Q & A
(917) 710-7578 firstname.lastname@example.orgHoward Z. Lorber, csw
Psychotherapist & Anthropologist
Homopho bia or fear of intimacy among batterers?
bia or fear of intimacy among batterers?
interesting and important discussion was raised during our meeting. A number of
our members mentioned their impression that the men in their groups keep their
involvement with each other limited to the time in and just around the group
meetings. When we turned to the question of why this might be several answers
answer focused on the homophobic attitudes of many men. One reason, it was said,
that men do not bond is they are afraid of the sexual impulses that arise in an
intimate relationship. And here it is not so much a question of the sexual
impulses of others that is feared, though it can be and is often expressed in
this form, but the sexual impulses that arise in themselves. The fear of these
impulses from another is, then, a matter of that which is feared becoming
disowned and projected outward. This disowned inner fear and concomitant
projective process, then, would disallow intimacy and would generate an anxious,
angry externalized fear of other men. Technically this sort of answer is, in the
main, Freud’s description of paranoia: a projected fear of one’s own
homosexual impulses enveloped in a rationalized and rationalizing ‘system’
of ideas used to deny and help ward off these impulses.
sort of answer to the question comes from the parallel between what appears as
the incapacity of the men in our groups to sustain intimacy amongst themselves
and the cyclical pattern of conflict in their relationships. It is clear that
the men involved develop levels of contact around both feelings for themselves
and for others.
to another and to oneself at an affective level is intimacy. Now
‘intimacy’ in our ordinary language use of the term connotes some sort of
involvement in sexuality; and, indeed, when one looks at most people's attitudes
toward affective contact in our culture, these attitudes are sexualized, or are
always open to sexualization. This is often very confusing in relationships.
Sustaining intimacy not only is a ‘reminder’ of this confusion, but is also
a ‘reminder’ of people’s need for deep affective contact.
the batterers’ cycle there is not only violence, but the equally important
‘making up’ or ‘honeymoon’ stage. In this there is a return, in the
relationship, to a point of deepened affective contact. (This is not solely
property of the batterers’ cycle, but is common in many relationships:
bickering and arguments lead to ‘making up’, emotional closeness, and sexual
activity.) This, in turn, leads to a stirring up of internal fears of
endangerment due to intimacy, and a rageful, violent reaction. And so it goes
in its cyclical manner.
treatment groups, too, have cyclical processes. They, however, are much more
circumscribed since the structure of the meetings themselves provides the
cycle and closure. Intimacy is automatically limited and regulated. There is a
moment of affective contact that alternates with emotional distance. (How often
do we note how a session that has had very powerful emotional currents is
followed by poorer attendance the week afterwards?) The bickering and violence
of the batterers’ cycle that regulates intimacy is carried out on a structural
and symbolic plain. And the cultural, thus individual emotional, confusion of
sexuality and intimacy is represented as a kind of ‘paranoid stance’
toward intimacy itself.
problem of intimacy has distinct implications for our practice. One of the chief
among them is how issues of intimacy are connected with both sexuality
and the capacity for sustained affective contact. How do our clients understand
the affective needs of men? And of women? Are they different? How are they
expressed? How does the ‘making up’ stage provide for affective needs in
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