Life calls upon you to make choices.
If you choose the same thing over and over, it becomes a habit. If it’s a habit that makes your life worse instead of better, it’s called a “disorder” or an “addiction”. I’m sure that’s an oversimplification, but I’m not a mental-health professional.
You get what you pay for.
So, you eventually feel like you have no choice because your addiction or habit is just what you do, but every time you do it... you’re choosing to do it. Every time, you’re making a choice: do it, instead of not do it. That choice may not feel like a binary choice, but it is.
It may not feel like any kind of choice. But it is.
I already know what objections you might have to this assertion. Fine. You’re special, you get a pass. I’m really talking about myself.
TMI is coming, so feel free to go look at the other couple thousand posts on my blog if you’re not into that. No hard feelings.
What I’m really talking about isn’t, like, heroin. It’s porn. It’s wrapping your sexual response so tightly around a fetish of physical intimacy that you can’t really enjoy actual physical intimacy. When I use “fetish” above, I don’t mean “kink”, the way we use it a lot of time, I mean that some thing, x, comes to symbolise something else, y, and then, eventually, x takes the place of y.
So, in one example, “hypnosis” comes to symbolise “sex”, for some reason, and eventually you’d rather hypnotise (or be hypnotised) than have sex. Which can make it tough to explore a plurality of human connections, believe me.
But I’m not really talking about hypnosis, either. And it’s not really my problem: I am just as enthusiastic about penetration as I am about pocketwatches. I’m talking about the porn.
The problem with porn is that it has always and continues to completely dominate my experience of sex, which is really just tiptoeing around this admission: your partners may be well-meaning but they still get disappointed when you can’t climax with them, ever, because you only get off through the mechanism of your own palm, and then only after, like, an hour or more.
There’s the whole nofap thing, yourbrainonporn.com, and all kinds of stuff about this problem and dealing with it. Here is where it’s always gotten tricky for me, and when I say “here”, I mean here, where we are right now: my most abundant source of get-off material is also the only place I get to connect with people who share my kink, and that... just isn’t something I’ve ever been able to give up.
I’ve tried. There’s a reason I’ve had three main identities in this community, going back to the late ‘90s, with gaps of several years between each of them. I wasn’t doing missionary work, I was... well, maybe “missionary” is an unfortunate choice of word. I tried to have “IRL” relationships where this just wasn’t a thing, and it always crept back in. Believe me, sneaking off to find the stuff you really want while your flesh-and-blood partner is sleeping is a leading indicator: you want to deal with that sooner rather than later, deal with it one way or another, before you drag them through a long, painful, boring cliché.
So I’ve never been able to square away “the porn, it’s a problem” with “I have this kink and it’s never going away and I want an outlet for it”, but although I try to frame it above like I’m being swept along by a river, I am forced back to my original assertion:
Every time, it was a choice. It’s a choice now, and it’ll be a choice tomorrow. And, like all choices, these are ultimately binary: yes or no.
Do or don’t.
I’m not leaving, not “for good” like I have before, not least because I know I’ll just come back with another round of psychic ammunition for the part of my brain that says, “Why would you think you could ever change? Look at all these times when you tried, and failed!”
So we come at last to the title of this post.
The word means, among other things, “keenness of insight and judgement”.
You know that ancient exhortation, “Know Thyself”. That’s discernment. Knowing what you actually do and don’t want, and why your behaviour may seem wildly out of step with it, that’s discernment.
I want to be more discerning. I want to apply a keenness of insight and judgement to this problem: I want to be a part of this community. And I don’t want to spend, let’s see... 19 of the last 29 days getting off to porn.
Yeah, I wrote it down. That’s another ancient exhortation: “What gets measured, gets managed.” I’m pretty sure Epictetus said that.
You think, I can’t change, I never have before. But the reality is you’re changing all the time, whether you like it or not. The only question is, will you take the reins and try to change yourself, or just let life carry you along? I’ve tried, increasingly over the past couple years, to do the former.
Here’s the other thing: I’ve heard you can’t really force yourself to stop doing something you want to do. Not forever. What you can do instead is change into a person who no longer does those things, like, for instance, doesn’t burn a whole evening on porn not because he doesn’t still want to get off on porn, but because it wastes time he’d rather be spending on other things...
Honestly, that doesn’t even sound convincing to me as I’m writing it. The fact is, I have no fucking idea how to rearrange this part of my life into what I want it to look like. I never have. But here’s what I’ve come to think: if I can’t at least be honest and vulnerable about this, well, then I’m really doomed. Because I have seen the limits of what I can accomplish all bound up tight inside the confines of my head, and... look, it’s a fucking snow globe in here.
So, to be discerning: What do I actually want out of my time here? I want to connect with other people, genitally, well sure, but especially on the level of, “I like this, and so do you, and we both get it, and yay.” And I’ve said before how I want to be wanted and what it means to me to switch and how much I love knowing I gave someone else a sexy thrill.
So what I want is to know more people, better, and play with them, and make things for them, like stories and recordings, and just own that part of my life, not that it has to be everything, but it can’t be hidden, because then it tends to collapse down to something that I do all by myself, in the dark. For too, too long and to no sense of fulfilment whatsoever.
Better to spend an hour writing you a sexy story than obliterate that hour surfing the waves of my dashboard.
There. That’s enough discernment for one night. We’ll see how I do with the rest of them.
Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Like everything I arrogantly presume to share about myself, I hope it touches someone else. Because we are none of us alone.