Sexual projection

This page contains four items.

The first is an extract from a seminar, in which Sangharakshita suggests that men should develop their own inner femininity, rather than projecting it onto women, in order to become free from (hetero)sexual desire. - see text highlighted in bold in third paragraph:

'All our experience is influenced by, modified by, even vitiated by the fact that it takes place within the framework of the subject-object distinction. There's a basic, fundamental schism between subject and object and, therefore, a sort of tension between them. You [as subject] are either strongly drawn towards the object or [strongly] repelled by it, or from it. The fact that there is this sort of schism between subject and object, - [the fact] that everything is looked at in this way, or distorted in this way, - this is ignorance, avidya. Then on the basis of that ignorance there takes place the development of craving, of tanha or kamaraga which basically is the impulsion of the subject towards the object - or its repulsion by it. …

'Now sexuality comes into the picture in this way: Kamaraga is desire or craving in general, but it is said to be sexual craving or sexual desire, in particular. You could say this is because the sexual object represents the object [in general] in a special sort of way, because when there is a sexual object [present] your tendency towards it, your impulsion or propulsion towards it, - is strongly marked. …

'As long as you consider yourself as a separate individual or ego there is, of course, ignorance, and there must, therefore, be this kind of craving, - this impulsion or propulsion towards the object, - with the continual possibility of frustration and, therefore, of ill-will, aversion, and resentment. It's not so difficult really to understand that one can and must change, and really accept that: it's not so difficult to realize that it's no use just going through the motions of change …. You start working on your craving, which is not just ordinary desire but this basic impulsion of the subject towards the object, [the subject] trying as it were to complete itself, not by transcending the subject/object distinction but by hugging the object to itself, which can only be done for a certain length of time or to a certain extent. It's here that the sexual paradigm is again very useful. Because why are you so attracted to the sex-object? In the case of a woman, which is the sex-object for a man, - there's something out there that you want because you feel that it will make you complete. If you start developing that [woman] within yourself, - start developing as it were your own inner femininity, - so that you don't project it onto the sex-object and try to unite with it there, then you'll be free, or relatively free, from that strong craving for that particular object.'

From: ‘Salutation to the Three Jewels, A Seminar on the Tiratana-Vandana’ page 84 - 86. Transcribed by Upasaka Kulananda, Edited by Ven. Sangharakshita. Pub Ola Leaves 1978. Words within square brackets [ ] are explanatory additions by the editor, Ven. Sangharakshita.

The second item is an extract from a magazine article in which Tejananda extols the benefits of FWBO single-sex communities as a way to overcome any 'tendency to over-identify with one's 'male-ness' or 'female-ness'', and to overcome sexual polarisation and become more 'fully human' through 'strong mutually supportive friendships with members of our own sex.' (highlighted in bold in text below)

The SINGLE - SEX experience

Single-sex activities and communities are an important feature of FWBO practice. …

However, the FWBO's single-sex communities are no monolithic institution: there is a wide spectrum, ranging from 'open' communities, where members of the opposite sex are welcome on the premises (though obviously not to move in full time), through to completely 'closed' communities where no members of the opposite sex are ever permitted.

But whatever degree of 'single-sexness' is observed in a community, the point of living in one is unquestionably to minimize one's contact with members of the opposite sex over a considerable period of time. The effect of this goes much further than that of a relatively short single-sex retreat: deeper levels of sexual conditioning are laid bare, in particular, tendencies to sexual polarization.

From a certain point of view, the whole of Buddhist practice can be seen in terms of developing ever-increasing degrees of unification of consciousness and being. For human beings, the basic level of dis-unification is, precisely, sexual polarization - that is, the tendency to over-identify with one's 'male-ness' or 'female-ness' to the exclusion of the psychologically complementary 'opposite' qualities. To become more 'fully human', then, one must develop the whole range of human qualities, not just those which appear to come naturally. It is all too easy not to do this if one is constantly in the company of members of the opposite sex who conveniently seem to embody the very qualities one lacks. In this situation, these qualities can, in a sense, be experienced 'vicariously', so obviating the need ever to develop them oneself.

Those who decide to live in single-sex communities in the FWBO do so very much as a means to an end: the end being to overcome this one-sidedness and sexual polarization, to stop depending on others, and to develop 'complementary' qualities in themselves.

However, for many people, this may still beg a few questions, such as those of one-sidedness and escapism with which I opened my article. Then, there are the questions of what people in single-sex communities do about sex, assuming they are not celibate, whether single-sex communities are a satisfactory alternative to family life and, finally, how single-sex communities work in practice.

I have stated that single-sex communities are an excellent antidote to sexual one-sidedness. But perhaps the opposite view is more current because many familiar kinds of single-sex institution in our society seem to promote one-sidedness: the army, for example, or single-sex public schools.

The great difference between these and single-sex communities in the FWBO lies in the fact that our communities work according to Buddhist principles: above all, the principle of spiritual friendship. Single-sex living is not simply a question of reducing contact with members of the opposite sex: much more important than this is the opportunity it grants us to develop strong, mutually supportive friendships with members of our own sex. It is only in this context that a person can develop the 'complementary opposite' qualities I have discussed, there being in the single-sex situation no obvious sexual polarization to inhibit us from doing so.

This raises an important point: the benefits of a single-sex life-style can be enjoyed to a very large extent without actually undertaking complete celibacy. Celibacy is undoubtedly of great benefit, and is perhaps the most satisfactory lifestyle from the point of view of overcoming sexual polarities within oneself, but as Sangharakshita indicated in the last issue, celibacy not as an 'absolute', either/or affair, but a matter of degree. Living in a single-sex community may not mean giving up sex altogether, but it will mean relegating sex and sexual relationships to a more peripheral position in one's life and scale of priorities, whilst one's practice of Buddhism takes an increasingly central position.

From 'The SINGLE - SEX experience', an article by Tejananda, published in the FWBO magazine, Golden Drum, Nov - Jan 1987/88 No. 7, pages 8 -9

The third item is a short extract from Subhuti's book 'Buddhism for Today', expressing similar views to Tejananda's above.

Both men and women must, if they are to be real individuals, develop within themselves both the masculine-aggressive and the feminine-nurturant qualities. Each does possess both characteristics latent within, yet each tends to experience only that which is connected with his or her biological gender. When men and women are with members of the opposite sex this tendency is reinforced. They tend to polarise, to experience their own basic characteristic more strongly and to see the other embodied in the opposite sex. In this way the latent underdeveloped quality is not brought into play. When simply with members of one's own sex it is far easier - though it is not an inevitable occurrence - to experience and realise both qualities within one in the absence of any opportunity to project and polarise. Most people's experience of single-sex activities is that it is far easier to be oneself in a deeper and more relaxed way. Those who choose to live and work in that way do so because they have found it to be the best way for them to live.

From 'Buddhism for Today', by Subhuti, pub FWBO/Windhorse 1983 rev. 1988, p 91,

The fourth item is a dissenting view from a non-FWBO member:

i think the 'single sex ideal' is a massive rationalisation of certain unconscious and biased attitudes of sangharakshita's, which maybe he no longer even holds. i don't know. but i do know that when fwbo publications say that in single sex situations participants are able to get in touch with their feminine (in the case of men) or masculine (in the case of women) attributes more effectively than in mixed-sex situations because there is no possibility for them to be projected, this is not consistent with anything i have read and just sounds like psycho-babble and a massive rationalisation.

i have studied a little of jung and he would say that *unless* there is a possibility for undeveloped attributes to be projected, to first be discovered in 'an other', there is no possiblity for them to be encountered at all - in other words we *only* discover these attributes if we have a possibility for first projecting them and then re-owning these projections. the fwbo has come out with something that sounds roughly like this, but on closer inspection has turned it completely on its head. in other words, it is, in my opinion, a false view and if all false views have an emotional basis then what is that basis in this case?

Posted by 'Buddhaz with Attitude', Wed 22 Nov 2000 in article <8vgnb7$oOi$>, in thread 'FWBO', in newsgroup talk.religion.buddhism