On The Meaning Of The Amazon

December 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm (feminism, LGBT, proclamations, sexism)

I’m thinking today of the mythical Amazons. I say “mythical” not to make any statement about their actuality, but because I’m thinking specifically of the mythology. That is, what does this mythic idea mean?

The idea is of a woman warrior, but she’s more than that. She is a person who occupies the space between sexes. She cuts off one breast, the better to shoot arrows, but leaves the other: a combatant who can nurse children. All her life is dimorphic. Women are her friends and comrades, men her enemies; her daughters are treasured children, her sons left out to die.

I am being somewhat ahistorical here. I’m interpreting this idea from my vantage point as a 21st century dyke, wondering what the symbol means today — I find its simple endurance as an idea noteworthy — and, to a lesser (and less informed) extent, what it might have meant once, what purpose this idea serves.

So. The Amazon is, I think, the visceral reaction to the gendering of violence. We code violence as male and tenderness as female and, therefore, men as dangerous and women as nurturing. Trapped in such a system, people respond in many ways — most frequently by performing these roles and behaving as if they are natural and inevitable. But I don’t think of any of us is truly comfortable with this incredibly reductive picture of human nature. The life of the Amazon is a life of both protest against this system and capitulation to it: a rejection of the system on the system’s own terms. The Amazon is following an older, crueler Golden Rule — treat others as they treat you. In a world where men, and only men, are brutal, and women, and only women, are kind,* the Amazon, in an imperfect stand against cruelty, becomes callous to men and considerate to women.

This is a profound assent to the premises of the gender system — she accepts that women are one way and men another. But it also, inevitably, gets her kicked out of that same institution. As soon as she practices both violence and tenderness, even in her sexist way, she is no longer qualified for membership in the group “woman.” This contradiction embodies the essence of life under this regime: we are trapped and re-trapped in the system even as we are constantly kicked out of it, constantly deemed unworthy of our assigned class. And that’s the real cruelty of it.

Even in exile there is no escape.

* This is not the real world. It is the world the gender system tells us we live in, though.

Cross-posted at Revolutionary Act.

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The Problem With Monogamy (Or, Against The Nuclear Family)

October 8, 2008 at 5:54 pm (proclamations, sex)

And another post from me at Revolutionary Act…

Okay, so the title is a little misleading — there’s no problem at all with the narrow practice of having one sexual partner at a time. I’m monogamous because that’s what works for me (and my girlfriend); it’s what works for lots of other folks, too. That’s great.

What is problematic is the massive culture conceptualization of monogamy, which, in my estimation, goes way beyond how many people one is sleeping with. It is, rather, the cultural construction of love itself, which seems to amount to the idea that each person should get (and give) all her love from (and to) just one person. It is the idea that we should have all our emotional needs met by a sole other person, and meet 100% of that person’s needs in turn. It’s the idea that adults should have only one really important adult relationship — that the (sole) person one is sleeping with should become the single most important person in one’s life, that one’s spouse should exist on this sacred plane of total devotion, while our friendships should be basically casual, basically unimportant, or, at best, less important.

Read the rest.

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Briefly, On The State Of The World And The Impending Collapse

July 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm (politics, proclamations)

I’m burnt out on politics, by the way. I care less than I used to. If the world could be changed with signs on street corners, fervent support of well-intentioned bills, votes cast for the right politicians, it would have been changed already. Wouldn’t it? Not that we shouldn’t do those things — we must. And yet…

I believe, today, that the world we’ve made will be changed by only two forces: love, and catastrophic disaster.

I await both of them now, with equal anticipation.

Dear sweet species, I love you endlessly, in all that we have made.

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On Stewardship And A Just Use Of Power

April 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm (environment, injustice, proclamations) (, , , , )

This is what it comes down to.

For those of us who find ourselves in positions of power, there is exactly one right course. There is only one acceptable use of power. We must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must help those in need. We must never, never, use our might to harm those weaker than ourselves. This is our unshakable obligation. This is the one just use for strength.

And that is exactly where we have failed as a species. That is why the damage we have done to the biosphere is so wrong. Forget that we have plundered and destroyed the pristine and the beautiful, forget even that we are endangering our own children: the havoc we wreak on the planet is wrong because we chose to use our power in the wrong way. We could have done better, but we didn’t — we chose not to.

We are the stewards of the Earth. This is not because an omniscient creator-god made us so, gave us dominion over the animals, but because it is humandkind, alone among creatures, with the incredible power to change, pollute, pillage, and destroy the world. No one can deny that we posses this power. We are, so far, incredibly powerful. Alone among species, we control our fate, and the fate of all of creation. We can and we do overpower non-human animals. We can and we do destroy ecosystems, contaminate water and air supplies, turn forests into deserts.

This makes us the stewards of the Earth. We must be the stewards of the planet, for the only alternative is to be its oppressors. We can be caretakers or we can be despots.

There is, of course, exactly one right choice. What is the right choice when an adult encounters an infant? What is the right choice when a child plays with a kitten? When one comes upon a person who is badly hurt?

We must be guardians. If we fail in this regard, we have failed as human beings, exactly as parent who kills a child has failed as a father or mother.

Edited to add on: And so power, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Power can be an incredible force for justice, when used that way.

That’s not to say that unjust power imbalances — like say, between genders or races — are ever okay, or can ever be a force of good. But those that are unavoidable, such as the gap between parents and children, or between people and fish, can be very good. I don’t believe we will ever have egalitarianism amongst species, but I don’t believe we have to in order to have liberty and justice for all.

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Dead Tree Book Log: The Kingdom Of Auschwitz by Otto Friedrich

March 26, 2008 at 4:58 pm (books, injustice, politics, proclamations) ()

I found myself writing a book review for class today and figured it was high time we had another one of these, so this one is serving double duty.

If you’re only going to read one book about the Holocaust, make it The Diary of Anne Frank (I prefer the Definitive Edition). If you’re going to read two books, though, you should read The Kingdom Of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich. It’s concise, complex, and powerful. I read the entire thing while listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea; I recommend you do so as well.

The review, most of it below the fold:

“The truth about Auschwitz?” Józef Cyrankiewicz once reflected. “There is no person who could tell the whole truth about Auschwitz.” (Friedrich 102)

The Kingdom of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich, is not a new book — it was first published in 1982. During the last twenty-six year, however, is has only grown more relevant. In this moment of constant demonization of the other by zealots in both Middle America and the Middle East, Friedrich’s is one of the few messages with the power to stop people in their tracks before we go any farther along the road that leads to atrocities. Friedrich’s complex portrait of evil does not fall into the convenient and dangerous trap of disregarding Nazism as aberrant or insane. He does the brave thing, exploring the humanizing idiosyncrasies of Auschwitz. Friedrich’s point is that there isn’t a clear point to be inferred, that we must make room ambiguity and live with the unknowable — valuable insights for those who would attempt to understand the word by reducing it to separate spheres of good and evil.

Friedrich explores the many perplexing events surrounding Auschwitz. One particularly impenetrable happening occurred in May of 1944, when Adolf Eichmann made a deranged offer to the Allies. Hungarian Jews were about to be transported to Auschwitz; Eichmann announced that all of them could emigrate freely in exchange for ten thousand military trucks from the allies (68). Joel Brand, working on behalf of the Joint Distribution Committee — an American nonprofit helping to move European Jews — desperately tried to convince the Allies to comply, but they would not (68). Brand’s attempts were very much in vain: “Even while Brand’s hopeless negotiations continued, there was no interruption in the trains to Auschwitz” (68).

This anecdote is a microcosm of the larger story of the death camp as Friedrich tells it. Eichmann’s offer was crueler for its suggestion of mercy, for the Allies could never accept it. Brand’s efforts were obviously futile, yet he could not abandon them with some 400,000 lives (66) hanging in the balance. The Allies response was brutal — how could the lives of forty innocent people be worth less than one truck? Yet they had no real choice. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Many-Headed Goddess, Part 4: What would you tell your younger self about sex?

March 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm (proclamations, sex)

(Parts 1, 2, 3.)

In which my ideas about sex become one with my ideas about art, community, and love, some of which are here.

My mom asked me to give my 14-year-old brother a sex talk today. I’m not sure whether I will. My mother specifically wanted someone to talk to him about how to put on a condom. No idea why she though I would understand that better than she does. I’ve actually never participated in any sex act in which a condom was used, ever.

I told her I would try to find a good book. Any suggestions? I’ve seen a bunch for girls, but I’m not sure where to start for a boy. Looking for something sex- and body-positive, (pro-)feminist, with good, accurate information.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what kinds of things I would want to tell a kid about sex, in an ideal world where embarrassment does not exist. If I could talk to my 14-year-old self, what would I tell her about sex? What would you tell your younger self? What information would actually be useful?

I had good sex ed for someone growing up in the US today, which is more a statement about the sorry state of sex education than the completeness of the information I received. I learned how heterosexual sex leads to pregnancy and about a few different kinds of protection, and heard some scare-stories about teen pregnancy and HIV. That’s it.

There are many things missing from this picture, but the big one is so obvious, hidden in plain sight: nobody ever thought to mention why people have sex. It’s really the clear starting point. Why would you talk about the terrible things that can happen when doing something before you’ve even established why people do it? Why would you learn how to do something before you understand what it is, before you see its function? Before you know how to gauge when it’s a good idea, and when it’s not?

If you start there, you naturally get to all the other missing information: consent, sexual orientation, orgasms, etc. You know, the stuff that people actually need to know, in addition to the mechanical things.

So, with all of that in mind, this is what I would tell my younger self about sex. It is, of course, tailored to me, but I think it applies beyond that.

People have sex because it feels good. There are a lot of things that can get tied into this, but, at its most basic level, sex is about pleasure. People have sex to enjoy their bodies, alone or with another person. That’s the goal.

It’s important to keep this in mind. Sex is about feeling good. Since sex is about feeling good, while having sex, you should do things that feel good. There are a lot of ways to do this. Everyone’s body is different, so you will have to learn what you like, and whenever you sleep with someone, you will have to learn what she or he likes. It will take practice.

It’s important to pay attention to yourself, to notice how you are reacting. It’s also important to pay attention to your partner and notice how he or she is reacting. It’s important to tell your partner what feels good, and to ask him or her what feels good, which can be scary. Having these conversations is part of having sex.

Since sex is about feeling good, while having sex, there is no reason to do something that doesn’t feel good to you. If something feels bad, there is no reason to do it. If you feel like you’re supposed to do something, but it feels bad, don’t worry: you’re not supposed to do it, because you are only supposed to do things that feel good.

Sex isn’t something you can understand by seeing it in a movie or reading about it in a book. It’s good to learn as much as you can, but it will almost certainly surprise you. If nothing else, you may find yourself surprised by its realness, by the fact that it is actually happening, by the knowledge that you are feeling what you are.

Sex isn’t something you can understand by doing it. Sex is like speaking.* You can learn how to talk or how to make somebody come, but that is just the beginning. Then you go out and start having conversations. You start reaching out to people.

Some of these conversations will be boring. Some will be tender. Some will be angry, some sad, some euphoric. Each will be attempt to communicate, to connect with another person. An attempt to ask a question or give an explanation, an attempt to tell a story. You can have these conversations with as many people as you meet, or with the same person over and over. The important thing is that you keep having them. Keep asking questions. Keep making connections.

Sex is like archeology. You will uncover layers, one and then another, deeper and deeper. There is no way to know what you will find there.

Sex is like art. You will begin exploring yourself and you will never stop, for you are infinite. There are worlds of things to discover, things to express, things to process, things to attempt, things to remember and to forget. And there are always different ways to approach the same things, new frames to put around them, new perspectives to try.

Sex like art: it’s about communication. It’s about sharing your most secret self. And there is no wrong way to do it, as long as it’s sincere. As long as it is yourself you are sharing. Just as with art, when what you’re doing is what you want to do, when you’re making what you at your most honest are moved to make, it will be something beautiful. It will be something worth listening to.

* Image appropriated from here.

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The Many-Headed Goddess, Part 3: On Mutilation And Mysticism, Chesed And Gevurah

February 26, 2008 at 11:06 pm (proclamations, sex)

(Parts 1, 2.)

This post is likely to seem only tangentially related to the others, but they are very connected for me, sister cities in the geography of my mind. I said the first post began in the middle of the story; this one happens closer to the beginning. It is a meandering sort of post.

So, anybody study Kabbalah at all?

The foundational text of Kabbalah is the Zohar, which is a medieval work of mystical Torah commentary. “Torah” means law; “zohar” means light. People who like convenient aphorisms will tell you the Zohar is the lamp one holds to reveal the true meaning of the Torah.

Another very important foundational idea in Kabbalah is the Ten Sefirot, also called the Tree of Life. The way this was explained to me: the Tree of Life is a diagram of the Godhead. It is also a diagram of the soul. It is also a diagram of the world. It is also the map of the process of creation: it begins at Keter, the unified Godstate, unwinds and branches down into Malchut, the manifest world. The universe is a fractal, with the sefirot existing wholly at every level.

Here is a friendly diagram of the Tree of Life, which should serve you well for the purposes of this post:

ten-sefirot

(Image credit.)

Complete with English transliterations! For extra credit, compare and contrast with chakra systems.

Okay, onto the meat of the matter.

As you may know, I was a self-mutilator for a long time. Or am, maybe, in a “recovering alcoholic” sort of way. I would like to be able to pin this phase of my life down, to say, “I was a self-mutilator from 2001 to 2006,” but mutilation — what a tricky thing to put a box around. Do thoughts count? In many real ways, I think they do. What about acts that permanently changed the contours of my skin, but were carried out in love, or in a lovely form of madness? I wouldn’t count them, but I imagine anyone who happened to notice such a scar would not assume agreeable intentions, a gratifying memory.

During the worst periods, all four limbs and more became war zones. Overall, though, my attacks on myself were focused on a remarkably small area, the inside of my left forearm, the part closest to my elbow. Precisely where my tattoo is, on the other arm.

Of all the events of my adolescence, I can easily point to the one that had the greatest impact on reducing (and eventually stopping) my self-harm: coming out. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were lifted from my heart. I was visibly glowing for days, for weeks. Suddenly, finally, I felt love for my body.

It’s important to note that my coming out story is a little different from a typical one. I was fifteen; I had been struggling to puzzle out my sexual identity for a few years. For me, “coming out” wasn’t telling a secret I had known for years; it was realizing, understanding, accepting, and revealing the secret, all at once, in one great rush of wind.

I have often retrospectively conceptualized my self-mutilation as an attempt to literally cut parts of myself out. I wanted to cut out the queerness. And more: I would cut myself not when I was sad, but when I was furious. I was trying to tear my anger out of myself. It is obvious to me now that sex and rage — my rage at injustice, the anger that follows judgment — are my two strongest sources of power. I was trying to neutralize myself.

On the chart above, you can see that the second circle from the top in the left column is Gevurah. Gevurah is the sefirah associated with the left arm. And what ideas should it connote: judgment, fire, and ultimately, power.

On the right side, we have Chesed: love and kindness. It’s probable that this all happened because I am right-handed, but we are meaning-makers, so let us make meaning. This goes back to what I wrote in the first post about a disconnect between love and sex, which is a disconnect between Chesed and Gevurah, in my thinking.

In my misery, I wanted to amputate my rage and my hunger; so backwards was this desire that it perverted the forces of love and kindness into forces of brutality. And in doing so, of course, I did not get rid of my anger or my desire, I multiplied them. We only have two arms. In order to try to remove the cruel one, I had to turn the tender one into a weapon.

The severing of Chesed and Gevurah also happens when we try to make bold distinctions between nice, loving sex and intense, aggressive sex (something I did as I was first trying to understand things). The best sex, in my experience, is both and neither: the nice things are intensely nice, and the intense things nicely (pleasantly) intense; and we are aggressively loving, and lovingly aggressive.

The Tree of Life is also correlated to the major arcana of the Tarot. More precisely, the lines between the sefirot are connected to different cards. The bridge between Chesed and Gevurah is the eleventh card: Justice. For what is needed to make power and judgment just? Love. And what is manifestation of love? Power.

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Christofacists: Stop Using The History Of My People As A Means To Your Evil Ends

February 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm (politics, proclamations) ()

I’ve just been reading this post at Pharyngula, discussing the incredibly stupid argument that the Christofascists are now using to denounce reason — that Darwin is somehow responsible for the Holocaust. PZ Myers links this little gem by one Denyse O’Leary. O’Leary says:

The idea of making Jews extinct in the sense that the dinosaurs are extinct – as the Nazis tried to do – was derived culturally from Darwin, not from the Church. Also derived from Darwin and his supporters – rather than the Church – was the view of Jews as simply a gene pool rather than a race/religion/culture/Jesus’s family/God’s chosen people/essential part of history/essential part of our neighbourhood/people we know. The stew of traditional issues sometimes overflows into violence, but not into a eugenics program.

That is why the Nazis, who were very much influenced by these new Darwin-inspired ideas, killed Jewish-born Christian converts like Edith Stein, as well as all other Jews. Whether Jews were Orthodox, Reform, or atheists made no difference to them – because they treated humans as if they were animals, NOT because the Nazis were egalitarians in any meaningful sense.

First of all, who the fuck is arguing that the Nazis were egalitarians? Is it just me or did that come out of nowhere? I wonder what crowd O’Leary is running with, that she feels the need to emphasize that Nazis — I repeat, Nazis — are not egalitarian “in any meaningful sense.” No shit, lady.

Anyay, PZ Myers does a great job explaining why this idea is stupid. Do read him for that. I want to explain why it’s offensive, which I have already done before.

First of all: as a Jew, as grandchild of Holocaust survivors,* as a woman, as a person, as a lesbian, I know who my allies are, and it’s not you, Denyse O’Leary. From that post:

know who will protect my right to my traditions. I know who will protect the liberal, semi-secular synagogue where my brother was bar mitzvahed last month. I know who will protect my religion’s traditions of discussion, debate, and reinterpretation. I know who will protect our values of justice, education, and community. I know who will stand with us against violence and exploitation. I know who will stand with us and say, with seriousness, “Never again.” . . . I trust the atheists, the agnostics, the secular humanists, the intellectuals. To whatever extent that fellow religious people overlap with those groups, I trust them, too. These are my real allies. An enemy of secular values is my enemy, too.

An enemy of secular values is the enemy of any minority group, actually, because while there certinly can be evil atheists, secular values provide a better safe-guard against injustice than religious values ever could. Only by valuing truth, knowledge, debate, and inquiry, only by valuing equality and diversity, and only by valuing dissent, discussion, and revision, can we protect ourselves against evil. Science and secularism value these things; religion, in general, doesn’t. Christofascism most certainly doesn’t.

Furthermore, I disagree with an attitude that runs through her post. Here’s an example (emphasis mine):

Darwin was instrumental in discrediting the traditional way of looking at human beings. This is a fact that everyone admits and many celebrate. How often have you heard that Darwin’s great achievement was to knock humanity off its pedestal and show that we are merely evolved animals, accidentally evolved at that?

What is wrong with being “merely” miraculous accidental creatures in this vast, beautiful world? Why is everything not enough? That is my biggest problem with religion: what is wrong with the entire world? Why is your ideology predicated on making people believe that everything they are, everything the can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or otherwise experience is shit?

So, in summary: Christofascists, please leave me and my history alone. You are no ally of mine; you are no friend of the Jews. I repeat: you are no friend of the Jews.

If you don’t understand why appropriating someone else’s story disrespectfully for your own purposes is wrong, try reading this eloquent post about it; it’s about personal stories, but I think this case is substantially the same.

* Escapees, more like. They got out virtually the day before everything got really bad.

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The Many-Headed Goddess, Part 2: On Having Real Sex

February 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm (proclamations, sex)

Just to clarify: when I use the word “sex,” I mean consensual sex. Rape is not sex anymore than beating someone with a bat is baseball.

Picking up where I left off here. First of all, Infra left a very beautiful and thought-provoking comment there, which everyone should probably read. I plan to explore the ideas raised there more.

Going back to the mechanization of sex. That thought occurred to me while I was puzzling over a different, sex-related problem: the notion that some kinds of sex are “real sex,” and others are not.

Which, you know, just putting aside for a moment all the sexist, phallocentric, heterosexist shit that comes with the idea straight penis-in-vagina intercourse* is the be-all, end-all of sexuality, is really just… Stupid. It’s stupid, and it doesn’t make sense, to say that sex acts between consenting adults are inherently anything. It’s ridiculous to say some are inherently more intense or valid or important, and it’s ridiculous to say some are inherently bad or immoral or degrading. It’s like saying certain kinds of food are inherently delicious, or inherently gross, or inherently The One And Only Real Food.

But, stupid as it is, I do think it makes sense that such an idea would happen, if we’re imagining, as I did in that last post, that our hang-ups about sex are largely related to trying to make sex less terrifying, more manageable. Because, what’s happening when people** are having sex? What’s really going on there? What are we really experiencing?

What is literally happening, to be sure. But much, much more importantly, we are having a subjective experience of the bigger context of those acts. We are experiencing whether we’re turned on or not, whether or not we’re nervous. We are aware of what our partner/s is/are feeling, too. We are experiencing whether we like, love, hate, or could care less about the other people involved (or the lack of them). Perhaps most importantly, we are experiencing our own hunger. We are deeply, directly connected to our own yearnings. In terms of the specific acts that occur, what is significant is how they mesh with our desires, not how they rank on an arbitrary ladder of importance.

People do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons. Some of those of reasons are physical — not all bodies can do all things, for gender reasons and for health and ability reasons. Some of those reasons are preferential — not everyone enjoys all acts, and most everyone enjoys some more than others. What matters, though, is whether or not what we’re doing, in that moment, what we want to be doing, in that moment.

What matters is not who is putting what where. That’s something much simpler. What really matters — what really causes the experience — is the messy, multilayered content of our hearts and minds. The brain is the most important sex organ, right? So the details of what is happening to our genitals are far less meaningful than the story we are telling ourselves about them in our heads, the story that our hearts are telling us about them in our chests.

I think the idea that some kinds of sex are more “real” than others acknowledges this, actually — that’s why it says what it does. We know that the subjective experience is what’s actually important; that’s why it’s the part that gets cut out. That is why it’s the part we ignore when we’re trying to turn sex into a logical, mechanical, manageable thing. We take fairly straight-forward physical actions — a hand here, a tongue there — and brutally cut and tear them out of the scenes in which they gain meaning. We disembowel sex; we lobotomize it. We reduce it to a quantifiable sequence of mechanical actions.

And then we extend this process to its inevitable conclusions. We build a hierarchy of sex acts, decide that some things are Real Sex, and other acts are permanently classified as “foreplay” — games that exist just as build-up and preparation for The Real Thing.

It does not matter that “foreplay” acts are generally more orgasmic than Real Sex, because orgasms are not the point. Pleasure for its own sake is one of the things that has been cut out in the disemboweling. (Women’s pleasure obviously has; this segment of the afore-linked essay by Richard Jeffrey Newman points out that men’s has, too.) Pleasure is, obviously, purely experiential — so out it goes. And along with it the incredibly obvious fact that the most real sex anybody can possibly have is the sex that they most want to have. Extremes of desire lead to extremes of experience. Sex, like anything, becomes intensely real to us when we intensely want to be having it.

* For added flavor, toss in “married” and/or “procreative” and/or “missionary position.”

** Any number.

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The Many-Headed Goddess, Part 1: An Attempt Has Been Made To Solve The Unsolvable

February 18, 2008 at 9:07 pm (proclamations, sex)

(I’ve been told all my life I am a very sexual person; to whatever extent that is true, this writing reflects that truth, that perspective. I mean no disrespect to people who identify as asexual. This is my reality, and though I think it applies beyond me, I know its applications are not universal.)

Okay, first of all, while I was writing this I realized that the perfect name for a blog carnival for sex writing would be The Carnal Carnival. If anyone happens to be thinking of starting such a tradition, please do it, and please use that name. I will help.

Moving on. If we’re to have halfway happy lives, each of us must grapple, in one way or another, with the train-wreck that is sexuality in this culture. I’ve been doing this lately. It happens in a lot of little ways and is mostly in my head. I’ve got a few separate ideas to explore about it, so I think it will be a series. This is part one, or something of an introduction. It begins in the middle of the story.

I don’t think I could have done this — the grappling — until now. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s something that can be done until you’ve steeped in the realness of sex for awhile. This makes for a lot of fumbling, a lot of anxiety.

When my girlfriend and I were first fooling around, she would frequently stop kissing me to smile. She would smile like babies smile, with complete and uncomplicated happiness. I would stare at her with complete confusion. She was feeling sweetness, love, joy. I had unconsciously shifted gears out of Love Mode and into Sex Mode; these were two totally unrelated frames of mind. The latter was my yearning covered over in harshness, in toughness, a massive shield of stone and anger blocking everything tender in me.

After weeks and months of steady exposure to a potent cocktail of love, this wall thinned and crumbled. Sex and love could flow into and out of and through each other, or they became one force, a many-headed goddess. Sex the extrapolation of love and love the extension of sex. This was sort of the first solid step out into the water. I have gone much farther from there.

An idea (not a very original one): sex is overwhelming and nearly unstoppable, and in that way, it is terrifying. Many of the cultural myths and lies, the cruelty and slander, about sex, are misguided attempts at making sex less horrifying, less uncontrollable. They are attempts at making it understandable (but it is not understandable), making it rational (but it is absolutely irrational), making it manageable (but it is not). They are attempts to mechanize sex, to simplify it, to reduce it to the sum of its parts. (And these ideas would be very applicable here.)

They are attempts to demystify it when all its power is in its mystery. They are attempts to understand it when its beauty is that it cannot be logically understood. They are attempts to make sex as rusted and predictable as factory machines, to tame and crush and rape and batter it as we have done to animals and nature.

They are, in effect, attempts to kill it, though it is life itself, if anything is.

We are left the remains of this attempted murder. We are given selves with parts cut out, with parts cut off. Some of experience this evisceration literally, bodily. I think that all of us experience it psychically, emotionally. We feel it in our brains and in our guts and in our groins.

So I will be trying to unravel the damage this has wrought within myself. I know that others have tried to do this, and have done this, and are doing this everyday. If anyone would care to join me, here in comments or on your own blog or in your own mind, please do so.

Two links that made me think along these lines, for anyone looking to do more reading: Blackamazon on sex; Richard Jeffrey Newman’s complicated essay, My Daughter’s Vagina (you can find all the segments he’s posted so far there; start at #1).

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