Sex and Shadows: Thoughts at the Autumnal Equinox

Folsom Street Fair San Francisco, CA
Folsom Street Fair San Francisco, CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The equinox happens twice yearly, once in March and once in September, when the day holds equal parts light and darkness, depending on where you live.  At Equinox,  I think about the different tensions I attempt to hold in balance in my life.  It’s a day for looking at shadow, and having enough light to not get lost in it.

Oh yes, it’s true, sex is full of shadow.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “shadow,” it’s a term from Jungian psychology that means all of the aspects of our selves of which we are unconscious.  It often carries a negative connotation, and we can often see our own shadow by examining our criticisms, judgments and condemnations of others.

So much of sexuality is hidden in shadows.  Words like “perverse” and “deviant” when applied to human sexuality bespeak a moralistic damnation that reveal just how puritanical our culture is regarding sexuality.  Puritanical, yet paradoxically hyper-sexual and sexualizing everything and everyone. I mean come on!  We sell thongs for pre-pubescent girls with “Juicy” written across the tush.  (Saw them the other day in Ross, just in case you think I’m making this sh*t up.)

Yesterday I volunteered at the booth of the Center for Sex and Culture at the Folsom Street Fair.  All day, I was surrounded by over 40,000 people flaunting versions of their own sexuality.  Sexuality that is usually left in the shadows, behind closed doors, suddenly flooded the sunlit streets of San Francisco.   For many who come from all across the country to attend, it’s a chance to normalize and celebrate their sexual proclivities that may be unwelcome in their own communities.  For those from San Francisco, it’s an annual reminder why we live here, since we feel a sense of belonging we never felt back in Oklahoma.  It’s certainly a visual circus.

The initial thrill at the parade of the human pulled-pony costume wearing-riding crop bearing trainers in their carts.  The ‘heavy-petting zoo. ’ The slick and slippery lube wrestlers with accompanying 50-gallon-drums of lube. The daring antics of the ariel rope suspensionists,artfully binding and then suspending other humans in the air and then doing things to them.   Leather Daddies at Folsom Street FairTen thousand leather daddies that look like they just left audition for the Village people… and what I thought every man would look like before I moved to SF.   However, after  about fifteen minutes, my eyes acclimate and adjust, and the ‘depravity’ around me just seems normal.  Not exactly wallpaper, but certainly not the orgiastic debauchery the rest of the world thinks it is.  It’s just a street fair, with a bunch of naked people, leather, costumes, corn-dogs and greasy fries.  And stuff for sale.  But still.

Warning: Sudden Change of Thought Ahead

I know the whole known universe is freaking out over “50 Shades of Grey” and if I were a good blogger, I’d write a piece on it.  Somehow it just makes me sigh.  I remember how betrayed I felt when I saw “Occupy” books starting to appear in the big box bookstores.  I’m talking about when something I’ve dearly loved in the counterculture suddenly gets picked up by the mainstream culture.  Examples: Paul Simon playing in Starbucks, hoodies for sale with anarchist patches already installed sewn on, Grateful Dead listening fraternity boys, Converse sneakers for sale at Target, and so on.  It’s kinda like that with the whole shades of grey phenomenon.  Yeah, it’s great that kink is becoming more accepted and more people are exploring playful sexuality.  Yay!  And hey, folks, there’s so much more available than “Hello Kitty spankers.”

It’s not that important to me to have my sexuality validated by demonstrating it in public, but I felt a tremendous gratitude that this venue exists for those who need it.  And I don’t want our freak status taken away, or too normalized.  I like it here at the margins.  It feels free, safe, and like corporate America isn’t gonna start infringing in the marketingly annoying way they commodify effin everything.

We now return to the Equinox and the Shadow

I do find it meaningful to seek my shadow, and seek to understand the dark depths of my sexuality.  It makes them not so scary.  And I hafta say, I think our collective shadow around sex is really intensely scary.  It’s much bigger than an annual street fair can counteract.  It’s the denial and repression of our very life-force, even as we hungrily devour the next porn magazine depicting non-consensual sex acts on teenage sleeping girls.  Porn-addiction is a smokescreen, folks.  It’s the shadow that’s too easily seen to truly be shadow.  Real BDSM and Kink?  (Not talking the spankety-spanky stuff, but more like The Secretary) Often, these are a really healthy attempt to bring from the shadow into the light our sexual desires that are in opposition to the ones we think we “should” have, if we are good girls and boys, or the desires our culture affirms as ‘okay.’

What does traditional mainstream culture tell us is okay?

  • Missionary position: one penis, one vagina, close your eyes turn out the lights and….go.
  • Blow-jobs for men (but probably not from their wives.)

What does our culture of mainstream porn tell us is okay?

  • It’s okay to have sex with anybody, anytime, any position.  Oh yeah I love it, squirt gush cum done.
  • It’s okay that there are no feelings, no intimacy, no connection.  You don’t have to feel.  You don’t have to connect.
  • Sexuality is not about anything but bodies.  Just parts with other parts.

No, the real shadow here is how we commodify the very thing that brings us into existence on this planet.  How we regulate it, or try to.  How we fear it so intensely that art becomes suspect.  How we use it to sell absolutely everything.  How we make it all about a visual, and not at all about the intense intimacy, energy, and connection.   This really pisses me off.

Says Jack Morin, the author of The Erotic Mind,

“Eroticism is the process through which sex becomes meaningful.” The erotic is “energized by the entire human drama, including the unruly impulses and painful lesson that no one – except those who retreat from life – can possibly avoid. No wonder the erotic mind conjures up images of debauchery as well as delight… eroticism is the interplay of sexual arousal with the challenges of living and loving.” 

You get it right?  Sex is about being alive.  The shadow of sex is commodification, moralism, judgment, repression, condemnation.  It’s not even about death… it’s about just not being alive even as we live and breathe.  All I can say is: Resist.  Resist with your body, with your desire.  Resist the corruption that everything is sexual and nothing is sexual.  Resist with your kink, your fetish, your refusal to desire what you ‘should’ desire.  RESIST with your whole heart, your fiery passion, and your aroused genitals. Let us retain awareness of our sexual shadow, and not identification with it.  Happy Equinox.