Arts, Activism, Awakening in Mind, Body, & Spirit

OpEd

OpEd: Woman’s photo of menstrual blood removed from Instagram. Twice. 


Rupi Kaur - menstrual blood photos for visual rhetoric course removed from InstagramRupi Kaur has taken on social media and won. Photos from her series focusing on the natural process of being on her period were removed from Instagram, even though there was no nudity or pornographic aspect to the pictures. It was, in fact, the menstrual blood itself that led to the photos being removed by Instagram. Twice.

Instagram has since apologized for removing the photos, but I, for one, don’t believe the social media site is sorry at all. After all, Facebook is notorious for similar removal of photos that show women in the natural act of breastfeeding their babies. However, because women’s natural breasts being used for their natural purpose of nourishing infants is too icky for the patriarchal institutions of social media, breastfeeding and NIP pictures are verboten. And yet, women can always be shown in skimpy lingerie, barely-there bikinis, or sexualized in some other context, and that’s perfectly fine.

Anyone who is shocked or disgusted by Rupi Kaur’s photos is actually shocked or disgusted by the very process that continues this species. Menstruating girls and women are ridiculed on a regular basis by young males, older males, boyfriends, husbands, films, comedic TV shows, and anyone else who doesn’t understand or appreciate what we put up with for decades of our lifetimes.

Our periods begin when we are around 10 years old and happen every month until we are around 50 or 55 — or older. Twelve periods per year, multiplied by 40 to 45 years of menstruation, equals 480 to 540 periods. At an average of one week each, that means women spend 480 to 540 weeks — that is, 9.2 to 10.4 YEARS actively bleeding. Not to mention the spotting before, the spotting after, the cramps before, during, and after a period, the headaches, even nausea, the chaos and uncertainty of peri-menopause, and other side effects men never have to experience directly.

Men also never have to experience the embarrassment of bleeding through their clothes in public; always keeping a restroom within eyesight in case of a flooding emergency; sitting for a time only to stand and see a biohazard stain on the chair; or skipping going out in public all together except for necessities such as work; bleeding through the sheets at nighttime; having to spot-clean the mattress in the middle of the night when you’re half-asleep, then sleep to the side of the bed so you don’t have to sleep on a cold, wet spot; or toddling to the bathroom with your thighs clenched together because you’re afraid of a big, bloody clot sliding out of your vagina and landing on the carpet; having to clean the bathroom floor, even spot-clean the bathmat, clean the toilet seat every time you go, even clean the wall if the weight of a blood-soaked tampon garnered too much velocity when being pulled out, flinging blood outward; feeling the sticky blood stuck in your ass crack; using miles of toilet paper to make sure there’s no sign your blood was ever there. Because we wouldn’t want anyone to know that women’s bodies have a purpose other than being ogled or used by men.

Women are ridiculed for this very basic act called menstruation when it should be celebrated. Without our periods — without our uteruses, humanity would end.

Women put up with a lot just being female. Societal ridicule and male-dominated institutions do not need to add to the shame already heaped on women just for being women. So I congratulate Rupi Kaur for standing up for herself and for all girls and women. See more of her pictures and read her story on her website.

trish

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OpEd: Pagan Yule Ritual for Winter Solstice 2014


Yule log fire for Winter Solstice 2014 by Trish CauseySunday, December 21, 2014, I attended my first group pagan/witch ritual in 10 years — 10 years exactly, in fact!  The last group ritual I attended I actually hosted in my home for Yule 2004.  It was a group of eclectic solitaries then, and now, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to participate in an equally eclectic, non-hierarchical, non-ego-driven ritual with a bunch of great people. I AM SO HAPPY to have met them!  I will definitely be attending more rituals with these awesome pagan peeps.

Yule, a.k.a. Winter Solstice, is a time to be thankful and reflective.  According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “Yule” comes from the Old Norse word jol and Old Anglo-Saxon jiuli (or giuli), which referred to a two-month season of celebrations during the wintertime.  The Old French word “solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol, which means “sun”, and sistere, which means “to stand still”.  The implication is that people once thought the sun stood still on the solstice(s) and/or that the spiritual advisors thought this was a time for the people to be still, to be reflective on such an auspicious heavenly event.  As I observe Christians running around crazy and stressed out during this highly commercialized time of year, I sit back and laugh.  I choose stillness and calm.

From the European pagan traditions, Yule/Winter Solstice is the time when the goddess (the earth) gives birth to the son (sun) — sound familiar?  And with this return of the light to the world, the days become longer.  As the sun god grows, he warms the earth goddess, who will birth the harvest and nourish the animals that will in turn nourish us.  In the Spring, the son/sun god will be sacrificed and resurrected for the earth and the people.  (Still sounding familiar?)

Also mixed in the traditions is the legend of the Holly King and the Oak King as they duke it out to see who will rule the next six months.  The Oak King and the Holly King are male earth deities and represent a duality that governs the light half and the dark half of the year, respectively.  For the Winter Solstice, the Oak King wins the battle as the days get longer because it will be the sacred oak trees (and other plants) coming back to life in the Spring.  At Summer Solstice, the Holly King wins and reigns as the days get shorter through the harvest time of Autumn and into the cold months of winter.

Still other traditions have a fatherly winter spirit (adult male earth spirit) who helps the poor and gives gifts to children.  Remember, back in the day, there was no grocery store or mall — whatever you had, you grew it or made it.  Winter in northwestern Europe was difficult; both animals and people would die from the cold or lack of food, if not enough supplies had been prepared before the extreme cold set it.

This wintertime fatherly earth spirit of northwestern European paganism is rooted in pre-Christian British lore of the Holly King as well as the Norse god Odin/Wotan, who rode an eight-legged horse, and the Norse god Thor, who is associated with oak trees and flies through the sky on a chariot pulled by two goats (not eight reindeer … sorry, Rudolf).  Other festivus influencers may be the Greek god Cronos, and even the pre-Christian Russian folkloric do-gooder Grandfather Frost.  The church took the good deeds of the real St. Nicholas and combined them with the iconic Holly King/Odin/Grandfather Frost to create the “St. Nick” we now know as Santa Claus.

But Yuletide wasn’t all about men or kids.  Pagans LOVE women and respect women.  The Anglo-Saxon/Germanic celebration of Mōdraniht, “Mothers’ Night”, specifically honors mothers as well as any female ancestors who have crossed over.  This takes place on what is now December 24th, according to the 8th-century historian Bede.  After all, without woman, there is no human life.  Without caring for the earth, there is no food, no clean water, no clean air.  We must honor and take care of earth/goddess.  It is all connected.  We are all connected.

The photo above is the Yule fire from Sunday’s ritual.  The log in the center is the official Yule log that was blessed on the altar, beautifully decorated and holding 3 candles.  The warmth of the fire and the camaraderie of the fellow goddess/god-oriented pagan friends was simply perfect.  I just wish I’d brought the fixin’s for s’mores.

I LOVE meeting with others and building our community, each sharing what we do and respecting that we’re different.  I can’t wait for the next sun ritual — and maybe some Full Moon work, as well.

All hail the real reason for the season: nature-based pagan heathenry! :-)

trish

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OpEd: Prudes Shocked as Madonna Dates Younger Man/Opera Singer Jonas Kaufmann


Copyright 2014 by Trish Causey.

Madonna and opera star Jonas KaufmannMadonna is shamed in the media as both an “older woman” and as a sexual person.

I saw a short “article” (i.e., post on a gossip rag) about Madonna possibly dating a famous opera tenor.  It mentioned that she has had several “toyboy” relationships since separating from her husband, and it made a big deal of the fact that Madonna is older than Kaufmann.

The article is sexist and misogynistic. But what else is new….

How many real-life relationships and Hollywood films have featured a male star who is much older than the female co-star?  Think of any film in the past 30 years starring men such as Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, even George Clooney, and you’ll notice that an older man being with a younger woman is perfectly accepted by the public.  But when it is the woman who’s older, she’s judged in the media as if she’s robbing the proverbial cradle.  And why is it that when a famous “older woman” dates a younger man, it makes news?  (“Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson….”)

Perhaps the prudes in our society should know that in the Middle Ages, it was commonplace for an adult man to be engaged to a female child and wed her when she was 15 in order to build socio-economic and/or socio-political alliances.  In fact, a man could marry (in a church, by a priest) a girl who was younger than 15 as long as the man promised not to “touch her” until she was 15 — as 15 was the magic age condoned by the church.  Glad to know a pinky-swear was protecting young girls from being ravished by their much-senior husbands.  (Not.)  There are even instances recorded of men being engaged to infant girls — all for the wealth and security of rich folks invested in patriarchal society.  (“Jesus loves you more than you will know….”)

The other part of the “article” that annoyed me was the “toyboy” comment about Madonna, referring to her various lovers since the end of her marriage.  First, who cares that she’s had several lovers?  Or any?  That people with no lives actually care about Madonna’s sex life is ridiculous.  Secondly, shaming a woman for taking lovers is misogynistic, and yet, it is nothing new.  If she is following her heart (or her body) with her relationships, that is her business.

Do we really need to go over how men are lauded for taking lots of lovers?  A man who dates (sleeps with) lots of women is called a “lady’s man”, a “playboy”, a “player”.  His cred goes up.  But when a woman dates (sleeps with) lots of men, she’s considered a “slut”, a “whore”, a piece of trash.  When a woman follows her sexual passions, she’s characterized as a carnivorous pariah.  Because good girls don’t behave that way — “bad” girls do.  Because good girls go to heaven, while “bad” girls go everywhere.  (“Heaven holds a place for those who pray….”)

It’s the 21st century.  We should be able to talk honestly and respectfully about women over age 40 having sex — or about women having as many lovers as they want — without judgment.

It’s nearly 2015.  The Middle Ages were a thousand years ago.  Women should not have to justify having sex.  At all.

trish

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YES Scotland! Vote for independence from Britain!


Yes Scotland! Vote for independence from Britain!Tonight I will be singing at an Irish pub here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, singing songs of Irish resistance to British oppression. The songs span centuries of Irish history and subjugation at the hands of the English and tell the tales of British invasion, British occupation of Irish lands, the British genocide of the Irish Gaelic people, the theft of Irish Gaelic culture, language, music, and traditions.

I will sing some songs in Irish Gaelic. I will sing about a people’s centuries-long struggle for freedom from its oppressor.

Interestingly, when I talk openly about the “Yes Scotland” vote, many of the dissenters are mostly Americans and have said that freedom from Britain is not a good idea for Scotland. This is shocking to me as these Americans are clearly forgetting their own history, that we went through this exact process over 200 years ago. The difference is that we achieved our freedom from Britain through bloody battle, and all Scotland has to do is vote “yes”. Of course, there will be growing pains as power shifts from the Crown back to the people, but that is no reason not to push for freedom.

The main dissenters in America for Scottish independence from Britain happen to be American economists. Who the hell cares what American bean-counters think about Scottish independence? It is Scotland’s right as a culture and as a people to divest themselves of imperial British occupation and oppression.

On a sidenote, I find it quite the ironic coincidence that the TV show “Outlander” is airing at this time and might even be helping to spur the Scottish independence movement, since it has such a strong storyline of the Scottish fighting the English Crown’s attempt to steal Scottish land and Scottish resources. To say nothing of the movie Braveheart or the older TV show “Highlander”, both of which dealt with the horrors of English invasion and rule in Scotland.

As I come home tonight from singing the tales of the Irish and my ancestors’ quest for freedom from Britain, my distant kinsmen in Scotland will have cast their votes, and the results of Scotland’s vote for independence will be officially announced. The world is watching as yet another nation shakes off the mantle of imperial British oppression. Today feels like a very important day, not only as an activist but as a person of Irish and Scottish descent.

Saor Alba!

trish


OpEd: Why You Should Schedule Sex On a Regular Basis


schedule tantric sex alarm arousedwoman 2014There’s an old joke in the performing arts: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”

Today, I read a great post by the awesome sexual health writer August McLaughlin in which she responded to a HuffPo piece about why couples need to schedule sex — with one of the reasons being to boost the man’s ego.  In her response piece, August gives her reasons why a couple might not want to have regularly scheduled sex — she advocates having sex when you want to, and her points regarding that particular HuffPo scenario are solid.  Women should not feel compelled to have sex just to soothe a man’s delicate ego.  We put up with enough of that outside the bedroom.  But the concept of scheduled sex actually ties in to my own orgasmic practice and my approach with helping others realize their orgasmic potential.

I wholeheartedly endorse regularly scheduled sex, especially at the beginning of a relationship, as long as both people enter the process honestly and equally.  When a couple has made the leap from hand-holding to sex, there is so much to learn about each other’s bodies.  The newness of the relationship should make arousal very easy with all those lovey-dovey hormones drowning your brain in bliss-vibes.  Once the relationship is established, life and work and kids tend to take priority.  That alone is a great reason to have regularly scheduled sex-time, to make sure you have that consistent connection that centers you both back to why you’re together in the first place.

And before dissenters blast me with “But sex shouldn’t be the basis of the relationship!”  Well, then, you’ll have to explain 500 million years of evolutionary procreation and a big chunk of human biology, anthropology, psychology, and sexology.  Sex is imperative to a good relationship, and at the foundation of both sex and the relationship is communication.  Bad sex can often be attributed to bad communication.  And even if you can’t have traditional sexual activity due to a disability or medical condition, there are alternatives; so yes, persons with disabilities can have enjoyable, satisfying sexual experiences.  My point is that lovemaking can improve with regularly scheduled “training sessions”, or as I call them, “awakening sessions”.  (Remember, part of the definition of “arouse” is “to awaken”.)

Sex with yourself as well as with a new partner should be scheduled to happen on a regular schedule, preferably daily.  Unless you’re blessed to have an Orgasm Faery guarantee your arousal and climax, regular sexual activity is required to keep the body in orgasm-mode.  The intent of the “awakening sessions” is to awaken the body and your capacity for increasing your orgasmic response.

The word “orgasm” comes from the Greek orgasmos and means “to swell”, therefore true orgasm is NOT the sudden release at the end of arousal.  Technically, orgasm is happening throughout arousal with the climax being a sudden swelling and release of muscular tension.  For many, this release is very physical, but for some this release is full-body and emotional as well.  This is most confusing for men, who associate orgasm with ejaculation, even though these are different actions from different parts of the autonomic nervous system.  High school sex education classes still teach that men “must” orgasm to expel semen for procreation.  This is wrong — ejaculation is required for expelling sperm. Ask any man who’s ever needed Viagra, and he can tell you that orgasmic pleasure and ejaculation are not necessarily one and the same.  (But that is a whole other blog post.)  Because of the misperception of what orgasm actually is, men especially miss out on many orgasms during the arousal period because they don’t know to separate the subtle orgasm response from the explosive ejaculatory reflex.  Men who have mastered non-ejaculatory climax orgasms love being able to have multiple climatic orgasms in one lovemaking session.

This brings me to another point.  Get rid of the goal of orgasm.  Men are taught to be very goal-oriented, which is why they can miss so many good feelings during the journey to climax.  Men also are under the incorrect myth that women have more capacity for sexual arousal and more orgasms than men.  This is not true on the subtle body level.  Men have the same capacity as women for hours of orgasmic bliss, especially if the man has learned ejaculation control.  If so, the whole session is a swelling of pleasure, wave after wave of orgasms, and multiple climatic experiences with no refractory period necessary.  The orgasms just keep building until he’s ready to stop.

But how do you get to that point of awakening?  The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.  How do you work that practice into your busy life?  Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Because I come from a Tantrik perspective, I am an advocate of regular, scheduled practice for a number of reasons but mainly because awakening the subtle body is a meditative practice for me.

Orgasm is a learned response, and your body needs regular practice to become proficient.  Yes, there are times when orgasm happens by itself, but that is not the case for most women, considering so many women have never orgasmed during penetrative sex.  Orgasm is a dual response: the physical body and the subtle body.  Most men know how to jerk off, and most women know how to rub their clit to soreness.  That does not ensure an ecstatic experience.  I think we’ve all experienced at some time or another the physical orgasm that was just located to the genitals, and we somehow felt disappointed.

Today, in fact, is the day my daughter heads back to school, and I am finally alone at home again, something I don’t have on a regular basis when school is out for summer.  Every summer since my initial awakening, my practice is minimal to non-existent due to privacy issues (thin walls … I’m loud).  During these nearly three months of little to no practice, I can most definitely tell a difference in my arousal levels, my “swelling” responses, and the intensity of my climaxes.  I still have spontaneous orgasms and my stealth O’s, but going nearly three months without my super-orgasms is like being accustomed to a daily round of the 1812 Overture but having to settle for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star instead.  Not cool!  Thank goddess, school is back on!

No one would tell a wannabe concert pianist that he should practice only when he really has the urge to play.  He would never become proficient enough to call himself a concert pianist, much less to play a gig at Carnegie Hall without dedicated, routine practice.  When it comes to orgasms, we have to practice regularly, learning how to play our body as an instrument of pleasure the way a musician plays a piano or oboe or guitar with expertise and ease.

hug from behindAs I teach my clients, the subtle body is the real wonder when it comes to orgasmic fulfillment.  But awakening the subtle body requires specific steps done repeatedly and routinely over a span of time.  Yes, you schedule your orgasm-awakening sessions the same way you schedule your daily shower or your gym workout or having dinner ready by a certain time.  Have your sessions at the same time, preferably daily, but at least three times per week, and under the same circumstances.  As with any exercise, routine repetition allows the body and more importantly THE MONKEY MIND to know, “Oh, we’re doing this now. Okay,” and settling into that higher bliss state begins to happen more quickly and more effortlessly.  Then, when you’re in the moment with a partner, you have a reference for where you want to be in your arousal and you can get there more quickly — you’ve done your practice, practice, practice, and now you’re ready for Carnegie Hall.  Orgasm becomes not just one major release, i.e., climax, but a true swelling of sensations and experiences that grow and expand exponentially for hours if you want, until you’re ready to come down from that higher bliss state; and even then the long, slow descent can be as throbbing, undulating, and breathtaking as the journey upward.

When we do not practice our sexual-ness and sensual-ness and awakening-ness in a dedicated, routine practice, our sexual response lessens.  Regular arousal can even lessen.  Arousal and even vaginal fluid are dependent upon hormones; if you neglect keeping your hormones happy, your hormones won’t be there to keep you happy.

For most people, their sexual “practice” is sporadic, and yet they expect Carnegie Hall-worthy orgasms to result.  And when the arousal and/or the climax is less than what was hoped for, people often turn to other means of artificially increasing the odds via vibrators and/or porn, neither of which helps your body awaken to its own amazing potential.  Vibrators can damage the nerves, and porn keeps you in your fantasies in your head when your focus should be entirely on your body and the awakening responses to stimulation.

For a couple, scheduling regular awakening sessions can be a much-needed time to learn each other’s bodies.  After all, do you automagically know what to do with a penis if you’ve never had lots of time to play with one?  Do you know what to do with a vagina if you’ve never had a languid evening to explore inside one?  An awakening session is for the awakening — orgasm may or may not happen.  However, the more you do it, the more likely spontaneous orgasms will be a regular part of the experience.  This greatly benefits the orgasmic response during lovemaking as well as deepening the bond between partners.  No stress, just exploration and awakening.  Though, I would be very surprised if such juicy exploration and discovery didn’t lead to sex.  (Enjoy!)

In some Tantric traditions, scheduling sex on a daily basis is an important part of learning and growing and sharing.  Some teachers have clients set aside a week or 14 days or even 21 days to do nothing but make love.  If they aren’t going to the bathroom or eating a meal, they’re making love.  There is something deeply intimate and intense that happens when you are that committed to being so connected with another person.  For most people, this kind of “sexcation” is impossible to arrange, but it is possible to schedule that hour per day when it’s just the two of you: awakening, sharing, and loving.

Approach the awakening session as an active meditation.  Allow and receive.  Let the subtle body do its thing.  Relearn what it means to orgasm and feel pleasure.  Soon, you’ll have orgasms while walking down the street, shopping at the grocery store, standing in line at the post office.  You’ll have laugh-gasms, heart-gasms, foot-gasms, scalp-gasms, face-gasms, arm-gasms, soul-gasms, and more-gasms — all of which will enrich your lovemaking as a couple.  As you progress with your daily, scheduled practice, you will learn a whole new respect for the wisdom of the body as it takes you to levels of pleasure that are unimaginable until you actually experience them. Have you ever had a climatic orgasm so powerful, you could feel that you were the universe?  You could feel all of eternity with your fingertips?  I have.  And you can, too.

Now, get out your calendar and commit to daily awakening sessions for at least a week, but preferably for one month. You’ll be amazed how you’ve grown orgasmically in so short a time!

Aroused and practicing,

trish

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