I would react with frustration and anger by trying to get them to “prove” their love for me with sex or by emotionally distancing myself and not talking in order to “protect” myself from having expectations or “being hurt”.

These reactions and I believe that of most men, are not realities I have totally ignored, but until reading hooks words I hadn’t really taken them to heart and honestly confronted my own patriarchal fears and thinking in the matter of love and relationships. It felt like Bell had me in her sights when she said, “Feminist women stopped talking about love because we found that love was harder to get than power. Men, and patriarchal females, were more willing to give us jobs, power, or money than they were to give us love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo.”

While reading Communion some kind of switch went on in my head. At first it opened the floodgates of grief over my part in perpetuating such alienation and pain. Then a kind of peace engulfed me – a new found love and acceptance of myself and my partner. I am less stressed and anxious about the future and don’t try to make people be different than who they are. Is it any surprise that my partner has also experienced more peace with herself and in bed? She no longer has to worry or wonder if she will ever “be enough” or meet my suffocating patriarchal images of how she “should” be.

As I learn to love, without depending on her to fulfill or “make” that love, she to is finding that our mutual appreciation and respect for what is present, rather than what is absent, has deepened every aspect of our lives. Neither of us need the other person’s “approval” to love or be loved.

Ms. Hooks insightfully reminds her readers that, “Knowing that both women and men are socialized to accept patriarchal thinking should make it clear to everyone that men are not the problem. The problem is patriarchy.” The problem is our refusal to acknowledge our own behavior in the most intimate moments of our lives and the fear of real connection and closeness that keeps us perpetuating the myths and lies about the minor differences of genes, gender and genetics.

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Peace Through Pleasure

The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure
An Alternative Great Ape Paradigm for Human Sexuality

By Susan M. Block, Ph.D.
Gardner & Daugthers, Publishers, 2014
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TheBonoboWay3If pleasure is heaven then The Bonobo Way is heaven sent. The experience and insight of Dr. Susan Block and her understanding of human sexuality and the pleasure seeking and sharing Bonobo apes (who live south of the Congo River in East Africa and have 99% of the same DNA as humans), may surprise you and turn any preconceived expectations and judgments about bonobo’s and human’s upside down and inside out.

Ms. Block begins by telling the tale of her first encounter with the Bonobo at a zoo, its effects on her marriage and the rest of her life. She discovered what she calls The Bonobo Sutra, and says, “The list of bonobo sex activities is more impressive than the original Kama Sutra.” She also learned about the revolutionary way Bonobos use sex for conflict resolution and that there are no known instances of them ever murdering, raping or attacking fellow Bonobos or other species. This may be true, in large part, because of the matriarchal structure of Bonobo communities and families. “I call them the most feminist apes on Earth,” says Dr. Block.

Sex and food are shared by all, but it is the female Bonobo who decides when, how and if she chooses to indulge in either. Food and sex also seem to go “hand in hand”. Opposite from most ape cultures, Bonobo boys stay with their mothers until late in life and it is the girls who migrate to another group at childbearing age. New females are accepted into their new group and clan, with food, sex and emotional bonding. The author says, “If you’re a bonobo female, your gal pals have your back.”

After Dr. Block has explained some of the research and her experiences, with the Bonobo, she then shows how their way of life and behavior has, is and could be, incorporated into human well-being and sexual relations. She says, “In essence, The Bonobo Way offers an alternative great ape paradigm for human behavior, especially (but not exclusively) sexual behavior.” And, “Our emotional wiring is closer to the peaceful, sexual bonobo than to the brutal, militaristic chimpanzee.” The basic Bonobo steps for human’s to incorporate into our lives are that 1) Pleasure heals pain. 2) Doing good feels good. 3) You can’t fight a war very well if you’re having an orgasm.

As a sex therapist and facilitator of Bonoboville (a speakeasy, pleasure den for invited consenting adults, which is on the radio and sometimes filmed), Dr. Block has developed a 12-Step Program, which she encourages humans to follow. Some of the steps include – Go Bonobos in Bed, Outercourse Is In, Mix Food and Sex, Create Your Own Bonoboville, and Swing Through Life.

The Bonobo Way takes care to develop this way of life ethically and looks closely at the questions it raises, and says it is not a one size fits all program. Dr. Block doesn’t minimize others concerns or questions about living The Bonobo Way, but deftly addresses them with research, examples, and most importantly, her history with her marriage, studies, counseling practice and Bonoboville. One may deny or differ with her ideas, concepts or philosophy, but not with her personal perception and story, as it is her experience alone (or in this case with many others), which is being shared.

If you get a copy of The Bonobo Way, there is a strong possibility that you will find yourself drawn too and/or resonating with living a Bonobo way of life, as well as wanting to help protect them from extinction. The last step of the The Bonobo 12-Step Program is, “Save the Bonobos, Save the World”.

Our Children’s Lives and Losses

Adults can be just as scared of death as children and are often unsure what to do or say when they and/or their children are touched by death’s presence.

Children in preschool often want to know the nitty-gritty details about death. Questions such as, “Where did they go? What happens to them under the ground?” or “When will they come back?” are common.

We can answer without needing to give details and if unsure of the answer our selves say so. Replies such as, “They went to heaven,” if that is what you believe or “They went back to the earth.” will work, but be prepared to describe what going to heaven or back to the earth means, because some kids want to know. It is also perfectly reasonable to say, “I don’t know where they went; what do you think?”

I recall a girl who was seven years old when her mother died suddenly. Her father tried to comfort her by saying, “God took Mommy to heaven to be with Him and Grandpa.” The girl became terrified that her father would be taken too and said, “If God can take Mom, what about you? Who will take care of me when God takes you?” Her father tried to assure her that it wasn’t “his time” and that he would “always be there,” but only time and her father’s consistent presence began to provide any assurance.

There was a friend of my teenage son whose father died after a long illness. I heard him telling my son that some of his relatives told him, “It’s for the best. Your father was so sick.” He said his grandfather told him he had to, “Be strong for your mother.” My son’s friend didn’t understand how losing his father could “be for the best”, and he didn’t feel “strong”, he felt helpless, overwhelmed and alone. He needed his mother and other adults to be strong for him, not the other way around.

Euphemisms and cliches about death provide little comfort and can create confusion, frustration and feelings of not being heard or taken seriously.

As a parent, relative, teacher or friend of a child who’s facing death, here’s what you can do to help.

Provide honest, pertinent information appropriate to your child’s developmental age.

Though there are exceptions, children under five generally do not comprehend that death is permanent. They can, however, feel the emotional atmosphere in there surroundings and respond to the reactions of significant others. Children from age five to nine have more comprehension about the finality of death. They may see death as “real”, but not something which applies to them. Young adults, ten and older, can usually recognize the finality of death, including the probability of their own. The understanding can affect their sense of safety and security.

When asked what death means or where someone who died has gone, be true to yourself and your beliefs, but pay attention to the words you use and how they may be construed. Instead of saying “Grandpa went to sleep or is on a long trip.” I’ve heard parents say, “Grandpa died. He will not be coming back. We’ll always remember him and he’ll always love you.”

Reassure your child that their feelings are normal and provide outlets for them through physical activity, art, music, writing, daily check-ins, remembrance projects (baking, gardening, making a collage or memory book).

Find support and comfort for yourself in healthy ways – talk to someone you trust, join a grief group, get enough sleep, stay physically active, write in a journal.

Let children know you are willing to share what you know and be honest about what you don’t.

LISTEN to grieving children without trying to make it better or offering advice. They, like adults, don’t always need to be “fixed” or “rescued”. What they often want most and seldom receive, is someone who will be present to whatever they are experiencing without telling them what to do or how to be.

Notify the school and teacher of a death in the family and inform them of any concerns or changes that are or will be taking place in your child’s life as a result of the loss.

What are often referred to as “secondary losses” even though they can be just as primary as having someone die, also need to be acknowledged and addressed. Some of these can include a change in caregivers, school or living environment and having to adjust to life in a different location, living with an unknown relative and/or making new friends and leaving others.

If you feel your child is exhibiting unusual behavior for an exceptionally long period of time and/or aren’t sure what is considered “unusual”, seek help from a qualified professional, such as a therapist, counselor or hospice grief/bereavement program.

There is no magic formula for grieving and healing from loss. Do the best you can. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself and those around you. Everyone grieves in their own way and their own time . . . including the children we love.

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