On Sex and Freedom pt. 1 – Interview to Benjamin Nolot

I decided to open up about something I have reflected upon for many years.
What is freedom? What does it mean to be a free woman? And why is freedom so intertwined with sex? Moreover, does claiming to be free means having sex with a different guy every week?

Few weeks back I was talking on the phone with someone and he was telling me about how sex is very important and he needs to have it… I on the contrary said I didn’t have it for quite a while now and was just fine. He replied: oh come on! You’re a free woman, just go get someone for a night! – I calmly told him that being free spirit didn’t mean wanting or needing to have sex, moreover I feel gross about the idea of welcoming a complete stranger in my bed (and inside of me). He didn’t understand me and tried to convince me about how great it is to connect with someone new. AH HA, “connect”. Do we connect? Really?

Last year I happened to take a diving course in Italy and I overheard multiple times teenage girls in the changing room going rants about guys and hook ups. I bit my tongue every time not to intervene and comfort the girl who was venting out to her girlfriends about some guy smoothly getting in bed with her only to ignore her after having gotten what he wanted and making sure all school new. I would’ve loved to tell her that those things happen even to grown ups… and that made me think:
A. Why are girls and women not prepared to manipulation and mind games?
B. If not only teenage guys do it, but men well into adulthood still shamelessly play (and are proud of that?)… is it part of some sort of male gene? Or they just don’t grow up?

There is a wonderful film showing exactly this dynamic: LIBERATED, The New Sexual Revolution. Although in Europe we don’t have Spring Break, I think it’s anyway relatable at all levels and in many countries. For those who are not familiar with American Spring Break: basically every year students get a one-week vacation in Spring and usually spend that time with friends at a beach location drinking, partying and having lots and lots of sex. Sounds like Ibiza during summer time in Europe lol
On the surface women may have gained the so expected independence and equal rights. Like men we too are entitled to having occasional and random sexual encounters. However, if we dig deeper I am worried we have mistaken our freedom for something else. I have had one night stands, but I can only think of one time when I didn’t feel used. Most times than not our beautiful and sacred bodies are mistaken for receptacles of guys’ extra fluids.

Benjamin Nolot

I decided to interview Benjamin Nolot the writer and director of the film. Also founder of the organisation Exodus Cry – whose aim is to abolish sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry.

You say in the beginning of the film Liberated, “nothing quite prepares us for the struggle for identity and intimacy in today’s world”. How do you describe identity and intimacy?

<< The media and image based culture we live in communicate very powerful and visceral stories about what it means to be a man, a woman, and a sexual being. These stories are incredibly influential in shaping our identity and relationships. I don’t think there is enough being done to help prepare young people for the toxic and indoctrinating stories of the culture. The result is that most of us go through an identity crisis during our adolescence and I think it robs us of an authentic quality of self possession. >>

To be accepted and well liked women think they have to be hardly dressed and showcase sexiness at all times. We live – still – in a world where role models are such as Kim Kardashian who became famous for her sex tape! Likewise Paris Hilton who came before her. Powerful women are viewed as powerful in relation to how much sex drive they have and how many men they can attract (and ultimately fuck?). Living in a pornified world where sex doesn’t mean anything, I feel we are only too proud to admit ourselves that it does mean something… Perhaps by acting as “I don’t care” we feel stronger and believe we can walk away unhurt.
Do you think the people you interviewed, who claim “our generation gave up on love” / “we don’t believe in love” / “love was invented”, actually believe in these statements? And if so, why do you think this is?

<< Absolutely. I think there are two things: 
1) The false expectations of love setup by media. 
2) Their lived experiences at a young age.
One thing that was shocking to me is to discover how jaded people have become at such a young age. I think the widespread proliferation of pornography as primary sexual educator in most kids lives, and the subsequent hookup culture it fuels, create a feeling for people that relationships don’t matter anymore. >>

Basically, in a hookup culture what happens is that I have to shut down emotionally in order to have sex with you and see you just as an object there for for my pleasure. Casual encounters are the norm.
But in a culture where sex doesn’t mean anything…. who is the winner?

<< Ironically, no one. What we found is that even the people participating in hookup culture felt that it was diminishing their humanity and leaving them empty. It’s a zero sum game. When you take meaning out of sex, you end up with nihilistic relationships. It’s like Gioconda Belli said, “We have had a sexual revolution, but the sexual revolution only has made sex more pervasive. It hasn’t granted the level of reverence and respect that it should have.” >>

What is masculinity to you? And what validates it?

<< This is such a huge question and would be impossible to answer in a couple sentences, but there are a couple core ideas to mention. What constitutes a healthy masculinity is the same thing that constitutes a healthy humanity: love and empathy.
Love reverences the gift of our common humanity. It says, “You are more valuable than just the body you possess.” Love honors the whole person and desires good for them, even at ones own expense. Love is not guided by consumptive compulsions but by respect and dignity. It is the highest way of being in the world—one in which both we, and those around us, are better off. It is the only place of true joy, freedom, and safety. 
Compassion empathetically connects us to others. We see the truth about their condition and we don’t minimize it, run from it, or give platitudes to it. We feel it along with them. Through compassion we share in the vulnerability, powerlessness, and pain of others. Our solidarity forges a path for hope and healing to emerge. The compassionate ones are beacons of light amidst a dark and hostile planet. Compassion is not merely something we do; it is someone we become. It enables us to truly see, truly feel, and truly act. To be compassionate is to live out the highest essence of our nature. It is to be authentic and fully alive. 
To be a “real man” is to embrace love and empathy as a primary way of being in the world. >>

Now, looking at the movie and how easy it is nowadays to get laid… to get girls. How can a man be seen as an example when anyone can do it? I mean, when there is nothing to be proud about if just any guy can get x number of girls to sleep with him? …. I mean, there is nothing “cool” nor special nor “difficult” anymore. Shouldn’t it be seen more “manly” to be able to commit and keep one girl? 
What I mean is: if men like a challenge and if there is no more challenge supposedly… where is the manhood going?

<< I agree with you, but the media-based indoctrination of the “modern man” has taught them that the more women you can sleep with, the more “manly” you are. So in that respect, I think it is going to take a lot of work and intentional effort to changing these mindsets, steering men towards values of love and empathy as a better and more fulfilling way of being in the world. >>

Do you think over sexualised media is stealing childhood? If so how and how can that be changed?
<< Absolutely. I think that hyper-sexualized media sends young girls the message that the most important thing about them is their sex appeal. This form of female mind control programming conditions them into building their identity almost exclusively around their outward appearance. This shallow construction of an identity comes with a “visibility” shelf life, ultimately paving the way for major identity struggles as they get older and their looks and hence “visibility” diminishes.

I think this can be changed by changing the story we tell about women. We must embrace a story that celebrates the full scope of what it means to be a woman. Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual, creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, and strong. Women are searching for deeper meaning and purpose. They have history, memories, and unique experiences. They long to have an impact in the world. Simply put, women are not merely “eye candy” for the gratuitous appetites of men. >>

And yet men feel entitled to women’s bodies. Why? In Italy for example, when a man murders his girlfriend or wife because she decides to end the relationship… he gets excused for having been too in love. This is clear evidence of a culture where possession and control are mistaken for love. How is this also related to the normalisation or criminal behaviour

<< We live in a culture and a world in general that sexualises power, hierarchy, and invulnerability. Many males eroticize women’s submission, compliance, and subservience. Women are often viewed as the property of men. Women are trained to be sexy, to be mothers, to serve, to clean up after men and children and wealthier people, to tolerate subjugation and ill-treatment, to be generous to those who mistreat them, to endure for their children when they have children. Highly intelligent women are seen by many men as threatening and are often denigrated. Insecure men prefer less intelligent female partners so that they can feel superior and secure.

Social psychology experiments have shown consistently disturbing results about human social behavior. That is, when human beings are placed in a position of power over other human beings who are defined in some measure by their inferiority or vulnerability or abject dependency, the human beings in power (usually males) become increasingly demanding, insensitive, cruel, domineering, exploitative, and aggressive. In some studies with healthy college students, experiments had to be curtailed in the middle of the project because the higher power subjects were getting increasingly corrupt and aggressively out of control in the misuse of their position of power. >>
We are indeed taught on magazines and on tv what is hot, what is desirable, what we should like, what is acceptable. So I doubt that changing the media will do any good as it will just replace the current objects of desire with a new one. What is your take on this?
<< The problem with the stories being told in media today is their single narrative. So I don’t think its about replacing what is desirable, i think it is about broadening out the story. For example, Cosmopolitan Magazine has a very consistent image of women that they put on the cover of their magazine that really only celebrates one aspect of who women are. I would like to see women on the cover of their magazine celebrated for a much more prolific range of accomplishments than just looking good. We must celebrate women in athletics, politics, the arts, academia, business, etc…Only then will young women learn that they don’t have to conform to a particular image, but rather can pursue their own path—and be recognised and respected for it. >>
After watching Liberated, I also watched “Hot girls wanted” and then I noticed how Netflix has A LOT of titles of tv series and movies about porn and the porn industry. I wonder if it’s normalising it that way. I find myself a little bit confused. On one side I feel there should be freedom of expression, on the other side I feel there is missing education and knowledge… profound knowledge on what sex means and is.What are your thoughts about it?
<< I agree that there is a lack of meaningful resources and dialogue about the inherent value and meaning of sex. I think what our society is lacking right now is a basic sexual ethic. In my view, empathy and mutuality are the most important parts of building a sexual ethic for society. Unfortunately, in the absence of that, so many people are being ripped off and sexually defrauded. >>
What is freedom?
<< I think freedom is simply the privilege and the courage to live what is true. >>





Needs and Fears… Thoughts on Social Media

First post of 2019! And I thought to write about social media as it is something I’m constantly thinking of. Moreover, last night I watched two documentaries of Netflix:
Follow Me  starring Asri Bendacha
The American Meme starring Paris Hilton, Josh Ostrovsky, Brittany Furlan
The reason why I watched these documentaries is because I’m trying to understand why do tools such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter became beyond important in our lives… they’re fundamental. Professionals always tend to reply “Oh but I do it for work“. I also say “I’m on it just for work” but I do know that my work is not really dependent on Instagram because even when I wasn’t on it I was still working (friends know I get to a point every 6 months circa when I just delete my account and go off). In Follow Me what I found interesting is the fact that is very much centred on the Arabic countries and culture, many of the influencers are Arab women and to them it’s important to show the world who is an Arab woman: she is independent, beautiful, witty etc. They want to break the idea we have of Arab women – only to create a new one, which again is not even that real either I believe. It’s only a tiny part of the truth because it’s just one person’s truth, and of that one person’s truth only the best and presentable has been selected to show the world.

Is it for work we do it really? Or is work the excuse to be on it and share infinite photos of ourselves? Humans are experts at finding excuses for something they don’t want to admit because they judge it negatively. After watching these two documentaries I laid in my bed thinking…. what are we hiding? What is the need that drives us? What is the fear that rides the horse? Because we can have a million reasons and a million different needs and fears BUT I believe there is one common denominator in this equation.
Who are you without your 500k followers and without your Instagram profile?

I think Instagram feeds with emptiness our need of being loved; it illudes with holograms of thousands of people our fear of being alone. Let me explain better….
Everyone has a need of being loved, some more than others and for some it’s a need they can barely cope with. The needs we have as adults are created during our childhood, as we know children have many needs and parents should do their best to cover all of them… however, at some point somewhere they f**k up. A child who growing up didn’t feel loved will become an adult that will do anything to have that need covered. There is no problem in that but if the adult is not aware then yes there’s a problem because his/her actions will be driven by that need (fyi – animals are driven by needs…..). Perhaps these parents loved their child but they expressed it in the wrong way or haven’t expressed it at all, so this creates a void. In time many also develop a fear of being alone with themselves because it’s in those moments that they feel that void and don’t know what to do with it. What I could observe both in these documentaries and in people I know who are obsessed with social media is that by growing your followers you think you are getting that love you didn’t have when you were a child, as if 1 million strangers could fill in the love that your mom didn’t give you. AS IF. And your fear of being alone is rewarded by you being alone in reality because you interact with other minds in a sort of imaginary realm, you don’t interact with people. It’s holograms interacting with holograms and it’s “safer” since we don’t risk being hurt…. we don’t risk discovering that this person doesn’t really like us by looking into their eyes. With social media if one person stops liking you, or loving you, well there are 5 others who will….

What I’m trying to say is that it’s just a mind game. It’s really just mental interaction. We know that our mind creates the reality but here we are not even creating a “real reality”… we are creating a virtual reality in which we hide. We are creating a huge separation. There are several mental illnesses where the person can’t tell what is real and what is not and I fear we are entering in that stage… the scariest thing is that children are already entering that stage! Children who start using Instagram stop observing the world around them!
I think what it also does is that this “love” (gosh I hate using such a high word in such a wrong way) you think you receive by strangers you will keep on getting it only if you keep on giving these people what they want (and need? ultimately). Silly no? Especially if we think we all crave for unconditional love, yet we keep going the opposite direction.

… I think what scares me is the ability social media has to control one’s mind; how humans are prone to addictions and if it’s not drugs then it’s the likes or the message ringtone. It preoccupies me how today we “meet” more people online who live on the other side of the world rather than deepen relationships we have here next to us. … I don’t have an answer, because if on one side I like Instagram, I love photos and I like sharing them … on the other side at times the demands Instagram has makes me anxious. One to be successful online must fully commit to be living online. A commitment I certainly did not make (and my number of followers is the proof). The only commitment I made is to be myself even online, which doesn’t mean I put all of me out there… and more and more often I wish I didn’t put even that little of me out there for everyone to see, and judge and think about.
I wonder now that I’m writing about this if I too have an addiction. I did check my Instagram like a dozen times and chatted with friends on it, shared a photo and planning to share more… as I was writing this post. Is it addiction? Perhaps the only way to find out is to get offline for some time and see the effects this has on you.
How does it feel to just do something and not share it? Not showing, not telling. Just being immersed in the doing. I heard a saying time ago that said “if you didn’t post it it didn’t happen”, wow! Are we already there? I mean, you go workout at the gym and you post a photo of you lifting weights… why? What for? I did it too but why? Was it for me? Was it for… who? A girlfriend of mine once told me that she uses Instagram for herself, her feed is a photo album of memories that sometimes she scrolls during low times just to be reminded of the places she’s been and things she’s done. Mmmm just to be reminded that a low moment is but a tide? And is that helping in any way to lift up? … At last, why can’t we just live the low tide fully in our solitude? …

Just a bit of thoughts… Have a lovely day all 🙂