Intimacy Workshop takeaways #2- Control  

earthShiva 61M
270 posts
8/27/2006 10:03 pm

Last Read:
9/1/2006 12:12 am

Intimacy Workshop takeaways #2- Control

I like being in control. As a positive quality, I am a natural born leader, an entrepreneur, a champion for justice and all those other good things that come along with thinking that one should dictate the way the world works.

This mode of interacting with the world is characterized as a "Challenger/Defender defense structure". Like any defense structure, it is driven by fear. Typical of this defense is a fear of betrayal, ad the darker side of all those leadership qualities is the tendency to feel that we are somehow special and different from everyone else. One can create a lot of loneliness for oneself sitting in an ivory tower...

So being the only man at an intimacy workshop was total set-up for someone who needed to working on not feeling so special!

One of the aspects that drove me completely up the wall was the notion of "no sex". Huh? Workshop on intimacy and sexuality? Caribbean Island? Can't room with my wife? No sex? WTF???

The woman who runs this program is a former nun. Her rationale for the "no sex" clause isn't cruel or illogical. Her POV is that intimacy means being in touch with one's sexuality. That being in touch with one's sexuality means being in control of it, hanging on to the charge. The ability to hold on to that charge is empowering, and creates intimacy while depleting that charge risks destroying it, expecially when the goal is to find intimacy among a broader group of people rather than hole up with one person.

She and I couldn't be farther apart on this issue. I suspect most readers in this venue would understand that intimacy comes from breaking down barriers. In my unique case, I specifically objected to the "no sex" clause for two reasons -

I was there with my wife. We were there with every intention of getting the most out of the experience, and were perfectly capable of monitoring ourselves well enough to assure that our main focus was the program, not each other. To tell us that any physical contact between us was verboten was, in a word, unnatural. Not to mention that it dishonored an existing and rather sacred intimacy for the sake of a mere exercise.

The larger issue for me, however, was the foundation for relationship that the "no sex" clause created for me with every other woman who was there. The starting point for every conversation, without a word being spoken was, "The possibility for our connection is limited. There are places we cannot and will not go."

Excepting a couple of lesbians in the program, this simply wasn't a problem for the other program participants because the sexual charge wasn't a part of their conversation. (Interestingly, I had a great connection with the lesbians (I usually do...), who felt similarly put upon.) As such it wasn't an issue the straight women were even aware of, yet it clearly set a precedent that, in my opinion limited and constrained the possibilites for intimacy among conseting adults. Make no mistake, I had absolutely no intention of having sex with anyone in the school except, possibly, my wife. My point is that true intimacy requires that people stand in their own power. If someone takes away their right to say "yes", they take away the right to say "no" at the same time.

All in all, it seems a complete blind spot for this program. When I brought up my objections, and listed off all the other things that could, in fact, destroy intimacy - overeating, drunkeness, cliquishness - and pointed out that the school policy on these matters was to advise moderation, while with sex was treated as an all-or-nothing action. The issue was re-framed in terms of my pathological reaction to being told what to do. I don't deny that pathology. But I'm not the only one who has that pathology. Someone else with a big agenda was setting the rules, and I never got a straight response to why sex was treated differently from drinking rum punches or hanging out all week with one's friends.

So, I will agree to disagree with the head of the school. It's her school, not mine. I can go without sex for a week if I have to. But nobody is ever going to make me believe that imposing such a rule improves the chances of intimacy developing among the people who must obey it.


MoonRise9 59M

8/28/2006 2:21 pm

"Blind spot" - I think it's even worse than that. I'm assuming the sex prohibition specified intercourse, perhaps heavy petting, maybe solo masturbation. It's personally amusing to consider proposing a 47 person mutual masturbation, but that's really off my topic.

Whenever 2 people interact (talk, hug, look at eachother) there's the likelihood of some "sexual" thought, eventhough people don't act on those thoughts 99.999% of the time because being overtly sexual isn't appropriate most of the time. Prohibiting sex in an intimacy workshop where there isn't likely to be much sex anyhow seems silly to me. It seems to confuse the honest exploration of how people manage their range of feelings and dynamics about eachother - sexual and otherwise - like attraction, rejection, denial, frustration.

I agree with your ex-Nun that sexual activity can get in the way of expressing other feelings, but that seems like something you'd want to explore in an intimacy workshop, not shortcircuit.


earthShiva replies on 8/29/2006 12:31 pm:
I'm assuming the sex prohibition specified intercourse, perhaps heavy petting, maybe solo masturbation.

Funny you should mention that. I'll be blogging later this week on this question as part of boundary questions in intimacy.

"Sexual activity" was never explicitly defined, but the women were encouraged to go dance with the locals, which, from what I could see, amounted to getting dry-humped and pawed. Some of my classmates were deeply offended by it, others obviously enjoyed the experience. One woman did ask, "Can we have sex with ourselves?" The rest of the class laughed and nobody actually answered the question.

earthShiva replies on 8/29/2006 12:31 pm:
I'm assuming the sex prohibition specified intercourse, perhaps heavy petting, maybe solo masturbation.

Funny you should mention that. I'll be blogging later this week on this question as part of boundary questions in intimacy.

"Sexual activity" was never explicitly defined, but the women were encouraged to go dance with the locals, which, from what I could see, amounted to getting dry-humped and pawed. Some of my classmates were deeply offended by it, others obviously enjoyed the experience. One woman did ask, "Can we have sex with ourselves?" The rest of the class laughed and nobody actually answered the question.

bipolybabe 56F

8/28/2006 10:16 pm

Welcome back!

In retrospect, did the "no sex" enhance any aspect of the learning for you?

BTW, my LIP (live-in penis) dumped me for someone new he met at the Atlanta blogger gathering. I'm hurting, trying to keep quiet about it and waiting until I'm safe again to blog about it. Read his blog with some skepticism and wait for the other side of the story. Zip. My lips are sealed. I'm off to Burning Man on Weds.

BPB

BPB

Check out my blog Bi-Poly-Babe for more sensual, sexual pleasure!


earthShiva replies on 8/28/2006 10:52 pm:
Certainly, banging up against the walls of somebody else's rules was a learning experience. D and I have set up our lives so that doesn't happen to us very often!

Apart from that, I can't see that it contributed much. In a more gender-balanced group, I think it could have been useful and, in fact, I've participated in other intimacy/sexuality workshops that were gender-balanced and the same guidelines, with one huge difference - it was a recommendation, not a rule. D and I attended the workshop, slept together, and cheerfully abidded by it.

The truth is, I don't think this rule had much to do with me. I think in past years some of the participants have been swept off their feet by friendly islanders and rum punch, and have embarrassed themselves and the program. Knowing that there have been issues in past years certainly explains a lot, but it also exacerbates the offense I take at not being treated as an adult.

Sorry to hear about your recent loss (Don't ask me to call him your LIP. Talk about objectifying!) I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the whole experience when you're ready. Meanwhile, go burn your jilting partner in effigy!

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