I wrote an article yesterday entitled “Wild Woman: a rant, an invitation, a plea” and shot it out into the world, a hot arrow loosed from an angry bow without any hesitation. And I feel good about that. I need to do that every now and again: it’s a fire that lives in me that sometimes needs to burn beyond the fireplace, throw off the shackles of propriety and social correctness and just rage for a while to burn through some elements of the human experience that are churning within me. I welcome the terms of these adventures.
Today I’m sitting with more of what unfolded in there for me, and it is, in part, this: I am sitting with what we do to ourselves, the myths and memes we perpetuate through our own behaviors and choices that play out against us in the world, supporting systems that hold us in place as the smaller versions of ourselves for the benefit of the dominant paradigm and the status quo.
Dig my stance: I am a woman, attractive enough to be enticing to men the world over, about which I have wildly mixed emotions because in light of this inborn condition, I have experienced a vast array of highly impactful things, from charming courtship to sweet love, deep chivalry and amazing sex, to endless varieties of harassment, a few attempted assaults, abandonment following connection, and more. This way that I arrived into the world, that I do foster with a bit of care because I enjoy it for it’s own sake, has been defining in my life since I was little – “what a pretty little girl you are!” people would coo, impressing upon my young psyche, which didn’t understand the words but understood the energy, that this “pretty” thing must be hot shit, ‘cuz people give me a lot of energy for it. There was also a moment – I don’t know what happened, but I know that it happened, I think it was because I started dancing – when I was 19, that I suddenly became “beautiful.” I hadn’t been before. I was a dreamy, moody, introspective, alienated, artistic, withdrawn, grungy tomboy in high school, spending most of my time taking endless walks or bike rides around Boston on acid with the travelers in Harvard square, and often wearing the same carhart jeans and black sweatshirt for weeks at a time. But suddenly, when I was 19, men started paying a lot of attention to me, a lot of energy started coming in, and a lot of new territory opened up for me, some of it lovely, some of it not. It was all very strange, but the same way I got it when I was young, I got it in that moment: this was some kind of power in the world, and I liked it. I liked the raw energy of it, I liked the feeling of my sexuality, I liked feeling wanted and appreciated! I also liked being able to gather the attention of many men and women at the same time, I liked that people poured their life force into me for no reason, and I liked the feeling of being powerful that it gave to me. Sexuality! How wonderful!! Of course, I wasn’t adept with it or particularly aware of its deeper significance at the time. It was all new to me and I wasn’t educated or guided in the finer subtleties, possibilities and intricacies of living with that energy in my journey. I was just riding the waves, completely oblivious as to how to surf with grace, which I didn’t. at all.
Anyway, that was a long time ago, and I am now more aware of the subtleties and intricacies of my own nature and human nature than I was then, and I have traveled long with this sometimes heavy blessing of beauty. Here is some of what I’ve learned in this journey.
In regards to the rant about the Wild Woman meme (wherein skinny naked babes are idolized in a completely sexual way as being the epitome of a wild woman, and why don’t men back the fuck off with their sexual energy and see me as a person), what I see is this: there is a constant sexualization of women at work in the world. It is part and parcel of how the patriarchy dominates, subjugates, controls, diminishes and dismisses us, while keeping us chasing our tails in a constant effort to stay beautiful enough to be valuable to the world which effectively cuts us off from our souls deeper purposes in a bright snap when we are children by impressing upon us the intrinsic value of “prettiness”. We are told from birth that our value is in how pretty we are, then as we come into menarche, we are constantly coached, by society and the boys around us, that we are valuable according to how sexually available we are. We are often subsequently thrown out as people, since the boys are often warped and immature due to the perversion of the masculine in our world and society, and rarely want the emotional bonding and responsibility that a sexual relationship entails: they just want the sex. How do we get to this place of so tremendously misguided in this, such a fundamental aspect of our lives as people? Where are our elders when we come of age in this way? Where is our guidance that will help us to integrate the awakening of such awesome, complex, overwhelming, delicious, life-affirming energy in our bodies? American society in particular has assiduously dismantled any system of initiation that would help to awaken us in a beautiful way to the awesome magnitude of our lives as sexual people, and our lives as sexual people in relation to each other: the detrimental impact of this is writ large across the land, and woven into our relations so deeply as to seem completely insurmountable, though I’m sure it’s not. We are in dire straits in this realm, still, and have miles to go before we are meeting as whole people in a healthy world. for example: Baywatch, anyone? Porn? Strip clubs? 12-year-old supermodels holding up the beauty myth for all to see? The expressions of unhealthy, immature, contorted sexuality are everywhere.
What I want to explore here is some of the ways that we, women, are complicit in our own subjugation when we sexualize ourselves extensively in ways that contribute to, and hold in place, the workings of the system that are turned against us.
This is no small mindful of a contemplation.
Sexuality is a primary energy in the human animal, specifically between menarche and menopause for women. This is natural, healthy, yummy, and right. The desire to live in, enjoy, and express that sexuality is also right on. No worries there. But there is a lot of shaded forest to get lost in in this realm of embodying our sexuality when we live in a world that will often value us solely for that, and then only if we fit certain parameters: skinny, smooth skinned, ample breasted, tight bottomed, and cover-girl faced, long hair is best, especially if it’s thick. Having been trained from early childhood that “pretty” equals “good” and “deserving of attention and affection,” and that “pretty” looks like such-and-so, and not these other things, we often carry into adulthood a neurosis that we must remain “pretty” to continue to meet the basic human need for connection, attention, and affection, and this affects all areas of our lives, and we often then perpetuate this beauty myth in the way that we relate with the world. It affects what we wear, what we eat and how we relate to food, how we spend our time, how we view and relate to our bodies, how we relate to women, how we relate to men, how we relate to ourselves, how we value ourselves, how we feel in our bodies, etcetera. This socially ingrained value that “Pretty is better, and this is what pretty is (insert magazine cover, movie, video game character, etc, here)” affects how we create the person that we are in the world, at least for most of us.
And how we sexualize ourselves is a huge piece of that.
Last summer I had an experience that it has taken me months to understand fully, and months to recover from. From a place of not fully valuing my content (which I didn’t realize was happening at the time), I put myself out into the social realm as a sexual presence in an effort to meet my needs for connection, affection, appreciation, love, and intimacy. Shortly thereafter, an exciting man turned up, totally interested in the sexual energy that I was offering, and me totally interested in his. We dated for a month and shared in some incredible intimacy, then he completely disappeared without a backwards glance, leaving me with a shocked, angry, broken heart, and a deep bitterness in my belly (last straw, you know). My sexuality snapped shut like a door on a spring with a deadbolt to lock it, and anger, bitterness, and resentment flared with a passion. After the anger subsided I was able to look into the part that I had played in creating that situation, and it was a bitter pill to swallow. It still is: I had sexualized myself for attention, and that’s exactly what I got. Sexual attention. But what I really wanted, and what I really want, is to be met, seen, and wanted for the person that I am. My needs for connection, attention, affection, and intimacy were not being met, so I decided to make my sexuality the way that I presented myself, in the hopes that I would get those needs met. Now I know what happens when I take that approach. Now I know that I will not meet my needs for connection, attention, affection, and intimacy by sexualizing myself. I will meet my needs for sex, which is empty at best when it is bereft of affection and intimacy. When it is bereft of genuine care.
In the act of sexualizing myself through my clothing, my demeanor, and my ways of interacting, I send the message that it is ok to meet me on that level and to value me on that level. If I am not sitting in the sense of deeply valuing myself, of deeply loving the vast continuum of me, then I send the message that my deeper content, the whole rest of me, is not the place where I want to meet, and that whoever responds to the message doesn’t need to value the depth and breadth of me. I send the message that that’s not where I’m sitting, so it’s not where anyone has to meet me. This is the responsibility that I must take in how the world relates to me (and I live in a context where I can demand this kind of regard without any extensive repercussions: this would not be so in, say, rural India or other parts of the states, which I acknowledge as an especially meaningful position of priviledge). If I want the world to treat me as a whole person, I have to deeply love, appreciate, and value the whole person that I am, regardless of how I look or how people relate to my sexuality. If I want the world to value me I have to stand in the fullness of my value and demand to be met in that place, and be willing to let anything go that doesn’t meet me in that place.
When we constantly sexualize our experience through our clothing, our communication, our expression, and our energy, we are only playing into the role that society has set out for us, the one that says we must be sexually attractive to be valuable in this world, and we are squandering our capacity to truly deepen the relations amongst people as free women in the world. When we make posts on social media that only portray this current cover-girl standard of beauty, we participate in the dismissal and diminishment of the rest of the spectrum of the expression of womanhood, femininity, and beauty, and enforce the idea that to be wild and to be beautiful means to be overtly sexual. I want to see photos of old women dancing. Of women with all kinds of bodies standing in rapturous enchantment in the arms of the wild, or in passionate embrace in the arms of an equally gorgeously average man. I want to see photos of women in their power, with their clothes on, radiating a grace and wisdom that shines a natural light from deep within them, and have that celebrated as the beauty standard. I want for us, as women, to more fully appreciate and celebrate the full spectrum of womanhood, all bodies, all faces, all ages, all types and expressions of wildness, not just the sexy ones. I want for us to more fully celebrate and express our deeper content, and insist that the world meet us in that place. A truly empowered embodiment of female sexuality would arise naturally from a truly embodied expression of the soul of a person. And a truly integrated relationship with beauty would include all forms and shapes of women and men, because the beauty we would be relating with would be the beauty of the soul, beyond the beauty of the body.
It’s a whole different animal to be living rooted in the deep knowing of the consummate value of the person that one is with the sexual aspect of self alive, awake, juicy, and ready to play (but not running the show). That’s good shit right there, healthy and empowered. That’s where I want to live from, and that’s where I want to be met. And that’s where I want for all of us women to live from and be met in. For all of us people.
And this is in no way an injuction to diminish your sexuality. Express it, go there! it’s gorgeous, delicious, juicy, and beautiful. Just go there with grace, and go there with deep maturity. Go there as a whole person, and know what your motive is when you want to share that energy into the world. A deeper sophistication is what I’m calling for here: a deeper finesse.
So let’s check our internal sexism, our internal perpetuation of the beauty myth that says that only thin, smooth, cover-girl-pretty women are valuable. If you want to write a “Wild Woman” meme and put a photo with it, put a photo of a different kind of woman, not a glamour shot of a magazine woman. Celebrate a different kind of beauty, and a deeper kind of wildness. We have to value our own deeper content and to live from that place as an insistence on our own quality of life, and we must insist to be met from that place as an insistence that we all meet as people, valid and integral to the unfolding of life on the planet, regardless of how we look.
This is our part of the work, work that we are blessed to do in this world in which so many women are still living subjugated lives in danger of being killed for any expression of their deeper self. We live in a world where rape is an instrument of war, where women can be tortured and beaten to death for any attempt to be themselves and live their truth, for anything at all. It is a truly magnificent and important opportunity and responsibility to stand tall in our intrinsic value as people in the world, and to cultivate a social culture wherein we are valued for who we are instead of how we look or the sex that we represent to someone.
This is my plea and my invitation to my sisters: on our own behalf, and on behalf of all the women in the world, let’s dig even deeper into the Wild Woman meme and bring out the fullness of women’s power, women’s greatness, women’s depths, and women’s beauty. Let’s celebrate ourselves from that place, letting our activated, embodied sexuality live and breathe as a force naturally integrated into the deeper expressions of our souls vitality in a world that desperately needs for the sexes to come into right relation with each other so that all can heal and grow in beauty together.
We are sitting in an extraordinary opportunity to turn the tide for the women of the earth: Let’s live and meet from that place, shall we?