Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Love and Excrement

I can live with myself insofar that I not only realize I have destructive & insensible tendencies but I embrace them and channel them away from the people around me. Usually they manifest as art or other such narcissistic mirrors, or they just become (the playing of) video-games and wasted time. I sleep relatively alright at night because the moral values I've adopted from peers and family (and which I do not recognize as an ideology or basis of an ideology) dictate that one recalls whom they have hurt before they go to sleep. This is so ingrained in me that I'm actively distraught when I realize I've stood as a detriment to people's feelings and I try to make amends as soon as possible.

This is however, a more pleasant way to say I am confrontational and abrupt often in my social communication. I see problem - can we fix problem right now? - problem fixed - let's move on. More life experience, especially in the last couple of years, has shown me that this over-conscious method isn't exactly how people get over past issues. I come from a family of tough cookies who find it difficult to say the words "I'm sorry" at all (and even take pride in this in some warped fashion), so I've used to take inverse pride in at least being able to say these words when I felt I was in the wrong. It's a difficult realization that saying sorry isn't enough some of the time, though. It takes follow-up and careful consideration of distance to make amends. I write these things down so I can remember them.

All that said, sometimes seeming like a bad guy is a risk of communication in itself, and I accept this, because I desire things from this world too. Where the other person draws the line in what they're accepting to hear me tell them is something I can't know before I prod the space between us. And although I'm conscious of not appearing like a total jackass, I'm very curious about other people. I think existentially what I wish is to be reminded, often, that I am not the only person in this world (that other people aren't emotional and psycho-intellectual clones of me). We tend to congregate with our similars, so this is easier than it seems to forget.

Other people are fascinating. I remind myself of this by putting them on the spot with difficult questions and earnestly awaiting their answer. This post is about one such question I've put to the test many times and the range of responses I've gotten.

When I meet people I often grow impatient with small-talk. More in the past than now, but still. I think this is a common experience to introverts, they feel as if they're being manipulated when they extend the will for honest communication and what they get instead are safe pleasantries and bare-level social stroking. This is because honest communication is hard for introverts. It's the mark of a person without much social skill, it seems, to not pick up on the signals that the other person is just not willing to share any more than that at that moment, and to continue to prod. I have a lot of experience in this.

So often I meet people and I venture theoretical discussions to see what the other person can take. If we get to talking about interpersonal relationships, I recount, in even tone and without any telling emotional colorization, this hypothetical of a couple who are very much in love. Their love is perfect, they feel completely content together, their mind doesn't wander to other people's genitalia, they are absolutely content to be together for the rest of their lives. One supports the other in their life endeavors, yet allows space for them to grow individually. They enjoy a fulfilling sexual life, they're intimate on a deep level, they do not misrepresent each other to the outside world, it's all roses. I suggest that the person I am talking with is in such a relationship at the end of the flavour text.

I let that scene settle in in the mind of my conversational partner, which is a small cruelty, because it is a beautiful hypothetical and what I do with it later is disconcerting. I allow myself this small cruelty (for many reasons but also) because what I describe above is dangerously close to some Hollywood movie cliche , and although - honestly - I do believe that such couplings can exist in life, it can't be clear from my retelling to this point that this is so, so it sounds like a comfortable but distant fairytale where the other party to this conversation can swim about in for a time and then that's that, thanks, weird longhair I met! No, no. We're not done.

Then I introduce the issue: let's say the other party to this relationship approaches you (from third person to second person) reticently and lets you know that although your relationship is so great and so fulfilling... they have a want, a secret desire, a sexual hangup, something that could be considered aberrant behaviour. They've had this desire before they met you and they have it still, it's part of their emotional makeover and it's not going to go away just because your love is strong. This much is clear.

They're willing to live without their desire because what they get from the rest of your relationship is that potent. They know a good thing when they see it and they're not stupid enough to risk everything just because of such a small thing, so harshly judged in the eyes of society too. Yet, it is exactly because they feel so at ease with you that they're compelled to tell you what it is, to feel accepted and to fully belong in the relationship. They like to be defecated upon.

Now, the implication is clear that although this person will remain in the relationship with you (or so they profess at least) regardless of whether this aberrant desire of them is fulfilled, there is a reason they shared it with you. They word it in such a way that it seems as if the reason is sharing, but anyone with half an heart knows human beings aren't so simple. The first step in accepting oneself is saying the words that describe oneself to the world. There are more steps. Wouldn't you, dear co-conversationalist, who have been so gradually ensnared in this theoretical situation, have to consider their desires in this light? Wouldn't you have to, in your full and blooming love, calculate on whether you will concede to their desire or not?

I've gotten a range of responses to this querry from a range of people. To (some?) credit, I've chosen targets at least adeptly enough that outright abandonment of the construct once fecal matter is introduced, is not a common retort, although whether they keep with it because I seem like a person who genuinely wants to know or because they want to 'show me their guts', I do not know. Now, before I present the range of response I've had to this, I urge you, reader and human, to consider where you stand yourself on this. Although the construct might appear cartoony (perhaps) or grotesque (certainly) at first, anyone that has been in a relationship can see the implications of the dysfunction described here. I may not be into coprolagnia, for one, but I am into other things... aren't you?

How strong is your love?

So you've considered your options (I'd appreciate reading them, by the way. Even if you feel the range I describe below captures your position as well... please don't shy away from putting it in your own words.) and you have internalized the issue. You have a position on this matter, most probably not colored by actual life experience with something as strongly aberrant as fecal play, but instead approximating it via more pleasant & civil vices. Perhaps you've allowed for worse, perhaps you've been horrified with much, much less. However, you have altered yourself to get to this, to an opinion. You are not what you where before this theory was presented to you, out of the blue, in some social function where you met some longhair and his friends who, more used to his bad manners, might look at you as some ancient Greek chorus, waiting your considered reply. Here's what I've got so far:


* Absolutely out of the question. I know what I like and I don't like this. Not only will I not do it, I will break up with that individual, though it's no skin off my back: people are different and they eventually realize. He might find what he needs elsewhere, I certainly will.

* Not only will I not do this horrid thing, I never want to see them again. I feel completely betrayed in my love and trust. How long have they wanted this? Do they imagine me in such-- I can't even consider it.

* No way. This person is clearly emotionally unstable and I will try to get them into psychotherapy or even more drastic assistance. For them to have these desires something must be very wrong with them and although your relationship is over, my last offer of good will is to help them on the road to recovery.


* Can't we meet in the middle somehow? Fake it? Chocolate's close enough, isn't it? I don't hate this person for their kink nor do I think it upsets the basis of our whole relationship, but I can't see myself committing to this completely and utterly. Can't we work through this somehow? Wouldn't they understand if I explained my incapacity to them?

* Let's say I do this... what's in it for me? Relationships are a transaction anyway, and this probably comes at a high cost. Does it mean I get to explore real and invented lusts as well.

* Well alright, let's say I do this, she'd have to stand still and I'd take a dump on her and not touch any of the shit myself, so everybody's happy.


* (usually a long pause to think, often after some of the bargaining positions were initially tested and discarded) If I love them so much, I guess I'd try to make them happy in this way as well. I can't make any promises on how it'd impact how I feel for them, though.

That's usually the range. Most people aren't ready to adopt one stance seconds after the hypothetical is presented to them. Often they try to work through them to see what reflects most favorably on them, with me being the reflection. I do not offer judgement in return, I just work through the common arguments for/against more stances. Most people who start out in the negative range stay there though. Often people who negotiate end up accepting the situation. Only very rarely have I met people who were accepting relatively early in their consideration of the issue. I do not think it was because I just stumbled on their hidden sexual fantasy at all.

Now, most of these positions have merit to them. It's easy to criticize those that are negative with empty claims of intolerance. However, it seems to me all three negative stances have to them a basis in real life experience, not the airs of untested ideology. The first one one is very practical, for example. Instead of trying to fix every problem that may come up in a relationship, it knows when to cut its losses and start searching anew. It doesn't romanticize a relationship as some sort of Godly coupling that happens once in a lifetime and knows that although relationships take hard work to function, there's some things that cannot be fixed with just hard work. It seems to demean the power of 'True Love' but ... some people actively live like this and are happy with their choices, so who am I to say they're going about it wrong.

The second negative position seems reflexive and prideful, but then again, love can be said to be as much about the love of love itself than it is about the love of the internal representation of one's partner. It's relatively easy for the feelings between a couple to be damaged once doubts enter the picture. Once the innocence of love is lost, it is difficult to regain. Although the person with the sexual desire might be able to see "the other being covered in excrement" as a profoundly innocent and beautiful mental picture, this is a big chasm to bridge, perhaps too big to try.

The third negative stance is super-judgmental and uses pop-psychology in an ugly way: to marginalize the Other and condemn them to a lesser life for their issues, perceived or real. However at its core it has a real insight. A person who has a very strong sexual fetish such as coprolagnia might often be unable to function sexually without it, and to the degree that they've managed so far they've been "faking it", inwardly imagining their fetish even in the course of regular sexuality. How would you feel if you were the subject to the worst thing in the mind of the person you loved and trusted? Not all sexual deviance suggests emotional troubles, but all mental troubles seem to come hand in hand with sexual deviance of some sort. People are trained to keep away from others with mental or psychological issues for a reason. It's a risky life to stand next to such a person, and love might not be enough.

From the bargaining positions:

The first one seems wishy-washy. Anyone how has a strong imagination as to what true love must be will rebel to such a position. Compromise isn't something that comes to mind when they think of true love, instead they expect everything to click immediately and completely, effectively all the hard work with being with somebody else is nullified. For those people, true love mostly means 'comfortable love'. The person trying to compromise isn't actually taking the most comfortable route in this case because they'd have to meet somewhere in the middle in the end. They'd have to do at least half of something really unpleasant to save their relationship, and the results might not be enough after all. It's a risk and an ongoing burden.

The second seems crass and inhuman, but I think what's mostly crass about it is that some people would admit to feeling this way (though as I say they are usually circumspect about how they phrase this). In reality, most people consider the pros and cons of a relationship in such a fashion, at least at some point. So this person has this and that annoying trait, but they do that and this for me, so I'll stick around. Although we do not like to subject our romantic notions of true love to such measuring, the person who expresses this position is more likely to achieve a fair transaction with the other person. However transactions, as fair as they may be, are no longer innocent, and this will come to the forefront as a much bigger problem than any pile of poop could ever be, eventually.

The third bargaining position to me seems the most misogynistic (because it was a man, and a very beautiful man at that who expressed it) and inhuman of them all really. They say they're willing to treat their true love as a toilet, as long as they don't get any shit on them. It is implicit in the original scenario that whomever is willing to entertain the notion of remaining in this relationship would have to not only talk the talk but dance the dance. Only the most dim of hearts would consider such a solution, I think. From the whole range of responses I've gotten to this question, this is the only one I cannot find any merit in.

As to the accepting position. It is beautiful, is it not? I am glad such people exist, as I'm sure you are also. However... it should be telling that the people who have replied so were either young or of little life experience in matters sexual. The imagination of the aberrant act itself comes easier to those that have perhaps strayed closer to some variants than none of them, and the imagination is a powerful thing. As they imagine strongly the beauty of what True Love could be and say 'I'd do anything for it', others imagine strongly the stench of excrement and know what they would do to avoid it.

As to my own position, I fluctuate between a negative position, a bargaining position, and sometimes the accepting position. Whenever in my mind through over-thinking I have pacified this example, I try to switch it around. What if a person wanted to molest children along with me? What if the other person was very into getting cut with knives during sex? What if the other person wanted to be beat up? The examples are rotated to regain distance: the issue is the cost of intimacy and one's preconceptions about how similar other people are to themselves. We are a solipsist species, the result of sentience is undoubtedly profound loneliness. We seek the intimacy of our mother and father when we were infants, we seek to return to genesis, to a time before self-knowing. We might have to crawl through glass and excrement to get there.


Erenan said...

I don't feel comfortable sharing specifics about my own quirks on the Internet, but my reaction to this has to do with the fact that I have some.

I shared my own quirks with my girlfriend quite some time ago, and although initially she was a little confused and maybe a little put off by them (I can't exactly remember), in time she embraced them. Now she's my wife and we're happy.

So considering that having put myself at risk at a relatively early stage in our relationship paid off, my response to your question about the well-established "perfect" relationship scenario is a qualified "yes."

My presumption is that defecation is a particular example of a more general idea. As you say, things are different if the fetish involves cutting with knives or molesting children, etc. So I'd have to consider whether I'd have any ethical reservations about the behavior in question, and upon deciding that I have none, I would agree to it. If I have reservations, I would probably remain in the relationship, but performing the behavior would be a "not now, but let's see how things go" kind of thing.

Again, the reason is experience: I know how much I appreciated being accepted with my quirk. And I know, or I think I know, how much it would hurt not to have that acceptance. I wouldn't want to make the person I love feel that way.

Come to think of it, even if the behavior was ethically repugnant to me, I would seriously consider whether some form of role play would be acceptable to me (so is that a compromise, then?). Maybe it wouldn't, maybe it would, but I would consider it.

Helm said...

Erenan, first of all, thank you for your comment. Takes either a brave man or an exhibitionist to reply to such a post and you don't strike me as the latter at all.

Yes, defecation is a particular example of a broader spectrum of deviancy one might have to negotiate in real life. The example need not be shit, it just needs to be extreme. It doesn't work of substituted with "Honey... how do you feel about going down on me?". That's barely considered a fetish anymore in our oversexualized era.

I am glad you have found someone who has accepted the whole of you and it is heart-warming that your "yes" is as resounding at that. I am happy that experience might warp one's point of view from the negatives right back to the positives or at least, some sort of negotiation that isn't innocence-killing.

Erenan said...

Thanks! I don't feel particularly brave very often.

I felt that I should also share that in some ways the acceptance I received also helped me to accept myself more fully. I was raised in an environment in which sex was to some degree a taboo (as it is in many environments), and somehow, although no one explicitly told me so (no one knew about it), I was implicitly shepherded into a mindset of viewing my quirks as unethical. I believed for a long time that that was the case, and I only broke out of that mindset within the past five or six years. Part of that had to do with leaving Christianity behind as a worldview. But another part of it was the positive treatment that I received from the only two people who ever learned about me on that level (aside from my wife, the other was my father). So my opinion is that the way you react to such a scenario as the one you are posing here can potentially (unavoidably?) affect the way the individual in question views himself or herself. So, then, even if one's answer to the question is "no," I think it's nevertheless important to consider not only yourself but also the other person and how one's reaction will influence them. This can be difficult, of course, without being a mind reader, but I think it's not at all difficult to tell in general the difference between a gentle answer and a harsh one.

I think I used too many parentheticals.

Helm said...

Absolutely, I agree. Howe we view ourselves is often a reflection of how others with whom we've been intimate view us. It's a big fucking risk to tell someone something real about yourself. And if they're not gentle with you, it may stay for a long time, lodged as a thorn in the psyche.

Nekromantis said...

Hard question. Sure I can accept something like coprophilia, no problem, but I don't know could I ever participate a sexual act involving excrements or anything else that I find physically repulsing. It depends a lot about the quirk too because something like coprohilia isn't exactly on the same level as child molesting to me.

Helm said...

The issue is not whether something can be accepted in the abstract, from a distance, as something that may happen to someone else. But what we may accept when it implicates us and our wants and desires from this world.

There's people around that short-circuit when they try to fathom why other people in the distance do some things, they have trouble accepting them as they are, sure. But I'm talk about that step further where you have to make hard choices when your desires and wants are on the line as well.

JesusGun said...

Firstly, i find it funny that i wouldn't answer to this post, if you hadn't insisted on the post above.

Secondly, well, there are thing that i can't do.
Coprolagnia for example, is out of question. In such a situation i would like to effort as much as i can, but the more i could do is to give a bag of shit to the girlfriend, to enjoy it herself, but this has totally no point for me, because it is supposed to be a mutual act, and it seems cruel and humilating (even if i don't understand exactly why).
If we take paedophilia as an example, well, i could give a try to participate in the fantasy, but only in a platonic way. No kids around our legs.
Now getting your partner hurt with knifes, is something i'm almost relevant with, and maybe it's something i would like, if it wasn't DANGEROUS. Permanent problems are something i try to avoid, so it never emerges in my fantasies. Cowardism is deep inside my soul.

That's a small taste on my views on the subject. I think every situation is very special, as every partner is. I could give to a "true love" as much as i could try. But i think the question that emerges here is "what is (fallin' in/true/fake) love. All of those kinds of love, are too fucking confusing for me. I can't find a way to put people in a love-hate order, and this means that feelings are too fucking complicated. And as long as i can't analyze them as i want, there is no way i can label them. I have no idea who are the ones that i love and how much i love them, and what i could do for them. And perceiving feelings as an multidimensional continuum line, than almost specific categories, tends to make me feel that everything is flat. Maybe i will end up as a schizophrenic someday.

Thanks for giving me the chance to think a little bit, and sorry if there are some vocabulary/grammar errors in my post.

See you legs.
Not really. :P

Helm said...

Thank you for replying.

Lacan had some interesting thoughts on what 'romantic love' (what we call true love) entails. Perhaps you could read that source for some illumination. Not that I agree or disagree with the great man, just some direction to your confusion as to the 'types of love'.

I'm interested in that edge of the cliff... where you say "I would try to give for my love what I could" and I want to know, perhaps you 'could' more than you thought you 'could' in the end. Only one way to know, to be in such a situation. But the academic discussion is not worthless. Even to think in those terms for just a few minutes, as you did.

Seth said...

Of course I couldn't say exactly I would react, but here's how I think I would react:

I would try not to judge her--I know how sexual fetishes are, and I know they aren't easily controlled. Many people are turned on by certain things they don't want to be turned on by. But, as you can see, I've already taken a negative stance toward the subject--who's to say this woman wouldn't be completely comfortable with her desire? I have to admit, that were she eager or comfortable with it, I would find myself a little less attracted to her. Somehow, I imagine it would be easier to deal with if she felt a little ashamed about it.

I would try to accept it, but I would make it clear that I had no intention of participating. In the abstract--when it's an act two other people are doing far away--I don't have a problem with it, but if I am to imagine this woman (and I am imagining a specific person here) underneath me, with one of my own turds lying on her chest and the stench and my own unpleasant unclean feeling (sorry if I am being explicit, but I don't know how else I could answer this as honestly as possible if I didn't think very specifically), and an orgastic smile on her face, I am repulsed, and I think I would be repulsed by her, in that moment. I would never do something like that with an SO knowing full well I would be repulsed--I think it would be a betrayal to do so without complete acceptance and commitment. I would not want my SO to participate in something that lowered her level of respect or attraction towards me, even if it was something I wanted to do. In fact I feel a little guilty for just imagining this specific woman with a turd on her chest--it reminds me of the time I was speaking of silly hypotheticals and said something to the effect of "what if you had a penis?" She laughed said she wasn't sure she wanted me imagining her with a penis, and I realized that I didn't want her imagining me with a vagina, either.

So, in short: I would try to accept this quirk as a fantasy of hers that I wasn't willing to realize, and I would at some level appreciate her willingness to share, but I know that I would fail in this complete acceptance in some regard.

Helm said...

"I have to admit, that were she eager or comfortable with it, I would find myself a little less attracted to her. Somehow, I imagine it would be easier to deal with if she felt a little ashamed about it. "

Please tell me more about this emotion. Would her potential shamelessness make you feel small? Inexperienced? Not in control?

"I would not want my SO to participate in something that lowered her level of respect or attraction towards me"

But do you know how often in a relationship with a person you do things that lower their respect or attraction towards you? Scratching your butt, complaining about shit that doesn't matter, being late or cancelling, miriad little things that the other person notes, and which wound your relationship. They might not end it, you might never hear about them by the other person, but be sure they register. So what's more difficult for you is to explicitly and openly do something that you know the reprecussions of will have to be addressed openly.

Reconsider the fantasy scenario where you and the other person come to an arrangement where you may indulge in her vice, but while wearing masks or other identification-hiding implements, and you do the deed in a hotel room and then both of you pretend you never did it, never have to talk about it. Does the situation change for you then?

Thank you very much for your reply, Seth. It has added new dimensions to the hypothetical. And I appreciate your being brave as well. Same for Jesusgun.

On another note it's interesting to me how this article stayed unanswered for quite some time, then Erenan broke the ice, but it wasn't enough... another person had to rise up to the challenge before it got going. I wonder if I should repost this periodically on the blog if it's such a slow burner.

JesusGun said...

"it's interesting to me how this article stayed unanswered for quite some time"

The reason i replied after a while it was posted, is because i saw it then, and because you insisted for replies on the next post. That's why i told you i found it funny: because if you hadn't insisted i would never reply. I believe strongly that when you chase something you raise the possibilities to get it. And i also believe strongly that every public human action tends to emerge similar actions (i mean, if someones replies, you get more possibilities for someone else to reply, and when a lot of people reply, you get more possibilities for more and more and more replies).

Nekromantis said...

I feel like no matter how much I try to rationalize the situation and think how I would react or how I'd want to react if it happened to me I just cannot prepare myself without knowing exactly how I'd feel then. Also it's already very hard for me to picture a "perfect relationship" even without anyone confusing it further by adding this aspect of secret, unanswered desire which make me doubt how perfect it was in the first place. I'll keep this question with me and try to think about it, right now I just don't have an answer.