Monday, June 23, 2014

Why I Called My Memoir Love Shy

Picture:  Tambako the Jaguar
My memoir, which I first self-published back in 2012, is called Love Shy. As a confirmed commitment phobe I only settled on this title after going through a string of others, starting with the first one, Splitting.

I settled on Love Shy because it suggests my main disorders while acknowledging that there was a familial and psychological aspect to my illness, a basic problem with the formation of self – it wasn’t a case of a fully formed ego being hit by a breakdown out of the blue, which is how mental illness is sometimes represented in memoir.

But the term 'love shy' is now mired in controversy and I feel the need to explain why I used it.

Love Shy is the name of a forum, now notorious, that is the voice of the Incel community – a group of primarily men who are, to put it primly, unable to ‘get any’. Incel stands for involuntary celibacy. These are men who try their luck with women, and get nowhere.

The forum received worldwide attention following the horror of the Elliot Rodgers mass murder in Isla Vista, California. Not that he was on that forum as far as I’m aware, but there is a strong anti-feminist movement associated with particular Reddit groups that some men on the Love Shy forum subscribe to. Before the shooting spree that he carried out on 23 May, Rodgers had aired his revenge manifesto in a chilling video. In the video he expressed disdain for the women who had rejected him sexually over the years, and his intention to punish both them and the sexually active men whom he despised.

The misogyny of Rodgers’s thinking would have fitted in perfectly with those of many on the Incel forum. (Which is not to say the Incel community are potential mass murderers – in the light of the murders the internet exploded with debate between those blaming the murders on mental illness and those pinpointing the structural misogyny that made Rodgers’s views mainstream thinking. It’s worth mentioning that Rodgers killed five men, including himself, and two women.)

I’d looked at the Love Shy forum before the Rodgers murders, of course, but not analysed it in any depth. The forum seems to equate love shyness with involuntary celibacy. But my own definition of love shyness is the opposite of involuntary celibacy. The difficulty in making a distinction between the two terms indicates the difference between the unconscious and the conscious minds.

My memoir details how I ran away from love and emotional involvement. It’s not that I didn’t have opportunities – of course I did. And if asked at the time I would have said that of course I wanted a relationship. But I had a phobia about love and sex, so everything I did ensured that I obtained neither. The unconscious forces within me were stronger than my conscious wishes.

Committed relationships are quite different from casual sex. In fact as a young person I was very phobic about the latter too. There was an inner saboteur (which my psyche saw as a protector) that kept me away from both love and most sex.

Those who grew up with the internet won’t understand how much harder it was then to negotiate sex in real time, without the mediation of electronic devices to let one’s wishes be known at one remove. Before the rise of the internet, when you had to have some social confidence to negotiate casual sex, involuntary celibacy was the consequence of love shyness but for me they were not the same thing.

For me, the internet made it easy to get around that saboteur because meet-ups could be neatly arranged. I can now cope with the anxiety around casual encounters, although I’ve pretty much lost interest in them for various reasons. But the internet didn’t change the fundamental problem. Nevertheless I became more open over the years, and have begun to believe that fate itself has played a role in my more recent lack of long-term relationships. I had rejected the major loves of my life over a period of years and before the advent of the internet as dating platform. Perhaps these earlier rejections of love have created such bad karma that, willing or not, real relationships do not come my way.

As I've said, I found the internet amenable to ‘hooking up’ – although unless you’re at any age where a large pool of your peers are unattached, actually finding suitable candidates for even casual encounters is not that easy. But what I realised from these experiences, as well as countless celibate ‘pre-dates’ with both men and women, is that whether you find a relationship or not is ultimately out of your control. Sure, you can increase your chances by frequent dating, joining interest or hobby groups and pursuing ‘personal growth’ (using your intuition to avoid time-wasting and dangerous situations) but, at the risk of sounding hippy-dippy, it’s really up to the universe.

My date-to-relationship ratio has been about 60:0 (this excludes casual short term relationships). Sex may seem available at the drop of a hat, but bad casual sex can actually reduce your chances of a future relationship because not only will you will need time to emotionally process the negative experiences, but they could damage your level of trust in the future. Which is not to say all casual sex is bad of course – intuition is the key here.

Some people are simply frightened of their own inexperience, or just very shy, and have been able to use the medium of the internet to start off with casual sex and then move onto relationships once they got the chance, without having any deep-seated fear of involvement. Good luck to them.

It may even be true what the male incels say about women – that most can get sex if they really want it and therefore can’t rightly be called incel.

But to my mind a phobic fear of love, intimacy and the often wordless courtship rituals that surround those things is not the same as the fear of casual sex, a fear that may be more controllable now that sex can be neatly arranged beforehand via dating sites, email and texting.

Despite what some incel men believe, it’s therefore quite possible that there are love shy women out there (using my definition)  who can get casual sex if they want to, but flee potential relationships – not that I think my level of phobia was or is very common.

I doubt very much whether most of the men on the Love Shy forum have the kind of problem that plagued me. They seem to be willing to approach women, and to ask for what they want. In their own narratives, they just keep getting rejected. Instead of thinking their own approach might be the problem they therefore conclude that women are castrating bitches.

But in a great irony, this is itself a form of self-sabotage. Patriarchy is a psychological construct and never just a social one, but male power is contested these days. Patriarchal masculinity and its manifestations, ranging from old-fashioned views on rape to the extremities of domestic violence, are often evidence of crippling psychic terrors to do with fear of abandonment and fear of female sexual power that are beyond my powers of analysis (and may also be related to early trauma).

Clearly it is not just the misogynistic views of these men but the psychic defences that underpin them that are the problem.

So perhaps these men are in fact closer to me than I would like to think, to the extent that both they and I employ psychic defence mechanisms (albeit very different ones).

Patriarchal machismo is a powerful psychic defence – but this is not immediately clear because in so many circumstances it is socially sanctioned.

The more embittered men on the Love Shy forum might do well to go into therapy with qualified psychologists who could help them to challenge their fears of genuine involvement with, and commitment to, people of the opposite gender – as well as the distorted ideas about women they have picked up.

As for me I can rail against fate all I like but the fact is that what we have done in the past always affects the present. My rejections of love have helped make me the person I am today. Being in Grow has enabled me to adopt a more philosophical approach to life, and to accept that if I follow my path I’ll be okay. But my past actions with significant others continue to haunt me.

Love Shy: a Memoir of Social and Sexual Terror is available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon. It's available on  the UK Amazon site here and on the Australian or US Amazon site here.

4 comments:

  1. OK - a post I will respond to this weekend :)

    Kate

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    Replies
    1. THE MIGHTY SPELL CASTER THAT HELPED ME SOLVED MY URGENT CRITICAL RELATIONSHIP PROBLEM.
      I dont know how to really thank Dr. Keke Odin for what he did for me. My Name is Anita Kelly from Los Angeles, i was dating this man who i loved very much for over four years now without any problem in our relationship. so at a point he changed so suddenly after returning from the office and started behaving so strangely. it even got to the extent that he told me it was over and i should never call him again. This was a person that loved me with everything that he had. When i told my friend jenny what happened, she introduced me to a great spell caster called DR KEKE ODIN, the chief priest of all spell caster. At first sight this man told me all my problems that it was his secretary that used a charm on him. Dr KEKE ODIN told me not to worry that he will help me solve the problem. The following day, i was in the house in a sober mood when i first received a message from my boyfriend that he was very sorry and before i dropped the phone, he called me again to say he is on his way home and that he was truly sorry for everything. To my greatest surprise, one week later he engaged me and we got married. All Thanks to KEKE ODIN. You can contact him through the following means

      Email: greatkekespelltemple@gmail.com

      Mobile Number: +1 386-336-9876

      website: http://greatkekespelltemple01.webs.com



      THE MIGHTY SPELL CASTER THAT HELPED ME SOLVED MY URGENT CRITICAL RELATIONSHIP PROBLEM.
      I dont know how to really thank Dr. Keke Odin for what he did for me. My Name is Anita Kelly from Los Angeles, i was dating this man who i loved very much for over four years now without any problem in our relationship. so at a point he changed so suddenly after returning from the office and started behaving so strangely. it even got to the extent that he told me it was over and i should never call him again. This was a person that loved me with everything that he had. When i told my friend jenny what happened, she introduced me to a great spell caster called DR KEKE ODIN, the chief priest of all spell caster. At first sight this man told me all my problems that it was his secretary that used a charm on him. Dr KEKE ODIN told me not to worry that he will help me solve the problem. The following day, i was in the house in a sober mood when i first received a message from my boyfriend that he was very sorry and before i dropped the phone, he called me again to say he is on his way home and that he was truly sorry for everything. To my greatest surprise, one week later he engaged me and we got married. All Thanks to KEKE ODIN. You can contact him through the following means

      Email: greatkekespelltemple@gmail.com

      Mobile Number: +1 386-336-9876

      website: http://greatkekespelltemple01.webs.com

      Delete
  2. Morning, Catherine,

    I think that there may be a very large "current sexual activity web" in which "voluntary celibacy" and "involuntary celibacy" are depicted, along with a host of other states and a complex web of individual-specific factors affecting where in the web one may lie at any point (as you suggest). Perhaps, there are, in total, as many "shades" of states as there are people?

    In many respects, I probably consider myself "love shy." Primarily, this is because I have always been disappointed by romantic relationships. I think that I have never learned how to best and authentically ask for / negotiate what I need/want. And, this affects me in all aspects of my life, not just in my romantic relationships (eg my work life is another primary example). Perhaps, nothing is more terrifying to me than asking another for what I want/need. I might know, on some level, that my request is more than reasonable; but, on another level, I doubt myself so deeply that I sabotage my request, and I become angry, resentful, powerless, anxious and depressed, as a result. It's not a pretty state, and its not the best platform from which to make future requests. So, I am aware of this little habit of mine, but struggling to make inroads into changing it ...

    Anyway, on with the day ... Have a good one there, Catherine!

    Kate






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  3. Hi Kate,

    Hmm - I'm now thinking that I've perhaps put all these men on the Love Shy forum into the same basket - there were some men on that forum who didn't sound misogynistic at all but the ones who were misogynist were so awful they seemed to drown the others out :)

    It's true, the net has enabled people to find and get support from others who match their specific situation when it comes to sex. Now I'm curious to check out the voluntary celibacy movement - perhaps I should join :)

    As your experiences suggest love shyness comes in many different forms. It's easy to assume that once anyone is in a relationship they are fine - but there are plenty of pitfalls after that - it's not so much either/or but a continuum. Don't give up the struggle - it's great that you're aware of the problem, it gives you a starting point to slowly challenge it!

    So it's a good thing that love shyness isn't a clinical term because it can mean lots of different things - and probably changes over time for each person.

    Cheers
    Catherine

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