“The last shall be first.” –SexyJesus
In 2nd grade, I loved Danny. He had olive skin and slicked back brown hair and sat in the far right corner of the room. He was my favorite that year. I liked to watch him. We almost never talked, but one time, when we were getting our workbooks, mine dropped, and he picked it up for me and put it back on my lap.
In 3rd grade, there was Donovan, so cute. I admired him from afar for months and drew a picture of the two of us with a baby in a baby carriage. I was so skinny in the picture, and wore a red dress. When I showed it to him, slipped it into his desk before lunch, he found me at recess with his older friend and ripped the letter up into pieces while I stood by the chain-link fence. That was really upsetting.
I took a break 4th and 5th grade year from having crushes on boys, but in 6th grade, I had a little thing with George. He told me I had nice legs and he wanted me to wear his bracelet. The bracelet said “George.” I refused. It made me feel like a dog with a collar. I liked him, though. He was kind of sexy, even if we were too young to kiss.
Come to think of it, 6th grade was a pretty hot year for me.
I have always loved boys.
I, like all women, have grown up with fairytales—the princess rests on her bed and waits for the prince to arrive to kiss her. He is gallant and strong. She is sweet and pretty. And then they ride off into the sunset. We never get to know what happens next.
Why am I telling you this?
We are inundated, from a young age, with particular ideas about what it means to be a woman or a man, and what that looks like in a relationship. We are presented with problematic ideas in stories, and in our fantasies and childhood impressions, with two stark dualities: strong masculine, weak feminine. One person is supposed to play a particular role, and the other takes the opposite, and then we hope and pray for blissful harmony.
There is no one in this life who doesn’t want a meaningful relationship, and most of us would like a meaningful relationship to be sexual in some capacity. Sex is natural. It is the seed of life. It is an obvious form of physical connection, and yet we have been trained and educated to form all sorts of misconceptions about it, and find shame around it, or confusion, rather than having an understanding of why it plays such an important role for us. And honestly, our relationship and understanding of sex has been on a long journey of change, since the poisonous seeds were planted centuries ago, with institutional religion. Centuries ago, there was not such ubiquity of birth control. No wonder the Catholic church hates anything related to Margaret Sanger.
As a woman, and as a girl, I never understood the sexual part of myself, or felt comfortable asking questions or exploring. The inherent, silent message was, This area is off limits. And so I had no relationship to my body in this or any other way. My body was a danger zone. It bled, it sometimes got aroused, it cramped, I sweat sometimes, and maybe I even cried occasionally. And I went to the bathroom. My body was a machine I couldn't pay any real attention to.
I, like many women, grew up with a divide inside me, a divide that pervades our psyche and our unconscious: you are either good (a virgin), or you are sexual (a whore). You cannot possibly be both good and sexually alive.
I remember the way an 8th grade girl was shamed by the kids in our class because she had given a boy a blow job. He made some joke about her finding pleasure in the bathtub spigot. Everybody laughed. Ew. Pleasure? She had the nerve to find pleasure between her legs? That girl was overweight with glasses. Her name was Sherry. We all turned away, called her dirty.
A woman who awakens, an awakening that is necessary and divinely ordered, is actually meant to heal this brokenness, this shame, this divide within our psyches and our culture. She is honoring, and meant to honor, the whole of herself. She is meant to break ceilings and barriers, to speak up, to make others uncomfortable by the space she lives in and moves around in, because she declares unabashedly that she is entitled to that space. For so many years, we women were supposed to be shy and quiet, to curl up in a ball and hide away. We had to shapeshift, codeswitch, play nice.
The awakened woman says, No more of that. She is All. She is pure. She is genuine. Mother figure, regardless of whether she has kids. Daughter. Aunt. Niece. Sexual Explorer. Intellectual Curiositer. Professional. Artist. Womb-bearer. Lover. Friend.
And she pulls from the various archetypes that we’ve shunned, or found discomfort with, and presents herself, again and again, as A Whole Woman. A Woman Alive.
She does not shun men. She loves them. But she does not abide any suggestion that she is secondary to the order of things. She does not condone any implicit bias directed at her about how she ought to think and behave.
This woman is not stuck in one category or another. She is not put in a box somewhere, to hold off and hold back and wait and sacrifice for a good long time. Her rich interior life, conversely, is brought to the surface, exposed, again and again, in vulnerability, in emotion, in expression, so that we all make friends with the woman inside us, regardless of gender. Our vibrant and precious feminine energy has been so damaged, so unexpressed, so poisoned with negative thinking. Our many years of associating femininity with weakness have wounded us, have made us believe that the feminine must always be tamed and controlled.
Women all over this world are being called to wake up. And by speaking up, or exploring their humanity in new and strange ways, they are not aiming to offend—they are merely expressions of a love gone missing. These women, we, are simply readjusting the balance of history, which has denied the value of huge parts inside all of us. An awakened woman, who breaks boundaries, who paves a new way, not just politically, but in the soul and psyche of our deeper understanding, will look scary and wild, because our culture has not wanted to see her. We have wanted to drape her with a dark cloth. We have not wanted to know the fullness inside her, for fear the fullness would overwhelm. We have believed the suggestion, over and over again, that a woman's pain and wounds and journey are not ours to consider, are not worthy of our time and attention.
That is, until she dies. Kills herself. Fades away on a cocktail of drugs, or booze. Writes a poem we can remember her by.
Stuff like that.
Sexual stigma runs deep. It especially runs deep in women who have had to play by the rules in order to scrape by in life. It aligns itself with mothers and generations of women who could only gain respect by denying feminine aspects of themselves, ignoring their sexual vitality. It runs deep because of the shame of sexual abuse and violation, which many women have internalized as something they "deserved." It has run deep in the many women who have had to fight for equality or recognition in ways that were masculine in order to be seen or heard. Stigma has especially held strong in religion, in the most impressionable and vulnerable place inside us: our understanding of God.
So we must honor women's experiences, their toil. We must respect the sacrifices they have made to get us to this point in history. But it does not mean we must follow in the same path. Our path, now, is different. It is a path of healing. It is a path of remaking our perceptions. It is a path that will change the world, if we can honor it, and if people in our communities can genuinely practice love and non-judgment, and have a willingness to understand and support the awakened woman's unique form of expression.
It is the only way a new, more vibrant and peaceful future can take hold.
Sometimes, my friend, what is considered an evil, dark force, and what is truth and goodness, spins on a disk where there are no markers.