Essay

Kinky Intimacy Games: More on the Authentic Man Program

By Duff McDuffee on April 3rd, 2012

In a recent blog post, I shared my observations about “Circling”–a group process similar to Encounter Group Therapy that plays a significant part in the group called Authentic World (also Authentic SF/Authentic Man Program/Authentic Women’s Experience and now Integral Center in Boulder). There was a long discussion about it on Facebook.

Many people disputed my conclusions, especially that “Ken Wilber and Integral have historically been associated with many toxic groups, authoritarian leaders, and religious cults, so this new community center [Integral Center in Boulder] seems to be making decisions consistent with past problematic associations.” Others disputed my conclusion that the purpose of Circling was to induce abreaction, claiming that the technique has evolved and no longer emphasizes abreaction (but it still occurs sometimes), and that circling in general is not aggressive.

There is a video currently on the Authentic Man Program YouTube channel that supports my conclusions, especially that of an authoritarian, dominant or aggressive communication style present in the methods of Authentic World.

In the following video posted to YouTube, Travis Decker aka Decker Cunov–president and founder of Authentic SF (also Authentic Man Program, Authentic World, Authentic Woman Experience)–has an intense conversation with a young woman called “Sandra.” This video is a sample from a $147 downloadable program teaching men how to create emotional and sexual intimacy with women called “Getting Her World.”

(Trigger Warning: themes of psychological and sexual control)

In this clip, “Decker” uses his knowledge of techniques that I believe originate from various psychotherapies including Gestalt, hypnosis, and Transactional Analysis along with dominant body language (leaning in; unblinking, continual eye contact), curse words, and sexual suggestion for an unspecified outcome. (Edited on 4/4/2012 at 4:26pm for factual clarity after comments from Decker in the Facebook thread. New text in red.)

Gestalt and Hypnosis Techniques

At 2:34 the conversation goes like this:

Decker: I don’t even remember your name.
Sandra: Huh. See? This is bad.
D: Is it?
S: [eyes up and to the left] Umm…
D: Stay with me.

Eyes moving up and to the left is usually in terms of NLP a sign of accessing “visual constructed” internal processing. What that means is that a person’s eyes moving in that direction usually (but not always) indicates they are thinking, possibly by constructing inner pictures. Why did Decker say “stay with me” here?

One possibility is that prolonged eye contact is a method of trance induction. It’s also commonly interpreted a sign of either aggression or intimacy or both. By holding intense, unblinking eye contact for several minutes, most people will go into a trance-like state. This trance-like state might be interpreted by Decker as “emotional intimacy.” If that’s the case, he might interpret breaking eye contact as breaking the intimacy and therefore gives the suggestion “stay with me.” Indeed, Sandra drops noticeably into trance at 4:18-4:30 (she stops talking, facial muscles relax, blinking stops, etc.).

An interpersonal trance state like locking eye contact certain does create a kind of emotional intimacy, but it’s important to note that emotional intimacy occurs in both life-affirming and harmful contexts. For instance, locking eyes with a gang member in a dark alley is a very dangerous kind of intimacy. Being emotionally connected does not necessarily mean that the connection is mutually beneficial, consensual, or appropriate, or that some other game isn’t being played.

Another possibility is that this is a technique from Gestalt psychotherapy. Gestalt emphasizes working “in the here and now” instead of the verbal content of the conversation.

At 3:39 in the following classic video demonstration, Fritz Perls’, founder of Gestalt Therapy, says, “I disregard most of the content of what the patient says and concentrate most on the nonverbal level as this is the only one which is less subject to self-deception…on the non-verbal level, the relevant gestalt will always emerge and can be dealt with in the here and now.”

At 7:11 Perls’ points and says, “now what are you doing with your feet now.” “Gloria” laughs and says, “I’m afraid you’re going to notice everything I do!” This strikes me as similar to Decker’s suggestion “stay with me,” although without first pointing out her eye movements.

Transactional Analysis Techniques

At 3:44 Decker says, “you don’t have to [remember other people's names], but they better. That’s the game you play.” Pointing out what game other people are playing is a technique from the Transactional Analysis (TA) school of psychotherapy called “name the game.” Games are ways in which people relate by playing various roles, especially ways that are problematic. TA was popularized in the 1964 book Games People Play and the 1967 book I’m Ok, You’re Ok. Many people adopted principles of TA into daily conversation after the popularity of these books.

After “naming the game,” at 4:10 Decker gives two options: either a man plays Sandra’s game, or…

“I don’t fall for that shit at all. And then where I’m left is, I take you home tonight, I make you cum, I enjoy our bodies together, but I don’t know how much further I’d go. Because if I’m willing to put my cards on the table, and you’re not? Then I’ll enjoy you, like ‘oh that’s cute.’ But I’m not gonna [pants like a dog] do all the work.”

Decker expresses his intention to have a one-night stand with Sandra at this point in the video, but couches it in ambiguous language so it’s not clear whether his embedded commands are statements of his real intentions or just talking generally. He says “if I’m willing to put my cards on the table” but at no point during this short clip has he said anything at all about himself. He has put none of his cards on the table.

In a debriefing with AMP trainer “Garrison,” Decker again reiterates his willingness to have a one-night stand with Sandra at 6:14:

“I’m not willing to entertain you and be a little wind-up toy. And, if I’m not going to do that I’ll still fuck you, I’ll still enjoy you, for a night, but I’m going to look elsewhere for someone who’s willing to actually play, not hide out.”

“Play” is a particularly interesting choice of words in this context considering Decker’s use of Transactional Analysis with Sandra. What game is Decker playing with women? It seems to me the rules of Decker’s game are the following:

  • There are two players in this game: the Opener, and the Opened.
  • The game is played on a heterosexual date.
  • The Opener is played by a man and the Opened is played by a woman.
  • The role of the Opener is to get the Opened to become emotionally intimate, for example to cry, by first refusing to play the Opened’s game, and then by using techniques of Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, curse words and sexual suggestion, along with unflinching eye contact to induce trance and/or abreaction in the Opened.
  • If the Opened is not willing to play properly by crying or otherwise expressing emotional intimacy, trance, or abreaction, the Opener may still choose to pursue using the Opener for his own sexual enjoyment.
  • If the Opened is willing to play by crying or becoming vulnerable, then the Opener may decide to continue the game.
  • The game ends when the Opened refuses to play, and after the Opener has used the Opened for his own sexual enjoyment.

We could call the game Decker is playing in this video, “let me see how fast I can break you open.” Decker plays the role of the Opener, who demands “emotional intimacy” and who’s role is to break the other person psychologically until they cry or otherwise show a strong emotional response.

How To Win a Game

The question I have is, “why does this woman, who doesn’t know this man, owe him sexual or emotional intimacy?” According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women in the United States have been the victim of attempted or completed rape, 54% of which have never gone reported. 2/3rds of sexual assault are committed by someone the victim knows.

Given this context, why should a woman like Sandra open up to a man like Decker on a date, or be willing to have sex with him that night? His language was “I take you home tonight, I make you cum, I enjoy our bodies together.” Language of consent is conspicuously missing from these sentences. His present-tense statements about his intended actions presuppose that she has no choice in the matter or has already consented.

At 5:22 Decker makes assumptions that Sandra consented: “she doesn’t feel insulted, it’s a safe place for her.” But in this short clip at least, he never asked. Perhaps they cut out this section and he’s quoting her? Or perhaps he’s doing more mind-reading.

Instead of developing a trustworthy relationship through time that proves he’s not a rapist, Decker in the role of Opener demands that this woman open to him now, and will not take “no” for an answer. In fact, a “no” to the intimacy game (a phrase also used by Authentic World-associated groups) he is playing means he intends to “enjoy our bodies together” anyway.

At 7:43, Garrison asks Decker, “Now, would you have delivered something like this on a date.” Decker says, “Totally. Absolutely. With this much fun. … What’s more interesting to me is this dance, not the content.”

So Decker’s dates involve this same kind of conversation: unflinching eye contact, the “let me see how fast I can break you open” game, a willingness to use a woman for his own pleasure if she doesn’t want to play his game.

In the theory of Transactional Analysis, the only way to win a game is to refuse to play, as Decker refuses to play Sandra’s game. To refuse to play Decker’s game however means to refuse to open emotionally and sexually–to walk away–and also to refuse Decker’s judgment of what that means about you: that you are “hiding out” (versus having reasonable doubts about his intrusive psychological interrogating).

(Interestingly, my refusal to play a similar game–minus the sexual intimacy–seemed to be the thing which most upset most “Authentic World” members in the Facebook thread about my previous article. The same thing happened when I refused to play the game in the men’s group which I was briefly a part of that did the circling exercise I described.)

Is This Game Abusive?

Whether this sort of thing constitutes abuse is a matter of extent and consent. There’s a big difference between being chained up and whipped in a dungeon without consent vs. with consent. The former constitutes kidnapping and assault, the latter just some fun role play between consenting adults. If we assume this game is explicitly consensual, the best we could say is that it is some sort of kinky psychological role play, and possibly therapeutic–just as going to a Dominatrix might be therapeutic for a control-freak executive.

In response to a question about whether he would engage in this kind of conversation on a date, Decker says “absolutely.” He doesn’t specify whether he alerts potential dates to the kind of kinky psychological games he is absolutely willing to engage in and whether they want to play too, and understand the rules.

We all engage in less extreme versions of these techniques and games in daily life. For instance you might point out an anxious tic in someone by saying, “I noticed you keep brushing your hair behind your ears–are you nervous?” In small amounts, this kind of “calling out” is certainly not abusive or coercive. Therapy and hypnosis however take these kinds of normal, everyday behaviors and amplify them for the purpose of making significant changes to personality and behavior. Because of that, consent is built into legal structures around the profession of psychotherapy to prevent abuses of power.

In my opinion, a man using the tools of therapy in an intense encounter or interrogation of a woman, for the purposes of dating, and without consent is the worst form of “dual relationship.” Even if these ways of communicating aren’t called therapy, they certainly can create a dependent, power-imbalanced sexual and emotional relationship. If there is explicit, verbal consent, we could consider this a kind of “lifestyle D/s” (Dominance and submission role play as a lifestyle), or perhaps just an occasional kinky D/s encounter, depending on how often you play. Either way, the practitioners of such techniques have an obligation to get explicit, verbal consent, and to make the nature of the power game being played clear, as well as how to stop playing at any time. Even then, there is never any guarantee that consent is always present. (See Safe, Sane, and Consensual vs. Risk-aware consensual kink–links obviously NSFW.)

In another video described in this blog post on Integral Life, Decker talks with his wife, presumably in a similar fashion, until she begins crying in his lap. Perhaps the introduction of a “safe word” could be helpful for those couples who wish to play such kinky intimacy games. Otherwise there is no clear way for a person to stop playing if it becomes too much for them. Making assumptions about consent when using powerful psychological techniques on your partner is not a particularly good way to make sure everybody is enjoying the game.

Because these safe guards do not seem to be in place within the dominating therapy techniques employed by Authentic World and it’s subsidiary groups, my recommendation to readers is still to avoid these groups and their products…unless you’re into that sort of thing. There are many safer alternatives that are not playing power and control games for those of us who don’t wish to play, yet still want to develop good communication skills for mutually-beneficial, drama-free, mature and harmonious relationships.

Since comments are still broken due to comment spam overwhelm, let’s do comments on Facebook again. Or you can email your thoughts to info [at] beyondgrowth [dot] net.

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