By Mileyda Menéndez, Mairim Silva and Psychology student Victor M. Velázquez.
Case one: «My girlfriend is very… outgoing, you know what I mean? She speaks with anyone, even if it’s someone she’s just met. She’s really cheerful, loves dancing and, pretty as she is, hip clothes really become her. Too much, I would say…
«Of course she was no different
when we met! That’s why I liked her and fell in love with her in no time. But
now she’s with me and must do what I say. Sort of to get her in the habit for
when we get married».
Case two: «Why am I divorcing…? Because I can’t stand the sour look on her face all day long! Well, she’s always been a jealous woman… at first I thought it was par for the course: she loved me and couldn’t live without me. But now she’s gone too far, getting jealous of my own family!
«Can you imagine, she doesn’t want me to kiss anybody hello. I’m not supposed to even look at previous couples, much less talk to another woman in the street. I’m a technical school professor, and you should see the fuss she makes about my girl students, it’s terrible. I’ve told her over and over again that I was like that when we met… Why do I have to change just to please her?».
A VICIOUS CIRCLE
Many couples have a difficult relation in which either resorts to violence in order to overshadow the other’s personality. Like when you buy a vase and discard the flower later on.
This phenomenon surfaces to no end in the messages to our editor, and as frequently in courts of law where men and women end up to get a divorce on grounds of «incompatibility», not because their love simply faded: it was suffocated, and even beaten to death, by one of the parties.
CENESEX specialist Ileana Artiles refers to this «circle of violence» as a months- or years-long stage many couples go through –and fail to find a solution for– in successive of crisis, promises to change, reconciliation and new crises.
Although the symptoms are usually more noticeable after they tie the knot –given that one of them believes to be the owner of the other as a result– they become known during courtship. Then why keep at it and even go formal?
In the expert’s opinion, the answer can be found in another process that scientific literature thoroughly documents: infatuation, a commonplace occurrence in the first phase of attraction.
«Love, as any other feeling, doesn’t come out of a clear sky, you have to build it up. No one falls in love since day one: you feel attracted to someone you like and embark on this enchantment journey where you only have eyes for that person’s bright side, to the point that even his or her faults look funny.
«After that comes routine, and that’s when the differences, doubts and insecurities arise in the mind of those who fear their realm will crumble and think of violent prohibitions and demands as the only way to preserve it».
According to a number of interviewees –and as confirmed by the expert– sometimes the initial charm itself paves the way for discord. Seeing that their couple feels as much at ease among other people as they did before the union, some subjects think to be loosing their grip on them. Therefore, they suffer… and make the other suffer too.
FOR BETTER OR FOR… VIOLENCE
To cap it all, we’ve been raised to «permit» a sense of possessiveness that we justify by saying things like «love and jealousy go hand in hand», or worse, «you have to be cruel to be kind», applied first to one’s own family of origin, later on to one’s partner, and eventually to the family we create.
As we explained in the first part of this article, our home plays a key role in shaping up our behavior. Growing up in an atmosphere where violence is an everyday occurrence molds your conduct around those «lessons» and act accordingly.
Likewise, those in the receiving end are incapable of facing up injustice, either because they are unaware that men and women alike have the same rights or due to their low self-esteem, even for fear of losing their partner.
Others are afraid that their partner will take reprisals if told about any intention to break up, which is but another form of intimidation or submission, a rather old-fashioned resource to succeed at keeping the couple intact but still seen among couples, whether married or still dating.
For all her young age, Leyanis Ríos, from Holguín province, assures she would never put up with something like that, no matter how much love she may feel or how sure she may be that he’s the best man in the world.
«When my friends accept being ordered not to wear a certain piece of clothe or have to ask their boyfriend for ‘permission’ to keep practicing the sports they like, they are lowering themselves, and just as much if they’re the ones who make a scene out of jealousy».
CHEMISTRY OR LACK OF CONTROL?
Tradition has it that power in a relationship is usually held by the man. From a physiological viewpoint, they tend to be more aggressive than women, partly because they produce 20 times more testosterone, the hormone responsible for sexual desire –and violence.
However, human behavior is not subject only to chemical activity. To that effect, there’s a superior mind-controlling capacity that rules over our inborn conduct and impulses.
We all have a conscience in charge of understanding concepts, work with abstractions and define our activity to satisfy our short- and long-term needs. That’s what makes us human and capable of discerning what’s right or wrong.
Our physiological condition is no excuse for charging at those we are supposed to love, whether physically or verbally. When we really love someone an aggression is out of the question; otherwise the relation is not based upon two-way feelings but rather on a condition of possessive convenience fueled perhaps by sexual or other interests. Ileana remarks that nothing can be taken for granted: «Psychological, and even physical violence, is exerted by both males and females, though the tables can be turned on either at a later stage.
«It’s closely related to the sex-gender system, to manhood and womanhood development, to every individual’s personal experience».
Truth is, no one should feel entitled to own anyone else. A relationship must rely on the union of two parties committed to and essentially identified with each other, bonded by their mutual attraction and the most overwhelming feeling a human being can harbor: love.
There are tools to do away with that cycle of violence without breaking up as long as everything is approached with maturity, the expert says.
«Once the problem is pinned down, the most important thing is to talk about it, come to an agreement with your partner, have a discussion about the objective situation and exchange insights about each member’s subjective perception of the problem.
«Yet, they must talk in first person –‘I want this, I wish that, I like to do certain things you might not like but must respect…’. So much so if the relationship has just begun. Both members must clearly voice their feelings and concerns, which calls for assertiveness development and self-esteem improvement.
If need be, they can take counsel with an expert from a public health entity or at the municipal Woman and Family Guidance Center, even at CENESEX itself.
Seeing a psychiatrist means your crazy no more than having therapy means you’re sexually dysfunctional. Expert counsel and guidance for cases that involve coexistence and daily life are always available.
May this view be as understandable to every young man and woman as it is to Leyanis: «I’d rather wait for a boy who thinks like I do, who respects me and himself. Happiness must not depend on suspicion, prohibition or the fear of being beaten: it’s absurd to overpower the person you can love and grow with».
Many men who mistreat women did the same things to animals at some point in their life, usually as children, as part of the «man-woman-child-nature» chain of violence, according to studies in several countries.
Cause-and-effect analyses of all kinds of aggressive attitudes, especially gender violence, as well as forms of socially learned discrimination against women, the formation of masculine identity, the promotion of a process of changes in face of such behaviors… These were some of the topics addressed in the Workshop on Masculinity held this week at CENESEX (National Sex Education Center) within the framework of the World Campaign for Non-Violence from November 25 to December 10.
The workshop was conducted by Johnny Jiménez, a Nicaraguan social worker and member of his country’s Society of Men Against Violence, and its executive coordinator, Xavier Muñoz.
Getting men to change their violence-triggering macho attitudes is one of this project’s main goals, well on its way to be part of a Central American and Caribbean network that Cuba expects to join as part of its efforts to fight this scourge of humanity.
(Marilim Silva Rodríguez)
Ask Up Front
Y.E: When I have sex I feel desire and I lubricate, but as soon as I wonder if I’ll have an orgasm I stop feeling, even when I get oral sex. I’ve never felt that wonderful ‘something’ my friends talk about. Fake is all I do, and that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend. I guess I’m frigid. I had never told anyone for fear of not being understood. I’d like to tell my best friend, but maybe she won’t buy it ‘cause I always speak as if I had sex regularly. I really need to know whether there’s a solution for my case, whether it’s a psychological condition or something else. I’m open to suggestions, but I wouldn’t like my partner to know that I fake.
There may be a solution, but it entails something more than just talking about the problem. You must change your attitude about relationships. If you feel you’re not making any progress, then seek psychological counsel.
You say you have desires and enjoy being touched (which doesn’t sound like frigidity to me). It only remains for you to let yourself be carried away by the experience instead of putting a stop to it with thoughts of your orgasm –or lack thereof– and thus give up a leading role to take a seat in the audience. Pleasure fades, and you could take your time and lure it back, yet you prefer to pretend.
Contradictory though it may sound, you have to stop waiting for an orgasm that you decide to fake the moment you think it’s taking too long. The more you fake it, the more you scare it away. Orgasms see it fit to come without warning, their only condition the erotic enjoyment leading up to intoxicating delight.
Still, you fear to be misunderstood by a boyfriend, a friend or a professional. If you try to show yourself the way you’re expected to, you will probably push your well-being, and your orgasms, even farther away. It’s common for a woman to build up an image that men find arousing and exciting, and she makes it stronger sometimes by faking an enjoyment they’re far from feeling and demanding less from a man. Actually, you don’t need to, since you can stir someone’s desire and feel your own, and please that person and ask to be pleased, all at once. It may be hard at first, but very rewarding when accomplished.
(Mariela Rodríguez Méndez, Master in Clinical Psychology and Advisor on STDs and HIV/AIDS)
Analizar causas y efectos de todo tipo de manifestaciones agresivas, y en especial las de género, así como la discriminación hacia la mujer aprendida socialmente, la formación de la identidad masculina y la promoción de un proceso de cambio ante estos comportamientos, fueron algunos de los temas debatidos en el Taller de Masculinidad, desarrollado esta semana en el Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX) como parte de la Jornada mundial por la No Violencia, que se extiende desde hoy hasta el próximo 10 de diciembre.
El taller fue impartido por Johnny Jiménez, trabajador social nicaragüense y miembro de la Asociación de Hombres Contra la Violencia en Nicaragua, y Xavier Muñoz, coordinador ejecutivo de dicha Asociación.
Lograr que los hombres
cambien aquellas actitudes machistas que desencadenan la violencia constituye
una de las principales expectativas de este proyecto, encaminado a formar una
red centroamericana y del Caribe, a la que Cuba pretende sumarse como parte de
los proyectos desarrollados en la lucha contra este flagelo de la humanidad.