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. >>