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Missionary positions

Missionary positions

The Editor,

Sandra Summers' intriguing letter about marriage and power in the June 14-27 issue

of the Phnom Penh Post raises an interesting question about the possibilities for

self-actualization in this era of victimhood. It is quite right to point out that

inequalities of power lie at the heart of mistreatment and exploitation. It is also

empirically evident that men more than women are and have been the holders of power.

That is not to say that all men hold power over all women or that all men who hold

power abuse it. Inequalities of power are not synonymous with gender. Nevertheless,

a convincing case can be made that disparities of power lead all too often to the

domination and abuse of the powerless who, more likely than not, are women and children.

Maldistribution of power distorts economic and social relations, personal relationships,

and impinges upon the erotic-self. In the context of power, the act of surrender

and the physical passivity and dominance inherent even in a posture so sacrosanct

as the "missionary position" are nothing more than a bedroom recapitulation

of male dominance and control - an emphatic physical and symbolic affirmation of

the power of one over another. Thus, the hitherto-standard sex act is less a physiological

imperative than a convention of power assertion. The historically appropriate response

of the female has been a display of submission and passive acceptance, even gratitude,

for the material security which by custom submission entitles. Belatedly, Western

society, indeed most societies world-wide, are moving to correct power inequalities

with consequent shifts in status, wealth, and control over one's personal life and

livelihood.

Repudiating the old saw that the child is father to the man, Terman's longitudinal

study of values and behaviors reveals a free will latent in us all. While species

survival mandates a sex drive, the wide-range of manifestations and the extensive

repertory of fantasies which constitute the erotic strongly suggest that individual

expressions of eroticism are to a significant degree personally determined. In the

struggle to divest sexual conduct and erotic thought of the elements of oppression,

power-neutral behaviors - gay and straight - have been deliberately chosen while

archaic fixations are consciously cast from the bedroom into the dust bin of history.

Regrettably, in any evolutionary process, some individuals readily adapt while others

remain behind, alienated, confused and self-condemned to endlessly re-enact their

pathological fantasies. Unfortunately, there are often victims in such cases. Prevailing

social-determinist orthodoxy notwithstanding, we are not impotent hostage to our

past. The siren sings to us all, you know. Let us unroll our trousers, you and I,

and dare to share a peach. Free choice and time will out.
- Name and address withheld on request, Phnom Penh.

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