Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Your Personal Sex God: On Sex and Self-Worth

Serious topic today—and one that could merit a whole book really.

I’m sure just about everyone knows what it’s like to have someone in your life that does two things:

1) When he or she shows you attention or affection, you feel higher than a kite;
2) But most of the time he or she just makes you feel hopelessly bad about yourself.

Rock singer Matthew Sweet wrote about this in his hit song “Sick of Myself” back in the 90’s:

You don’t know how you move me, deconstruct me and consume meI’m all used up, I’m out of luck, I am starstruckBy something in your eyes that is keeping my hope aliveBut I’m sick of myself when I look at you…

Personal happiness is very largely rooted in self-worth. If you truly believe you are a good person, with unique gifts and talents, who deserves the respect and love of others, you will probably be pretty content in life. On the other hand, if you aren’t convinced of any of those things, you will go to any lengths, even self-destructive ones, in your efforts to find validation.

There is no one so sexy (or captivating, or important) as the person who holds the power to validate you.

I’m not talking about guys you recognize as attractive, who are handsome or well-built or charming. I mean the special one who can make or break your entire day with a word or a smile. You may know him personally, or he may be a celebrity crush or someone you worship from afar. But the point is, for some reason you may or may not understand, he holds the key to your self-worth.

If he were ever to tell you he loves you, it would be the most heavenly thing ever to happen to you. If he rejected you, you would lose much of your will to live. And if a magic sex fairy granted you one wish to spend the night with anyone on earth, this is the guy you would choose because intimacy with him would transcend all other pleasures.

To you, this particular guy is your personal sex god. His favor is, for you, the way you measure your own desirability. You are driven to please him, and the fact that it is so very difficult to do so only makes it harder for you to escape the test. Meanwhile, if it became any easier you wouldn’t like it—you know that feeling well. It’s the “oh, but if he’s attracted to me, then he can’t be that great after all.” Sound like a painful conundrum? It is! It’s like being addicted to something that doesn’t even feel that good most of the time—just once in a blue moon.

But once in a blue moon it feels really, really good, and that’s why you can’t escape. That and the fact that to abandon your quest to please your sex god would be the ultimate failure. In your mind it’s the only way you have to find out if you’re any good…without this test, you’ll never know. So you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Personal illustration time, first from our Celebrity Crushes file: About 15 years ago I had a really intense crush on Sting. In my mind he was the ultimate combination of artistic talent, spiritual understanding, and sexiness. Obviously he was not personally involved in my life so I could not directly test my appeal to him, but I found myself so devoted to the man that I filled a lot of my day with thoughts of him, photos, music, videos, and so on. The quandary for me came that I felt ashamed of this obsession and feared that I needed to let go of it. Worst of all, I felt like Sting himself would find the intensity of my feelings off-putting if he knew me, and that was the way in which I sensed his “disapproval.” But at the same time, I felt the only way I could be worthy of his approval was to be devoted to him. So I put myself in a no-win situation by engaging in an activity that I felt both proved my worth and my unworthiness at the same time.

How’d I get out of this mess? First of all, by realizing there was nothing wrong with my attraction and it was a very common human experience. And secondly, by realizing my appreciation of certain attributes I saw in Sting really said more about me and my own values and character than it did about the man himself. I admired his physique, so I took up weight training. I was intrigued by his spirituality so I studied Carl Jung, his mentor. I internalized the value I had previously placed in Sting. I found my own self-worth internally.

Secondly, from the Personal Acquaintance file: A few years back I befriended a man who was cute, funny, charming and interesting. His greatest appeal was the fact that he seemed to have feelings for me too, and I was the one person he opened up to about his most private thoughts. He was also a moody guy, with an unpredictable temper, who by nature tended to keep aloof from others. So he drew me in by suggesting he was an almost impossibly hard nut to crack, and I alone stood a chance of success. And then he rebuffed me by fighting my every attempt at closeness.

He became the ultimate test—my personal sex god. He could make me ecstatic or devastate my ego by the smallest gestures. My daily happiness hinged upon him, and although he was a pretty regular looking guy, in my mind there was no sexier person on the whole planet. Such is the nature of this phenomenon. It was an addition of sorts, an addition to something that feels bad the vast majority of the time.

How’d I get out of this mess? One day I realized this guy was pretty f’ed up himself, riddled with flaws, and possibly the least deserving person to be the judge of my self-worth. Meanwhile, it dawned on me that I had way too many talents and too much to offer the world to be letting this man bring me down. My constant feeling that I was failing the test had become too painful to endure any longer—I made the decision that I’d rather quit and fail and risk losing the validation I so desperately wanted, than put myself through another day of that pain. I broke out of the trap.

You’ll note the common cure here: finding validation in yourself. You need to do whatever you can to teach yourself self-approval. You also need to recognize the imperfections in your sex god (even though you really don’t want to see them, of course!). You need to trade adoration in for admiration or respect.

And recognize also that all the wonderful qualities you see in your sex god are simply things that you yourself really treasure. He may or may not truly possess them, but there’s nothing wrong with your imagining he does for the sake of getting to enjoy and appreciate them. Your love of those qualities is part of what defines the particular person you are, so when you admire them, in a way you are admiring something about yourself.

This is, as I mentioned, a topic worthy of a book. Some of these subjects are touched upon in my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life. And I’d be happy to post further if any readers have questions.

In the meantime, I’ll add one final thought in my guise as erotic advisor: If you can free yourself from being enslaved to your sex god, you can still enjoy the benefits of his erotic power (perhaps somewhat diminished but also less pain-provoking). Make him the star of your fantasies, all the while knowing that it is YOU, not him, pulling the strings. It works.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Perfect Body: Sean Maher

Woman are not as visual sexually as men are—we all know that. Personally, I may be one of the least visual. My turn-ons are things like sense of humor, intelligence, voice, and attitude. I’ll take Zack Braff over Brad Pitt any day of the week, and as you recall, I ignored Kelly Monaco’s hunky dance partner Alec in favor of John O’Hurley.

Nevertheless, even a person like me must occasionally take note of the male physique. I recently rewatched the final episode of the cancelled sci-fi series “Firefly” to prepare for the release of its movie sequel “Serenity.” In this particular episode, viewers are treated to Sean Maher, as stowaway Dr. Simon Tam, with his shirt off.

Sean happens to have what is in my particular opinion the perfect body. It’s just genetic. I’m not saying he doesn’t work out to make the best of it: obviously he does. But the man is blessed with flawless proportions. The taper from shoulder to waist could not be more perfect. He’s lean in the right places, and it’s the perfect amount of lean. His carriage displays every feature to its best advantage. He’s a walking dream, really, so faultless he could have been designed by DaVinci.

What makes the scene that much more effective is the complete nonchalance of the circumstance. It’s not a love scene, there are not even any women present, and sex is the furthest thing from Simon’s mind. He has been awakened in the middle of the night by a dangerous intruder bent on kidnapping his sister and possibly murdering the rest of the crew. Simon happens to sleep shirtless, so here he is.

Simon is not in any way engaged with his own physical appeal, and yet the female viewer can hardly think of anything else. To be more accurate, the female viewer’s attention is amusingly split. On the one hand, we watch Simon keep his cool in this horrific situation—we marvel that he can be calm and even witty, and this behavior only increases his appeal. And on the other hand, well, the primordial female brain is simply chanting “God he’s gorgeous, God he’s gorgeous.”

Gorgeous without even thinking about it. Isn’t that a man at his best? Effortless beauty. The tight stomach and narrow hips exude masculinity, the shoulders and arms radiate power, the geometry of the entire assembly is poetically lovely. And all the while that the fellow emanates this glorious beauty, he is quite busy doing something else entirely and doesn’t even notice.

In the director’s commentary on the “Firefly” DVD, creator Joss Whedon makes an offhand comment about how he wrote Simon shirtless in this scene as a little treat to female viewers, and he’s gotten tons of messages of gratitude on that count. Personally, I believe that in the grand scheme of the universe, Sean Maher has a solemn duty to share himself in this way as much as polite society permits. God bless him.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Help, I’m Attracted to a Cartoon!

“Remember the line from “Wayne’s World” when Garth asks Wayne if he was ever attracted to Bugs Bunny when he dressed up like a girl bunny? Not something you would want to readily admit: finding sexy a cartoon version of another species indulging in cross-dressing.

But I think we have all been attracted to cartoons now and again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cartoons are fantasies, and for that reason sometimes have a better shot at capturing erotic appeal even better than reality.

I remember the first time I saw Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” when at the end the Beast is transformed into his original human form. I was absolutely stunned at the splendor of the man. It was love at first sight...what a shame it was such a bit part! Gorgeous eyes, beautiful hair—really impossible good looks on the plane of reality.

Actually, a cartoon guy even doesn’t have to be really hot looking to be sexy. I’m pretty attracted to “Mr. Opportunity,” the spokes-cartoon for Honda. Ironically, I think the allure is his voice. Maybe the fact that that cute voice isn’t coming out of a flesh-and-blood human just draws attention to it. The cartoon image itself is like a charming mask at a masquerade party: just makes you want to know more about the owner of the voice behind it.

My latest cartoon flame is the male lead in Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise comic, David Qin. He is sweet, exotic, vulnerable, dangerous—in short, irresistible. Obviously it’s the storytelling itself that gives David his true charm, but he is drawn pretty sexily too: the Asian good looks, the great hair, the hauntingly tortured expressions.

I think perhaps it is the minimalist style of comic book illustration (Alex Ross’s Norman Rockwell-esque art notwithstanding) that lends itself well to erotic fantasy. David Qin is drawn to have just enough detail to suggest how he looks, and the imagination fills in the rest. This phenomenon can result in an even more alluring appearance than photorealism would. David in ink evokes thoughts of exotic eyes, silky black hair, a posterior that jeans fit well, the grace of an Asian martial artist. All of it springs from the imagination, perfect for my own particular desires.

So if you’ve ever been smitten with a cartoon, be ye not troubled. We’ve all been there. And you can’t be any worse than my elder daughter, who in her youth had a mad crush on Danger Mouse.

Any nominees for hot animated characters? If so, please post!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Celebrity Fantasies Can Be Good for You!

“Erotica with Soul” reader Erica wrote (concerning blog entry “The Big Love Scene”):

Diana, this is an interesting post. While I'm not a professional writer (like you) by any means, I have been working on a fan-fiction type story in which I meet up with (you guessed it) Hayden himself. I have only finished chapter one, but I am currently working on chapter two (the part where it something lustful happens)…Writing about the big love scene, while I'm sure not as good as actually encountering it with Hayden, is rewarding, just as you said, and yes I do feel a little bit like those Weird Science guys at this point. Not a bad feeling, but still...

I have a ton to say on this topic. Fan fiction writing as a hobby has really taken off in recent years, and a lot of it is erotic. Some people may think it somehow dysfunctional for people to fantasize and even write about such encounters with celebrities, and think it a form of stalking or something. But I’m here to say I think it can be the most natural and spiritually beneficial thing in the world.

First of all, keep in mind that there are deep-seated psychological reasons why you are drawn to a particular celebrity—and to be accurate, it’s usually not the celebrity at all, but a character or characters he has portrayed. In this case, Erica and I share an admiration for Hayden Christensen’s character Anakin/Darth Vader. He is the classic tortured-soul-who-turns-to-evil. He works both as a “bad boy” and as a “guy in need of redemption by the love of a good woman.”

If you are drawn to this archetype, it is because your soul feels some fascination with it. Contemplating the archetype fulfills a need for you, makes you more content and peaceful. Seeking union with the archetype by sexual fantasy is simply the most extreme way of doing this.

That’s why it’s so fun and so satisfying to do. Neither Erica nor I have designs upon Hayden himself—we will not be emailing him, camping on his lawn, or boiling his pet rabbit. We recognize that it is not precisely him that is the object of desire. But at the same time, indulging the fantasies is very rewarding and satisfying to the soul.

I will confess something here that my readers may find interesting. One of the stories in Soulful Sex Volume II, entitled “Je t’adore, Etienne,” was actually cobbled together from a couple of lengthy private fantasies I wrote for myself about a certain hockey player. I of course had no designs upon the man himself (unlike Etienne in the story, he is a happily married family man), but my admiration of him was the inspiration. (Yes, I do pray he never reads this and makes the connection—it is of course highly unlikely!!) At any rate, I was concerned because of the origins of the story that the writing might not be up to par with the other stories in the collection.

Much to my surprise, several reviewers and readers have found this story to be their favorite. A reviewer for The Romance Studio wrote, “This story is told so sensually and skillfully I found myself totally entranced and would highly recommend this book for this story alone. It’s a rare gem of erotic romance…it seems far more personal than any romantic story I have read in a long while.” All I could conclude was that my personal feelings about the subject matter shown through the tale and gave it particular power. Pretty amazing.

So I encourage Erica and other readers to by all means indulge your mind and/or keyboard to create such fantasies. As long as you understand the phenomenon, it is a perfectly healthy activity.

For more information on this topic I would recommend my self-help book (written as Diane Lau) Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life. There’s a great deal of material in it on the meaning of celebrity “obsessions” and how to integrate them into your imaginative life. Visit the Living Beyond Reality Press website page for more info.