I know I posted this painting previously but since it was inspired by the death of my own father- it is connected.
This morning was scrolling Twitter updates I had missed since my last log in and a post to an article about "Absentee Black Men Fathers in the U.S." grabbed my attention. Reading it I was reminded of something I had written awhile back.
I have been working on a multimedia performance piece to be a collaboration with poet Dawn Green, painter Irena Gapkovska and a dancer and musician still to be determined that is inspired by thoughts that is the stek-jes of this essay.
Once I finish my reply to the post that inspired THIS POST, I will link to it here.
The hyperlinking is quite funny to me as I had to make this post before I could link to it in my reply at Ecademy and I had to post this one before I could finish that post.
The Right to Choose to Think
Thoughts from a Pro-Choice Advocate
Sexuality is a fundamental part of being human and alive. It is powerful, even in its distortion it carves our lives in the same way that flowing water engraves the planet. As we struggle to harness hydropower for its best use, so it is with our sexuality (in the best cases). This is not a result of some philosophical hiatus; it is the effect of day-to-day choices. So is it really so arduous to accept that thinking humans should view their choices around sexuality in a larger context?
Take honor for instance. Honor and its sister Integrity are issues normally presented as side dishes on the buffet of religious dogma, untimely asides to the cornucopia associated with sexual bliss. I often wonder why this happens. Am I the only one who feels these issues are essential to an individual really being attractive enough to be considered sexy? To me, this means going beyond the (dehumanizing) objectification of persons towards (humanizing) evaluation, to place "sexiness" in a holistic framework. How can the presence or absence of the substances which make us really human be regarded as "irrelevant"?
In my own experience with human services, I have witnessed levels of denial that boggle the mind. For me, the cold water in the face has been to see actions, even among health educators specializing in STD/HIV prevention, that totally contradict the prevention-based behaviors they advocate publicly. If love is what you do not what you say, then I hold that the same applies to who you are?and who you will be. Who we are is the result of accumulated choices. The right to choose for women, however, is usually thought of in terms of termination of pregnancy. Yet, the power of freedom to choose can serve us as women, but only if we view it in extended terms. The right to choose needs to begin with a number of fundamental issues that we really think about. This should mean thinking in searching ways about partner selection and thinking about consequences, irrespective of the socially hyped up emphasis on sexuality as being only about "feeling", an emphasis that makes us ignore the effects of sexual stimulation and feeling with regard to, for example, integrity, procreation, or STD transmission.
The right to choose in the sexual arena begins with partner selection, and whether there will be one at all. The reality that between 34-46 million people are living with HIV/AIDS indicates the truth about people's choices, despite what many would claim about how they live and who they are. Globally there were between 4.2-5.8 million people newly infected in 2003, so there are definitely some people to whom what I am discussing here is very relevant.
Among my friends, one of the consistent patterns I have witnessed in their relationships is the total lack of thinking about partner selection, even when offspring was the result. It seems that time and again people settle for less and then wonder why they don't get more. The extreme consequences of disconnecting judgment from sexuality seem so obvious that I am amazed that the patriarchal myths still have so much influence. I blame this largely on the trend of making thinking "unsexy". Commercials, mainstream movies, television, music, and the deluge of input from the Internet are all mission-driven to titillate by employing the most superficial elucidation which, combined with the passive acceptance of the audience, almost invites the spoon feeding of skewed truths. It is an attempt to package sexuality in terms of everything that is superficial, involving only surface seeing, feeling, and experiences.
Ironically, many of the purveyors of pleasure and everything that's supposed to be hedonistic and liberating end up echoing the usual divisions between the "serious" and the non-serious, between thinking and feeling, between thought and pleasure. One of the most obvious manifestations of this has been the elevation of celebrities to demi-gods. Would everyone cease knowing how to dress themselves, without celebrity wardrobes to mimic? Would we stop knowing what it means to have fun, to find and achieve sexual pleasure, without advertising? Would we have no idea of how to relate to each other, or how to choose not to relate, if that is where our sense and instincts lead us? I for one, think we'd all manage just fine. Think how many emotional calamities (romantic and otherwise) could be avoided if issues that are so often defined as "non-sexual" (integrity, honor, political judgment) were a part of the sexual evaluation criteria.
It may seem like an unfashionable thing to talk about, but I will continue to point to this truth?Thinking is sexy. Which makes issues like honor, integrity, and politics sexy, too. All those repressive ideas that pigeonhole human experiences into what is fun and what is staid are actually the heart of the idea that thinking is "unsexy". Waking up to that may make us realize just how much the dominant myths about "pure feeling and pleasure" are based on patriarchal ideas that are far from fashionable.
Originally published in Quiet Mountain Essays; vo.I, no. IX