Intimacy Workshop takeaways #1- Objectification  

earthShiva 59M
270 posts
8/27/2006 11:27 am

Last Read:
12/10/2006 5:58 am

Intimacy Workshop takeaways #1- Objectification

Well, I survived my week in St. Maarten with 42 women (36 students, 6 teachers) in an intimacy workshop.

It wasn't pretty and it wasn't much fun either. This explains my staying away from Blogsville for a week of introspection wound-licking. I have enough to think about to make a book of it, so rather than even attempt to summarize everything in one post, I'll divvy it up into some of the basic issues that emerged for me.

Issue number one was objectification. The women with whom I've been in class for two years were great. We're very close, we know each other, and I'm a three dimensional person to them. They would walk up and say "Earth, hon, you're looking stressed. What's up, doll? You need a hug?" What bunch of angels!

In marked contrast, the women from the other two classes would sidle up, cock their head, stirring their rum punch with a finger and say something warm and sensitive like, "Gee, it must be hard being the only guy." I know they thought they were being sensitive or something, but as opening lines go, it was boring. I know women don't normally need to think in terms of opening lines, but, really, do ya think I might have been asked the same questions a few times? Furthermore, it ignored all the other things that they did already know about me in favor of my mere gender issue.

What I found most objectionable is how unrevealing it was of them. This was an intimacy workshop. We were encouraged to take chances in connecting with other people. Repeatedly, I saw women re-discover their inner selves and share it, often after years of submerging their identities in passionless relationships, parenthood and career. The transformation was dramatic, sometimes explosive, and a thing of true beauty to behold because it came from within them. And (here's a real kicker), intimacy is something that starts within oneself. Only once we have intimacy with ourselves can we offer it to others.

In stark contrast, the questions that were put to me said nothing about the person asking the questions, yet placed a demand on me to share of myself with really very little that they would or could offer in return - in short, forced intimacy. Something far less extreme but on the same continuum as . Nobody was saying, "You know, I'm a heartless bitch who has backstabbed every guy who ever let his guard down around me. It must be hard to be in an intimacy workshop with the likes of me!"

Yet that, collectively, was the implication of the question itself. Every woman who asked that question was implicitly affirming that women, in general, aren't very nice to men. Not once in the entire time did anyone come up and say, "You lucky guy. You have 42 women consciously seeking to deepen intimacy all to yourself. When could any man ever have a safer, better container to allow his vulnerabilities to show, and to deepen his connection with an entire gender?"

So I caled them on it. When I got hit with the line, I started asking, "Why do you think it should be difficult. You're not wrong, by the way. This really is difficult and scary, but, why? What does your question say about how you think women feel about men?" The only response I ever got was, "Well, I know how I'd feel being the only woman with 42 men." I appreciated that empathy in that statement, which was, in fact, something of a self-revelation on a whole range of attitudes about men, women and feeling safe. But when pressed to go further without reversing the roles, none of them could articulate why they though it would be difficult. And that showed me that their walls were up every bit as much as mine were.

By the end of the week, things had gotten somewhat better. They were bound to. You can't be with a group of people for any length of time without accruing some individuality, and that does mitigate objectification, at least in those who are willing to see beyond their cultural programming. Another week together probably would have been a blast! Individually, most of the women are pretty wonderful people.

I think I will change for this experience in a number of positive ways. I hope I will remain mindful of feeling objectfied, and avoid doing this to other people, whether due to gender, race, job or other affiliation. Even under the guise of sensitivity, objectification is a shorthand we all learn to stop seeing other people, and to make something less of them than what they really are. Getting past this point with each person is a key milestone in the dance of intimacy, and one that promises to bring us closer to ourselves as well as to others.

CB_2 51F

8/27/2006 11:34 am

Just dashing out the door, EarthShiva, but I wanted to say "Welcome home!"

Funny, like all of the women who didn't see any of the offence in their question to you, I'd have been hard pressed to do so myself. I shall go off and ponder it in a new light. I do see what you mean.

Blogito ergo sum.

earthShiva replies on 8/27/2006 2:23 pm:
Do keep a context on this as you consider it. This was not a pleasure cruise or a pick-up bar. This was an intimacy workshop that is part of a 4 year program in healership. The purpose of doing it in the Caribbean was specifically to break people out of their normal patterns and contexts. While I am not close to the women in the other two classes, I'm not a stranger to them either. We've been in the same lunchroom, lectures and evening seminars for the last two years. I mean, we're talking past life regressions, shamanic journeying and the like. Plus, D's class has certainly known plenty of me through all her personal processing on family, marital and parenting issues over the last two years.

Add to that the kinds of conversations taking place around the place - many of them involving women bawling their eyes out with realization of childhod traumas and the like - and this starting point just seemed extremely formulaic and trite.

One question I keep asking myself is, "Did, in fact, the women do their part simply by presenting themselves?" Is it up to the man to provide the inspiration in conversation? Sounds awfully sexist, but even so it is consistent with the whole Shiva/Shakti model of the dance of inspiration and manifestation, or, for that matter, the way intimacy seems to develop right here on AdultFriendFinder. Is this the way intimacy is meant to be done? Is this some kind of cosmic/natural order?

shylena256 42F
1967 posts
8/28/2006 11:50 am

Even under the guise of sensitivity, objectification is a shorthand we all learn to stop seeing other people, and to make something less of them than what they really are. Getting past this point with each person is a key milestone in the dance of intimacy, and one that promises to bring us closer to ourselves as well as to others.
Wow Shiva... Thanks for saying that so eloquently.
It's a theme that comes up a lot in my life, and a whole whole lot on the foot show, for that matter any webcam, or just around here in general.
You are eloquent and you moved me once again.
Welcome home.


Become a member to create a blog