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Eros Battered and Abused
Eros Battered and Abused
And sometimes I rant:
Sexuality has deep spiritual significance, and I strongly believe that the anti-erotic attitudes that are so common in America have an unfortunate effect on the human spirit. To be fearful, ashamed, or embarrassed by our erotic desires leaves us disconnected from our own nature, and disempowered in various ways. We are, as it were, victims of a form of abuse.
I used the term "abuse" purposefully because I think the phenomena I'm talking about is intimately connected with domestic violence, child abuse, and work-place bullying. It’s not so much that oppression of the erotic "causes" these sorts of abuse (although in some cases I suspect they might) but I'm thinking more in terms of common underlying psychological patterns that are manifest when abuse occurs. In other words, the kinds of psychological forces at work when an abuser hurts their victim are in some sense parallel to the forces at work when society subjects individuals to the sorts of abuse that I refer to as “oppression of the erotic.”
The classic elements of standard spousal abuse, child abuse, and work-place bullying involve the undermining of a person's self-confidence, lying, manipulation, coercion, etc. and I see these same elements employed when society abuses our erotic nature. Society jabs at our most vulnerable psychic and spiritual points, holds us hostage, undermines our sense of self-worth, shames us, controls and manipulates us, and keeps us disempowered by telling us in a million subtle ways that our core desires are shameful, sinful, unnatural, displeasing to God, dangerous, dirty, unwholesome, and so on.
The key word is "subtle" because we are somewhat like the frog that gets boiled alive if the water temperature raises slowly enough. We've lived with this sort of oppression so long that it seems natural to us, and the impact runs so deep in our psychic lives that efforts to extract the poison make us deeply uncomfortable and can actually be traumatic.
Consider Janet Jackson’s infamous nipple. Yes, the stunt itself was a clumsy attempt to manipulate public sentiment, and stir up some cheap notoriety. An outcry over the inept, tabloid-headline nature of the whole thing might have been understandable. But no; the loudest outcry was over the supposed corrupting nature of the sexualized nipple. Sex as impurity; sex as contamination. How dare anyone corrupt the sanctity (pronounced: sanc-titty?) of the Superbowl by exposing a nipple! How dare anyone contaminate our hyped commercial violence with hyped commercial sex! The whole incident would have been hardly worth noticing, let alone worth talking about, if our societal erotiphobia had not blown the whole thing way out of proportion.
This is what abusers often do: they blow some trivial thing out of proportion as an excuse to punish the victim for their (the abuser’s) own inadequacies. Righteous punishment is a frequent theme of abuse. If we who live in alternative lifestyles "come out of the closet," we could lose our jobs, lose our children, be shunned by our families, barred from our churches, and so on. We are, in effect, punished because society is jealous and insecure. Here we find the otherwise subtle coercive social techniques becoming more blatant. This runs parallel to the transition from psychological abuse to physical violence in a domestic situation. The abuse is there all along; it’s just less obvious in its psychological/emotional form.
Society actually has no right to shame us for non-monogamy, dictate who we can or cannot love, etc., but most alt-lifestyle folks are so completely caught up in the abuser’s web of insults that they hide their real names, cover their faces, protect their identities, and pray that none of their family or vanilla friends ever discovers their dirty little secrets.
“This is just how life is,” we tell ourselves, and dutifully take our beatings day after day.