Monday, September 10, 2007

Masturbation, Self Love, and Relationships

Nu Allonge by Jean Berque

There’s no limit to my love.

Last week, The Green Man elevated our discussion about jealousy to another level when he revealed his feelings about compersion (compassion for another’s pleasure).

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy, or the soothing balm one can apply to confront and heal jealousy. The root of a compersive relationship with another is self love. Self love is a term that is thrown around in psychiatric communities and within “new age” movements and spiritual practices. Yet, when we attempt to move beyond the clichéd expressions, we are at a loss

We've all heard saying, "You cannot love anyone else until you love yourself." And even if we intellectually agree with it, we see people (and maybe ourselves!) who don't have a healthy concept of self love moving from one relationship to another in serial monogamy type secession. Many of these people are so wounded and vulnerable; they throw the entirety of their broken selves into relationships, which, in the end, becomes a collision of dysfunction. And so it is, without self love we constantly submerge ourselves in one unhealthy fixation after another.

An Infantile State of Dependency

Yesterday, I babysat my niece while my sister was out. And since she was a little fussy before mom left, we decided to do everything in our power to calm her down. We fed her, changed her diaper, gave her a small dose of children’s Tylenol (she’s teething) and rocked her for awhile. However, when mom left she still cried, wailed, in fact, while I looked at her with a desperate expression and mumbled out loud, “What do you want kid?”

Anybody who has children understands this situation perfectly. The child wants something, they are obviously suffering, but what do they want? Unfortunately, even with parents who are incredibly nurturing and positive, there will be times when the needs of the infant/young child are not met. This, of course, doesn’t account for toxic environments where physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual abuse is present. Also, there are varying degrees of need. Some children require a lot of tender loving care and some require less. We’ve all heard stories about babies who are “good sleepers” while other are “excessively fussy” or colicky.

Then, look at the flip side. Some parents are comfortable showering their children with love and affection while other parents may be cold and remote, much to the child’s dismay. The child’s needs may not match what the parent(s) are able to give/receive and vice versa. These mismatched patterns of relating lay the foundation for dysfunctional relationships later in life.

The Masses of Disillusioned Lovers

We remember, on a physical and soul level, our experiences as infants, both inside and outside of the womb. For some, the umbilical cord is tied tightly for their entire lives. They are mother-bound, unable to cut and heal the ties from their past, so they turn to romantic interests/partners to fill the gapping hole. “The gapping hole” in adult relationships sits wide open as we submerge and isolate ourselves desperately trying to fill it up (heal it up). We ask our partners anxiously, “What do you want?” and hope we can be everything they ever needed. Eventually, the bottom falls out. We discover our partners aren’t the evolved/loving/nurturing models of perfection we thought they were.

So, where does self love flourish and compersion begin after the disillusionment sets in? Is it in these needy black holes of emotional relating? Or, does it come from within ourselves, our connection to the divine? I remember awhile ago taking a survey and one of the questions’s asked, “Are your parents still together?” And my brain immediately fired back, “I am my parents.” This is the space we must occupy. We cannot expect as adults that lovers, friends, or family be “quasi-parents” by filling each passing need, sexually or otherwise. First, we must be a self-contained loving entity within our own right.

In other words, “I love myself, and want you to know it.”

Sexually, self love cannot be discussed without paying proper respect to masturbation. Masturbation, we are told, is now healthy. However, anybody who grew up in the Catholic Church may have been shamed into believing differently. I know a guy, who, at the age of thirty still experiences considerable agony and guilt after pleasuring himself and he isn’t even Catholic!

Personally, I’ve always been a chronic offender. I have many early memories (5-6 years old) of the extra long baths I would take with my legs propped up against the bath tub’s edge with my clit angled right under the water stream. Another friend explained how she got off on her “blankie” using the buttons on it as friction to rub one off around the same age. If we look far enough back into our histories, we can probably all find some evidence of these early experiences. One would assume, then, by the time we reach adulthood, we’d be relatively comfortable with masturbation, both on our own time and with partners. However, that may not be the case if we weren’t raised in a supportive environment and felt we had to “hide” it from others.

I remember the first time someone busted me masturbating. I was in 9th grade, and by then, I was a pro. I even had a little massager, which I used religiously, until the thing broke- probably from over use. Anyway, on this rare occasion, the small apartment I shared with my mom and sisters was empty after I returned home from school. It was warmer than average for April, so my sister had propped the window open, even though the blinds were drawn shut. I pulled off my pants quickly and grabbed my vibrating toy.

Now, my toy was not that loud, but evidently the fifteen year old neighbor boy walking by my window heard it. Oblivious, I continued to pleasure myself. Ten minutes later, I was on the way to my second orgasm when I heard the sound of hushed laughter and tapping outside my window. I threw my toy under my bed, put my pants back on, and ran outside to survey the damage.

It was bad.

A group of three teenage boys stood next to window pointing and laughing at me. The neighbor boy, upon hearing the dull buzz emanating from window, called over a few friends to witness the spectacle. Readers, I was horrified. Not only did I have to see these boys in the hallway of my apartment building regularly, but at school as well! They showed no mercy, and promptly spread the word to every available ear.

Today, I still sporadically see Mr. Peeping Tom and his cohorts around town, and each time I have the urge to disappear or die, which just goes to show how powerful and persistent these attitudes are.

Too often in our relationships self love takes a back seat to humiliation, shame, and abuse. Since self love is the cornerstone of compersion and non-jealous attachment, we need actively seek partners for whom self love is a priority. If mutual self-loathing and desperation are the only reason we find one another and stay together, I’d say we need a better map. And soon.

Stay tuned in for a rousing discussion about mutual masturbation in the near future.

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