Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lets be sexy

"There is no such creation as a "gay" or "homosexual" person." So say Love in Action, the increasingly infamous treatment program for homosexuals.

You know I almost agree with them.

I've had a social constructivist bent ever since I studied at a centre for research into intellectual disabilities and did my undergraduate project in cultural representations of childhood in the language used during Parent-Child-Interaction-Therapy. I must admit, it is probably to the chagrin of my current die-hard positivist PhD supervisors that after 3 years of squeezing myself into a rather medicalised research group, I am more convinced than ever of the need to consider the implications of social constructivist philosophy for mental health.

But I digress, and I'm sure my intellectualised rants about the philosophy of science and the manner in which the underlying beliefs behind psychological theories and priniciples may be oppressive to people with mental illness are probably not of much interest. But brushing up on social constructionism has reminded me how much our experience of the world is associated with the language we use.

Partner-dude and I have been priveleged to have Peterson staying with us this weekend - so naturally we've spent a lot of time discussing queer issues.

I wonder why do we categorise people's sexuality by the gender of who they fancy.

Am I, someone who has always been attracted to males really so simple as to be 'heterosexual'. Am I incidentally homosexual because I posed for a camera, kissing a female friend once (the joys of photo pub crawls...and the ensuing embarrassment when a photograph of said incident made it into the hands of some of my conservative Christian friends!)

I suspect that our language constrains us to think about sexuality along the dimensions of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. And, I'm not denying that this has any relation to reality - some are attracted to people of the opposite sex, and some people are attracted to people of the same sex and some people are attracted to both.

But I don't think these dimensions really do justice to the diversity of human sexual desire and expression and our society's obsession with these dimensions may limit our discussions on issues around sexual ethics.

So is my sexuality heterosexual - yes if you want to define it as such, but that's certainly not the whole story. My sexuality is about myself as a sexual being and part of that means taking care of myself, eating well, exercising, breathing in the fresh air and escaping the office once in a while. I express it with my partner curled up under fluffy blankets watching arty films, discussing good books, shouting at political commentators on the news, ranting about the boredom of doing a PhD, sharing Haagen-Daz under the duvet and much much much shared laughter. Its everything from subtle looks, cheeky games of footsie, deep friendship, gentle kisses and passionate snogs to overwhelming urges to rip off all my partner's clothes, blindfold him and tie him to the bedposts...ok, maybe that was too much information ;)

But these things are all part of my sexuality, all things I want to share with my partner, and in so doing I find a wealth of sexual expression that is far broader, far more wonderful and far more fun that saying "I am heterosexual, I desire vaginal intercourse with men." I wonder if we could change the ways in which we think about our sexualities would it help us better engage in discussion about what our sexuality means for us and how it can be lived well. The importance of whether you do men or women seems to pale in comparison to the tremendous diversity of what turns us on and the ways in which we human beings express ourselves sexually.

In discussions of sexual ethics, particularly in religious contexts, we so desperately need to move beyond the 'gay debate' into a whole new realm of discussion as to how to live our sexualities in ways that express love for ourselves, for one another and in the spirit/light/God/Christ (whatever that means - I'm afraid I don't like to be watched, not even by Jesus).


ash said...

"(whatever that means - I'm afraid I don't like to be watched, not even by Jesus)."

This is an interesting idea... our assistant pastor was preaching recently, and she was saying about how God knows everythign about us. She said how, when she married her husband years ago, she found that real weird... God watching you have sex.

But then she said something very interesting...

surely the implicit undertone here is that we are ashamed? If we don't want God seeing us, maybe we are ashamed... we feel that God wouldn't like it. We feel dirty. seedy.

I think that's a problem church-people have a lot of the time. the truth is, I don't think God minds sex. neither do most ministers, if they are honest, because they are having it. (except most catholic ones).

Now maybe for some there comes a proviso on marriage. fine. But truth is, when we're married, people still feel dirty about sex.

we're really quite dishonest about it too. with teenagers... "if you wait until marriage it'll be so special"..

actually... it'll be messy, painful, awkeward and, when you're expecting some euphoric pentecostal tongues-of-fire orgasmic experience, it's gonna be pretty well disappointing.

I think we need to get over the whole sex thing. Sex is fine. God made it if that's your theology. It may be good only in marriage, it may be good anyway. I think we need to be more honest. I think we need to stop telling people it's dirty, and we need to stop building up false expectations too.

end rant.

Contemplative Activist said...

I know what you mean Ash. I think sometimes Christians are too hung up about sex and sometimes a bit too earnest about its "spirital dimension".

I've heard of couples who start sexual liasons with a prayer inviting God into the room. And Peterson told me about a practice within the ex-gay movement about inviting Jesus in to heal your memories regarding former sexual liasons (or something along those lines.) The line about not inviting Jesus into the room, was more tongue-in-cheek than anything else.

Or put it another way - my parents know I have a sexual relationship (or if they haven't realised yet, they're very stupid). I have a very open relationship with my mum and we have discussed numerous issues relating to sex - she's advised me on everything from matters of contraception to recommending a sex manual. I'm open, I'm not ashamed, but there is no way on this whole earth I would have her watch!!!

I agree with you, we need to get over the embarrassment and shame aspects that so many of us experience. And I think you are right, we need to be honest that sometimes sex is a bit messy (but actually, my own opinion is that if you treat it all with a sense of humour you can learn to laugh at the more clumsy moments).

I also think we need to think more broadly about sexuality so that we value the gentle kisses, the hugs, the friendship and the intimacy as part of a sexual relationship as being as much a part of sex as the tongues-of-fire orgasmic experiences. (Well, that's how it is for me anyway.)


Lorcan said...

We Quakers have the advantage of realizing that God is not up in heaven with a spy scope... but IS present IN our partner and self... having a wee snog WITH God... Hmmm... there's a thought.

ducking the shoes being thrown from all sides...



Lorcan said...

Och dear heat... God... and the rest...

Ran into Bill, an old shipmate, just quit a ship and needed a glass of wine, we sat at an out door restaurant (God) and the Polish waitress did not approve of us, ( she was God ) But, she brought us two glasses ( both God ) and filled them with God, wine crushed from God, the grapes, by a vintner (God) and Bill complained of the bastard (god) who made him quit the ship (God) which had sailed over the deep deep deep ever moving sea (God) over fish we know (God) and wonders we can't emgaine fourty fathoms down ( all God)... and I thought of a dear wee girl (God) who I had so hurt, (I being God) and she had so hurt me, (she being God) and it was all so silly as we were both God... breathing God that bent the trees (God) and I watched the neighbors (God) walk their dogs (God) which messed the sidewalk (both God)and here we are... typing God onto God the Internet God and all all all...
So straight sex Gay Sex, no sex, angery sex, make up sex, ... all God as much as the pimply nurd (God) John Otway ( God ) wrote the opera Chyril (God) about, IS God as he cries himself to sleep each night until he cries himself to death... and it is all all all all all God... these black marks (God) on the white screan (God) it is all to the end of thought and beyond... is all stinking wonderful queer kinky straight boring wonderful awful violent loving shitty sweet smelling vomiting dry chablis wet whiskey dank dry bright dark muddy moldy George Bush, Lil' Abner, Ryan in Divinity school, the brick that fell on my foot my head my heart, my, oh my... and it is all
teddy bears and boat hooks
rusty razor blades and cherries
the wee girl who took my breath away in the bus window and the stinky dear heat asleep on my door step


SO, enjoy... pull God's ears attached to the partner dude, or anything else you can grab... god.

Sleep tight... I will :)

Lorcan said...

I forgot the bloody R" (god) " dear heaRt! Heat indeed!

Lorcan said...

Funny I spelt heart twice as heat, the dear HEART asleep on my door step..

Paul said...

Thanks for 'Let's be sexy' post. You wrote with such eloquence, clarity and integrity - and I agree with all of it! Especially the part about moving on from the 'gay debate' and looking at sexuality from a whole new perspective. Thank you...

postliberal said...

Lorcan -

The advantage over whom? I might add that we Methodists have the advantage over Quakers in not being smug and self satisfied religionists ;P I hope you're well at the moment m'dear.

Lorcan said...

Ah no... advantage over the religious view of an external God looking in at you having a snog... when God IS the created as well as the act of creation, you've already had a nice go round with God, after a night drinking and wondering who that is next to you... then you remember, oh right, God... if you get me drift... no advantage, other than that kind of... oh my I'm naked feeling Adam felt one morning in eden...
I'm fine, and you? Much better than I have been...

postliberal said...

That’s good to hear, I realise you’ve been having some trouble recently.

I was simply saying, in my usually hap handed approach to sarcasm, that it’s a wee bit sanctimonious to go claiming the ultimate in incarnationalism for the Quakers! It’s an insight you find all through the Church, in wonderful theological pockets :P

mary said...

och, ruthie, you're like my wee role model :D you're so sensibley mad and fun! meaning that you think things out in a way that rings true with me, and your life seems full of studiousness and discussion but also laughter and kisses and icecream! you rock petal.

Contemplative Activist said...

Aw, thanks Mary - may your life be full of craic ;)

Always good to have a fellow Norn Iron-er on my blog :)