« Thursday very Short Poem: Washika's "No" | Main | Friday Random Ten: Spring Fling Randomness »

June 01, 2006

Comments

Miracula

this reminds me of your post recently about porn and everlasting novelty! I've been celibate all my life (I am 20), and not by choice either. I'm too shy and too conservative to approach guys, and they don't often approach me.

So it's just interesting that for someone like you, celibacy was a conscious choice. Do you think that if it would have seemed different to you if you weren't a conventionally attractive extrovert?

Allison

When writing about my past, I choose my words carefully. So many people I know and love read this blog...

Ah, true (and the very reason I haven't shared my personal blog with immediate family), but at the same time, I think it's wonderful that you're real with what you do choose to share. I grew up under the impression that my parents (father especially) could do no wrong, and it was quite a shocker to later discover that they're *quite* human. Perhaps if kids in your youth group live in the same sort of home, they benefit by seeing what it means to be a real human being, complete with flaws.

All of that is just to say that I enjoy your blog immensely, largely because of how willing you are to be yourself, complete with flaws.

Glitch

Miracula wrote:

Do you think that if it would have seemed different to you if you weren't a conventionally attractive extrovert?

I hate to harp on Hugo on his own blog, but I have detected a certain strain of privilege from some of his posts. It's one thing to celibrate celibacy when you are, by what accounts I've read here and the posted photos, outgoing, extroverted, charming, tall and handsome. It's quite another to experience celibacy because you are introverted, shy and perhaps not-so-good looking (or shall we say, "Not conventionally attractive"). That's no judgement on you, Miracula, by the way, I'm referring to myself there. I know in my own case that I have a host of problems that keep me from meaningfully participating in the dating/mating process.

We're Hugo and I to meet in person I get the feeling that neither one of us could be capable of relating to or understanding the other's experiences in this area. I can specifically recall the post on "making the first move" from February of 2005, in which Hugo essentially stated that all men like to pursue women and should be expected to. Based on your update to that post I think you, Hugo, were surprised to discover that many men, in fact, prefer not to, or cannot, be that sort of man. Then again perhaps I'm reading things that weren't there.

Again, Hugo, I don't mean to trash you on your own property. I know a lot of people from all sides have been piling on you as of late and I really don't want to join in. It's just very frustrating to be told how empowering celibacy can be when celibacy has been the norm for not only my life but others I've met due to circumstances I rather doubt an extrovert could ever understand.

Glitch

Doh! I'm sorry Hugo, I just realized that you've posted about having been overweight and shy during your childhood and teen years, so perhaps you can indeed relate in some manner. Still, you do seem to have completely moved past those experiences, while I know of many people who have not and it is greatly detrimental to their dating life and overall well-being. From the commenters on this site I know that Miracula, myself and, if I recall correctly, bmmg39 are all in the same boat. Probably for varying reasons, but extroversion and aggressiveness are not innate to many of us.

My apologies for not taking those experiences into account, though.

Hugo

Glitch and Miracula, that's fair, and I don't feel piled on. For whatever reason (being ENFJ perhaps), meeting people always came easily. Learning to live by myself, learning NOT to flirt/intrigue with women, was a remarkable challenge that brought sublime rewards.

At the same time, I think my point is that celibacy is about more than not going out and having sex. It's about making a conscious decision to not devote time and energy to thinking about it; I imagine plenty of shy folks do spent a healthy amount of time in fantasy! During that time in my life, I made a conscious choice to seek to redirect even my thoughts. I wasn't perfect, mind you, but it was remarkably effective.

But Glitch and Miracula, I thank you for pointing out to me where I may be both blind and privileged.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Since I come from a more introverted place, celibacy was pretty much the norm of my single life. But there was a certain point where I realized I was also choosing it. I remember a conversation with a friend where she remarked that I was like her, not that easily attracted to people, and it was like that moment in High Fidelity where the guy's ex-girl friend tells him "When YOU broke up with ME" and he says to himself, "She's right, I did break up with her." I suddenly realized that, actually, plenty of guys approached me, and I was rejecting far more often than I was being rejected. I think part of this came from just not finding a large number of people attractive, part of it from feeling that the wrong sort of relationship would be much lonelier than being alone, and part of it from not wanting my time sucked up in relationships unless my chance of success was good enough to make it worth it. And then, I'm like bmmg (though not to the same degree) in that other people seemed to want to get sexual more quickly than I was comfortable with. Anyway, reframing how I thought of myself to considering myself someone not often attracted to others, rather than someone not often attractive to others, was useful, and helped in going on with the other parts of my life.

Obviously, other people's mileage may vary a lot.

Allison

Hmmm...I posted my longer comments about this on my blog (see trackback, if you're so inclined), as to not take up space on me-me-me, but now I see that they apply here, too.

Hugo wrote:
...celibacy is about more than not going out and having sex. It's about making a conscious decision to not devote time and energy to thinking about it...

Yes, that's what I understood from the original post. Whether I'm actually out and about picking up men or not, if I'm in the non-celibate (in Hugo's terminology) state of mind, I expend a great deal of energy thinking about finding "the one." It's exhausting -- and sucks away time and energy I could otherwise devote to something that would be more beneficial to me in the long run.

Then again, my personality (ENFP) is fairly similar to Hugo's, so it's not surprising that his experiences would make sense in my world.

Hugo

More similar than that, Allison -- I'm actually ENFP myself, and mistyped the J. (I was ENFJ for a long time, and then retook it and slid on over the "P" side, but not by a wide margin).

Lynn, that's an interesting re-framing experiment, and I'd like to hear more about it.

faith

Celibacy, chosen or not, is such a complicated issue in our society. I have chosen to be celibate for quite a while and have received some relatively negative and puzzled reactions to it. I'd love to see you explore this some, Hugo.

Random Lurker

I find it inspiring, as a fairly messed-up mid-twenties creature, to see that you have gotten past this turbulent period in your life and made so many positive changes, Hugo. It gives me some reason to believe I could do the same. :p

About the 'involuntary celibacy' thing. I'm ENTJ and somewhat conventionally attractive if you accept that conventionally attractive people don't have to look precisely like fashion models. I'm also semi-celibate due to a recent bout with terminal illness. (Chemo kills yer libido dead.)

But my experience has taught me that the biggest deciding factor for 'involuntary celibacy' is not your looks or your level of extroversion. It's your attitude about yourself. If you're pissy, down on yourself and otherwise negative (even if you have a medical excuse for it), people just don't want to be around you. I know plenty of proudly weird-looking introverts who have no shortage of dates. The key is that they like and accept themselves.

I suppose in Hugo's case, it was more that he was over-flirting to make up for a lack of self-esteem, which is an interesting reversion (and I would suspect to be a NF thing). But I've noticed that low self-esteem is THE deciding factor. This may be really really obvious to most people, but it was somewhat of a revelation to me.

I'm actually at the point where I have to accept a period of celibacy just because my body and mind need to heal from the cancer rollercoaster. I'd agree that it can be an interesting experience, even for a bigass atheist.

prefer not to say

Actually, Lynn has some interesting comments on her own website about celibacy, taken from Eve Tushnet:

http://notfrisco2.com/leones/?p=1987 (scroll about two-thirds of the way down)

I was fascinated by both this post and Lynn's post because so often celibacy either gets discussed as a "dry spell" to be ended as soon as possible, or as the absolutely only moral state for a non-married person. Either way, it's treated as if there's nothing much to discuss, and I appreciate thoughtful, smart people talking about it as more complicated than that.

I think that Random Lurker's comment that the biggest factor in celibacy is all in your attitude is a bit unfair -- there really ARE moments for some folks, when all of society pronounces that the thing that you are is the polar opposite of desirable. When that happens, attitude doesn't really have that big of an impact. Try, for instance, being an overweight woman whose asthma and asthma medication prevents her from losing weight or exercising.

Maybe the common ground between folks like Glitch and Miracula (and me) and folks like Hugo and Allison is that our not having sex at all, and their having lots and lots of sex -- both sound like they are equally lonely experiences.

Glitch

Random Lurker:
But I've noticed that low self-esteem is THE deciding factor.

I'm not so sure about that. I've certainly had a very poor self image for much of my life, but in the last couple of years I've been really happy with myself. I'd say I have a pretty good self-esteem, nowadays, yet I am still quite celibate. While poor self-esteem looks bad on anyone, shyness in a man is generally the end of the discussion. If you can't approach a woman, chances are she wont approach you either, it seems.

Random Lurker

Prefer says:
Try, for instance, being an overweight woman whose asthma and asthma medication prevents her from losing weight or exercising.

and Glitch says:
While poor self-esteem looks bad on anyone, shyness in a man is generally the end of the discussion. If you can't approach a woman, chances are she wont approach you either, it seems.

It's tempting to generalize here and talk about the chubby girls and shy boys I've seen who get more action then crabby sick-thin moi.

While I have not ever been shy, I was fat as a teenager. My experience was that society dumps on you for it. I can imagine shy men who don't fit the whole bullshit 'alpha male' thing get similar garbage shoveled on them. I would not want to suggest that being fat or shy has *nothing* to do with your romantic success, since I know that there are a lot of otherwise reasonable people who can fall into snap judgements of potential partners, just out of sheer laziness.

But I also know that your appearence and level of alpha-pushiness really has nothing to do with developing and maintaining a good relationship. Being pretty or extroverted does not necessarily make you enjoyable company. All it does is get you past the stupid preconceptions of people who should know better. It also filters all the stupid shallow people out. Worthwhile people also tend to snap out of the groupthink fairly quickly.

So while the group of receptive potential partners will be smaller, it also protects you from dating shallow morons. I'd have to waste a few hours with a moron before he showed his innate shallowness. You guys get to find out right away.

And for the record, I like shy boys just fine. I'd rather date a shy intelligent boy then some alpha asshole who's idea of a good partner was a plastic supermodel.

SamChevre

There really ARE moments for some folks, when all of society pronounces that the thing that you are is the polar opposite of desirable. When that happens, attitude doesn't really have that big of an impact. Try, for instance, being an overweight woman whose asthma and asthma medication prevents her from losing weight or exercising.

Actually, attitude matters--even then. That almost exactly describes the first girl I saw the attraction of intimacy. She was never, in the years I have known her, lacking in male companionship for more than a few weeks. (We are still on good friends.) Why? She's a sweet, kind, genuinely nice girl.

Glitch

We're starting to drift here, so I'm going to address a few comments and bring it back to Hugo's point:

prefer not to say: Maybe the common ground between folks like Glitch and Miracula (and me) and folks like Hugo and Allison is that our not having sex at all, and their having lots and lots of sex -- both sound like they are equally lonely experiences.

Well, I suppose they can both be equally lonely, in very different ways. Maybe it's just a "grass is greener" thing but I would like to say I'm lonely for the latter reason, though, for reasons I'll get into when I respond to Hugo. I really don't feel lonely nowadays, again for reasons I'll get into below.

Random Lurker: But I also know that your appearence and level of alpha-pushiness really has nothing to do with developing and maintaining a good relationship.

Well, yes. You are absolutely correct. As you state later, though, being a non-Alpha male restricts the field of interested women quite a bit, perhaps to the point where it's no longer realistic to keep trying. Dating seems to ultimately be a numbers game. You have to meet X number of people just to get a date, than you have to date Y number of people to find someone you can have a serious relationship with. You have to have a relationship with Z number of people before you find someone you can marry/settle down with (if that's your thing).

As the field gets narrower, the chances of that happening approach zero. Sure, you always have a chance, but if you're not prone to approaching in the first place and have a low tolerance for rejection, there comes a point where chosing to opt out of the entire system becomes a realistic one.

I can imagine shy men who don't fit the whole bullshit 'alpha male' thing get similar garbage shoveled on them.

Pretty much just by men. Women don't seem to take much notice of "beta males".

Hugo: I think my point is that celibacy is about more than not going out and having sex. It's about making a conscious decision to not devote time and energy to thinking about it; I imagine plenty of shy folks do spent a healthy amount of time in fantasy! During that time in my life, I made a conscious choice to seek to redirect even my thoughts. I wasn't perfect, mind you, but it was remarkably effective.

I agree that celibacy is about more than just not having sex. I have also come to the point where I have largely stopped thinking about sex in general. I do still enegage in...er...autoeroticism, but that's more as an emotional release than anything else. I have a pretty powerful sex drive and if I don't have some sort of release the tension just builds and builds. I do feel much better for having ceased to think about trying to have sex. I no longer see or meet a woman and immediately ponder whether nor not I'd like to have sex with her. It's certainly quite a load off my mind and I feel much better for it. Again, though, I think it is a lot easier to come from a place of sexual abundance and say, "I need to stop this, so I will make the conscious effort not to act or think in this way," than it is to come from a place of sexual deprivation and say, "I am tired of being unfulfilled and unwanted, so I will stop wanting." Both may give you some sense of agency over your situation, but the former choice seems to be treated with more respect by society at large than the latter. One is a choice to better oneself, the other is often viewed as resignation (which, well, it is).

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best thing for an involuntary celibate to do is to stop worrying about sex and focus more on oneself. You will hopefully no longer come off as desperate (which doesn't look good on anyone) and perhaps come to cultivate qualities that make you more attractive. That, or you'll still be celibate but no longer be depressed about it. Either way, it's an improvement. Plus, like I said above to make the choice to chose celibacy you at least feel like you have some agency over your situation, which can go a long way towards alleviating loneliness. I may be alone, but I haven't felt lonely in some time.

glendenb

Hugo - thank you for sharing your story. It resonated with me and I hope you will indulge me sharing my own, similar story. Interestingly, for me the turning point was also 1998.

What I took away wasn't a message about celibacy (Although, I agree that making an intentional choice to maintain celibacy can be healthy in a person's life from time to time). I see it as a question of finding balance.

You wrote "I was a walking, talking, incarnation of toxic neediness! In the year or two leading up to that watershed summer, I had been going out several nights a week with lots of different people, addictively hungry for connection." I see the mirror image of myself in that description. Following a failed relationship, I turned inward, to ask myself "Where did this relationship go wrong?" but later it became a self-fulfilling cycle in which I saw my faults as a reason not to socialize, in which I found myself saying "Until I am good enough, I don't dare date, or go out with friends." I isolated myself socially to seek personal growth, to meet emotional needs. I'm very far on the introverted side of the scale; the more unhappy I felt the more I sought solitude, the deeper I sank into myself in a quest for happiness. You went outside yourself, I went inside myself.

It became an unhealthy cycle, like your frantic dating and socializing. You wrote “what I really loved was the fantasy that that night's date might be "the one", the one who was going to make me content and happy. I was always just one woman away from contentment!” - for me it was a quest for the perfect moment of aloneness and self awareness. It was a period of intense soul searching and rumination which quickly became a Byzantine maze of loneliness. It was not unusual for me to get home from work on Friday night and not open the door until Monday morning when it was time to go to work. I was and remain shy; spending such vast amounts of time alone allowed my shyness to grow and morph into something very different. Interactions with grocery store clerks and librarians could be draining since I seemed to have become incapable of making small talk.

I saw my shyness had become an impediment to achieving the things I wanted to achieve. I also developed an active spiritual life. I turned toward the Divine, toward Christ and God and Spirit through conversations with a pastor who had lost his pulpit through very minor sexual misconduct; although he was far more fundamentalist in his theology than I have ever been this wonderful and amazing man played a key role in my faith journey; he reminded me that faith must be lived as well as believed to be real and relevant. He indirectly and directly challenged me not to believe but to live differently. When he moved away it felt sudden but I had known it was coming for months and I had to make a choice. Would I return to my very safe but static shell or would I develop a social life and social realm through church, volunteering and work. Would I make friends and go on dates or would I remain isolated. Like you I learned that once I stopped focusing on my own needs, I could be of value to other people.

Martin Luther King once said "Until you lose yourself in service to others, you never really find yourself." That has been my experience. As I have found a balance between solitude, caring for myself, and serving others and in being in relationship with other people and the Divine, I have become more fully myself. I do not use the language of being born again but for me it has been a transformation, an opening of the cocoon of self. I have become active in my congregation and denomination, active in the community. I have discovered in relationships that I have grown more as a person because of those relationships than I ever could have through intense soul searching.

I'm not sure if what you and I are describing is simply the process of maturing and most people go through it, or if our experiences have been unique and exceptional.

Random Lurker

Well, before we drift back from our drift...

Glitch said:
Women don't seem to take much notice of "beta males".

...ignoring, it seems, the part where I said:

And for the record, I like shy boys just fine. I'd rather date a shy intelligent boy then some alpha asshole

There's nonconformist girls like me around, you know. Do we not count as women?

If you *really* believe that all women ignore beta dudes, then I would tend to suspect that you are chasing barbie doll women. Which is fine, if that's your kink. But barbie dolls tend to want ken dolls, period.

The Gonzman

But barbie dolls tend to want ken dolls, period.

The image of the "Alpha" as the dull and bullying thug, or the pretty-boy, though is really a stereotype pushed by insecure betas insisting "I'm just as good! Better, even! Really, I am! I am!"

Study some real Alphas some time, and you'll know what I mean. They are the type that know what they are going to do before the day begins; the ones whose words are listened to; the one who speaks their mind - and if a beta gainsays them, it sounds like petulant yammering.

Alphas know who the lesser mortals are, and are not particularly concerned with their opinion. They do as they will, and if they fail, they get up and dust themselves off instead of wallowing in self-pity. Many instances abound where the alpha is physically feeble compared to the betas that do his bidding.

Random Lurker

Study some real Alphas some time, and you'll know what I mean.

Hey, my dad is an alpha of alphas. I *know* alpha guys. Hell- I'm an alpha girl, I'm just like my dad.

'Alpha' is just shorthand for a clutch of personality traits- extroversion, aggressiveness, confrontational personality, etc. But not all decisive, confident, self-possessed people are 'alpha'. You don't have to be a confrontational extrovert to have these positive traits. And this is coming from a geniune confrontational pushy extrovert.

Alphas know who the lesser mortals are, and are not particularly concerned with their opinion. They do as they will, and if they fail, they get up and dust themselves off instead of wallowing in self-pity. Many instances abound where the alpha is physically feeble compared to the betas that do his bidding.

Ah, now the attitude that some people are just flat out superior to others, and those others should be their servants, is VERY 'alpha', in the worst way. We are human beings, not wolves or chimpanzees. I don't want to live in a society were people are arranged in a strict dominance hiearchy- I don't have time for dominance games. This is precisely why I have no love, time or respect for these 'alpha' men.

As far as I can tell, this false doctrine of 'alpha men are strong deciders, beta men are their weak little bitches!' is propegated soley to sell nonsense 'player' books to insecure men. It's ironic that someone so passionately devoted to men's welfare would embrace a paradigm that causes so much misery for men.


Glitch

Gonz: I was referring to "aplha" solely in the sense of "pushy, like to be in charge, overly aggressive." Sure, a true "aplha" can be laid back, reticent and merely supremely self-confident, but I really wasn't addressing those sorts. I was specifically referring to men who go out of their way to present themselves as leaders, even if it's to the detriment of everyone around them.

Random Lurker: Well, I did include the qualifier "most" in my statement, so no, I didn't claim "all" women ignore beta males. Yes, I have met a few women who did take the first step, sadly, things just didn't work out with them (all two of 'em) in the long run. I don't chase "barbie dolls," in fact I don't chase at all. I don't really have an "ideal type" of woman in mind, though I would prefer someone rather like me.

Antigone

Gonzman, I think you are misusing the words "alpha" and "beta". Particularily since you choose to use the words "lesser mortals". The terms are socilogical, not a value judgement, and not particularily useful ones at that.

I prefer the "beta" males. Glitch mentioned that females don't approach shy girls, and that's just not true. For instance, my current boyfriend didn't have enough courage to approach me at a party: so I walked up to him, sat down next to him, and said "Hi, I'm Antigone. You want to talk to me".

Beta males just have to accept that girls will be outgoing and not always a barbie doll. If you think women who are talking to you are too forward, or if you think that they should look a certain way, then you are going to be disappointed.

Back to the topic at hand:

I find it interesting that you talk of celibacy as spirtual. Honestly, I find it disconnecting: one of my minor regrets in life was that I didn't have sex in high school, because I was busy pretending to be Christian and I didn't want to be called a slut. I regret it because honestly, the most spirtual I ever feel is in the midst of sex and the afterglow. Celibacy, to me, is about cutting yourself off from the divine, not embracing it. Sex, flirting, what have you, isn't about validation of self, it's a celebration of connections.

Glitch

Wow, Radom Lurker, you took the words right out of my mouth with regard to "alphaness."

Glitch

Antigone: Glitch mentioned that females don't approach shy girls, and that's just not true.

Beta males just have to accept that girls will be outgoing and not always a barbie doll. If you think women who are talking to you are too forward, or if you think that they should look a certain way, then you are going to be disappointed.

Again, I never stated that. I said that most women don't approach, not all. Also, I at no point indicated that I am only interested in a "barbie doll" (I don't even know what that's supposed to mean, though I assume it to be "superficially pretty but vapid"). Back to the topic at hand...

I find it interesting that you talk of celibacy as spirtual. Honestly, I find it disconnecting: one of my minor regrets in life was that I didn't have sex in high school, because I was busy pretending to be Christian and I didn't want to be called a slut. I regret it because honestly, the most spirtual I ever feel is in the midst of sex and the afterglow. Celibacy, to me, is about cutting yourself off from the divine, not embracing it. Sex, flirting, what have you, isn't about validation of self, it's a celebration of connections.

Well, different strokes for different folks. I knew people in my college years, men and women, and I am in no way implying that I think Hugo is similar, who would have sex at the drop of a hat with pretty much anyone they found even remotely attractive. This was not because they enjoyed some kind of spiritual communion through the sexual act, but rather because it filled some void in them. They were depressed, lonely or just not feeling right with the universe, so they would bed someone just to feel some sort of momentary pleasure and affirmation. That was sex as a compulsion, not as a communion.

For those people, stepping back and taking scope of their views on sex, particularly in a religious context, could have not only been a spiritual experience but a much-needed form of therapy as well. I agree that for those who haven't experienced much or any sex at all celibacy might not be quite so "spiritual" or life-affirming, if you're not the religious type.

Hugo

Glitch, your response to Antigone's remark about celibacy, sexuality, and spirituality covered it. It's difficult to find much that is spiritual in relationships characterized by need and addiction, or in random hookup after random hookup after random hookup.

Celibacy pushed me out of my comfort zone into some real growth. For others, taking the risk to be sexual might produce the same result.

The Gonzman

Ah, now the attitude that some people are just flat out superior to others, and those others should be their servants, is VERY 'alpha', in the worst way. We are human beings, not wolves or chimpanzees. I don't want to live in a society were people are arranged in a strict dominance hiearchy- I don't have time for dominance games. This is precisely why I have no love, time or respect for these 'alpha' men.

As far as I can tell, this false doctrine of 'alpha men are strong deciders, beta men are their weak little bitches!' is propegated soley to sell nonsense 'player' books to insecure men. It's ironic that someone so passionately devoted to men's welfare would embrace a paradigm that causes so much misery for men.

It doesn't matter whether I embrace it or not - it is what it is. No matter how hard one tries to change basic dominance patterns, an alpha will chafe at being led by a beta, and will eventually try to take over, or leave and start anew. A beta will grow weary of the burdens of leadership and eventuially defer to an alpha.

Humans form heirarchies. It is the nature of the beast. Many try to buck human nature, and fail - pure democracies rarely last because the alphas resent running decisions by betas, and/or often feel betas aren't doing their fair share (No, not him/her - won't give an opinion when they're asked, but when it's time to COMPLAIN...) Betas become resentful at being asked to be leaders against their nature, or resent it when they notice that the alphas have taken over - and did so six months ago. Then things are running fine. And the alphas grow angry when the betas want to change something working perfectly fine, merely for the sake of change...

..and so on and so forth - we've seem the same sordid story. There's a litany of common complaints, with a myraid of patterns of resentment and strife, paint your own picture.

Far better, I think, for people to decide what they want, and what they are happier at, and seek out situations that suit them, rather than trying to change someone who may very well not want to be changed to suit them. Or trying to convince someone who is perfectly content with their lot in life that they are really unhappy, and just don't realize it yet.

What makes people miserable is not in their nature, but trying to act against that nature. A true beta is content as a follower and/or advisor. A true alpha unhappy under a stronger alpha, or a beta, should set out on their own.

Left alone, such things generally work themselves out.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004