Does God care about gender? Transgender people and the Divine

Everyone is talking about Bruce Jenner at the moment. So here’s an interesting thought: does God – or do the Gods – care about gender?

Do our souls – if we have them – have genders?

You know, this never really occurred to me until recently. I remember reading somewhere that hardly anyone has a transgendered friend, and it’s something that few people connect with.

I must be different, because I can’t count the number of transgendered friends I have on one hand – I think I have eight or nine, last time I stopped to think about it.

The thing that strikes me most about people who transition is how little it affects who they are, to we people on the outside. To me, perhaps the most amazing feature of the whole process is how much they remain the same. They’re still the same people.

I remember being worried, when my friends have transitioned, that I’d lose my friends. But my friends have remained the same people inside. Their souls, if that’s the right word for it, have remained the same.

I suppose it’s naive to expect that gender should make such a huge difference, but before I knew people who had become male when they’d been female before, or female when they’d become male, I guess I’d expected their innate personality – the person they are inside – to change dramatically. It didn’t; it hasn’t.

So if it doesn’t matter to me, does it matter to the Gods?

A Goddess for everyone across the spectrum of gender

My patron Goddess is Aphrodite. Of all Goddesses she’s one to have a little fun with gender. She’s the Goddess of switching forms, of hermaphrodites and androgyny, and of playing games with gender roles.

A lot of people, when they think of Aphrodite, imagine this very, very feminine Goddess. But they forget that Aphrodite is also the Goddess who was spawned, so the legend goes, from the sea foam created by the castrated genitalia of Uranus, and her children include Hermaphroditus. She governs gender fluidity and transition, and is accepting of transition and non-traditional gender roles. The Gods aren’t necessarily easy to categorize.

Looks can be deceiving

Nor are people easy to categorize. Bruce Jenner, of all people, was portrayed as the stereotypical All-American male – the perfect athlete, the good-looking man who every man wanted as his friend and for his daughter as a partner. He was incredibly desirable and high-profile. Could anyone have seen this coming?

According to Jenner, it’s been here inside him all his life – inside him, waiting to come out. He started taking female hormones in the 1980s, 30 years ago. This isn’t a new thing for him.

That’s something you hear, again and again, from people who transition. The pressures to remain the gender they were born into are incredibly strong, and it is only once the pain of remaining who they are becomes too intense that they break the chains and push for the freedom to become themselves. Transitioning isn’t a kick, or a fad: it’s something they must do, and have needed to do for many years. It’s only society that has held them back.

We are all in transition

It’s both an indictment and praise to our societies that people feel such pressure to remain hidden for so long, yet are finally able to become who they feel they are meant to be. I think we’re societies in transition too, perhaps. But the signs are good that we’re becoming more tolerant, more accepting, and more positive for transgendered people.

We are transitioning too: we are learning, as a society, to be kind, open-minded, and to love unconditionally.

Do the Gods care? Personal perspectives

So – do our souls have gender? Do the Gods care? Will the transgendered be judged? Does any of it matter, apart from the happiness of the individual?

Or are the Gods, as the ancient Greeks might imagine, just playing games with us all, throwing the dice, making life more difficult for some than for others?

As a woman who, I suppose, is very gender-neutral, I’ve never felt the need to be a man. I can’t imagine what it is like. Yet I certainly fit more of a male stereotype than a female. I don’t own any skirts or dresses – at all. I wear a lot of men’s clothes. I’m a bodybuilder and weightlifter, spent time in the army, own a farm, castrate sheep and do most of the yard work around the property, work in tech, have tertiary experience in software engineering…the list goes on.

I can’t think of anything worse than knitting or sewing or quilting or wearing frilly clothes. But do I want to be a man? No. I’m just me. Somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum, I guess. I don’t feel confined by any roles. Why should I be? But my experiences are different to those of others. I have no right to judge. My right is that of support, and of friend.

If I have a soul, it’s not pink or blue. It’s probably orange, or yellow, or maybe lime green. I’m not really into the concept of souls anyway, but if the Gods care about gender, then I believe it’s a very small part of what makes a person worthwhile.

So my view is, if a person needs to transition to be complete and whole and happy, then let them. Support them. They’ll still be the same person inside. Because they always were that same person inside.

We just couldn’t see it.

Paganism and simplicity

When a lot of Pagans start out, they get a bit of the “gear witch” vibe about them.

They buy stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff.

In the Pagan community, there’s so much stuff to be had, so many fabulous tools and toys. It can all be a bit overwhelming. And if you like to spend and possess and have lovely things, it can be real easy to start collecting a lot of stuff.

I went through this, and a lot of my friends did too. Tarot sounds interesting, so you collect a few tarot decks plus some books on the subject. Runes sound great too, so before you know it you have a few sets of rune stones and some books about them too.

You figure you must have a Wand (everyone knows a you’re not a Real Pagan[TM] unless you have a Wand!!!) and you must have a Blade (because they’re cool too, and a Blade has different energy).

Before you know it, you’re eyeing off those fancy swords online and wondering which you can afford. Or how many. Maybe a collection. Yeah…a collection would be great.

It all adds up, and builds up, and when you add the candles and bells and Tibetan singing bowls and God and Goddess figurines and chalices and cauldrons to the collection, no wonder so many Pagans are drowning in stuff! Plus the clothes – you feel like, as a newbie, the right ritual robes and capes will give you pagan “street cred”.

So you buy, buy, buy.

It’s all very addictive. And very, very easy to do.

And very, very wrong.

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Paganism comes from within

All the stuff in the world won’t make a person a Pagan. Which is a good thing. We’re a bit selective like that! Likewise, I’d argue that any path that encourages you to buy and own lots of stuff is a fool’s path.

You’ll find lots of Pagans with lots of fancy stuff all around the world…and they’re usually the silliest Pagans of the lot. They’ve forgotten that the Divine is immanent. Within us. It can’t be bought or sold.

The more stuff you collect, the harder it is to focus on the inner self, your connection with the Divine, and what really matters. Fancy stuff is just a temptation; a lure. A diversion from the truth.

A diversion from the truth.

prince

We all know that of course. It’s written clearly in one of the most valued early texts in modern Paganism, which is the Charge of the Goddess:

    “…If that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

    For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

You won’t find Paganism in stuff, and you certainly won’t find Divinity. All the tools, and toys, and robes are just props.

You could even call them diversions for the weak-minded. They help set the scene for those who can’t focus without them. They hold no real power by themselves. Only living matter can do that: living energy.

That’s what we Pagans do: channel energy; create energy; focus energy. A wand in the end is just a stick. A blade in the end is just a hunk of metal. This is the real truth. Connection to the Divine comes from within, not from these lifeless things.

If you want to find the Divine, get rid of everything that isn’t essential. Then you will find what you truly seek.

aphrodite4

The hardest person in the world to love

I remember the first time I met J. I’ll call her J instead of her real first name, just in case by chance she is out there somehwre, reading this.

I couldn’t see any beauty in her at all. Short, dumpy and blonde, with a chin so minimal as to be non-existent, watery blue eyes, freckles. Nothing exciting.

We sat next to each other in our lecture, and as we were both new to Uni and didn’t know anyone, we started talking. She was so friendly and interesting. She was cool.

J told me about her plans (to be a pediatrician) and her background (a family of farmers with no education at all). Over the next few lectures I learned how proud her parents were that she was here at Uni, the first of her family. And I learned how she’d topped her school in, well, just about everything.

As time went on, I started to see J differently. I saw the character in her face, and the warmth and intelligence in her eyes, and the humour – and wickedness! – in her smile.

Over time, everything that had once been ordinary in my eyes disappeared.

She was beautiful. I couldn’t see her as anything other than beautiful.

The eye beholds…

Our eyes see what we want to see.

Once I began to know J, I saw everything that makes up the unique person that she is. I stopped seeing everything our society judges and criticises in women. Because she brought positive experiences into my life, everything I saw in her was positive.

I forgot how plain I’d thought her when we first met. Even now I can vaguely remember, but not well.

So it surprised me a couple of years ago when she confessed that she’d always struggled with the way she looks. She had difficulty accepting compliments. She found it hard to accept that a man could be attracted to her for anything other than short term sex. She – like me, and practically every other woman I know – compared herself to the images we see everywhere online and on TV and in the media, and she found herself lacking.

She thought her body freakish. And ugly. And bad. Anything but beautiful.

Mirror, mirror…

I’ve always found it odd that our friends and lovers can see the beauty in us that we cannot see in ourselves. They see us, as we are – all the good and bad. They see the whole human being, and they love the things that make us what we are, even if we don’t fit stereotypical beauty.

Like J, I find it hard to accept anyone could find me beautiful. Being dedicated to Aphrodite helps, because She is a Goddess who helps the beauty and power of all women shine forth. But it’s still hard.

Aphrodite empowers us.
Aphrodite empowers us.

I’m over 40, and all I see in the magazines is 20-somethings or very very airbrushed celebrities if they’re older than that. I see nothing that can make myself feel normal, feel beautiful by comparison. So I don’t look.

But it’s still there, that insecurity. It’s not just women, either. I told my boyfriend that he was beautiful the other day. He is. Yet he shrugged the words off awkwardly, disbelievingly. I think he thought I was saying so to make him feel good.

The thought that I could be saying the truth – impossible! How could he be beautiful! He’s not tall, dark and handsome. He’s actually kind of chubby and gingery and pale. But I happen to find him beautiful, because I see the person inside. I like what I see when I look at him.

Painful reflections

When I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws. I see the wrinkles around my eyes, and is that another grey hair? I see the lack of skinnyness, despite my hours and hours in the gym and watching what I eat. I see a very ordinary woman staring back at me. Nothing special. Tall, gangly, blue eyes, brown hair (going grey)…I’m no Scarlett Johannsen.

So many of us find ourselves the hardest person to love. We’re told we’re supposed to look like this or that, and of course we fail. Even the celebrities, chosen for their genetics, need to be airbrushed before they are perfect enough to be consumed by the masses. What chance does an ordinary human have?

Gwen Stefani is beautiful...but not beautiful enough, apparently :(
Gwen Stefani is beautiful…but not beautiful enough, apparently 😦

Maybe we need to look in the mirror less, and listen more. Maybe we should listen to those who see us, know us, love us, instead of comparing ourselves with a perfection that doesn’t exist.

Not only do real women – and men – come in all shapes and sizes, but different people find those different shapes and sizes attractive too. Brad Pitt is meant to be the most handsome man on the planet, but he does nothing for me. Everyone’s tastes are different.

I can *see* that he's handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
I can *see* that he’s handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Maybe when someone tells you they think you are beautiful, they’re telling the truth. They’re not saying that you look like Scarlett Johanssen or Angelina Jolie. They’re saying you are beautiful as yourself. Not even Scarlett or Angelina can manage to look like you.

Maybe the mirror lies. Maybe it’s a story-teller, weaving pretenses of what we think we should be, when we’re actually okay just as we are. Maybe the mirror is cruel, and untruthful.

mirror

And maybe we’re not hard to love after all.

Being the object…

I remember the first few experiences that made me uncomfortable with being a woman.

They weren’t even anything to do with my body. Some women cite their first period (which was definitely embarrassing), or going bra shopping the first time (yes, definitely awkward!).

But for me, what made me uncomfortable was the realisation, for the first time, that the world wasn’t built for me. It was, instead, built for men. My place, as a woman, was to be the object.

“Out of bounds”

I must have been eleven or twelve when I garnered the attention of a local workman near the building I lived in, in Hong Kong. I was so naive, and I thought of him as my “friend”. I used to go down to the carparks in the basement below, and rollerskate there, and I’d often see him, working on construction.

He’d come on over, and despite his limited English and my even more limited Cantonese, we’d chat and he’d hold my hand while I skated. I never thought anything of it, until one day he started pressuring me for a kiss.

And then I got away as fast as I could, ashamed and guilty – although I’d done nothing wrong, and very red-faced, even though I’d said no and nothing had happened. But from then on I didn’t skate in the carparks any more. I got the feeling that they were an “out of bounds” place for me.

Avoidance strategies

That wasn’t the only “out of bounds” area. Not long after, I started avoiding a street I’d walk down to go to school, because of the catcalls from more building workers. They made me feel uncomfortable and helpless – powerless. I don’t know what their goal was in whistling to a pre-teen, but its effect was my discomfort.

I took a longer, different way to school from then on. My brother once asked me why, but I felt too awkward to tell him. Once again, I felt like I’d done something wrong, and like if I told him, I’d be admitting some type of weakness or defeat in myself for not having the strength to ignore the hecklers.

But I was only a kid.

You get 10%, they get 90%

There were countless other instances like this. When I moved back to school in Australia, I made the faux pas of going out on to the oval to play, and was immediately held in contempt by my new friends when I returned at lunch.

“We don’t play there,” I remember Kathryn telling me. “That’s for the guys. Girls stay on the asphalt. But only in the courtyards, and not near the transportables.”

I didn’t ask why the girls only played in about 10% of the school property, while the boys could go wherever they wanted. We had 10%, they had 90%. I was a young teenager, and you just didn’t ask questions like that: it was social suicide to do so, and even more suicidal to try to violate the unwritten rules.

Conform or die

My mother never got a straight answer when, on my second day at my new school in Australia, I took her dressmaking scissors to my yellow checked school uniform and hacked a full foot and half off the length of its skirt.

“What have you done that for!” she demanded in anger.

“It’s how we wear them,” I said snarkily, parading around in the dress whose skirt now barely covered my ass cheeks. “All the girls wear them like this. Nobody wears them long!”

And I was telling her the truth. But I never asked myself why.

I didn’t ask why. None of the girls did. We just wore our skirts as short as we could, and the shorter the better. Mum didn’t push it. Maybe she knew the unspoken reason better than I did.

Hypocrites and liars

All through my school years I used to sit with my friends and discuss boys and the soaps on TV, neither of which I was particularly interested in. But I had to keep the show up, and if I hadn’t at least pretended to be interested in the conversation, I’d have had no friends at all.

Everyone was talking about who had done what with whom. I hadn’t done anything – I’d kissed a few guys but that was it, but I lied and told outrageous stories of my sexploits with the best of them.

I don’t think anyone believed me but then, I didn’t really believe any of the stories my friends told me either. It was a bizarre competition of lies and one-upmanship, where the best bragging won the day. But at the same time, while we were sharing all our outrageous fabrications, we were slagging off the real “sluts” of the school who everyone just knew were really truly sexually active.

Because they were trash.

In other words, we were hypocrites and liars, and jealous ones at that, who hated the girls who were maybe actually doing what we secretly longed to do. Or longed to do, but were scared of doing. Or maybe were thinking about doing but weren’t ready for just yet.

Diets and magazines

Society makes objects of all women, and it certainly objectified me. I remember starting my first diet when I was in my early teens, even though I was underweight. My best friend ended up in hospital with bulimia – she got down to 27 kgs (59 pounds) and nearly died.

We were obsessed with looking like the girls in magazines, and distressed that we looked…well, like ourselves. Like normal young women.

Looking back, it wasn’t my body I was uncomfortable with, it was the objectifcation that came with being a woman. Being told I had to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way.

When you don’t fit

I didn’t fit the stereotype of small, delicate, weak, meek, quiet, gentle. No matter what I did or how I tried, I was big, tall, strong, powerful, intelligent, geeky, sporty, awkward…and the objectification that came with being a woman made me even more acutely aware that I didn’t fit the gender role I was supposed to submit to.

What it’s really about

I’m grown up now, and these things don’t affect me as much as they used to. But I still cringe when I get wolf-whistles – because that small, awkward girl inside of me remembers. They’re not a compliment. They never were a compliment.

They’re about control. And power.

And there are places in the city where I feel uncomfortable and unsafe, despite being nearly six feet tall and a weightlifter and probably well strong enough to defend myself. This is an experience common to all women – from the moment we learned that we can’t play on the playground any more, because “that’s where the boys play”, we’ve never felt like our world was our own any more.

An experience commonly shared…being the object. That’s what learning to be a woman is all about. That’s why strong girls grow up into awkward women, and take decades sometimes to reover themselves. Our society is cruel.

But I can’t help wondering, would I be a different person if I’d stood my ground, walked on past the hecklers, kept skating in the carpark despite the threat? And maybe we can teach our daughter to be strong too.

Just my thoughts. Because nobody should be forced to be an object.

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?

Aphrodite: the Goddess of sluts and whores

There’s been a lot of name calling going on in politics at the moment.

prudewhore

Apparently, women who have sex are sluts. Especially if we have sex outside of marriage. Even if we have sex inside of marriage sometimes.

But I want to ask – why? Why the emphasis on women? And if women who have sex are sluts and whores, surely men are too?

I guess that means that our mothers are sluts. And our grandmothers. And the Queen is a slut. And pretty much any women who didn’t remain a nun.

Name calling in the playground!

When I think back on primary school, I remember that kids used to call each other names a lot. And it was all about pecking order, and putting people into their social rank.

Names were used to make people feel bad about themselves. Names were used to put people down. Names were especially used by people in power to keep those who didn’t have the power from having any.

So you’d get the bullies name-calling the loser kids. And the jocks name-calling the nerds. And the popular kids name-calling the unpopular kids. Never the other way around.

So we had a nerdy kid who people labelled “Eugene” and gave him a hard time. And a girl we called “craterface” because she had bad skin. And a friend of mine used to get called “red pubes” by a group of guys because she had red hair and, well, they liked to make her feel uncomfortable.

Pleasant stuff. Real intelligent too. But it did it’s job: it made those without power feel worse, and those with power feel even more powerful. It kept those lower down the power hierarchy in their place.

And now we have grown up men calling women who have sex – and, let’s face it, the vast majority of women do have sex, so they’re by association name-calling all of ussluts and whores.

Then they act all surprised when this is the result:

slutwalk1

And this:

slutwalk2

And this:

SlutWalk March In London

I love sex! OMG I’m a slut! And a whore!

I love sex. I really enjoy it, and yes, I’ve had sex with a lot of men in some people’s estimation. And a fair number of women.

I’m a slut! OMG! Kill me now! LOL.

I suppose, if you stretch things a little, I might even technically be a whore, because some of the guys bought me dinner beforehand. So I was PAID (in food) for sex, if you want to get nitpicky.

OMG OMG!

I have no regrets (well, there was this one guy who was pretty awful and had no clue…lol), and am proud of everything I did. It was consenting, and fun, and I enjoyed most of it.

I’m an adult, and I have the right to do what I want with my body. I believe that others have the right to do what they want with their bodies too.

If Aphrodite is the Goddess of beauty and love, then She is also the Goddess of sluts and whores. Which in some peoples eyes is all women.

I don’t understand why or how some people can hate women that much. I suspect it’s a combination of bad sex and too little of it, or maybe just lots of rejection by women in their lives. I feel sorry for them for that, but they’re not going to improve matters by hating women for their miserable sex lives.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to stand proud, as a slut and a whore, along with all my friends who are also sluts and whores, and continue to fight for our rights to do with our own bodies as we wish.

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.

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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?

The simple Pagan

Paganism seems to be so full of stuff – have you noticed this?

And Paganism – and Wicca in particular – attracts the stuff collectors. You know the type. I call them Gear Witches. They have to have the right cape, the right robes, the right wand, the right blade.

Druids at Stonehenge. They look the part, don't they?
Druids at Stonehenge. They look the part, don’t they?

They look terrific, and have all the trappings, and every book ever published about new age anything sits proudly on their shelf at home.

But the heart of worship, and of dedication to a God or Goddess, isn’t about stuff. It’s nothing to do with what you have, or buy. It’s about intent and what you do.

In fact, I’d argue that the more stuff you have, the more you’re distracted from what you should be doing – which is honouring the Deity you have chosen to honour, in every single act of your life.

Simplify, simplify, simplify…

So I’m saying, throw it all away.

Give it all away. You don’t need it all.

You don’t need books to tell you what to do. You don’t need the right cape, or fancy robes. You don’t need a Hollywood-style setting to be an effective servant of the Divine.

Finding yourself is often more about casting off the trappings of consumerism than enveloping yourself in them.

For example, marking the elements can be as simple as filling four plain glasses:

Earth, Air, Fire and Water: capturing the four elements in simple glasses. Paganism doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. It doesn't have to be about *stuff*.
Earth, Air, Fire and Water: capturing the four elements in simple glasses. Paganism doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. It doesn’t have to be about *stuff*.

And dedicating yourself to a powerful Goddess can require nothing more than an apple.

SONY DSC

Sometimes learning takes time

I speak from experience on this. Because I used to be the Queen of the Gear Witches. LOL.

I had everything you could name, and more. I spent a lot of money on having the right stuff. I think I somehow figured that if I looked more like someone else’s idea of what a Pagan should be, that would make me more Pagan-ish.

Or something.

Of course I was wrong.

And you’ll see Gear Witches at every event. They’re there, in their floaty robes, with their long, flowing hair. They look the part.

But looks can be deceiving.

Ask yourself: are they looking the part to convince you? Or perhaps to convince themselves?

Don’t get me wrong: if you choose to wear clothes of a certain style because that’s what you like to wear, then that’s absolutely fine.

But if you’re wearing a look in order to somehow fit a part, to become a role, or to attract attention, then you’re fooling nobody in the end, except yourself.

Return, return, return…

I think the time has come to bring Paganism back to its roots. If we’re about being in tune with nature, and in tune with ourselves, how can buying a truckload of stuff be the right thing to do?

Shouldn’t Pagans be living lightly and simply on the earth? Honouring the Gods with our deeds, spending our time and energy on doing what is their work, rather than time and energy on buying stuff that creates an image?

I think so.

So what I’m saying is, don’t buy the books. Don’t spend your dollars. Don’t collect the stuff.

Instead, spend your short time on this beautiful earth being what you will, not spending your money trying to be something others expect.