Tag Archives: deprogramming

Waking Up Together

Warning: Contains descriptions of cutting and compulsive hair-pulling.

For some reason today I was thinking about waking up with people, and worrying about being seen.

I remember reading about transmen who sleep in their binders.  My biracial friend told me about waking up before her white boyfriend did to make her hair look “whiter” for him.  And I thought about the women I met online, who woke early in the morning to put on eyeliner, so their boyfriends wouldn’t know they pulled all their eyelashes out.

Trichotillomania is compulsive hair-pulling.  It usually comes on in adolescence, and usually affects girls.  It is characterized by a strong compulsion to pull hair out of the head, face, or body, and has nothing to do with grooming or beauty.  Those affected usually pull from a specific part of the body; eyelashes are common.  And, those affected usually want to stop, but can’t.

It’s difficult to describe this compulsion to someone who has never felt it.  Why would you do that?  Doesn’t it hurt?  Don’t you think it makes you look funny?  Yes, it hurts, but the pain is irrelevant next to the need.  Yes, I’m worried about making a bald spot, but I can’t control my fingers when they go there.  Lots of us report feeling a “trance” state when pulling.  In this state I lost hours every day, unaware of time except for brief blips of clarity, too short-lived to pull myself away.  My parents thought I was obsessed with my appearance, following some kind of extreme beauty regimen, but it was so much stranger.  If I saw or felt a hair that had that special something, I HAD to pull it out.  If I lost it, I had to find it.  Isolate it.  Sometimes I would hold it, stroke it for a few minutes, trying to satisfy myself without pulling it out.  But the urge would grow, and the tension would rise, and there would be nothing more important to me than to pull it out.  In the moment that I ripped the follicle from my scalp, the tension would release, momentarily, barely.  It was not a long-lasting pleasure, because as soon as I pulled the hair in my grasp, I would drop it and search for another, needing another release.  This was when I was aware, of course.  Sometimes I would have the specific thought, “I am not going to pull my hair right now,” and my next moment of awareness was leaning into the mirror, hair parted, searching for the right one.  I was not conscious of how I got there; I had dissociated and lost time.

For someone who hasn’t experienced hair pulling, it makes no sense.  You might try to pull your hair out–maybe you’re hiding your early gray, maybe you’ve got something witchy in mind–and it hurts.  You don’t want to do it.  You probably don’t understand why someone would want to pull their hair out for hours every day.  I feel this way about cutting.  I tried it one time, to get blood for art.  It took so, so long to get a few drops.  I was repulsed by the thought of cutting myself.  I could not drive the knife to my skin, or when I did, the pain was very discouraging.  I cannot imagine pleasure or release in performing this activity.  Except for me, I can imagine doing a thing that is painful, where the pain is not really noticeable under the OTHER feeling.  I can certainly imagine the feeling that I NEED to do something unusual, or destructive, to my body, or else I won’t feel OK.

For me, hair pulling was a compulsion that came on at adolescence and mostly left by the time I left home.  Say a solid six years.  I still pull, but I don’t trance out, lose time, or worry myself about it.  I noticed that I pulled more in situations of stress–and of course female adolescence is one big stressor.  For some, trich doesn’t go away, and for me it did.  Maybe because I stopped hating myself and got some good things going on in my life (accepted my weirdnesses, got some hobbies, got independent from my parents).  Most sufferers are women, though.  Hard to imagine, right?  Patriarchy and all…

For many, when the stress goes away, when the underlying issue goes away, the trich goes away as well.  Trich is a sign of something bigger at hand.

Just like I will never understand cutting, I will never understand binding, or transition. Not really. This is as close as I come. But I am still confessing this because I can’t help thinking that there’s something similar in what we do to ourselves, and why. Because I think I do understand a little. I am holding on to what we have in common. I want you to know that I am ok with you seeing me, and I hope you feel ok with me seeing you. If, one day, we wake up next to each other, please understand that we are in this together. You do not have to hide.

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Deprogramming How-To

Here’s a little something I posted on Tumblr, but I think I’ll put it here too.  I  have found quitting porn, quitting violent fantasies, and learning attraction to women to be interconnected.  Love women.  Love yourself.

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Want to stop watching porn?  Just stop; that’s the easy part.  I did.  The harder part is quitting masturbating to fantasies of abuse.  And it is super hard when you start this deprogramming.  You and your culture have wired your brain to respond to degradation, and change is not instantaneous.  It takes actual mental effort to imagine people being loving and kind mutually powerful and mentally and physically present…and then convince your brain to find that stuff exciting.  But the good news is, if you’re patient with yourself and keep at it, it really works.  You rewire your brain.  The new pathways replace the old.

Finding yourself going down the same pathways?  As soon as you notice it, before giving yourself a chance to think about it, interrupt whatever you’re doing to break the spell.  Jump out of your chair, sit up in bed.  Start singing a silly song, out loud, to yourself.  Or say “Stop!” out loud.  Or maybe “Fuck patriarchy!” for good measure.  And now that you’ve interrupted, redirect.  Do something physical.  Go get a snack, go to the bathroom.  Play with your cat.  Trim your toenails.  Shoot some hoops.  It gets your brain out of where it was.  You are not trapped there.  You create new possibilities, new pathways.  You are literally building new connections in your brain.  Each time you do it, it makes it a little easier the next time.

Remember, just because something is inside you, doesn’t mean it’s yours, doesn’t make it native.  “We have all been seriously messed with,“ as Carolyn Gage has said.  We don’t have to be ashamed.  We can kick the colonizers out of our heads and still love the heck out of ourselves.  In fact, those things seem pretty compatible to me.

Reprogramming: Slow Going

A draft from last year…

I had my clothes on, but it was still pretty reminiscent of missionary intercourse.

I noticed as it morphed from BEST KISSING EVER to the usual–him on top.  I noticed this knowing that I could stop it right then.  I realized that I found it annoying/disappointing/disrespectful/misogynist, but I also noticed that the part of me that had been groomed to this “enjoyed” it, or whatever that sensation actually is, you know what I mean.  So I said nothing and observed.  I observed both of us, because I was participating in it.

I had told myself I wouldn’t have sex with him this week, but in the midst of our interaction, I wasn’t sure any more.  Then I climaxed.  I tend to become my clear-headed feminist self again when I climax, bored of the bullshit.

So I pushed him off and slowed things down.  He seemed to get the message.  I thought.  We slowed down.  But I am learning every day that blunt is best.  Because then suddenly he was aggressive and hard again, but more than he had been with me before.  Did he think I was playing a game with him, that pushing him off was supposed to invite him to do more?  The feminine grooming in me found his behavior “hot,” but the feminist was disturbed.  “He totally wants to dominate and use me right now,” I thought.  “That’s terribly disappointing.”  I continued to experience the encounter through opposing lenses, hungry and disgusted, excited and bored.

When he said he wanted to be inside me (ugh), I said, “Too bad.”  At which point he shut up, calmed himself down, and got off of me.

He’s not bad for a Nigel, but I’d rather he didn’t want to fuck me like that in the first place.  I’d also rather I was ready to go cold turkey (no more men) and not let him dominate me any more, instead of watching and “enjoying.”  I’d rather I didn’t have fucking emotions up around him.

If there’s one thing I’m glad of, it’s the preset limit on our time together.  I’m sad about it, because of those emotions (trauma bonds?), but I’m glad that I have an out since I don’t presently seem able to set boundaries that suit my politics .

I’ve seen him since.  I wondered, will we have sex?  Maybe?  Probably?  I think I want to…better him than someone else?  Like, I wanted to NOT want to, but I still haven’t been able to wash my brain of the conditioning.  I still have unpleasant fantasies that get me high and lead me to seek men and PIV.  On the plus side, I discovered that I was completely uninterested when I saw him, even a little repulsed.  That was kinda cool.  Some say if you avoid PIV for a certain amount of time, it gets easier.  The trauma bonds break, and you are less likely to put yourself in situations where PIV is probable.  I’m hoping for that.  Still dealing with thoughts about other men, and still dealing with the unpleasant fantasies.

I have noticed since I started having sex with a woman that my fantasies and turn-ons have changed, and I think this is huge!  This is the deprogramming!  Before, my sexuality was male-centered, all a psychological response to his experience rather than an experience of my own pleasure.  And since all they really wanted was PIV (and had no understanding of the pleasure of subtle sensation), I didn’t like anything but PIV, with me on the bottom.  Just fuck me.  I don’t really like it, but I’ll get off on his getting off.  And because of this, I also wasn’t sure I was cut out for sex with women.  You mean I can’t just lie back and take it?  I have to do things?  What if I’m an empty submissive with no erotic energy of my own?  What if it turns out that I’m not sexually attracted to her after all?  I was afraid.  But guess what?  The sex was amazing.  It shattered my stunted understanding of what sex was and reshaped it into something wonderful.  Maybe I got lucky with this lover, I don’t know.  But I crave the way she touches me.  I fantasize about lesbian sex.  I dream of women.  Thinking of them turns me on.  I imagine our bodies, our fat and muscle, our skin and hair, our hands and tongues, our angles and curves and kisses and cuddles and the tangled knot of our embrace and clasped hands and sighs and squeals…it is entirely different from what I feel about men.  Before I experienced it, I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t think I was capable of sexual attraction to women, but I was.  I changed.  And I think any woman’s lesbian desire, given the room, can grow and bloom.

What’s the point of the reprogramming?  Get rid of the heterosexual ideology.  Decolonize your mind and body.  Make room for sisterhood and liberation.

So, right, making room for liberation.  Not dating any men right now, but that’s more coincidence than the result of firm resolve.  Not having PIV, but fantasizing about it an awful lot.  Yuck.

Learning to Clear My Head

From Feminist Ninja: http://feministninja.tumblr.com/post/38888854700/how-to-have-sex-with-a-radfem

I bet you think you know some women who like the genders in bed. One that just ruuuuuuuuuves to be dominated or made to feel like “a woman.” Let’s break this down a little. What does “being a woman” mean when in bed? It’s a kind of submission to the will of the man, especially in domination. Unless you have ever had NO OTHER OPTION but to be the recipient of the advances of another because your very BEING is defined as being a recipient (based on your anatomy and how the dominant culture interprets your anatomy) then it’s hard to understand how this effects the woman you are thinking about getting closer to. Women learn to eroticize being helpless, weak, passive creatures, with their backs all arched up and their necks falling helplessly back into your strooooong embrace.

But that is NOT what a female is.

That is a distortion of her.

This is the sort of stuff that caught my attention and drew me toward a particular philosophy.  I’d been unhappy with the sex I was having, and unhappy with the fantasies.  Disturbed that of all the possible sex I could be having, I was most turned on by being on the bottom of missionary.  I was never really comfortable with the line that whatever I chose empowered me.  Certainly, it was what all the feminists [sic] were saying, but I had still more questions that were not being addressed.  Agency, yes, ok, but what about symbolism?  What about the gendered patterning of roles in BDSM?  How can choosing something that is already a worldwide system be a radical choice?  And how could I, really how could I, steadfastly reject male domination of women, all while craving to be dominated by a man in bed?  Why was this stuff in my head?  The feminist websites I read didn’t have answers to these questions, and I felt like I was the only one having a problem with this.

I was wrong, of course.  Radical feminists are talking about this, but they’re in the minority.  Their websites aren’t at the top of search results.  They’re hard to find, but they’re there.  And they have answers.  Yes, the symbolism matters.  Yes, “being fucked” metaphorically is related to “being fucked” in the bedroom.  Yes, BDSM is just an exaggeration of patterns of dominance in “vanilla” and patterns of abuse, found worldwide.  No, individualism will not dismantle patriarchy.  And the desire to be dominated is a tragic survival strategy in a violent world.

Porn grossed me out.  Now I know why.  Rape fantasies grossed me out.  Now I know why.  The things that happened in bed grossed me out.  Now I know why.

I’m still working on getting the bad stuff out of my head.  It hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes I’m able to keep the thoughts at bay when I’m with a partner, and sometimes I still think them.  It has been helpful to focus on affectionate emotion and relaxed, playful action rather than on passionate lust and ferocity.  It has also been helpful to focus on the boredom when I am actually bored.  I think this gets me closer to saying, “OK, I want to stop now,” and farther away from having submission fantasies just to cope.  Practicing assertiveness and initiation, despite not feeling turned on at first, has been fruitful.  I am developing positive associations with sexual ways of being that are not passive (though I am wary of taking that to enjoying dominance, which reproduces the same problem).  And I’ve had some really good non-hierarchical sex recently, so I think I’m making progress.