Being dominating and using mental and emotional abuse is as bad as being physically abusive.
I was in Glasgow with my parents on our annual trip back to Scotland to visit family. I must have been in my early teens. I went off for the day to explore the city on my own. I’ve always enjoyed walking around new and strange cities. My love of steam trains (they still existed then) took me to St Enoch Station.
Standing on the steps looking at my map and wondering where to go next, I was approached by a man seeking to help me.
I was the typical innocent abroad and trusted this man. We started talking and he offered to buy me a coffee in the station cafe. I accepted.
We sat in a quiet corner and at one point he gently took my hand and laid it on his leg. I realised my hand was on his erect penis. I was horrified and only then realised why this man was so helpful. I got away as quick as I could.
Although nothing serious happened to me this experience has remained with me for 50 years now.
Clearly it had a dramatic effect on me although I never felt it affected my life. There is a message for me about innocence, trust and expectation, even though these have never been spoiled for me. There is a greater message, however, about the sadness of a man who needs to resort to random young boys for his sexual pleasure, who thinks nothing of seeing them abused.
Yes, the man deserves condemnation, even just for being emotionally abusive, but he also deserves help.
Only now am I reflecting on the fact that 50 years later I am writing here in ‘Male eXperience’ for men about how to create a balanced life in a relationship.
Since that time I have lived a varied life. I went into the professional theatre and finally lost my virginity through the advances of a girl, not through my efforts. I experienced brief rumblings with other men and women and fell headlong into a marriage that promised to give me safety, security and stability. It took 30 years for to finally crash, leaving me stranded again.
That was when I started to look seriously at my life; I married again and started to write in ‘Male eXperience’. I write here about my life, my experience and how I see what’s around me. The focus is on my life as a man and how I see the lives of other men. My emphasis is that I now have a life that works and that that might be a model for other men. The context is that I am a man with a sense of my own masculinity, finally, in a relationship of polarity with a woman who has a sense of her own femininity.
That doesn’t make me right. That doesn’t make my way the way for men to go.
I don’t set out to persuade everyone that how I live my life, how I have lived my life, is the solution to men’s problems or difficulties, I don’t pretend to have the answer. How I live my life works. The way I face the issues of men, masculinity, sexuality and relationships works. On that basis it’s worth exploring.
What I write is not about the wider issues of Gender and Equality. The message I have doesn’t explicitly take them into account.
My life hovers around the centre of the bell curve. I am a fairly average man. Although I have a lot of experience of men and women who don’t fit the average, who feel marginalised by society, I don’t feel able to speak for them, I don’t live their life. There are gay men I know who read what I write, understand it and interpret it for their lives. I don’t tell them how to do it.
I write for the men around the centre of the bell curve who find being a man difficult. They mostly have marriages, children and jobs or businesses. As society changes, as they grow older, they find the ground shifting beneath their feet. They find their women changing and they find their children growing up into men and women they don’t understand. They support racial and gender equality but the don’t understand how it plays out in their lives.
I am seeking to help these men bring back the courage, compassion and certainty into their lives. I want them to be able to find their courage as men, to find the certainty in themselves. But this should not drift into the domination and abuse that men have been used to. The memory of that domination and abuse has made men scared of their strength. Deep down we all know we can go there.
By helping men to see the importance of compassion I seek to help them to see that their relationships with others need to be through consent, genuine consent. Domination often assumes consent which is not there, I know, this is how I lived much of my live. In dealing my upbringing and events such as the one at St Enoch, I sought to control my life by ensuring that I decided what happened. I was not going to be prey to anyone who wanted to use me. Mental and emotional abuse was not going to run my life.
That didn’t work. I became dominating and used mental and emotional abuse myself! That is as bad as the man in the station.
Using compassion, I seek to understand the other person, using consent I seek to have a relationship of some sort with them. I still find it hard.
I still want to kick the shit of him…