Erotic as Power: The Problem of Patriarchy & Feeling the Feminine

NYC Meditation Teacher Writer Sebene Selassie Blog Article 14.jpg

2015 is my year of the erotic as power.

Keep your panties on people. Not that kind of erotic… Well, not only that kind of erotic. Last newsletter I mentioned bell hooks’ statement that “patriarchy has no gender.” It is true. And one of patriarchy’s primary tactics is to keep us all (whatever gender) from feeling the feminine.

I recently (re)discovered the essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” by Audre Lorde. Her message about the liberatory nature of the erotic resonated very strongly for me as I explore the role of this capacity in my own life.

The erotic as power is a deep knowing that touches into a “feminine plane” within each of us. The erotic is as she says “the creative energy empowered.” It is rooted in the senses and a vital connection to the body. But the erotic is not only the sexual. She is talking about the ability to feel fully and live deeply into our experience (to love experience), something that is discouraged in a society that values speed, activity, productivity, and the mind over living the richness and depth of feeling in the body.With sex, this depth is perverted into only being about a type of sex that is quick, isolated, and transactional (I do this, you do that) — what she calls the pornographic. In the rest of life, depth is sacrificed to the scramble to keep up and survive — what I’ll call the hustle. Yes, often you gotta hustle to survive (until tomorrow or next month or at all). The erotic is about thriving and savoring, every moment.

Society as a whole, including spiritual traditions, perpetuate a suspicion of the erotic and the feminine. As a long-time Buddhist practitioner, I often find myself questioning the constructs and forms of my tradition(s). Forms can be useful. And sometimes they need to be re-constructed.

The body, movement, relationship, sexuality, depth of feeling, expression, justice, activism, creativity, even the wild (next month I’ll be writing about “A Wild Patience”)… these are things I desire to bring into my practice and the current forms are not always supportive. An example: I definitely understand, practice, and greatly appreciate the necessity and benefits of silence and stillness, of renunciation and simplicity. But when is it self-discipline and when is it self-abnegation? And how will I know the difference?I long for the depth and richness of the erotic not only in my spiritual practice, I long for these things in my work and communities where there isn’t space for them yet. What would the erotic look like at work, with family, at home? Here’s Audre:

For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.

 Aspirations for my year of the erotic as power:

  • aimless playfulness in my explorations walking, reading, talking, cloud-watching, creating…

  • more dancing — including subway platform jigs

  • less time speeding through data — try the SelfControl app  for blocking time-killing websites

  • expressing my deepest longings — whether on paper, screen, or in person

What are yours?

Bea RueComment