Blog Post No. 141
By Dr Jim Byrne
Reposted on 31st May (Originally posted on 8th February 2016)
Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Duluth model, Domestic violence, Power and Sexism; and the problem of men and sex…
Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016
Although it is really hard to get around to writing blogs at the moment, largely because of the heavy workload on my new book, I feel a strong urge to try to keep up the momentum of my consideration of the Duluth project on Domestic Violence; and how it is linked to wider issues of human relations. As I began to think about what I could write today, some very interesting connections appeared in my mind – after a long walk in Hardcastle Crags with my wonderful wife!
The Duluth model
There is quite a lot of material on the internet about the Duluth model. And I was glad to see that it does take very seriously the social influences on both parties in an abusive relationship; and the historical nature of the problem of domestic violence and emotional abuse.
The Duluth project established as a first principle the need for a consistent response to domestic violence from all social agencies, including: using the police in a zero tolerance process; and giving the police a consistent strategy and belief system about the problem. This results in a coordinated law enforcement and community response.
The next element, in my reading of the process, is to find a way to help her (the female victim) to liberate herself (and to stop taking on the perspective of the [male] oppressor). And this is where the process becomes problematical for me: because in the UK, fully one-third of victims of domestic violence and abuse are male! Men! Not ‘her’s, but ‘him’s! And these people, these victims of violence and abuse, should not be dropped from the description of the process. (More later).
The Duluth model helps the victims of domestic violence to find their own way out; to come to understand that their partner does not have a right to control them.
The Duluth model acknowledges that the problem of domestic violence is a social problemand not an individual problem – the individual abuser and abused grow up in a process ofsocial construction of their sexual and gender identities – in which they internalize stories and images of gender roles and identities – and wrapped up in this is often the idea that “I have the right to batter those people who oppose me, including my marriage partner”.
The Duluth model also teaches antidotes to the various problems (identified on the Power & Control Wheel (see previous blogs) – including teaching sexual respect as opposed to sexual abuse.
You can learn a lot more about the Duluth model here:http://www.theduluthmodel.org/u_canhechange-webinar.html
The social psychology of power
I intend to begin this next section with a look at the fact that social psychology of sexism is not able to make any definitive statements at the moment about the dynamics of relations between men and women – except that masculinity is a cherished social identity, and that bad things happen when it is threatened.
If you look at Chapter 13 of The Social Psychology of Power(2010), which is on ‘Power and Sexism’, by Theresa Vescio, Kristine Schlenker and Joshua Lenes, you will find this admission: “Social psychological theory has assumed implicit linkages among power, gender, and sexism, but the specific nature of these linkages has yet to be thoroughly explicated and critically tested”. (Page 363).
Criticism 1: For this proposition to be valid and helpful – that “masculinity is a cherished social identity, and that bad things happen when it is threatened” – we would have to be confident that:
(a) this happens in most if not all cases; or certainly in a majority of cases; and:
(b) that the opposite was not also true. (That is to say, we would have to be confident that femininity is not a cherished identity, and there are never (or almost never) any bad consequences when feminine identity is threatened).
Criticism 2: We would also have to be confident that our proposition could not be incorporated into the broader conception that when an individual’s self-concept, or ego image, is threatened, they tend to respond badly.
And if we gave any thought to that idea, we might be inclined to change our claim to this:
Some individual egos seem to be so fragile that, when they are threatened, they tend to respond badly, for example, defensively or aggressively.
By this point, I have lost confidence in the validity and viability of Vescio, Schlenker and Lenes’ (2010) proposition regarding masculine identity, threat, and bad responses.
What these authors ignore is that femininity (or female identity) is also a cherished social identity. And that sometimes females react badly to threats to their self-concept.
Soft and harsh influencing tactics
These authors also distinguish between soft versus harsh influencing tactics as supposedly used by men. The idea is that when masculinity is threatened, men turn from using soft means of influencing their female partner, to the use of harsh influencing tactics, which presumably include verbal and physical aggression.
But this cannot explain a huge element of the statistics on domestic violence. That is to say it cannot explain how to account for those occasions when women switch from soft influencing tactics into using verbal and physical violence against their male partner!
So, as it stands at the moment, the research project sketched out by Vescio, Schlenker and Lenes (2010) – to explore the circumstances under which men flip from soft to harsh influencing tactics, as their masculine identity is threatened, cannot help us to understand the real problem (and certainly not the whole problem) of domestic violence (which is perpetrated by both men and women).
In blog post 139, on 16th January 2016, I presented a list of statistics for domestic violence in the UK. The first two lines of those key statistics were as follows:
# 1. Each year around 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.4 million women (8.5% of the population) and 700,000 men (4.5% of the population).
# 2. Each year more than 100,000 people in the UK are at high and imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse.
Firstly, with regard to line # 1 above: More than one third of the people who “suffer some form of domestic abuse”, are men. So quite clearly, this horrible statistic owes nothing to the fact that “masculine identity is cherished”: which is assumed to call up ‘bad response’ when it is threatened. Clearly, the reason most of those men are being abused has something to do with the family history of the women who abuse them!
Of course, it is very bad that two thirds of those victims are women; but this is a question of degree and not of qualitative difference between the genders!
Secondly, with regard to line # 2, we do not know the gender breakdown of those potential victims of murder or serious injury. It may be that many more women than men are seriously injured or killed by their partners or ex-partners. This is a horrible fact (e.g. two women each week are killed by a partner or former partner. Truly horrible!) But this apparent differential between the impact of male violence – (death and serious injury) – and female violence – (serious and minor injury) – is no cause for celebration by women; no indicator of some kind of cultural superiority of women over men. On the contrary, women have been spared their own deep blushes by virtue – very largely – of the fact that they do not have the muscle-power (on average) to do as much harm to their partners as they might have done if they were more physically powerful!
So, in the absence of any real help from the experts on the social psychology of power, I am going to have to ‘plough my own furrow’, if I am going to make sense of the Duluth model for myself.
That means I have to try to fill in the blanks and gaps from my own prior reading, studying and questioning of what is going on in the world of relations between men and women. And also use my seventeen years’ experience of working with couples with all kinds of problems of conflict.
Potential reasons for domestic violence
If I had the funding to set up a research project on domestic violence, I would want to research the following aspects of couple relationships:
- Given that sixty percent of the population have been estimated to have secure attachment styles (arising out of ‘good enough mothering’ in their early childhood), and that twenty percent are probably anxious-ambivalent, and a further twenty percent are anxious-avoidant, how might this relate to the statistics for domestic violence?
(a) Is it possible that we would find that domestic violence is very low among those people who are found to have secure attachment styles?
(b) Is it possible that the majority of violent partners (male and female) would be found to have the anxious-ambivalent attachment (or clinging) style of insecure attachment?
(c) Is it possible that a minority of violent partners (male and female) would be found to have the anxious-avoidant (or remote) attachment style of insecure attachment?
(d) Given that some anxious-ambivalent types and some avoidant types are also found to have the additional complication of what is called the “disorganized attachment style” – in which they sometimes cling, sometimes avoid, and often go blank and find it difficult to process what is going on in their relationships – and that these “disorganized types” come primarily from families in which they felt their parent or parents were frightening (or frightened), might it not be the case that disorganized attachment style would show up significantly more often that the other styles in the perpetrators of domestic violence?
(e) And, to what degree can the Duluth model address such problems of insecure attachment style? Do they allow sufficiently for the idea of the need for therapy? Or do they assume that the influence of family history, including violent family history, can easily be sloughed off in an ‘advice session’ or an educational process? And, in any case, can therapy really help in these situations, when the offender may often not be aware of the need to take responsibility for their dysfunctional relationship style? And we must also remember that some people have character distortions – tendencies towards evil behaviour – because of their earliest, inadequate socialization experiences.
So, attachment styles would be my first area of research interest.
- But, secondly: I would also be interested in looking at the role of sexual jealousy to see:
(a) how frequently that is the trigger that challenges masculine identity, (and female identity), and triggers angry retribution. And:
(b) I would also want to look at how much of this sexual jealousy problem is an outgrowth of sexual dissatisfaction in the female, resulting from the lack of sex-education of the male.
- And, thirdly: After the previous areas of research, I would be interested in exploring the ego-state profile of those offenders (using Transactional Analysis), to see how often these individuals show up as “scoring high on Critical Parent ego state”; or “scoring high on Angry-Rebellious Child ego state”. This would lead to the question of how to help those individuals to “grow their Adult ego states”, and specifically the Good (Moral) Side of the Adult ego state, rather than the cunning or calculating, bad (and immoral) side. Again this would call for therapy (and particularly character-forming therapy, with a moral core – like E-CENT) – rather than mere advice or guidance.
The centrality of sexuality to male-female relationships
And as I worked on the content of Appendix F of my new book – an appendix on how to understand and control depression – yesterday – I kept getting this intrusive thought: “The twin foundations of a good relationship are comfort and passion”. And, in this context, of couple relationships, ‘passion’ means ‘sexual passion’. And I found myself wondering about the sex-education of the specifically male offenders who are addressed by the Duluth model.
This is not to deny that women are also offenders, but I want to focus for a moment on men.
Individual men grow up in families in which they get to have various experiences of relationship, secure or insecure, safe or frightening, and they watch the relationships between their mother and father for clues as to what a man is; and how a man functions; and what love is; and how to get it, and give it. And, let’s face it, most men are seriously short-changed in this so-called social education. And in most schools, they are being shaped for a role in the labour market – often a lowly role. Their education is not primarily about learning social education, emotional education, how to relate to the other kids, and so on. And when they get up towards puberty, what kind of sex-education do they get? In the past, almost nothing – except perhaps some horror stories about the badness of sex. And more recently, perhaps a harassed teacher who is in a bad relationship trying to ‘cover the sex education curriculum” in a quick and dirty fashion, to minimize their own embarrassment; and also so we can all get back to the real business of education, which is, er… learning how to be a passive employee in an uncaring economy! (This is my current best guess, or inference).
Men and sex – a case of promoted ignorance
And so I stopped writing about depression and went and found Bernard Zilbergeld’s excellent book, entitled Men and Sex: A guide to sexual fulfilment. Chapter 3 is very instructive. The title is this: ‘It’s two feet long, hard as steel, and can go on all night: the fantasy model of sex’.
Human sexuality is a learned phenomenon, and yet we are all told to just ‘be spontaneous’, and ‘do what comes naturally’. But almost nothing of our cultural sexuality ‘comes naturally’. We learned it, from somebody, and more often than not, those experts were talking out of their rear ends. And even though we went along with the fantasies we learned, at least to some degree, many of us men also feel anxious because deep down, we know we haven’t the slightest idea about how to be sexually intimate in a relaxed and loving and playful manner (to the degree that we are depended upon traditional male sex ‘education’).
The fantasy model of sex comes to us from authors like Henry Miller, Harold Robbins, Norman Mailer, Mickey Spillane, and their more modern equivalents. What these authors taught us is this:
Every man wants to have sex all the time. Sex is all about the hard driving f**k. Real men, they insisted to us, have a big steel cock which can go all night. This is what women want, we were told. We were asked to believe – when we were too young to have much critical sense – that women literally want to be ‘split apart’ by a big steel cock!
What utterly misleading nonsense!
Of course, some of us also got a ‘second education’. One in which we were told of the historic abuse of women by men, which made us feel guilty about wanting to use our non-existent big steel cocks on any of them.
And some of us got an earlier education in which sex was outlawed as sinful and dirty!
And some proportion of us felt totally split by the guilt induced by the Women’s Movement, because, somewhere, just below the level of conscious awareness, we still carried the emotionally charged memories of being beaten by our mothers – slapped physically, and verbally abused. Or hearing our mothers encouraging our fathers to beat us with his belt!
And then one day we got our chance to ‘make it’ with a woman; but we found we did not have a big steel cock (surprise, surprise!); and we were too timid to ask for what we would really like in the way of comfortable intimacy. And so we were caught in a nasty net. We had no idea who we were in all this, and no idea how to find a way out. We were now flying at low altitude in a flimsy plane that was far from airworthy; flying too close to adjacent mountain ranges; and unable to bail out! (Thank you very much, Henry Miller!)
Ignorance of female sexuality
Zilbergeld presents ten myths that men are persuaded to believe about sex, each of which is false; and all of which set men up to fail, to feel anxious, and to be unable to function as good lovers of their female partners. Then, in Chapter 5, he presents a case study which shows just how bad the situation can be:
“Arthur (a client of mine) said in his initial interview that he was a premature ejaculator. When asked if he had any control over when he ejaculated, he answered affirmatively, indicating that he could last for thirty-five minutes to forty minutes in intercourse. But that obviously wasn’t sufficient, he maintained, since his wife climaxed only rarely. He thought that if he could last a few minutes longer, his wife would have more orgasms”. (Page 80, Men and Sex).
Now, if I (Jim) heard that Arthur’s wife had become angry and aggressive with him, I would not be the least bit surprised, after such a long period of pointless pumping!
“Arthur was looking in the wrong place”, writes Zilbergeld. “Teaching him to last for fifty minutes or two hours would probably have been a huge waste of time. Anyone who has some control over when he ejaculates or who can last for thirty minutes can by no stretch of the imagination be called a premature ejaculator.
“What Arthur didn’t realize is that many women never have orgasms during intercourse and that many others reach orgasm this way only a small percentage of the time unless supplementary manual stimulation is applied (to the clitoris – J.B.) simultaneously. Lasting for hours on end doesn’t help the situation any and will probably only bore everybody. If you are labelling yourself premature, carefully examine what you mean by that and how realistic your goals are for lasting longer”. (Pages 80-81).
Arthur has no idea how female sexuality works, like many men, and perhaps most men, even today, in our ‘enlightened times’.
Finding a way towards male sexual wisdom
I was very unfortunate in getting my sex education from the Irish Catholic church. I was, however, very fortunate (at the age of eighteen years) to meet a fairly sensible guy who was studying an encyclopaedia of sex, and he shared some of his insights with me, especially about sensual touch. That was helpful, because it conveyed to me that sex was importantly about caressing the body of the woman in a way that would not tickle or scratch, but instead excite and please her. But I only had one conversation with this guy, so he didn’t have time to get to the genitals, alas!
But I was fortunate to find out about the location and function of the clitoris in my early twenties, quote by accident: and that is an essential piece of sex education for all males. I wonder what proportion of the offenders dealt with via the Duluth model are really victims of poor sex education, which is taken into a long-term relationship, and combined with an insecure attachment style, and poor communication skills? That’s an explosive mixture.
The reason I was so keen to publish Daniel O’Beeve’s autobiographical novel – Metal Dog, Long Road Home – some time ago, was that, part way into reading his manuscript, I realized that Daniel was really educating the male reader in the journey he had taken from sexual ignorance to sexual wisdom. Of course, his journey was also one that started with his inability to feel and express love, and progressing to the point of becoming a fine lover in a wonderful relationship with a wise woman.
Daniel’s initiation into sex
I knew I was reading a future classic when I came to the chapter where he is an innocent twenty-two year old virgin, wandering through rain-swept Blackpool; alone and lonely; and then he bumps into the woman with whom he will first experience the joys of conjugal sex. This is how it begins:
Daniel is in Blackpool, working at the Dental Manufacturing Company, living in a boarding house, with his corrupt younger brother. He has come to this place with his younger brother, Tandy, at his mother’s request. It seems Tandy was “interfering with his younger sister”, and their mother asked Daniel to “take him away”.
Daniel is very unhappy; it’s a rainy Saturday, late afternoon; and he’s walking along the prom in the pouring rain; then he stops into a fish and chip shop to get some food to take away. On the queue, he meets a beautiful dark-haired woman who lives next door to his boarding house. They get chatting, and she shares her umbrella with him on the way home; and then invites him in to eat their fish and chips together. After eating, they sit and watch TV together, and smoke cigarettes.
Brief Extract from Daniel’s book:
Section 4 (of Chapter 8). My coming of age…
Two hours later we were still watching television together; and then I found my face close to hers, so I kissed her. She (Belinda) responded passionately, and we hugged and kissed for quite a while. She ended up lying across the sofa, and I was lying on top of her, kissing her, and fondling her body through her clothes. Then she had to go to the toilet, so she slid out from under me, and I lay on my belly on the sofa.
I heard the toilet flush, and suddenly she was on my back, grinding her hips against my bottom. I became very aroused, and we began to undress. I picked her up and carried her, naked, to her bed. As we fell into the bed, I slipped between her legs and entered her moist vagina.
It was like an explosion at the centre of the earth, reverberating throughout the whole universe. My first fuck; my first ejaculation inside a woman. I was no longer a self-doubting virgin. I was at last A MAN! At the age of twenty-two.
Better late than never!
As I fell into a deep, satisfying sleep, I had a big, broad grin on my silly face!
At some indeterminate juncture in space-time, this scenario was played out; possibly in a dream, or a dissociated fantasy. Three alien beings are peering into Belinda’s flat in Blackpool, through their directable wormhole in space-time:
Professor Valises is rubbing his three eyes with his little, blue, furry hands: “What just happened?” he asks, as he looks at his two colleagues.
Kolonel Balaga: “In the parlance of this part of the infinitely mystifying universe, ‘Prince Cinders just got his end away!’”
“But did he not notice the contract?” asked Dr Kala.
Kolonel Balaga: “What contract?”
“Very well observed, doctor”, said the professor: “Belinda quite clearly told him, in plain English, that she always falls in love for a brief period, becomes very passionately involved, and then falls out again, by falling in love with somebody else.”
“Oh, yeah!” said the kolonel. “Now I think back: you’re right. She did. She said she always falls hopelessly in love, for a few weeks, then the passion dies, and she falls for somebody else.”
Professor Valises: “So why is Daniel still here?”
“Well,” said the kolonel: “the poor sap does not have many alternative places to be. He doesn’t want to be next door with his degenerate brother; and he does not want to be out wandering the streets in the wind and rain”.
“But now he is in for some serious pain”, said Dr Kala, glancing from the professor to the kolonel. “She’ll let him down hard, and it will wound him seriously. If this was me, I would take her at her word, and run away.”
The kolonel looked thoughtful: “Well,” he mused, “we’ve been monitoring this likable idiot for a long time now; and he has never had a break half as good as this. Even if she throws him out the window on his head in the morning, he will still be leagues ahead of where he was just three hours ago.”
Professor Valises looks worried: “I just don’t understand humans; and especially this one. She told him how she has always related to men; by loving them and then leaving them. And he says: ‘It won’t be like that with us’! Where did he get that idea?”
Dr Kala: “That response fits the facts as I see them. Daniel is a twenty-two-year-old innocent, going on fifteen. He has that silly Dostoevskian Idiot-Prince script: ‘If I am good and pious, everything else will take care of itself (through the love of God)’. Nobody told him about Hiroshima! Or Mai Lai! Or Auschwitz; or the Gulags. Or all the good, god-fearing Christian black people in the US who are treated like trash. He doesn’t even know the history of the people of Crumble-Baan.”
Professor Valises: “I wish we were allowed to intervene. I would like to at least be standing under the window to catch him when she throws him out!”
I was unaware of this commentary upon my life. I had more important things to experience.
I was snuggled up to Belinda, sleeping in her bed, with a self-satisfied grin on my face.
- The unknown art of love…
Those alien beings never sleep. They are on constant watch to see how their subject behaves:
Professor Valises: “How long have we been studying humans; jointly and individually; collectively?”
Dr Kala: “About fifty to seventy years”.
“And in that time,” says the professor, “how many have we found who could think straight in the presence of sexual excitement?”
Dr Kala and Kolonel Balaga speak in unison: “Precisely none!”
The little blue professor smiles, and then chuckles: “Look at that silly grin on his boyish face. If I had tear ducts I think I could actually cry on his behalf!”
Dr Kala: “Yeah! Humans will endure any kind of pain in exchange for this kind of transient sexual encounter.”
In the middle of the night I awoke, got up and went to the bathroom. I was very happy. A voice was singing in my head, and my heart was warm and happy. Within a couple of minutes I was back in bed, dreaming.
The aliens’ viewing window was open:
Professor Valises: “He looks happy, doesn’t he?”
Ober-Kolonel Mitta Balaga: “Yeah. Ignorance is bliss.”
Dr Kala: “You mean, his ignorance of the contract; that she will throw him out after a few weeks?”
Kolonel Balaga: “Well, yes, that. But also, did you not notice something about the love-making?”
Dr Kala: “Ahhhh? No! I don’t think I did!”
Kolonel Balaga: “Don’t you think it was very quick? Speedy? Kind of ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’?”
Dr Kala: “Wow! Of course. You’re right. And she said nothing about it. She did not ask him to take care of her needs.”
Professor Valises: “Well spotted. And that may be why she gets tired of her lovers so quickly. She does not specify what she wants and needs; and they take care of their own needs, and ignore hers.”
Dr Kala: “Holy Shit! That’s a bad sign. This relationship is doomed!”
…End of extract!
Daniel’s story shifts to new locations, new points in time, moves back and forward along the time line of his fascinatingly difficult life of confusion and ignorance, and his struggles to understand what it means to be male, and how to find love.
(PS: Before Belinda had got involved with Daniel, she’d had a long string of casual relationships. When she was much younger, she had been married, but her husband found she had been unfaithful to him, and he cut her face in several places with a flick knife! The link to Duluth! Her husband responded like somebody whose self-concept had been seriously undermined; but none of her subsequent or previous short-term lovers did so!)
On the way out of his relationship with Belinda – the storyline of which has to be seen to be believed – Daniel discovers, too late, a copy of a book called the Myth of the Female Orgasm. He discovers the nature and location of the clitoris way too late to save his relationship with Belinda. (He leaves because Belinda has been unfaithful to him – but if this undermined his cherished sense of masculinity, it did not call forth any bad behaviour from him. He did not berate her, or hit her. But then, he was an ‘avoidant’ rather than a ‘clinger’!)
And my main point is this. If many of the men who fall foul of the Duluth project were to have read Daniel’s story of his journey from sexual innocence and ignorance, to sexual wisdom and emotional maturity, they might well have avoided the shameful fate of becoming ‘wife batterers’!
If you want to read Daniel’s story, you can get a paperback copy or a Kindle version here:
That’s all for now.
Best wishes, and brotherly affection.
Dr Jim Byrne