That is the Real Power of Pleasure -- It's Ours

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Lawrence Lanoff

Talking about this with someone else is comforting. It’s the story of an unassuming religious, spiritual or adult elder, in a position of power, wielding that power for their personal sexual satisfaction, while pretending that nothing strange or inappropriate is happening at all.  And that if we do call attention to what is happening, the elder looks at us as if we are sick, twisted, crazy for even speaking of such evil things. As if we are the ones doing something wrong.

This experience I’m describing above was part and parcel to my young adult life. Growing up in NYC with a pot-smoking mom and a gambling-addicted dad, I had no adult supervision. The streets were my playground. The curb dirt, my yard. So adults, on a regular basis, had their way with me emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically. All the while, the supposed protectors in my life wandered by, making up stories to fit the realities inside their smoke-filled heads. And I alone was experiencing actual harshness of reality alone - in my little body.

And, If you are a female-bodied human, you have probably dealt with this kind of thing for most of your life. Finding yourself in some strange position, with a person of power, who is directly or indirectly either fetishizing you or berating you, or doing both simultaneously, as they struggle to deal with their own repressed, disconnected sexual desires while projecting them out onto you and your body in the form of shame.

Shame is the lever that makes all of this possible. It’s the lever the authority figure uses to fuck your mind.

It happens every day. Our culture condones it. Yet we prefer not to discuss it explicitly. It’s better to pretend that there is no "monster in the closet.” But that’s because, if we see the monster in the closet, it threatens the delicate balance our entire religious belief systems that our world is so flimsily built upon.

So, humans tend to be scared of seeing clearly. It’s too harsh. It doesn’t fit our moral mythologies about how life is "supposed to be." It doesn’t match what mommy and daddy or god or the Bible says about how it’s all supposed to work.

Therefore, clarity goes against the moral codes of supposed religious leaders who hide in plain sight under cover of sanctified authority.

I want to projectile vomit every time I see it.  It’s not power that’s the problem for me: it’s the misuse of that power to fuck with a person's mind until her mind breaks, and she submits to the intend desires of the person in authority.  It's a classic brainwashing effect.  And more often than not, it has a sexual or financial implication. Or both. It happens in cults. It happens in religions. It occurs in spirituality. It happens in intimate relationships. And it happens because the person in power does not want to consider that they could be incorrect about their beliefs about reality. That they are wrong that "sex and desire must be overcome."

For a myth buster like me, it’s a delicate line to walk. People are asleep at the wheel. And the gaslighting authority figures are either delusional or criminal. There seems to be nothing in between.

Perhaps you personally know the kind of mind fuck I’m talking about.  It’s the humiliating kind that, if you tried to talk to someone about it, the response would be, “oh, there’s no way that Bishop, boyfriend, father, boss X would do that. He’s a good man.”

And now you are faced with a clarity/reality problem. Do you hold onto what you know is right in the face of what the mindfuckers are saying or doing? This is the question of basic sanity, and it’s as old as time. Because there is a consensus model about how the world views the situation (i.e., what, slut did YOU do deserve or instigate this behavior) and what you know that actually happened to you.  The two roads can never meet because there’s no way these two worlds can both co-exist. 

And so, there comes a moment when we begin to question our reality, our sanity.  It’s like everybody is sleepwalking and we are the only person awake, which makes us wonder if we are actually awake. This is a reality/clarity crossroads. How will we handle this? Is this really happening us? Or are we just “crazy?” 

For the longest time, I went with the group consensus. What I know actually happened to me and my body, I pretended didn’t occur to me and my body. And the abusers doing the abuse used their moral authority to try to break me. 

It’s really fucked up. And I've experienced it since I was 4 1/2 years old.

However, there comes a moment. A moment of clarity. A moment of power. For me, it was the moment that I began to come to grips with the reality that my father openly and wantonly neglected and abandoned me to the wolves. These were not some isolated instances, but instead were a kind of systematic wearing me down towards some end that to this day I have yet to figure out. 

Or perhaps I did figure it out.

Which leads me to this weeks an episode of "This American Life.”

I can’t understand how, in listening to this program, we don’t just want to scream. To storm the Mormon church and just say “cut the bullshit folks - the jig is up. It’s over.” I don’t understand why we all keep “playing nice” at the abusive religious elder's requests. Why are we not losing our minds and demanding clarity?

We hear, over and over, shining examples of people in power using that power to use and disempower/shame/guilt women into some form of submission. What the fuck is going on? Why do we let men and women shame us into submission? Gaslight us in plain sight, while we pretend there is “nothing going on.” 

Of course, it’s going on. It’s going on every day. I’m just not clear why we don’t call it out at a level of clarity that it deserves. Yes, It’s difficult to overcome a narcissistic gaslighter. I had to cut my father off entirely in order to regain control of my life. 

Yes, it's difficult to create a boundary based in clarity when the world is busily gaslighting us, but it's possible with some training. It’s just that our nation seems to run on the next level of gaslighting and delusional reality at the moment.

The problem with the popular delusional, gaslighting reality is that it keeps us in our minds and not in our bodies. Because if we felt what was happening in our bodies, we would feel rage - the kind of mad rage that would strip delusion away and leave the person in “power” naked, vulnerable, revealed.

And that’s a feeling that people in power are trying desperately to avoid. The sense of powerlessness. The feeling of egoic destruction. They most certainly don’t want to feel that in themselves, but they sadistically crave seeing other people feeling naked, vulnerable, broken.

That’s the world we have inherited. Mind fuckers win. Until they don’t. Until you and I see what’s actually happening and stop capitulating to people in power who get off on gaslighting our reality. And the worst part is not what they do to us. The worst part is when we internalize this twisted reality and begin applying it to our own psyche, gaslighting ourselves.

That’s when our inner sense of self disappears, and we care what others think or believe about us. That’s when we lose touch with who we are and what our own desires are. 

If you are a female-bodied human, and you have yet to traverse the ground of clarity, then internalized gaslighting is likely to be a regular experience.

And this is precisely why I love pleasure.

Freeing our bodies our sex, our orgasm, our pleasure allows us to see reality clearly. We embrace our desires. We communicate about our complicated wants and needs. We make requests of those around us to support our desire for clarity. And we set boundaries around our mind and well being. And if somebody tries to mind fuck that, they are out.

That is the real power of pleasure -- It's ours. And most certainly, it’s not for those who try to fuck with our minds so they can extract energy from our bodies for their own pleasure -- while hiding behind their authority and personal shame about what they are actually doing to wreak havoc in people's lives.

That internal and external gaslighting must stop. And the surest way to get that to end is for you to claim all of you. The beautiful and the despicable. The transcendent and the junkie in radical self-acceptance. Embracing it all. In that, there is power. There is power because there is clarity. And where there is clarity, there is a firm boundary.

And we, as humans, need to feel the safe space of our own minds resting in the safety of clarity.

Clarity is the boundary. Transparency is the power. Unleashing our own pleasure has the potential to give us that fierce clarity and self-empowerment. 

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