by kai – sexpert and dr. barnaby barratt – Director of Studies at Parkmore Institute; Psychoanalyst, Consultant in Sexuality and Somatic Psychology (phd, dhs, abpp)
There is a DARK SIDE to sex and our sexual egos. It’s a side I dislike. If it was up to me we would all be living in a sexual utopia – but we don’t. So conversations like this must take place amongst all of us – because the dark side of sex does not discriminate gender or sexuality. I recently caught up with Dr. Barnaby Barratt, who is a world leading expert in psychoanalysis specialising in bodymind approaches and human sexuality. I asked Barnaby a couple of questions relating to consensual experiences, sexual advances and sex negative behaviours (sexual harassment, sexual abuse) that have recently been highlighted in the media. In particular how to communicate with someone when this occurs, and the types of conversation that will help you.
What are your views relating to consensual experiences? How do we navigate these conversations with each other… i.e. what to do when someone rejects a sexual advance or when someone is interested in you and you might not be interested in them? Any reflections you have on recent worldly events regarding sex negative behaviours?
Barnaby – There are several interesting questions here! I will start with the last one concerning recent world events. I just finished a commentary article titled “Are Male Sexual Passions Necessarily Brutish?” It seemed a timely question, not only because rape has reached epidemic proportions worldwide, but also because of the recent international stir over men’s sexual treatment of women, which has centred on powerful men in the USA ‑‑‑ Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, and the list goes on”.
The irony is that, even though this is currently ‘hot’ in the media, it is surely ‘no news’ to most women (and to so many children) across the world. But, especially since the rise of a new wave of feminism in the late sixties, these phenomena cause many thoughtful people to ask whether these sorts of behaviour (from rape, to coercion and harassment, and the many modalities of ‘unwanted advances’) are actually indicative of what men are really like.
I think we need far more careful and detailed examination of the multiple routes by which erotics become linked to hostility and the dynamics of domination/subjugation. Here I am not referring to what the BDSM community does, which is play and therefore ‑‑‑ as I define play ‑‑‑ not hostile. But I am referring to a range of issues, including the hostility of a man who uses his consenting partner’s orifices for his own satisfaction without any interest or concern for his or her pleasure.
My conclusion is that brutish sexual behaviour is prevalent but not inherent to men’s sexuality. But we all need healing around these issues. And a starting‑point in such healing is for us all to talk about and examine these issues, far further than I can do here. This connects with your two prior questions. These are easier because they are already addressed in some detail in my little book, Ten Keys to Successful Sexual Partnering, which can be found and bought here on Amazon which devotes the first five of six brief ‘self‑help’ chapters to these issues. To begin with, we all need to be much more openly committed to explicit verbal communication about our desires (and even to own up to desires that are unacceptable).
Then there are three crucial rules of interaction: commit to asking explicitly for 100% of what you want from your partners; commit to honouring your partner’s ‘no’ without any equivocation (thank them and walk away or redirect your desire); commit to meaning ‘yes’ whenever you say ‘yes’ (that is, never engage in a sexual act that you do not yourself desire). In the booklet, I amplify how to do this in ways that are sex-positive (and relevant to all orientations and lifestyles). If I ruled the world, my book would be distributed free to every high‑school student and to any adult who needed it!
For example, if you need to say ‘no’ to someone with whom you do not want any sort of sexual connection, then say ‘I appreciate your asking, but no thanks’ or something similar; if you need to say ‘no’ to someone who wants a particular sexual act that you do not like, but with whom you want an ongoing sexual partnership of a different sort, then to keep sex‑positive but saying ‘no, I don’t want that, but would really like us to do so‑and‑so instead. Barnaby
Kai –Thank you, Barnaby, for your response. I am honoured for your words of sexual and consensual wisdom. I agree with you on the types of communication we should be having with one another. Unfortunate sex negative experiences happen in life. Many people have not been empowered and did not know how to say stop, or no that’s not what I want, I don’t feel comfortable with this. Some people don’t know how to access their sexual intuition (feel into your body, body awareness) and put those feelings into words until its too late. A person can become stunned or taken back by the other person’s behaviour which can lead to distress (fight or flight response). This is a result of a society that has failed to educate its children, teenagers and adults. We can though, mitigate these experiences from occurring through sex positive education that involves verbal communication like Barnaby has suggested, and learning how to feel into our body (what we like, what we don’t like, how does that feel, what’s not acceptable to me).
Barnaby mentioned his recent article on male brutish behaviour – a must read. Changing masculine brutish behaviour needs to come from the heart. Men need to take charge of their phallic identity (mind and penis). That is, our penises are not a tool, are not mechanistic, are not to be used for the dark side of sex, nor used to pursue power driven ego. Instead our penises must be reflective of love and emotional connectedness. Phallic related masculine love and kindness must come from within. Men are ultimately responsible for this change. How we go about this is probably best explored in another article.
So, remember to use respectful and explicit communication techniques that have been outlined here. Or come and talk with me for further coaching in communication, touch, sexual wants and desires or to re-empower yourself from a negative experience.
On a personal note, it took me most of my adult life to learn how to say no. This happened as a result of my education and training in somatic sex coaching and bodywork. Such education would have stopped sexual coercion as a teenager. Kai