Stereotypes can be harmful.
I say ‘can be’ as this is not always the case.
As many of us mature into a self-authored perspective on life and the ability to create our own identity we can be quick to demonize any and all generalities about who we are. This differentiation away from a more socialised mind is natural and healthy yet it is easy to forget that it was once incredibly important to conform to societal behaviours.
There is a healthy move away from the innocent ego-centred behaviour of children to recognize that others are important and in order to function within our society there are certain behaviours we must adhere to. Stereotypes arise, I think, as a way of finding and identifying ourselves in the world as well as creating functioning family and community units. Conforming to the predesignated behaviours of a group or culture subset we get to know who we are, we get to belong and our communities work, sort of.
This is important yet not always healthy especially as they become cloying and our urge to outgrow them arises. These behaviours and traits can also be distorted and harmful to both self and others and for those of us with an inclination to growing eventually we will begin to transcend, and if healthy, include them.
When my last serious relationship ended in a whole heap of turbulence a few years ago I was forced to reevaluate everything about myself, which led to me doing a whole lot of emotional maturity work. In the aftermath, wallowing in pain, I tried to plug the emptiness I felt inside and ended up having a long string of one night stands with very little discernment. Eventually I felt even emptier, ashamed, and kind of dirty. This was not the way I wanted to relate with women or my own sexuality and I vowed that I would outgrow whatever it was that had me indulge in this kind of behaviour.
It has not been easy as genuine growth takes time, yet it has definitely begun to pay off.
In response to a recent blog, “Sacred Casual Sex,” a reader asked me how this experience contributed to my growth. What immediately rose in my mind was the long and painful process of shedding many layers of stereotypical behaviour and attitudes that I had adopted throughout my teenage and early adult years.
During these years I began being exposed to attitudes around women and sex. Being skinny, gangly, awkward and shy I wasn’t someone who women noticed, or that is what I believed anyway. I saw the popular kids, the stronger and more athletic ones, getting girlfriends and I wanted to be like them, I wanted to be one of them. I began to believe that being cool meant having an attractive girlfriend. As most of us do growing up I also watched plenty of movies and TV shows that reinforced these ideas.
This was just one layer; another layer revolved around sex.
Sex seemed to be a status symbol. I had watched porn and of course I knew, on a visceral level, that I wanted it. It is pretty normal and natural to have a primal desire for intercourse as it is wired into our biology. What did not get developed for me, though, was the heartfelt acknowledgment of the other human being involved in any sexual activity I had.
As horrible as it sounds, more often than not the person was a means to the end–in other words, the sex was more relevant than the person I was having it with.
Male stereotypes float around and are the source of much joking. An Australian example is “How is a man like a wombat? Because he eats, roots (‘root’ is slang for sex in Australia) and leaves.”
Men are often portrayed as wanting to have sex with any woman that is reasonably attractive without even caring much about getting to know her. As men it is often believed of us that we are ready for sex any time, even if we don’t really want it. These are such common stereotypes because for many men it is actually true. I held some version of these attitudes for a long time and many men head out on the weekend to clubs and bars looking to get laid.
Finding someone, while likely both drunk, and taking them home that night for sex does not really see or care about who the other person is; it is only physical and chemical, sex for the sake of sex only.
I think this compulsion likely comes from a place, like I did, of trying to plug some kind of deep-seated pain or lack. Everyone is entitled to their own choices and I’m not trying to say this is somehow wrong, only that this type no longer satisfied me and, as I wasn’t particularly good at getting laid anyway, actually caused more internal pain and sense of not belonging than anything else.
There are also other men I know who have a whole string of short term relationships with women, one after the other, again driven by this intense need for sex and, I think, the validation it brings. When I hang out with these men there is much joking, comparing and even showing of pictures. The conquest of women is praised, respected and championed. Again, I am not saying this is wrong, and many women respond to and play out the other side of this dynamic dance of objectification. As is oft said “it takes two to tango” and no-one is at fault when we are both active participants.
There is no need to vilify men or women as the culprit and I think doing so is not helpful for anyone.
However, there is nothing wrong with sex, there is nothing wrong with one night stands or casual sex, there is nothing wrong with having multiple partners. Sex is a normal and natural desire of a healthy human being. Most of us want it and, if we are honest, probably want quite a lot of it too, I certainly do. Eventually though the who, how and why becomes increasingly important for those of us inclined towards personal growth and the possibilities for evolved relationships emerge.
I still desire sex quite strongly yet what has increasingly changed is my intention. The layers of constricting male stereotypical sexual attitudes have been sloughing away from my being as I continue to grow. I cannot, and will not, settle for less than a conscious, sacred and loving expression of sexuality. For me it must be mutually responsible, emotionally clean and with a level of maturity that can actively and easily work through conflicts of interest. I will only share my body in this way with beings who can respect, appreciate and honour the bond that sex creates between us and that I feel the same towards them.
Sex for me has become about sharing pleasure, exploration and discovery with another whether it be wild, primal expressions or slow and intentional tantric connections. There is more than one being involved in a sexual encounter and I no longer see the point of it without taking that connection as deep as we can.
This is how I have grown and I anticipate only further and deeper possibilities to keep emerging.
Author: Damien Bohler
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: by Tansu Ensari on deviantart.com (via the author)