Tuesday, January 1, 2008

dealing with the raising of boys, volume 2

In case there's any doubt, I am angry. Pathologically pissed, if you will. If you had asked me even five years back what to do with the male half of the species, I would have arched my fingers, smiled faintly, and said that we only needed something like twenty percent of them for stud (and the rest should jack off into a cup and report to the camps.)

So what changed? A lot of things. Finally meeting a member of the male half of the species that was not interested in evading responsibility, in blaming women for their own problems, in committing rape and calling it love, in victimizing myself or my children, in spending his half of the rent and informing me the day before the rent is due, in trying to make me more 'feminine' and finally, a year as a professional dominatrix.

I always hesitate to reveal this experience, because it is a heavily charged subject. Women tend to believe I whored myself for money and engaged in bringing down the feminism movement, and men tend to believe that it means I'm so bitter that I am not worth dealing with or that I belong to a class of women that have made themselves objects and therefore deserve whatever they chose to give me (something women frequently echo.) Good luck making that one stick, ladies and gents. That assertion mostly amuses me.

They're both wrong. I talked to men about sex and beat their asses. There's nothing wrong with selling a sexual experience, to my mind, especially one centered around proving to a man that he is, in fact, less dominant than he thinks. Just because they're paying does not mean that they cannot be surprised by the brains and will it takes to professionally domme; not to mention the refusal to be only dictated to. I bring me with me into sessions and could not do other, though I do try to be adaptable. The client may want to discuss a specific subject, and they may volunteer to experience the pain, but the fact that a domme inverts gender relationships and expectations has ramifications beyond the session. It wouldn't matter if I had fucked men for a living instead of being a domme. The role itself exposes you to the ability to powerfully alter the fundamental terms of gender perceptions. How, you ask?

There is a lot of gender-bending involved in the professional sex industry. I was everything in sessions over the phone and in person from the traditional nurse/mother /doctor to another man. I learned more about my own gender expectations than I could ever replicate elsewhere, and being a domme forces you to articulate and to make others articulate boundaries, which does a lot for your awareness of gender and expectation.

Moreover, and this is the part relevant to child-raising, I discovered that men's experiences of gender (or at least the gentlemen I talked in detail to) could also be quite corrosive, albeit in different ways. In the post before this one, I discussed the things I have had to discuss with my daughters that I have not with my son. The following is what I learned form that job about men and gender:

1. Men frequently feel victimized by gender expectations. I talked to a fair share of cross-dressers who had spent their entire lives afraid to the point of panic that someone would find out their desire to see the other side or their feeling of being freed of the pressure to conform when they were in women's clothing. Call them cowards, if you like. Some of them were certainly being cowardly, but we are compelled to meet people where they are, not where we wish they were, if we want to communicate. Women know the escape these men were picturing is an illusion. No one gets out of gender unscathed. But the women's clothing represented an utterly different set of expectations, and these guys wanted out of the pressure to be macho. This is, in no way, the only reason for cross-dressing. This is merely what I took from it. As always, if anyone reading feels differently, I am more than happy to hear about it.

2. Many of my clients (and this is what I advertised for because I understand it from my own experiences and thought I would provide a good sounding board) were sexually abused or physically abused as children. They had been told their whole lives that the abuse they experienced could never be spoken of (lest they be told they were not men. I won't repeat what they thought it would make them; we ended up talking about stereotypes.) This was instructive because I had never met a victimized man and thought they were a myth or so isolated the point was moot. Not a few of them paid me to listen to them talk about it, because they had been exposed to therapists who attempted to normalize them and their experiences away or judged them for it. One of my clients had been profoundly abused by his mother and all he wanted out of life was to be able to talk about it without the listener feeling sorry for him or slandering his gender. As I told him, my own experience made me hesitant to judge him (and in my experience, if it hasn't happened to the listener, they tend to try to assign blame. Even when they assign it to the abuser, which does not always happen, the person talking may not want to rehearse their anger so that the listener can feel vindicated in being angry.)

3. Because my job was to step in and out of roles, it offered me the chance to live through my own experiences of gender. The roles I was asked to take were pretty uniformly dark in nature. (I've been a homicidal maniac, a heartless torturer, that voice which tells you why you are worthless, etc.) In experiencing being the things that were done to me, I got to experience both assertion (I am freer now to say what's wrong on subjects I felt gagged on) and to experience the emptiness of the role, which has allowed me to begin to forgive (but not to forget; I have no desire to re-experience these things. The process of forgiving has allowed me to be a little less angry.) I said earlier that I was angry. There's a lot of angry men out there, too, who are angry at the role they feel compelled to take, and wish to be punished for the wrong they feel as if they are compelled to be implicated in. (I think that feeling compelled there is a cop-out. I have been taught to be demure, shy and conciliatory and often feel compelled. This does not mean I have to act on it, as you can no doubt tell from the tone of the post.)

4. There are also a lot of men who have been taught that their sexuality is a guilty experience (men who have been beaten for masturbation, men who reject the aggressive, rapist mentality but have no idea what to replace it with and feel guilty about being implicated in that mentality and in participating in it, even though they have not, to their knowledge, raped anyone.) What I did is offer them a forum to discuss it and penance, frequently through demonstrating to them that respect was possible and that they could be compelled to conform to it. Amazingly, clients would stick around and talk for awhile after a session, not infrequently about gender. I allowed a few clients to talk to me for free because they needed to talk something out and I wanted them to know that the difficulties they were having did not have to be dealt with on the basis of money. This is not uncommon but not offered to every client. Professional dommes are not heartless, only cautious and offering a very stressful service.

5. I had a small contingent of clients in the armed forces. Those men were the darkest of the scenarios I ran because they were afraid of dying. We talked, in fantasy, about the tortures they might encounter if they were captured or talked through their deaths. Anyone with a background in behavioral psychology should recognize extinction; this is clearly a case of attempting to tie a pleasant sensation to the very real (and terrible) fear of dying. It was also stress relief for both them and me. I am, in case there was any doubt, a sadist (not a monster; I believe in consent and care.) I think the war (invasion) is bullshit and illegal to boot, but I'd like to think a made a handful of troops feel a little better while they were over there. It's not exactly what people mean by support the troops, but in my experience of men, I provided stress relief and a forum for their fears.

This is, no doubt, both going to get me in hot water and more intellectual than usually gets associated with the profession. As I told the people at college, in my department, I'm not here for the popularity contest. (The male professor in that class had just, the class before, told me to try and be more charming in person, like I am in my emails. I get that one a lot. I am cantankerous and have been from birth, I'm told.) I'd like to be liked, but I'm not continuing to live in hope of the Ms Congeniality award. When I was a girl, I was repeatedly told the canard about luring more flies with honey than vinegar. I find I don't want flies, don't care if I'm told I'm sour, and that results come to those who work their asses off and wear don't-fuck-with-me boots. I am frequently not in the right place at the right time, so I can't speak of that portion of success, and I'm told I do everything the hard way, which does not make me happy but does let me know that I continue to operate in defiance of at least a few cultural norms, an experience I value.

I also found the intellectual approach and a certain toughness to be consistent in quite a few of the women I worked with (we had a handful of Master's degrees, a PhD and a handful of housewives.) Some women did not approach being a professional domme or sub as such, but enough did to provide a conversation group when we met.

I think, in general, that the men I was exposed to softened me toward the gender by offering me a chance to view some of the penalties men suffer from our gender system here in the US. A lot of it was, to my mind, a bit of a cop-out, but I find that everywhere I look, including in the mirror. I have tons and tons of issues with gender and sexuality in the US, as its taught, that I'm not covering here, but I'll get to those some other post. The experience put a face on the male half of sexual abuse for me and offered me a common ground on which to meet the men around me. I'm not happy that abuse is the ground, but better a common experience of abuse (which was predominantly male on male in my clientele) than nothing in common.

I'd like to think that this, above all, will provide me with compassion for my son's experience with gender expectations (and my bisexuality, I hope, will provide me with tolerance for him if he decides to be gay. I know I'll love him no matter what.) I know that no matter my experience, I will not have total understanding of his experience, but I'd like to think the door is open for me to try. An awful lot of parenting is all about adaptation, observation and the willingness to keep trying. And going.

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