I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time and it is such a complex issue, that I can only touch upon certain aspects that would certainly deserve a discussion of their own. But this article is less about an analysis of the current situation than about finding a way for something new and more healthy.
For the relationship between men and women was always considered a particularly tricky affair. Already the ancient Greeks had a theatrical play, a comedy even about men and women, sex and power: Lysistra. And still we have ever more literature and films about this that never fall short of their entertainment value and also actual events – that may be less entertaining but occupy a lot of people´s minds.
The latest expression of this is the present #metoo movement – that is currently evoking a ton of international confessions – by more or less well known women or men, who suffered more or less molestation by men in superior positions of power, but occasionally also profited from it… And confessions by men who more or less ruefully admit to their violation of boundaries but partly also feel like the victim.
We need to become aware of this
Of course it´s great that this is gaining strength in the public awareness: that there obviously is a massive problem in a healthy togetherness of men and women and certainly not just since the American film producer Harvey Weinstein was publicly apprehended because he treats young women less like humans but like candy to which he is entitled. And he certainly isn´t the first who made the headlines – only currently one of the most well known. But this is regularly news: the French politician Dominik Strauß-Kahn and former US president Bill Clinton and in Germany – not quite as internationally famous – the FDP politician Rainer Brüderle in 2013 and the latest example: the famous US actor Kevin Spacey, who until now was considered publicly rather as unblemished.
A great wave of outrage is usually met by a smaller wave of remorsefulness (even though it seems to be growing every time) and public concern or even worry. Then the media and the minds calm down again – until the next ‘last straw’ or, as we say in German, the next time the barrel runs over. Whether this actually has consequences for the individual only the people involved know. It is possible that something will change for the producer and maybe even in the American film industry. But do laws and rules actually prevent people from not exploiting their positions of power? For that not only applies to men.
Power is being exploited
Gender studies revealed that this has not only been the case in our several thousand years of experienced patriarchy. Also the previous matriarchic times – though praised and glorified by many – had their shadow aspects and men suffered despite their physical superiority from their inferior status to women who exploited their power and rank. To be honest, we needn´t even look as far back in time as that: we also had women in power positions in our history that used it mercilessly to their advantage, also concerning men and sex: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Katharine the great of Russia etc. In brief: if certain women have the opportunity to do so, they take it…
Also acts of domestic violence are not only committed by men. Berlin has had a men´s shelter for quite a long time where men who suffer from violent wives can seek refuge. Furthermore it is well known by now that psychic and emotional violence may not always be quite as obvious but is just as traumatic as physical violence. And then there is also the tricky area where women in a seemingly inferior position put men intentionally or unintentionally in a difficult situation by accusing them of having been molested, even though it is actually not true. Careers and lives have also been destroyed by this.
A matter of integrity
To be honest, I actually think that rules might help occasionally but that they are not the solution to the actual problem: that humans who are in a superior position of power will not make use of this if they find somebody attractive and who may or actually not reciprocate their feelings and transgress into intimate areas. Shame, fear of bribery and frequently economic dependencies are powerful dynamics and no rule and no law can spare you the decision whether you choose your own integrity or the possible gain. Would I have had a ‘better’ career if I had accepted certain indecent offers at certain times? That´s actually quite likely. Would I be better off today? Certainly not on a soul level. And let´s not forget that there are still places and situations among mankind where it´s not a choice between selfrespect and selfbetrayal but life and death!
There are also cultural differences: Mediterranean women in Germany think something might be wrong with them at first because they hardly get any catcalls. North European women are flabbergasted how their fellow female passengers manage riding on the full busses in Rome. For if the bus is only mildly crowded you are groped by so many hands your own two are not enough to ward them off.
Fear and shame are omnipresent, the dark figures are high and the legal grey zone is huge: when is it flirtatious or a rude advance? When is an utterance a compliment or an insult? When it is intended or perceived as such? And then these many undefinable and unpleasant small things that only become a serious molestation in sum. We are all familiar with this: the welcoming kiss that is taking too long, the pushing of the abdomen against the other while what should only be a friendly hug…the hand that lingers a little too long on the back or slides too fast to the buttocks. That someone feels like a victim – whether justified or unjustified – cannot by changed by any rules.
Facing it together is wise
Just to prevent any misunderstandings: rape is not part of the grey zone – it is mostly a very clear act of violence that should be pursued. Not only for the sake of the victim, also the perpetrator can carry longterm damage – especially if he is ‘actually’ not the type and wonders his life long, why this had to happen to him ‘of all people’.
Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger are a woman and a man who describe their traumatic encounter that had a massive effect on both their lives in a book and a ted talk in a most touching way and also how they liberated themselves from the trauma and continue to do so. Of course this is an exception so far, but one that shows what´s possible if the people concerned accept their responsibility and strive for healing. In this case it was the young woman who sought out the man a few years after the rape. They had been a couple until the rape that then was the cause for their break-up. It is well known that in most cases victim and rapist knew each other and perhaps even loved another – that makes it all the more powerful if they support each other´s healing. But enough about this – you can easily find more online.
I actually want to go a step further in this article: for me the question arising is: what is actually at the root of this remarkably often dysfunctional relationship between men and women?
A disease of consciousness
I dare say we have a chronic collective flu of our consciousness. Some people suffer more from it than others. Some deal with chronic pains, others have gotten accustomed to a kind of ‘continous cold’, like you get used to a scar. It´s always there, causing – depending on the weather – sometimes major, sometimes minor irritation but there is nothing you can do about it and in general you manage your daily life, sometimes better, sometimes worse… Yet others get severely ill from it and even die on occasion. Only very few seem to be immune or managed to heal the disease completely and are profoundly healthy. This virus of consciousness is so familiar to us, that we consider its existence and the according pains for normal, actually part of health. While we consider its absence as highly abnormal and sometimes even as downright mad.
Our media are filled with this and contribute their share: the American writer Jordan Pargin, aka David Wong, editor in chief of the webzine Cracker described vividly how heroes embodied for example by ‘real guys’ like Sean Connery and Harrison Ford conquer their women usually against their will and finally with more or less violence. Once kissed the recalcitrant cat lets go of all her resistance and turns into a devotedly purring kitten in his strong arms. The dramatically effective game of predator and prey is certainly quite entertaining in a movie but has nothing to do of course with a respectful treatment of each other.
The erotic shadow
Nonetheless there is a primal dynamic at play that eroticizes men as well as women: I remember a study – it must have been in the late 1990ies, unfortunately I cannot find it anymore – that made a lasting impression on me. The study was how men and women treat each other after a fight. According to the results of the study, when a woman was winning over a man, she lost his erotic interest in him. But if he was the winner…it increased. Because he was stronger, he matched the primal instinct that a father has to be strong enough to protect his offspring. This overrules the feeling of integrity. Is that true?
I can only speak for myself and of course I think it´s wonderful when a man notices my vulnerability, honors it and is absolutely willing to protect me from verbal or physical violence…I consider it attractive and it intensifies my feelings for my own femininity. And then I´m happy to hold his beer and sometimes even give him a backrub later…
However when a man is trying to find protection by me, I become wary – my “Mommy-alarm-bell” goes off and I feel anything but sexy. I have also witnessed how women fought for their male partners in their presence and kind of defended their honor. Like certain mothers, who jump into the sandbox in the playground to help their children fight each other… This is partly amusing and partly strange: for everybody involved in such a situation is anything but adult or mature and are actually not interested in a sovereign resolution but in winning. But the victory can only lasts until the next challenge arises…
Is male violence always bad?
I frequently meet men who tell me that it´s the aspect of violence they particularly hate in men and consider rape the worst. They feel for the poor women and have nothing but contempt for men who commit such abominations. I easily label such statements without further discernment as “rather lamb than lion” and they make me, to be honest, somewhat aggressive. Of course I agree that rapes are an abomination – but concerned pity with the victims is hardly helpful. Courageous compassion would have more power. I would like men – if they ever get in such a situation – to courageously intercede… And if need is, even invest their physical strength. I like reminding man of this ilk that any fire fighter or surgeon has to apply violence to promote the wellbeing of others. And finally it is not only about offering women martial arts and self -defense classes, but to also teach men what consequences violence against women can have. Not only for the victim but for them too.
There is hardly an awareness in our culture and even less knowledge that there are massive and complex psycho-energetic repercussions for both. Not only bad karma, to say it spiritually offhandedly. To explain this in more detail would make this article too long, suffice it to say that this act of violence damages the subtle energetic structure of both in a lasting way. For it is an act of non-love and removes both further from love. It has an effect on every future encounter with another potential partner in love for example.
There is a lot of suffering
I believe in truth we all suffer far more from this than we are aware: the lack of healthy models of femininity and masculinity and a healthy relationship are far too few and the media thrive on the lack thereof and the search for it. For only very few people have a healthy awareness of their gender identity
I don´t know when this inflammation in humanity began, what virus may have caused it. But it´s a fact that we have had it for a such a long time we consider it natural. And of course there were and are institutions and movements that profit extremely from this inflammation and therefore have no interest in having it ever healed. Quite the contrary, like most of the churches and religions, the military, the economy, fascism and many others. As a matter of fact they promote the incurability.
So generation by generation people accept all the convictions that are considered wisdom that love is not possible without suffering, that men and women will never get along, the “battle of the sexes” is a set phrase, the divorce rates increase continuously and have only become less in Germany because less people got married in the first place and so there are less marriages to divorce. The trust in marriage has sunk continuously and never have there been more singles in our culture – and that without a war that could have eliminated potential marriage partners.
Many factors feed the inflammation
Talking of war, that also has a major effect on the imbalanced attitude of the genders toward each other. It can be said that generally women can develop a hatred towards men for generations because they blame the responsibility for making war on them. For these lead to the deaths of the fathers, husbands, brothers and sons and they felt abandoned with the younger children and running the homes. Or sometimes the husbands and fathers came back so traumatized that the relationship was more painful than anything else. That is also often the root of an inherited disdain for men and wariness that you cannot really rely on them… Men on the other hand can feel a certain lack of respect and appreciation for generations, because women won´t honor the great sacrifice they made or risk they took in the wars in order to protect them, their children and their home country. They were willing to give their lives for the protection of the family. That these sacrifices wouldn´t have been necessary if there had been no wars at alll sometimes leads to a general hatred of mankind and being human on both sides.
Besides the collective and inherited imprints this is further supplemented by family trauma that have an effect on our subconscious behavior: perhaps the great grandmother was raped, maybe the grandmother frequently betrayed her husband, maybe the great uncle had to witness the rape of his mother, maybe the grandfather hit his children, just like he was hit himself…whatever. But many are not even aware of their subconscious programs may they be self created or transmitted. They are then amazed when they realize – as is so very often the case in my sessions – that a certain problem can be based in either a hatred for women, for men or both that of course severly damages the sense of our self worth.
A damaged self worth
This applies to men and women of all ages. But we are all responsible for how we feel and act – no matter from which area in our consciousness the behavior is driven and are called on that by others. Only very few are always aware of what they´re doing and where a feeling originated and have the sovereignty to deal with an inappropriate situation in an appropriate way: i.e. during the group photo shoot while smiling into the camera in front, an unwelcome hand is suddenly placed on a woman´s buttocks, or standing at a funeral a young man gets pinched in his behind… And if alcohol and drugs are involved it´s even more difficult. And then there are the certain specimen of our species that can ruin the reputation of their fellows in gender: the complete stranger who set down next to me in the subway and after two stations suddenly wrapped his arm around me and lecherously drew me towards himself, breathing into my neck or the young woman in a tight black leather skirt and semi-transparent lace top who is then surprised if she receives not only one smack on her behind in the bar. She can certainly wear whatever she wants and yes of course it´s not an invitation to treat someone in a vulgar way just because her clothing style is vulgar. I also don´t pull out the matches when I see a fire fighter or show my latest scar when I encounter a doctor… Alas, we´re not always master or mistress of our senses and so faux pas occur – independent from age, level of education or culture. It is human and only turns bad if you don´t accept the responsibility for your faux pas. The rogue and the gentleman can go together, just like the hussy and the lady. They are even considered attractive combinations and are actually not all that rare.
But if the other is blamed for the faux pas than you´re back in the victim-perpetrator dynamic and that ruins it for everybody and yes, minors in contact with adults are a bit of a different issue.
However one thing is clear when subconscious victim encounters subconscious perpetrator and they then blame each other for whatever happened and are not willing to deal with it consciously and constructively it gets worse and worse and draws ever more people into this malevolent maelstrom. Only very few of us can currently deal so sovereignly with members of the other sex in situation when attraction isn´t mutual and the assault comes as a surprise (Women: you know exactly what I mean, men: ask the next woman you meet, what I mean) that no grudge, prejudice, insult and disregard and sometimes even hatred and violence will ensue.
All of us still have a lot to learn and more important than the many causes of the consciousness inflammation is the question whether its curable.
Can we ever heal from it?
Do we actually stand a chance to ever get out of this mined territory? And if so, how? Where are models of a healthy treatment of men and women to be encountered that can offer orientation? Where can people feel so safe that they can dare to react honestly? Where they can come to terms with the shocking or traumatic experience with kind help and don´t have to fear some kind of humiliation or have to be ashamed for long time? Where everybody is finally so aware and conscious that these violations of boundaries vanish all by themselves eventually?
The western cultures consider themselves so highly advanced because violence against fellow human beings, also inside a marriage is considered illegal and women are free to choose their profession and are even allowed to vote…but we are still far from a relaxed mode of equality or even justice.
Is that even conceivable? This question has been on my mind for so long time that I asked the spirit realm with the help of a psychic in 2005 if there had ever been a time in the history of mankind where men and women were NOT engaged in a power struggle? The answer was that yes, there were times in Atlantis and Lemura…about 20.000 years ago… I was shocked that it was so very long ago…but grateful that it has existed at all. That means we have it somewhere in the databank of our consciousness and can draw upon it, if we do things right…
Since then I´ve been collecting what might help us to get there again. Hopefully it won´t take us as long as deviating from it. I believe it lies in our own hands.
It is up to us
We have to practice caring and conscious consent with each other and teach that to our sons and daughters, even if it is difficult and thereby prevent all the many misunderstandings that are often at the root of what then leads to more or less unforgivable events. We have to learn to forgive – the other as well as ourselves: for it is important to face your own part in the occurred experience. Then we have to accept responsibility for our behavior, allow for compassion and finally let go of the event.
We have to be aware of the fact that indeed each of us is responsible for our part of an unfortunate experience but that many things can lead up to such a situation and that all of us are responsible to change these or rather constructively change the way they´re dealt with. For instance in the families where the physical exchange of love between the parents has grown cold and they demand a little too much warmth and touching from their children; fathers who kiss their daughters on their mouths, mothers who cry on the shoulders of their sons… or help couples who want to end their relationship to do it in such a way that it will not stop them from having a new relationship or will have a negative effect on it – for instance by taking subconscious revenge on the new partner for what the previous partner did to them.
Time to get rid of the victim-perpetrator dynamic
We truly have to be aware that there is not perpetrator that is not actually acting from a place of hurt – consciously or subconsciously – and therefore was actually a victim at some point and that every victim that refuses to face the experienced powerlessness and hurt carries the potential to ultimately also become a perpetrator – maybe in a moment when he or she thinks it the most unlikely… For many humans do such things, they ‘actually’ didn´t ever want to do…
Furthermore it is important to measure your own behavior against your own standards: was it kind, loving life affirming? Was it supposed to be and if not, why not? And also not to make the negative behavior of others the standard or even use it as a justification. Children do that, they say “X started it first…And if Y got away with it, I might at least try how far I get…” A healthy adult tries to find healthy fulfillment of his needs without disregarding the needs of others.
The key is the conscious dealing with it, to increasingly clean up your own subconscious…to free yourself from all the old imprints and the unredeemed shadows. To transform those aspects within us we´d rather hide from others and yet they come through and usually in an unpleasant way: i.e. jealousy, envy, revenge etc. Very often something positive is hidden within them.
Only if we are willing to accept that we are also responsible for our shadows and their transformation the application of the famous golden rule “Treat others as you want to be treated by them.” can really unfold it´s love promoting effects. For otherwise we do to others – driven by a subconscious program – things that we wouldn´t want to actually experience in good sense and at daylight…but if we have an aspect that has a subconscious need for being hurt things can take a different course.
Collect good experience
Occasionally Tantra workshops can offer positive experience. And no, frequent prejudice (Sex orgies! Promiscuity! Drugs!) are truly not valid. My first Tantra workshop was a revelation to me and the most wonderful experience of a social encounter of men and women until then. Relaxed body contact was possible without ever turning into any kind of assault. The degree of tenderness and intimacy was mutually agreed upon. Men as well as women felt welcome, accepted, attractive and respected just the way they were…
However I was to discover that this applies to only very few Tantra workshops, preferably to those offered by teachers with a high level of integrity. Otherwise there is a raging monster of neediness present and not everybody has the willingness to feed the often massive hunger for body contact or more in the other in a generous way. Then misunderstandings and transgressions occur often that reduce the pleasure of the whole event.
Yet I learned a lot about men and women at Tantra workshops and also, how we underrate the importance of the body. It is truly not only about sex. Children´s psychologists say that a healthy child should be hugged 14 times a day at least… However many didn´t experience that as children and when they live as a grown-up single person the physical loneliness can be become a bigger issue than they care to admit. No wonder that snuggle groups have become popular since the turn of the millennium and there are very clear rules: if you grope instead of cuddle – you get kicked out.
Other countries, other customs
There are actually countries where certain things function better than in our continuously considered superior Western culture. Eight years ago, I was during a trip to the Arab Emirates how much I was at ease there as a woman. Of course I had all the knowledge about the ever inferior and powerless position of women within Islam in mind and also adjusted myself to the local customs: long skirts and sleeves and an occasional headscarf. But what astonished me was that most of the Arab men met me with a respect and an awe that I had never experienced anywhere before. For the first time in my life – at age 43 – I got a feeling that being a woman is something precious and my respect for these mostly very polite, considerate and respectful men grew. That was apparently the ‘light side’ of Islam. So far I had only known about the dark side, that women are considered less than men… But that is not quite that simple. If we are honest there is a dark side to Christianity too, that peaked during the times of the witch hunts and to this day we have dutiful Christians who, when falling for a woman or even become violent towards her consider themselves the victim of her devilish charm, who may have employed something as sinful as high heels, a low neckline and a seductive perfume…just to tease them and ultimately disempower them. So all kinds of distortions in various variations.
The key to the solution
Obviously we are currently dealing not only with an occasional personal issue but it is fundamentally social and even collective, transcending generations and cultures. However the solution is only possible individually.
The ultimate goal must be the healing of your personal self-worth by reflecting your behavior and making the according changes. This includes looking at your own wounds with compassion and to transform them so that they don´t any longer have a destructive effect on the way you act. We all have to learn that and teach it to our children. This will take time. But observing your own behavior will show you where your wounds that need healing are. Each one of us is called to make sure that we are more aware of how we behave and act. Just looking at it occasionally, reflection and a conscious change of how you act can lead to an improvement for yourself and everyone you come in contact with. If you cannot move ahead by yourself, you may know people whom you trust to discuss it together. Furthermore there are books and courses and if you want even stronger support there are therapists and coaches and counsellors who also offer useful help. There are many possibilities.
Furthermore its worthwhile to be aware of how you want to be treated as a man or a woman? Old behavioural patterns that are usually based on models and examples from the family, the culture and ideological concepts may need careful revision. Are they still proving to be helpful to you and what you´d like to achieve? There are already many wise people in our culture who discuss this vividly in public articles, talks, books and many discussions online and ask the question: Page or Knight? Maid or Mistress? Prince or King? Princess or Queen.
If you free yourself, you free others
With every positive change, with the growing realization that you are increasingly less the slave of your own unresolved issues, you become more free and more aware of how you treat yourself and others. IF you truly accept, honor and appreciate yourself – even love yourself, then you have no need to improve on this healthy self-worth by humiliating or abusing a fellow being or enjoys inflicting pain on others. Then you can meet others at eye´s level, appreciative and aware of boundaries and possibly even find a good solution together. Then there is no need for the painful polarization of victim and perpetrator to even emerge.
But each and every one of us is responsible for our own self worth, also in regard to our gender identity and possible role in society. No laws and punishments can help with that. This means working on your growth in consciousness. We all have to do that ourselves and ought to encourage each other… If everybody truly did that our world could become very different very soon. Even if many will shrug it off or downright refuse it this very necessary development will only be slowed down. For there are more and more people doing it already. The more people realize this and start joining them, the faster and comprehensively this inflammation of consciousness can be healed – human by human – for the wellbeing of all.