Tuesday, December 02, 2003

A painful post from Ailina over on Paper Bent about discovering her husband using some form of (unspecified) sexual stimulation, presumably porn of some sort.

Is a woman expected to accept her husband spending a few saucy hours watching a naked girl he doesn't know wrap herself around a pole and screw his imagination, and then is the same woman expected to willingly participate in sex knowing full well why her husband is so randy?

No, in this particular situation, strip club entertainment is not the adversary, but the analogy is appropriate.

I hesitated about bringing my response over here -- it amounts to a sort of confession, though no surprise I imagine to my more careful readers. But the whole issue gets so clouded with ideology and shame and hurt that I thought it best to follow Ailina's example and hang the dirty linen out of the window, so to speak. I commented:

Oh, I'm sorry, Ailina. I know, it leaves a very nasty taste. But -- speaking as sometimes the strip-club-customer kind of husband myself, I can say pretty confidently that it doesn't mean to him what it would mean to you, and "choosing to be dishonest" is probably as ill-suited to the reality here as "choosing to be depressed" would be to yours.

It does have to do with stress, and losing a job, and (I think) some hardwiring in the male brain. What it has *nothing* to do with is you, your attractiveness, or your specialness to him.

This elicited a sharp counter comment from Rae (who has a very cool blog, by the way) to the effect that she didn't think there was anything hardwired about it, and that stress was a pretty lame excuse. I answered with this:

Rae, certainly no need to apologize: this is a controversial topic and the fact of the matter, I think, is that no one knows what's hardwired and what isn't. I certainly don't.

I do know that my compulsion toward "visual stimuli" is stronger than my compulsion to eat, and stronger than my compulsion to drink was back when I was a binge alcoholic. I've struggled to rid myself of it or even moderate it for years, without much success (until lately, anyway -- we'll see). It's stronger when my libido is low, actually, than when my libido is high, and stress exacerbates it. I'm not trying to justify it. I'm trying to explain it, since I think a more accurate understanding of it would render it less hurtful to Ailina.

The metaphor of addiction is somewhat inaccurate, but it comes closer to explaining the subjective experience of this compulsion than any other I can think of. Of course, since it's usually kept secret and thought of as degrading to all parties, man who's "caught" will ordinarily stammer out that it was the idle caprice of a moment, never to be repeated, which just makes him sound like more of an uncaring lout, mindlessly trampling delicate things just for the hell of it. The truth of the matter (since Ailina's man is clearly anything but an uncaring lout) is probably that it's more like an alcoholic giving in to the obsessive craving for a drink.

This is a topic I've thought a lot about, for obvious reasons, and I've veered between a number of wildly different understandings of it, none of which have been terribly satisfying to my intellect or very useful in modifying my conduct. But -- more anon.

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