Friday, October 20, 2017

Looky Here

Apparently, my apartment sits underneath a remarkably large, but invisible slab of stone, because until I encountered the article "Why Men Force Women to Watch Them Masturbate" I'd been completely unaware that this was even a thing. It is yet another in the long list of behaviors that I just don't understand. I female friend asked me about masturbation once, and it was perhaps the most invasive question that anyone had ever asked me. She could have bankrolled a major-market sports team with the amount of money it would have taken her to actually get me into a conversation with her about the topic. So the idea that there are people who allow, let alone force, other people to watch them masturbate without some serious money being involved is utterly baffling to me. But then again, sex, of any sort, and I have never really gotten along.

Of course, this is all related to the whole Harvey Weinstein story, which is busily unraveling into a tale of a man who seems utterly unready, unwilling and/or unable to exercise any level of control over his sexuality - or to find someone who could assist him with that. And as much as I'm not terribly interested in yet more sordid details about Mr. Weinstein's transgressions, this was something that piqued a morbid fascination; the sort of thing that seemed too bizarre to be true, and was all the more interesting for it.

Until that is, I got to the actual body of the story. It's an interview, between the author, Angelina Chapin, and one Alexandra Katehakis, a sex therapist and clinical director of a practice in Los Angeles. And I knew that I'd made a mistake when I reached the third question: "What are the psychological motivations behind it?" Because the answer was: "I don’t know what it’s like to hold a penis and do that. But from what I know about men, it does make them feel powerful."

Okay, I get that Ms. Katehakis has never held a penis and forced a woman to watch her masturbate. Now, I'm guessing that "Ms." is an appropriate honorific to use here, but I suspect that I'm not too far off. But when she says, "But from what I know about men," a thought occurred to me: "Have you actually spoke to anyone who's done this?" Now, maybe she had, and it just didn't occur to her to say: "But from what I know about men who have done this," or "But from what I know about perpetrators of this activity." But the rest of article did nothing to give me any  indication that Ms. Katehakis actually had any information about the dynamics of the topic, outside of the standard psychological tropes of bullying and sexual assault. Any reasonably attentive and well-read psychology student could have given that interview. And this is not to knock Ms. Katehakis' credentials as a sex therapist, but she didn't come across as someone who'd actually researched the topic.

Which, in the end, is kind of a shame. Not because the topic is morbidly fascinating, but because really understanding what drives someone to expose themselves in so intimate, and vulnerable, a fashion seems that it would have value in understanding an aspect of our greater society that we clearly haven't spent enough time examining. Maybe it's just me, but this seems like an act that takes a lot of chutzpah to carry off, because despite Ms. Katehakis' view that the male penis is "the body part that is most threatening to a female," it's in close proximity to the testicles; one swift kick and it seems that “sexualized hostility” and “eroticized rage” would go right out the window in a world of pain. (Of course, maybe this is part of what I just don't get. Sure, Mr. Weinstein could file an assault complaint, but it still seems that he'd have some uncomfortable, if not incriminating, questions he'd have to answer.)

There is a sort of leering voyeurism that comes with these things. No argument there. But even with that, understanding what makes a person tick under these circumstances, and perhaps even how they came to be that person, can be useful in learning how to create a better future.

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