Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Decriminalizing Desire

What is it you desire?

Tacos smothered in guacamole? (You see where my mind automatically goes?) A really good lay? A beautiful home? A fulfilling job? A relaxing trip to someplace warm and quiet? Approval? A manipedi?

Stop right now. Go make a list of everything you can think of from the micro (a pair of soft socks) to the macro (a private jet), from the logical (more money) to the fantastical (the ability to teleport). Anything that turns you on, lights your fire and resonates deeply belongs on your list. Write it all out. I'll wait.

This exercise was offered over the past weekend at the deliciously indulgent conference of the pussy cult that is Mama Gena's Womanly Arts Experience. For two days we were encouraged to vigilantly check in with our desires moment to moment and only do what would bring us authentic pleasure. This meant not only becoming acutely aware of what it is that you desire, but also getting comfortable making those desires known by taking the vulnerable leap of making The Ask.

The problem I see with "manifestation" as it's often thought of is that it doesn't coach us to do the one thing that will make it far more likely for us to have our desires met. We must ask. It's not enough to make a list in your journal at the new moon. As my friend Gary once said, "A closed mouth doesn't get fed, honey." If you're looking for a new place to live, you cannot sit around hoping that someone somehow just magically knows and offers it to you. You can cruise Craigslist, that's more proactive, but it helps to let your community know what you need. Connecting to the right resources is so often all about who you know. So let your people know how they can help you!

The tricky thing about this, though, is that desire has been criminalized, especially within the realm of romantic and sexual relating. We have been programmed to only desire what has been deemed appropriate within the social construct, which basically states that relationships must be monogamous and marriage minded. As the right to marry is slowly extended to same sex couples, this standard continues to be reinforced. We don't even care if your partner has the same genitals as you anymore, but by god, you better be monogamous and you better get married!

The greatest source of anxiety among grown people is the primal fear of abandonment by the group. We fear that something depraved will come crawling out of us leading to our separation from the herd which is our protection, and so we suppress anything that arises which might lead to our expulsion. My personal theory on the astronomical rate of marriage failure? People getting married who don't understand that not all relationships need to lead to marriage. Some people should absolutely NOT get married, but they don't know what else to do because marriage is the only socially acceptable end game for love. Sometimes it's just nice to have fun with someone for awhile and not have to ever interact with the daily reality of dirty laundry and runny noses. And sometimes the daily reality of partnership is beautiful, supportive and life giving. I'm not knocking all marriage, but it shouldn't be the only option.

Men, who are arguably far more masterful at and empowered in being big ol' sluts, have a pretty good handle on relating sexually and/or romantically outside of commitment. Generally speaking, men are empowered not only in being slutty but also in feeling desire. A man wants to talk to a woman on the street and so he does. Desire, impulse, fulfillment...with little to no thought about it. On the other hand, women aren't supposed to desire anything at all beyond pleasing a man. I distinctly remember the quizzes and articles in Seventeen and YM magazines when I was developing my relational awareness to men, and they all centered on "How to Tell If He Likes You" or "How to Get Him to Like You." I don't recall ever being asked, "What Do You Want?" or "What Do You Like?" Nothing in the broader culture begs this question to women.

This isn't about gender politics, though. There are many ways in which men are subject to oppressive cultural standards and stereotypes. "The norm" (whatever the hell that even means) isn't normal and it isn't genuinely serving anyone. We all need to be liberated from the standard structure and freed to discern for ourselves what it is that we really, truly desire. So I ask you again...

What is it you desire?

Do you want to have a baby? Or never have a baby? Do you want to work in an office? Or from home? Or from a cabana on the beach? Do you want to be married? Or would you prefer to remain single and take lovers? Or be celibate? Do you want your tacos smothered in guacamole? (Oh yes please!!)

And whatever it is that you desire, are you willing and able to ask for it?

We must create a culture which permits individuals to honor their unique desires by making it okay to ask. Whatever it is that you need, whatever will best support you or give you the most pleasure, you must ask. Equally important, we must get comfortable receiving the requests of others and saying no, and also accepting when our requests are not met. Asking does not guarantee a "yes!" but we have to ask anyway.

You have desires.
They are valid.
It's necessary to clarify what they are,
And ask for their fulfillment.
If they are met, great!
If not, and it is a very important desire, keep asking around.
Denying, ignoring and suppressing our desires doesn't work.
If you have a particularly socially aberrant desire, maybe talk to a professional about it.
If you just want tacos smothered in guacamole, get it.
Got it?
Good.

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