Science, Bitches!

By Maria Padhila

Science has proven that I am an irredeemable, hard-wired bitch. It feels so good to have an excuse.

Recent news of results of a research study were quickly pounced on and extrapolated into irrefutable scientific evidence that women are bitchy to each other and basically mean girls at heart, so all the bad stuff that happens to us — say, at work — is our own fault.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

We tear each other down, you see. That settles that whole income inequity thing right there, so bye.

Just kidding. I still have some bitching to do.

The university study put a group of women in a room to complete a task. As they were working, a young woman came into the room and asked about the whereabouts of the professor. The women thought the way they were doing the project was what was being studied, but actually researchers were studying their reaction to the woman coming into the room. She was dressed either in khakis and a t-shirt or in a short skirt, leather boots and a tight, cleavage-revealing pink shirt. Here’s how The New York Times described what happened:

In jeans, she attracted little notice and no negative comments from the students, whose reactions were being secretly recorded during the encounter and after the woman left the room. But when she wore the other outfit, virtually all the students reacted with hostility.

They stared at her, looked her up and down, rolled their eyes and sometimes showed outright anger. One asked her in disgust, “What the [expletive] is that?”

Most of the aggression, though, happened after she left the room. Then the students laughed about her and impugned her motives. One student suggested that she dressed that way in order to have sex with a professor. Another said that her breasts “were about to pop out.”

The results of the experiment jibe with evidence that this “mean girl” form of indirect aggression is used more by adolescents and young women than by older women, who have less incentive to handicap rivals once they marry. Other studies have shown that the more attractive an adolescent girl or woman is, the more likely she is to become a target for indirect aggression from her female peers.

The study was one of several into female aggression and competition that formed an entire issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. I read just the abstracts of the articles, and it looks like fascinating and respectable work (more so than how it was made out in many reports). The problem may be that it doesn’t go far enough. Again from The New York Times, here’s what the researcher herself has to say about the study:

“Women are indeed very capable of aggressing against others, especially women they perceive as rivals,” said Dr. [Tracy] Vaillancourt, now a psychologist at the University of Ottawa. “The research also shows that suppression of female sexuality is by women, not necessarily by men.”

Stigmatizing female promiscuity — a.k.a. slut-shaming — has often been blamed on men, who have a Darwinian incentive to discourage their spouses from straying. But they also have a Darwinian incentive to encourage other women to be promiscuous. Dr. Vaillancourt said the experiment and other research suggest the stigma is enforced mainly by women.

“Sex is coveted by men,” she said. “Accordingly, women limit access as a way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of this resource. Women who make sex too readily available compromise the power-holding position of the group, which is why many women are particularly intolerant of women who are, or seem to be, promiscuous.”

And that’s where I got a little touchy. Because it feels kind of convenient to place slut shaming solely at the hands of women. There’s a definitiveness about “shows that the suppression of female sexuality is by women” that’s unearned, and a whole world of wiggle room in that “not necessarily by men.” And “sex is coveted by men,” but not ever by women? Really? And there’s the interesting aside that promiscuity could be a revolutionary act, jeopardizing the “power-holding position of the group,” which I actually kind of like the sound of. Make love not war!

I haven’t done a study, but I have been called a slut and silenced at least as often by men as by women. And often, unexpectedly, women have had my back when just about all the men in my environment were turning theirs. Women have expressed admiration for my following my own path — much of what I hear on this website is a good example.

Oddly enough, I even got a few voices of affirmation from some young women in the Catholic high school I attended, where I was bullied, threatened, minorly assaulted (pushed, knocked down, had things stolen), and isolated for being a “lezzie” and general slutmonster. (Triple threat! I’ll steal your boyfriend AND your girlfriend, plus weirdo!) In settings ranging from a Burning Man gathering to a vacation in Brazil, my sexy dress and behavior has been complimented and applauded. Women and men worked together to set up the whole culture of “enthusiastic consent required” within the Burning Man culture, with workshops and messages applauding women’s (and everyone’s) autonomy and sexual expression.

What about the women who have been bravely and decisively working as sex-positive educators and therapists, or working to change legislation all over the world, or living their full sexuality and thus serving as examples and developing new paths? (Paging Betty Dodson — an extraordinary pioneer and supporter of women’s sexuality.) This kind of support of other women’s sexuality, by women, has been happening for hundreds of years, though it hasn’t always been so well-articulated as “sex positivity” until recently.

What would you call a woman who organizes a slut walk, or the Anonymous (and out there) women behind uncovering what happened in Steubenville? Are such women anomalies, waking each morning determined to grit their teeth and tamp down their inborn bitchiness, that little voice apparently inside every women as part of our evolutionary makeup that says: “Take her down. Rip her to shreds. Call her a slut.”

If women are hard-wired to compete for men, where does that leave polyamory altogether? How about the families that are making it work? I don’t hear much about lesbians fighting over straight men. Who do trans people compete over? As a bisexual, who am I fighting for? Obviously, I’m confused. When I feel happy hearing Chris or Isaac talk about women they find appealing, where on Earth is that feeling coming from, if I’m hard-wired to be bitchy? Maybe I’m an alien. 

I’m not sure I want to take down the actual study, the women researchers behind it, or the idea of having much more study into the female animal. Evolutionary psychology as a field, despite being populated with a proportion of douchebags, can make a strange bedfellow for those trying to create social change. Polyamorists have been helped in their pursuit of acceptance and perhaps equal rights by Sex at Dawn, for instance. But it’s a field rife with ambiguity and, whoa, lots of academic competitiveness and backstabbing — as soon as someone releases a study, another speaks up to try to prove it wrong. There’s also the issue that the whole line of “hey, penguins are naturally gay!” argument has not yet changed the mind of an evangelical Christian right-wing teabagger, not as far as I know. Last, it seems to imply that certain injustices and just plain bad behavior must simply be accepted because they’re hard-wired into the animal. Because science.

While the questions researchers ask are of course culturally biased, calling to close off areas of questioning isn’t the solution. The damage is done more by what our culture did with the results — the resulting spin and discussion — that turned it into a big “a-ha! I knew y’all was bitches all along!” gotcha moment. It turned the findings into blamings: It’s your own fault, ladies; you’re doing these things to each other, so if you don’t succeed in the workplace or in the world, it’s not anyone else’s problem. You’re just mean to each other; you can’t help it, because you’re programmed to fight over men. Sorry. Move along, there’s nothing to change here.

It’s reminiscent of the persistent myth of “mommy wars,” in which women are said by popular culture and media to be constantly competing and attacking each other as mothers. Issues such as the state of our schools, class inequality, vaccination and health, food safety, sexism, workplace inequality — all can be explained away as simply bitches sniping at each other. Home schooling, or seeking GMO labeling for produce? You’ll be positioned quickly as a hover mother, a fussy woman who’s trying to make other mommies look bad and impinge on their choices.

Some of this positioning and cultural reduction of real problems to catfights is done by women, and some of it by men. And yes, it does appear to be done out of a sense of competition for scarce resources. But maybe that scares resource isn’t “available men.” And too, the fear and the fighting might stem from such an evolutionary trigger. But those scarce resources go far beyond a few viable bachelors.

Those scarce resources are security, food, water, shelter, energy, autonomy, the power to build and maintain community, sexuality — I don’t know if I could list them all. They’ve been made, deliberately or unconsciously, scarce. This is what you’re seeing when a woman politician attempts to shame through a piece of legislation limiting women’s access to birth control. She’s attempting to put limits on women’s sexuality, true. But she’s also looking to limit women’s autonomy, control food and energy sources, and most of all confine both men and women to generations-long roles as consumers doing unvalued labor. And she’s helped in that effort to control others by lots of other women and lots of men.

At the heart of what they’re doing is the conviction that love itself is a scarce resource. And that is what I struggle with myself, every day, to prove wrong.

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40 Responses to Science, Bitches!

  1. Alexander De Witte says:

    Hey DivaCarla, thanks for a great summation! I too am on that much richer journey “into the body”. I believe that we all have responsibility to demonstrate a higher vibration of possibilities for others.

    I truly hope my own journey toward increasing authenticity offers that. Here’s hoping for a powerful body-mind synthesis. The magic of the flesh awaits in a way that enriches the spirit. Thanks for your own transparency and works of integrity!

    We are all on that journey toward greater aliveness when we say “yes” to that which is.. so yes!

  2. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Alex, I appreciate you for asking for the level of conversation that you want. It was inspiring to me, and challenging. I considered ignoring your “concept-loving INTP inter-relationship between ideas” post, but I could feel the “gets off on the inter-relationship between ideas!” and I know that. For most of my life I did too, and then I made a conscious decision to shift to my body. I hope you are getting a little bit of sustenance here, and can find more in the flesh and blood world around you.

    I had one more comment in my “manifesto” that got widowed, which is my approach, and the decisions I’ve made about how I will use my mind is one lens. I am learning that the stronger my point of view, and the more I can express it with clarity, the more value it has. That doesn’t mean I am dogmatic. I just stand for what I stand for, because otherwise I stand for nothing.

    Your various points, among them:
    little evidence of women doing much other than succumbing to the messages of consumer culture (men are little different).
    tough to find folk who are in tune with their own authentic process.
    reactivity in communication

    One takeaway is that those of us growing through a conscious authentic process have a responsiblity to teach, or at least to talk out loud. To put ourselves out front, and be at the very least a community resource. Social media and online relationships give us reach. It’s risky, so we also have the responsiblity to have each other’s backs when we do stick our necks out.

    I feel really safe here in the space Eric and the Planetwaves team have created. And yet it’s public, and those of us who use our real names are exposed. I let myself be pretty naked here, even though I recommend the site to clients and people who may be surprised to meet me here in the comments like this. And by showing up here real, we have Eric’s back.

    The diversity of our voices, styles, points of view, and even the areas of outright disagreement are important, because we each speak a language someone else can hear. Recognize who is on the same team, whether we agree 100% or even follow everything they say.

    I think everyone of us has felt it, and Eric has spoken it out loud. This is lonely work. We are pushing the envelope… ground control to Major Tom. Here we are, at this time and place. We have to do it.

    I can be bolder. I feel like I am holding back still.

    I am glad that Kari has opened her healing practice, and that Elisa has a column, and everyone else’s voice is getting stronger, on staff, and among the commenters. That’s what I feel happening.

    Gee, that was a rant.

  3. Alexander De Witte says:

    The work day ended, I can expand further, DC..

    I must first confess to being a concept-loving INTP male, who gets off on the inter-relationship between ideas! My very style of expression is imbued with the masculinist bent.. although by no means do I relegate writing that is more poetic, intuitive and biographical.. that just isn’t my preferred approach in this forum.

    First, and briefly, orality and literacy as expressing the speech/writing dichotomy is a rich area to understand the nature of the relationship between ‘reality’ and concepts which seek to encapsulate it. The verb/noun contrast is delicious and one I very much appreciate.

    I do think you have spoken from an enriching place, DivaCarla and I think my only lament is that, from my perspective, such is less common in women generally than you intimate. For me, outside the spiritually orientated and alternative communities there is little evidence of women doing much other than succumbing to the messages of consumer culture (men are little different). Another problem is that often people generally take alternative understandings and language games and turn them into identity markers that can easily become psychobabble and subsequently fail to translate potentials into concretes..

    I occasionally see notable examples, full of vitality; and they rekindle my faith.

    A big problem with most communication, regardless of cross-sex dynamics, is the prevalence of reactivity. Such is a poor substitute for proactive (reaching out) communication. For me, it seems very tough to find folk who are in tune with their own authentic process. I think societal conditioning makes that much tougher for women to achieve than men.

    If a woman truly wishes to individuate that is tantamount to a crime – which is a devastating state of affairs. This is why portraying women as vulnerable and defenceless is a sure fire way of supporting the status quo (modest and demure is approved). If women are to be seen as vulnerable, in a mainstream sense, then portraying men as predators is the perfect way to keep women in the space of “needing to protect their vulnerability” hence preventing true individuation.

    Both women and men need to relinquish their investment in this vulnerable/predator purity ethic, which is direct product of traditional, moralistic religion and conserving values. Without that, the “war” of the sexes is maintained in perpetuity..

  4. Alexander De Witte says:

    Hello again DivaCarla,

    Just to acknowledge your expansive response. I shall return to it later. There are many layers to explore here. Just I will leave here for now.

    On the vexed question of feminism(s) as a secular form Protestantism (for that is what such feminisms actually are) the Goddess is an interesting level of resource for reflection/expression. And, interestingly, Feminist Theology has an extensive literature. Note that this is not necessarily Christian Theology. Daphne Hampson, for instance, has delineated a post-Christian Feminist Theology for our times in her book “After Christianity”.

    Theology is a discipline which offers various conceptual frameworks for reflecting upon women’s experience in a post-Christian and postmodern age from any of a number of women’s perspectives. It is able to embrace the plurality of both cultures and women’s situatedness within class, race etc (and as such, your observations about, say, a differing Native American understanding’s relationship to language-conceptuality).

    There does not need to be any schism between womanliness, feminisms and spiritualities and Feminist Theologies offer a set of integrative tools for thinking.

    More later…

  5. Diva, this is a manifesto! I’ll join you for that beer any time!!

  6. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    The only satisfactory plan is to choose a continent, a bar, and a time, and let’s get together and talk till they throw us out.

    Meanwhile, a quick summary.

    Alex, I think Green Stargazer’s story illustrates how real women address the sexual politics thing. We live it. We wake up, check our cultural defaults, realize they aren’t really our thoughts and feelings, and take a risk. Connect with another woman in a way that lights her up, and she lights us up, and the world is a better place. The mental construct of sexual politics ceases to exist or have meaning. We can do the same things with men, who are people too, I have evidence. The lighting up works with them too.

    Alex, you write: “THis is why I say I’d like to see women participate beyond the level of mere discussion of concepts and ideas (such as I have just outlined). It is, of course, difficult for them; because they have no language of their own origination to communicate with – the masculinist *infection* is ubiquitous!”

    We do have a language of our own. It is rooted in the body, and it travels in a spiral, touching all the feeling points, nuances, and brings in metaphors. It has biophilic qualities, and at its best, includes touch, and the information embedded in the senses. So much is nonverbal, intuitive, appearing psychic. It’s womb talk. It’s a language that has been devalued, and many women have forgotten how to speak it, or forgotten its power, or it’s been segregated, or perverted, so that the “research” cited in Maria’s piece sees women bonding over a shared opinion about another woman, and calls it How Women Are. Did they even listen or value what was going on in the “fake experiment” that was the set up?

    We are capable of intellectual rigor, and finding the shortest distance betweeen two ideas. On the way we may uncover unexpected connections and create something entirely new, in a way a man would not typically arrive at, unless he had cultivated a certain creative relationship with his mind.

    When you mention Logocentric, I have a way in. I believe I follow what you write in context, though really I need a beer and to ask you some questions for clarity. What I immediately think of is what I’ve learned about language from my Native American Teachers. Grandfather who is of the Picaris Pueblo, people with ties to the Hopi, talks about noun people and verb people. Europeans, which includes the spread of Euro culture and language by conquest, are Noun people. They want to crystallize and limit meaning with precision and straight lines, symbolic logic. They further crystallize ideas with writing, so there is a death to an idea when it stays frozen in writing too long. Think of the Talmud, and centuries of Rabbinic commentary. The law lives, but it lives because each generations writes more! The Bible Belters are dead because they deify the Logos not in the eternal living Christ Consciousness, but in the words of the King James Version. Grandfather goes on to say that his people are Verb people. There are no nouns in the Tiwa language, and until about 50 years ago, it was an oral language only. This kept the language alive, ever open to new revelation, a language imbued with mystical and spiritual truth. Every object in life was sacred because the language stood not for the thingness, but the beingness, the embodiment of a principle idea. Many indigenous languages have this quality. The Apache Language has no future tense. The Micmac Language has no word for time. Grandfather is quick to point out that there is no value difference between noun people and verb people. Noun people accomplish and contribute things to life that verb people cannot even conceptualize, except they were educated in the mission schools, and learned to think like noun people. The tragedy is that verb people thinking was not valued, and so the languages, the thinkers, and the world view is all but lost. So it is with the feminine mind and how we think. Though as long as we have wombs and orgasms, our way of thinking and knowing can be restored, and valuing it along side the masculine thinking will unleash creativity and knowledge we can all use.

    “Women must then proceed to outline their own collective response to the male/female struggles of our culture/times in poetry, celebration, ritual and choices.”

    We do! is anyone listening? Do they let us onto the stage, into the gallery, or the museum? Do they take us seriously or do they call us bitches, or whiners, or fluff…or witches, and burn us, because they do not understand the language, or the multidimensional quality of our art, our poetry, our ritual, our drama, our orgasm, even. Is our most potent expression in secret, in the cave, or the grove. Are men invited? Are men afraid to come, because of the race memory of the sacrifice of the King, or the Stag?

    This last bit: “How will women choose not to interiorise masculinist conceptuality (and hence be caught in the bind of conform/resist – we KNOW where THAT leads) but instead set their own agenda based on authentic desire rather than a time-honoured game!”

    I wonder if this statement illustrates why lots of women, (including me) are skittish about identifying with the Feminist Movement, because that resistance breeds more resistance, and alongside a rebirth of the goddess, was the game of out manning men in order to win or at least play in their game. I think you won’t have to look farther than your neighborhood to find the awakening feminine, who is creating her authentic voice, and rewriting the story. It may sound like gibberish to men who are expecting a language they can understand!

    And Now to the Goddess on the Tractor! Green Stargazer, I wish I had a video and the Ride of the Valkyries soundtrack. I love that story.

    Suria, I just saw your comment. The idea that sex is abnormal, some kinds of sex are abnormal, or depraved, or bad is what religion has been teaching for a few thousand years. So when Eric reminds us that sex is normal, he is affirming normal, natural and NOT all the things we’ve been taught to believe and feel about our very natural sex. I am with you on the spiritual aspects of sex, as a path to transcendence. I also know that people can’t go there if they are living with shame and pain about their body, their desire, who they love, their freedom to love and have pleasure. The transcendent and sacred is rooted in the body, which is sacred itself. Everything “dirty” is sacred. :o )

    When are we gathering for that drink? typing is thirsty work.

    That’s all for tonight Alex. Have I come close to addressing your desires to engage women and hear our voices on these issues? I am a pisces and a mystic, so how I see and speak does not cover the

  7. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Thank you Alex and you, Green Stargazer. I’ve had a read through and will be back later to look more deeply, while my imagination stirs.

  8. Alexander De Witte says:

    Hey Diva!

    Just to unpack and prefigure briefly around patriarchy and feminisms and the prominent analyses within discourse in western culture: Two names Jacques Derrida and Luce Irigaray.

    Derrida in “Of Grammatology” outlined the basis of the subsequent descriptor “Logocentrism”. Feminisms often ran with developments subsequently along the lines of suggesting “Phallogocentrism”. (This is French Postmodernism-oriented obviously and other paradigms could be proffered).

    Derrida was essentially outlining a process of reductionism within speech and language that sees such as mere “carriers for concepts”, which violates the richness and breadth and life of language per se, beyond this capacity to communicate conceptual content. Derrida might describe this as a unitary modality of language. Feminisms have been able to develop notions of such, further into masculinist “rationality” hijacking all language to reduce to a male frame of reference, such that language is not fit for purpose for women, who are disenfranchised within the very bones (essence) of it. In “This Sex Which Is Not One” Irigary takes the metaphor of where “two lips meet” as offering a genital notion of plurality that allows for a different starting point for imagining language (we currently can see that poetic modality [and especially in the works of Edward Lear and his da da type of approach to nonsensicalism] offers an alternative route to the strictly rational discursive understanding of language).

    Essentially, via Irigaray’s development upon Derrida, we can imagine the battle lines of sexual politics drawn around the Logocentrism/Phallogocentrism axis, wherein patriarchal conceptuality utterly dominates through language (in a way even more primordially than the idea of culture) and women have had to utilise a language that is not suited to their experienced reality. Consequently, women have to engage in guerilla resistance to the hegemony, because the unitary (masculinist) construction of language requires that women be forced to “deconstruct the master’s house with the master’s tools”… ergo no can do!

    THis is why I say I’d like to see women participate beyond the level of mere discussion of concepts and ideas (such as I have just outlined). It is, of course, difficult for them; because they have no language of their own origination to communicate with – the masculinist *infection* is ubiquitous!

    So discussion itself is tainted before the fact, because the whole terms of reference of the debate (the language with which we both understand and described the “realities”), are defined outside of women’s primary experience.

    The first step to women embracing revolutionary change is to build with Luce Irigaray’s metaphor a praxis based upon first stopping resisting the masculinist hegemony. As Lao-Tzu made prefectly clear “resistance breeds resistance” and carries the seed of the original oppression. It MUST be allowed to perish must that seed. Women must then proceed to outline their own collective response to the male/female struggles of our culture/times in poetry, celebration, ritual and choices.

    Choices is the key significant part of the piece. How will women choose not to interiorise masculinist conceptuality (and hence be caught in the bind of conform/resist – we KNOW where THAT leads) but instead set their own agenda based on authentic desire rather than a time-honoured game!

  9. DivaCarla,

    I can sooo relate to your last comments living here as I do a soliton of the Adirondack North Woods! I’ll never forget the day I pulled a large truck out of the frozen mud in my field with my trusty tractor. Back then I drove in skirts, even in the winter and the 4 males who had been in the stuck truck just could not process what they were dealing with… was I a woman or was I another “buddie” ? They were quite befuddled. I so wanted the “Ride of the Valkyries” as my sound track for that moment!

    I too endevour to stop the judging mind in me as it whispers constantly. The other day at the bakery I noticed a woman who was not a local. She was in her mid 50′s probably and wore tight fitting and (considering the weather outside) far-too-skimpy clothing. Someone from “the city” I surmised. Expensive clothes. Heavy make-up, too much jewelry and killer high-heeled boots. I caught myself immediately making all sorts of judgements and doing the put-down-to-feel-better thing…and was disappointed in myself. What to do? After pausing to consider my options, I went over to the woman and complimented her beautiful boots. She lit up with joy. She loved wearing them because they made her feel good, she said and I could tell that by “good” she meant “sexy” but in our whole-wheat and granola surroundings she didn’t feel comfortable saying it so directly. We parted feeling warmer from having connected… human female to human female… I got to get over my feelings of inadequacy and she got to feel welcomed to our little corner of the mountains. Good trade.

    Alexander- I agree with you completely that healthy curiosity is the Elixir of Life and can get one out of all sorts of conditioning/programs great and small, new and old. I find it nearly impossible to remain locked in my egoic position if I can step into curiosity and move from there.

    Eric- I think there are different sets of rules for different environments/cultures/regions as well as different generations. In urban settings one plays very differently from how one plays in the “country”. The same is true for how one generation defines their rules which will be different from how their parents define them. The “rules” you have shared here seem to not apply to my location/age group. Around here most of the women I know would do any and all of the “don’t”s on that list and would not think anything of it.

    Really great discussion here, thanks to all for the thoughtful sharing.

  10. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Indeed Eric.
    Those lights are what I’ll look for, before I wonder if she’s cold in that top.

    I love it that Maine women know how to melt the snow with the real thing, and we are hot in our cashmere and hunting shoes. It’s also handy that bar and chain oil for your chainsaw is an aphrodisiac.

  11. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Diva, there are in my experience many ways that women can present sexy. Some are like subtle illumination. Others are like shining a bright light in your eyes.

  12. nilou suria says:

    Biological sex (female, male, trans and other), sexuality and expressions thereof, and gender, to me are three entirely separate though related constructs, and much of the conversation we try to have about any of them easy becomes mired in the conflation of one with the other/s.

    ‘Sex is normal’ implies that it could be thought abnormal. I would start with ‘sexuality and sexual expression are natural’. Then have the discussion about who, how, when, if and if not. Sex focussed around the physical body is natural, yes, but in recognition that I am not only a physical body I am interested in sexual expression in which I am able to express all of what I know myself to be, and learn even more.

  13. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Eric, there is a concept you wrote about in your sexual healing series about a year ago that I use in every class I teach, and I often give you credit:
    Sex is Normal; pleasure is normal. Wanting to have touch, sex, and pleasure is normal.

    Alex De Witte, I am very interested in your comment, and I think I would like to participate, or maybe I already am participating. But I don’t really understand what your words mean: “I for one would LOVE to see this issue of women’s relationship to sexual politics more thoroughly addressed (not simply discussed). Moreover, I would love to meet more women who are alive to that whole notion and working on it consciously!”

    The words that confound me are women’s relationship to sexual politics. I came of age in the early 70s, so I’ve heard the words most of my life, but I have never known what they mean.

    I still have my hands full with “sex is normal” and both sex and normal are more potent concepts than we been taught. My great desire is to stay out of my head and live in this body, which is challenging with Venus in Aquarius.

    Here’s what I’m taking away from this conversation, and it comes back to Maria’s article. I wish to become aware of what unconscious programs I am running in response to people. I know my inner Baptist still runs the show way more than I want her to, or even recognize. Mostly she’s running my thoughts about me. How does that get projected onto others?

    I’m curious to see what my default reaction is next time I notice a woman dressed in a sexy outfit. Winter in Maine it may be a while before I cross paths with one, well, one over the age of 18. I am often alarmed by the way teenagers dress presumably to go to school. I don’t think that’s a slut shaming response. I observe peer pressure and advertising at work. I also want to check my responses to other types, such as obese people, beautiful people, old people, sick people, rich people, young people. What am I thinking and feeling that I don’t even know I am thinking or feeling?

    I heard this last night on NPR, an award winning radio piece by a young woman who monitors slut-shaming on the internet. She doesn’t have to look farther than her own high school to find examples.
    http://thirdcoastfestival.org/library/1525-modern-day-scarlet-letter-a

    The bigger picture situation we are discussing here feels like the byproduct of when sexual freedom and revolution was layered over generations of repression and ignorance. Betty Dodson and a few others came along to teach people how to have sex without shame. Then the conservatives tried to stuff the genie back in the bottle, and we got a new layer of ignorance laid down. This is what our under thirty children have grown up in, and it’s deadly. That may be why we skipped a generation in real sex educators too.

    There are a lot of young people coming up who are teaching and speaking up. I want to support them and help them get their voices out to the ones who need to hear. Kids are grappling honestly with things I didn’t even know possible till I was in my 20s and moved to New York City. Imagine my first peek at a Gay Pride Parade fresh off the farm down South. I’ll savor it the rest of my life!

    To fully accept people loving and living beyond the hetero norm, I had to meet and become close loving friends with them. I had to be touched by them, literally. I had to feel how queer I am, when I put myself in situations where I am so vanilla that I’m queerest one in the room! My heart breaks open just knowing how much love and acceptance there is in the world, the safe spaces people make for each other to be normal and natural and sexy, just the way they are.

    I’ve been pretty lucky, and I have time to be even luckier.

  14. nilou suria says:

    Love the Onion! Anything that shakes up the status quo and we how think about it is a boon as far as I see. Oh, and what’s the difference between a burka and a grey suit? What are the differences….?

  15. nilou suria says:

    I’m trying to translate this: “it’s a distraction that keeps us focussed on the polarities that exist within duality”

    and so far I have this: the creation of two sexes is primarily a biological convenience. gender is completely a social construction therefore anything that derives from gender must also be a social construction. that isn’t to say it doesn’t have reality, but the reality it has is one we are continually maintaining (collectively) and therefore recreating.

    if we want gender to ‘be’ something other than it is, then it can be created differently.
    first, we need to create (continue creating) different ideas of what could be; possibilities.

    to do that we need awareness of our individual selves as autonomous beings that exist not only as physical bodies, but energetic bodies also.

    as long as we are only conscious of what our physical bodies are doing, we are careless (unknowing) about what is happening with our energy bodies.

    for example some may come to rely on other people for energy (an energetic food source).
    the body becomes either a site of exchange or a site of power struggle.

    when we become aware of our energetic bodies we have other options for ‘energy food’ available: light, earth, sea, sky, plant, colour, sound, words, music etc. depending our constitution.

    some are able to work with these media to move energy, and some are able to access and process source energy directly….

  16. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    I can only speak for myself, SL. I that most of what I have learned, nearly all of it described in an open process here at Planet Waves, Compersion.net and Book of Blue, and in numerous discussions on podcasts, provides practical information and an example of how to be more open (and along with that, you might say empowered).

    At some significant risk I have allowed my astrology business to become a full-service sex education venue, all of it for free.

    Speaking personally I have taken a full-circle approach, openly exploring countless aspects of my relational and sexual being, my gender identity, the hetero, bi and queer aspects of my nature, all described in 15 years worth of articles that I think apply to men as well as to women. I don’t write about homophobia per se — I prefer to transcend it in public as a way of showing that it’s not necessary.

    My message is: inform yourself. Know yourself. Bring the real you forward. Explore the places that are intriguing, intimidating, and where there is pain and loss. That takes time and you can start now with real results.

    My caution is that because I am not playing in the toxic mud, I am certain many people view me as out of reach. My existence confronts the denial that others drag around. I have to be as discerning as I can. I am looking and listening for an authentic YES from potential partners and that is rare to find.

  17. So Eric, I’ve had this question for a long time: it’s not just women having their power stripped by this dynamic, men are not standing in their authentic sexuality either, if “man” has, as you say, become synonymous with “sexual aggressor.” So how does it serve men to have their power be taken away in this manner? I get the way it gives women an excuse to see manipulation as our “natural” power, to allow our potential to remain unseen & untapped, or some such, but what are the correlative “benefits” for men?

    It seems to me that until you know how the dynamic feeds the population, you don’t know what food to offer that will authentically replace it.

  18. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    One step that must happen is that sex needs to be divorced from glamor. It then has to be thought of as an experience and not a commodity, that is, a product that is traded in relationships rather than something we create, co-create or share.

    Betty Dodson helped us with both of all things. While I regret that we still need to be getting our help from people who made their major contributions in the 1960s and 1970s, that seems to be the best we have at the moment, and it’s pretty good.

    Here is her first-ever publication, in Ms. magazine –

    http://planetwaves.net/astrologynews/getting-to-know-me.html

    She features prominently in this article –

    http://planetwaves.net/astrologynews/317801196.html

    and in this article –

    http://1992qb1.com/

    I have plenty of material at http://compersion.net/ and Book of Blue remains open to those who request access by writing to me.

  19. Alexander De Witte says:

    Agreed, Eric. It feels as though what we now require are role models on a broader footing than we currently witness them. Essentially, long term, where children can get to see healthy, functional non-power-play dynamics within parenting we can hope to see a turnaround filter through. But essentially we need to ‘see’ more and have less ‘theory’ and ‘opinion’ on our plates.

    I for one would LOVE to see this issue of women’s relationship to sexual politics more thoroughly addressed (not simply discussed). Moreover, I would love to meet more women who are alive to that whole notion and working on it consciously!

  20. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Yes Alex in principle that is true – and then on the ground, there are the specific things people struggle with and there are the things that we want. In terms of actual everyday manifestations, ‘vital force’ comes down to love and work, sex and creative expression. And many of these discussions are dominated by sexuality; it’s one of the places most people are the most curious and need the most support.

    I think there is a legitimate therapeutic question about how to approach sexuality – directly or indirectly – but generally that will be answered by the client soon enough. When presenting ideas as a writer/editor, I keep sexuality close to the forefront to set the example of straightforward discussion and for those who want access to the information.

    Presumably that is the topic of the study in question, and the Times article — the lady in the skirt is not threatening people with her hairbrush samples or her ability to fix cars. It is in some ways remarkable that this article even appeared. For those who are concerned that “women are being blamed for sexual aggression,” consider that every single day on the news or internet, men are being cast as rapists and other forms of attacker. The concept “man” is being made synonymous with “sexual aggressor.”

    What is missing from this whole discussion is the role of women in sexual politics. It is not PC. It is nearly forbidden even to broach the topic. There is the cry of “blaming the victim.” It is true that rape is always the fault of the aggressor, but this whole conversation is not just about rape. And all sexual politics, what happens and how we think about it and where that leads, takes place in a dynamic environment in which everyone participates, long before an incident of any kind.

    That environment influences and helps create every other social and sexual dynamic, not merely the incident that makes the news or becomes the topic of a conversation.

  21. Alexander De Witte says:

    Some great points made herein, Eric! What I would like to ‘add’ here is something to counter the Freudian holy grail that libido is central to everything. Of course, in many respects it is, but there are broader human comcomitants that help us avoid some of the unfortunate reductionism of the Freudian ‘bind’.

    The key, for me, is curiosity or what captures interest/attention. A truly alive person should not be blunted or stunted but receptive and inquisitive (desirous?)

    The way we tend to view people has been somewhat reduced to the dyad threat/security and the filters mean that otherness is perceived through that dyad. This represents a defensive relationship toward existence.

    It seems to me that a healthy ‘coming out’ from such numbings is not primarily in the arena of sexuality (although its grip is particularly noticeable there) but that of life force per se. When you look at a person (or situation even), do you primarily see what is interesting, unique, attractive, alluring and engaging OR instead what threatens, unsettles, grates, repels, conforms? It is that fundamental difference of perceptual matrix that dictates aliveness or not.

    When you are curious you are receptive and you can muster preparedness very easily to follow your ‘nose’ and see where it leads.. in any forum/context.

    I mention all this simply to mitigate the cry of ‘foul’ that may arise once people see this issue as primarily about sexuality and relationships.. it is about much more! Being present to the world in all its textures and shades of colour.

  22. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    By slip into the water, I mean participate without making the statement, “I am an orgy person!” It’s a little like having a same-sex sexual experiment without declaring oneself gay or a lesbian. There is power in yes. I don’t think that the orgy scene I described is coerced — being there is most of what one needs to do. That is the first part of the yes. Okay I am here, now I can make my next decision.

  23. I agree that “slipping into the water” isn’t the same as owning your power. But if you never let yourself slip, you’re far more likely to believe that the system claiming how dangerous the water is, is telling you the truth. Those slips, however willful or blind, are important steps in dismantling the facade. Every cowardly lion makes her own journey.

  24. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    By the way here is the full articles list from the edition where the original study was printed.

    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1631.toc

  25. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    There are many experiments that demonstrate the relationship between what is perceived as socially acceptable and owning one’s power, one of my favorite being the jury study where the lone test subject on the jury (all the rest are confederates of the researchers) almost always violates his or her conscience to go along with the group.

    There are more of these studies than there are varieties of Campbell’s soup. We read about many of them in Psych 101. Anyone remember the Zimbardo (Stanford) Prison Study? This is the frightening thing when you start to consider the implications of what psychology knows about us.

    People conditioned by society almost always fall in line. This explains many phenomena, such as Germany in the 1930s; but we still wonder, how did all those educated people go along with the plan?

    In scenarios where the sexual mores are reversed, where open expression is encouraged, I have seen many women express their wilder side and do things they never would have imagined they would consider otherwise. You might not be the “orgy type” but if you were in a room full of people having sex and you started to get turned on and there was someone friendly nearby, you would probably slip into the water.

    Of course the way to prevent this is to stay away from the swing club or the sex party.

  26. But Eric, this “conspiracy of women to create the conditions that we know women have to deal with” isn’t new, even to our culture. The entire Chinese tradition of mutilating girls through foot-binding was something perpetrated by women, on women, to supposedly make them more attractive to men. This notion of scarcity of resources — and that women/girls aren’t capable of securing such resources for themselves & therefore must compete — is ancient. While this study may have been sillily predicated, even the writers of The Rules weren’t creating something out of whole cloth.

    Maybe it’s because sex has become such a commodity, but a sexually empowered woman who owns the right to make her own choices about whom she fucks stands at the apex of the sociological pyramid, potentially upsetting the apple cart for the entire culture of women (and men, probably, I don’t know) willing to give up their power.

    It sure as hell is easier to not own your power, especially your sexual power. But the second a cute chick walks in with hers firmly in hand, her very presence rats you out as the coward you are. So yeah, anyone not willing to step up to the challenge she presents is going to turn on her.

    I think our cowardice in owning our own power is more of a prime-mover issue in this than is some mysterious evolutionary “bitchiness.” I say this knowing exactly where my coward flag hangs.

  27. awordedgewise awordedgewise says:

    I imagine that both men and women conspire to hold down women’s sexuality, but through different vehicles.

    Personal example one: While I’m married with children, I find out the now X is trailing me everywhere, including calling numbers from my cell phone bill to find out who they are, and if I am fucking them? Really? I had no history of infidelity, nor did I act as if I would have sex outside that marriage (heaven knows I never should have bought into that marriage/model, but the simple fact THAT I DID has something to do with the very question we are discussing. The How To Not Fuck Around And Get A Bad Reputation for Youself and Everyone Around You model. Called marriage.)

    Personal example two: After my divorce (this gives me more rights than a girl in a dormatory hall, right? Society says that after divorce I’m a used-up woman so I can do as I please….) Out at nightclub/s I soon make friends, both sexes….and in no time at all I have a new set of female friends who are busy looking out for my purity. Say WHAT? Yep. Can’t describe it here because it would be a short story, but I am still in awe of how quickly the Group extended it’s “rights” to dictate who/what was “safe” and who/what was not. Was that a form of controlling their own hunting territory? or – ? While I appreciate looking out for one another, this was something beyond that idea and in a different box – called adult female repression by “friends”..

    I have finally aged enough that I don’t stun the room when I walk in (I’m not the stereotype, but apparently have a presence) – and yet I still find that most women are afraid of something (intangible) when then meet or see me. Well then – could it be sexualitly? Dunno. Thanks for the great food-for-thought, Maria and All.
    xo

  28. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Is anyone contesting the fact that both men and women conspire to hold down women’s sexuality? And in particular, that women (starting with mother) may play the most significant role in this? This is not an original premise. I have seen it at least twice before — in Simone de Beauvoir and Susie Bright, both well-respected feminists. Neither was based on a scientific conclusion.

    I realize that the prevailing stereotype is the Italian father saying “that guy is never coming over again” / “if you fuck that guy I’m gonna kill you” or the jealous boyfriend trying to control his girlfriend’s attractions or the priest/pastor saying that all sex is a sin, especially in girls — however in The Second Sex, de Beauvoir takes you deeper into the pattern of lifelong conditioning that leads to women being ‘the second sex’ and sex as a commodity in marriage, not the property of the woman who actually owns it.

    In many ways, The Second Sex describes a conspiracy of women to create the conditions that we know women have to deal with. It’s about the construction of a worldview and self-concept that she says most women are conditioned into and held to by one another.

    Susie Bright describes the way that one promiscuous woman on a dormitory wing can lower the price of marriage for all the other girls, hence, strict rules against promiscuity are enforced.

    I know of no rules among men that would dictate that that they withhold sex, or create the appearance of not liking sex or being attracted, for the purpose of controlling one another or giving a pure outward expression — with one exception, which I will mention in a moment. We could study fathers’ relationships to their daughters and get a diversity of experiences — some are jealous, some are controlling, some want to empower their daughters to be healthy sexual beings — definitely not homogeneous .

    I have heard of, seen and experienced a diversity of situations where women create a set of rules around sex, for one another, for some ulterior social motive, not merely for example because someone is just not into the person. The book The Rules was written by women supposedly for women to reinforce just such structures.

    The Rules include:

    Don’t Talk to a Man First (and Don’t Ask Him to Dance)
    Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much
    Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date
    Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls
    Always End Phone Calls First

    The one exception of men was documented by Kinsey et al in his study of the human male, where the wealthier a man was, the more likely he was to lie about his extramarital encounters. A study had to be done within the study to determine the accuracy rate of self-reported extramarital experiences by men based on their wealth, which also translates to preserving their upper-crust social status. We don’t know, however, what they said to one another.

    Here is a summary of The Rules — the path to authenticity and dharma!

  29. nilou suria says:

    wandering_yeti: No disagreement with you about what the problem is. I am averse to all kinds of group-think and labelling; but that is not the same thing as a negotiated consensus that serves a particular group and individuals within it. ‘Self-determination’ was a popular concept for a while, but it seems to have gone out of fashion.

    If science is enthralled with empire (I would say controlled, manipulated, dominated), does that mean that no scientist can do anything of value? If so, what is the next step? Where do we go from there? Which institutions aren’t in the same position? The ‘empire’ has to maintain itself, and it works very hard to do so, but it only succeeds with the compliance of those who know the score and choose to support it for their own self-interest and short-term interest at that.

    At least one useful thing about science is it depends on the asking of questions. There aren’t many areas of social life where that is encouraged. I think that some science is pure ideology, and some isn’t. If we don’t engage with science and scientific practices, how are we to know the difference? I think that it is how science is controlled (mostly the financial control) and how it is used that are the problems. If it’s not neutral, and is portrayed as such by particular interests, those with different interests need to learn how to use it to create for the common good.

  30. wandering_yeti says:

    This study isn’t looking deep at all, it’s only looking at the results of how the Domination culture treats children. It says nothing of how those girls were programmed by sitting in front of televisions when they were younger or how the culture of violence maintains institutionalized poverty and manufactured scarcity to prove its theory that love is scarce. Wilhelm Reich’s studies cut to the heart of how these programs hold onto the human form, but hardly anyone wants to look into the heart of the beast, they keep swatting the flies surrounding its stink: it’s the church, it’s the rich, it’s the women, it’s the men, it’s the blacks, it’s the whites…it’s the Mother Culture y’all, it’s the Empire and it fucks with everybody human and non. Science bitches? Science is enthralled with the Empire.

  31. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Great comments and good post, Maria, on what is really a touchy subject. Whatever is being studied in the research, it is not about evolutionary biology. It’s about modern socialization. Every conclusion and premise of this research is bogus.

    The women who made remarks about the sexy student were actually behaving in a socially acceptible way. There’s the rub.

    Bogus. Crazy-making. That’s it. This is fucking crazy making research. An attempt to gas light women. Maria, you are not letting them get away with it!

    Wasp showed up in ceremony this weekend, and it’s about female warrior energy. I’ve been pondering what that means. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    It’s grounded in our sexuality. Our wombs are justice seeking organs!
    We have to own and express our sexuality to be women warriors!
    It’s grounded in sisterhood, the circle of women. Women supporting women, and women teaching women about their power.

    When Female Warrior energy is up, the Bitch is up. She may well be invoking the bitch goddesses, the ones like Sekhmet, Kali, Durga, Joan of Arc, and a host of others across cultures. Patriarchy would rather we turn the bitch on each other than on institutionalize injustice, change, and a new paradigm of love.

    Rant over for now.

  32. nilou suria says:

    Just to add…

    Science provides one of many ways of knowing the world; but only one. To say it is ‘interested’ I think speaks to the idea that it is more mutable than generally acknowledged in day-to-day discourse. I think it is impossible for it to be disinterested, neither does the practice of science have to ‘present a version of the dominant representation of the social world’. My approach when ‘reading’ science, (and writing it) is to question in what way it is interested? Bourdieu of course is writing as a scientist, and he recognises that he like all scientists he is bound by ‘the rules of the game’ of how science is made, as well as what science seeks to know and its disciplinary-bound discovery methods.

    So if ‘scientists say’ is being used as a warrant for a particular line of argument, I want to know which scientists? what method? how does it relate to other work? and who’s providing the funding? Who is using the findings and for what purpose? Does it support or contest the ‘established’ views in the subject? And where is it positioned from my view of the world?

    One last: When the divine feminine turns up in the workplace which dress-codes is she going to adopt (there is always a dress-code)? And is she likely to sell her sex(uality) for recognition/promotion (I know it’s terrible to say, but, yes, this still happens!)? Self-expression, manipulation, or working-the-system? Who is to judge? and how?

    I’ve found all the comments interesting and helpful. Thanks, Maria and all.

  33. Alexander De Witte says:

    There are many nuances to be aware of in this whole scenario that is described. Centrally, however, I think we can realistically isolate the key factor of “the reactive mind”. Humans are wired into “forms as manifestation of difference”. Of course, even if not demonstrably so culturally, they take their own preferred form as normative… which of course it is, for them.

    For me, all such research claims and counter-claims, whether considered truly scientific (or biased, by the limiters of science), require the underpinning of a philosophically detached system that truly understands that whether there is political and/or sociocultural wrangling about the “justice” of current orientations are normative, the key reality for psychological health is healthy detachment.

    In real terms, the “battle” between mono and poly is illusory. In the world we inhabit there will always be both profound tolerance and profound intolerance. In a sense, the whole terms of reference of the debate, are a red herring. The research conclusions here would appear to support plausible conclusions but cannot really prove them. Essentially, we all in practice co-opt theories which support our current worldview/beliefs. Equally plausible conclusions could be drawn to support a different matrix of beliefs – as has been ably demonstrated by respondents thus far on this thread.

    The point is I think that we must bear the karmic scars of our conscious choices as badges worn with head held high. If I am an evolved and aware, reflective sensitive spirit then I do not care whether you, me or anyone else is mono or poly.. and if I am not? Well, then I have much to learn! These issues are nuanced, as I suggested at the outset. The key is to recognise the enriching value of ‘partial’ truths (all human truth is such). The unattractive alternative is totalitarianism, followed by megalomania!

  34. This kind of thing drives me crazy. Personally, I feel there is a basic problem with this kind of research as it is presented here because so often it is based on faulty assumptions, at least I feel this is so in the first example. For example, some women use derogatory commenting not simply as an attempt to shame the other person in some way but because they themselves feel inferior. My mother was a master of this and it took me a very long time to unlock what was really going on when she was being critical of others..

    My mother was a very insecure woman on most levels. Since she lived in an era where it was very hard to be strong and sexy and still be seen as a “good” mom, she did what a lot of women of her era did (and still do now) … use clever and hostile language in an attempt to project power as a cover-up for actually feeling insecure about herself. If a sexy-looking woman would show up, my Mum would immediately begin with the sniping comments in a hush-hush tone to us girls, her children. The message we got on the surface was “don’t dress like her, she looks like a slut which is a bad thing” but the deeper layer of this dynamic was my Mum internally speaking to herself- “I feel that she is prettier than I am and obviously more comfortable in her sexuality than I am…and I feel deflated in her presence which makes me feel bad about myself “.

    In my family of origin…. the first line of trying to re-balance the sense of deflation was not raise your own sense of self upwards, but to cut the other guy down. By doing so there is a false and brief sense of feeling powered-up again…but since it is coming from an inauthentic place inside, it doesn’t last…so the insecurity continues and the pattern repeats. The women in my family were masterful with this pattern because they were generally so deeply insecure and disconnected from their own sense of self and power. I still catch myself in this subtle projection sometimes. It is hard work to re-wire programs that are so deeply embedded in our sense of self and it takes much vigilance.

    I think that one of the most biggest challenges of all time for women is to feel authentically powered-up as whole people AND to feel acceptable. Our culture generally restricts a women’s ability to feel truly powerful in almost every aspect of living. Women spend much of their life trying to figure out what the cultural boundaries are and where they are drawn. In almost every arena in life so many unseen boundaries are inscribed around what is considered “acceptable” and what is deemed to be either “too much”, unacceptable or even dangerous (either to herself or others). The “rules” are nearly endless in terms of how much we can use our power whether it is sexual power, intellectual power, physical power or creative power or any of the other ways a woman can be in her power. When a woman finds those areas where she is wanting to be in her power and if she gets fired-up it usually doesn’t take long before the negative labels start to come out; if she is competent and aggressive at work, she’s called a bitch. If she’s powerful and proficient in sports, she’s definitely not “feminine” but a jock. If she’s brilliant and inspired mentally, she’s again, not seen as “feminine” but something else. If she is a full-throttle Mom she’s labelled a Helicopter-mom, or worse a Tiger-mom. In all cases, a woman in her powered-up self is somehow not feminine and is somehow not fitting in. If a male is powered-up in any of the ways I’ve just mentioned, he is generally praised and supported for being that way….but not so for women. A powered-up woman is dangerous and must be de-powered in order to be acceptable in most ways and most cases.

    Because women have had to learn in almost every aspect of their lives how to de-power themselves to be acceptable, we are constantly monitoring themselves in every situation and making judgements on ourselves – usually in the negative as the first step in the process. Once we have been self-critical about some aspect of ourselves we then learn to alienate ourselves from that powered up expression into something less powerful and thus more “acceptable” as applies to the situation. The constant de-powering of the self leads to huge feelings of insecurity because we are literally cutting ourselves off from ourselves energetically when we engage in this cycle. Thus, the way a woman survives in this culture is often by cutting off essential, life-affirming parts of herself and banishing them from her expression of who she is in the world. After awhile all those cut-off parts have to go somewhere… if they are not going to be owned consciously then they often go underground into the subconscious and frequently act out from there… causing us greater discomfort and alienation from our own true selves when they do.

    Women’s emotional responses to situations are so very complex and layered (generally) and most of these sorts of “studies” seem to have their own agendas to prove so they stop at the level of inquiry that supports their theory and call it a “discovery” or a new revelation… but in my opinion they don’t dive deep enough into the layers below those which are really fueling the game(s) we play. Most women are never allowed to feel and act from their own authentic source of power. It is a big problem and one that really needs to be healed….both individually and collectively.

  35. Sarah Taylor Sarah Taylor says:

    I speak personally when I say that I don’t feel that the way I see the psychology behind interrelatedness in poly relationships is “hard wired” as much as “soft wired”: it can be changed, but the change is invited across many levels, and not just one.

    I’m in a non-monogamous relationship, and it can be very hard at times, and for many reasons. First, there is the social resistance that comes from it. I have lost one of my dearest friendships because of the choices I have made. Members of my family have forbidden me to share this aspect of my life with them, and it seems the gulf that already existed between us has, in places, widened even further. I have been informed by another friend with whom I had a long-term relationship that the posts I make on facebook about poly relationships and sexuality in general are unacceptable and that I am stirring up trouble by putting them on my newsfeed.

    Second, there is the challenge of how to negotiate and renegotiate boundaries in the closer circle of the relationship itself. If a dyad brings up a lot of unconscious material, it is only increased when there are more than two people involved.

    Finally, there is the challenge of my own psychology: it is my own material that requires vigilance, and vigilance means jack shit when I am tossed about on the seas of what I am not seeing in myself. It is that “struggle with myself” that is the greatest dragon to face, and those words in your final paragraph stood out above everything else for that very reason. It is so much easier to point the finger at others, whether women or men, because it is the red herring that the psyche needs in order to avoid the hard work of confrontation with one’s own darkness.

  36. mariapadhila says:

    Thanks, y’all. I guess it’s human vanity that makes me reluctant to see things as hard wired…and any statement if “all women” or “all men” bothers me!

  37. Sarah Taylor Sarah Taylor says:

    Maria – Thank you so much for writing this. There’s the saying that to the (wo)man with a hammer, every problem is a nail, and for me I do tend to see relationship in terms of my psychotherapy background. In other words, the idea of scarcity comes from family of origin, where children ‘competed’ for a limited slice of parental love and attention.

    Add to that the theory of the Oedipus Complex (which I hold to in spite of some of its provenance and extrapolations), and there is an in-built competitiveness that is ‘resolved’ by one person (the parent) winning out over the other (the child).

    Scarcity from this perspective is so deep-seated as to remain unconscious for the most part. Maybe simply noticing when scarcity thinking is driving our feelings, thoughts and behaviours is a good start. From there, we perhaps have the ability to act with more freedom.

  38. nilou suria says:

    an early night. yes, definitely in need of…

  39. nilou suria says:

    Maria, hey!

    I need an early but here’s something to throw in the toolkit.

    ‘The idea of a neutral science is a fiction, and interested fiction which enables its authors to present a version of the dominant representation of the social world, neutralised and euphemised into a particularly misrecognisable and symbolically, therefore, particularly effective form, and to call it scientific’.

    Bourdieu, P. (trans, R Nice) The specificity of the scientific field and the social conditions of the progress of reason. Sociology of Science

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