23 August, 2011

There is nothing dirty about low-fives


This article just made me so angry.

Listen, I get that there are people with legitimate sexual addiction (just like some people are addicted to video games, food, and shopping, regardless of what the article says). I get that some people might want to reduce their masturbatory or pornography-viewing habits. These are both true things, and there's nothing wrong with it. 

However, these people are senseless. 
"For me, I found myself really clinging to certain personality types, those opposite of my dad," she says when she's back on. The assignment for this week, she tells the women, is to write down their sexual histories. "I know it's overwhelming, but don't be defeated by this," she says. 
I just feel like this starts a whole opening for slut-shaming. Will the women who have had a lot of casual sex be treated differently - like they're more "dirty"?
"Whether you believe it or not, women are addicted to porn," Renaud preached in a recent sermon. "You'd be surprised at how many women—women in your own lives—are hiding this deep, dark, and dirty secret."
There's that word again. "Dirty." Unless you don't wash your downstairs, there's nothing dirty about masturbation. There's plenty of good things about masturbation! Look:

Tah-dah! Look! It's not just craaazy ho-bags saying that sex is great for you! Even Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG organization is like, get laid! Have orgasms! 
And you know what? Masturbating allows you to figure out what your body likes so that you have better orgasms, which lead to better sex and more orgasms during sex, which increase your likelihood of becoming pregnant (if you're into that sort of thing). 
Renaud's advocacy is labeled antipornography, but it aims to treat all masturbation, whether it involves porn or not. When you peel back the layers, the core of her crusade is against sexual thought—even within marriage—unless those thoughts are about your husband while you are engaging in intercourse with him.
Why is this idea of women thinking about sex so horrible? What is wrong with a woman having fantasies? Having a strong, fulfilling sex life with your partner can make you less likely to cheat or become disinterested in them. Fantasizing about situations outside of your standard sex habits can spice up your sex life, open up new avenues for sex positions... There is a point where it can become excessive. If you can't think of your partner sexually anymore, yes, it's an issue. Otherwise, not so much.
Mental purity is a state of mind Renaud came to after years of struggle. When she was 10, she discovered a dirty magazine in her older brother's bathroom. She had never seen male genitalia before; she became increasingly curious and began to search for pornography. When she hit puberty, she says, her curiosity turned into compulsion, and she added masturbation to her porn-seeking behavior. At 15, she attended a Christian summer camp and heard the pastor talking about "a Father in heaven who loves you unconditionally regardless of what you do." From then on, she became active in the church and vowed to end her masturbation and porn habits.
At age 15, you know very little about sex and very little about yourself. As someone who spent a lot of time covertly (and not so covertly) looking at pornography and masturbating at an early age, I know now that a lot of that was 1) it felt really good, and 2) it was exposure to something deeply taboo. I have to wonder how much Renaud was exposed to sex, if she was allowed to watch PG-13 movies or was taught about sex properly. Oh, wait -
Renaud didn't date in high school, and she has never had a boyfriend. "I would love to find 'the one' and get married and start a family," she says. "When the time comes, God will bring him about, and it will happen." But in the meantime, she hopes more women will break free from their addiction to sexual stimulation and embark, with her, on a 12-step path to salvation.
How old is Ms. Renaud? I couldnt' find it anywhere. But how can you speak about women's sexuality and say you were addicted to sexual stimulation without ever having a boyfriend or dating or experiencing what sexual stimulation is outside of masturbation? How can she counsel these women without ever experiencing or truly understanding what they're going through as an adult?
Dirty Girls member Amy Christine Proctor, a self-described addict and a flight attendant from Colorado, started masturbating while she was visiting chat rooms on AOL. Unmarried and a virgin at 30, Proctor has struggled with her sexual identity since puberty, believing her same-sex thoughts are a sin. Last year, she says, she was masturbating almost daily, sometimes twice a day. To rehabilitate herself, she became an active member of Dirty Girls Ministries and started driving two hours to attend a 12-step program for sex addicts called Heart to Heart. But when she realized the masturbation was stemming from underlying sexual-identity issues, she switched to a program called Where Grace Bounds that deals with "sexual brokenness and homosexuality," while remaining an active member of the Dirty Girls forums.
This makes me so sad. So, so very sad. It says in the next paragraph that Proctor still has relapses, and I am so sorry to hear that she feels so guilty and so badly about sexuality and sex and masturbation. My feelings on same sex thoughts aside, the term "sexual brokenness" just makes me nervous. What are they referring to? A lot of the newsletters from Where Grace Abounds (Not "Where Grace Bounds" - there is no such organization) speak about sexual abuse, but it sounds mostly like they're saying that you're not wholesome if you're a homosexual and that you need to become holy by purifying your sexuality. Yes, masturbation daily to twice-daily can interfere with your life, but feeling guilty about sex and denying your own sexual identity could make it worse. 
Many have viewed their masturbation habits as products of emotional burdens or past traumas, and they describe the rehab process as therapeutic. They say they have found support, community, and friendship in Renaud's group and feel relieved to finally discuss the taboo subject freely
If their dependence on sex is based on emotional burdens or past traumas, those things should be identified by a psychologist and proper therapy should be prescribed. Rehab could be helpful. Support groups are GREAT. But I have to wonder if a lot of the benefits of these programs have more to do with being able to talk about their issues and speak about something that is typically so repressed.
Sex therapist Betty Dodson, for example, believes the word addiction belongs only in the substance-abuse category and sees labeling sexual desire as addiction as a form of manipulation. "This is going to mess them up, because now whenever they have any kind of desire to read about sex or look at images of sex, it's going to be accompanied by guilt," she says. "And guilt is the most worthless thing on the planet. People are manipulated by it through religion all the time." 
Yes, yes, and YES. At least someone here is sensible. Shaming people or building up guilt within them regarding sex does nothing less than harm. How many people who have felt guilty over sex have contemplated or committed suicide or self harm? It's so damaging. 
One forum commenter married at 19 in the hope that pious matrimonial intercourse would rid her of her sinful thoughts—only to find that during sex with her husband, she would have the same fantasies. "I cannot cleanse my mind of these images," she says. "I try so hard to focus on my husband only, but my thoughts are so warped." 
This is so sad. Getting married early hoping it will reduce your "sinful thoughts" may be more of a problem than the thoughts themselves! It's such an unhealthy reason to get married. It's possible she has no interest in her husband, or that she's not having orgasms or that she feels SO guilty about thinking about sexually stimulated things that she doesn't communicate with her husband, leaving both of them unsatisfied. Speaking to her husband about it might help them find some sort of compromise with her fantasies, or help him find out how to make her feel good, but if she's this ashamed of it, she might never be willing to talk to him.

So many of these women sound so lost and so alone. The support system is a good idea, and some women may need REAL rehabilitation, but repeating how dirty and wrong it is to think of sex, and insisting that women can't have fantasies or enjoy pornography (women-friendly porn does exist and even regular porn can help people get more of what they want out of their regular relationships) is terrible. Masturbation can be so good for you. It's just a matter of moderation!

How about instead of telling women they're "dirty", we start teaching them how to enjoy sex in a healthy way and how to masturbate in a constructive way? Why don't we create more sexually-focused media that is female-positive? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this article and the general subject.

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