Monday, March 14, 2005

EOTM: There Ain't No Way Out But Out

"There Ain't No Way Out, but OUT. "

With these words, my counselor put his finger on the heart of the essential dilemma and conflict which I was spending $65/hour seeking his help to resolve. For close to 18 months I had been "trapped" in a "relationship" with the most horrible destructive woman I had ever had the misfortune to encounter. I detested her. She disgusted me. But for a lot of reasons so subtle that they almost defy explanation, I was still seeking and requiring sanction and permission to dump her and walk away. And most insanely of all, I was seeking it FROM HER. While my intellect KNEW this was nuts, my emotions still fought me.

At one point the counselor, whose name was Bob, pointed this out. "You are in the middle of an internal civil war. Your intellect and emotions are at war with each other." For years, I had fought to subjugate my emotions to my ideals and attempted to feel like my ideal of myself dictated that I would feel. That was the reason I had gotten myself into this situation in the first place, and why I was having such a hard time giving myself permission to leave. In going back and seeking to understand the forces that drew me into such a destructive relationship, and undermined my resolve to leave it, I had to sort through an immense and convoluted mixture of traditional and feminist notions about relationships, sexuality, and how one treats the people who are close to you.

Like most others of my age cohort, the "boomers", a durable satisfactory pair-bonding with a member of the opposite sex has escaped me. Unlike many of them, I don't have one or more failed marriages which more often than not leave the combatants hostile and embittered toward the opposite sex. It's curious that our culture which loves to put a label in everything does not have a widely used label for my experience. "Serial monogamy" comes close, but that usually carries the connotation of serial marriage. In order to come closer to my exact experience, I would have to qualify it as "serial non-marital non-cohabiting monogamy." Out of a string of more than a dozen "relationships" with women, covering nearly 3 decades, I only lived with one of those women for a period of slightly less than 2 years.

I fully understand the social purpose served by the old tradition of long courtships. It used to be well understood by this culture that marital compatibility over the long term has little to do with sexual attraction. Older style courtship allowed the couple to get to know each other and either establish a firm foundation for a durable pair-bond before throwing the volatile and confusing issue of sexuality in the mix or find out that there was no compatibility and move on to someone else. The sexual revolution and the fiction of sexual freedom destroyed this useful social custom and produced two hybrid customs, neither of which worked very well.

The first hybrid was to put the wedding night at the beginning of the courtship rather than at the end of it. This idea was very much in line with men's stereotypical notion of "sexual freedom." Men could get their sexual needs met in the short term, as well as have some insurance against getting trapped in a marriage to a "bum fuck." However, a few dozen centuries of cultural values which also incorporated some basic biological predispositions were not to be dispensed with overnight. Deeply imbedded in our cultural values, and our thinking about them, are notions about the relative value and meaning placed on sex by the two genders. Many writers have pointed out the cultural perception that sex is a FAVOR that women do for men, and that men OWE women something in return for sex. And, while descriptions of what is "owed" may vary widely they all boil down to "THE RELATIONSHIP." Not "A" relationship, "THE RELATIONSHIP". And, of course, the fundamental defining characteristic of "THE RELATIONSHIP" is "THE commitment": which is always presented as " *a* COMMITMENT."

When vomiting the mindless man-bash so common today that "men CAN'T make a commitment", the wimmin-as-total-victim-and-therefor-totally-superior-to-men crowd, put several mean spins on the ball that make it almost impossible to field. First, the word "can't" which presents it as a constitutional deficiency rather than a choice. Simply replace "can't" with "WON'T" and see how the meaning changes. A man who "WON'T" make a commitment is an empowered man who is exercising his right to make choices about his own life. If he WON'T "make a commitment", it is because he sees that he has more to lose than to gain by doing so. Men who WON'T make commitments to women are men who demand reciprocity and fairness as a pre-requisite and WON'T allow themselves to be trapped into a situation where this doesn't exist. It is essential that the spin-doctors keep presenting this as a FAILING rather than a CHOICE.

Second, we have to look at the use of the non-specific "A commitment", as opposed to the very specific "marriage commitment." Virtually all men make and keep thousands of commitments in their lives. But this knowledge must be ruthlessly suppressed and denied in order to obscure the reasons why men make these commitments. Understanding those reasons would immediately point out that the reasons men are so slow in making THE marriage commitment is because marriage values and practices are so heavily stacked against men in this culture. When getting ready to risk one's entire life work, the potential custody of his children as hostages in a child-support extortion scheme, and even potential incarceration, only the most foolish of men will proceed without serious deliberation. But NONE of this can ever be acknowledged if women are to be able to continue to use the commitment issue to guilt-trip men into marrying them before the men are ready.

The net cultural effect of putting the wedding night, and "consummation" of the relationship, at the beginning of the courtship rather than at the end was the de facto elimination of courtship and its social benefits. Both sexes, in reality, make short-term choices regarding people to sleep with on very different criteria than they make long term choices regarding who to marry. The "Sexual Revolution" and "Sexual Freedom" were in fact monstrous hoaxes perpetrated on the culture as whole. Both sexes just assumed that the other would begin to make similar choices to the ones their own made. Both made mistaken assumptions about the portions of the old cultural values that the "other" sex would abandon and about the ones they would hold on to.

Women absolutely refused to turn loose of their old cultural prerogative to be compensated in some way for "giving" the man some sex. Even though the night before she may have actually been the aggressor and more interested in having sex than he was; in the light of day she could always fall back onto female stereotypes and demand that he "owed" her something, even if it was just the symbolic post-coital call. Men who assumed that the women wanted the same thing they did - good, satisfying, no-strings-attached sex - invariably incurred the wrath of women who felt "used." While the specific, but quaint and archaic, term "cad" has dropped out of common usage, the type of man it describes is alive and well in the cultural stereotypes of men. As one of the feminist writers on the web, Lizard Amazon, observed:

"In fact, even without getting a Relationship Contract, women with a "good reputation" can easily get a man to fuck them (because it's assumed that men will want to fuck any available pussy) and then expect the man to treat them AS IF THERE WERE SUCH A CONTRACT. After they have fucked, then the good reputation, high value pussy woman can assume that the man will treat her with respect, he will not fuck anyone else, and he'll maintain the highest standards of truthfulness- and also share his privileged status with her, i.e. she gets to be introduced into his public and private social kinship circles as His Girlfriend, or she gets to begin sharing his material wealth and goods.

"If he doesn't do these things, then the high value pussy woman has society's permission to be outraged and to tell everyone possible that the man has treated her badly. She is now justified in most people's eyes, in wreaking revenge upon the man in any way available to her. She can slap him, hit him, enact public melodrama, slash his tires, sleep with his best friend, destroy his possessions, and slander his character."

- not to mention poison his dog.

In all respects, this first hybrid of old traditions and sexual freedom has been a disaster for everyone concerned: women, men, children, and the culture as a whole. In general women had a great deal of difficulty with the idea of "uncommitted" sex, although far more men also had difficulty with it than the cultural stereotypes suggest.

The second hybrid of the old and new cultural values of sexual freedom, or the lack thereof, was in many respects far more destructive. In most respects, it is identical to the first hybrid in that it attempts to continue to cast new and different behaviors in the old cultural mold, despite the fact that these behaviors are antithetical to the old set of cultural values. This second hybrid continues to give women all the prerogatives of women under the traditional set of values as well as the ability to have sex without having to wait until all that tedious "courtship" is done, but it adds the twist that the woman can be the aggressor. Shrouded by the denial of women's sexual agency by rape and sexual harassment laws, women can seek and even demand sex as active agents; then the moment it has occurred they can invoke whichever of the old sets or new hybrid sets of rules that suits them.

Under this scenario, not only do men OWE women something for sex once they have had it, they also OWE IT TO THE WOMAN who wants to have sex with them TO HAVE SEX WITH HER. This goes far beyond the classic "bait and switch" tactic of the first hybrid. It is one thing for a woman to "allow" a man to bed her then expect "A commitment": it is entirely another for a woman to DEMAND that a man do so, then invoke the "you OWE me A commitment" rule.

Over the past several years, I have encountered and been involved with several women who pursued this strategy. While in some cases there was marginal sexual interest on my part, in most there was none. One of the horribly destructive results of the false confusion of sex with intimacy, which is nearly universal among women, is that many of them confuse a simple warm friendship with something more and do not respect the boundaries of the friendship. The false equivalence of passion and love leads to the erroneous conclusions "since you care about me, you must be turned on by me" and "since you are turned on by me, that means you MUST love me."
Men who are clear on their own internal distinctions between the two may often fall prey to hybrid strategy # 1 - getting trapped into owing a woman a commitment because you have slept with her. But; men who have fallen for and internalized the silly notions of romantic love, soulmates, the missing "other half" that will complete us, and the rest of the social nonsense regarding sex; can often fall into the trap of hybrid strategy # 2 - finding that they OWE a woman "A commitment" for what turns out to have been little more than a mercy hump.

Going into all the reasons why men often find it difficult to turn down a woman who clearly communicates the fact that she WANTS to have sex with him will require a whole 'nother article. But most men will understand them without explanation, so merely mentioning them should be sufficient: chronic sexual deprivation, chivalry, not wanting to "hurt her feelings" by giving the message that you find her unattractive, personally held stereotypes about men and their sexual responses, as well as their own maverick bodies' tendencies to respond physically in situations where they do not respond emotionally.

All of these, and more factors were at work in a relationship with a woman I will call "Pam." Over the years I have developed the practice of designating the women of my ex-relationships with names that summarize the causes of the failure of the relationship. This woman, I refer to as "Pam Fuckaboot" after her practice of humping the side of my leg, exactly like a similarly named dog of my acquaintance would be spurred to humping frenzy by the sight/smell of a pair of boots.

Once I was psychologically and emotionally entrapped in a "relationship" with this woman, I endured months of spending nights with her that began with listening to two hours of her screaming at her mother and two daughters over how much she did for them and how little she got in return. After the nightly family soap-opera-cum-Jerry-Springer-show wound down, we would retire to her room where I would listen to another hour or so of her complaints about work and all the "assholes" she worked with and how she "got them back." Somewhere in the midst of all this, often punctuated by observing how cute her neurotic little dog was for just shitting on the floor, she would roll over on me and begin to grind her crotch into the side of my leg, while her mouth was still running 90 miles/hr. This was her idea of "foreplay." Needless to say, or at least needless to explain to any man, I found this not just UNexciting, but as destructive to any feeling of real sexual interest as anything could be.

In retrospect, all the signs were there from day one. I was just too optimistic, idealistic and, on some issues, guilty and ashamed, to admit it. A retrospective analysis and understanding of the factors which got me into that relationship, and kept me in it long after I knew it was poisonous to me, has served me in good stead in dealing with the women I have encountered since who have sought to entrap me into the same kind of nightmare. I think that perhaps other men may find something of value, as well, in what I learned.


The Saga of "Pam Fuckaboot" -

We were childhood friends. We went to kindergarten and first, 2nd, and 3rd grades together. She was the proverbial "little red-headed girl" to my Charlie Brown. My family moved right after I completed the third grade, and I only saw her once in the next 32 years. If I had been a little smarter, I would have learned all I needed to know from that one encounter, because she barely had the time of day for me. Like I said, the proverbial "little red-headed girl" on whom I had an innocent childhood crush while she was barely aware that I existed - until her life circumstances changed in a way that I might be "useful" her, that is.

We met again the year we both turned 40. It was at the site where all those rosy memories of bygone times had been written: our grade school. I had been informed by another classmate from that era that the school was about to be torn down and that there was a "party" or reception for all the students who had gone there to get one last look at the old place. And that SHE ( the "little red-headed girl" ) was going to be there.

If I had not been so mislead by fond memories, the warning sirens would have gone off the moment I laid eyes on her. Her wardrobe and demeanor screamed "High Maintenance" ( a term she was fond of using to describe herself ) and "BITCH." But, hey, this was the 90s and "real men" aren't afraid of "strong women." Besides, I had superglued rose colored glasses to my head.

We were both only about 30 days out from breakups of relationships which had more than passing significance, but of course we both withheld that information from the other. No need to scare her/him off. As long-term footsoldiers in the Army of Occupation left behind by the sexual revolution, we both knew that unless we hated each other as we had grown up to be that we would end up in bed together.

I was a lot less anxious to see this happen than she was. From the very beginning there was something seriously off-key - I just couldn't put my finger on it. I hated the way she dressed. It was ugly as hell and had a very middle-aged matronly look about it: kinda like the stuff that Bea Arthur always used to wear. You know what I mean: bulky stuff and long tops to hide how fat she was. I was so determined to overlook this part of it that I also overlooked an even more significant part: it wasn't just the style that put me off - her color sense was atrocious. I certainly wouldn't have bought a couch covered with the patterns and colors she chose, it still bewilders me to this day that I nearly bought a woman covered in it. But, hey, you GOTTA remember that this was THE "little red-headed girl".

The first time I went into her room, a kind of mini-suite in the house she shared with her mother and two daughters, I saw a sign on her door:

"Warning !!!!
You are looking at a HIGH PERFORMANCE woman.
I go from zero to BITCH in 0.2 seconds.
Caution: The BITCH switch sticks."

( "DANGER, DANGER, Will Robinson!" )

I "shoulda" heeded that warning signal. Any woman who takes such great pride in her emotional viciousness and aggression will inevitably turn that weapon on you if you hang around long enough. I did feel a deep sense of fear, which my own denial led me to deal with by confronting her on the implicit message. Of course, I got back her denial in the form of "It's just a JOKE. I'm ONLY TEASING. Lighten up." I was to receive the same answer almost verbatim more than a year later when she waved a knife at me and said menacingly "Remember John Bobbit."

From the outset, she began weaving her little spiderwebs of guilt around me. "I am the Goodbye Girl. Men ALWAYS leave me." Again, if I had had ANY sense, I would have thought "hm? There must be a reason for that." But, hey, you GOTTA remember that this was THE "little red-headed girl".

For the guys only - quick, what is the demanded response when you are fed the cue "men ALWAYS leave me."? Of course, "Well, *** I *** WON'T LEAVE YOU." Boom, there you are - suckered into making "a commitment".

And speaking of commitments, that was the next spiderweb: "Are YOU one of those men who CAN'T make a commitment?!!!!!" ( lessee, oh yeah, the script says that here I say ) "Of course not! I CAN TOO make commitments." Fortunately I'd seen this movie before - "When "Hairy Met Salacious" or something like that - and I still hadn't SLEPT with her, so this one didn't stick. "I have made lots of commitments in my life. The question always is 'commitment to what'?" Unfortunately, I was soon to lose this clarity.

Soon after the two-month mark, during which I was quite content to go out for an occasional bite to eat or other shared activity devoid of ponderous overtones of "romance", she started in on the tactic of "Don't you find me attractive? YOU are MAKING ME FEEL so BAD by not finding me attractive." Over the next several months this "YOU MAKE ME FEEL" battle would be fought many times. In many respects, her co-dependency was the root of all her woes. She could and would never even once take responsibility for her own feelings and instead always blamed them on someone else. The killer blow which freed me from any sense of being bound to treat this woman fairly in any respect came a few days after the xmas when I had blown over $1500 on her, her daughters, and her mother; when she nailed me to the wall with "YOU don't MAKE ME FEEL SPECIAL ENOUGH."

But, I didn't know or understand all that when I still remembered her as THE "little red-headed girl", when I was still hoping that our old friendship would provide a better foundation for a relationship than purely sexual attraction had done, and when I still naively believed that 2 people could work just about anything out if they talked about it fairly and honestly.

A "relationship" is a lot like a train - once you get on board, it takes an act of leaving to get off before the train reaches its destination. Inertia is a powerful force, and guilt an even more powerful one. On any given day, Pam Fuckaboot's tactics of emotional terrorism were not quite enough to warrant leaving and having to endure the all-out emotional war I knew she would begin to wage the moment I left. Like the old principle of the boiled frog, which shows that a frog put in already hot water will sense something wrong and jump out but a frog put in warm water will adjust to gradually increasing temperature until it boils to death, the emotional abuse that Pam Fuckaboot was capable of dishing out only became apparent over time. Each incident was not incrementally THAT MUCH worse than the one which came before it and I survived the previous one so I could no doubt survive this one.

Due to her family obligations of taking care of her mother and 2 dependent daughters, spending the night with her always meant spending it at her house. I would go there 2 or 3 nights per week, tuning out her bitching at her mom and kids as many a man has learned to tune out the bitching of some female in order to achieve some semblance of domestic harmony. Then we would go to her room, go to bed, and I would pray that she was tired and wouldn't be interested in sex. Usually, pretending to be tired and fall immediately to sleep would do the trick and once I turned my back on her she would leave me alone. But there were those times when she demanded my attention and the argument over why I didn't find her attractive would invariably ensue.

Over and over again I would explain the circumstances and how I needed some inclusion of things that I found interesting and exciting to dredge up any interest whatsoever. Over and over again I would hear everything I said denied and refuted and myself blamed entirely for my lack of interest. On one particularly ugly occasion, she told me to go get a shot of testosterone. That was the moment I began to hate her.

As things went from bad to worse, I got to the point where I couldn't stand any physical contact at all. It was during one of the many attempts to bridge the horrible gap of understanding that I got one of the first bits of insight which allowed me to unravel the mystery. She had offered me a backrub, a nice safe non-threatening way to make physical contact. We were in her office where she was printing something off her computer on her dot-matrix printer. As always, her touch was simply UNPLEASANT. I had long been confounded by women whose hands seemed to be dead and incapable of receiving feedback. The whole notion of women being the more sensual sex was still a persistent fiction which I had been unable to overcome. Rather than being pleasant in any way, this "backrub" felt like being poked and prodded. Several times I took her hands and showed her what would feel good and as soon as I let go she went back to poking me in time with the noise of the printer.

In a moment of revelation, I understood that her life was driven so much out of her head that she was simply incapable of ever being able to receive and interpret sensory data. Quite the contrary of the myth that women are sensual, more often than not they are playing out some script out of some stupid chick flick or romance novel and don't have a fucking clue what they are doing. Being someone who can tell the emotional state of someone by just touching them with my fingertips, and trained in massage, it had taken me a very long time to realize that NOT EVERYONE did that or even knew how to.

Over the next several months many battles ensued over the issues of what I needed to feel erotic, her refusal to take responsibility for her own feelings bound up in her repeated use of "YOU MAKE ME FEEL" and my refusal to take on responsibility for her feelings, and her guilt-trip attacks of taking a gaffer-hook of guilt and shame and shoving it in my gut by saying "I just wish that you knew how bad YOU MAKE ME FEEL, lying there night after night, wanting you so badly and knowing that you don't want me. I just hope that someday YOU WILL FEEL THAT BAD."

That gave me my exit cue. The key to our relationship was not how GOOD she wanted to "make me feel" as a result of being associated with her, but rather how BAD she could "make me feel." Even with all this, I STILL felt guilty about leaving her and was trapped by the sense of wanting her to understand WHY I was leaving. I still hadn't grasped that it was the fact that she was COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of this. In retrospect, it became easy to see that if she had shown the characteristic I wanted in order to make it EASY to leave, then it wouldn't have been impossible for me to do anything BUT leave.

In a culture which beats the hell out of men every day for being "bad guys" - rapists, abusers, bunglers, abandoners - I was getting ready to really be a "bad guy" and dump this crazy bitch. And I knew that when I did she would go nuts and try to extract whatever revenge she could and that she would get approval from society at large, and particularly from other women, when she did.

So, when I was recounting all this to my counselor, he looked at me and said - "There Ain't No Way Out, but OUT. "

I got the message. There wasn't going to be an easy exit. It was going to be war and war is hell. And I was going to have to take some lumps. And only when staying in the relationship became more offensive than leaving it, would I make the decision to walk.

She handed me the opportunity very shortly after this. On Christmas day, she waved a knife at me and said "Remember John Bobbit." This was one of her favorite tactics, make a horrible veiled threat and later pass it off as humor. I realized that someone so incapable of any concern or regard for a "significant other" that she could make such a threat was also likely capable of carrying it out, so I never went to sleep in her presence again. This started the ball rolling on the "final confrontation."

When she confronted me on the fact that I had stopped even sharing her bed, I tried one last time to confront the emotional terrorism and abuse which she heaped on everyone around her. Of course she denied any part in it and came back with "When two people are IN LOVE, then they SHOULD feel passion for each other." I pointed out that there was nothing resembling "IN LOVE" in the feelings I felt for her, at which point she went psychotic and began spewing accusations. Among them was the now famous, "YOU don't MAKE ME FEEL SPECIAL ENOUGH."

I realized then that I was staring into the bottomless maw of a black hole that would consume everything which was thrown into it and never be one bit less empty. I realized that I was looking at pure evil and that the "little red-headed girl" was nothing, and never had been anything, but a childish fantasy. I realized that this woman would consume and destroy me, IF I ALLOWED HER TO.

And self preservation kicked in and I said "So be it." and left.

The epilogue lasted many months and included countless screaming matches over the phone with her saying "I FEEL ( this ) and I FEEL ( that )" and every damn thing in the world revolving completely and only around what she did or did not feel. ( Which definitely still included not special ENOUGH. ) In the end, I was forced to do almost what Winston Smith did at the end of the novel "1984" when he betrayed his former lover, Julia. When I had finally had enough of being abused and beaten with this woman's feelings, I finally responded "I DON'T GIVE A SHIT, what or how YOU FEEL."

And there it was: only by complete disconnection, only by achieving absolute and complete disregard for her precious fuckin' "feeeeeelings", was I able to free myself from their tyranny.
From that point on, it reads like a good-news/bad-news joke. The good news is that I don't give a shit about the feelings of a woman like that, so I am now immune to that form of emotional abuse and terrorism. The bad news is that so many women turn out to be exactly like that, that I don't give a shit about the feelings of any woman any more, so a close warm and loving relationship with a woman is now outside my capacity.

Of course, Pam Fuckaboot didn't accomplish this alone. She got help from the woman who destroyed a 20 year friendship by refusing to take "no" for an answer and harassing me for 3 years to turn our friendship into a sexual relationship. Her accusations of "you said I was fat, you said I was ugly" fell on deaf ears because I had never said anything like that. In the end, what killed the friendship was her vicious manipulation of trying to get revenge by implying to her husband that we WERE in fact having such a relationship in order to make him jealous enough to pay to her the kind of attention which I refused to pay. The night he showed up at my door at 1:00 am threatening to kill me, ended that "old friendship" as well.

Since those experiences, and many other similar experiences too numerous and lengthy to include here, my relationships with women have been much simpler, much more rewarding, and far less unpleasant. I DEMAND, not "ask", not "beg", not "hope", not even "expect", but DEMAND that my needs are respected or I show them my ass.

Having learned the depths of viciousness of which women are capable, I no longer make the naive assumption that women are the "fairer" sex so that if they behave abominably that there must be some "good excuse." Having learned that women are every bit as capable of being as abominable as the most abominable man, I go into every encounter with my eyes wide open and an attitude of zero tolerance.

I am no longer a nice man, a "sweet" man, or even a "gentle" man, but I have learned that those qualities make men sitting ducks for predatory women. In the gender war, I have made the decision that it is better to be a dis-honorable survivor than an honorable casualty.