Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anthony Weiner - and the rest of us.

Anthony Weiner got busted exploiting young women. They are often preyed upon by men who are plagued with an endless quest to staunch their insecurity and loneliness. Lots of guys are derailed by the illusion of comfort or pleasure or just numbness. This society purposefully and increasingly entwines sex with the hard-wired need for human closeness. It sells. But despite the ads, sex is just one possible (potentially lovely) means to closeness, not the only means.

Men are set up to be “on their own” from very early on, male babies are held far less than female babies. It’s harsh, and the accumulating isolation leaves men sitting ducks for anything that looks like an offer of reprieve from the feelings of loneliness. The problem is from long ago and can’t be solved without looking at the conditions that created it. That early loss of connection can only be grieved. Guys are asked to go it alone at a too tender age and they go it alone ever after. And the desperate pull to quench that isolation with a counterfeit fix isn’t easily resisted– “maybe this time I’ll get it right”, “maybe this one will end this ache”.

Women are set up to take care of every human problem. We want to salve the world -or we make a rigid decision not to. But still we are vulnerable to giving our all without regard for our own real interests - we don’t take ourselves into account in our mission to care for others. The task is linked with what we’ve been told is our only worth. Survival of the human race demands that we erase ourselves.

I have been thinking it would be good for men and women to try not to exploit one another where we are vulnerable to being “used”. Men have one version of self-sacrifice (like, cannon fodder in wars) and women have another (like, centuries of unpaid, unacknowledged labor as moms and caregivers). Women are trained (hurt really) into trying to make men feel better – at all costs. And since we have no institutional power we often try to absorb it through our connections to men of influence. Men will do anything to feel even the pretense of closeness (hence prostitution – you don’t believe the woman actually likes you, but “it will do”). Men are deluded thinking they can live with that ruse and they lose all integrity pretending it doesn’t damage real humans who are female.

We live in a society that gives us very few options for closeness. We grow up in this confusion and then try to find a partner. Then all that past loneliness is supposed to magically vanish and be solved by our true love. And when it isn’t we despair: we give up on closeness or hunt for someone who will make the bad feelings go away.

So as Anthony Weiner leaves the scene, we lose one of our best fighters for health care and his family is embarrassed. But really, in our culture, it just means that everyone else will go further underground, hiding the places we feel lost and alone: trying to mend a societal problem with private solutions.

But what happens to our hope that people get to love each other fully and openly? And why is it that adult human closeness is presumed to require sex almost exclusively? And how do we think about sex if it is sometimes part of the equation in trying to find each other? Is there another option than letting it all be reduced to a sound bite, a joke, or a self-righteous punch line?

It is past time to stop the exploitation of women by men, to stop allowing boys to grow up so isolated that they self-destruct and/or destroy others, and to stop blaming one another for our common struggles around the human need for closeness. We need to start finding ways to make it possible for all of us to admit how we each got separated from one another and do the work necessary to make that different.

- K Webster

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