Archive for June, 2009
Today’s stop on the Spicy Summer Sundays blog tour is at the blog of Gina Marie (formerly known as Kirsten Monroe), where she takes readers on hot adventures of a cinnamon nature! Go tell her what you want to say yes to!Xoxo,
“Oh but they never told you the price that you’d pay, for things that you might have done…”
-Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young”
I have generally not commented much on abortion and reproductive rights on this blog. This is not because I don’t find the topic important (I have been a reproductive rights activist almost my entire adult life and have worked in that area professionally at times when I’ve had a day job) but rather because it is so commonly covered elsewhere (where sex worker rights and the advocacy of open sexual dialogue, understanding, and appreciation seem to me not nearly so much). However, reproductive rights are of course intrinsically linked to sexuality, and in response to two articles I have come across recently, I do feel like I would like to say something about the subject here.
I actually wrote the first part of this post a few weeks ago when I encountered the first article referenced above. An opinion column in the New York Times, it is entitled “Not All Abortions are Equal” and is written by Ross Douthat. (It may be that this article will only be available to NYTimes Select subscribers. I will do my best to quote the things from him to which I am responding directly in case that is the case.) I did not see the second article mentioned above, by Kate Harding on Salon.com, until today when I followed a link from Shanna Germain’s blog. So I will be going over the response in me to Mr. Douthat’s column first and following up with the relatedness I see in Ms. Harding’s.
The argument in Mr. Douthat’s article seems to be (and I did not understand all of it, which I will get to) that just because some abortions are sought and performed due to traumatic circumstances like rape or because a woman’s life or health is in danger if she continues a pregnancy does not mean that abortion should legally be a completely unrestricted procedure.
From the article:
“The argument for unregulated abortion rests on the idea that where there are exceptions, there cannot be a rule. Because rape and incest can lead to pregnancy, because abortion can save women’s lives, because babies can be born into suffering and certain death, there should be no restrictions on abortion whatsoever.
As a matter of moral philosophy, this makes a certain sense. Either a fetus has a claim to life or it doesn’t. The circumstances of its conception and the state of its health shouldn’t enter into the equation.
But the law is a not a philosophy seminar. It’s the place where morality meets custom, and compromise, and common sense. And it can take account of tragic situations without universalizing their lessons.”
This is probably the part of this article where most of the responses I lay out here come from.
Something about the arrangement here doesn’t resonate with me. Not all cases of rape (for example) are “equal,” either, but that doesn’t mean we nuance the law around it and say, “Well, if this person knew her/his assailant, it’s a little different so not quite as illegal,” or “Well, if she was out by herself at night, that’s a little different so the law changes.” (There may be social attitudes surrounding this that encapsulate such unconscionable perspectives, but thankfully they are not apparent in official laws at this time.) Rape is illegal because it appears to violate a basic human right. Abortion is legal because it appears to uphold one.
In neither case does it seem to me appropriate to begin qualifying law based on what we see from the outside as interesting or nuanced. To be sure, there are nuances. Of course there are. But while Mr. Douthat touts law as a “place where morality meets custom, and compromise, and common sense,” I would offer that this seems erroneous. To me law seems basically the opposite. Law necessarily calls for guidelines that are not based on compromise (do we say, “Murder is illegal unless, well, it seems like I think it’s justified” or “The speed limit is this—unless you find yourself justified to drive this particular speed to get where you’re going”?). The legal process does include some degree of recognizing nuance, and it generally takes place in the courts, e.g., juries of peers who consider such things. It is not written into law—if it were, the structure law purports to provide would contain a certain flimsiness that would render it far less credible and useful.
It strikes me that the philosophy surrounding the abortion and reproductive rights issue has sometimes seemed not particularly considerate of the fact that quite real, immediate impacts exist and occur regarding the individuals about whom we so fiercely debate. While we go on and on about rights and life and viability, a woman may be facing a pregnancy that she finds breathtakingly fearful, desolate, joyful, euphoric, crushingly uncertain, or any number of other things that those debating may not—because they are not pregnant or surrounded by the circumstances of that woman’s particular situation.
Regarding fetuses: Some people claim to feel a protectionism toward fetuses. I will admit I feel suspect of this; in some cases they may genuinely believe this is what their focus is on, but it does seem to me that the discussion is so fundamentally about male and female, sexuality, and autonomy that there is likely more at play than a simple concern about fetuses. In many instances, incidentally, I have observed the same people so concerned about fetuses seem rather un-concerned about babies once they are born. To feel concern about fetuses is one thing, but it seems to me it would carry over into a concern about babies as well, and frequently this has seemed to me not to be the case. Not once they are separate units themselves, out from under the protection of a woman’s body.
Which brings me right back to one of the main things it seems to me this controversy is about.
I’ve generally not adhered to comparisons when it comes to abortion. E.g., “It’s murder, taking a human life,” or “She’s just having a medical procedure done.” Pregnancy, abortion, and childbirth seem to me not particularly ripe for comparisons because they concern a unique process. There is simply nothing else like it. Thus to say either of these or related comparative things seems to me to be speaking of something in a way diluting of its inherent and unavoidable uniqueness.
In fact I think this uniqueness may be what has made the process such a target for controversy. On some level I think it is recognized in us that there is nothing else like it. There are also perspectives in us about it that stem from some basic things that may be largely unconscious and thus seemingly unknown to us. Combined, there is a tendency in us is to use things about which we know, about which we already have established conceptions, to fit the subject in question into/around these unconsciously-motivated feelings.
To me, denying a woman the choice to obtain abortion feels viscerally repugnant, eliciting a conscious seething, frothing, fury in me. The unconscious motivators for that may be numerous—a ferocious rebellion against male domination of female, against one person’s control over another person, against external control or oppression of sexuality…all this resonates with me. For others, there may be a similarly unconscious aversion to almost the opposite—female having autonomy, equal control of women with men over something, or perhaps something even further: In the case of pregnancy, something has happened to which both a female and a male contributed. In the case of abortion, the female may make an ultimate decision without the involvement or consent of the male part of it. It is not just equal say—it is a full-blown demonstration of female autonomy that may overrule the male part of the equation, ultimately rendering him without a voice about something with which he was inherently involved. A certain fundamental sexism is so ingrained in us societally that in the unconsciouses of some, this could feel searingly threatening in its unfamiliarity and disruption of a centuries-long collective identity.
In being presented with the argument that if a woman chooses to have sex, she must be willing to face the consequences of having a baby, I have heard statements along the lines of, “It’s just biology. It’s not fair, but biology isn’t fair.” Interesting to me that the above offering could be presented in the exact same language. What makes one more valid than the other?
Historically I have almost never felt oriented toward or resonant with separation on the basis of gender, sex, or biological characteristics in general as far as human potential and certainly rights. Thus I have rarely recognized a distinction in the perspectives or experiences of men and women in general, feeling oriented rather toward recognizing that everyone is an individual and one’s sex does not override basic human potential and uniqueness. The only area in which I can ever remember making any such distinction (barring biological characteristics of the physical body) is regarding pregnancy.
Biologically as far as we understand human life to have existed, it is simply the case that men do not become pregnant. As such, when a man has stated a preference for the disallowance or restriction of abortion, I have felt in me a visceral rebellion that has at times felt almost overwhelming.
It is not that I think men should have no perspective or voice about it. To deny such a thing seems outrageous to me. If a male wants to say he does not feel abortion should be allowed, I have no desire to squelch that voice. I simply recognize that it does not resonate with me.
For that perspective from that source to come to pass, that is, for it to be made a rule affecting females, feels unconscionable to me.
I assure readers I am making no claim whatsoever that all men are anti-choice, which in my experience has been obviously not the case, or that all females are pro-choice, which in my experience has been equally obviously not the case. I simply mention that because it is another nuance surrounding the issue that seems unique to pregnancy and therefore abortion.
To go back to Mr. Douthat’s article, the following are (parts of) the closing paragraphs:
“One reason there’s so much fierce argument about the latest of late-term abortions [...] is that Americans aren’t permitted to debate anything else. [...]
If abortion were returned to the democratic process, this landscape would change dramatically. Arguments about whether and how to restrict abortions in the second trimester—as many advanced democracies already do—would replace protests over the scope of third-trimester medical exemptions.
The result would be laws with more respect for human life, a culture less inflamed by a small number of tragic cases [...].”
This is really an area where I do not understand what Mr. Douthat is saying.
“Less inflamed by a small number of tragic cases”? I wonder if he thinks that if the “landscape drastically changed” due to “the democratic process” that those of us frankly concerned about not only our personal lives but also the concept of the female population’s bodies being relegated to susceptible to state control as agents to produce babies will just say, “Oh, whew, we have much more to debate now that people aren’t paying attention so much to the ‘small number of tragic cases’ that have occurred in this area. I don’t think we need to worry quite as much about it in general now, do you?” What does this even mean? This is not the only area in which I felt genuine bafflement about what exactly Mr. Douthat was implying, arguing, or presenting. I am not sure exactly what he means by this statement, but I offer that for some abortion is not a philosophical concept to be debated “democratically” but an immediate life-altering issue, and even for those for whom it is not, for those who have the theoretical ability to get pregnant, it carries a more significant implication in that at some point that could be the case.
For men this will simply never (as long as the biological workings continue as they have since our understanding of human beginning) be the same consideration.
The second article I referenced at the beginning of this post is by Kate Harding and entitled “Voluntary Childlessness ‘Unnatural’ and ‘Evil.’”
This article speaks to reproductive rights being fundamentally about female autonomy and presents evidence of social perception on subjects beyond the realm of abortion. The author mentions the similarity she saw between the “vitriol” directed at Polly Vernon, a thirty-something woman who proclaimed in the Guardian that she was choosing to not have children, and that which Harding has historically observed from the anti-choice faction, such as “‘terrifying’ letters and e-mails calling her ‘selfish … unnatural, evil’” that Vernon received.
It was when I came across and read this article today, which basically echoes much of what I have said above, that I felt drawn again to blog about this. Harding writes the following:
“When you’re talking about abortion, specifically, you can muddle that basic issue with questions about fetuses’ rights. But it becomes crystal clear when you take the fetus out of it: A woman says she doesn’t plan to have children and is thus taking measures to prevent unintended pregnancy indefinitely, and she gets the very same load of crap: She’s unnatural, evil, mentally ill.”
Basically, that offers an anecdotal summary of what I have referenced here that seems clear to me: Reproductive rights is about something much broader than abortion—and the resistance to abortion as a choice is too.
Here’s to our continued awakening, sexually and otherwise.
“Every time I hear people say it’s never gonna change, I think about you, like it’s some kind of joke, some kind of game, girl I think about you…I think about you, eight years old, big blue eyes and a heart of gold, when I look at this world I think about you…”
-Collin Raye “I Think About You”
“I’m in a hurry to get things done, oh I rush and rush…I hear a voice, it says I’m running behind, I’d better pick up the pace…”
-Alabama “I’m in a Hurry”
Since this blog deals with sexuality, and since I have considered myself a supporter and advocate of open, sincere acknowledgment and exploration of sexuality, it feels remiss to me to not post this.From the June 10 edition of an online newsletter to which I have subscribed for a few years (this is the first time I recall seeing him overtly reference human sexuality):
Dear Heron Dancers,
Over the years, positive emails and letters from subscribers to Heron Dance and A Pause for Beauty have outnumbered negative responses about ninety-nine to one. Of course, that excludes the time a few years ago when I quoted Doug Peacock, aka Hayduke, who said in a Heron Dance interview, “Beware of homicidal lesbian motorcycle gangs in the Dakotas!” (Issue 21). That time the ratio dropped to about ninety: ten. A couple of weeks ago the responses became more like eight to one, and the reactions on both sides have been much more intense than usual.
Although I wish they didn’t, the negatives preoccupy me more than the positives, no matter what the ratio. But Heron Dance now has a creative energy and excitement it hasn’t had since the early years. It all still revolves around the connection with a spiritual core, a spiritual center of…of what? Of a human life? Of life in general? Of the universe? I don’t know, but I do know that, regardless, there are times of flow and harmony and times of disharmony, distraction and setback. I want to write about those ups and downs from a different perspective than I have in the past.
The protagonist of my story is a certain wild artist, partly fictional, partly me. He’s a deeply spiritual man and his spirituality revolves around wild nature and the sense of peace he finds there. He’s put a lot of thought into how he lives his life and lives more or less on his own terms. He has a wild and free creative energy. He loves literature and music. Security means less to him than sucking, as Thoreau said, the marrow out of life. He experiences a lot of ups and downs, triumphs and defeats. He tries to walk his path with as much dignity and equanimity as he can find within himself. Sometimes it is a lot; at other times it isn’t much at all.
As with most of us, eroticism and sexuality play a major role in his life. That, of course, is the controversial part of this work. Sex is such a powerful part of life that we fear it, even try to hide it. Perhaps we should; uncontrolled, it can cause a life to unravel and, at times, it causes our protagonist’s life to unravel. I’m putting the erotic part of his journey in the story because, without it, the story lacks authenticity. They all feed each other: his creative energy, his love of wild places, his sexuality.
He’s known a lot of love in his life. Profound love. He goes through long periods — in two instances more than seven years — in committed relationships. In between, he seems to go through multi-month periods as a free agent. He didn’t used to. When he was younger, it was one live-in girlfriend after another. As our story opens, he is in one of his wandering phases. He dreams of a committed monogamous relationship, but he also loves solitude and quiet. His struggle in this area, as in the other important areas, is to keep the faith, keep touch with that spiritual core. Sometimes he loses touch and I really want to explore that.
I’m painting a lot of nudes these days. I’m working with three different models, but one in particular has captured my imagination. She’s a very beautiful art student; a young woman who sometimes camps alone in the forest. When she’s standing there with her back to me, her right hip thrust out, I want to just go up and bite her gently on the nape of her neck. Then she’d moan and I’d cup her breasts in my hands. Of course, she might turn around and slug me. That wouldn’t be good. Or she might start crying. I’d very definitely go into a tailspin. I might start crying too. If I started crying, she might not pose for me again.
This is all ridiculous. This beautiful young woman, with her dreams of far off places and of new experiences, does not fit well into my scenario, nor I hers. We’d take rather than contribute energy to each other’s lives, and we both know it. Reality and fantasy are different sometimes. And difficult. Maddening, actually.
So we talk about past loves, about wild horses and wild rivers, about art and our families. We talk about sexual experiences from our pasts. I try to be on my best behavior, but sometimes my conversation is out of balance and crosses that vague but important boundary. I’ve got this fold-down couch and I ask her to lie down and pretend like she’s pretending she’s asleep and trying to nonchalantly interest her boyfriend in sex….She does. I paint her. My painting is off balance.
I think I need a break for awhile. Maybe I need to find a different model. There is so much highly charged energy flowing around the room. Unsettled energy. I lose my bearings. My vision for this work — sexual, erotic art but with a flow, a calm and peace about it — is unlikely to evolve out of this scenario. Maybe I need to just paint women with whom I have an emotional bond, women with whom I share a sense of peace.
That which does not have cannot give. And that, dear Heron Dancers, is all I have to say for today. That’s probably more than enough.
In celebration of the Great Dance of Life,
Roderick W. MacIver
And one of the responses he received via email (original may be read by scrolling down here):
Ah yes, Rod,
I can thoroughly relate to your protagonists adventures with the model. I, however, am a eighty year old female….in an asexual relationship…..hmmmm let me just call this my protagonist…too personal to tell you it’s me.
She was divorced after a twenty year marriage when she was about forty. Did it all. Over the next twenty years. There were married men, there were monogamous several year relationships, there were one night stands, and there have been three live-in relationships.
There were road trips across the country, and a spirit-led three year trip to a majestic tropical setting, far away from her usual life. Life was so simple that she owned no keys . Her body and the wild beaches and ocean were joined, and her bed was in a retreat center just off the beach.
And always the theme of liking to live life on her terms, liking solitude, and wanting to be lovers with nature at its wildest. Dancing naked in thunderstorms, swimming naked in the salty waves, camping peacefully beside a waterfall, walking the beaches, and crying at the majesty of sunsets. Alone thank you, unless in the throes of infatuation with another man.
She now lives with a man that she has lived with for over ten years. She has seen him through having his prostate removed, only to find that the cancer was not gone. And he has seen her through some mysterious process which allows her only to walk in a crippled way. NO more running through the forest, or on the beaches. All that is left is the freedom of being in water, or on a bicycle, and even then, not too far into wilderness. They always carry a cell phone now in case….bones are frailer at these ages. This life, even though only fifteen years ago , she was up on the roof of the house, nailing back shingles that had come off in a windstorm, and watching a controlled burn of the prairie, with the wind from the flames whipping past her face, And she thought nothing of being 65 and being on that roof. Now, she could maybe not even get up there.
As I said, her relationship is asexual. She is not. It is a terrible quandary at times, when she sees the young boys on the beach with the silhouettes of their front side beckoning her both forward , and back in time. Or when she meets an occasional vital older man, who recognizes her inner self.
When she was younger, the dilemma was her sexuality versus commitment to a relationship. Now it is the same, but the relationship has become more important than the sexuality.
That does not mean it does not still hurt. Or tug at the fibers of her heart and her well used and well loved other body parts. She wishes she could have it all….wild natural interaction, wild personal interaction, and a peaceful and loving commitment.
She remembers well that unbalanced feeling of an unfulfilled sexual attraction. That which would not leave her alone, until she was driven to another man, another sexual adventure, another crashing onto the beach of the wave of eroticism that had come over her. There was no fantasy, dream, or writing that would take the place of the “action”. She often wondered how the nuns lived, and concluded that they were better at suppression than she, or more committed to their marriage with Jesus, than their marriage to their body. She was not. Her body, her sexual nature was so very important and so very strong, that it nearly ruled her entire life at times. It would not let her feel balanced until fulfilled.
Age has dulled the lack of balance, and though she often walks in peace, she feels the loss of not having it all. Of giving up that which has been so vital and important. Her ability to walk for miles down the deserted beach, her chances to tangle her body with another, in the highest forms of ecstasy that she ever experienced, AND a committed partner beside her.
She supposes she should thank aging and circumstances for making the choices she could not have made for herself. She is very, very grateful for all that life has brought her.
And she is even grateful for today’s life….as out of balance as it may sound….it has its own sense of balance.
I have nothing to add.Love,
“When our time is up, when our lives are done, will we say we’ve had our fun?…all the love I’ve met, I have no regrets, if it all ends now I’m set…”
-Lostprophets “Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)”
Walt Disney World Diversional Extravaganza — Post-Trip Installment 2
Wow…it’s been almost a month and a half (a month and twelve days, but who’s counting) since we were in Walt Disney World. Not only does that make me look around and wonder when June got here, but it also demonstrates that I have taken way longer than I planned to to continue our Walt Disney World reporting. Right now I’m looking at one of the professional pictures we had taken in front of Spaceship Earth at EPCOT. Once again in pondering Walt Disney World, I find myself wanting to go right back. :)
So, feel free to make fun of me, but the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom is actually one of my favorites. I loved it even before I got there this latest time, simply because I find Dumbo adorable and thus the aesthetics of the ride delightful. But I found upon riding it this time that it’s actually a fun ride too. There’s a little switch in each elephant to let the riders control the up and down movement (of the ride! You guys have such dirty minds…) of their respective carriers, and this can be used to elicit a fun, even slightly stomach-dropping sensation similar to that of the roller coasters and more intense rides. Plus, I get to pick which color Dumbo we ride in, since this ride has Dumbo wearing numerous different-colored hats and blankets. (I noticed that picking which color we get to ride in for rides where that is an option, such as Dumbo and the teacups, is still one of my favorite things just as it was when I was a kid, lol.)
Rick was quite willing to ride Dumbo with me, which I appreciate, and that brings me to one of the prominent things I noticed about Walt Disney World during this trip. Not one single time did I find myself thinking, “This is for kids,” or “I’m too old for this,” or any such thing. We went on rides ranging from Dumbo to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Snow White, and whether they were designed for small children or “adults, teenagers, and big kids,” I invariably enjoyed them and never at all felt like I was on a “boring” ride that was “too young” for me. What that says about me, I don’t know (lol), but I simply give Disney an enormous amount of credit for pulling that off. I find things that manage to be appealing to an age range like that seriously impressive, and since I remember enjoying Walt Disney World as a child too, it certainly seems to fulfill that classification for me.
Plus, I got the added benefit of also enjoying things that the last time I was there I was not old enough for. ;)
At an author chat I did at the Jeanie and Jayha yahoo group a few weeks ago in conjunction with the release of Swing!, the subject of vacations came up, and I offered that Walt Disney World really did seem to me to be a magical vacation location for adults. It may seem geared toward kids, but as Donna George Storey pointed out, this lends it a playfulness that can be a beautiful theme in life — and in sex.
Two of the things I got to come home from WDW with were a stuffed elephant from Animal Kingdom and a baby stuffed Eyore (both obtained by Rick as surprises for me). I got to sit in the front row (i.e., on the curb) and watch the SpectroMagic Parade (known as the “electrical parade” when I was a kid) and exclaim in delight over the plethora of colored lights. I got to pick what color teacup we rode in each time, and I got to have a kiss blown to me from Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s.
Then I got to go back to a pirate-themed hotel room and get fucked silly.
Letting that sparkling, glittering, lighthearted, carefree, inner child part of me out to play at will really felt profoundly therapeutic. Eating a Mickey Mouse ears-shaped chocolate-dipped ice cream bar on my birthday wasn’t just a casual indulgence — it was a symbol that I was letting go (in a slightly different way from on the Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster), attending to a part of me that a sterner part of me has in the past frequently suppressed, scolded, held back, and wagged a finger at to keep in check.
That’s not what Walt Disney World is about.
So indeed, I love Dumbo, and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, and the SpectroMagic Parade, and squealing in delight at baby animals at Animal Kingdom, and giggling as I’m felt up on a midnight ride of Pirates of the Caribbean (report on that later), and stuffed animals, and lapdances on the monorail, and playful sex with a Galactic Hero on a pirate boat bed. Yes, Walt Disney World is without hesitation from me a highly recommended adult vacation spot. Right at this moment I’m still wishing to go back.
Maybe I’d better go find some pirate-themed bedding of my own. ;)