samedi, janvier 20, 2007

An excellent reminder

What great religious figure used to beat his breast about what an awful, terrible completely degraded guy he was...the worst of sinners? Whoever he was, I believe that he heard God say: "get over it, man"...or some such words. Well, I have a tendency to make my flaws sound even worse than they are, too.
An exhibitionist? Ha-I bet, as exhibitionists go (where do they go?), I'm not even in the Little Leagues. Sometimes I think I have delusions of grandeur. Which takes me back to a point I have pondered recently in these posts-why self-exposure is more and more common? And, more to the point, why does anyone else care whether I struggle with a desire to 'fess and tell all? Why do we like to read about Sam and his recent break up or Lucy and her obsession with tennis or even Britney and her trashy taste? Why do we care? I guess that within us all there may be a craving to be a person of interest...if only to our nearest and dearest. With the anarchic democracy of the Internet, many of us can live out this fantasy. But beware...even in this arena, the tyranny of the marketplace means that if you don't continue to lure us with ever more scandalous (even if slightly hyped up) revelations, we will go somewhere else for our vicarious thrills.

Subtle sins (cont)

When I say this sin is subtle I don't mean to give you, gentle readers, the impression that I don't harbor places of real ugliness in my soul. We all have these places. I have long held anger against someone and called him a friend. I have displayed a lack of courage when someone I cared about was in trouble and needed my help. I have been cold and unforgiving. I suspect that you grapple with these weaknesses also. In a peculiar way it is a blessing that they are perfectly obvious. So let me be bold in confessing my less overt frailty, the dark side of one of my gifts. I am a compulsive writer, and, let me put it exhibitionist. Sometimes I write because I am driven to provoke, to question, to instruct, or to incite. There are times when writing becomes a way to pose questions for which I have no answers. Occasionally I write a column or a post here because I hope that someone will have an answer for me, or for us in this little online community. But sometimes, I am ashamed to say (but not ashamed enough) I write as a way of exorcising the pain of a relationship that seems to be rent by hostility, or mis-communication or indifference. The catharsis of throwing the words on the screen helps me, but does nothing for my lost partner. My transient, if well crafted prose builds no bridges, heals no wounds, and comes from a place of pride rather than humility. As I write this tonight, I wonder-do you also have those buried places of brokenness within-pagan temples in which your own bacchanalian gods dance? Are the personal gifts with which you charm the public also your places of greatest temptation? Those of you with a public face are probably more prone to this kind of sin-but some of us are better at confessing it, and more able to control it, than are others.

jeudi, janvier 18, 2007

The subtle sins of the virtuous woman

Ok, maybe I'm not so virtuous. After all, I recently confessed that I would like to have been a bad girl at least once in high school. But I'm embarrassed to say that I don't think that falls into the realm of sin as much as hormonal stupidity. Frankly, I'm not even sure, at this distance, that I ever really had the opportunity to be compellingly naughty, either in high school or in college. All of those sexy Renassaince "carpe diem" poems were wasted on me. Even the glittering sexuality of the German painters like Gustav Klimft laid out in front of me by a saucy artist in college just made me blush and retreat to my virginal bower. Well, enough of that. I do have a real sin to confess, but it will have to wait until Friday, when I can dress it up and make it look...well, literary at least, if not charming.

lundi, janvier 15, 2007

Cybersex: Simply Irresistible

For those of you who fear I'm obssesed with virtual sex and need to be rescued, let me assure you that this is the last virtual sex posting for a while. I'm going to change the topic to something really safe and uncontroversial like the future of the Episcopal Church or whether Eagles fans (of which I am one) can cope better with losing to the Saints than they would to the Patriots.
After copious study (several articles found on the Internet) and a lot of meditation (wasn't as hard as I thought it would be) I have come to a couple of tentative conclusions on the topic.

I. Cybersex is here to stay-it can enrich some relationships
II. Sometimes, as with other stimulants, it can be addictive. 'Cybering', as it is often called, can pose a serious problem for even non-addicts who stumble across it on the Internet (see
III. Smart folks in the "helping professions" are going to need to develop criteria to deal with the new prevelance of online sex
IV. Cybersex through text-messaging sounds like torture to me, but I don't have very flighty fingers
Here's the statistic that really got me thinking outside the box on this topic: A recent survey of college students in Canada found that 87% of more than 2,500 respondents said they used what the article called "technology-assisted sex tools." These include instant message, webcams, and text message. As the AOL article notes, this was a survey of young adults aged 18-22, most of whom grew up in an online world. One sexologist asserts that this is really a good option for people who may not be physically attractive, may be widowed and just reconnecting, or may be harried single parents (obviously this requires a little more thought.) But, as Dr. David Greenfield pointed out at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association, Internet sex can also have a dark side. The difference between addictive and non-addictive use is that sex addicts simply use Internet resources (like dating sites and chat rooms) more frequently-not that addicts use and non-addicts do not. In the article I read titled "Addictive and Sexual Behavior on the Internet" he also was quoted as saying that, based on his clinical research, an estimated 50% of marital issues are due to online porn and cybersex. He added that it's not clear which came first-the marital problems or the Internet-related sexual issues. The larger question for our society may be-does Internet-enabled sex pose a real challenge to intimacy? Or are there ways in which it can actually create more freedom in relationships? Cybersex seems to be an increasingly normalized part of life for younger generations, and for many of the rest of us. But it is also the case that therapists, clergy and others may not be well prepared to deal with the relational issues that arise when people who can't communicate well to begin with start to seek sexual satisfaction outside their primary relationships in the virtual world. We need to move beyond blind condemnation to greater understanding of what allows some of us to use without addiction, and what pushes the vulnerable into that place where they keep seeking greater and greater stimulation in a world with few real boundaries.

dimanche, janvier 14, 2007

Fluff and fetishes

"I thought I'd want to have lots of sex. Meaningless, multipartnered, degrading sex. After all, if Second Life is a virtual community in which you can look however you want, do whatever you want and use the fake name you want, then I could make all my fantasies come true. And as I quickly learned, having sex is exactly what many of the people on the site spend their time doing. Occasionally, it seemed, with characters that look like giant fluffy squirrels—which is wonderful, because there is nothing like the warm flush of superiority you feel when discovering a fetish you don't have...

I spent the next 41?2 hours with Cristal as she took me to a waterfall, a snowy Christmas scene, a shipwreck and a sex club. At some point, she offered me a free penis. Much as I didn't want to take it, it's damned hard to tell even a fake woman that you don't want the free penis she's giving you. So I thanked her. And I realized how incredibly nice she was and how—even in Second Life, where anything is possible—I wasn't really any different than I ever am." Joel Stein, Time Magazine, December 16, '06

Let's deal with the squirrel question first-when I went out this morning one ran out from under my car, and I took a careful look at it (with a family living in my garage, I get lots of chances to meditate on squirrel life and love).

I have to say that I couldn't...not even with an adorable giant furry squirrel.

As to fetishes-I often wonder what kind of a deprived life I have led not to have any. Unless, of course, you count my need to buy increasingly intense varieties of imported chocolate as a fetish.

This line of thought is a little depressing, leading me to speculate that perhaps I just don't have enough of an imagination to develop any really interesting kinks. Once again I feel like the uncool girl I was in high school, adrift in a sea of pot smoke and sex, hoping someday I could lose that nagging voice in the back of my head that told me I couldn't pull off such wild and crazy behavior. Ah, for the memory of just one night of drunken bliss.

Which bears out the point Stein is making about being the same person in an online world as one is in real life. I have read that online we feel free to be more honest about our real selves. That presumes, of course, that we know who we are to begin with.

I am bugged by the thought that, even with new access to ways to realize our fantasies, we are still caught in the web of desires as primitive as our need for sexual satisfaction. Is it not possible that our compelling longing while chasing the firefly of fantasy is for the realtime person who, in fulfilling them, will heal those old wounds of self-doubt and rejection? In the meantime, we search those Gothic Halls for the next thrill, hoping against hope that even in this virtual world we will find someone who sees through our fluffy squirrel costume-and doesn't run, but reaches out to embrace us.