Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In Defense of Bernie Sanders

Maybe you've missed out on this. I would have if not for a friend's Facebook post. In the 1970's, Bernie Sanders wrote an essay on the relationships between men and women in which he dared to suggest that a woman might fantasize about being gang raped.

It's being used as leverage against Bernie, proof that he's somehow against women, and feminists are up in arms about it. Michael Briggs, in an interview with CNN, stated that it was a "dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication." I disagree. I think it was quite possibly one of the most brilliant things I've seen written on the matter.

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of Bernie's

Maybe you think it is odd that I would be defending Bernie and his essay. I'm certainly not a fan of Bernie Sanders and his politics. I am not going to be voting for him. I appreciate that he sincerely believes that what he is proposing is good for others, but I disagree with his idea of how to solve the problems our country faces. I can admire his honesty and his integrity, but there are many more things I do not admire.

However, I will defend Bernie's essay to the death. I will defend it because he's had the courage to talk about something nobody else is talking about but that needs to be addressed. And I think that's exactly why that essay has so many people up in arms. There is truth in there, and there is truth that people don't want to believe or face up to which is why he is under so much attack.

 Rape Fantasies Are Real

I'm definitely not a fan of women being raped. But I am a woman who spent the better part of 36 years of her life struggling with rape fantasies. Alone. In shame. With great guilt. Unable to speak about it to anyone because I knew it was wrong to even have them. I am the woman who, "enjoys intercourse with her man - as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously." And I want to thank Bernie for giving me the opportunity to talk about that.

I don't need to be told that real and actual rape is a horrible thing. I know, and I knew even then, that I didn't actually want to be raped. But the knowledge didn't stop the fantasies. They persisted in spite of my best efforts to banish them and in fact it was only in the last five years that I was even able to achieve a climax without them.

Is this sick? Yes. Undoubtedly. But I'm not the only woman who struggles with them. According to an article published in 2010 by Psychology Today, 4 out of every 10 women admit to struggling with them. Others suffer in silence, too ashamed to even admit to their best friends that they do.

I'm not talking about it to draw attention to myself. I'm discussing it because I finally found the key to banishing them and I want to bring hope to women who struggle with them like I did. There is a way out and there is hope for healing.

The Origins of the Beast

For the last five years, as I struggled my hardest to move past them with some success here and there, I tried to understand why it is I even had them. I can remember having them at the tender age of four years old. That's, not coincidentally, when my stepfather began molesting me.

Feelings of arousal and sexual desire became linked with those feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, and powerlessness. Over five years, those connections were reinforced over and over and over again in a thousand different ways until they fused themselves into an almost unshakeable bond. It was done at such a young age, and I lived with it for so long, that if not for my Christian upbringing, I might not have questioned the normalcy of them.

I do thank God that I had a Christian upbringing. It caused me to question the nature of these fantasies, to doubt that they were supposed to be part of my psyche, and eventually to seek an answer. Yes, I felt guilt and shame because of that same upbringing, but those things drove me to pursue an answer when I otherwise might not have. I might have let that unhealthy stuff plague me forever.

If We Can Acknowledge the Truth

I doubt any feminist out there is outraged about Bernie's opening lines of his essay. They know it's happening a thousand times over every single day.
"A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman bound, a woman abused." - man - and woman, by Bernard Sanders
If we can acknowledge the truth of those words, if we can admit that there are thousands upon thousands of internet porn sites devoted to fantasies of women being bound, tortured, raped, and even killed - then why is it so hard to acknowledge the truth about the other side of that coin?

Because, honestly, I believe that if we looked closely enough at the origins of those fantasies held by men, we would find that they originate in abuse, too. Mothers who abuse a little boy or degrade him or make him feel ashamed to be a man subverted into fantasies where he is the one in power instead of feeling powerless. I don't know that for a fact, and I've not done any research on it, but it seems logical.

Conquering the Nightmare

I thank God again because I was, finally, able to put the need for those fantasies behind me. The answer to it was the same as it always is when healing's involved: love. For five years I would achieve it a few times and then fall back into the habit. It was a guilty pleasure, but I'd convinced myself it wasn't hurting anyone but me.

Then, I don't remember exactly what changed it all, but I realized that my sexual desire and passion for my husband was supposed to be conduit for him to experience the desire and passion that God has for him. Except that I was blocking that from happening with the fantasies. I was cheating my husband of the full experience of God's love by selfishly choosing to pursue what was easiest for me.

That thought - that I was robbing my husband of something - was exactly what I needed to banish my ambivalence about putting away the fantasies. Is it harder to achieve climax without them? It is. It takes me longer, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I used to rush through sex because it required me to open myself up to him and allow myself to be vulnerable - feelings that I associated with powerlessness and helplessness. Now, I'm learning to take my time, to allow myself to rest secure in the knowledge that he's not going to hurt me or take advantage of the gift I'm giving him.

And things are getting better. Slowly.

I'm Not Defending Rape

Let me be abundantly clear: I am not defending rape. But I am saying we won't stop rape from happening by refusing to acknowledge that some women do fantasize about being raped and some men do fantasize about raping women. And then, let's talk about what that means, and let's figure out why it happens, and let's see what can be done to help those who want it.

Rape fantasies are ugly things, but refusing to acknowledge them doesn't make them any less real and
it doesn't help those who struggle with them.

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