Matthew Blake, page 6
Warning: this section contains graphic descriptions of childhood emotional and sexual abuse; adulthood sexual aggression through verbal and emotional coercion, blackmail through threats of suicide, and sexual assault through the use of physical force; unidirectional and reciprocal abuse; depression; suicide attempts; prostitution; and language barriers between a patient and a psychiatrist and between a victim of intrusion and the local police contributing to a sexual assault.
After release from hospital, I was transferred to a unisex halfway house for around a week. I visited my wife, abandoned most of my possessions including my wedding band that I’d thrown towards her on my way out and broke off all contact with her because I simply didn’t have the energy to fight. Having quit my previous job, struggling to find work without knowing French, and emotionally unable to live in the same city even if I wanted to, I moved in with my parents in another city. Under pressure from my dad to find work quickly, I went to teach English in China.
Things turned sour very quickly though. Knowing the fragility of my mental state, I’d insisted that the employment contract include my own private accommodation and not shared, to which my employer agreed. My employer broke that promise after I arrived and I was in no emotional or financial state to fight so I reluctantly accepted it. This made it difficult for me to separate my work from my private life since I was now sharing accommodation with a colleague and working for a company the male staff of which drank, some of whom were heavy drinkers, and the owner of which expected me to drink at banquets. Knowing neither Chinese labour law nor even the Chinese language, I was alone.
I also didn’t know how to pay my student loan from China and Chinese laws concerning international money transfers combined with the language barrier made it difficult for me to transfer money to Canada. Due to my emotional state at the time though, I just didn’t care. I was focusing on just trying to keep myself together at that point.
Though I initially refused to drink, I eventually acquiesced, but this time not so much to the owner but to my own need to drown my emotions from the stress of a dysfunctional work environment with different players playing politics against one another. I was lucky in that I was soon able to find another employer in another city.
It was around then that I’d accidentally rediscovered prostitution. Passing by what appeared to be a massage parlour and still recovering from the trauma of my divorce, I thought I’d get a massage. I was soon to learn that though it was a massage parlour, the parlour was just a front. The worker suddenly groped me and had taken me so much by surprise in a dimmed room that only afterwards did I think about the risks of my having paid to have unprotected menstrual sex with a stranger. She’d never even offered to have me use a condom.
I felt guilty but only in an emotionally numbed state and vowed that it would be the last time; but though I’d abandoned alcohol again (and this time for good), I went back to using sex as a way to regulate my emotions. At first, I masturbated to kill the urge to seek another sex partner, and then increased the frequency until my skin chafed. I then stopped masturbating and returned to seeking sex partners.
Though I did feel guilty and ashamed about it, I’d already habituated myself over a period of a few years with my ex-wife to use sex as a coping mechanism. While numbing my emotions reduced my awareness of my pain, it also reduced the deterrent effect of shame in degrading behaviour, the motivational effect of pride in uplifting behaviour, and my awareness of happiness. Just as a blind or deaf man becomes more aware of his other senses, so I became more aware of the physical pleasure of sex as my new distraction from my numbed emotions.
I couldn’t feel my emotions so much anymore and the sexual behaviour had become compulsive, even more so than consuming alcohol had been. I always vowed that each time was going to be the last and always returned to practicing my ethnic “religion” until the next time. I essentially chose to try to practice the Christian faith with the idea that God might exist. I’d felt depressed, suicidal, despondent, and resigned for at least the two previous years and had even attempted suicide a few times not even a year prior. The memories of my sexual trauma had ironically habituated me to think of sex as my fleeting escape from the reality of non-sexual stress. Whenever I felt stressed, sex became my analgesic just as it had for at least the two years prior: it helped to numb the pain. Unfortunately, it numbed not only the pain but all the other emotions too, happiness included. My lack of knowledge of how to legally transfer money out of the country easily and my intention to not stay in China over the long term only exacerbated the problem by making me care less about saving money in China.
I soon came to realize that the most addictive part for me by far was the ceding of control. In my life outside of sex, I had to make responsible decisions for myself; but to make such decisions, I needed to become aware of myself (including my emotions) and possibly accept differences with others (which could include accepting conflict by standing up for myself). I hated my emotions since they depressed me whenever I was made aware of them. I hated conflict even more because it awakened my emotions most intensely.
In my sex life, I could pay someone else to distract me from my emotions and make my decisions for me without challenge. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I felt a need to be dominated.
It started off tamely enough (or at least as tamely as it gets in the sex trade). I would pay a woman some money, ask for a massage as per the front, and then let her do what she wanted short of engaging in unprotected sex and sometimes even offered to serve her. One might just give me a massage. Another might want to just talk. One got me to pay her for me to give her a massage. Another got me to smoke and chat. In short, I did whatever she told me to do. On one exceptional occasion, I noticed a scar along one woman’s wrist. I refused to have sex with her and decided to just chat with her instead.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask for sex unless a person offered it explicitly and groping me for instance and couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge implicit hints. That itself was a part of ceding control. If a person asked me what I wanted beyond a massage, I’d just ask her what she wanted me to do. In most cases, the woman didn’t fear groping me and then offering sex as had occurred the first time. If she didn’t offer it explicitly, I’d go on to someone else in the same evening; so it could get expensive. In a sense, it was similar to what I imagine a gambling addiction to be. On the rare occasion that I couldn’t find anyone willing to offer sex explicitly before it got too late (usually meaning that dawn had arrived), I’d just go home and sleep or get ready for work; so it could be time consuming. I sometimes wondered if the women who didn’t offer sex explicitly thought I was too stupid to read the hints. If a woman didn’t offer sex explicitly, I didn’t give her a tip and didn’t return to her though.
Of those who did offer sex explicitly (and the vast majority did at least after their hints failed), most offered protected sex only; but I was still initially surprised at how many offered unprotected sex (including menstrual sex) until asked otherwise. To interrupt my submission fantasy by needing to ask her to use a condom irritated me, and I found it to be surprising since I was well aware that the Chinese all know about HIV. I also made a point of not returning to a woman if either she or I appeared to become too emotionally attached. I dreaded emotional attachment since I knew how emotionally submissive it made me.
Though some women outside of the sex trade had expressed interest in me, I’d turned them all down for three main reasons. The first and overriding reason was the conflict between my inability to admit my problem to her and my desire to want to be truthful with a person in any committed relationship. I kept my sexual habit a dark secret from everyone outside of the sex trade as if they were two separate worlds. My inability to be truthful with her kept me single.
The second was simply my fear of emotional attachment. In a sense, paying money for sex was itself addictive since the money helped to keep an emotional distance between us. Free sex scared me.