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December 14, 2011

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I'm a man who recently started seeing a wonderful woman. Like me, she's divorced. While my ex-wife left me for another man, my girlfriend's ex-husband was controlling and abusive. Our relationship is the opposite—emotionally, psychologically, and sexually.

Here's the thing: His abusive behavior is my kink—spanking. In all my past relationships, spanking was light, playful, and consensual; with her ex, it was about pain and humiliation to the point of tears and bruising. She understands that my motivations around spanking are completely different from her ex's, but she has zero interest in anything approaching fetish play—and that's fine, because I feel so connected to her that I don't need my kink indulged to feel fulfilled. But I find myself feeling guilty for having the kink in the first place. The thought of her enduring what she did brings me to tears. How do I get past this?

Lacking A Clever Acronym

If your girlfriend's ex-husband had manipulated or bullied her into vaginal intercourse—if he had repeatedly and brutally raped her vaginally during their terrible, awful, no good, very bad marriage—would you feel guilty about an interest in consensual, vanilla, missionary, penis-in-vagina intercourse? No. You would hopefully have reacted in a similarly compassionate manner, LACA. You would have been willing to stick to oral, mutual masturbation, and whatever else your new girlfriend was comfortable exploring and capable of enjoying. And you would have looked forward to the day when she felt ready to enjoy sensuous, consensual, and mutually pleasurable vaginal intercourse again. And if that day never arrived, well, then perhaps you would have been willing to forgo vaginal intercourse for the rest of your life to be with her.

But you wouldn't be sitting there feeling like some sort of monster for being aroused by—and for having enjoyed—consensual, vanilla, missionary, penis-in-vagina intercourse with other women.

Your willingness to drop your harmless kink is evidence that your priorities are in order, LACA, your heart is in the right place, your cowboy hat is white, etc. Any time you start feeling bad about your kink, just remind yourself that consensual kink isn't abuse for the same reason consensual vaginal intercourse isn't rape: Because it's consensual. You can love this woman, LACA, and make this relatively small sacrifice for this woman (spanking ain't vaginal), without having to shame yourself or retroactively define all your past spanking experiences as abusive.

My boyfriend of five years had a one-night stand with a much younger woman. In some ways, it's a good thing—we're having conversations we should have had a long time ago, he's seeing a therapist to deal with his issues (his idea, not mine), and somehow I know more than ever that I want to be with him (I've always been the one in every relationship with one foot out the door). Two questions:

1. I've started to worry about looking older, and it's been devastating to know that not only did he cheat on me, but that he did so with a much younger woman. He assures me he's attracted to me, but how can I believe that now?

2. The younger woman sent me—and other people in our lives—an explicit, lengthy e-mail detailing everything they did. (I hate to paint this as "bitchez be crazy," but sometimes bitchez be crazy.) It's not how I found out, but it certainly hasn't helped. Ironically, our sex life has only gotten better since I found out exactly what they did—it turns out that we are both far more GGG than the other ever knew. But sometimes we're in bed, and I'll flash on something she wrote and the vivid mental images her letter cooked up in my head, and it sears me. Dealing with that pain out of the bedroom has been hard enough. It's devastating that it's now with me in the bedroom as well. How can I deal with this?

Salve It, Please

1. LTRs are only possible if we're willing take "yes" for an answer. He says yes, he loves you, and you will yourself to believe him; he says yes, he's having sex with you because he's attracted to you, and you will yourself to believe him; he says he strayed and is sorry and swears he won't do it again... and you will yourself to believe him. And while the passage of time makes monsters of us all, SIP, it can strengthen a sexual connection even as sex itself becomes less important when weighed against everything else your LTR is or should be about. In the words of singer-songwriter Tim Minchin: "Love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience and synergy and symbiotic empathy, or something like that."

2. Angry cheated partner: "You did what with that person? I would've done that with you! And I have kinks and fantasies, too, you know!"

Contrite cheating partner: "I was afraid to ask you to do that! I was afraid you would hate me—wait, you have kinks and fantasies? What are they?"

Conversations like that one are why affairs—if the relationship survives the betrayal—sometimes kick-start a couple's sex life. With all the kink-and-whatever-else cards on the table, the couple starts going at it like they have nothing to lose—because in that moment when breaking up is on the table, they actually don't have anything to lose.

As for those troubling mental images: The passage of time is your body's enemy on the physical-perfection front—and his, too—but it's your best friend on the searing-mental-images front, SIP. The more time you two spend doing, enjoying, and perfecting X, Y, and Z sex acts, the more X, Y, and Z becomes about you two and your connection. As you take ownership over X, Y, and Z, and over each other again, the mental images will come to you less often, they'll be less vivid, and gradually they'll cease. Give it time.

A letter in a recent column was from a guy who's trying to figure out how to get into gay BDSM. You suggested some advice from a gay BDSM blogger—Ben In Leather Land (—and it was awesome. Do you have any suggestions of similar blogs for women into BDSM?

Looking Lady

Sex writer/blogger/thinker/haver Tristan Taormino, who is publishing a new book about BDSM and kinky sex (The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge), recommends fetish icon Midori's column in SexIs magazine ( for women who are just beginning to explore kink.

HEY, EVERYBODY: We're seeking sordid and tragic stories of holiday sex for an upcoming episode of the Savage Lovecast. Ever been caught having sex at Mom and Dad's over the holidays? Ever put a "For Grandma, from Santa!" card on a wrapped box that contained a sex toy you bought for someone else? Did your older brothers stick your vibrator in the tree before a Christmas party, and you had to leave it there because reaching into the tree to remove it would only attract attention to it? Call and record your story at 206-201-2720! Please keep it under three minutes, if at all possible!

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I love savage!! Happy Holidays!! Prost
Posted by porter c on December 13, 2011 at 5:31 PM · Report this
Ooo. I don't like the letter written to the "older" woman thing. Girls can be mean. But nothing wrong with being older.

Posted by spoon on December 13, 2011 at 5:31 PM · Report this
@ LACA - First I applaud and respect you for your willingness to table your kink while you grow in your relationship. I think part of being GGG is understanding that there are limitations due to circumstances beyond your control - the fucker abused him. He's sick and deserves to be in a deep circle in the bowels of Hell. You and your partner are left to pick up the pieces after a terrible person did terrible shit and that sucks (I know that first hand). I sincerely hope that you and your partner find peace.

You say that you feel so connected to her that you don't need your kink indulged to feel fulfilled - but i suspect that's a "for the time being" statement - meaning that you will at some point in the future feel that you may feel you need your kink indulged to feel a complete satisfaction in the sexual aspect of your relationship. Why do I say this? Because your kink is already on the table and known to both of you.

As your desire to engage in your kink ebbs and flows, ALWAYS be open and honest regarding your feelings relative to your desires and the effect it is having (or not having) on your psyche. And always respect your partner's point of view (I suspect that you already do and always will).

HOWEVER - and it's a big However - with time passing and tastes changing, there is a possibility that the desire you feel to satisfy your kink will diminish. People's tastes can and do change. We grow, our bodies change, we produce less testosterone and estrogen, we deal with life changing events, et cetera...

I hope your relationship continues to grow and you find peace, serenity, and happiness with each other
Posted by naked chilli on December 13, 2011 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Holy SHIT, Batman! Was LACA's girlfriend unhappily married to my ex??
Bless you, LACA, for being compassionate! And all the best to you and your GF! I hope it works out.

Hang in there, SIP. Hopefully it doesn't become a Brad-Jen-Angelina manage-a-trois situation. Time heals.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 13, 2011 at 5:54 PM · Report this
If LACA's girlfriend was married for years to a guy who abused her violently in bed, she could probably use some therapy to help her figure out why she stayed so long...
Posted by EricaP on December 13, 2011 at 6:48 PM · Report this
echizen_kurage 6
Erica @5:

If LACA's girlfriend was married for years to a guy who abused her violently in bed, she could probably use some therapy to help her figure out why she stayed so long...

I usually think you're pretty awesome, but I have to say, this sounds dangerously like blaming the victim. Many -- possibly most -- abusers seem very charming and attentive at the beginning, and only reveal their true character gradually, as the relationship becomes increasingly committed. Contrary to popular wisdom, you can't actually boil a live frog to death by heating the water, but the principle applies here nonetheless. Moreover, abusers tend to be skilled at making their victims feel guilty for "causing" the abuse and/or terrorizing them into a state of learned helplessness.

It's easy for somebody who's never been in an abusive relationship (or who's been in an abusive relationship with an abuser who tipped his/her hand early on) to ask "why did you stay so long?" As I see it, this is roughly the same thing as asking a victim of stalking "why didn't you get a restraining order?" or asking a victim of bullying "why didn't you get those kids expelled?" It's adding insult to injury. It's a shit cherry on top of a cyanide sundae. It's both unkind and utterly unhelpful.
Posted by echizen_kurage on December 13, 2011 at 11:13 PM · Report this
I suspect the woman LACA is dating is one of Newt's exes (or her spirit transformed)
Posted by fif on December 13, 2011 at 11:25 PM · Report this
@5 EricaP: I usually consider you spot on, too, but am inclined to agree with echizen_kurage here.

@6: OMG, you NAILED it!! You also described my ex-husband to a T!!
Ted Bundy came on as handsome, charming and attentive, too, before brutally murdering dozens of women and girls in five states across the U.S. Then he finally got caught, tried, convicted and put to death. As a law student, he also knew all the angles--and had the audacity to gloat about being sent to the chair.

Learned helplessness acquired from an abusive relationship is something like returning home from being held a prisoner of war or a combat / PTSD situation, and can take months, years to fully recover from.

Hopefully, LACA is patient enough with his girlfriend (and it sounds like he is) to fully help her over the trauma of a violently abusive marriage from hell.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 14, 2011 at 12:34 AM · Report this
singing cynic 9
Spot-on answer to LACA Dan. Your clear-headedness about sex is such a benefit to your readers... I can't imagine what kind of answer this poor, sweet guy would get from Dear Abbey or Caroline Hax.
Posted by singing cynic on December 14, 2011 at 4:41 AM · Report this
mydriasis 10

I'm actually with Erica.
Wondering why an adult woman stayed in abusive relationship is not the same as asking a child why they didn't get bullies expelled.

I actually think that's a telling analogy, but I'll skip what I was going to say about that for tldr sake.

Some women are more susceptible to remaining in abusive relationships than others. Some are more inclined to go down the cognitive road that their boyfriends and husbands try to lead them on. That absolutely does not mean it's their "fault". Nor is it negative or insulting to imply that a woman may be psychologically vulnerable and could use help. I dislike that implication and I think it helps perpetuate these kinds of cycles, to be honest. The stigma around mental health is so ingrained that people take it as an insult or an affront (insult to injury, you say!) when someone even suggests it. Here's an example: I work with a lovely, sweet, funny girl named... I'll say Cat. She's also extremely bony, scarily so. A while back I was having lunch with another coworker (say Lena) who was saying how some other girl was calling Cat anorexic. As an insult. I had to say "well, it's obviously bitchy to say it that way, but I think Cat probably is". Lena was mortified that I would say such a thing. "No, she's a nice, sweet girl."
As if that's incompatible with having a mental illness?

In my opinion, a lot of abusive boyfriends do tip their hands early on, just not in ways that most people are attentive to. That's really not to your point though.

Someone I love very much (close family member) was sucked into a controlling relationship several years ago, with a parner who cut them off from family, friends, everyone. It's been years since I last got to see them.

Who do I blame? Who do you think I blame?
But that doesn't mean I don't know that the vulnerability was there first.
Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 5:32 AM · Report this
Sorry to do an AOL here - but people don't necessarily need therapy after one oppressive, abusive relationship _that ended_. The reasons that people can get sucked into those have been well explored and don't necessarily have too much to do with the personal characteristics of the victim. People need therapy if there is an ongoing or _repeated pattern_ of oppressive, abuse relationships. I suppose they might get therapy after the first one if they feel vulnerable, but let's stipulate that LACA is telling the truth and his relationship really is healthy and supportive. Why does she need therapy? It's not broke, don't fix it.
Posted by anonymous_name on December 14, 2011 at 5:45 AM · Report this
@11 name,

Therapy doesn't come in one shape, size, or flavor. It doesn't come from one source either (though professionals are trained to deal with the things the rest of us don't really want to). Simply being able to talk out our frustrations is an example of what could be termed everyday therapy. While not broken, sometimes people need tuneups to be in the best condition possible, and to head off breakdowns before they occur.

Posted by Married in MA on December 14, 2011 at 6:09 AM · Report this
geoz 13
I had a similar experience - not around kink but simpler things. Even touching was difficult for her. But, we've talked a LOT about it. I also had to be ready to stop everything and make sure her guilt for us stopping was eliminated... that it was ok to stop.

We finally got to a place where what we do is just between us.... 95% of the time. One big help was for me to read "Allies in Healing" by Laura Davis. (geared more toward abuse of children). Even the act of trying to understand was appreciated by my partner.
Posted by geoz on December 14, 2011 at 6:58 AM · Report this
I'd indulge you with your spanking fetish, LACA! As long as we're on the subject, I too liked to be spanked... Mmm, yeah... I like your style, baby... Wanna? ;) +~
Posted by Fellow Spanking Afficionardo +~ ;) on December 14, 2011 at 7:01 AM · Report this
This is a great article backed up by science about abusive relationships…
Posted by Endless on December 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM · Report this
S.I.P. seems aware that the connection between her husband and herself had been fraying... What are you going to do if your needs just aren't being met at home? It's a bit of a kick in the ego that the broad the husband took up with for a fling was much younger, but can wifey do?

She can begin taking better care of herself: inside and out. Get into shape but *moreover*, be confident! Walk it. Be and carry yourself the way that got your husband to be hot for you in the first place. Marriage needn't end the romance or the journey.. Why should it? Appreciate what you have, and cherish it.

It goes a long way.. :-) ~+~+~+~
Posted by Jebediah Jebs: Married In Love To Mango Peach ;) +~+~+~ on December 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM · Report this
@ 15: I used to be in an abusive relationship with my own self... (Not physically abusive, just beating myself up a lot internally)...

At some point in anyone's life, you learn to just give in and begin attending to what has haunted you your whole life, or has been a source of unresolved stress or something..

I fell in love with the love of my life about a year after I began a therapy regimen. The timing of that happening is not lost on me one bit. Heal yourself and love yourself better, and you may find love is ready to find you, because you're now better equipped and present to be in love now..

Life is good.



Posted by Found Myself & True Love In 1995:-) on December 14, 2011 at 7:10 AM · Report this
@16: Why do you think she's not taking good care of herself? That is a terrible assumption to make. My husband cheated on me, and I'm in the best shape of my life, working out every day and running several marathons a year. I'm also extremely confident so that's not the issue. Sometimes cheaters just cheat, even when they have something great at home.
Posted by lalalicious on December 14, 2011 at 7:31 AM · Report this
@6 I think everyone could benefit from some therapy with the right professional. Someone not involved in one's life, who can help one figure out how to achieve one's goals in life and move on from any negative patterns learned in childhood or after. It helped me a lot.

@8 "Learned helplessness acquired from an abusive relationship is something like returning home from being held a prisoner of war or a combat / PTSD situation, and can take months, years to fully recover from."

And you don't think that having someone professional to talk to might be helpful in that recovery process?

@11 She's not able to explore light spanking at all, and yet her partner has those desires. If she had been raped and couldn't stand PIV, would people not think she could use some therapy? Why is light kink (a few spanks) different? What if he can't even squeeze her ass because that reminds her of the abuse?
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM · Report this
@18 Yep. Absolutely. So - how are you doing? Are you guys trying to work it out?
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 8:01 AM · Report this
@ 18 You're right: I generalized the situation. If it wasn't that she wasn't hot enough, then maybe it was just that they drifted apart some, and needs and attention wandered or something.

True: sometimes cheaters just cheat. I wouldn't put up with that shit, though. I wouldn't do it (and, thankfully, haven't) and I wouldn't put up with any of that if it happened repeatedly, and for no genuine reason, other than getting a piece of new strange.

Who knows, lalalicious (good name, btw!)? Not all couples are mated, or, connected as well as either one of us would wish to believe.

You do make a point from the wife's perspective: if (or, your example works here) she's taking care of herself, is confident and is otherwise doing her part to uphold her end of the happy marriage, then maybe it's just something the husband needs to figure out: possibly through therapy, if it heads that way. I'd sooner break up with someone and leave rather than to diminish what we shared by cheating.. If you're not happy, you're not happy. Figuring out what does make you happy can sometimes be a lifelong task, but it just saddens me when people who were once close and happy begin to fritter away; the connection begins to weather..

S.I.P's wife sounds awesome. The husband must be an idiot if he's giving up the steak dinner at home for some beef jerky (no pun intended) from some young skeezer down on the corner (hangin' with the sluts! ;-D LOL...!!)

Thanks Lalalicious for a good read.
Cheers On.
Posted by Jebediah Jebs: hearing out lalalicious' wise words on December 14, 2011 at 8:57 AM · Report this
I bet LACA would also benefit from therapy; he has been through a difficult situation recently (being abandoned by his wife), and is probably psychologically vulnerable as well. Not his fault, not saying that he (or his girlfriend) is damaged goods -- just that sometimes life changes like this provide an opportunity to slow down and assess.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 9:03 AM · Report this
"The passage of time is your body's enemy on the physical-perfection front—and his, too"

Not always, not for everyone. Some of us find graying hair to be very attractive, for example. "Character lines" can make one's face much more interesting and charismatic. A little extra weight around the midsection is quite erotic for some. "Perfection" is in the eye of the beholder, and does not always mean society's stereotype of youth and tautness. For some of us, the changes over time can enhance attractivenss and sex appeal. Embrace and celebrate them!
Posted by Loves what age brings on December 14, 2011 at 9:07 AM · Report this
@ 22. Hi Erica. I dig what you write in here, so Thanks. I hope LACA finds peace, too. It's sometimes a long, wandering path to get to a point where you become brave enough to try therapy. Especially, as you said, when you've been so psychologically vulnerable that you can barely function with a minimum of outer armor, you know?

Like attracts like: whether it's a positive or negative thing. No matter what it is: therapy, a cool new hobby, a new friend :-) : if it helps you to outgrow and move on from bad past conditioning, then how cool would that be? Especially when it comes time to have a family with someone you trust, like, love and respect: giving your family the best of what you had growing up but -hopefully- with a minimum of what brought you down and troubled you when you were growing up... Breaking the cycle of any kind of abuse, really.

But then, no one can really help of be of any help to anyone else unless you somehow help yourself first towards health..

Good thread so far. Thanks again, EricaP. Peace.
Posted by Jeb, Inc.-) on December 14, 2011 at 9:14 AM · Report this
@ 23. Hi. That's sweet what you wrote, about what is sexy and what isn't: the eye of the beholder thing..

I'm 42 right now, and I have light dashes of gray hair around my temple areas. I do dye my hair; I don't feel like an elder statesman or some matronly type, so I opt to dye my hair.

Wrinkles and lines? I'm pretty fortunate that my skin is decent shape. I drink a lot of water and fluids, so I'm hydrated that way.

Come to think of it, if you can somehow find peace and tolerance each day for the world inside and around you, you may find that you don't age as quickly, or as roughly.

I actually love being as old as I am now. I still have my wits, my enthusiasm and everything: I just also have time, experience and self-knowledge to enjoy what I have, and appreciate it and work it.

I'm happy to make my partner happy. It makes me happy to be able to and it inspires me to look how I feel: great :-)_. Life could be worse!

Posted by Jebediah, Etc.-) on December 14, 2011 at 9:20 AM · Report this
I wish more people had SIP's mentality.
I hope she and her boyfriend get through this!
Posted by Dynomite on December 14, 2011 at 9:29 AM · Report this
I suspect that ericap is less intending to blame the victim, and more intending to say that learned helplessness is something worth talking to a therapist about, which is very true.
Posted by midnight rider on December 14, 2011 at 10:09 AM · Report this
Why on earth are you jumping on EricaP for suggesting therapy? That poor woman had a shitty experience that continues to affect her life (and relationships) in a negative way... she was abused into silence for years and could probably use some guidance and support in making THIS relationship as open and healthy as it can be. She's got a great partner, but that will only take you halfway. The rest is up to her, and she SHOULD be concerned how that abuse changed her automatic reactions and responses. She needs to deprogram herself from survival mode, living with abuse, and while it CAN be done without professional help by some people, that doesn't make EricaP wrong for suggesting it. We all could use a little help now and again.
Posted by auntielarrie on December 14, 2011 at 11:27 AM · Report this
@19 regarding @11, because spanking someone, physically hitting them, is an inherently dominating behavior. PIV sex isn't.
Posted by maenad69 on December 14, 2011 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Great Savage Lovecast idea.
Posted by Yojimbo on December 14, 2011 at 11:38 AM · Report this
@ 27: Hi Midnight Rider. It's just the pain that someone carries; just learning that it's ok to want better for yourself even when you barely feel it to believe that you actually want better. I remember days like those.. I think everyone does at some point in their lives.. Sometimes though, it can all be too much, and you start pleading mercy with yourself to figure out a way to live better...

For me, I always a bit angry along with my more despondent, or, depressed phases of my life.. I was angry for knowing congnitively that I shouldn't feel bad about my lot in life, but, yet I did.. Just wanting to start answering your own questions about yourself, and grow and heal from it. It's only ever too late when you die.

Any way for someone to express what is going on inside themselves, to let it out, to set it free, I'm ALL for it. Wanting more for yourself after periods of pain and wilderness is to be applauded. It takes guts to admit you could feel better, and then you set out to begin doing so.

Anywhere where the person who is troubled, and/or who opts to go to a therapist; anywhere they can feel safe and not feeling judged: that's the place to be. Good friends, family... Sometimes outside sources are better. I've been there..

I hope it works out for everybody. :-) Peace...

Posted by Jebediah's Happy Sunshine Lunchtime Walk on December 14, 2011 at 11:45 AM · Report this
@27: +1 My sister has been in one shitty relationship after another. If you look at each one individually she, the victim, can't be blamed. However, consider her entire history and one is forced to acknowledge that *sometimes* the victim does bear some responsibility. That's not to say my sister is at fault, just that she could probably take steps to recognize what pattern of behavior is leading her to make these poor decisions over and over.
Posted by repete on December 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM · Report this
@19 EricaP: Everyone's recovery process is different. Everyone's definition of therapy is different.

Mainly, the basic point that I am agreeing with made by echizen-kurage is the cycle of an abuser. @6 had that correct. And yes, getting over learned helplessness and knowing that one is deserving of so much better usually takes some time. Excellent therapy for me was in returning to a lost passion of music. Talking to someone can help, but didn't always work out for me. Plus, therapists can be expensive.

But what works well for me might NOT have the same desirable results for LACA's girlfriend.
Now that makes sense, doesn't it?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 14, 2011 at 12:13 PM · Report this
@32 repete: Excellent point made!!!! I'm still re-evaluating past behavioral patterns from long ago, in hopes that the old mistakes don't get repeated again.

So far, so good.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 14, 2011 at 12:20 PM · Report this
@20 Hi Erica - Yes, we are trying to work through our problems and both want to stay together. It's been 7 months since I found out about the affair, and we have bad days and good days. More good days than bad days as time goes on, so things are improving, although we still have issues to work out - especially involving our sex life, which has been really blah since the affair. It's frustrating. I was actually thinking about writing into Dan for advice about that...

@21 I think it was just drifting apart in my situation. Sometimes all those things you to do keep yourself attractive for your partner (exercising, being successful at work, etc) actually put distance between you. Not that this justifies cheating, of course it doesn't. You're right, it's a weak move to cheat when you are unhappy in a marriage instead of separating. Believe me, before this I thought no way in hell would I ever put up with cheating. But when it happens to you, and you're forced to look at yourself and your partner and your relationship under the harsh light of an affair, you might make a different decision. There's no easy answer. But who knows, I might change my mind tomorrow. ;)
Posted by lalalicious on December 14, 2011 at 12:20 PM · Report this
@29 Personally, I'm not persuaded by that distinction. In my experience, a lot of sex involves play around aggression, desire, need, and, yes, dominance. But then I'm kinky, so I may just not understand polite, egalitarian sex.

@33 Yes. Also, trying different styles of therapy can be helpful. For me, cognitive behavioral therapy showed much better results than just talking about my problems. Music worked for you - that's great. As for cost, insurance will often cover some of the cost, and many therapists offer a sliding scale so they can assist people who are not able otherwise to afford it.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM · Report this
i'd like to add my two cents about the efficacy of therapy, garnered from decades of experience:

1) cbt and dbt--worth it.
2) all other forms of psychotherapy--waste of time and money.

Posted by ellarosa on December 14, 2011 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Ms Erica - Your opening suggestion @19 is the sort of thing that seems to be a can't-hurt proposition and I'd tend to agree at least with the spirit, but I've known people for whom therapy would be counterproductive, sometimes specifically and sometimes in general. Probably the exception, but enough to keep me from agreeing to universality.

As for LACA and his situation - yes, she might, with therapy, reach a point of being able to explore spanking (I think you occasionally tend to a little too much optimism that being able to explore means being able to indulge means being able to develop an equal kink; not sure if that's happening here, but you can be a bit of a Slippery Slope), which is hardly a guarantee that he'll be spanking merrily away for all eternity. As he at least presents with willingness to forego this kink, that's the direction I'd look first (and I am not asking LACA to do something I have not done myself).

I don't think it will be all champagne and opera, though. So often where one sees guilt there is a guilt-inducer; it's worth a look even if it's not a strong suspicion. And then there's the impression that this is his only kink; how strong is it?
Posted by vennominon on December 14, 2011 at 12:55 PM · Report this
@29,36 -- I agree. Our vision of sex tends to be very 'tender' and 'fairy-tale-like'. That is definitely a part of it. But there is more, of course, even in vanilla relationships. (Dan said a few times that people tend to eroticize things they fear -- hence BDSM and cuckold fetishes, etc. I don't entirely agree with it, but I agree enough to make one further question: why do people eroticize the things they fear? Why transfer that to the world of sex? Why not transfer it to some other area, like sports, work/career, etc.? It's as if sex had some inherent essence that made it easier for us to transfer things like our deepest fears to it...)

@33-36, 19 (and others discussing abusive relationships): one thing one doesn't hear very often is that, with some frequency, the abuser himself is also being 'manipulated' in the process, like the proverbial frog in the water slowly brought to the boiling point. I mean that some abusers (say, first-time ones) are not simply evil people planning to make another person suffer just for the hell of it; they can start out as someone who has a problem or issue or something they don't want to talk about, but somehow assume others can see and should be helping with; but since they don't talk about it nobody (including their partners or SOs) is helping or taking care of it. So they (the abusers-to-be) get angry and, say, start making snappy remarks that are misinterpreted or misunderstood or even ignored (since the partners/SOs still don't know that there's 'something', 'some issue' that is not being addressed)... which leads to more anger, which leads to maybe going a little beyond snappy remarks, and then a little more...

In other words, there are some pretty normal (even good) people who get trapped into abusive behavior because there is something they are not dealing well with. If this thing is not brought to the fore and finally delt with adequately, their abusive behavior can escalate into all the areas we know about (including severe physical abuse). And yet in some sense the abuser himself is a victim of something (s/he abuses because s/he suffers, as it were; perhaps more exactly, s/he abuses because s/he's angry and hurt that his/her suffering is not being noticed). I think this is why, as is often noticed, abuse victims have a higher-than-average chance of turning into abusers themselves.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 14, 2011 at 1:01 PM · Report this
@28: I never said that seeking therapy is wrong. It has helped me several times throughout my life, especially in coping and healing. Therapy can, indeed, be expensive, however. Some health insurers are picky about which therapists they'll cover, and they might not always be good fits or be able to provide the kind of assistance for the one seeking therapy.

Please re-read my statement from @33, to EricaP: "Everyone's recovery process is different. Everyone's definition of therapy is different....

But what works well for me might NOT have the same desirable results for LACA's girlfriend."
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 14, 2011 at 1:11 PM · Report this
nocutename 41
One thing that the Savage Love comments community seems to have in common is the idea that we all have a right to pursue our every kink. But sometimes we don't (if the kink is sex with children); sometimes we can't (50 ft. woman, unicorns, centaurs, Brad Pitt, etc.). And sometimes, for some reason, we choose not to. LACA has chosen to forgo his kink for admirable reasons. I don't know that he was looking for advice on how to get his girlfriend to come around to wanting it.

Perhaps the knowledge that he has this kink, yet refrains out of love and respect for her comfort, desires, and abilities, will do her as much good as therapy.
Posted by nocutename on December 14, 2011 at 1:27 PM · Report this
@38 "you occasionally tend to a little too much optimism that being able to explore means being able to indulge means being able to develop an equal kink...a bit of a Slippery Slope"

Granted. Maybe LACA's relationship isn't going to last long anyway, and for now, he does seem willing to do without. But in long marriages, I do think people should explore, indulge, and, yes, even try to find pleasure in the other person's kink. Twenty, thirty, forty years of sex with another person is a lot of time to stick to the same thing that worked at the beginning. I don't mind your presenting the opposing view, of course :-) But all I can do is speak from my particular experience, for whatever that's worth.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 1:29 PM · Report this
@39 anklosuar: I agree with you on some points, but not all of them.

I survived a bad marriage, but wouldn't dream of doing to a guy what my ex did to me. But that's history. That was then this is now. I'm so over my ex it isn't funny, and what happened to me ten years ago certainly isn't the next guy's fault. By the way, I don't see myself as a victim, either. For one thing, the source of the abuse no longer exists in my life; I've moved on.

Although it's difficult, abusers can also choose to break the vicious cycle holding them and their commonly isolated victims captive.
But anyone--male or female-- with abusive behavioral patterns has to WANT to change, just as someone in a bad relationship has to want to leave for something better.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 14, 2011 at 1:32 PM · Report this
EricaP is exactly, precisely, spot on correct in her first post re: the girlfriend benefiting from some professional guidance to help her understand why she stayed within the marriage as long as she did. There are a few important things to note about this statement:

1. This is not about the girlfriend working through her demons to get to the point where she can endure a little paddling now and again. That suggestion was not made in the vein of GGG girls will do what it takes to get with the program.

2. Understanding why we make the decisions and choices we do helps us to break free of the cycle of making bad decisions and choices that put us at emotional, psychological, and physical risk.

Santayana said " those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". That is just as applicable to our own personal history as it is to the greater context of world history.

3. No part of Erica's suggestion aims blame or fault at the girlfriend. To do so would serve to victimiize her further. Instead, Erica's thoughtful suggestion of seeking a greater understanding of herself serves to empower this woman. Since when do we discourage that?
Posted by catballou on December 14, 2011 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Thanks Dan for your response to LACA! I've had moments of self doubt that my kinks make me less sympathetic to victims of sexual abuse. It's reassuring to know that other people worry about that as well and that being kinky doesn't mean you lose your morality.
Posted by courtsport on December 14, 2011 at 2:25 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 46
@ EricaP,

I think everyone could benefit from some therapy with the right professional.

Posted by Matt from Denver on December 14, 2011 at 3:14 PM · Report this
mydriasis 47

Sure, why not?
You ever hear of a physical?
Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 3:17 PM · Report this

A physical is an examination. There doesn't have to be a problem.

Therapy is treatment for a problem.

I actually thought you would know the difference.

Posted by Hunter78 on December 14, 2011 at 4:26 PM · Report this
mydriasis 49
Sigh. Well if you want to get that nitpicky, you're technically right. But no one starts therapy without first doing some kind of assessment of what the problem is.

I can't speak for Erica, but I think everyone could benefit from an assessment meeting, or whatever the term for it is.

I actually thought you would infer what I meant.
Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 4:37 PM · Report this

You've "started to worry about looking older." You're getting older, you'll get older looking. Expect it and accept it. Beyond that there are multi-billion dollar industries who promise to slow the process.

You're upset he hooked up with a much younger woman. Guys are hard-wired to be attracted to young women. Would it really have been better if she were the same age as you? Wouldn't you then be concerned why he chose her, if he had you?

You've been together five years and your sex life is getting better-- you've got more going on than simple sexual attraction. Relax, forgive him and yourself, and let it go.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 14, 2011 at 5:09 PM · Report this
@46 - 49, I used to think I didn't have any issues. No therapy for me, man, I'm totally fine. But with all the stuff going on in my life, I finally went to one, for the first time ever. Oh, wow. I'd been holding on to a lot of issues from childhood. Now, granted, I've always been functional. But I think most functional people would benefit from finding a therapist with whom they click, and getting a good airing out of whatever baggage they might be carrying around. If you get your checkup, and it turns out you have no baggage, you're happy as a clam, then more power to you. I think 9 out of 10 functioning people in the US would find it helpful to learn more about what goes on in their head when they make decisions, pick people to date, procrastinate about calling their mother, etc.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 52
I could get the checkup, turn out that I have no baggage, but be a lot poorer after paying for it. And that's assuming that I get a therapist who is completely honest and not trying to convince me that there's something wrong with me.
Posted by Matt from Denver on December 14, 2011 at 5:16 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 53
@ 49, why would someone infer a meaning that's different from the words you explicitly wrote?

Maybe, at some point in the future, people will have routine mental health screenings, like people today routinely go in for physical exams but did not in the past. But that's not reality today, so I'm sorry to say that that makes your comparison a poor one.
Posted by Matt from Denver on December 14, 2011 at 5:22 PM · Report this
lalalicious @35 I'm sorry to hear your sex life has been worse since the affair. When I first found out, I couldn't imagine ever having sex with him again. But 24 hours later, after rehashing and rehashing all the details, I jumped his bones, maybe because we'd been talking about sex for 24 hours straight, or maybe as a way to change the dynamic, or maybe because he touched me the right way -- I can't explain how it worked. But it did. I'm probably not the right person to advise you here, but for me, it helped to realize that I'd been hurting him for much longer (I had a longstanding bitter joke about how he must be cheating on me because he worked such long hours...) We were able to come together and help each other with the pain, even though we had each caused some of it.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 5:26 PM · Report this
@52 - have you ever asked a friend to recommend a therapist, and then asked that therapist if they have a sliding scale, or can recommend someone who does? If you're interested, except for cost concerns, then you might try that.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 5:31 PM · Report this
Abusive therapists are not unheard of.

The idea that most functional people should go to be assessed by a therapist as if it were a medical examination, where they could be pronounced "without baggage" or "in need of therapy" sounds like bunk to me. A medical doctor can at least show you test results to support their diagnosis, a dentist might be able to show you your cavities on the x-ray, though I've heard of dentists whose patients need more work when the dentist has a vacation to pay for.

It seems that some people put a whole lot of faith in therapy. Maybe it's not such a good idea for everyone, especially someone who has been the victim of abuse, to put oneself at the mercy of another person so readily.

I have no doubt that therapists have helped many people in need, and I'm glad they're out there. But just because a therapist helped you, it doesn't mean therapy would be a good idea for everybody else.

A cheaper starting place might be reading self-help books.
Posted by LiveAndLet on December 14, 2011 at 5:56 PM · Report this
@52 Matt,

Before you have experience with therapy there is no way you need it. After you have experience, it can be hard to live without it.

If you've had any 12 step type experience, the reality of not being alone with problems perceived and not yet perceived is profound. But if you haven't had the experience it's pretty easy to dismiss both the problem(s) and the relief. And if you don't have any problems, you're a better person than I.

Posted by Married in MA on December 14, 2011 at 6:13 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 58
@ 55, thanks.

@ 57, your remark tends to underscore one of my concerns about therapy - that it can end up being a longterm crutch for those who enter it. I certainly hope the goal is that the patient can one day live without it.

I wasn't dismissing anything, so I ask you not to put words in my mouth, and also to apologize for doing so.
Posted by Matt from Denver on December 14, 2011 at 6:42 PM · Report this
@ Matt from Denver, I can tell already you have issues and would benefit from some therapy if you ever let go of your ego enough to see one.

But more generally, I don't believe there is anyone in the world who is completely mentally healthy and would not benefit from some skilled therapy.
Posted by rp on December 14, 2011 at 6:44 PM · Report this
echizen_kurage 60
@ My:

Unfortunately, I don't have time to respond to your comment as thoroughly as I'd like to, but let me be clear about one thing: when I described Eria's comment as "adding insult to injury," the "insult" was not the implication that LACA's girlfriend would benefit from therapy, but rather the implication that she was somehow complicit in her own abuse. Yes, I acknowledge that some people are more vulnerable to abuse than others. But no matter how you try to spin it, saying that a woman coming out of an abusive relationship needs therapy "to help her figure out why she stayed so long" absolutely reeks of blaming the victim. (A straightforward reading of Erica's comment seems to suggest that this is the central reason that LACA's girlfriend should seek therapy -- not so she can work through her trauma and put it behind her, but so she can discover why she "let" herself be traumatized in the first place.) Would this question come up in the course of therapy? Yes, probably, although not necessarily in quite those words. But I maintain that it's a cruel and counterproductive way to frame whatever psychological issues an abuse victim may have.
Posted by echizen_kurage on December 14, 2011 at 6:55 PM · Report this
@56 - it's you, not the therapist, who decides if you need more therapy. But your point is valid that if you're susceptible to doing what you're told by authority figures, then therapy might be a bad idea.

David Burns' book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy provides a good introduction to cognitive behavioral therapy, and taught me that it wasn't all bunk (even though it's hard at first to understand the difference between CBT and The Secret). Only then did I understand what I might be able to get out of talking to someone with some CBT training.

@58 I ended mine after six months, but some people thrive with ongoing therapy. Therapy can be a crutch, or it can be like exercise for the mind.
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 6:56 PM · Report this
@60 I apologize for phrasing it badly. okay?
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 6:58 PM · Report this
"But more generally, I don't believe there is anyone in the world who is completely mentally healthy and would not benefit from some skilled therapy.

Amazingly, most of the world cannot afford such things, and historically most could not do so, yet they all seemed to manage just fine. As if, humans were designed to live their lives without therapists. Wow, what a concept.
Posted by And people can actually exist without iPods too! on December 14, 2011 at 7:56 PM · Report this
Ms Erica - I would like to think we could coexist. You do remind me a bit of Brand with his ALL OR NOTHING. There's more to this post, but it keeps insiting on not coming out properly, and I've decided to stop trying to force it.
Posted by vennominon on December 14, 2011 at 8:15 PM · Report this
@58 Matt,

I apologize most freely, but ask that you reread @57 not as a challenge, but rather as a sadder but wiser lament. In my case I am working my way up to a crutch from being completely disabled. As it happens I have done so completely by therapy since all the medications I tried in conjunction with a neuropharmacologist did nothing to help. The 12 step reference is in part a legacy of self medication from when I was younger, but is still a valid expression of the power of shared experience and honesty (or therapy by other means). I would even recommend pastoral counseling under some circumstances, if it weren't so unpopular around here. As far as I am concerned there is one overriding truth: in my case therapy has and is worked. If it is taking a long time, it took longer to create the situation in the first place.

Posted by Married in MA on December 14, 2011 at 8:16 PM · Report this
mydriasis 66
@ Matt

I thought it was a pretty logical implication of what I was saying, maybe it wasn't clear for other people, but I don't really feel like dissecting it any further than that.

Full dislosure, I'm Canadian. We have the free healthcare so going to a psychiatrist is free also. I'm assuming you're American, then?

Other kinds of therapists are not free in Canada but they frequently offer their first (and sometimes second) meetings for free.

Finally, the long term crutch thing may be true, but as someone mentioned above, not all therapy is the same. CBT has a limited timeframe and the patient is not encouraged to continue past it.

Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 8:18 PM · Report this
@65: has worked and is working...

Posted by Married in MA on December 14, 2011 at 8:22 PM · Report this

There are many things in the modern world that are radical changes from the past. In my case, had sulfa drugs not been available for my father during WWII, I wouldn't be here. In addition, without glasses I am legally blind, with them I have slightly better than normal eyesight. Even the rising incidence of Alzheimer's disease (and other chronic diseases of the elderly) is an indicator of our "changing the world" by successfully decreasing the risk of death from other means long enough for the disease(s) to occur.

If you have a problem with the concept of mental health care, then ignore it. If you have a problem with the cost, then get a health plan that covers it, or move to Canada. In my opinion they have the right of it; quality and quantity of life as a priority.

Posted by Married in MA on December 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM · Report this
echizen_kurage 69

I appreciate that. I know your comment @5 wasn't intended maliciously, but it was just one of those things that got under my skin and rankled, you know? But now that I've said my piece, I feel better.
Posted by echizen_kurage on December 14, 2011 at 9:34 PM · Report this
mydriasis 70
"As if, humans were designed to live their lives without therapists. Wow, what a concept"

Humans weren't designed. That's stupid.

There's three other things that are stupid about your statement.

1. People lived before toilet paper, before running water, before birth control, before electricity. That doesn't mean that saying most people could benefit from these things isn't true.

2. I don't have interst in debating this fact in depth with you, but sometimes new problems exist that didn't exist before. Did you know that? There's this virus for example, you may have heard of it. It's called HIV and it's killed millions of people? Yeah, a lot of the world can't afford medication for that. That probably means that we shouldn't bother to try to stop it. What about obesity? Ever heard of it? Sometimes the circumstances of modern life create problems that modern life may also need to fix.

3. Finally, your "they all seemed to get by just fine" statement is also... hideously ignorant. If you do even a cursory look into the long history of mental health and mental health treatment you'll see that's.... so... ugh my brain is bleeding that's so stupid.
Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 10:02 PM · Report this
@70 like :-)
Posted by EricaP on December 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM · Report this
@10 Please don't compare being abused to having a mental illness. It is a dangerous comparison because it suggests that there is something wrong with a woman, not the abusive asshole that hurts her.

@32 If you truly believe what you are saying about your sister who was in many abusive relationships, then you are also saying that eventually, it IS okay to blame the victim. That eventually, if someone gets hit enough and stays, the next time they get hit, it is their fault. If we are truly to believe in a non-violent basis for relationships (and our society) it must always be unacceptable to use violence against another individual. I'm shocked here that we can't agree that nobody deserves to be hurt in a relationship, ever, period.

@39 You sound like an abuser. If not, you certainly have a lot of sympathy for them and spent most of your comment trying to build up a false basis for why abuse happens. While it is true that many abusers have been abused, that doesn't make their abusiveness OK. Lots of people who have been abused choose to have healthy relationships. Abuse is a choice, and being abused DOES NOT force one to abuse another. After working for 2 years with both abusers counseling groups and victims groups, I understand that the hallmark of abusers is their ability to stay calm and collected and make the victim feel crazy/out of control/isolated. An abuser wants the power and control in a relationship. In order to maintain it, he has to keep himself very much under control at all times. It is a mistake to think of abusers as people who simply "flew off the handle" or "got to the boiling point." Research is very clear that people who abuse do not just do it once. There is no such thing as a one-time abuser. Abuse is a pattern of behavior over time where one person systematically takes power and control away from another person. I have known so many victims who are amazingly strong people--if they weren't strong, they wouldn't have survived. I challenge those of you who want to agree with 39 to read accounts from victims and those who do therapy with abusers.

@everyone stop making excuses for abuse, its never ok. and don't blame the victim. period.

Posted by Matkoff on December 14, 2011 at 10:48 PM · Report this
mydriasis 73
So... everything I wrote went over your head eh?
Posted by mydriasis on December 14, 2011 at 10:56 PM · Report this
@10 Are you really comparing being abused to having a mental illness or an eating disorder? That's wrong on so many levels. Being abused is not a mentality or a mental illness, its a crappy, and sometimes deadly, situation that some one in every four women in the US ends up in at some point.

@32 Just admit you are saying abuse is OK. It's just that for you, it's only OK after a while, when victims should have "learned their lesson." I've worked with hundreds of abused women, and none of them wanted to be in abusive relationships or sought out abusive partners. This is just a facade for victim blaming and it's shameful.

@44 In section 2 you say that women need to understand the bad choices they made that put them at risk for abuse. This is just another way of saying that its women's fault that they are abused--if they had just not put themselves at risk! Yes, we all put ourselves at risk when we start a new relationship and from 2 years of experience working with abusers counseling groups and victims groups, I know that you can't spot an abuser by the way they dress, their age, or how they treat you (in the beginning). And you certainly can't spot abuse in public--any abuser knows that to continue the abuse they need to masquerade as a healthy, loving partner. Abusers often maintain excellent standing in their communities as a way to hide their domestic behavior. An abuser is smart and knows how to rope someone in before starting to use extremely strategic tactics of power and control in order to make the victim so afraid of leaving that she stays in the relationship. It is true that therapy is helpful for abused women, to start to understand the tactics of power and control that abusers used and how the dynamics of abuse have affected them. Therapy is NOT for abused women to sit around and try to "figure out" what is wrong with them to have chosen abusers. This is why victims rights groups DO NOT suggest therapy for an abused individual--it places the responsibility and blame for the abuse on them, not where it belongs--on the person who perpetrates the abuse.
Posted by Matkoff on December 14, 2011 at 11:13 PM · Report this
@39 "In other words, there are some pretty normal (even good) people who get trapped into abusive behavior because there is something they are not dealing well with"

You sound like an abuser. If not, you certainly have a lot of sympathy for those poor abusers, because really, its not your fault if you hit someone if someone else hit you first, right?

The way you describe how someone might abuse the first time, its like you are trying to build an understandable rational, so we can sympathize with abusers and say to ourselves yeah, i guess if my wife/husband did that and i just got madder and madder i would have hit him/her too! don't make us join in on your quest to normalize abuse and make it sound like a reasonable outlet to those deal with daily annoyances.
Posted by Matkoff on December 14, 2011 at 11:25 PM · Report this
@61, Thanks for the book recommendation, EricaP. It sounds like a great idea to learn more about therapy, and what the different styles are, before getting into it. Seems like that would help people get the most out of it, if they're going to go down that road.
Posted by LiveAndLet on December 14, 2011 at 11:33 PM · Report this
thecheesegirl 77
I just wanted to say that, with all this discussion about "CBT" here on Savage Love, the first place my mind went to was not "cognitive-behavioral therapy".
Posted by thecheesegirl on December 14, 2011 at 11:43 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 78
It's a cavalcade of misinterpretation!
Posted by aureolaborealis on December 14, 2011 at 11:50 PM · Report this
LACA - no guarrentees, but you may find in time your girlfriend deals with her past by developing a related kink.. My first boyfriend was physically and sexually abusive, not admittedly in the systematic beating/spanking to tears way, but he would slap or kick me for minor transgressions (not changing channels on the tv quickly enough or if i dropped something he would kick or slap me for it whilst i was trying to clear it up) and force me to have sex or do things I wasn;t comfortable with.. as a result I became very emotionally sensitive about any kind of violence or anything that made me feel vulnerable, going apeshit if someone did something like grab my wrist and was quite inhibited sexually, couldn't abide anything where I was not in control, to the extent that I couldn;t even do it doggy style.. but over the years this has kind of morphed,and I now have sexual fantasies about being tied up, or put over my boyfriends knee and, relatively gently, spanked which we have started to explore and love being taken from behind and fucked in the ass.. I don't quite know how this flip happened, my very perceptive, understanding and damned sexy lover was a big part of it as I felt safe to explore knowing he wouldn't abuse the situation, but I also suspect maybe it's because the relationship between fear and excitement is so close, and I may always have had this inclination and not really acknowledged it, but it has definitely helped me deal with my past to open up about this and explore it with a partner I totally trust.. So short answer, it may not be ruled out, eventually, with alot of patience and understanding and good, trusting sex :0)
Posted by UK girlie on December 14, 2011 at 11:57 PM · Report this
@75 I think @39 was trying to say something like this:
We are not born with a fate to be an abuser or non-abuser. At some point some people will transition from simply having the potential to be an abuser to actually having a history of being an abuser. We obviously want to minimize the number of people that do this, so maybe we should look for more ways to treat the potential abuser before abuse occurs.
I understand poorly stating this can sound like blaming the victim or sympathizing with the abuser, but there are simply too many potential abusers to ignore the possible benefits of preventative treatment. (Milgram and Zimbardo both demonstrated the normality of potential for conformist/institutional evil, and it isn't much of a stretch to think that this extends to individual evil.)
Posted by DA on December 15, 2011 at 12:16 AM · Report this
@78: I second that!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 15, 2011 at 2:00 AM · Report this
74-Matkoff-- "Being abused ... is a crappy, and sometimes deadly, situation that some one in every four women in the US ends up in at some point."

Are you saying that 1:4 women are beaten up, bloodied, getting their bones broken and landing in emergency rooms at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands? If that's your assertion, could you site some statistics? A glance around you will let you know that you are incorrect.

Or are you saying that 1:4 women are in relationships where their boyfriends or husbands sometimes do things that they don't like or that could lead to the bloody situation if things went differently? This could be the boyfriend getting mad, yelling at her, storming off in a bad mood, insulting her, saying something he regrets, apologizing later, and eventually, if things don't go differently, building a strong relationship based on mutual disagreement, communication, compromise, apology, and the woman sometimes being the one who gets mad, yells, storms off, insults, does the regretting, and apologizing. If this is your assertion, your 1:4 statistic is low.

If that is your assertion, if scenario 2 is what's being given as the definition of "abuse," then you're in danger of trying to get attention (and public sympathy, and money) for a problem by saying it's more widespread than it is while the public is coming to the conclusion that it's not as bad as it's portrayed.
Posted by Crinoline on December 15, 2011 at 4:47 AM · Report this
Matkoff-- Your posts can be summed up as follows: All abusers are evil men who want to beat up women (or one woman) for some unknown reason. To do so, they must plot, from the beginning, to engage on a campaign to weaken their target's self esteem to the point of thinking she deserves it and to isolate her from friends, family, and support so she has nowhere to turn when things get worse. Any attempt to examine or explain the abuser's emotions or motives (other than he wants to be mean) is equivalent of excusing his behavior, and anyone who does so must be an abuser himself.

Is that right, or did I get it wrong somewhere?
Posted by Crinoline on December 15, 2011 at 6:23 AM · Report this
mydriasis 84
@74 Yes I was drawing a comparison.
And I repeat:
Nor is it negative or insulting to imply that a woman may be psychologically vulnerable and could use help. I dislike that implication and I think it helps perpetuate these kinds of cycles, to be honest. The stigma around mental health is so ingrained that people take it as an insult or an affront (insult to injury, you say!) when someone even suggests it.

A person can have psychological issues without having a mental illness, by the way.
Posted by mydriasis on December 15, 2011 at 6:39 AM · Report this
Haven't gotten to read the whole thread, but, per the "Should everyone get therapy?" Disccussion:

I do think it's possible that everyone COULD benefit from therapy. Not will, could. Most people do go to therapy only when they have problems. And it can be difficult to make yourself vulnerable to a stranger when you're already feeling vulnerable in every day life. This is actually an argument for seeing a therapist when everything is "fine". If you're able to build up a trust relationship when you aren't feeling vulnerable, it will be easier to open up when you are.

Personally, I am going through a pretty stressful time in my life. I, luckily, found a therapist I clicked with, and see once a week. Once I'm over this bump in the road, I plan to continue with her, though probably less often. Sometimes you don't even realize something is bothering you until you talk it out with someone. Also, I'd rather continue speaking to her on a regular basis so I don't have to "start over" the next time something comes up.
Posted by KateRose on December 15, 2011 at 8:21 AM · Report this
Roadflare 86
It is never okay to abuse anyone. Both sexes can be abuse: with woman, they are usually emotionally abusive. With men, they are usually both emotionally and physically abusive. Either way, there is never an excuse. I have known quite of few of both sexes unfortunately. I do agree that sometimes the abusers don't realize what how horrible they are being because they tend to be narcasisstic assholes who don't actually care about anyone but themselves.

There is never an excuse for abuse, period. Defender of abusers can go fuck themselves because it sounds like you are excusing their actions. What the hell is wrong with you? I'm guessing you're both guys who have abusive tendencies.
Posted by Roadflare on December 15, 2011 at 9:56 AM · Report this
82- Cite statistics! Mixing up sight, site, and cite is one of my pet peeves, and I went and did it.

Years ago I was one of those feminists who thought that asking why a victim stayed so long with her abuser was taboo. Now I'm realizing that neglecting to do so gives more even more power to the abuser. Not asking is saying that her motivations and emotions don't matter, that they don't deserve examination. It makes her even more at the mercy of the abuser. Helping her get to that place where she can wonder about her own actions and inactions is empowering. It can help her get past her fears, help her see that there is a great deal she can do to be in control of her own life.
Posted by Crinoline on December 15, 2011 at 10:19 AM · Report this
Lose-Lose 88
Dan, I'm surprised you let SIP off so easily. Isn't the "my boyfriend slept with another woman, what do I do?" letter your second-most common after "we're a straight couple, how do we save our sex life?".

Surprise #2: You didn't plug "Sex at Dawn". Sex life re-energized after this affair? Searing jealousy? A MAN HAS SEX WITH ANOTHER WOMAN?!?! All part of Hetero Sex 101. Hell, I'll plug it for you. (And why is he seeing a therapist? Sexual urges are normal.)
Posted by Lose-Lose on December 15, 2011 at 10:39 AM · Report this
@88 sexual urges are normal, and so is seeing a therapist. But it's also possible that the affair led him to notice some stuff going on in his head around "is this what life is for?" "how do I know if I'm ready to settle down?" or "Is it okay for me not to tell her that I also had an affair with a guy?" He may enjoy having someone he can talk to honestly about his situation.

Posted by EricaP on December 15, 2011 at 11:21 AM · Report this
TheGoddessMaria 90
Wow, I just gave a strong recommendation to the book "Healing Sex" by Staci Haines just yesterday! To anyone who has been, or is intimate with, a person who has been abused sexually, this book can be very helpful. I work in the sex industry, and help keep couples intimately connected - this is an excellent resource. (so much so that I don't care where anyone buys it, even though I do sell it.)

I agree with the idea that the woman in LACA's letter should explore why she stayed as long as she did - but a GOOD therapist will make her get to the reason(s) why on her own terms. Gently nudging someone to get the help they could use is not wrong, but must be offered as neutrally as possible. "Honey, I found some resources for people who went through what you did, and I hear they do great work. Here's a couple of numbers and brochures," and leave it at that. It's like anything else - if she's not ready now, it won't work. And if when (if) she's ready to explore it, that would be great, but I think it's not crucial if she's in a good relationship now. As long as she maintains her boundaries in other relationships as well. (i.e., she's not letting her boss, her mom, her pastor walk all over her)

I hope that is a helpful comment!
Posted by TheGoddessMaria on December 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM · Report this
@90: Thanks! I'll check it out.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 15, 2011 at 11:52 AM · Report this
BEG 92
Does such a story have to be phoned in? What about us deafies? Email somewhere?
Posted by BEG!/browneyedgirl65 on December 15, 2011 at 12:23 PM · Report this
I hate that Dan only focuses on the sex stuff with affairs. I actually agree that sexual fidelity should not be the be all end all of the definition of a good marriage, and if it was just purely a sex issue, then I'd agree that people need to just get over affairs and be satisfied with good long-term relationships. But - and he says this briefly - all affairs, even if they really are just one night stand sex - are also a betrayal and a breaking of trust. Especially when they involve lying, putting their spouses health at risk, breaking the "contract" of marital fidelity that the spouses agreed to, etc, they can be devestating. I'm afraid people who have cheated are going to read Dan's flippant "give yourself some time and you'll just forget about it" Responses and feel like their spouses are being ridiculous for caring about being cheated on. Or that cheated on spouses are going to feel guilty for not being forgiving and cool and progressive enough because they are devestated by their partner's affair. It's not just reconciling sexual fidelity, it's also dealing with someone who has lied to you, showed that they are selfish enough to not really care that they are doing something that might cause them to lose you and might cause you public embarrassment and putting your health at risk if they continue to sleep with you too. Cheating is so much bigger a deal than just getting used to the fact that sexual fidelity is not so important. I wish Dan would clarify that better in his cheating responses.
Posted by Being cheated on and lied to sucks even if it was "just" sex on December 15, 2011 at 12:44 PM · Report this
@93 - The rest of the world broadcasts the message that cheaters are terrible and those cheated upon should feel devastated and should leave the relationship. Dan is a lone voice saying, "Everyone is human, everyone has flaws. Now you know that your spouse has lied to you. What are you going to do with that information?" He doesn't tell people they have to stay, but he says they should at least consider staying (even though the rest of our culture says the only way to get back your self-respect is to leave.)
Posted by EricaP on December 15, 2011 at 1:24 PM · Report this
@43 (aunt grizelda), sure. Not all victims (or abusers) have to follow the exact same pattern, since humans, being humans, always have other things going on (other problems, other contexts, other desires/wishes, other people in their lives, other boundaries, other personalities, etc.).

It's just an oft-repeated observation that many an abuser has a past as an abuse victim. My own personal observations of this phenomenon lead me to believe that this is involved with the abuser-to-be's emotions concerning his/her own victimhood, either via projection (anger at past abusers is transferred to others) or via the sense that one's victimhood is being ignored (by someone important in our lives, or by everybody) -- the latter leading from feelings of injustice to desires for revenge.

I'm glad that's not your case; being able to escape the evil influence of this baggage is a reason for happiness indeed. I was also 'shell-shocked' in my childhood and youth, and I also managed to move on to a more normal life. Yet I almost didn't. There's this other path I could have followed, which would have led to me being one of those angry, frustrated abusers who torment those naive enough to come close. At some points I almost did follow this path. Almost. Why I didn't is one of the big questions of my life.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 15, 2011 at 3:38 PM · Report this
@93, I was going to say mostly what EricaP has already said above. I'll add only one more issue: lying is lying. Lying about sex with others, aka cheating, is not as such different from lying about other things (say, about the secret use you've been making of your joint savings account, or about having abandoned some addiction, or about having wholeheartedly and sincerely converted to your spouse's religion, or...).

Yet many of the lies in the above list are not treated by our culture as automatic deal-breakers, for which only permanent separation would be an appropriate solution. Note that many of them have the same problems as cheating (depending on what you are addicted to, you may be putting your spouse's health at risk; if you've been gambling with your joint savings account, you're putting your spouse's future solvency at risk; if your conversion to your spouse's religion is not sincere, you are breaking some very solemn promises; etc.).

Only cheating is apparently supposed to be this immediate deal-breaker. I don't think that this is fair. Also, even though Dan did give the advice you mentioned to this particular LW, how often has he also recommended LWs to DTMFA their CPOS of a spouse? I'm sure some CPOS could use Dan's advice to manipulate their spouses; but then again, any of Dan's concepts (say, GGG) can also be manipulated in this way.

The sad truth is that it's not the words and soundbites coming out of a person's mouth that guarantee s/he is a good person (or an evil manipulator), but the use this person puts these words to. You have to look at what this person is doing with these words, what consequences s/he is aiming at. You have to know the person. That right words ('cheating isn't always the end', 'be GGG') can be used for evil manipulative ends is one of life's unfairest and saddest features. This doesn't mean, however, that said words aren't right.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 15, 2011 at 3:51 PM · Report this
mydriasis 97
Sex (PIV, at least) creates new human beings.
I would say it's quite unique in this sense.
Posted by mydriasis on December 15, 2011 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Ms Maria (or do you prefer Ms Goddess?) @90 -

That seems a most helpful comment. Of those commenters whose first response concerned therapy for her, you may be the first one to frame it in terms of how he should approach the possibility (and this is, after all, his letter). I salute you.
Posted by vennominon on December 15, 2011 at 5:10 PM · Report this
94 and 96 - I'm 93. I guess I wasn't clear. I didn't say that Dan should tell people to immediately leave anyone who cheats on them like the rest of the world would say to. Or that no one should give cheaters a chance. But I still feel like his response to SIP was very flippant.

Essentially, he said "just believe him whenyour bf says he loves you and wants to be with you when he says he does" and "don't worry about the images, they will go away in time.". That's it. I guess he was just responding to her two questions directly and assuming the rest is being taken care of. But the message at the end is that she should get over his mistake because we're all shown to be "monsters" in time and sex becomes less important than long-term sharing, so who cares about a little cheating. I feel like that is lessening the impact of cheating - its not just someone getting a little sex on the side that doesn't affect the spouse at all. Just like with other gambling and addictions and whatever your other examples were, do you really want to trust this person again with your health and your future and your feelings? It's more than just "whatever fidelity isn't that big of a deal.". That's all I'm trying to say.
Posted by 93 on December 15, 2011 at 5:14 PM · Report this
@99 I think Dan's saying that he doesn't know if SIP's boyfriend is going to be faithful in the future (and neither does SIP, or the boyfriend); Dan also can't promise SIP's boyfriend will always be attracted to her. But those questions are ones that no one can ever answer for sure. If you can't accept that and move forward, then you can't be in a relationship. Take 'yes' for an answer, says Dan, because the alternative means being suspicious and alone.

As someone who has had to go through all this, I find Dan's advice heartfelt and practical, not flippant.

As for the "monsters" remark, I think Dan meant that by age 80, we'll all look like monsters (to our younger selves, anyway), but we can grow to love each other regardless of our looks, by shared decades of experiences (both sexual and otherwise). I don't think he meant that we will necessarily treat each other brutally. (Though that's probably a little bit true too. Doesn't Dan say elsewhere that marriage is all about accepting each other's apologies and sharing orgasms?)
Posted by EricaP on December 15, 2011 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Thanks EricaP. That makes sense. I'm going through it right now so maybe it's a little too fresh. I don't want to be made to feel like I'm not being progressive and cool enough about sexual fidelity since my husband's affair (just found out two months ago) was and continues to be devastating to me. Yeah it was only sex (no emotional attachment - he had just met the woman). But the sex isn't the reason I was so upset by it and the sex isn't the reason I will probably leave him even though he's trying hard to win me back.
Posted by Being cheated on sucks (me again) on December 15, 2011 at 6:34 PM · Report this
Just Blue 102
@74,I resent the implication that all abusers are evil masterminds, brilliant and purposeful deceivers who trap their helpless victims with magnificently-planned schemes. Christ, how much power do you want to give abusers? Are you willing to grant any power or choice to those who were abused?

Personally, my abuser was a bit of an idiot. I've no doubt she occasionally thought out her power plays, but all in all, most of her behavior seemed to be learned by trial and error. And no, she didn't wear a neon sign stating she was an abuser when we started dating, but at a certain point it became apparent...and I chose to stay. I wasn't some hapless damsel in distress, wilting in her evil clutches. I could've left earlier than I did, but I decided to stay because I hadn't yet figured out that I could have what I want out of a relationship without having to endure psycho bullshit. I needed to figure out that I not only deserved better, but that there were plenty of people out there who are willing and able to commit to loving relationships.

I didn't reach that conclusion until after she finally took it one step too far. I left, then spent quite a bit of time pondering why I put up with so much for so long. Since then, I've learned to avoid anyone who shows abusive tendencies. Is it 100% foolproof? No. But I've saved myself a lot of additional pain by realizing there are things I can do to increase my chances of continuing to live a happy, healthy life surrounded by people who love me.

This doesn't mean my past abuser is in any way innocent or that her behavior was justified. I wasn't to blame for her violence and I'm not letting her off the hook. But I refuse to consider her some sort of diabolical genius when she was no more than a fucked up asshole. And I absolutely refuse to be painted as a swooning victim, stripped of all choice and independent thought.
Posted by Just Blue on December 15, 2011 at 6:38 PM · Report this
@101 I'm so sorry for the pain you're going through. Part of me wants to ask about your situation, but I understand one might not want to go into details while still processing...
Posted by EricaP on December 15, 2011 at 7:31 PM · Report this
@75(Matkoff), who said:
You sound like an abuser. If not, you certainly have a lot of sympathy for those poor abusers, because really, its not your fault if you hit someone if someone else hit you first, right?

Indeed, I could have been an abuser (I escaped at the last moment, for banal reasons). So could you; so could anybody else in this thread. We all could have been abusers.

You sound like someone who thinks abusers are possessed by the devil, or come from some evil dimension. Just as the greatest shock of the Nazi holocaust (as Hannah Arendt put it) was the 'banality of evil' -- the fact that people very much like you and me participated in the Jewish holocaust, made it possible, kept it running --, the worst thing about abusers is that they are people like us, not evil, mustache-twirling villains from some bizarro dimension. People like you and me. Understanding how they think, feel, or suffer, is not "giving a rationale", but actually one of the key parts of the solution -- you don't win battles without knowing your enemy.

Also, one of the greatest paradoxes of victimhood is that it is itself often a cause of abuse. Past victims are sadly much more likely to become abusers than non-victims. Unfortunately, the 'don't-blame-the-victim' mindset helps this happen, by often making it hard (for the victim him/herself) to analyze and understand his/her situation and plight in terms that go beyond "I have been wronged! I have been hurt! The world has evil people in it!" (which, if not done carefully, can lead to the spiral of hate and frustration that ends up in further abuse).

I understand where the "don't-blame-the-victim!" people are coming from. All too often, all too many people will say hurtful things of the kind "if s/he weren't stupid/insolent/sassy/prone to taking risks/dressed like that/so blinded by love, this wouldn't have happened to her. If people aren't careful they deserve what happens to them!" Indeed this is wrong, and hurtful, and simply unfair. But please allow me to point out that it is also possible to exaggerate in the opposite direction, and to violate the victim's humanity in a different way: by assuming that they, unlike other humans, can't do anything wrong.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 15, 2011 at 11:28 PM · Report this
@86, that you should come to the conclusion that I am defending abusers or the practice of abuse is on a par with believing that Pasteur was trying to protect Satan (whose influence is the real cause of disease) when he proposed that germs cause illnesses.

It's a pity you think that abusers can only be narcissistic assholes. Many are, some aren't. And of those who are, many weren't born like that. I again cite the sadly known cycle of abuse-victim-becomes-abuser as evidence. (Besides, if you think there aren't any narcissistic assholes among victims, then you haven't had that much experience with human beings.)

It is a sad day for social progress when any attempt at understanding a problem in any terms deeper than evil vs. good, us vs. them, etc. is seen as defending perpetrators. Does reality really seem that black-and-white to you? If so, please elaborate. Make your case.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 15, 2011 at 11:40 PM · Report this
@89(Crinoline), who wrote:
Years ago I was one of those feminists who thought that asking why a victim stayed so long with her abuser was taboo. Now I'm realizing that neglecting to do so gives more even more power to the abuser. Not asking is saying that her motivations and emotions don't matter, that they don't deserve examination. It makes her even more at the mercy of the abuser. Helping her get to that place where she can wonder about her own actions and inactions is empowering. It can help her get past her fears, help her see that there is a great deal she can do to be in control of her own life.

Crinoline, I couldn't possibly agree more. As a victim myself, and as a helper of other victims (my sisters), this has been one of the most deeply felt experiences in my life. As I said in a previous comment, I understand where the don't-ever-blame-the-victim crowd is coming from: too many people still are unfair to victims. Still, the don't-ever-blame-the-victim message so often has the undesired effect of removing the last remnants of control and agency from the victim (who now becomes only that: an essential victim, for life) that I so much wish these people would think twice about what they're doing, so as not to subtly victimize the very victims they're trying to help back to full humanity!...

Some people need the mustache-twirling-villain plus damsel-in-distress model to make sense of the fact that abuse even exists. Assuming a manichaeistic opposition between evil abusers and angelic victims (with perhaps us, the sympathetic bystanders, as a third category) is a necessity for them to accept the reality of abuse. If only reality were like that!...
Posted by ankylosaur on December 15, 2011 at 11:48 PM · Report this
@102(Just Blue), who wrote:
I resent the implication that all abusers are evil masterminds, brilliant and purposeful deceivers who trap their helpless victims with magnificently-planned schemes. Christ, how much power do you want to give abusers? Are you willing to grant any power or choice to those who were abused? [...] But I refuse to consider [my abuser] some sort of diabolical genius when she was no more than a fucked up asshole. And I absolutely refuse to be painted as a swooning victim, stripped of all choice and independent thought.

Very well put, JustBlue. I couldn't have said it any better. This has also been my experience, both as a victim and as a helper of other victims. I will only add my hope that good samaritans everywhere will ponder your words before jumping to conclusions about what abusers and victims 'truly' are. Let us hope that they will learn the difference between blaming the victim and empowering the victim. Or else, they may end up, ironically, turning into a mild version of the kind of idiotic abuser your ex-girlfriend was.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 16, 2011 at 12:01 AM · Report this
@101, 99(93), like EricaP above, I don't read Dan's comments with the same interpretation you wrote down here. What I see Dan writing is something more commonsensical, namely, that your spouse may be telling the truth now, and that the past lie may not have been the death blow of your relationship. Just 'may.' And this, in a context in which so many other sources of information immediately jump to the conclusion that the cheater is always bad.

I am sorry to hear of your situation, and please accept my sympathy. It hurts to know that one was lied to, and that is what your husband's affair means at this point. As EricaP said, it's a process, one I'm sad to hear you have to go through. But I hope I can say that many people have gone through this process and survived, and even become better, more self-aware people than they were, at the other end. Regardless of whether or not their relationship could be salvaged.

All I wanted to say in my comment is that there are other forms of lying to a spouse that, to me, should count as much, and be as devastating, as what you're going through now, yet are often not considered as such. The reason why our society gives more importance to sexual cheating than to other forms of lying is not logical, and I wished that would change.

Let me hope that, whatever you and your husband decide to do, it will turn out to be for the better. Especially for you. That you'll come out of this knowing more about yourself, who you are, what your prorities are, and where you should look for your happiness. Whatever choice you eventually make.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 16, 2011 at 12:12 AM · Report this
@89, & @106: You both make excellent points.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 16, 2011 at 12:28 AM · Report this
Ms Cheated@101 - I think your concern is valid. I would say, though, that most of the people here who advocate strongly for the consideration of certain choices realize occasionally that their support for the validity of other choices might appear to be lip service, and adjust accordingly.
Posted by vennominon on December 16, 2011 at 5:32 AM · Report this
Just Blue 111
@Ankylosaur, thank you, and I agree, the Cult of Victimhood can subtly strip survivors of their power, echoing the very abuse its adherents rail against.

I also agree with your comments regarding the illusory divide between abusers and the rest of humanity. That oversimplified, black & white view allows no room for change, either in the victim or the abuser. Yes, I imagine that dogmatic perspective arises from the need to combat victim blaming. I also believe it's intended as a counterargument to the common assertion (among abusers)that they can change and their victims need to stay in order to help them through their transformation.

But allowing for the fact a person can change doesn't in any way require a victim to remain in an abusive relationship. And, at least in my experience, those abusers who do change rarely do so while they're in the middle of an already abusive relationship. There's no need to portray them as constitutionally evil in order to acknowledge these facts.

So while I see people such as Matkoff as having valid concerns and good intentions, ultimately any form of zealotry backfires. Would-be survivors become enshrined in victimhood, permanent testimonies to the boundless power of their abusers.
Posted by Just Blue on December 16, 2011 at 7:53 AM · Report this
Just Blue 112
Also, that overzealous perspective makes abuse essentially an act of god, an event that can never be stopped or even partially prevented...except by the abuser. The abuser becomes omnipotent. The abused have no power or strength before such gods; we can only bemoan our fates and curse the evil whims of those who act upon us.
Posted by Just Blue on December 16, 2011 at 7:58 AM · Report this
I have felt similarly to LACA. I became very uncomfortable eventually with my desire for physical violence in bed. Not in a guilt and shaming way but in a "this is strange, physical pain and restraint should not cause me to orgasm, it should cause me to fear for my safety and remove myself from the situation" way. I never felt the huge guilt he does tho.

I don't think Dan's comparison is entirely accurate but it is good. The reason I don't think it's accurate is because spanking/bed violence is never supposed to feel good. Even done consensually, it's hot because it has a pain element. It may make one happy to have that pain element, but it's a pain element. I've come to the conclusion over years that FOR ME (not you, you, or you) finding pain erotic is a psychological hardwiring fuck up.

I became very uncomfortable with the idea that if my partner and I decided physical discipline for not lining up his shoes correctly was okay, the cops would say "fuck you buddy" and throw his ass in jail but it's hunky dory if it was in bed. That just seemed very warped to me and I took a long time essentially reprogramming myself. I shied away from violent images and spent a lot of time re-examining my philosopical stance on sex and relationships and life and violence. Eventually, the desire to be hit or tied up in sex abated and now I find such a desire bizarre.

I know this sounds to some like anti-gay programming but IMHO it's not remotely alike. I see what sex we're attracted to as biological whereas the specific acts are psychological.

I feel a lot happier with myself not needing violence in my sex life. I realize everyone varies but I don't think the answer to "I am uncomfortable enjoying this" should automatically be "oh you're fine, love it as you are!" But there's also no need for the guilt LACA has either.
Posted by wendykh on December 16, 2011 at 8:35 AM · Report this
mydriasis 114
Also... re: aging and beauty.

I have a theory about this. Baby boomers have had an inordinate amount of dominance over the focus of the media for decades. And now they're aging. The media is chock full of advertising about anti-aging creams, hair dye that covers greys, etc etc etc. Hell, teeth whitener doesn't make your teeth look x number of shades whiter - it makes your teeth look x years YOUNGER for fucks sake.

I'm in my early twenties and terrified of aging. It really, really upsets me. I blame baby boomers. :p
Posted by mydriasis on December 16, 2011 at 9:17 AM · Report this
@113 - for me, some of the sensations delivered by crop or flogger or bare hand actually do feel delicious. Light strokes can be annoying to me, and the right kind of hard blows or squeezes can feel like wonderful, relaxing pleasure. Most people understand that a very hard massage can be a kind of deep pain that feels oh so good.

I do also like submitting to pain that just hurts like a motherfucker -- I get a feeling of accomplishment, like when I used to push myself through sprints on the high school track. It clears the mind.

For me, pain (whether 'good' or 'ow') rarely leads towards orgasm. The whole BDSM thing, for me, is less like sex and more like finding friends who will do sports & massage with me. In tight leather/latex outfits :-)
Posted by EricaP on December 16, 2011 at 9:27 AM · Report this
@114 aging sucks, but the alternative is worse. The older you get, the more that hits home.
Posted by EricaP on December 16, 2011 at 9:57 AM · Report this
@113(wendykh), there is in principle nothing wrong with deciding to get rid of one's fetish, and even succeeding in doing so. If that is what you wanted -- if this kind of parallelism between the world of consensual sex and the non-sexual world of non-consensual violence is important to you, then by all means do it. Happiness is a scarce commodity, and if you found some of it, by all means keep it.

Yet... it is often so difficult to accept who one is, to let go of the feeling of frustration caused by not being 'just like everybody else', for not corresponding to a certain view of the 'real man' or the 'real woman'. The idea you had -- that somehow our sexual desires compromise the purity of our humanistic ideals -- is so easy to have, and so easy to feel guilty about (I assume that this is what you felt, too -- guilt), to feel actually humiliated by... Yes, it feels humiliating to crave humiliation, and not in a sexy way; more similar to the way it feels humiliating to be gay to all those gay teenagers who committed suicide.

Your solution was to get rid of the offending desire. Regardless of whether or not this is always possible (the claim with gays is that it isn't; maybe it also isn't for at least some submissives [myself included -- I've tried, too]), I hope you won't mind if I say there is something sad about it. For several reasons:

(a) Deliberately or not, it pathologizes something that is very deeply intimate in a person, as something that it would be better to get rid of, since it is, after all, violence; and if sometimes one can't do that, one is flooded by feelings of insufficiency, humiliation (bad humiliation), and self-hatred.

(b) By stressing the formal parallelism -- "it is violence, no matter how planned, consensual, safe, and pleasurable it might feel" -- it removes the underlying divergence; it makes the word 'consensual' seem unimporant ("it still is violence") when in fact 'consensual' is all the difference there is between rape and sex.

(c) Also, by stressing the parallelism, you downplay the pleasure, the good side, the personal discovery and the growth that can go together with exploring one's kinks. It's like cutting off a rose from the garden of life, a garden that already has too many weeds and too few roses.

(d) Finally, by stressing the appearance -- "it looks violent = bad" -- it takes away the possibility of using this not only as an expression of sex and lust ("orgasms! yummy!"), but also as an expression of love, as a bridge that helps build intimacy between partners who were capable of trusting each other with their 'shameful' secrets, the ones that make them feel really vulnerable. Punishment from your loving boyfriend is about love, not about punishment. Punishment for not lining up his shoes correctly does not come from a deep desire to see his shoes lined up correctly, but from a deep desire to give you pleasure, the sexual pleasure and release that both he and you know you enjoy; in a sane, non-addictive, growth-inducing way. An act of love, just as a kiss, or cunnilingus, might be, if you happen to be into these things, because they are done for the same reason: to give you pleasure, to show you that he loves you.

And that is perhaps the main difference between real violence and BDSM. With the physical punishment, your partner is giving you something. The same punishment from an abuser would be taking something away from you. As any person who has been in both situations can tell you, these are very different things -- just as a loving, passionate kiss is the exact opposite of a Judas' kiss, even though both are kisses.

So, in sum: I'm glad that your solution worked for you, wendykh. But I think your solution doesn't work for everybody; and I can see people getting all kinds of wrong messages, people who are already troubled by their BDSM desires -- just as a real case of a gay guy who succeeded in re-programming himself as straight would also make conflicted gay teenagers feel even more conflicted.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 16, 2011 at 11:37 AM · Report this
I'm delighted with the direction the abuse discussion is taking. Usually I point out the ridiculousness of the 1:4 argument and get treated to a bunch of people accusing me of minimizing the awfulness of abuse. They go on to tell me how horrible it is, how real the effects. (The 1:4 statistic gets applied all over, to domestic abuse, to sexual abuse of minors, to date rape. I think it might be the new urban legend for breast cancer chances by now.) It's a nice change to have someone imagining me as a tall dark male with a twisty mustache. (That would be my boyfriend except the mustache is more of a scraggly beard, and he's getting a pot belly.)

I think it matters who is asking the "why doesn't she/you leave" question and what the implication is. If the question is asked directly to the victim after she's gotten out of the bad situation, it has the potential to be empowering. If the question is asked by the society at large to the general victim, it does sound like shelters and prosecution aren't necessary because an easy solution was at hand.

I don't like the answer that she was manipulated into loving him (though that may be the case in some instances). The scarier answer is that a bad relationship with an abuser is often better than no relationship with anyone. When put in those terms, the society has to acknowledge that for a great many a safe life with no sex in it isn't the better choice for a lot of women. It's not like she had a choice between a terrific perfect man who makes a great living and who's great in bed on the one hand, but she chooses the evil abuser who knocks out her teeth for some unfathomable (but you're not allowed to ask her) reason. More likely, her real choice was between the horror with a chance at the good life and the long slow lonely death of having no one.
Posted by Crinoline on December 16, 2011 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Abuse, and processing all that goes hand in hand with it, is Never Easy. That goes without saying. I feel for anyone who's ever had to suffer from any kind of abuse..

The soul, or psyche, takes as much of a beating as anything verbal or physical.. Being slowly reconditioned to believe that your own opinion or rights don't matter anymore, because you are now contained under very controlled circumstances..

There is no blame game, at the end of the day: only, what TF do I do about this? That's where the real therapy begins, when you nag yourself enough times to realize it's you fighting for your own self again, your own autonomy and integrity..

True, many who grow up to be abusers were abused themselves. How long does anyone continue to cut themselves empty slack just because "it happened to me", or something..

Sooner or later, something begins to give and you either ultimately choose to sink or swim. Some never find their own way back from someone else's appointed hell for them. Some get angry and indignant enough to fight back with the last scraps of strength and guts that they have.. Others are shaped to believe that this is as good as it will ever get for them, and to consider themselves blessed...

Some sort of life event usually can spur on the fork in the road towards changing for the better: some meet someone special who motivates them to want better for themselves; sometimes for the first real time in their lives.. Some are admirably motivated towards a plan of wellness by news of an impending addition to the family. It's somehow about eeking out a way out of self-preservation to find what is deservedly yours and mine: peace.

I think after a while one just gets tired of feeling like shit, being a scumbag in any capacity, etc. and are, over time, naturally brought down to their knees to wish for some wellness and resolution. Then again, some abusers have no empathy for anyone whatsoever.. In that case, somehow getting out and away from such toxic influence as an environment..

Any outlet that helps anyone out that isn't self-destructive is to be applauded. Abuse hits the soul hardest of all.
Posted by George At Teatime on December 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM · Report this

Sometimes I wonder if you should give advice.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 16, 2011 at 3:13 PM · Report this
@120, I write for my own joy, because putting my opinions and experiences into words is fun. If my perspective is entertaining or interesting to others, that's gravy.
Posted by EricaP on December 16, 2011 at 4:05 PM · Report this
nocutename 122
Crinoline, you make an interesting point @119 (and it's a courageous one, too, because the reaction is bound to be intense). I appreciated your comments.

And ankylosaur, I also like what you had to say @118, in response to wendykh. You articulated my thoughts very well.
Posted by nocutename on December 16, 2011 at 4:14 PM · Report this
echizen_kurage 123

I watched my father bully my mother mercilessly for years. Why did she stay with him? Not because she was afraid of the "long slow lonely death of having no one" (and jeez, way to make us single people feel inadequate!), but because she didn't feel she had the financial resources to raise two kids on her own. Of course, one can debate the wisdom of remaining in an abusive marriage simply so one's children will grow up attending first-rate schools and receiving first-rate medical care,* but this is the decision my mother made. Women remain in abusive relationships for a huge variety of reasons, many of which have little or nothing to do with fear of being single.

*Note that I'm not looking to debate this point with regards to my own personal experience; I simply don't have the emotional fortitude. Suffice it to say that I am convinced that my mother acted with me and my sister's best interests at heart, and while there's no way to know if she made the right decision, at the very least she made a rational decision.
Posted by echizen_kurage on December 16, 2011 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Mr Ank - I interpreted the shoes differently, taking that passage to read basically: "It's acceptable if he does X to me in bed, but, if he did X to me because I didn't line up his shoes properly, even if I accepted X as a just punishment, he could be carted off to jail." You seem to have taken it differently and perhaps it makes a difference.

I strongly incline to respond to more of your post, and in particular refute your conclusion, but I recognize that I have probably been triggered (not your fault) and therefore I shall take a VERY high road here and just stop right now.
Posted by vennominon on December 16, 2011 at 4:49 PM · Report this
echizen_kurage 125
@118 again:

If the question is asked directly to the victim after she's gotten out of the bad situation, it has the potential to be empowering. If the question is asked by the society at large to the general victim, it does sound like shelters and prosecution aren't necessary because an easy solution was at hand.

I agree with this, with the proviso that it probably shouldn't be the first thing friends/family/therapists ask the victim. If the question "why didn't you leave" arises midway through the conversation, it's an opportunity for serious introspection. If "why didn't you leave" is the first thing out of the other person's mouth, the victim is probably going to decide that s/he doesn't want to have this conversation after all.
Posted by echizen_kurage on December 16, 2011 at 5:04 PM · Report this
nocutename 126
Ooops, I got my numbers all mixed up.
And Mr. Vennominon makes a good point regarding ankylosaur's shoe/punishment interpretation. But I think when he said, "You seem to have taken it differently and perhaps it makes a difference," he really was onto something, which was what I took away from ankylosaur's response to wendykh, namely that it is the intent behind the action that determines whether the action is an example of abuse or sexual play and expression..

Wendykh wonders why the same action is not tolerated if it is removed from a sexual context and celebrated if mixed with sex, and concluded that for her, the line is too blurred and she is uncomfortable keeping pain, punishment, and humiliation in her sex life when she finds it so unacceptable in the rest of life and has re-trained herself to no longer want or enjoy it; ankylosaur decides that the intent decides whether the action is supportable or not. Both sides are interesting and make valid points. And if one, like Wendykh, comes to the conclusion that all violence is always unacceptable and one either has no BDSM interest or is able to re-train oneself, that is great. But if one has the desires and can't retrain to exercise them, then you're left with guilt and shame and a sense of self-loathing, and that's certainly no good.
Posted by nocutename on December 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM · Report this
@123 "Women remain in abusive relationships for a huge variety of reasons"

@125 "it...shouldn't be the first thing friends/family/therapists ask the victim"

@126 "if one has the desires and can't retrain to exorcise them, then you're left with guilt and shame and a sense of self-loathing, and that's certainly no good."

Agreed, all, and well said. I'm off on vacation tomorrow... Have a happy holiday season everyone!
Posted by EricaP on December 16, 2011 at 6:57 PM · Report this
@93 -- I am about two months ahead of you in dealing with the fallout from my husband's affair. I agree that the shockingly painful impact of an affair is not always presented here. It's hard to imagine just how devastating and incapacitating this betrayal is until you find yourself in it. Personally I felt as though my skin was turned inside out -- I couldn't eat or sleep and it took about two months before I even felt remotely like myself. It still causes me deep pain almost daily. What has helped: therapy for me and for my 3 kids, therapy for my husband, a temporary separation so I could get some physical and emotional space from all his drama, doing things for myself like exercise and acupuncture, and love and support from friends and family who have nonjudgmental things to contribute. Our separation began about 7 weeks after I discovered the truth and it continues today. I have heard on site both before and since that this can be a forgivable offense and because we have 3 children together I am trying to find the courage to give it another try. That said, if there were no children there would be no second chance. I did not deserve this pain and humiliation and at this moment my children and their welfare are my only incentive. I never thought when I became a parent that the most difficult thing I would do for my children is to try to forgive their father.

My best wishes to you. I hope we both can find some peace.
Posted by Sad in chicago on December 16, 2011 at 8:14 PM · Report this
@121: You go, girl!!!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 16, 2011 at 9:36 PM · Report this
@127: Happy holidays, Erica! Have a safe trip & God bless!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 16, 2011 at 9:38 PM · Report this
You know what I love (sarcasm) about the comments on Savage Love? All the commentators are victims. I don't mean that in conservative "stop whining" way, but almost everyone here is like, "I was abused, I was mistreated." Very rarely does anyone admit to having mistreated someone else when, in my experience and in talks with others, many, many, many people--men and women, some I KNOW read this column--have mistreated or even abused others. To read these comments, everyone here is pure and correct in mind and deed. rofl.
Posted by observer3 on December 16, 2011 at 10:06 PM · Report this
Mr.V@124, your posts don't feel antagonistic to me even when you fundamentally disagree with what I said. If you really think I am wrong and can say so in an insightful way, then I would benefit from your analysis, even if I ultimately don't agree with it, because I am sure it would contain ideas worth thinking about that I probably haven't thought about. You are the kind of opponent I wished all opponents were: the one from which one learns new things. So please feel free to elaborate at length.

Your interpretation of wendykh seems incorrect to me, because it implies that she was OK with said punishment if it was done in a sexual context ('in bed'), whereas the entire post seemed to be saying that this was not so, that she was troubled by it. But maybe I did misinterpret her (or maybe I did misinterpret your interpretation of her?); it certainly wouldn't be the first time in my life. I ask wendykh herself (if she's still reading this) to tell me if I did or not -- with apologies in advance in case I did.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 2:07 AM · Report this
@nocutename, who wrote:
And if one, like Wendykh, comes to the conclusion that all violence is always unacceptable and one either has no BDSM interest or is able to re-train oneself, that is great. But if one has the desires and can't retrain to exercise them, then you're left with guilt and shame and a sense of self-loathing, and that's certainly no good.

That is indeed what I think, and very succinctly put.

Let me make an analogy with traditional vanilla sex. It used to be the case (maybe it still is to some) that sex was considered bad, a reflex of our animal side that keeps us from growing towards light and god, one of Satan's wiles to deviate us from the path of salvation. It is better to marry than to burn; but it is even better if you can 'abide as Paul did,' i.e. be totally independent of sexual desire.

Inspired by the beauty and morality of this view, I can imagine people sincerely trying to extinguish sexual desire in themselves. It is extremely difficult to do if you are not asexual, but let us assume for the sake of the argument that some of the many who tried this path towards godliness -- priests, nuns, hermits, bodhisattvas and other individuals in their own spiritual journeys -- actually succeeded.

I see these people as having taken wendykh's road. If they -- like her -- succeeded in freeing themselves from sexual desire and are happy with their life, if they feel good because the deep respect they feel for the principles that led them to this decision (as wendykh's principles led her to hers) are now being fully respected, without contradictions or excuses, then I am also happy for them. Happiness is not easy to find.

But I do 'grok a goodness' in sex (as I do in BDSM), and, no matter how happy the successful, happy celibate is in his/her life, I cannot but feel a little sad. At least in my opinion, there is one path to good, one part of 'goodliness', one noumenous, spiritual element of this totality we call humanity that is now totally inaccessible to them. And it didn't have to be, since it is based on (in my opinion) a misunderstanding about the nature of good and evil.

But again, happiness is happiness is happiness, and someone who found it deserves admiration and support. We all know how difficult happiness is to find. So: happy successfull celibates, and those who successfully reprogrammed themselves like wendykh, by all means enjoy your lives. You have certainly earned it.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 2:28 AM · Report this
@118(Crinoline), I have also often heard variants of the 1:4 argument, and have also been accused of 'not caring' (perhaps an effect of having myself been a victim, some speculate?). I believe that some people's need for the mustache-twirling-villain-cum-damsel-in-distress model for understanding why there is abuse -- those who fear the dark side in people -- often base themselves on the same model for their own activism, and believe that people are simply good or bad, part of the problem or part of the solution.

And that, in and by itself, helps the problem be perpetuated, since it implies not paying attention to attempts at understanding where it really comes from and how it can be changed. These people, like the hunter in little red riding hood's tale, just want to kill the wolf, free the grandmother from the wolf's belly, and liberate little red riding hood from her abuse. If they admitted the situation between these three characters might be a little more complicated, their tasks would also become more difficult; in some cases they might no longer know what to do, which would be hell for any activist.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 2:45 AM · Report this
@123(echizen kurage), as someone who also watched his father bully his mother for years, I can certainly appreciate your perspective. And it is true that calculations about what would happen to us, the three kids, played an important role in explaining why my mother didn't leave.

But so did other things. It was the early 70's in Brazil, and in a quite conservative part of the country, where people were supposed to fight for their marriages, not escape from them. And my mother had already been previously married to an abusive guy, even more abusive than my father, so there was a net gain not to be ignored. And what Crinoline mentioned -- the fear to be alone, not simply a single mother (horrors! in a Catholic country!), but to not have someone nearby who at least sometimes was good and nice, who at least sometimes did seem (or honestly did) love her.

This is not the same as saying single people are 'bad' or 'wrong' or 'condemned to unhappiness,' or claiming that there is only one answer to the 'why did s/he stay?' question (I insist on the s/he, despite gender stereotypes and statistics). Of course there are many answers, many situations, many factors; or else the question itself would be unnecessary.

In sum, echizen: you're right, but so is Crinoline. What you say and what she says aren't mutually exclusive.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 3:14 AM · Report this
nocutename 136
@128: My heart goes out to you. All too often on this thread and in Savage Love Land we toss around acronyms like DTMFA and blithely brush off people's feelings of loss and betrayal when we earnestly advocate opening up a marriage or make it seem as though infidelity is a small blip, easily enough forgiven and gotten over if one has the right, enlightened attitude. And that isn't always, maybe even often, the case.

You will do what is right for you. Your children come into it, certainly, and if you think that there is enough you still love in your husband to want to try and repair your marriage, I hope you find a way to do so. People have forged stronger bonds after crisis and infidelity, but some marriages that stay together are held in place only by a thin layer of glue, with all the cracks perpetually straining. It's not a good way to live. And some people find that there is life, and good, rich, happy life, with happy, secure, well-adjusted children, after divorce.
Posted by nocutename on December 17, 2011 at 7:52 AM · Report this
nocutename 137
ankylosaur, did I offend you last week when I tried to explain a Jew's reasons for rejecting Jesus? If so, I apologize.
Posted by nocutename on December 17, 2011 at 7:53 AM · Report this
123-Echizen-- Whoops, I wasn't out to make anyone feel inadequate. Being single can be the ticket to the good life. I'm the last one to suggest that everyone has to be paired up.

All of us are faced with the choices we have, not some fairy version of what we might have, and there's no firm line between what's abuse and what's not. Look at any relationship, even with a roommate, a sibling, a friend, or a lover. He leaves the lights and t.v. on all over the house. She's terrible about cleaning the kitchen. He complains that she should get a job. She complains that he spends all his time with his siser. They nag each other. They put each other down. There's ridicule, jealousy. From a legal perspective, it's abuse when there's physical injury, but the evidence all points to a lot of mental harm leading up to the first punch.

When there is that first punch, it's easy to be amazed that she doesn't realize she'd be better off without him. It's harder to realize that it's the same question every step of the way. I often think of leaving my boyfriend because of all the junk (valuable computer parts) stored in the basement. I dream of living clutter-free. Then I realize I'm better off with him than without him. A woman who's getting beat up faces the same decision. Some of us are great at being by ourselves and would rather be by ourselves than even put up with the slightest household annoyance. I admire those people. Some of us find it reasonable to put up with quite a bit more. We all draw those lines for ourselves.

Posted by Crinoline on December 17, 2011 at 9:17 AM · Report this
Mr Ank - I assure you, you don't want to see me in fire-breathing dragon mode. And, just in case that assertion awakens your St George mode, I am just going to say I don't want to go into that mode at this time of my life.

Why universalize your own experience? I think there is room to feel sorry that someone's experience of a particular path to good differed so vastly from one's own without saying the closing off didn't have to be. For you, it wouldn't have had to be. I'll accept that. But your penultimate paragraph could be reworded and sent back as a boomerang quite easily

(Aside: I suspect you might be tempted to have a go about why it was wrong of me to retire from romance but have restrained yourself. If you are inclined to go there, I can engage you in that area without being in any danger of entering fire-breathing dragon mode.)

It's tricky because this is fairly abstract, but it strikes me that it would at least be useful to know how to determine for oneself if one so wished whether a particular kink could or could not be diminished, and possibly how to enact such a reduction besides (setting aside eradication for the moment). One might not ever require such a course, but at least at first the alternative to its existence would seem to be enslavement.

(Analogies not used in this post ranged from Veruca Salt to Animal Farm.)
Posted by vennominon on December 17, 2011 at 12:03 PM · Report this
@131: Have you read my post @43? Maybe you should.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 17, 2011 at 12:56 PM · Report this
@128, I am terriby sorry for the situation you find yourself in. The suffering you and your children are going through is quite real, quite deep, and quite unfair. Please do not interpret any of what I (or, I bet, Dan) wrote as implying that this is not the case.

My entire point is this: part, perhaps most, of the suffering you feel comes not from sexual cheating itself, but from our society's attitudes towards cheating. If our society thought -- and taught -- differently, your suffering might have been much less. Because there is nothing inherent to cheating that should cause so much suffering -- as opposed to what would have been caused had your husband squandered your joint savings account, for instance.

But pain is pain, and hypotheticals about different societies do not lessen what you are going through. Again, I offer my sympathy.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 3:28 PM · Report this
@137(nocutename), no, not at all! What happened was simply that I went to Lyon for three days (to participate in a friend's dissertation defense) where I had little access to the internet (and, given the desire linguists have to socialize, drink, and sing till the ungodliest hours whenever they have a chance, the little access I had was definitely underused), which means that I completely missed your (and venomlash's) answer. Thanks for mentioning it -- if you hadn't, I wouldn't have gone back to that thread to find it, and I would have missed a very interesting read.

I feel like asking further questions, though this may not be the thread to do it... I will anyway (I suppose the gods of comment thread continuity and consistency may someday send me to hell for the heinous crime of highjacking, but I cannot avoid my true nature). What is the difference between the Jewish and the Christian concepts of "sin" and "hell"? And does your claim that Judaism is very clan-based -- "all about the community" -- imply that Jews today would believe the Pharisees and Sadducees were correct in their criticism of Jesus, and that Jesus' answers to them are considered wrong?

Another question (this one of detail): the four gospels mention several times the extent to which Jesus corresponds to Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Do Jews then assume that this correspondence (if indeed true) is concidential -- mentioning perhaps the ways in which Jesus failed to correspond to OT prophecies (the world didn't end, Jesus did not wield political power, etc.)?

I wonder if I might compare the perspective Jews have on Jesus to the perspective non-Mormon Christians would have on Joseph Smith (complete with the New Testament playing the role of the Book of Mormon).

My favorite depictions of Jesus, by the way, is not in the gospels, but in Mikahil Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, a book you probably know. If the real Jesus was anywhere near the one who had the conversation with Pontius Pilate that Bulgakov describes, he certainly is someone I would love to meet.

Anyway... the fact that I am making myself guilty of the sin of threadjacking does not mean you have to, as well. I would feel bad if I brought you down to hell with me. Feel free not to answer my questions (I am sure there will be other opportunities)! :-)
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 4:03 PM · Report this
@Crinoline, who wrote:
Some of us are great at being by ourselves and would rather be by ourselves than even put up with the slightest household annoyance. I admire those people. Some of us find it reasonable to put up with quite a bit more. We all draw those lines for ourselves.


In more ways than I can say, I think I understand exactly what you are talking about, Crinoline. I may be wrong, but I think I do, from my own personal life.

I hope the choices you've made have led to more happiness than unhappiness. That, at least now, whatever you have to put up with is clearly less than what you gain. That, as Dan might put it, the price of admission is not too high and the show is really worth it.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Mr.V(@139), you have thus far so successfully stayed away from fire-breathing dragon mode while engaging with various people on points on which you disagreed, I suspect I would not need to fear said mode -- unless I somehow made some faux pas which triggered it. I hope not to do it in this comment in which -- you guessed it -- I do intend to defend that offending penultimate paragraph you mentioned in your last comment. If I do trigger that mode, I will accept your chastisement with due humility and contrition, and will submit as my only meager defense that this was not, in any way, my intention.

I hope to explain here why I think the closing off of a path to good didn't have to be; but first I believe I need to address the concern, which I (perhaps mistakenly?) read in your comment, that I am saying the choice to close off this path is less legitimate that the choice not to do so. This is not at all what I want to imply. The decision to close off a path that brings us upward, be it the path of spirituality, or the path of art, or the path of knowledge, or the path of sex (which is ultimately the path of the Other), and any of their myriad subpaths, if made consciously and with sufficient knowledge of the consequences, is a perfectly legitimate way of being human; and it in no way precludes one's growth via other paths and subpaths. In fact, I will go as far as claiming that, at our current level of development, we simply cannot follow all paths; there is always something about being human that we do not develop, that we give up, that other aspects of our humanity might further grow. Further yet, I will grant that, for a given individual, giving up a certain path might be, in an objective way (given said individual's personality, life history, other interests, etc.), the best available choice to this individual. (To mention my own personal case, I gave up music, a path I might have, but never did, and never will, follow.)

Having said all that... yes, I still think it is sad, and in an important sense not really necessary, to give up a path (although you may later on chastise me for making this claim at a rather abstract level, which is indeed true). Yes, I think it is valid to universalize this point; I am not a strong relativist.

Most of our self-imposed limitations -- the reasons why we exclude certain paths -- have to do with choices we have tacitly made, connections between facts or ideas that we have tacitly established, that do not necessarily obtain. They may be the result of life experiences ('traumas', culture, the people we were exposed to, the books we read or didn't read, etc.), or biological bias (if indeed the brain is not a 'blank slate'), or unexpected consequences of the interactions of different aspects of our personality. They may be consciously or unconsciously felt, they may be perceivable to others, or not. But upon further examination, they do not have to hold true ab aeterno, in all circumstances.

I again note that I am not calling said choices and connections illegitimate, 'bad', or even irrational. I am simply saying they are not intrinsically true.

In wendykh's case, I think I see such a choice in the parallelism between violence and BDSM, which considers the surface level of the BDSM relationship more important than the deeper level (in that the surface level by itself is sufficient to make the whole experience deeply troubling, so much that abandoning it appears as the best legitimate course of action, despite the deeper level and despite the issue of consent).

It may very well be that, given who wendykh is -- her personality, her life experiences -- this is indeed the best choice for her. (It may also not be the case -- she may be misjudging / misevaluating the situatino -- but this would be an easier criticism, important since potentially true but less interesting for first principles. For the purposes of my argument, let us assume this was indeed the best choice for her.)

But this is so because of the way her life unfolded up to that moment. Now -- and we may differ legitimately on this topic, Mr V -- I tend to believe there is more to us that simply "layer upon layer of acquired behavior." Call it a "soul," if you will; something about us that is not simply the sum of our experiences up to the present point in life. Or, if you prefer, call it the common properties of all members of the set of all alternates of an individual in all possible realities in which this individual could exist.

Wendykh could be wendykh in this sense -- having the same soul, or belonging to the wendykh set of alternates -- even if her life and personality had been different enough, so that the option to give up that particular path did not have to be the best legitimate choice open to her.

In that sense, it is indeed sad that the wendykh-that-is, the one in our reality, was such (had such layers of experience added to her essence by her life) that giving up this path of sexual fulfilment was indeed her best legitimate choice.

Before you accuse me of chasing what-ifs with a pation worthy of Don Quixote, let me say that this is simply the highest level at which I can make the point. It is much more probably true that the more trivial criticism -- namely, that wendykh's choice was not the only, or the best, legitimate choice she had -- holds. But since I have no way of showing that this is the case (how does one compute 'best legitimate choices' in practice anyway?), I had to climb to such stratospheric heights.

To give you a real-life example, clearly exaggerated -- I hasten to admit -- since it involves damaged people, but this exaggeration is exactly what makes, by contrast, the point I'm trying to make more visible; so that you can more easily attack it, if you will... I once read an account given by Jill Brenneman, the famous defender of sex workers' rights (from Sex Workers Without Borders), of the circumstances of her life: the abuse she suffered at the hands of the monstrous man who forced her to work as a prostitute and abused her physically, verbally and psychologically in so many ways, and for so many years (starting when she was 14), that, as she freely admitted, it seems now impossible for her to have any meaningful relationship with a man.

From the perspective of Ms-Brenneman-that-is, the actually existing individual of flesh and blood who did live through this outrageous ordeal, giving up the path of meaningful relationships (not simply romance, or sex, but much more than that; she claimed she couldn't even be a mother, no matter how imperfectly, to a male child) with half of the human race may indeed be the best legitimate choice available to her: anything else may indeed be unbearable to the point of being impossible.

And here, I would say -- perhaps with a little more chance of eliciting agreement from you -- that indeed there is a sense in which Ms Brenneman's situation is sad, and unnecessary: that bath didn't have to be closed to her (most of the members of Ms Brenneman's set of alternates probably did manage to travel this path successfully at least to some extent), it became closed only by virtue of her life experience. In an important sense, it is sad that she closed off the path of relationships with men, and it didn't have to be like that -- even though this fact means nothing for the choices available to Ms-Brenneman-that-is in our reality.

Likewise with wendykh. I know, I know: it's an exaggeration to compare wendykh to an individual so severely badly damaged. But I hope you'll see the ways in which this comparison may be useful, rather than only the ways in which it is not.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this
nocutename 145
@142 (ankylosaur):
I don't have anything against trying my best to answer all your questions/discuss this issue (so long as you are aware that I don't represent myself as a spokesperson for all Jews historic and contemporary in my opinions and I have a limited knowledge on the subject), but I don't want to hijack this thread with this topic. If you like, I'd be happy to continue this discussion on private email. Let me know.
Posted by nocutename on December 17, 2011 at 5:33 PM · Report this
@145(nocutename), I am sufficiently interested in the issue of religion and religious belief (even though I myself am not religious) that I think I will accept your invitation. Speaking to someone, even if s/he is not the spokesperson of the whole group and doesn't know everything, has many advantages over simply reading about the stuff, especially in things like religion. You know much more about this than I do, which is enough; and I respect your opinion even if it is not shared by all Jews.

The e-mail account I use for such discussions is (I'm probably going to sleep now -- it's about 3am here -- but if you send me something I will answer tomorrow after 12pm.)
Posted by ankylosaur on December 17, 2011 at 6:52 PM · Report this
|1) cbt and dbt--worth it.
|2) all other forms of psychotherapy--waste of time and money.

ellarosa, CBT has done next to nothing for me, but talk therapy and meds have changed my life greatly, for the better. I have the run of the DSM (+ fibromyalgia and hepatitis C). I respect what works FOR YOU, and for some people I know, but we all differ, so please respect me, as well. Your "waste of time and money" may well be a lifesaver for someone else.
Posted by untergr33k on December 17, 2011 at 7:15 PM · Report this
@140. If I did the first go 'round, I don't remember it. But I did after you pointed it out. I'm not sure of your point. I wasn't making a comment about victimology or anything like that--some people are victims of abuse. I'm just pointing out that so many people on here are quick to acknowledge their victims status, but few ever acknowledge themselves as perpetrators of harm or their (past) abuser status, even anonymously. Yet, in my experience, many people DO acknowledge it, outside this form. The discursive economy of this comment section seems to encourage a declaration of being victim (I'm not criticizing that) to the exclusion of any ever disclosing (anonymously) their role as past abuser or perpetrator of emotional pain. It's the absence of that that bothers me and I think it indicates to me a strange, rote performative script at work. Perhaps its because people on this page frequently declare all abusers (emotional/physical) deserve the death penalty. Yet, the majority of people will, in fact, emotionally abuse at least one other person during the lives. At most you will get a "I was abused as a child/adult and therefore I did not handle relationships well until X." But, the abusers/sub-abusers named in these pages are rarely given that explanation for their actions--they are assumed to be evil monsters by the victim (understandable) but also oddly by those commiserating (the caveat of your post notwithstanding). For example, someone calls an abuser "sick" and also says they should be killed or go to hell or something (I don't have access as I type). Which is it? Are they ill and need treatment or evil?

Let me say this: I've been emotionally abused in relationship and even had someone physically abuse me, though as the larger partner I had luxury of not fearing for my life (though the damage more than you'd think). I have engaged in actions that someone else might call emotional abuse, though I didn't think so at the time. I've learned to do better. As I am not a monster, neither were they.
Posted by observer3 on December 17, 2011 at 10:18 PM · Report this
It was in @3: "He's sick and deserves to be in a deep circle in the bowels of Hell."
Posted by observer3 on December 17, 2011 at 10:23 PM · Report this
@131/148: How about my post @54? "for me, it helped to realize that I'd been hurting him for much longer"

or @39, or @82, who both talk about abuse as things that reasonable people fall into.

I don't think most people here would send all abusers immediately to the bowels of Hell. I also don't think people are adhering to any kind of script in talking about what they experienced. If you want to speak from your own experience of abuse, please do so.
Posted by EricaP on December 17, 2011 at 11:04 PM · Report this
@128 "if there were no children there would be no second chance"

If there is no longer any love / affection in your marriage, I would not recommend that you stay just for the sake of the children. Like nocutename @136, I think most children do fine after divorce.
Posted by EricaP on December 17, 2011 at 11:09 PM · Report this
@148 observer3, re post @43: I stated that while I was at one time a victim, I'm not so anymore. I've moved on to bigger and better things.

Re @131: "You know what I love (sarcasm) about the comments on Savage Love? All the commentators are victims."
I'm clearly not a victim here; only a reader and regular poster sharing what experiences I've had.
I'm glad you've learned to do better.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 17, 2011 at 11:11 PM · Report this
EricaP re@54: All things considered, it sounds like you've still got a pretty healthy relationship. Kudos!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 17, 2011 at 11:16 PM · Report this
@128: I'm sorry that happened to you. I hope it works out.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 18, 2011 at 1:49 AM · Report this
Re@131: if you think we all are victims, you clearly haven't been reading. I, at least, am an ex-victim; and others here will say likewise.

Maybe you've been lucky and never been a victim -- though, if you're also @148, that doesn't seem the case.

(In fact, if you are @148, this means you also were an abuser, and managed to move on. Good for you -- I know others who did the same. It indeed is possible, precisely for the reasons you mention: you're no 'evil monster,' but a person in your own journey. In fact, neither are (most) pedophiles or child molesters, or even serial killers, despite popular belief. Which of course doesn't change the status of their victims, or of the victim you abused emotionally, 148: they were all harmed (in your case, harmed by you). Your history of as an abuse victim is also -- alas! -- quite common, and may have something to do with why you emotionally abused your victim. The 'problem of evil' and our attitudes toward it are indeed a complicated question).
Posted by ankylosaur on December 18, 2011 at 4:13 AM · Report this
The high drama of abusive relationships is intoxicating and addictive. That's why they're hard to get out and easy to return to.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 18, 2011 at 7:51 AM · Report this
mydriasis 157

As someone who lacked the capacity for CBT, and is trying talk instead: thank you for sharing.
Posted by mydriasis on December 18, 2011 at 8:11 AM · Report this
@156, curiously, I do think that's part of it, yes.
Posted by ankylosaur on December 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM · Report this
nocutename 159
Ankylosaur--just sent you a long, somewhat rambling, hopefully coherent email.
Posted by nocutename on December 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM · Report this
Mr Ank - Actually, it seems as if we have somehow by accident arrived on different parts of the same page, which is good enough for me. It was very good of you to write at such length. I had a thought about ice cream flavours prepared, but it seems unnecessary.
Posted by vennominon on December 18, 2011 at 2:40 PM · Report this
@156: Hunter78: Boy, ain't THAT the !@*?ing truth?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 18, 2011 at 7:08 PM · Report this
Erica, "marriage is about accepting each other's apologies and sharing orgasms" - love that. Definately a quote that should be saved in an all time Savage quote book....
Posted by bagel on December 18, 2011 at 7:09 PM · Report this
@162 bagel: I agree, except that can't the word "love" be substituted for "marriage" and work just as well?
I'm just saying, for the benefit of all of us who are happily unhitched.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM · Report this
@162 bagel: I agree, except that can't the word "love" be substituted for "marriage" and work just as well?
I'm just saying, for the benefit of all of us who are happily unhitched.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 18, 2011 at 10:26 PM · Report this
Sorry about the double post!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 18, 2011 at 10:27 PM · Report this
mydriasis 166

Sort of off topic but I notice that in the previous week you mentioned something along the lines of my list not falling under the catagory of affecting future life options? (Or something like that)

I'd suggest discouraging a daughter from going as far as I did, if you can. I came out on the other end of it with virtually no negative effects but there's a few reasons for that.

1. Dedication to condom use.
2. Rainman-level ability to judge whether a person will be a danger to me.
3. Drug tolerance (imagine the surprise one has when they try to roofie a petite teenage girl and it doesn't make a dent!)
4. Pure. Dumb. Luck.

Anyone can have #1 if you educate them (and I'm sure you do!), number #3 is also acheivable by most (but is it a good idea?)... #2 and #4 though, you can't bet on those.

If I have a daughter one day I would hope that she'd be more careful than I was - even if she does inherit my spidey senses.
Posted by mydriasis on December 19, 2011 at 7:02 AM · Report this
166 Mydriasis-- Most can achieve drug tolerance to roofies? More detail, please.
Posted by Crinoline on December 19, 2011 at 7:19 AM · Report this
mydriasis 168
Roofies was a generic slang term. I didn't have a mass spec on me at the time but I recognized the feeling.
Traditionally it's used to mean rohypnol which is the famous date-rape drug of choice (just kidding! That's alcohol). Rohypnol is a member of the benzodiazepine family which also includes lorazepam (ativan), diazepam (valium), and alprazolam (xanax) (if I'm remembering those names right from memory) as well as a number of similar drugs used to treat anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. Tolerance to benzodiazepines is not at all uncommon and is one of the reasons they're considered to have an 'abuse potential' and typically not prescribed for long term, daily use. If one had a tolerance to a member of the benzodiazepine family (say they liked to take ativans to get high) then if someone slips them a typical dose of say, rohypnol, it will have a MUCH smaller effect than the would-be date-rapist would expect.
Kind of like that alcoholic that can pack away shots without showing the slightest bit of intoxication.

Erm... let me be clear. I'm not suggesting this as a protective method to anyone.
Posted by mydriasis on December 19, 2011 at 7:47 AM · Report this
LACA: I commend you for your empathy towards your GF. I have been in several situations slightly similar to this one when my vulnerability was taken advantage of to the fullest. During the time that I was trying to "adapt to my partners' needs" (yes, plural), it seems that it has slowly taken a piece away from the real me. Now the downfall to this is that I no longer realize who I am...just always "adapting" at a cost.

Please continue to respect your GF's feelings. And if she is ever willing to "adapt" to your kinks, make sure she is emotionally ready for such a drastic change in her life.
Posted by broken beyond repair on December 19, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Never broken beyond repair ;-) :-) .
Posted by Never Broken, Just A Setback on December 19, 2011 at 1:53 PM · Report this
@151. I work in human services and I see the data. Kids are best off in a two parent happy home. I would not stay with my husband only for the sake of the kids -- that violates the happy part-- but they are my primary incentive right now. I have followed your story here and my situation differs from yours in important ways that exacerbated the damage done by the infidelity: he lied to me multiple times when I asked for the truth about his relationship with her and never confessed. I had to find out the truth for myself. He used our children as a means to further his affair. He continued his connection with her for several weeks after I discovered the truth. Trust has been so eroded as to outweigh any feelings of affection or love right now. If we didn't have three kids I would have a hard time understanding why I would even consider spending time with someone who is capable of hurting me like that. I know that I would eventually be fine without him. But because I will have a lifelong relationship with this man as the father of my children, I want to see if there is a chance we could work it out. I don't want to have regrets that I didn't try.
Posted by Sad in Chicago on December 19, 2011 at 2:31 PM · Report this
@170: It certainly feels like it.
Posted by broken beyond repair on December 19, 2011 at 6:16 PM · Report this
@171 - You have all my sympathy. I was used as an unwitting accessory to adultery when I was a child.
Posted by vennominon on December 19, 2011 at 7:43 PM · Report this
@ 172: I'm sorry for your pain.. Seriously. I know it's hard to believe now that you will one day be happier, but it *will happen*. It takes time... Just do the best you can to phase out any element of your life that only brings you down... It can be people, substances, environments that make you feel less than.. In lieu of that, you can always just take a lil' vacation inside your own head and begin tuning out anything boring, painful, pointless, noisy or whathaveyou.

Eventually, you will start putting everything back together where you're in a good place again.
I've been there, man: I'm not spouting some irksome Pollyanna-ish nonsense or any of that. I've had quite a few periods in my life where I felt like you did, that I too was 'broken beyond repair'. Once you get tired of how the quality of your life gets diminished by feeling blue, you'll surprise yourself by finding the fortitude to eek onward and help yourself to feeling better.

I'm rooting for you. Hang in there. Life's too short to suffer senselessly for any reason.

Good luck 'broken beyond repair'.

Cheers & Peace.
Posted by Never Broken, Just A Temporary Setback :) on December 20, 2011 at 9:07 AM · Report this
@173: how did you process that as an adult, once you were fully aware of what happened and how you were used? I have my older children (ages 13 & 11) in individual therapy now. I don't want them to feel guilty or as though they could have prevented it. They may be angry with their father but I can't prevent that. (I am angry with him too!)
Posted by Sad in Chicago on December 20, 2011 at 9:26 AM · Report this
@ 175: Best to you for your journey towards healing with your children. I'm sorry to hear that happened to you all.. Hang in there.
Posted by My Record Machine Is Cool on December 20, 2011 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Tuesdays people think their words are too precious for a short column.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 20, 2011 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Sad in Chicago, my husband's parents split up after one cheated on the other, and it was a terrible situation. However, all three of the kids are doing fine and now have their own successful, happy marriages and kids. The parent who was cheated on was miserable for a while, but eventually recovered, remarried, and is happier than ever. So although you're in the middle of the storm right now, I wanted to let you know that people do survive it and do go on to be very happy later.
Posted by Suzy on December 20, 2011 at 10:27 PM · Report this
@168 mydriasis: Lorazepam?? That's used to treat Parkinson's!
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 24, 2011 at 3:11 AM · Report this
LOVE Tim Minchin! Everyone should listen to him, he's so funny. Good call Dan.
Posted by meep on December 27, 2011 at 1:39 PM · Report this
@5 EricaP: Yes!

@6 (echizen_kurage) etc: Please read response #10 very carefully. In particular, the fact that you confuse "could benefit from therapy" with "should be punished" grievously harms people who need therapy but who are kept away by idiots who confuse therapy with punishment.

And in all fairness, if X stays in an abusive relationship, X DOES deserve some blame. Blame is reasonable when one makes a mistake (unless one is American, apparently). Are you saying that people who stay in abusive relationships are not making a mistake? Are you saying that just because they are being hurt they cannot possibly bear any responsibility? Do they deserve punishment? NO! But calling "X needs help" victim-blaming is not just moronic, but also counterproductive.
Posted by something on December 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM · Report this
dolly 182
Spank me Daddy!
Posted by dolly on January 7, 2012 at 6:30 AM · Report this

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