Do you ever find yourself physically aroused by something you mentally find repulsive? Let me put it another way, have you ever burst out laughing during a funeral precisely because that is exactly what you are NOT supposed to do? Have you ever thought about your dad or your mom right when you are about to get it on, because that is the exact thought you do NOT want to associate with sex? Well, maybe you haven’t, but I know I have and I’m pretty confident I’m not the only person out there who has “inappropriate” thoughts or “inappropriate” physical reactions to certain things.
Someone I know recently sent me a link to a NY Times article entitled What Do Women Want? Now, forget the title. It’s horrible (I think) and it certainly doesn’t begin to illustrate what the article is about, which is: Meredith Chivers conducted research in which she showed people of varying gender and sexual orientation a variety of video clips that portrayed various levels of intimacy between people of varying gender and sexual orientation, including a video clip of Apes going at it. Now, while her subjects were watching these videos they were asked to indicate their level or arousal while the flow of blood to their genitals was simultaneously monitored.
Now, the interesting part is that, for the most part, the levels of arousal that the men indicated they were feeling were congruent with the actual signs of arousal in their genitals. Meaning if a straight man indicate he was less aroused when shown a video clip of men engaged in sexual activity , there were no discrepancies in the findings. The same went for a gay man who was watching two woman getting it on. If they claimed to not be aroused, their limp dicks told the same story. When it came to women, the results were a little more all over the place. In the sense that their level of arousal wasn’t always in line with what they claimed to be aroused by. A straight girl might say that she was less aroused by watching two women go at it, but the blood flow to her genitals may have told another story. As for the results in regards to the ape porn, women again were the ones to claim to not find themselves turned on, but still had an increase in blood flow to their genitals, which would indicate a discrepancy between what one THINKS is a turn on and what IS an actual turn on. Whether this indicates that men are generally more truthful about their bodies reactions or are simply more in tune with the ways in which arousal will manifests itself in their bodies is unclear.
Abandoned industrial building on Washington Ave. in Kingston, NY. I don’t think it was the scene of a fire, unless someone installed a new telephone in the building after it burned down.
Any definition of compersion that you read will tell you that it’s the opposite of jealousy. That is useful, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there. I have another idea, which is that it’s the opposite of guilt. Of course it’s a little crude to define something by its supposedly opposing force, but this adjustment may help orient the concept in a way that makes it more accessible.
I’ll start with an example. Let’s say I am with a lover and our agreement includes her having the freedom to explore sexually and emotionally with whomever she chooses. I will handle that two ways. The first by having the confidence that she wants me in her life; that what I have to offer, she cannot find anywhere else. In part, compersion is based on trust, and it’s based on having a strong relationship to someone. To a meaningful degree, compersion is based on self-confidence.
Guilt is something we discovered we have in common: a long legacy of guilt. I learned that in the few days before our Thursday night adventure, she had been wracked with guilt about the potential for having to choose one of us; for having to hurt one of us. And some guilt for being able to have both of us – the strange guilt you feel when you love someone and then feel something for another person. That emotion needs a name, so we can identify it when we feel it.
This is the same guilt that makes it difficult to make a simple decision; the guilt we feel for enjoying life; for doing something for ourselves; though here, when we reach the branch of the road where we may choose to love, to actually love who we will, I think we’re pretty close to the core source of this emotion. Here, we are looking at one of the deepest divisions against ourselves.
Like any philosophy, guilt has a history: we can find its origins in the innovation of Judeo-Christian religion. I don’t believe that guilt as we experience it today existed prior to strict religious patriarchy. We see evidence today that this is one source of the problem, but we don’t generally identify it as the root of the problem.