Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can We Talk?

(Kaleema Nur on the beach in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Picture taken by James Doberman)

"If a guy can get the goodies on the first date, there's little interest in sticking around to see what else is in the package. The thrill of pursuit and eventual conquest keep many brothers intrigued. The longer you make them wait, the more they'll be reminded that you're worth it. And it will make them want you even more."
Source: Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson - Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

I have heard Brother Dyson speak several times on a variety of issues. I have read excerpts from a couple of his books. He is a minister, teacher, writer, lecturer and intellectual. I know him to be a solid and reliable source that I trust. If his description of brothers is accurate as stated above, and I believe it is, because I have heard some of these same comments from other men. The assertion that men are motivated by conquest and what they cannot have has countless implications for women.

Women that might identify themselves as marching to a different drummer and setting their own norms about their bodies and their sexuality might need to be prepared for the social hostility they face and will continue to face until social norms change. Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Johnetta B Cole, co-authors of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities remind us that "men's expression of their sexuality is celebrated while women's naming of their sexual desires generates shock and moral indictment."

If men are inclined to feel indifferent after indulging in sex either prematurely or the first time with women then women need to understand the rules of engagement. Women that maintain celibacy outside of marriage and are committed to that life style would not be adversely affected. While both types of women are setting their standards independent of brothers the consequences are different for each woman. The difference is that society deems one "virtuous" and the other a "ho, slut, promiscuous." The names are endless. Women who act on their sexual standards tend to be demonized and ostracized. Dyson's comments are a reminder that sexually independent women are penalized by the very men who enjoy sexual intimacy with women. However, because they also value the intrigue of the pursuit and working hard for what it appears they cannot have this is a turn on for many men. Such recognition makes dating and navigating sexual intimacy challenging to single individuals, more precisely women. Women that choose celibacy may not be "goody two shoes" but sensible and practical given the times and are simply exercising their options as sexually liberated women have the right to do. For some readers I realize this is a difficult assumption and if you are one of those individuals then feel free to step off and move on. No hard feelings and we do not have to agree on everything.

Unitarian Universalism, my faith community of choice, does not require celibacy for single women or for single clergy. However, my personal values and beliefs about sexual intimacy have been shaped by a number of assumptions: 1. Ones body is a temple and consequently we should be discriminating about who we share it with 2. it is not easy to establish sexual intimacy without first building a relationship that then leads to sexual intimacy 3. as a survivor of violence it is difficult to establish intimacy and premature sex is merely that and does not necessarily lead to sexual intimacy. So becoming familiar with the individual is important to my comfort level 4. age and maturity have produced a more disciplined approach to sexual intimacy. As I possess more self control in my maturity I do not feel that I have to sleep with every man that looks good and whispers sweet nothings to me 4. the climate of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases has reduced my willingness to engage in risky behavior and therefore I can accept a lifestyle that does not include casual sex and 5. I am healthier and my self awareness has reduced the need to act out my dysfunction through sexual partners.

Question: How do your values line up with your actions? What would need to happen for you to be sexually active with an individual? What are your bottom lines? What is your relationship with your body temple? How do you bring the sacred and holy into sexual intimacy?
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah

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