The contraception conversation

When I was 16, my mother found my contraceptive pills in my top drawer.

She brought them and held them out in front of me, like something dead and dirty, accusing:

“What are these, and where did you get them?”

“They’re my pills,” I said. “I didn’t want to get pregnant.”

“Are you having sex?” she demanded, her face angry.

“No, no,” I denied, lying to her face. “I just want them…just in case…you know…” My voice drifted away into nothing.

That was how the brief conversation went, all those years ago, but I remember it clearly.

pill

Pressure from all sides…

What I didn’t tell my mother was the fact that those pills were like gold to me. Three months earlier, I’d started having sex. We’d used condoms that time, but then my boyfriend had asked me to go on the Pill.

Of course, it was the woman’s job to get contraceptives and sort all that out. It still is mostly, here, nearly thirty years later from back then.

But I did what I had to do. The sexual health clinic was nearly two hours away by bus, and I didn’t have a car. I was 16. I arrived way too early for my appointment, and walked around the block near the clinic about three or four times before I summoned up the nerve to go inside.

I felt like a criminal. All I wanted was to not get pregnant. You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to avoid that. Yet it was, for me. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I’d been taught to think of sex that way.

The people in the clinic were friendly, and put me on a low dose pill, but it was really expensive. I wasn’t earning much at that point, and it used up all the money I had just to get three months’ supply. But what else was I supposed to do?

I remember wondering if my boyfriend, who had a lot more money than me, would chip in for some of the cost, then threw that idea right out. Guys didn’t pay for this sort of stuff. Sex was free for them.

My mother held my pills in her hand. “I’m throwing these out. You shouldn’t be having sex yet. You’re too young.”

And she took them away.

I looked in the bins to see if I could find them, and even went through the garbage cans outside, but no luck. They were gone. And I started bleeding a couple of days later, because I’d stopped in the middle of taking them.

The next day, I rang the sexual health clinic again the moment my parents were out of the house. They couldn’t get me in until the following week, and I asked if I could pay for just one month of pills, not three. I couldn’t. They were sorry about that.

I said I’d see what I could do and made the appointment anyway.

That was the only thing I ever stole money from anyone for: I took the money I needed from my mother’s purse.

I don’t think she missed it.

Next time I got hold of my pills, I made sure Mum wouldn’t find them – I hid them in my secret hiding spot that even she didn’t know about, under the bottom of my wardrobe at the back. If she found them, she never said anything.

From then on, whenever I needed more money for more pills, I just stole it from my mother.

I think that was the point at which I began to grow up: when I stopped trusting my parents. When I realised they would steal my things and they weren’t on my side.

I stopped trusting them when they stopped trusting me.

Sluts and whores

Looking back, there is so much wrong with my experience that I don’t know where to begin.

The fact that contraception was, and still commonly is, solely a woman’s responsibility.
The fact that I had to deal with all this alone, even though I was hardly still a woman.
The fact that my boyfriend was absent from the conversation and from responsibility.
The fact that my mother felt she had control both over my body and my property.
The fact that my mother judged me, and felt she had the right to judge.
The fact that caring for my body was seen as a shameful thing by my mother, as was sex.
The fact that, even at 16, my mother had still never talked about sex with me, even though I desperately needed her support and help.

Most of all, looking back, I’m amazed that my mother was angry that I took care and responsibility for my own body.

If I had a daughter do that, and go get pills all by herself, no matter what age, I’d be proud of her actions and initiative. I’d be glad she was keeping herself safe from pregnancy.

I’d be sorry I didn’t get a chance to help her first, but glad she respected her body enough to care for it and plan ahead.

But maybe I don’t see sex as something we should be ashamed of.

For my mother, women who had sex before marriage were sluts and whores. I don’t know whether she was silly enough to believe that taking my pills away would stop me having sex, but if she was, she was wrong. All it did was make me steal from her, lie to her, and not trust her.

prudewhore

The contraception conversation

Contraception – and sex generally – is the conversation we desperately need to have with our children.

And it’s the one conversation we’re not having.

When we judge our kids, this is what happens.
When we judge our kids, this is what happens.

Over and over, I hear parents say that they want to talk to their kids about sex, but “just not yet”.

If not now, then when?
When they steal from you for their contraception?
When they get pregnant, or get someone else pregnant?
Or maybe when they get an STI?

“Tomorrow” is too late.
We need to talk today.

It is our responsibility to keep our children safe, until they’re able to do that for themselves. That’s what parenting is.

Our kids need to be able to trust us, and in order to earn that, we need to start the conversation by trusting them.

We need to talk.

When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

Redefining marriage: Eternity or happiness?

Sometimes divorce is a good thing. And sometimes it doesn’t happen like you see in the movies.

My husband of 17 years and I are divorcing. There are no plates being hurled at each other, no tantrums, and very few harsh words. We’re not bitter, we’ve worked through the anger and the grief, and it is time to move on.

We’ve done over two years of counselling, and we’ve told our parents, our children and a few close friends. Gradually the word will get out.

It feels odd. I feel almost dreamlike at times. Marriage for us had become a habit.

When I married him, I honestly believed it would be until death. I also believed that any marriage that wasn’t forever was a failure. I know differently now.

I now view our marriage, even though it has ended, as a successful marriage.

We were happy through most of it.
We have two amazing kids.
We were good partners for each other.
We supported each other.
And we’re now going our own ways amicably.
This is joint decision.
It is what is best for both of us.
We are in agreement.
We will continue to co-parent, even though we’re separating.
I trust that he has the best interests of our kids at heart.
I trust him to be fair and honest with me in his dealings.
He trusts me to be fair and honest in my dealings with him.
We are good friends.

Redefining marriage

So what makes a marriage successful? Is it just the “till death do us part” bit? Or is it something else?

I think we need to re-assess what it means for a marriage to be successful. We must redefine it, because our current definitions, quite frankly, are making people miserable. They don’t work for a lot of people, they place unrealistic expectations on couples, and they encourage couples to stay together in situations where they would very much be better off apart.

The fact is, sometimes sticking together no matter what isn’t always the best decision.

Think about it:

  • Is a marriage successful if two people stick it out in absolute misery until death, simply because society tells them they must?

  • Is a marriage successful if a couple despise each other but stay together in a sham relationship “for the kids” when everyone around them knows the whole thing is a fake?

  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together for no other reason than habit?

  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together simply because they are afraid to leave? Afraid of the unknown? Of the “what if…”? Is fear a good or healthy reason for a couple to be together?

  • Is a marriage successful if it lasts a lifetime but one or both members physically or emotionally abuse each other?

  • Is a marriage successful if one or both members are cheating on the other, sleeping around, lying to their partner, yet remaining married?


I’d argue that none of the above constitute success.

If that’s how we measure “success” in our society, then society has it wrong.
If that’s the best society can do, then it’s not good enough for us.

I believe my marriage was successful because we were both strong enough and brave enough to say “Now is the time for us to end this.”
We were willing to be honest with each other.
We didn’t cheat, we didn’t lie, we didn’t sleep around behind the other’s back while pretending everything was rosy.

Instead, we saw that what we had wasn’t working, and we tried to fix it. And when we realised it couldn’t be fixed, we had the strength and honesty to say, let it go.

This is a frightening time for me. It probably is for him too. I don’t know what my life will be in a year from now, in ten years from now. Separating takes away all certainty. The thought of being a single mother in her forties is scary.

I’m scared but I will face the future with what strength I have.

strength

Why are we moving on? I can only speak for myself. I’m moving on because I have to believe that I can bring joy into someone’s life, and that someone can bring joy into mine. Life is too short to merely exist. I want my life to be rich, and full of purpose and deep satisfaction.

Maybe I’ll fail to achieve what I want, but at the end of my life if I have failed to fly, I don’t want to have failed because I was afraid to spread my wings.

bird

Is monogamy dying? And did it ever really live?

Most of my friends are, publicly or not, in open relationships.

Most didn’t start out that way. Most started with the whole girlfriend-boyfriend dating thing, and moved on to marriage or permanent de facto status. Many even vowed to “forsake all others”, and probably meant it when they made those vows.

But times change, and when you’re in your twenties, or whatever, you don’t really comprehend, at a visceral level, what “forsaking all others” really means.

marriage

I couldn’t have imagined the person I am now, when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t have imagined everything I would go through, and suffer through, to get to this point in my life.

I had no idea of the changes that would happen in me, and in my partner. To say I was naive when I got married is an understatement.

My experiences weren’t typical – I had a harder lot than most – but everyone goes through some hard stuff in their life. And everyone’s relationships change, some for the better, some for the worse.

But now, talking privately with close friends the other night, it came out that not one of us was in the closed, monogamous relationship we’d envisaged when we’d made our vows and promises as our younger selves.

Some of my friends are cheating on their partners. Other have divorced, or are separating. Many are in open marriages, with regular partners on the side for one or other of them.

Some have had affairs. Others separated and got back together and separated again. And some are still with their partner, but just don’t have sex and are plain old miserable.

I’ve friends who have been so lonely in their marriages that they cried themselves to sleep at night while their partner snored on unknowingly beside them. Others who might as well be celibate, for all the sex they’re having. And others who have taken on same-sex lovers, after realising that the reason their marriage didn’t work is because they’re gay.

My friends aren’t unusual. They’re a pretty typical mix of 30 and 40-something middle class New Zealanders. Some better off, some worse off. Most in professional jobs, some in blue collar work. Some are stay at home mums.

But all of this got me thinking,

– Is monogamy dead? Is it something that only ever existed in name only, on a church register, while in reality it never actually worked for anyone outside of a Disney fairytale?

– Are we the first generation to experience this? Or did previous generations do the same? Are they doing the same?

– Why is society clinging to the idea of monogamy if it isn’t working for most of us, maybe for any of us? Is it time for a change? And, if so, what do we replace it with?

We’re no different to previous generations

I honestly think, looking at the evidence, that we’re no different to previous generations. With one major difference: women can leave miserable situations, whereas in the past they often couldn’t.

I look at my mother, who was the “love child” of an affair her mother had, in between two marriages.

I look at my paternal grandmother, who had (I think) five, maybe six, marriages in her life. Serial monogamy, maybe, but not exactly Disney. And one of the guys she married was a bigamist – there was scandal attached at the time!

I look at my distant family tree in the past, with relative after relative whose paternity was “under question”. My family was no different from any other. The world is full of bastard children and “young aunts” who were actually unwed mothers.

Looking at all of this, it seems monogamy was always something that people aimed for, rather than the standard everyone typically achieved.

And it shows me that we are no different to the generations that went before. Yes, single mothers get a lot of criticism – but there were always single mothers, and lots of them. It’s just that in the past their ‘sins” were hushed up and the children taken away.

I think the Disney fairytale, the “happily ever after” we’re led to believe in, is cruel and hurtful.
And it’s a fairytale – not true, nor likely to be true.

Why does society cling to monogamy, if it clearly doesn’t work?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe you do. The best I can do is wonder what would happen if monogamy didn’t exist.

Would people reform into tribes, or poly groups, rather than “nuclear” family units? Would the shape of housing change? Would children be better off with potentially more adults caring for them?

Or would women be left with the burden of supporting any children they gave birth to alone, as men moved from one partner to another without legal responsibility?

I don’t know.

In name only

What I do know is that monogamy doesn’t exist among my friends. It’s probably pretty rare everywhere, once marriages hit five years old or so.

I wonder at what point this will all become open and honest and people will start to discuss what’s actually going on in society?

Food for thought.

What do you think?

So why the emphasis on “purity” anyway?

We all know that the churches of the Bible belt have been placing a massive emphasis on “purity” and virginity lately. Especially for women.

Actually, purity isn't a commandment at all. The nearest the Commandments get to talking about purity is Commandment No. 7, which says no adultery.
Actually, purity isn’t a commandment at all. The nearest the Commandments get to talking about purity is Commandment No. 7, which says no adultery.

Teens are taking “purity pledges” and being “re-virginized” (whatever THAT means!) and promising to “wait” until they get married.

But have you ever stopped to ask – why?

Why the emphasis on this one aspect of human behaviour?

Good works

Think about it for a moment. How is a “good person” or a “valued member of society” usually defined?

Think of the people in history you’d consider to be heroes. They might be Jesus, if you’re a Christian – but I bet his sex life was never a big issue for you (do you even know how many sex partners he had? is it even mentioned in the Bible?)

Or you might think of Nelson Mandela. Or you might be thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. Or Marie Curie, if you’re a scientist. Or Fred Hollows, who restored eyesight for countless people in the world.

What about Mozart and Beethoven, and the beautiful music they gifted the world? Or Van Gogh, for his stunning artwork?

The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh.

Or modern composers like Eric Whitacre, and the gorgeous pieces he’s currently writing for us to enjoy?

Other heroes you might consider could include people like your family doctor. Or a favourite teacher. Or the physiotherapist who helped you to walk again after you had a terrible brain injury.

They’re all heroes. Every one of them. All doing good works. All worthy of admiration.

If you believe in Heaven, every one of them deserves a place, wouldn’t you think?

I sure would.

Were they virgins when they married? If they married? And does God even care?

Of all these people, do you know for certain if any of them were virgins when they married? Did it matter? Did it make a difference to them being good people?

Did it affect their being valuable people, of worth to the world and those they loved and that loved them?

I’ll answer the question for you: not one bit.

Their sexual status when they married didn’t affect their contributions as unique individuals. And neither does your sexual status affect your contribution as a unique individual.

Don’t think so little of God!

If you think the Divine is so petty as to care about your virginity, well then, you’ve got one really petty little God you’re worshipping.

If you think God will judge you based on whether you’ve had sex or not, you’re really underestimating God. Plus, you’re really overestimating your own self-importance. The Divine has better things to worry about.

So why do the Churches care?

Firstly, don’t get Church and God muddled up. They’re NOT one and the same. Churches are made up of people. People with all their human frailties and mistakes and bigotries and confusions.

Churches have been telling people what to do and what to think for a long, long time. And a lot of the time, they simply represented what society thought.

When society got it wrong, so too did the Churches.

For example, when society didn’t know better and thought the sun revolved around the earth, the Churches defended this belief to the death. Literally. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his challenge to this theory, his books were banned, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Other scientists that challenged the same belief (such as Giordano Bruno) were burned at the stake by the Church.

Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake by the Church in 1600.
Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake by the Church in 1600.

This all happened a long time ago, but what I’m pointing out is that the churches are fallible. They make mistakes, because they’re controlled and made up of people. They reflect common beliefs of society at the time. And sometimes not so common!

Better believe it - this is what some creationists are teaching their kids: that dinosaurs existed with humans, and we *rode* them!
Better believe it – this is what some creationists are teaching their kids: that dinosaurs existed with humans, and we *rode* them!

What’s more, the Churches, due to their generally conservative nature, tend to lag behind society, and are slow to change and update as society changes.

Society has changed, but the Church is still playing catchup

This is what we have now. Reliable contraception is relatively new (the pill was first approved in 1960, very recently in historical terms) and was a massive change to how women could control their fertility.

ThePill

With that huge change, the status of women changed quickly. Women were suddenly no longer tied to house and children. We could choose to work and pursue careers, knowing that pregnancy wasn’t lying in wait for us unexpectedly.

Reliable laws supporting safe termination followed swiftly in 1973 with Roe v Wade, enabling women who did find themselves unexpectedly pregnant to end it with a safe termination. Terminations are very common – I’ve had one, as have about half of my friends. These days they’re safe and supported by public health insurance in most western countries – the days of backyard coathangers are thankfully over.

But all these changes, including other further advances such as the morning after pill (1997), are very new. Too new for the Churches to cope with. They’re still more than a century behind, back in the Victorian era, advocating abstinence until marriage.

But what’s wrong with abstinence?

Quite a lot, actually. But let’s start with numbers.

The average age of menarche (first period) for girls in the US is 12.5 years of age. Boys hit puberty on average at age 13.

The average age for first marriage in the United States is 28.9 years for men and 26.9 years for women.

So if they’re going to be abstinent, women are going to, on average, have to be abstinent for 14.4 years. Men are going to have to remain abstinent for 15.9 years.

Are you beginning to see a problem? I sure am! Can you imagine, as an adult, going without sex for about 15 years? It’s just not practical or reasonable to expect young people, at the height of their fertility, to not have sex for that long.

Furthermore, the same communities that are preaching the abstinence mantras are typically

a) not providing young people with full sex education, so they are more at risk of pregnancy, STIs and dangerous / abusive relationships should sex occur
b) not providing young people with access to contraception or teaching them how to use contraception properly
c) dumping guilt on young people when the inevitable does occur and they do have sex.

In other words, they’re preaching a virtually unachievable mode of behaviour for all but the most asexual of young people, then blaming those same young people when they cannot meet unrealistic expectations.

So why purity?

Purity has, and always will be until it finally suffers a permanent demise as a concept, been about control. It’s a way of making people feel: dirty, cheap, worthless, not good enough, not able enough. It’s a way of judging people and labelling people and keeping people (women) in their place that is hurtful and can be very cruel.

Decidly unChristian!

Yes, the pretty white dresses and “purity rings” are all very nice, but they’re a veil over a brutal attempt to control women.

A purity ball. Actually, I find the whole father-daughter emphasis a little incestuous and creepy.
A purity ball. Actually, I find the whole father-daughter emphasis a little incestuous and creepy.

What to do?

Don’t buy the lie. Don’t buy into the purity lie.

Instead, focus on being a good person. Do good works. Let your actions speak for who you are and what you believe is important and right. If you choose to wait until you find someone you love for sex, that’s only your business: no-one else’s.

It’s not the church’s. Or your minister’s. Or your parents. Or your friends.

Ignore the purity rings. And the purity balls. And the purity pledges. Be a good person because that’s who you choose to be, not to fit into someone else’s rules and regulations and guidelines and boundaries.

Have sex when you choose to. With who you want to. With as many or as few people as you choose.

Do it safely. Feel no guilt, because sex can be a beautiful, fun, pleasurable gift when you do it right.

But the only purity that you should ever concern yourself with is the purity of your food and drink. Because that’s the only purity that matters.

Aphrodite and men: the gifts of Aphrodite

I’ve talked a fair bit about Aphrodite and embracing our sexuality and sensuality as women. But what about men?

men

How Aphrodite is relevant to men

Aphrodite teaches us that our sexual, sensual nature is a part of us, not separate and closeted away. That it’s okay – more than okay – to be sexual, physical beings.

It’s okay to feel, to experience, to love, to enjoy our bodies, to lust, and to experience pleasure and revel in it. It’s okay to enjoy beauty and enjoy being beautiful.

Being sterile, celibate, unfeeling, uncaring – none of these is a natural state of being for humans. Sex is something we all do. It’s part of who we are. It’s fun, it’s positive, and it’s something to enjoy and explore without shame or fear.

These lessons are just as relevant to men as they are to women. Yet they are not where we are beginning from.

Although it’s rapidly breaking down, we still live in a largely puritanical society that tells us to fear sex, be ashamed of our bodies, hate our physical selves and the selves of other that do not conform to some mythical standard of perfection (whatever THAT is supposed to be) and, in the case of men, hide away our emotional and sensual selves and pretend they don’t exist.

That’s a whole lot of negatives.

The Man Box

Start with The Man Box – everything that Society tells men they should be in order to be a Real Man:

The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you're nothing but a pussy!
The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you’re nothing but a pussy!

According to the Man Box, and the dysfunctional patriarchy that created it, men are not supposed to express or feel emotion. They’re not supposed to receive pleasure – only to give, in a very assertive, Dominant, forceful, controlling kind of way.

They’re not supposed to see women as equals, but as chattel, objects, items to be used and bought and sold. This is why “purity” and the concept of virginity in women is so highly prized in patriarchy – because women are objects to be valued and owned, rather than individuals with their own agency.

Men are not supposed to feel, or to cry, or to express weakness, or humility, or need. Yet all of these emotions are part of what it means to be human: they’re all part of the complete human experience.

The Man Box is strong, its mythos still alive and kicking. Our world is full of men who have been sold the Man Box, sold the patriarchal model of behaviour, and been screwed up mightily by it.

Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I'll bet he'd be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.
Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I’ll bet he’d be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.

Men who have bought into the Man Box model often can no longer connect fully with their emotions, are unable to have fulfilling, satisfying relationships with women or other men. They feel a huge amount of anger and resentment at the world, yet are not quite sure why. They’re also often quite homophobic – because being gay is the antithesis of what a “real man” should be.

They’ve been damaged by a model of being that doesn’t fit with what real, whole, healthy humans are, and need to be.

The healing powers of Aphrodite

The power of Aphrodite – embracing our sexuality and sensuality, reconnecting with our emotional selves, accepting all mutually consenting acts of love and pleasure – is incredibly healing.

The puritanical society we live in, where sex has been hidden away and seen as something dirty and shameful, and where women have been scapegoated for millenia for society’s ills (remember Eve and the snake? Yeah, it goes back to that old yarn and possibly well before it), has been in need of healing and resolution for a long time.

Society needs Aphrodite. We need Aphrodite. And men need Aphrodite too, just as much as women.

Reconnecting

Just as women have been disconnected from our sexuality, so too have men.

Sex has been hidden away for men too. There has been an insane amount of pressure on them to perform, to achieve in sex – and you see this in men continually wondering and worrying about the size of their penises, where the truth is, most women couldn’t really care less.

Is it big enough? ;)
Is it big enough? 😉

Becoming whole

Aphrodite teaches us to become whole. Stop comparing ourselves with others. Opt out of patriarchy. Choose not to see sex as something dirty but instead as something precious, sacred, joyful. Our sexuality is the gift of Aphrodite: it is given to us for pleasure and enjoyment, not for shame or ridicule or insecurity.

Once men start understanding that they can be whole, sensual humans – not mechanical, unfeeling robots that must exert power over others in order to have value – that’s when the healing begins. Men can receive as well as give, be beneath as well as on top, penetrate as well as be penetrated, and enjoy their bodies instead of feeling shame or insecurity, creating a healthier, happier dynamic between the genders.

50 Shades of DAFUQ?

I’ve been re-reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

50-shades-of-grey-cover_300x400

Before you go cringing at me reading it let alone re-reading it, let me explain.

I first read the book about a year and a half ago. I have a background in literature, and I generally try to keep up with what’s it the bestseller lists. Especially when a novel comes out of nowhere, the author is unheard of, and suddenly everyone is talking about the book.

Fifty Shades (soon to be a major motion picture – ohhh, aren’t we lucky!) matched all of the above criteria. Plus it was rumoured to be about BDSM, a topic of personal interest (to put it politely), so it piqued my curiosity.

I grabbed an e-copy, and started reading. And was appalled.

Fifty Shades of Stalking! Fifty Shades of Creepy! Fifty Shades of I’d Call The Cops!

The first thing that struck me was that the love interest, Christian Grey, was more of a stalker than a Dom.

What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!
What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!

He was downright creepy, and I’d have been more inclined to call the cops on him than take a roll in his “Red Room Of Pain” (major LOLs at that!).

But also, the whole thing was just wrong. It got everything wrong. (Except for the playing to Spem In Alium thing – that was kinda cool actually…)

Fifty Shades of So What Was Wrong With It?

It made kink out to be some sort of mental illness. Like people who do this sort of play have something wrong with us, and it takes a good vanilla girl to set things right. It supported the old, and completely wrong, assumption that kinky people have all been molested as children and suffer from mental illness.

Apparently in Books 2 and 3 of the series, Ana (the protagonist) “heals” Christian Grey from his kinky habits and they go on to live happy, vanilla lives. Presumably with 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, and a BMW in the driveway.

Major vom voms.

Kinky people are normal. Just kinky

I look at myself and my play partner, and we grew up in very typical, normal, healthy families. No broken homes. Not molested as children. Or ever. No horrible “Uncle Fester” types grabbing a grope the moment our parents’ backs were turned.

We’re just kinky because we like to play that way, just like people who are gay are born that way too. Or people who are straight are born that way too.

From my observation, we’re no more likely to have mental illness than the rest of the population, although there does seem to be a higher percentage of geeky / nerdy types among the kinky set than the general population.

Fifty Shades of She Didn’t Do Her Due Diligence!

How the author of Fifty Shades could have got it so completely wrong is beyond me. All I can think is that she’s not the slightest bit kinky herself, and did a minimum amount of research with Mr Google before deciding to write the novel.

fifty-shades-of-fucked-up

It’s a shame too, because had just a few things been changed (okay, well, quite a few things!) she could have used the novel to educate instead of denigrate.

Fifty Shades of OMG it’s a WHIP!! Run!!! Run for your life!!!

BDSM can look scary to the untrained eye. Yes, we do play with people’s comfort zones and boundaries. It’s a way of living life on the edge. Living a little bigger and brighter and darker. Seeing the world in all shades of the spectrum – not just shades of grey, you might say.

It’s not for everyone. Most people are happier without kink. It doesn’t suit them. That’s fine.

A lot of things that people do can look scary, or even crazy, to the untrained eye. Strapping a pair of planks to your feet and shooting fast down a snowy mountain (skiing), or taking a running jump off a cliff with only a few nylon pieces of fabric to hold you up (paragliding), or sitting in a metal tube thousands of feet above the earth with nothing but air between you and the ground (flying in a jet aircraft) – all these seem foolhardy to the uninitiated.

Some people like to live life safely while others like to experience everything life can offer. We all live life along a spectrum of what we want to experience or are willing to experience.

The choices are ours alone – it’s only when those choices are taken away from us, as portrayed in the Fifty Shades book, that experiences move from being consentual to being abusive. Ana is in an abusive relationship with Christian, not a healthy kinky one.

Fifty Shades of A Complete Disgrace

So what has all this to do with Aphrodite? Quite a bit actually. As you might remember from the Charge of the Goddess,

All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals

Yet this book twisted something that is usually about pleasure, and often about love, into something that was more about mental illness and stalking and insecurity.

Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t portray a loving, kinky relationship. I should know – I’m in one. It portrays a relationship of mental abuse and stalking, of complete mental manipulation where the recipient is NOT consenting or enjoying what she is receiving. It’s abusive, plain and simple. Everyone I know in the kinky community would advise Ana to get the hell out! I sure would.

Kink is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be pleasurable – otherwise we wouldn’t do it. It’s supposed to be cathartic, and a way of finding release, and experiencing sensation, and moving towards a deeper experience of reality.

It is often about Dominance, but not in a petty, stalking sort of way. Fifty Shades might have done the world a service in the end, by encouraging lots of newbies to experiment. But I can’t help thinking the overall result will be negative, because the vanilla, majority world will believe that the kinky world is one of stalkers, abusers, and the mentally ill.

In closing, if you’re intrigued by BDSM, don’t believe a shred of what you read in Fifty Shades. Instead, go find your local kinky community leaders, and join a local group. You’ll find they’re a lot more normal than Christian Grey. Or join an online community like Fetlife if you find face-to-face too intimidating at first. Above all, though, go with your gut.

Play safe. And have fun. That’s what it’s all about 🙂

Oxygen mask

In the safety guidelines on every airline, flight attendants tell us in the event of an emergency to attend to our own oxygen mask before helping others.

oxygen-mask

But in everyday life, how often do we give to others before giving to ourselves?

I’ve had a friend staying with me for a couple of days. She’s a mum and wife, just like me. Two young kids. And we’ve been spending a couple of days fossicking through little shops, having a lovely time.

But one of the most interesting conversations was one we had about buying for ourselves.

She admitted that she rarely buys for herself. When she goes shopping, she’ll spend money on her partner and her children, but not on herself.

I used to be the same. And my mother is the same. She’ll buy beautiful gifts for everyone in the family, but somehow feels guilty if she buys anything really nice for herself. She’ll buy clothes and lovely items for the grandkids, but never for herself. Cosmetics for me – I’m swimming in them already, but I always receive more – but nothing for herself.

And I remember how, when I was a kid, she’d always serve everyone before herself, and if any part of the meat or meal was burned or broken or damaged, she’d give that portion to herself. She got the poorer portion; we got the best bits.

Heal yourself first

We women in particular have been raised to do this.

We’re taught that we’re somehow not as worthy to receive stuff as good. If we pick out the best serving on the plate for ourselves we get frowned upon, but should a male do it nobody says anything.

Carry the whole thing further, and you can see how this relates to women being socialised to taking up less physical space, and the pressure on women to be small, petite, skinny, and the eating disorders so many suffer as a result.

I think there’s a lot of healing to be done, and it begins with cherishing ourselves as Goddess. Honouring the bodies we possess, accepting that we have value. That we have worth. That we deserve the best portion equally. That we deserve a fair share.

That we need to attend to our own oxygen mask first.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that healing can be found in buying ourselves stuff – quite the opposite – but that we need to see ourselves as worthy. And that we need to let go the guilt and say, yes, sometimes it’s okay to buy that expensive dress if we want it. Or have that serving of dessert.

Fix your own oxygen mask first. Take care of yourself first. If you don’t, who will?

Men: Why women like flowers on Valentine’s Day

Flowers are useless. They don’t do anything.

Flowers are expensive. You can pay fifty bucks or more – perfectly good dollars that could be spent on something useful, like a dinner or a movie or some chocolates or some wine – for a bunch of flowers that will wilt and die in a few days.

Flowers are pointless. They don’t have any purpose. They just sit there looking pretty until they keel over in a wilted mess, and you pour the browned, icky water they were standing in down the drain.

Most guys don’t get it: why do women love flowers on Valentine’s Day?

I’ll tell you why: because you spent money that could have been spent on useful, important stuff on some flowers for the woman you love. And that tells her that you love her more than all of that “useful stuff”. She’s more important that any of it.

When you buy a woman flowers, you’re saying a lot of things.

You’re saying you love her more than the chocolates you could have bought.

Or the dinner.

Or the movie.

Or the wine.

And you’re not a money-grubbing cheapass that didn’t buy her anything, and couldn’t even be bothered springing her a few flowers.

Don't be this guy.
Don’t be this guy.

You were willing to buy something beautiful for her that doesn’t last, simply because it’s beautiful and she might enjoy it.

You were willing to take a leap of faith for her. You’re not a money-loving guy. You love her more than your money. Enough to spring for a few lousy roses. You’re not cheap.

roses

You were willing to buy something beautiful that she might appreciate, and think screw the money! because she meant more to you than those few dollars.

No excuses!

I spent my whole life making excuses for lousy guys who didn’t buy me flowers.

Oh, they had plenty of excuses: “I’d rather buy you some chocolates” or
“I’d rather take you to a movie” or
“I’d rather we went out to dinner” or
“I just don’t buy into that Valentine’s Day stuff – it’s too commercial for me. It’s just the shops making a fast buck.”

And I was weak. I’d nod my head, and agree, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, and come across as grasping and greedy and shallow – as someone who might be swayed by something as unimportant as a bunch of flowers.

Most women would do the same. They’ll say nothing, or they’ll make excuses for you. Because they love you and don’t want to hurt you.

But inside they’re disappointed, wondering if you really don’t think they’re worth even a few bucks for some flowers. They’re wondering why. Would you have bothered if they were prettier? Younger? Thinner? That’s what went on in my head, year after year, when I never got any flowers given to me on Valentine’s Day.

But you know what? The little things matter.

That guy who makes excuses for no flowers today will be making excuses for no attention tomorrow. He’ll be ignoring your needs in a whole stack of ways. If he can’t be bothered with flowers do you really think he’ll be that supportive when you really need him?

Give us the flowers we deserve!

Very few women will be forthright and admit that we love flowers. We’ll deny it with blank faces. You can tell the women whose partners are ignoring them, because they’re the women who are embarrassed to look at the flower displays when Valentine’s Day is near. They’re ashamed at how forgotten they are.

Being forgotten and ignored hurts.

Women will even agree with you when you say it’s a waste of money to spend your hard earned cash on something that will die so quickly.

But inside, the little girl in all of us wants flowers.

My father used to buy me daffodils when I was a little girl. No reason – he just did. And even now, as a grown woman, I still love daffodils, and love that bright colour yellow. When I moved into my house one of the first things I did was plant hundreds of daffodil bulbs. They make me smile every spring. They mean happiness to me.

My favourite flowers - daffodils :)
My favourite flowers – daffodils 🙂

Buy your girl flowers. Show her that she’s important enough to waste a few dollars that of course you could spend on something much more useful.

Show her that she’s more important to you than all the useful things in the world. That’s what love is about, after all.

Ritual: Self-dedication to Aphrodite

Time: Night time, under a full moon, preferably rising. Why? Because the full moon is the moon for lovers, love and Aphrodite.

Place: An empty beach is ideal. Why? Because Aphrodite is associated with the water, she is a sea Goddess, and she rises from the foam of the waves. If you can’t access a beach, an empty garden with a bowl of saltwater will do.

Needed: A single, perfect apple. Why? Because one of Aphrodite’s most significant triumphs was winning the Golden Apple that started the Trojan War.

goldenapple

Wear: Something that makes you feel strong, beautiful and powerful. You will be barefoot for this ritual, and may wish to wear something above the knees that will not be ruined by seawater.

aphroditebyliloklilokd2

The Ritual.

Take the apple in both hands, and walk barefoot under the full moon into the sea. Accept the cold water, if it is cold. Feel the sting of the waves, if it stings you. Embrace the scent of the water. Be one with it.

Holding the apple in both hands, raise it up above your head, saying clearly:

I dedicate myself to the Goddess Aphrodite
Lady of Cytherea
Goddess of beauty and love
Powerful Goddess of women
Of sexuality and sensuality.

I honour You, Goddess
In all that I am
Everything that I am.
From this day forth,
For all of my life,
I pledge to do Your work.

Lower the apple to the waves, and dip it gently into the seafoam. Then lift it to your lips with both hands, and take a single bite.

Say:

As I declare, so shall it be!

Bury the remainder of the apple in the sand. The ritual is done.

FullMoonBeach