There is a war. Many, in fact. But right now we are going to just focus on one of them.
“Duh,” you say. Journalists are beheaded, innocent people of color are shot by cops on camera, and Queer teens are beaten to death in the streets. Women experience daily harassment that every so often ends in blood and tears. Epidermal melanin content, a.k.a. skin color, a.k.a. Race, is the only cause for some battles to be started and cause them to raged on for centuries with no signs of stopping. These everyday realities are international in scope. But these aren’t the monsters I’m writing about today.
There is a war on Pleasure. Our species – supposedly the most advanced on Earth – is pathologically terrified of pleasure, in essence suffering from mass Hedonophobia. Pleasure, rooted in personal enrichment, has somehow become a high crime with many branches, driving many to frigid legislated moralism, while others are driven to profound personal destruction via substance abuse, among other things. Pleasure is now a foreign language to the majority who have been imprisoned in several layers of clothing, projected social character, and imperialized codes of “modesty.” Violation of implicitly consented-to dogmatic custom is, quite literally speaking, lethal in some parts of the world while in others it can drive one into poverty – a longer more torturous death for some.
Riddle-me-this: when did public breast-feeding, for example, one of the most perennially intimate natural and necessary practices we primates require for both physical and mental health become a shameful criminal activity? Given the whole baby element, the argument for sexual deviance can’t even apply. This brings us one step closer to the root.
The female body is an incredibly scary thing. It is fought against with every ounce of creativity in the human arsenal. Women shame and cut down other women with imaginary violations of an imaginary standard of proper appearance. Men objectify and weaponize the female body to “keep her in her place” and “show her what she’s good for.” In Fundamentalist-Christian Texas, I grew up hearing such nonsense on both sides of the gender binary, regardless of religious affiliation. The poison of “modesty” law can make or break someone’s ability to find employment, a relationship with upward momentum, good standing in a community, and even personal safety in one’s home. This is a reality and it has been so for centuries. For example, why does the corset – a true torture device if there was one – exist? Appearances, darling. Keep the pretty girls from breathing so they can’t so much as run three steps before fainting. It’s disgustingly brilliant.
There was a time where women and men fought and died together to establish their sovereign domain, their home, their Hearth. Thankfully, in recent years, [SURPRISE] our cartoon fantasy of gender roles in history has been debunked. Upon closer inspection of Viking burial remains (1), gender-exclusionistic notions of life and death have been shown to be mere projections on the part our Disney-ified culture. In examining the bones themselves instead of just the personal effects with which the Vikings were buried, women were laid to rest with their swords and shields just like the men. The stay-at-home weak woman laden with the strong man’s baby is not a tradition based in history upon which one can justify a contemporary social hierarchy – just a fantasy.
I delight in a woman’s body and, I may be so bold, find some women completely captivating. This is something wonderful, exhilarating, invigorating, and altogether natural. However, if I should opt to be a cowardly control freak, the female form morphs before me into a wild alien creature to be conquered and enslaved lest it deprive me of a truly deranged sense of autonomy. Thankfully, I quit that team long ago and do not fear body parts – not breasts, not vaginas, not penises, not intersexed organs, either! Neither do I feel the need to obsess over them. Bodies are wonderful and strange all at once. (Its part of the fun, you see.) I’ll gratefully view and pay homage to my partners’ bodies when they damn well want to show them to me and I feel like showing mine to them – or anybody else for that matter – simply because they/I/we want to and that’s all the explanation anyone, in my opinion, should have to give.
Not everyone shares my perspective.
Recently, as you may or may not be aware, a particular poor lonely soul using 4chan recently took it upon themselves to show the world Jennifer Lawrence’s (among others) vulnerable moments in pristine stolen jpg form (2) that was created for private use. Call me crazy; I don’t want to see the images! A boob is a boob is a boob. OHMYGODITSABOOB! Yes? This is only noteworthy if (A) you want to steal joy from someone and make them feel low and/or (B) the person is an object in your mind that you didn’t feel was completely consumable heretofore. Both are signs of a health concern.
Let’s call it what it is – a sex crime.
For me, this is just another manifestation of deep-rooted fear of sexual power that Americans, among others, carry and propagate. I should be able to employ my devices however I please without fear of exploitation, however, the chronic lack of respect for individuals and their sovereign agency is what this crime truly highlights for me. I’m beyond saying “be more careful” or “don’t use iCloud” and fast-forwarding to the core problem.
That dishonorable person pillaged women’s intimacy because they were famous. In my mind, it’s as though the person in question forcibly stripped 100 people and marched them into the public square to be objectified at gunpoint. We just have more convenient tools now that can be employed from your mom’s basement. Sadly, where I grew up, it scares me that I remember hearing people say things like, “Well, the whores deserved it. God’s judgment is swift…”
Stop right there.
What I’m saying is that many humans blame their deep-seated social phobias on invisible forces who sub-culturally manifest as scapegoat imaginary friends who act on hate and discrimination.
Read that again. Its real.
Fortunately, in the US, most of us have barks far bigger than our bites and that’s why there has been no respectful discussion about basic human dignity for so long. This isn’t a liberal vs. conservative problem. This isn’t a poor vs. rich problem. This isn’t a theist vs. atheist problem. I would like it to be; but it’s not. One of Hedonophobia’s many children, Rape Culture, is evidence of this, because it infects every caste. For those unfamiliar with this egregore, please listen to the words of Emilie Buchwald (3), the author of “Transforming a Rape Culture.” For her, Rape Culture is:
…a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from degrading remarks to non-consensual sexual touch to full-on rape, itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women (or any marginalized demographic, for that matter) as the norm . . . In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable . . . However… much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.
Why the violence? Someone’s afraid of something.
Humans don’t demonstrate aggression unless our survival mechanisms kick in because we feel we are dying, whether by attack, fear of attack from something usually not understood, or starvation. It’s not just cisgender women who suffer in this game. Queer/gender non-conforming men and trans women also experience a tremendous amount of harassment and hate-crimes. There was a wave of hate crimes (4) directed at queer folk in New York City last year, a city purported to be a haven for so many who stand apart. The Yin element is frightening to some no matter where or how she manifests. In May 2014 in Atlanta, two black trans-women were victimized (5) on a public subway by two men while the crowd stood around with cameras and cheered.
This is not new. These are medieval problems. For all our tools, trinkets, and toys that transcend the expectations of science fiction, our species somehow can’t pass this class: Love and Respect. We call ourselves rulers of the Earth, the children of God, the special snowflakes who invent language, create music, and compute our way to the stars.
But we can’t honor that which is soft, playful, inviting, nourishing, relaxing, ecstatic, and soothing. Yin is still a monster under the bed. Why?
Even an Ivy League environment where ignorance (one would think) is directly combatted, we play Hot Potato with the issues, in spite of a coordinated massive student outcry (6), Rape goes on ignored as administrations grossly mismanage if not turn a blind eye entirely to crimes committed on their grounds.
In a sweeping moment of divine clarity, the California Senate passed a bill requiring colleges/universities to uphold a standard of affirmative consent in sexual encounters (7) in an attempt to hold college campuses accountable for their students’ safety. It outlines protections for people who were not sober and eliminates the possibility for silent consent to be taken as a green light. To me, this is intuitively in the proper direction based in respect good science and will hopefully spawn a wave of common-sense legislation that protects all parties in an equitable manner with phrasing appropriate for a 21st-century environment. But some reactions to it startled me. A common one I can directly quote en masse from the almighty Facebook is:
“But seriously, are people supposed to stop and ask every five minutes?”
We who are not afraid to talk about our needs and wants and practice affirmative consent on a daily basis find it very simple to define what we do and do not want to engage in before engaging in it. In fact, it becomes integral to our super-sexy seduction process, because affirmative/enthusiastic consent is frankly smoking hot. Check-ins should be natural. If you change activities, make sure everyone is on board. If you haven’t talked about something, don’t do it until you do.
Those who don’t communicate about anything and play guessing games as a lifestyle choice will find this notion confusing and perplexing because it throws off their mystery no-accountability schtick. However, these poor souls also *tend* to be people who let themselves stumble into sexual encounters and are at risk for assault and/or buyer’s remorse due to ridiculous degrees of confusion and implicit/explicit shaming of all partners’ expression. Getting a sober “Yes” isn’t a buzz kill or hurdle, its evidence of intimacy and respect.
If talking to your partner is irritating, you shouldn’t try to fuck them.
If this doesn’t make sense to someone, then there are deeper issues at hand that need addressing and healing. Not to mention, sex is more fun (and we all allegedly still like fun, right?) when someone enthusiastically wants to have sex with you. But here’s the catch:
It’s also scarier.
Its scarier because one can’t hide from a lover. You can try. You can try your damnedest. You can hone it into a skill. But genuine intimacy – love-touch – pierces through the hardest and darkest armor. In Nature, water slowly carves through the hardest rock. Heard of the Grand Canyon? It was formed by water (8) – gentle, soothing, cool water. Love is stronger than any rage, any fear, any trauma, any mask. You can’t hide from it because it accepts you – all of you – even that dark bit that you hate.
The Yin energy within us all emanates this medicine with every heartbeat. At first, Compassionate Connection is terrifying. When you stand inside Absolute Love, you are stripped of all your clever words, your mightiest weapons, your pretty clothes, your fashionable appearance, your bank account, your career, your portfolio…
You’re stripped of everything that’s not just….
We humans have evolved to the point where we recognize intuitively the tremendous degree of release required in a genuine loving encounter of any kind and the deep volcanic power of Sex that has the authority required to rewire reality, itself.
And THAT is something truly terrifying.
“Embrace” Sculpture – Burning Man 2014
YOU and I – objectify, pillage, mock, enslave, intimidate, cut apart, legislate, ridicule, and revile every flicker of light that emanates from that door that if gently opened would truly heal us to the quick in one moment of honesty and mutual compassion. That Light destroys everything we thought we knew about ourselves what remains of us is truly divine. For me, this is the reason for Living.
In writing about the culture surrounding systemic police brutality, Pagan author and activist T. Thorn Coyle wrote (9) the following:
We are up against a monster who feeds upon our fear. We are up against a monster who delights in control, oppression, and in pain. We are not up against individuals. We are up against a being formed by a collective, what magic workers call an egregore. This egregore is hungry for injustice. It is hungry for screams, and rapes, and beatings, and gassing, and shots fired into flesh…It infects good people with a madness that cannot be appeased without more violence…We form an egregore, too, all of us who love. All of us who stand for justice…The systems of oppression are in place. So are the avenues of our resistance and our action…My opposition is my prayer. My prayer is my opposition.
There is a war on Pleasure. Why do we fear Pleasure, genitals, female bodies and female energy, while attempting to weaponize male bodies and sexuality? For me, genitals are the one thing that will never ever stop looking very much like an animal trait. We’re all strange-looking and it makes us all have some weird feelings around it. Genitals are some of the few things about the human body that defy mechanization and industrialization. We all have unique qualities, but we can mythologize our forms into polished androids – right up until we take our pants off and our soft slippery ports flop out to play. Suddenly, the memory of our animal earth-bound nature comes flooding back and many of us are sent running away screaming into the deep vault within. For all our books, all our toys, all our tools, all our weapons, all our “culture”…
We are still animals – and that terrifies us.
The more we study and connect to our closest animal relatives and communicate directly with them, the more we discover (10) that we really are not as far removed from the animal kingdom as we would like to imagine. Though I am infinitely creative and highly adaptive, I embrace the fact that I am an animal. I am a primate and this gives me solace. It removes the pressure to be godlike. It removes the myth that I become the perfect machine or computer. I am not a machine. I am an animal surviving on Earth and, through creativity, am manifesting a life in which I thrive as the divine beast I am. Why am I here?
…Why is anything here?
Love and love hard. Love in all the ways you can because there is no manual. The gods didn’t write one and our best manuals are still just our best guesses for individual experiences. It is so very easy to feel overwhelmed in this Apocalyptic time. So much is changing so fast and its easy to wonder what one can do. It’s in moments like these that I remember that all the people who act in hate do so either thoughtlessly or because on some level they feel they have just cause. I gave up trying to change people a long time ago.
But one thing I learned the hard way to never betray my Light. In whatever way you can as you walk through the world each day and night, be the change. Do what makes you feel warm, even if you are the only one. In time, you will no longer be the only one; you be the Change. If “they” require no one’s permission to act out of fear and rage, think about what little permission you need to act out of Love and Passion. The hardest and most fear-inducing moment is when it finally comes time to Love your Self and experience deep ecstatic Pleasure – when you stand alone and naked before Love…
Just. Let. Go.
And become something greater than you ever could have imagined. Yes, its dangerous. Life is dangerous.
You’re an animal, after all.
1 – Vergano, Dan. “Invasion of the Viking Women Unearthed.” USA Today. Gannett, 19 July 2011. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.
2 – Mendelson, Scott. “The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A ‘Scandal.’ It’s A Sex Crime.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 01 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.
3 – “What Is Rape Culture?” WAVAW Women Against Violence Against Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.
4 – KINSER, JEREMY. “NY Gay Man Killed In Fifth Hate Crime This Month.” Queerty. Queerty.com, 18 May 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <https://www.queerty.com/ny-gay-man-killed-in-fifth-hate-crime-this-month-20130518>.
5 – Osborne, Terri. “#YesAllWomen: Police Search For The Men Who Stripped And Beat Two Trans Women On ATL Subway – CrimeFeed.” CrimeFeed. N.p., 30 May 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://crimefeed.com/2014/05/transgendered-women-attacked-on-atl-subway-nobody-moves-to-help/>.
6 – Pérez-Peña, Richard. “Students File Complaints on Sexual Assaults at Columbia University.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/nyregion/accusations-over-assault-at-columbia.html?_r=1>.
7 – Mandanas, Laura. “California Passes Affirmative Consent Bill; Rape Apologists Retreat Into Fantasy.” Autostraddle. N.p., 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://www.autostraddle.com/california-passes-affirmative-consent-bill-rape-apologists-retreat-into-fantasy-252946/>.
8 – “The Grand Canyon: How It Formed.” PBS LearningMedia. WGBH, 2006. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.earthsys.canyon/the-grand-canyon-how-it-formed/>. Adapted from NOVA: “Rafting Through the Grand Canyon.” 1992
9 – Coyle, T. Thorn. “Opposition Is a Prayer – T. Thorn Coyle.” T Thorn Coyle. N.p., 01 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://www.thorncoyle.com/blog/2014/09/01/opposition-prayer/>.
10 – Raffaele, Paul. “Speaking Bonobo: Speaking Bonobo Bonobos Have an Impressive Vocabulary, Especially When It Comes to Snacks.” Web log post. Smithsonian. N.p., Nov. 2006. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/speaking-bonobo-134931541/?no-ist>.