No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body. ~Margaret Sanger
No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.
A sex symbol becomes a thing. I hate being a thing.
Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom. ~Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good
It has been an intense few weeks/months for people with a uterus here in the United States. Alabama and Missouri most recently passing abortion bans and Louisana about to sign theirs into law. Recently Georgia and Ohio also passed bans. In the past few years the following states have passed heavy restrictions on abortion: Arkansas (2013, vetoed by Governor), Iowa (2018), Kentucky (2019), Mississippi (2019), and North Dakota (2013).
There are lawsuits pending as to the legality of these laws in Arkansas (struck down in Federal court), Iowa (struck down by State court), North Dakota (struck down by Federal court), and Kentucky (temporarily blocked by Federal court).
Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, have introduced bills to ban abortions.
Wyoming (2013) and Pennsylvania (2018) tried to introduce laws, however they died in committee. *
The attack on women and femmes is generations old. Having the right to our own bodies has been a battle since feudal times, at the least, and really since long before that in some parts of the world.
The attack on our bodily autonomy isn’t only about our rights to abortion. It is also our rights to our own sexuality, to pleasure, to our very humanity.
The idea that women aren’t supposed to experience pleasure is perhaps older than the story of Eve. Our pleasure is a sin at worst, and unnecessary at best. We are taught this from such a young age. And it’s not just the pleasure of sex and sexuality that we are taught to avoid, it is any type of pleasure.
As women we are raised to be of service to others. To care for others. To work ourselves to the bone in order to please others.
The idea of our own pleasure, of caring for ourselves, is not part of our upbringing. It is not part of our cultural training.
As women we are supposed to sacrifice.
As women we are supposed to serve and care for others.
As women we are supposed to only ever think of others.
As women we aren’t allowed to have emotions beyond happiness. And if we have them, we are certainly not supposed to express them.
Rage doesn’t become us.
Anger doesn’t become us.
Grief doesn’t become us.
We are not supposed to be human. We are not supposed to explore the whole of our humanity. We are not supposed to know what it means to rest. To feel good in our own skin. To experience pleasure, on any level.
To take back our bodies, our lives, as our own, is an act of rebellion in our current culture. To speak up and out defending our own boundaries. Learning to come home into our bodies. Allowing ourselves to rest. Experiencing pleasure on any level, from cozy sheets, to art on our walls that makes us smile, to eating foods we enjoy, and yes, to sexual satisfaction and gratification.
Because as they try to take our reproductive rights, we can fight back.
Yes, in the public and political realm. That is absolutely necessary.
But also in the privacy of our own intimate lives.
By taking naps.
By saying no.
By creating from our souls in the ways that feel good to us.
By learning to tolerate and then enjoy our own sexuality.
The personal is political and the political is personal. It is vital, I believe, that we create change not only in the outer world, but also in our inner worlds. In fact I would argue that in order for there to be lasting change in our outer world, in our culture, we each need to be doing the work of unraveling the ways we have internalized our indoctrination of shame and repression of pleasure, of taking full ownership over our own bodies and lives.
This internal investigation is not a linear nor easy path, and there will be layers and layers to explore. Finding all the ways that we have had our bodies controlled, taken from us, from young ages; all the ways we have been shamed into believing life is not for us to enjoy for ourselves, but to only provide service for others; all the ways we continue to oppress ourselves, allowing culture to maintain its stronghold on our lives…. this all takes time, patience, curiosity, and self compassion.
Learning to savor life, to enjoy the small and big pleasures that are part of being human, is an important part of our individual and collective evolution.
It is also an act of defiance, of rebellion.
Reclaiming our bodies as our own, reclaiming pleasure as a birthright, is another way we can fight back against this current onslaught of the basic human rights of people who are born with a uterus. While we fight for our basic rights and freedoms in the political realm, remember to continue to fight for the same rights within your own home and your own mind and body.
The political is personal. The social is individual. Breaking ourselves from the leashes our oppressive, authoritarian culture is how we become free, how we reclaim our bodies, our very lives.
It is true that the abortions bans are about our reproductive rights, and it is also true that they are about so much more than that. They are about our very humanity.
It is time for each of us to rise up, to reclaim our bodies, our voices, our very lives.
* Information regarding abortions bans found on Wikipedia.
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Embodied Writing :: Pleasure Edition will begin in a little under three weeks. In it we will spend seven weeks exploring different aspects of pleasure, our internalized narratives about pleasure, and learning to reclaim pleasure as a part of our lives through stream of conscious writing and embodiment practices. To learn more click here.