For a long time, the way for a woman to become noticed was to show her tits or her snatch.
The way for a woman to become seen was to get naked, was to sell sex.
And the assumption has been that a woman is good for taking care of a man’s kids, or she’s good for pleasuring a man in the bedroom, but putting both together is kind of awkward, because you can’t be a virgin, or you can’t be the embodiment of goodness, and also a whore.
And then what happened is this third way started coming up the pike, a woman with a great mind, and a lot of passion, and drive and determination. Could a woman like that also be nurturing? Could she be sensual? Are we able to acknowledge and experience that she is well-rounded, or should we find a nice box to put her in and call it a day?
Let’s talk about what it takes for a woman to command respect in a culture that has told her, for centuries, that she is not fully her own.
A culture that has told her, You belong to your husband.
A culture that has told her, You belong to your children.
A culture that has told her, Your value lies in whether you can attract a man.
A culture that has told her, You can only make it in a man’s industry if you look and talk like a man.
And here I am, with my little Buddhist pamphlets, in my flowy skirt and feather earrings, taking to heart the spiritual practice, “Live your life like it’s an experiment,” and seeing where it gets me.
Shit, if nothing else, at least you can call me brave.
So what’s my biggest message to women? It’s this:
You belong to you, and no one else. You are your own. Figure out who you are, and figure out what matters to you, and fucking shine in all that brilliance, and don’t cut yourself into pieces for anybody.
And to men?
Respect women, and try to understand how hard it is to make it in a man’s world. A woman is not made to please you. She is a fucking human being, not a sex toy or a prop to help you rise up. In fact, it is time for her to do the rising. So put out your hands and help her step up.
But damn, 2000 years of our culture operating in the opposite way? Well, that takes a lot of time to overturn.
We can work on it, though. We can do something. Because it is a hearty, worthy cause.
And you know what is the biggest obstacle of us making progress on this front, a front which is, I think, the most important endeavor of our time? This healing of the relationship between men and women, this blending of the two energies toward a better world?
The deepest source of shame existing in our culture is the shame and guilt and fear around sexuality, because we have no good teachers who have modeled and taught us a healthy relationship to sex. None. We probably don’t even know what a healthy sexual relationship looks like, because if anyone has one, they don’t talk about it, because um, you know, shame.
What the church has done, as the primary institution of power, is to get into the heart and psyches of people very, very young, and teach us that we are sinful creatures, unworthy of love. But only through “the grace of God” are we loved, and we better get on our knees and repent and accept any breadcrumbs that come our way.
The church is, in many ways, an emotional abuser. For all the good it does, it also does just as much bad. It speaks poison. It does the opposite of what the Good Teacher intended, the Good Teacher who was against churches to begin with. It keeps us locked up in chains.
And being locked up in chains is not what it feels like to experience God. What God feels like, on an intimate level, is complete freedom. It feels like opening your arms wide in space. It feels like floating in a giant pool.
And the way the church has nurtured this abusive relationship within us is to try to cut us off from our bodies, to treat as shameful all the ways we engage in, or talk about, sex.
If you teach people to loathe their bodies, if you teach people all their desires are wrong, then you create a power dynamic where people have to turn to you for healing. And meanwhile, you’re the one causing the problem. Because you have taught people that one deepest elements of who they are, their sexuality, is a problem to be overcome, is an element of being human that must be suppressed and shamed and hidden and thrown away. And meanwhile, you recognize you’ve taught something that is completely impossible to uphold, so you go around in dark corners and dark alleys and dark bedrooms and confessionals, getting your rocks off any way you know how, living a lie, becoming the very opposite of what it means to be good and whole, and soiling the Teacher’s good name.
It’s a mess. And there are layers upon layers of this thing to unpack. Layers and centuries of destruction around our relationship to our bodies that the church has caused.
So where do we begin?
Just start where you are, if you care about this. Start with any opportunity given to you in any day. And what I mean by opportunity, is being brave. It is speaking up. It is not putting sex or sexuality in a dark corner, but instead recognizing it as a part of an integrated human being. Part of it. Not the whole thing.
Respect women, not just for what you daydream or fantasize they can do for you, but for the vastness of their capability, the depth of their souls.
And love your own body. Love is not limited to masturbation, my dear. Masturbating a lot is not necessarily self-love, and could very much be self-abuse, depending on how you’re using it. Practice ways of being in your body that are sexual and non-sexual. Marvel at the shape of your hands and feet. Touch your shoulders, your arms, with love. Dance. Breathe. Be in flow.
*Listen to this podcast I recorded yesterday with Candice Smith, an Intimacy Educator from North Carolina. We talk about shame, sexual wounds, and the struggles couples have to communicate effectively when it comes to topics about sex. Oh, and throw in the church and a little bit about porn and all that stuff, too.
This is real stuff, ay?
Link to The Rose Compass on Spotify: