Oct 30, 2013

Repairing & Building My Faith in Men

I told you all I'm going to be posting some vulnerable stuff! Hooray, for more vulnerable stuff! Today's post centers around some crud I'm dealing with as regards my perception of male people in my life.

Thing is, I really really struggle to trust men. Especially men who are more typical men. The more manlike a man is on the manly spectrum (earning points in the direction of manliness if they're obsessed with sports, for instance, or dismissive of touchy-feely discussion, or extremely driven to some specific manlike activity such as fishing or hunting or outdoor cooking, or very logical rather than intuitive, or collecting cars or boats, or displaying the sort of leadership or "protective" qualities men are supposed to have) the less I trust them.

(I know, in listing these traits, that many women exhibit them as well. Right now I'm talking about stereotypes.)

All the men I trust are kind of... not typically male, in the sense of what society thinks are man-like traits. Jeff is not. He's not interested in sports. He loves fishing but not to the point where he loves it above all else. He really enjoys being a teacher, not a leader. A mentor. He loves talking. *loooves* talking. I might be more manly that way than he is... I can't talk for as long as he can about dreams, feelings, experiences. He's also a fantastic dancer, a musician...

these are not the traits that society designates as manly, necessarily.

And my own Dad. He's manly in the sense that he's Logical. Very answer-focused, when it comes to problem solving. Very A+B=C. Logical. BUt he's not into sports. He's kinda geeky... into books, reading, music, computer games. He loves to hike, that's pretty manly. He might be more typically male than my husband.

There's my Ida-Dad. He's manly in the sense that he's protective, he is authoritative, he's kind of a guider. He's also pretty strong & enjoys being able to work hard. But He doesn't like sports, or hunting, and he loves talking. And he loves music. And he doesn't take himself too seriously... maybe I'm wrong to think that's not a typical male quality. Maybe it's manly to not take oneself too seriously.

when I think of the men around me that are more "typical" (acc to the definition I'm using) I feel pretty threatened. Even if they're good people, if they have some of theses traits (really into sports and talk about them all the time, speak authoritatively in front of a group & have that sort of attitude of protectiveness toward stuff, not really into emotion-driven conversation, not really into books or music...) I feel like I pretty much don't want to be around them. I feel rejected by them before they've really rejected me.

The thing is, these traits are traits. Period. They don't make people good or bad, or even necessarily more manly or feminine. THey exist in people. By golly, some women are really, really authoritative (see Sheri Dew) and protective (see ME!)

But when those traits exist in a man, I feel pretty threatened by/suspicious of that man.



And it's lead to some thoughts about how I feel about myself, my body, especially during this pregnancy, and my interactions with various men in my life. I think the reason my body during pregnancy makes me feel so very vulnerable and self conscious has to do with the fact that I can no longer hide that I'm female. When I was a young woman, I had subtle curves. I could wear stuff that made it so nobody really got a good look at me if I didn't want them to. They likely knew I had breasts, but couldn't really see them. They weren't prominent. My hips had a bit of curve, but not an outstanding, undeniably feminine curve like they have now. I walk into a room right now and sometimes I feel extremely conscious of the fact I am a woman and it's pretty obvious.

I think I feel really self conscious about it because I've been used before, and so I walk into a room, feeling overtly and vulnerably feminine, and all these men are sitting around and I don't know what they're thinking. What if they're looking at my body and purposefully allowing it to induce sexual thoughts? I can't do anything about that. What if they're being overpowered by my feminine body & can't *help* but think sexual thoughts? I hate that. That turns me into an assault weapon.

Oh gosh. I'm kinda messed up.

I guess that's what happens when you go through what i have, sometimes, though.

I don't think it's just being married to a porn addict that helped me develop these kind of insecure feelings, though. I think it comes from my mother, too. I'm not at all sure she's comfortable with her own feminine body. I think she's pretty embarrassed by her body. I need to not pass that down any further.

Lately I've been working on feeling like i'm beautiful and endearing, as a woman who can't be anything but woman, the way I'm shaped. Maybe JEff loves me because I have breasts, because I am growing and turning into a different, wider-hipped, more curvy shape. Maybe that shape is beautiful and endearing to him. Maybe he feels tender about me. Maybe he feels protective and full of joy because of my body being undeniably feminine.

I just feel threatened, because I trust him, but I don't trust other men. I want to be that just for him. I'd like to be a secret woman, with secret breasts and secret hips. Not a woman with obvious ones for everyone in a room to see. i'd like to be able to "choose" who looks at me like that. But I can't.

I was having this kind of discussion with my IDa-Dad recently (not nearly so articulate or in depth... I can't speak as well as I can write) and he was attempting to bring across to me the message that men don't necessarily "turn on" as soon as they look at a woman. That's not how it works.

And I said, "But don't men think about sex every seven seconds?"

And his response made me laugh so hard. I had to post it. I hope he doesn't mind. He said "That's a great statistic. Lots of people have used it. But I have to think that anyone who is thinking about sex every seven seconds can't really be a productive citizen."

Ok. Take a moment and laugh.

Now think about it.

In what ways is our world distorting and destroying our faith in each other, in men, in women, in this way? Since when have we been all about sex?

Why do we paint men as hormone-driven, barely-controlled sex machines? If I walk into a room, looking obviously feminine, and some people happen to enjoy looking at me maybe, is the thought on every man's mind "sex," or is it "she's beautiful. I like looking at her." Sort of the same way a sunset is beautiful. Or a particularly graceful quaky aspen is beautiful.

I mean, you can "go there," but how many men actually "go there?" Can I trust that men aren't using me as pornography simply because i'm female?

Oh, gosh. I really hope so.

Responses welcome. Remember that this is me being vulnerable & real and I don't mean to shock at all, just trying to figure stuff out, and this is the easiest way for me to sort these thoughts, so. Thank you in advance.


Daniel J Hay said...

Yes, you are a quaking aspen, yes you are a beautiful women. Yes, you are pregnant, and that is beautiful and sexy both. Here's your corollary: There are men you can't trust and women you can't trust; and therefore, there are men you can trust and women you can trust.

Most men will see beyond the pure sexual aspect of a woman because they respect women as individuals. Many men find pregnant women even more sexy than the pornography others watch. They also find the pregnant woman lovely.

Personally I find women to be the better gender, but I can't trust many of them because I don't have a woman in my life. The one I did have left me fractured to where it seems only one special woman will teach me to trust women again. In your case, there is something that leaves you lacking in trust because you don't want to feel like a sex symbol. The rule of thumb is that you can, CAN, trust most of them to be just like you hope they are.

Carolyn said...

OK, I'll post a comment -- my dad was quite aloof with his three daughters, and we later found out that he was terrified of ever being accused of being inappropriate with us. Too bad -- we could have benefited from some hugs. Another thought -- I was pretty naïve while I was dating -- one boyfriend clued me in as to how he thought of me in a sexual way, but would never have acted on it. This was as we were in the process of breaking up. Having dated in the 60's, I do feel sorry for the challenges the younger generation faces. Our daughters and granddaughters have had to lay it on the line, usually on the first date, that they are saving themselves for marriage.

Ryan Houston said...

I think that it is the minority of men who look at a woman and think lustful thoughts. I think most men look at women and see their beauty. Of course, our view of others is clouded by how we act and so I might not be the best judge of character. I tend to trust others because I can be trusted. Maybe I am way off base, but I think most men are not sexual fiends that think about sex every minute of the day or who turn every woman into a sexual object. However, I do think the majority of men know who the pretty women are in a room soon after they enter that room. But then again, that might just be me. :)

Anonymous said...

I was engaged to a "recovering" porn addict. I say recovery lightly because I discovered that into our whirlwind romance he had replaced his porn with images of me. That ended our engagement and even though I loved him and stayed with him I always felt gross around him. And then I have my gay friend who told me that I had a beautiful body and should show it off more.

These men I trusted. These men were not your stereo type at all. I hate (yes that is a very strong word but it is how I feel) being called sexy. When I am called that's I feel like an object. I feel the same way you feel. Am I being mentally undressed? What are these men thinking about? I wish I could cover myself up better. Even when talking to my bishop I feel self conscious about the size of my breasts and that the average shirt shows off my cleavage all to well.

I guess my point is that you are not alone in these feelings. I have not been through anything like you have and don't always like my curves. I teach my children to respect women and when my son comes home from school with a new crush I ask him what is it about her that makes you like her. Of course he starts with her looks and then I ask but what about her personality? Is she a nice girl? What are her grades like? What are her friends like? He has started to look at these other things before deciding if the girl is a worthy crush now and not just at the looks. It was a proud mama moment when things started to change in him.

I also think that history has a lot to do with the 7 second statistic. Men were kind of expected to be players. It was how men were. Even the great leaders of our country found it hard to be faithful to one woman. But if a woman behaved that she is a slut. We are also taught in movies and even some great literature that the best way to get what you want is to flaunt what you have.

I believe that society has given us this stereo type that woman should be sexual creatures for the pleasure of men when in fact the good men are not attracted to just looks. Yes looks start the process of attraction but it takes more to keep the attraction alive.

Having gone through traumatic events concerning your own physical appearance it is hard to find the line between beauty and sexy. But look at art, for example. Were men and women sculpted naked because it was sexy? No, it is because the human body is a beautiful thing. And anyone that finds these classic works of art offensive or sexual are the ones that have had their minds warped by society and the few men and women that have a problem with porn. It is not your fault that you are a woman I say embrace it. Teach your daughters that they are beautiful not sexy. Teach them to look for men like their daddy. Teach them to embrace being a woman and because of that they get the chance to prove that you don't have to show skin or flaunt your curves to make it in the world. You have the power and personal knowledge of both sides of the coin. Use it to create a better life for future generations.

Nicole said...

I love that you're talking about this. Surely, a lot of your insecurities (or distrust) come from your experiences with your first husband, but also..you're not alone. I have not had the same experiences as you, but I find myself wondering if I'm *allowed* to feel sexy. Even with my husband. There's so many mixed messages! Like you, I'd like to be a private woman. I don't like getting hit on. Ever. I'd like to be seen by others as classy, but not sexy (and let's be honest...I wear a lot of sweats and t shirts, so the classy thing is not really goin on anyway).

I wanted to marry someone who was athletic and liked sports (but not above other things), so it's interesting to hear other people's lists of desirable traits. He's also very tender and not at all domineering, but I like that he has abilities athletically (I do not). He doesn't talk though. Ever. That's hard sometimes...but he's got his own history that I will never fully understand. BUT!! EVERYone's name is safe with him. With the no talking thing comes utter and complete respect of other people. He does not even approach gossip. And as a talker...I confess that often conversation turns to others...not with malicious intent, but it does go to places that aren't my business.

But back to sexiness...we get a lot of mixed messages. According to society's standards I am not sexy. And then when it comes to the long taught ideals of chastity within the church, it's hard to shake that, even when you're married. At least for me it is. Am I just implementing what society deems sexy? Tapping into natural man feelings is very hard for me and feels very wong at times and very sacred at others...so there's that.

I'm just grateful to be married to someone who openly expresses his attraction to me. And even more so when I DO dress modest and classy. He has no expectations for me to meet some societal standard.

But insecurities...those are hard to pinpoint and overcome.

There is another topic I'd love your input on...but I won't hijack your thread. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Nicole said...

And ps...it's funny after my previous comment, but I find myself wanting to tell you to relish your curves and be proud of your body that is growing life! To own femininity and to be confident in it! Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. But so is just plain old womanhood.

Sarah Dunster said...

It's funny how different women struggle with different aspects of this. I think for me, the only reason I need to fix it, and ask for input, is because it actually makes it very hard for me to trust people who are actually nice, which affects my ability to function in a community, a ward, a town. I'm trying hard to make friends & coming up against some of the barriers I have, trusting people. Another trigger for me is when people talk about each other in my presences (especially negatively). I have some triggers. Unfortunately one of them's just a blanket trigger... "men." But there's lots of them walking around, and I ought to be friends with them. I think most, what I need to hear, is what (many, on the blog, in private message, and here) have said... the number of men who use women in the way I worry about is small. Many more men wouldn't feel that way, and I need to trust that. I just needed to hear that from a few people before I forced myself to fall backwards into that trust. SO... thank you.

Daniel, your post brought tears to my eyes. I need to hear that. Thanks for saying that.

Carolyn, I agree that teenage boys can have expectations... I will be teaching my daughters carefully so they also can put up good boundaries, but they know why--it's not because all boys are bad and their bodies are weapons, it's because some boys just don't understand what it's all for, and the drive can be powerful at times.

Ryan, thank you also. Hearing that from men (particularly you, who work with a lot of people) really helps. I just feel like I am in the dark about this... I've never really heard what men think because I have had few of them in my life, and the ones I've had aren't "typical" men, and also don't talk a lot about things.

Anonymous-- I am sorry you went through that. It is very difficult to not feel like an object, or a "weapon" when someone you love is struggling with that. I'm glad you have gained some perspective and healing.

Nicole-- it is so true that it's hard to know what's OK to be and feel in marriage. I'm guessing most people find you very beautiful (knowing you.) I'm not sure what "sexy" really means. Operationally defined by society it means a few things, but how important, in the end, are those things to men? I think that for a lot of men, "sexy" is an offshoot of "you're beautiful and I love you." For a few men, it's very operational and they're looking for a certain product. (I hope. Based on stuff gleaned from this very conversation).

Sarah Dunster said...

... clarify, I haven't had men who talk a lot about things in my formative years. Now I do, thus, figuring stuff out :)