Sunday, March 4, 2012

On good girls and bad girls and sluts.

I have really struggled the last few days to find my voice on the issues that are being "discussed" in the media, thanks to Rush Limbaugh's most recent misogynist rant about a law student, the vaginal probe debate, and other Margaret Atwood-esque turns in this frightening election year.

On the media responsibility side, I figure that this is just more evidence that we are going to be left to our own devices to separate the newsworthy wheat from the delusional chaff. There is no parsing. Just spewing. And the crazier and more vitriolic, the better. These news cycles are fast, babe. So who cares? Slut one day, talking to the President the next. Let's move on. You can take it. It's entertainment.

I think this sort of thing was always my mother's worst nightmare for me, fearing that I would be called out for being a sexual being, for sleeping around and being pretty blase about the whole thing. Walk of shame. You know. Who cares? Let's move on.

My mother was of the generation just seconds before feminism. She and her friends went to great lengths to conceal sexual activity. Good girls didn't go all the way, they just went 99% of the way.

The First Wave feminists demanded the right to go all the way. All the way to the top of the corporate ladder and via sexual expressiveness. They took command of their own bodies. Sort of. I'm not sure we have been such fantastic stewards of our own bodies since we demanded them back. I know that I sure wasn't.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was earning my way into a 12 Step Program by denying all the feelings that I was stirring up in my party-girl body. Was I a bad girl? I was an unwell girl. Did I put myself in harm's way? You bet. Was I judged for it? You bet. Am I better now? More responsible? You bet. Has that really helped me be a well-adjusted sexual human? Not really.

I am 51 years old and I am single and I have absolutely no idea what is the right way to express my sexuality.

I work with victims of sexual trauma as part of my work via the True Body Project. Remember, one in four girls will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 and one in six boys, which is considered a low estimate because of under-reporting, will be subject to sexual abuse. When we are thinking about helping trauma victims re-integrate somatically, we make sure that they have sound somatic (conscious and body-driven) choices as to how they attach, care give, explore, defend and socialize. Of equal importance is how they activate their sexuality. This does not necessarily mean HAVING sex. But it means acknowledging that we are sexual beings.

This is considered essential to an integrated system. Which means a well system. Not a good system. And not a bad system. And certainly not a slutty system.

But how do we know how to construct a healthy view on sexuality? The fact that we are principally driven toward procreation to perpetuate the survival of the species should tell us that we need to figure our shit out about this stuff.

I am not sure if we can have our cake and eat it too though, ladies. Can we think it is HILARIOUS to watch television shows that portray women and girls as man-hungry, drunken, and idiotic so long as we A. Make fun of them, or B. Relate to the ones that are sassier and smarter and pseudo-self aware? Ha ha! I am totally reckless and mean but I am using that as power.

In the True Body Project, we often use the writing prompts "A good girl is ... " and "a bad girl is ..." to see what we actually feel about these issues. If you haven't tried it, do it yourself. Don't think it through, write it down with pen to page. You will find you have very distinct notions of what constitutes good and bad behavior and my guess is that sluttiness and niceness have a place in it.

In Cambodia and other developing nations, the notion of "good" and "bad" girls is more overt than covert. If you are soiled (aka sold to a pedophile and raped multiple times a day for years), you are a "bad" girl. A "good" girl is virginal.

When I was much, much younger I had a dream that I was lying nude in the grass under a big tree from my childhood stomping grounds. I was staring up into the sun, hands behind my head, enjoying the heat and the breeze on my body. A nun sat next to me in a folding chair with a Playboy magazine in her lap, seemingly more connected to the images on the page than with my adolescent sun drenched body. She was disapproving of me. That I knew. I wasn't really sure what she was doing in my dream seeing as though I was not brought up in any religion and especially not one with nuns. But it stuck with me, this image.

And now at 51, sober and conscious, I know nothing more than I did when I had that dream. In the last year few years, I have had grown, available men want to do more sexting and IMing about sex than to actually meet in real life. I've had a couple of flings. I have no idea how to even process these. Were they good? Bad? Were they trivial? Were they important? Did I learn something? Gain something? I have no idea.

My girlfriends, on the other hand, mainly want me to fall in love. And I think we all still imagine that if this is "real" it will happen suddenly, with romantic bravado, and last forever or at least a very long time. I think we all fear that expressing sexuality in any other non-traditional (aka slutty) way will, in the end, make us nothing more than bad girls. Or at the very least lonely girls. We may speak of it in consciousness terms, but I am not sure if we aren't really hoping to be swept off our feet so we just don't have to think about it anymore. And please, dude, have some money too because we are exhausted.

I pray to God that our legal rights regarding choice and wellness remain intact and I pray that this vitriol and backward thinking from the far right gets stomped on hard by savvy advertisers, lobbyists and political strategists who come to believe that they can't win on these issues. I pray that reason will prevail and we will re-emerge from this dark ages deja-vu.

For my part, I want to personally work to understand how to best express my full humanness, with ample room for sexuality, connectedness, intimacy and commitment. For my part as an advocate for girls and women and anyone who is in pain in their body, I hope we will all, men and women alike, begin to be sensitive to the culture we are creating around our own self worth and the intrinsic worth of girls and women everywhere.

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