At fifty-nine, I wrote in my journal:
Part of the problem was physical, from illness and menopause and age; part psychological. I was disgusted at the fantasies I used in order to achieve orgasm: fantasies of rape — being raped, raping others, watching rapes. I hated it. It made me come.
I’ve never been raped, I have no desire to be raped. I don’t enjoy pain, I hate being humiliated or pushed around. I just don’t know how to come without the feeling of being overpowered. As far as I could remember, it’s the only thing that had ever made me come.
To approach sixty still carrying this burden, woke me up. Finally I was sick of it. Where was the wisdom I was supposed to have harvested from all these years? I needed to change, and I didn’t know how.
Writing is a meditation for me; I’ve been using it to find the truth for as long as I can remember. So I decided to write this book, both as my exploration of what’s going on — and as an act of directing energy to healing my sexuality To protest the culture that had programmed me, to bear witness to the damage it does, to raise consciousness in others. But also to see what came out, to watch what words appeared on my computer screen, to see where the Muse took me. To name the demon, and thus take back its power. To ask the Goddess for inspiration, for ideas how to heal.
Various files on my computer, I knew, held bits of writing on this subject. When I went to look at them, I was shocked to find that my current memories, about how I achieve orgasm, had somehow lost track of another way I’d experienced it, in the past: through being turned on by romantic attraction.
There’s no mystery why I suppressed those memories: the relationships in which I felt the magic of romatic attraction, didn’t work out; in fact I became very skeptical about romantic love. I was never romantically attracted to my husband.
The Muse required me to reexamine myself. I still wanted to write about my pursuit of orgasm; I still thought it would be healing: but the subject of the book grew. What was going to be mainly about masochism, now had to examine all the cultural programming I’d absorbed, about sexuality. How did I come to be this way? What do I do about it? What is sex to me? What does it mean, to be sexual?
It occurred to me, Kay, that perhaps to truly be a masochist, one must take pleasure in being hurt. So I looked it up in my Webster’s dictionary, and this is what I found:
1 : a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object — compare sadism
2 : pleasure in being abused or dominated : a taste for suffering
mas·och·ist -kist noun
mas·och·is·tic ˌma-sə-ˈkis-tik, ˌma-zə- also ˌmā- adjective
mas·och·is·ti·cal·ly -ˈkis-ti-k(ə-)lē adverb
What do you think? Is there another word that would suit this concept better? Perhaps there’s another concept that is once removed from masochism, or at least less intense? The issue isn’t merely semantic; it is a matter of self-esteem.
It is also a wish: that we stop calling ourselves names. There are so many women who have such fantasies. I wonder if there are as many men who do so. Or if there are women who have sadistic fantasies.
I’m beginning to babble. This may not be as important as I’d thought when I started writing.
Sometimes babbling is the best way to get some ideas to the surface. Don’t put yourself down.
There certainly are a lot of different elements — or varieties — of what our culture has been calling “masochism.” Your suggestion that we be more careful in how we label them has merit. I’m currently wrestling with the subject, and expect to upload my thoughts under the title “Am I a Masochist?” which will be in the section “Buying the Victim Role“