Sex and Christianity: A Call For Applicants

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CALL FOR APPLICANTS | 2011-2012 Activist-Scholars Program — Good Sex/Bad Sex: Christian Taboos, Testimonies, and Transcendence.

There were some tears in the house, just from reading it.

Big Changes and Lenten Journeys

Most years, I have chosen a spiritual theme to focus on for Lent; it’s typically something like a goal, but with room for change and growth and clarification along the way.  My Lenten plans this year had to do with the home I share with Gabe.  He and I had plans to remove clutter, prepare a space for our new pet rats, and generally nest and bond with the space.  I wanted to make it even more our own, and not just an impersonal living space: shape our stuff to it better, examine what our needs are and how we want our home space to support them, and be more intentional about how we interact with the space, and how we make a home.

Three weeks into Lent, a swarm of termites entered the house.  I won’t go into all the boring details.  The TL;DR summary is, the place is livable in the short term, and our very apathetic landlord doesn’t appear to be putting himself out too much to fix the problem long-term.  On the first day of invasion, when we weren’t sure whether the house would be usable at all, Gabe said that if the landlord couldn’t stop the swarm, we’d just go move in with Kristi, his other partner who owns her home, until something changed.  We all agreed that was sensible.

By the end of the night, we were all looking at each other, saying, “Um, why don’t we do that anyway?”

Being analytical people, we asked every question we could think to ask, and pondered every need – personal and collective – we could scrounge up to ponder.  We asked ourselves if this would really work, and if this was really what we wanted to do.  We examined.  We did.  But in between those moments, we were also immediately rearranging furniture in our heads.  We’ve talked about our various organizational and living styles, and what changes Kristi has wanted to make to her house.  Gabe and I have fantasized about a bathtub we’d actually want to sit down in, and I’ve salivated over a dedicated massage room. We’ve begun to fathom how three people with diets like ours can share one kitchen!  We’ve discussed how we want to share the space together.  We’ve discussed how to make it a home for all of us.

So, we’re doing it.  This weekend, the two of them tore old carpet up out of her house while I packed boxes and brought a carload of our stuff over.  We have several months before our lease is out.  We have Frolicon to prepare for too.  So we’re in no rush.  We don’t have a “move-in” date.  But, I’m also so excited.  I’m thrilled we have the opportunity to do this.  I’m so proud of us that we will be able to do this so well.  I’m excited about what I’ll learn, and how we can support each other. 

So, Lent, as per usual, has explored my anticipated themes in completely surprising ways. This year’s blessings are bringing me great joy.

Coming Out

Today is National Coming Out Day.

The act of coming out is necessary only when something about us – about our lives, selves, or reality – is assumed inaccurately by the people around us. For me, the act of coming out depends partly on who I am communicating with in any given moment, what their assumptions are about me, and what I know about those assumptions.

In various circumstances, I have come out as bisexual, feminist, kinky, queer, monoromantic with a poly partner, anarchist, Christian, clergy, previously being Pagan, having mental illness in my family, asthmatic, childfree, and various other characteristics.

What assumptions do you make about the people around you? What do you assume to be true about their reality? While living daily life may encourage us to make assumptions about others, it’s a huge tradeoff. The more assumptions we make, the more our own vision is obscured, and the less time we spend truly in the presence of the people that surround us.

Collars and Identity

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
(Paul in his letter to the Galatians, 5:13-14)

I was given my first collar in 2006, by a church in Texas. It signified a bond between us as members of the body of Christ, and their acknowledgment and support of a unique vocational call for me. I had been a hospital chaplain for a few years already, and continued that work in their name for a few more years. As with any symbol that’s been around that long, that collar means a lot of different things to different people. To me, it came to mark me as someone in a liminal space. There is a strong differentiation in mainstream Christianity between clergy and laity, that I have never fully accepted. I wore the collar as a sign of servanthood: the education of a leader without the authority over others, the grassroots positioning of a layperson with the devotion that I hoped to find in my fellow congregants. Continuing a long theme in my life, I was “both/and”, combining categories often kept separate. I still have the right to wear that collar… though on the rare occasions that I am fulfilling the duties of that role I tend to wear other signifiers, like the collar-like stole.

I didn’t anticipate ever receiving another collar, until Gabe gave me one on Sunday, July 18th. This collar is specifically a signifier of a relationship between Gabe and one of my age play personas. So, he has a slutty twelve-year old sub! This collar is first a signifier that Lucy is Daddy’s, as Daddy is Lucy’s. Lucy has what are perhaps the most impressionable elements of my personality. She has a purity of desire that other parts of me can access through her, but don’t embody themselves. When she feels, she feels with her whole self. She is completely centered, or completely swept away; entirely in her strength, or entirely vulnerable… sometimes all at the same time. There’s no prevarication, no adult-like tempering of feeling or holding back, no going half-assed. The collar has that purity of devotion to Daddy, and more, without being less full of devotion. The collar reverberates through the rest of me as well, as it does through Gabe. The love he wove into it, and the love I give it as I wear it casts its own spell, and carries its own larger meaning… through us and around us. Symbols are powerful, and carry their own reality… especially when they have their own color, and texture, and weight on a body.

With most labels in my life, it’s been easy for me to realize that they apply both to my whole self and to only a part of myself. I am fully bisexual, but that label best describes one specific thread of me. I am fully female, though there are individual parts of me for which that label doesn’t make sense. When my vocation was minister, all of me was a minister, though being a minister was not all that I was. For some reason, this dance of the parts and the whole gets frequently gummed up in BDSM. There’s a lot of essentialist categorization floating around in the air. For some folks, if you submit or dominate, one of those is all that you are and you are always that. Obviously, there are those who think otherwise. And I believe there are those who want to think otherwise but get a little of this communal gunk rubbed off on their brain. It’s difficult to avoid entirely. I think this essentialism is a key dynamic in the “there’s no such thing as a switch” meme. It’s an inability to hold the paradox of the whole and the parts of an identity. Hard as it is to believe, it’s a reality that eludes a Venn diagram. When I am one of my ageplay personas, I am fully them, and they are a deep and authentic part of me. But they are not all of me. When I am subbing to Gabe, I am subbing with my whole self, though my whole self is not submissive. It’s the same paradox of being a partner, a friend, a massage therapist, a daughter, an office manager, a Christian, an anarchist and more, all at the same time.

This reminds me of one of Gabe’s favorite statements, from Walt Whitman: Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.

Links

It’s time to share some linkage. No, not that kind!

This first link… makes me so very sad. Apparently, the Australian Ratings Board is having an effect on the rates of certain plastic surgeries in the country. Some actresses are essentially having their labia minora removed in order to fit the Board’s definition of “discreet genitalia” for a film to qualify as soft core porn. This is an example to me of the profound damage that can happen when crass commercialization in porn intersects with a body-negative culture. (Sociological Images is a site I’d generally recommend as thoughtful and thought-provoking, though the main blogger is, for the most part, anti-pornography.)

Sociological Images: How A Ratings Board Is Driving Rates Of Cosmetic Surgery

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The second link is a lovely photo. I came across it stumbling, and it’s a great way to cap off May as National Masturbation Month:

Masturbation Motivational

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Lastly, I’m a big fan of weddings that are a unique and inspired reflection of the parties getting married. Here’s what can happen when someone in the family is circus royalty (LOTS of large photos):

Amy and Jesse part one
Amy and Jesse part two

New Blog from Deborah Anapol

There is a new blog about polyamory starting up, from a high profile author. Debora Anapol is credited with writing one of the two earliest books on modern poly, Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. She is now a new regular blogger on Psychology Today’s website. She also has a new book coming out, mentioned in the blog.

I considered reading her previous book, opened it up to a random page and found that single page dripping with anti-mono bias. She is very New Agey, and polyamory is literally her definition of being enlightened. Soon the whole human race will be enlightened enough to be poly just like her; won’t that be great? So I set the book back down.

I can’t say I’m impressed with her first column either; while she gives polite lip service to intentional mono living, her philosophy is still “polyamory is enlightenment” with a thin veneer over it. Let’s take a look at the following, with an eye toward what her words reveal about her systematic counseling assumptions (this is in the context of defining precisely what polyamory is):

To me polyamory is a philosophy of loving that asks us to surrender to love. Polyamory leads us to ask, “What is the most loving and authentic way I can be present with these people and with myself at this time?”

While there’s nothing inherently untrue about these sentences, they (along with several badly worded references to mono throughout her first column) reveal to me an ignorance that Anapol is still apparently carrying around. Saying “polyamory is one way of living out a philosophy of loving…” will fundamentally change her starting point in relating to non-poly people. But that, I strongly suspect, would be a fundamental shift away from a major bias she has. Without that phrase, the author is making invisible anyone who does not identify as poly and has done the work to commit themselves to the transformative power of love. Since she’s writing this blog to a mainstream audience who will represent many relational orientations and be overwhelmingly mono, this will be a liability to her communicating effectively.

And while the second sentence is certainly true for many people, it’s also unnecessarily narrow. There are all kinds of life experiences that get people asking that question, and a poly nature is not required to do that work. The sentence structure still reveals that Anapol is not expanding past her own specific truths to find out how non-poly people love… that’s a shitty place to start a philosophy that’s supposed to apply to everyone, and it’s a dangerous blindness for a woman who markets herself as a relationship coach.

Still, a blog devoted to polyamory on a mainstream health website is pretty cool. I suppose.

Here’s the link: New Blog: Love Without Limits

Mono/Poly Resources – Coming Soon

Since starting this journey with Gabe, I have had constant dissatisfaction with the mono/poly resources out there. I’ve yet to find a single one that fits my needs. There are many resources that have been useful to me on a variety of other topics, like jealousy or time management. But there are only a handful of resources aimed at mono folk in poly relationships, and to a one, they have all been foreign enough to my experience that they might as well have been written in a different language.

First, I have not been committed to someone for years before learning they are poly and not mono. I chose to enter knowingly into this bond with my poly honey. This means that many important support groups out there talking about rebuilding trust and dealing with deep grief responses and shattered hopes bear no resemblance to my needs. I am glad they are there for others, but they’re not for me.

Secondly, we did not enter into this with any deep revulsions of each others’ orientation, nor any notions of changing each other. This appears to describe the audience for the other half of mono/poly resources I come across. If those resources are useful to you I’m glad. But for myself, a basic focus on all the potential faults of a relationship, and beginning from an assumption of distrust and lack of faith is counterproductive to the work I want to do next on my journey.

I don’t look at my partner’s poly nature as an unwanted burden, nor am I traumatized by my partner’s desires and wish to change them. This leaves me with no place to find handy lists of insights to ponder, no uniquely affirming writings to review periodically, and no basic introductory texts or quickguides to my kind of mono/poly relating. I am most definitely looking for insights that help me grow past the “ick” – the fears, anxieties, jealousies, and limitations that come with being human and having a past… but that’s only one small part of the journey for me. I want to creatively build my bond with my honey, with the basic understanding that I am constantly learning how to love more fully, live more joyfully, and offer more of myself.

So we’re beginning a compilation of resources here, likely written mostly from my perspective. This may include a list of the benefits for a mono person dating a poly person, writings on the issue of reassurance, and questions to ask yourself if you’re mono and considering dating someone poly. In short, it will be the kinds of resources I see elsewhere, but written in a way that someone like me could find them useful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or things you’d like to see, please contact me at elizabeth@pornocracy.org.

Anniversary

One year of Pornocracy. One year of living together.

One year of making a home ours. One year of learning each other in new ways.

One year of a sex life under the same roof. Things are new… and familiar. Intense and relaxed. Adventurous and real and fantastic and nurturing and cozy.

You may notice some changes around here soon. We have a big redesign planned, and some new content in the works for Pornocracy 2.0. We will revamp our links list. We’re opening the door to tell you about good friends of ours with unique gifts. We’ll be looking for ways to communicate the deep changes we find in ourselves these days.

We are also ending our reviewing relationship with Babeland. They are a fantastic store. But we feel a bit of a disconnect with reviewing toys on our site. We’ll talk more about this, and about where we see Pornocracy’s values and goals heading from here.

One year. One year of blessings and sex and joy and spirit. Thank you for spending some of your year with us.

Love,

Gabe and Elizabeth

It’s good to have an openly pervy president again

Celebrate “Obscenity”

Dr. Marty Klein writes:

On the anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we need to ask: exactly why does the category of “obscene materials” exist? And why does the government give itself this exemption? And why, oh why, oh why do Americans support this?

How can an object be “obscene?” The whole idea sounds medieval. Ancient. Neanderthal. It recalls a time of tree gods, of voodoo amulets, of leeches and bleeding, of idols believed to have real power, of special words, numbers, and even chords that could summon the Devil. That’s what obscenity laws are about: a puny attempt to protect oneself from the Devil.

Sexual rights are not trivial. The right to say words or share pictures of adults that other adults don’t like shouldn’t be merely tolerated—it should be celebrated.

Mindful of monarchy and tyranny, the Founders created many ingenuous barriers to future rulers stealing our rights. They needn’t have worried. Americans have spent the last 217 years pleading to have their rights limited. Sexual rights are, apparently, just too burdensome. We’d rather have the illusion of safety and conformity instead.

Our neighbors’ sexuality, of course, provides neither.