sexual pleasure: who's controlling who?
Today when I interviewed Tilly Storm, sensual and tantric relationship coach and the founder of the podcast Multiorgasmic Mama, she told me how she’d had to learn to recognize her unconscious programming to rely on men for a sense of stability and financial security.
I told her how I learned to rely on men for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure.
As in, I still don’t know how to experience sexual pleasure without having a man there to be giving sexual pleasure to, especially through him taking pleasure from my sexual pleasure (real or faked).
Tilly then informed me this need to have a man there to witness my sexual pleasure (and power) in order to experience sexual pleasure myself is a subtle form of control and manipulation.
As in, I know my sexual power, and in order to feel it and allow myself to take pleasure in it, I have to see its effect on someone else.
Another way to say this: to experience sexual pleasure, I have to be using (seeing) my sexual power on (reflected by) someone else.
Isn’t this a subtle form of control on some level?
And what about any other “accomplishment,” and the validation I seek for it? Like needing other people to read my writing in order to reflect its goodness rather than experiencing the goodness and pleasure in the writing itself, for itself?
Isn’t needing other people to read my writing in order for me to experience pleasure in it a subtle, sneaky, slightly manipulative way for me to experience asserting some control over them?
I’d never really thought of it this way.
I have never really been able to consciously see --- let alone admit --- I have control issues. I mean, I see how much and in what ways I’ve let other people control me, but, conveniently, I haven’t really flipped it back around on myself. (I’ve always been the victim, never the perpetrator).
I mean, I’m such a chill and adaptable and people pleasing person, I go along with whatever. I’m down for anything! Me? Controlling?
Yes, me, you.
Perhaps in some of the ways in which I’ve cast myself as a victim, I’m actually (or also) a perpetrator.
For instance, instead of being mad at men and feeling like a victim of the patriarchy (don’t get me wrong, we still gotta dismantle that shit) in regards to my needing a man’s admiration to experience sexual pleasure, maybe I can simultaneously see how my needing men to witness my sexual power and pleasure in order to feel it myself was also a way to control them.
Because really, I do know how powerful my sexual power is, and how pleasurable it can be. I’ve just only experienced it through the mirror of the men I’ve allowed to reflect it.
So all this came back to mind, sitting down this afternoon in my van to write my daily blog post, because I was going to write some piece about how hard it is to feel like I always ought to be accessible to everyone. (Phones, endlessly full of notifications, don’tchya know).
That anxiety of the endless anticipation that a text or call could come through at any time (including right now as I write this), that punch-in-the-gut guilt I feel for spending time alone, investing in myself … time I could be investing in other people who so need me or who I mean so much to, like my parents or whatever friends I’ve currently chosen to play that need-me/miss-me role.
Then, as I was thinking about writing a blog about that, Tilly’s and my conversation from earlier this afternoon floated back into my awareness.
An undeniable parallel emerged.
This only being able to experience my worthiness through how much other people need me or want to spend time with me or want to contact me is … uh oh … probably, also, quite possibly, another subtle form of manipulation and control.
I can consciously resent/feel constricted by the pressure of “needing to be accessible” to “so many people” all I want, but what if I’m the perpetrator instead of (or as much as/simultaneously) the victim?
Because, again, at least on some level subconsciously, I know my power. I know my worth (at least as much as I “don’t” know it). And what if it’s not so much that I need others to show me my worth as that I’m addicted to the super subtly manipulative control it (seems) to give me over others to experience the preciousness of my time and energy reflected in the effect it (seemingly) has on them “needing” it?
I’m not really sure any of this is making sense. It’s all a big work-in-reframing-process, and it isn’t fully processed yet. (Will it ever be?!).
From what I understand about cognitive behavior therapy (which is very little), it’s all about even just introducing the possibility of a reframe of a situation so that you realize maybe it’s not what you thought it was (at least not completely).
Note: This is also what Byron Katie’s 4 Liberating Questions do. The possibly reframing questions being: “Is this true? Is this absolutely true? How do I react when I believe this to be true? Who would I be without that thought?”).
So it’s not absolutely true that I’m the helpless victim of the patriarchy in needing men to be present for me to experience my own sexual pleasure. It’s also not absolutely true that I’m the evil perpetrator who takes pleasure out of putting men under my powerful sexual control.
It’s not absolutely true that I’m the helpless victim of all this pressure to be available to everyone all the time. It’s also not absolutely true that I’m the evil perpetrator who takes pleasure out of putting others under the control of “needing” me.
But maybe they’re all somewhat true … and somewhat false.
It’s just that before that conversation with Tilly earlier this afternoon, I was only accustomed to believing it was true that I was the victim of needing a man in order to experience sexual pleasure (and thus under their control). And I was only very accustomed to believing it was true that I was the victim of other people always needing to have access to me in order to experience self worth (and thus under their control).
In both circumstances, I was a victim under the control of others.
Then Tilly told me that maybe … just maybe … there was some (subtle, subvert, insidiously unconsciously manipulative) controlling I was perpetrating, too.
Funnily enough, this slight reframe that reveals I just might also be the perpetrator is actually pretty fuckin’ liberating.
It doesn’t make me hate myself or feel like a bad person; it kind of makes me laugh and feel relieved. Suddenly it all feels less serious, and, of course, I don’t feel so helpless. (Because I’m not completely under the control of others anymore).
I mean, come on, it’s a little bit funny. In these situations that seemed so out of my control, there emerges this leeeetle possibility that I am actually, on some level, quite in control. That I’m actually a super sly, secret control freak who loves to pretend I don’t have control issues while rampantly exercising subtle manipulative control in situations in which my conscious mind assures me that I’m only the poor, poor helpless victim, and that this victimhood absolutely true (don’t look too closely or ask any questions!!!).
I mean, if I don’t need to respond to people, they don’t have any power over me. If people don’t need me to respond to them, I don’t have any power over them.
If I don’t need men to experience my sexual pleasure, they don’t have any power over me. If men don’t need my sexual pleasure for their sexual pleasure, I don’t have any power over them.
Oooow. Juicy ... Interesting … very, very interesting …
Perhaps the anecdote lies in my desiring to consciously experience the powerful control I (currently unconsciously) wish to exercise, in a transparent and consensual way.
I’m pretty sure the path to getting there has to do with 1) realizing I’m already, on some level, secretly asserting powerful perpetrative control under the guise of helpless victimhood and 2) learning to assert and experience that powerful control and the sexual and relational pleasure it gives me in relationship with myself first.
By the way, a lot of what I’m spouting here is literally straight out of Carolyn Elliott’s book and philosophy: Existential Kink.
Carolyn posits that we’re all actually getting exactly what we want in life (“having is evidence of wanting,” quoth Carolyn); we’re just not consciously ready to admit some of the (very very kinky) things we want, even to ourselves. Like, say, hypothetically … controlling and manipulating and having power over others (giving an example for a friend...).
And so, geniusly, deviously, we make our un-admittable desires unconscious. And then we create a fixed narrative where we only frame those situations in very locksafe ways to ensure we never, ever allow ourselves to consciously find out the dirty dirty truth (that we’re the perpetrator), ensuring our conscious mind keeps screaming victim and feeling all self righteous while our unconscious mind secretly gets the fuck off on all of it on some below-our-conscious-radar level.
Why? Because the unconscious mind always gets what it wants.
And then our conscious mind blames any and everything else but ourselves for it.
Which is why Carl Jung said (as Carolyn Elliot quotes him in EK): “Until you make your unconscious conscious, it will direct you, and you will call it fate.”
So maybe that’s a little (LOT) bit of what I’m trying to do: make the ol’ unconscious conscious.
Perhaps many of the things that seem to distress and stress me out in my life, like all these people I feel control my time/availability, or all these men I feel control my sexual pleasure, are actually secret ways for me to experience my unconscious desire to control the time and availability and sexual pleasure of others.
I just consciously only allow myself to experience this control as a victim. Meanwhile, unconsciously, I am (quite sadistically) taking wild and shameless delight in being the perpetrator.
Nobody can control me, and I can’t control anybody. Another way to say this: Nobody needs me, and I don’t need anybody.
Now that’s a terrifying thought for a closet control freak/needs-to-be-needed-er.
Going into the abyss of not needing to control or be controlled gets me closer to being able to consciously discern and communicate what I desire from others and vice versa.
When we aren’t so busy unconsciously getting off on getting our unconscious needs met, we can have a lot of fun consciously getting off on consciously exploring our conscious desires.
So I’m a closet (unconscious) manipulative controller. At least on some level. And all my sob stories about being so stressed about how many people need me as a friend has a whole lot to do with needing others’ seeming dependence on me (my perceived control over them) to unconsciously get off on how worthy of time and attention and availability I am.
Cool! First step to making the unconscious conscious is consciously admitting you have an unconscious problem, right ;) ?
To bring all this full circle, I actually met Tilly in the alchemical hermetic Existential Kink community led by Carolyn Elliott called WEALTH. I’m really thankful to be connecting with people who are helping me to reframe my stories (after all, are any of them absolutely true?), to hold the paradox of being victim and perpetrator and witness and judge all at once, and to start fucking figuring out what it is that I ACTUALLY DESIRE on EVERY level of my consciousness, so I can create and experience the situations and relationships that give me those desires in healthy, conscious, consensual (as opposed to sick, unconscious, forceful) ways.