This episode of the podcast we decided to go off-script to talk about scripts. What do our scripts about sex, relationships, and ourselves open up for us, and what do they close down?
We started with sex to suggest that – as in many areas – the things that we can learn from sex are useful to apply to other areas. We’ve often talked about sexual scripts on the podcast, coming to the following conclusions:
- The cultural script about sex can leave people feeling that there’s a right and wrong way to do sex, and get them focusing on goals like penetration and orgasm instead of the process, being present, and ensuring consent
- Even if we move away from feeling we have to follow the cultural script, we often create our own scripts – in communities or individual relationships – about how sex should go. These can also get in the way of pleasure, being present, and consent.
- While having a script can make sex feel easier and less effortful, over time we can become stuck in that script which can make it less enjoyable, flexible, and consensual (because we’re not checking in with ourselves or others any more). It can stop us feeling able to change over time.
Does this apply to our scripts about relationships?
- Certainly there’s a cultural script – the relationship escalator – which suggests that relationships have to follow a certain course over time.
- Like sex, those who reject the mainstream relationship model often end up with just as rigid scripts of how to do polyamory, or friends-with-benefits relationships, for example.
- Within our own relationships, again we can become stuck in scripts over time about how we do things in our relationships: who initiates things – for example – or how we spend weekends, or play out certain arguments.
- Again, when these scripts become stuck they can get in the way of us being present to ourselves – and the people we’re in relationship with – and can make change over time feel dangerous because it threatens the script, rather than inevitable and potentially valuable for keeping the relationship alive and fresh.
How about our scripts about ourselves?
- There are certainly cultural scripts about how to be a successful – or happy – self. As with sex and relationships we can question that script because it’s only available to certain people, and because striving for these kinds of goals often has the opposite effect (just like striving for an orgasm makes it more difficult, and trying to have a perfect relationship puts it under too much pressure).
- We often come up with scripts and stories about ourselves: what kind of person we are, how we came to be that way, and how that will impact our lives in the future. These can be useful in terms of coming to understand ourselves better and shifting things that are keeping us stuck. They can also be unhelpful if we get the sense that we’re fixed in that way, or we see that script in operation even when there are alternative explanations, or the script becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- We suggested that the idea that we are impermanent, ever-changing, plural selves might be more helpful. We can hold scripts about ourselves lightly rather than grasping them – or trying to deny them. It can also be useful to consider that there are always multiple stories that we can tell through our lives and relationships, and to make room for all of them instead of focusing on just one.
© Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, 2018