Archive for March, 2015

Hollywood goes stupid on BDSM

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It has been a while since the whole internet (and not only) was buzzing with “Fifty Shades of Grey” frenzy. Unlike many, I did not run to the cinema to watch it, although I knew I would eventually have to. As somebody interested in alternative erotica and how it makes it into mainstream, watching it was a must.
Despite reading a couple of reviews and personal opinions on it, I went to the cinema with an open mind. Therefore, I can say there are some good scenes, which could have given the watcher a good sense of domination in sex and everything connected with BDSM eroticism. However, the sensuality of these scenes is suppressed and even shattered by all the unnecessary and abusive elements brought into the picture without any real consideration. After paying to see this movie, some of us may feel that it was nothing but a shallow use of controversy for the sake of box office success only and no further considerations.

(Photo: from wikipedia, featured picture of Lady Byron)

Yes, very Hollywood-like indeed, if we are to be very critical of the American movie industry. And as A., my partner, put it, those intimate moments between Dominant and Submissive which are not messed up in the movie might have actually been copied from whatever material available in the sex and porn movies industry. They somehow managed to give a glimpse on the erotic pact which is part of the BDSM game, but only to later aggravate everything and turn eroticism into abuse.

And this is the reason why I am writing now about “Fifty Shades of Grey” in English, after I have done it in Romanian. Not to talk extensively about the movie itself and to mainly criticise how they portrayed the Dominant as an abuser, exactly what alternative sexuality needed, but to debate how harmful it actually is.
To do this, I will present you the following plot: a very successful business man, who is also gay, gets very passionate about a young student, who is not very certain he really likes men or not. The successful guy does everything he can to seduce and convince the subject of his desires, but only to abuse his younger lover when he finally gives in. At the same time, you actually find out that the seducer has been raped himself by an older man when he was 15, which made him become gay, and now he just somehow propagates unto the others what happened to him, saying “this is how I am”. Nice, isn’t it?

I want to believe not many would accept today such a plot on homosexual eroticism, and for good reasons. Bringing into the mainstream the idea that somehow people with other ways of expressing their sexuality than the majority are deranged, have a problem, were traumatised and therefore became little monsters in their intimate lives does not seem clever at all. Society today is still tarred with misconceptions, fears and very judgemental views on the different, and yet another media product reinforcing such things is not what we miss.  

Speaking of homosexuality, I wonder how many people know that it used to be scientifically classed as a paraphilia, which meant a sexual deviation with not very favourable psychological implications. Doing a little research, we can read that homosexuality, although it was no longer considered a crime even in the interwar period (Poland 1932, Denmark 1933), was still officially seen a “disease” or “mental disorder” until 1973. That year, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), due to sustained civil protests and lobby from the gay community in the 70s.
Think of it: how intelligent can it be to judge a person as suffering of a disorder on the basis of his/her sexuality only, if it causes no harm to anybody, if it is consensual and a source of contentment and joy?

It is true that, despite the antidiscrimination laws being clear in most of the Western world today, they cannot make each and every person think. Nothing can really make people use their brain capacity if they prefer not to. But at least stigmatising others on grounds of their personal preferences cannot be tolerated in a society which respects human rights.

Going back to “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the main message it conveys is that whoever might call themselves a sexual Dominant is actually an abuser, while whoever sees themselves as sexually Submissive are actually victims. Is this really needed?
Back in Bucharest, in 2008 I have met a guy over the internet whom I became friends with. We never dated, it was instant friendship. We talked about photography, books and also about sexuality. When I came back from the hospital, after I had my appendix removed and nearly got peritonitis in the process, he brought me a big photography album by a renowned Japanese artist. He was, to my knowledge, the first Dominant I have ever met in real life. Had he not told me, I would have never known. This guy was very polite, very intelligent, loved paragliding and other challenging sports, he loved photography and apparently he liked tying women up when he had sex with them. One day I actually met an ex of his, they stayed friends, and they were both very relaxed in each other’s presence, joked a lot and laughed a lot.

My male Dominant friend never actually told me a lot on his personal sexual preferences. He was a discrete guy. But he did tell me some stories, and also that there are some idiots out there calling themselves Dominants who treat their Submissive so badly and just push them beyond their limits. He completely condemned those people, and apparently would always encourage and even help the abused submissives to get out of that type of a relation.

So what about Christian Grey? Is he a Dominant or an abuser? Unfortunately, I guess the first and only advice my friend would give to Anastasia would be: get away from him! He will not have a relation with you, he will just abuse you and demand you be happy for being abused. And this is just wrong.
Let’s take it step by step (in big steps, we do not have all day, actually). In the beginning, Christian says he will not touch Ana until she signs the contract. What does he do? Break his own word, right away! Would you trust this man to tie you up and use a whip on you for sexual arousing? I know I wouldn’t.

Next? He presses on, despite the fact he knows Ana does not have any solid sexual experience. Apparently, the movie wants us to believe that the attractive Mr. Grey actually wants Ana so much that he makes one mistake after another. Does he, really? Well, then theory confirmed: this guy is nothing but an idiot with a very well equipped playroom, but with a very poorly equipped brain. After 12 years of experience, all he can do is loose patience, not follow his own terms (having BDSM sex with Ana only after she is fully aware and fully consenting), and at the end truly abuse his new lover? This man does not deserve to be in any kind of a relation.
And what is his actual “excuse” for it? Well, poor thing, he was the son of a heroine prostitute, he was traumatised in early childhood, before ending up as adopted by a very wealthy family. Dare I say that this is the story, up to the being adopted and raised by a high class family, of so many criminals who never ever get out of trouble. But because this guy is attractive, rich and influential we should somehow feel sorry for him and hope that Ana comes back to and tames this wild beast, shouldn’t we?

I hope at this point it is quite clear why such a movie does not do any service to people who prefer to express their sexuality through Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. While DSM-5, the current American Psychiatric Association manual (which is a benchmark for the whole world in matters of psychiatry and psychology), released in 2015, excludes BDSM practices from any clinical classification as long as they are consensual and do not cause harm or distress, a Hollywood product throws things back to where you might be considered demented if you prefer sexual arousal by means of kink toys (ropes, whips, crops, handcuffs, and other such gadgets which apparently can be fun).

Since I have learnt about the history of how different sexual orientations used to be criminalized and also about discrimination by law on basis of one’s sexuality, I admired the work of Charles Moser, a physician specialised on sexual medicine. Based in San Francisco (what a nice coincidence, isn’t it? the city of the Beat generation), he is very well known and respected in his field, a professor on sexuality studies, and also a specialist who has long advocated against diagnosing different sexual preferences as disorders. I have read some of his work, and one very strong argument he brought against what was stated in DSM-4 was the following: 1. BDSM practices were clinically diagnosed because they pose the risk of causing harm. Therefore, a Dominant or a Submissive suffers of a disorder. 2. Extreme sports such as mountain climbing pose the risk of causing serious harm and even death. Still, no respectable psychiatrist would think of diagnosing a mountain climber who reaches the Everest as suffering of a disorder.

With the changes made in the psychiatry manual, people such as Charles Moser can be finally happy that their life long work brought positive changes for society as a whole. People writing books and making movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” cannot. When society as a whole and many uninformed people do not know enough about something, you do not just give them a very negative view of the subject, in terms of “how not to”. You cannot start explaining and enlarging people’s views on something which is not known to them… by telling them what that particular thing is not meant to be. I do not know how it is presented in the book, but I did not hear anybody protesting too much that they have messed the story up with the movie.

So when you want to write on a controversial and very delicate subject such as what people might prefer in their intimacy, what arouses them and can be classified as unusual, you must be socially irresponsible to make it look like abuse, and not even criticize it enough.
Fortunately, in today’s society we have tools to get informed, read and educate ourselves, then write and give others the chance to consider and dismiss products which can only be but called stupid and misleading, and not much else.

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50 de nuanțe de ”așa nu”

După amânări prelungite, am văzut în sfârșit și marele film care a adus sexualitatea kinky în mainstreamul de Hollywood. Să ai în cinematografe un film în care se face sex cu strigături… și bice, și cătușe, sfori, cravașe, palme la fund pentru ”obrăznicie”, ei bine, poate fi considerat un adevărat fenomen.

Înainte să-l văd am citit, mai cu atenție, mai pe diagonală, câteva păreri pe interneți. Vreo doi prieteni mi-au spus cum li s-a părut lor. Unul dintre ei mi-a mărturisit interesul pentru bondage, născut în urma unor discuții mai vechi. Am dezbătut în lung și-n lat, de câteva ori, cu prietena mea Ana, tema dominării în sex. Eram, bineînțeles, curioasă dacă filmul chiar este atât de prost pe cât auzisem.
Cel mai relevant din tot ce citisem în prealabil mi s-a părut un articol din The Guardian, în care oameni activi pe scena BDSM (da, există și o ”scenă”, mai degrabă o comunitate unde cei atrași de practicile kink pot întâlni pe alții cu aceleași preferințe) criticau fără drept de apel ”Fifty Shades of Grey”. Cam toți spuneau că filmul nu face decât să pună egal între jocurile de dominare sexuală și abuz, ceea ce este o prostie, una cu atât mai rea cu cât asta ajunge la omul obișnuit, care poate să nu aibă, altfel, nici o părere despre asemenea preferințe erotice. Iar să induci judecata că trebuie să ai ceva probleme și tulburări de personalitate ca să-ți placă un simplu joc intim nu pare o idee prea inteligentă.

Să trecem însă la subiect.
Filmul ”Fifty Shades of Grey” intră la categoria ”așa nu”. Aproape din toate punctele de vedere. Senzualitatea intensă dintre un partener dominant și unul supus în sex se pierde în enormitatea lipsei generale de sens. Dominantul, cel care ar trebui să sprijine echilibrul întregii relații, fie ea și pur sexuală, cel care ar trebui să dea acea senzație de siguranță fără de care submisa nu i se poate încredința, chiar el pare căzut din cu totul alt scenariu.

Să ne înțelegem, Christian Grey are, în aparență, atuurile unui dominator, și nu, nu este vorba despre bani și prestigiu. În prima scenă, afișează un calm și o stăpânire de sine fără cusur, urmărește reacțiile femeii, răspunde, se apropie de ea, face pasul înainte și apoi pe cel înapoi, ca în dans, pentru a destinde atmosfera. De aici ar fi putut ieși ceva frumos.
Să mergem și mai departe în film, la prima scenă de dominare din camera ”de joacă”. Vocea, gesturile, modul în care îi cere Anei să se așeze în genunchi, cu spatele spre el, modul în care îi împletește părul, în care o atinge cu cravașa, în care îi arată că nu, cravașa nu e acolo să o sperie, ci ca să aprindă întregul cadrul, să trezească personajele, să pornească jocul, un fel de baghetă magică, dacă vreți, toate au o măsură bună. Din păcate, acest domn cu mulți bani, multe jucării și cu o aparentă stăpânire de sine ratează chiar în momentele cheie care ar fi putut să-i asigure ceea ce-și dorea: devotamentul și dăruirea femeii dorite.


(clipul e mai bun decât filmul, pentru că arată un dans în doi, momente pline de tensiune senzuală, frumoasă, spre plăcerea ambilor parteneri)

Mai exact, Christian Grey pare un idiot care habar nu are ce face, în ciuda a peste zece ani de experiență în dominare, de o parte sau de cealaltă a biciului. Inițiat de o doamnă dominatrix cu mult mai în vârstă, căreia el i-a fost supus vreo 5-6 ani (bine, nu vorbim despre faptul că și aici trebuia neapărat să fie ceva abuziv, un puști de 15 ani sedus de o doamnă matură, arrrgh!), tipul decide că i se potrivește mai bine rolul de dominator. Așa are el vreo 15 partenere care îl vizitează în weekend și relația cu ele este strict una Dominant-Submisă, extinsă la un mod de viață 24/7, și nu un simplu joc erotic în intimitate. De ce era nevoie și de asta probabil doar autoarea cărții știe (dacă chiar vine din carte și nu e o găselniță scenaristică). Nu se motivează pentru că nu explorează nimic în profunzime, totul este la suprafață.
S-a vorbit despre carte ca despre fantezia supremă a femeii plictisite, care nu mai are nici umbră de pasiune în viața ei, care visează să fie futută bine, să fie urcată pe pereți, să simtă cum carnea îi tremură pe ea sub palma unui bărbat bine. N-am citit cartea, dar filmul chiar așa arată: o fantezie dezarticulată, de minte feminină care tânjește după un bărbat rău, foarte masculin, foarte sexual și foarte seducător, pe care să-l țină lângă ea și eventual chiar să-l ”domesticească”  prin farmecele ei (asta în ciuda faptului că el o domină sexual).

Nu ar fi o problemă în sine faptul că unele doamne au asemenea fantezii. Problema este când fac din asta o poveste care se dorește cu lipici și nu țin cont de impactul negativ pe care lipsa lor de viziune îl poate avea.
Dar cum nu am citit cartea, cine știe, s-ar putea să fie doar gura lumii rea?

Să ne întoarcem la film.
Păcat de scenele în care Christian Grey arată că are potențial. De ce păcat? Pentru că pontețialul ăla e făcut praf și pulbere.
Păcat de scenele în care cei doi arată că, de fapt, erotismul kinky e, în esență, joaca unei pasiuni pe vibrații de coardă întinsă. Când Anastasia vine la biroul domnului, cu contractul citit și adnotat, pregătită pentru o întâlnire de afacere, scena are toate atuurile necesare să rămână memorabilă. În timpul schimbului de replici dintre cei doi, femeia este cea care impune distanța și limite, bineînțeles cu un zâmbet neastâmpărat în colțul gurii, i-am spus lui A. că e frumoasă și bine făcută scena, îmi plăcea. El a zis ”Și mie… până aici”. Până unde? Până în momentul în care simpaticul domn Grey îi spune Anastasiei că vrea să o fută undeva la mijlocul săptămânii viitoare. Drăguț. Și-a ales foarte bine momentul. Atât de bine încât toată încărcătura atmosferei s-a fâsâit ca un balon dezumflat cu încetinitorul, pe tăcute. În mod firesc, femeia pleacă și nu semnează nici un fel de contract erotic, iar el rămâne cu așteptările în gât, sau mă rog, în alte părți, dar cu siguranță nealinate.

Ce se întâmplă către finalul filmului arată mai mult decât prostesc. Omul cu bani și apucături dominatoare, care ar putea să aibă toate atuurile, ba chiar dorește femeia asta mai mult, se pare, decât pe cele dinainte, face gafă după gafă. Investește răbdare și efortul de a-și introduce partenera într-un univers erotic nu la îndemâna oricui, pentru a da cu bățul în baltă fix în momentul cheie. Pare un personaj incongruent cu propria lui poveste, care ar avea nevoie să cheltuiască mult pe la tot felul de terapeuți.
Fata, de altfel, nu are nici o vină. Virgină până să-l întâlnească pe grozvul domn Grey, ea face greșeala oricărei tipe la 20 și ceva ani care visează cai verzi pe pereți și zmei transformați în prinți care îți cântă serenade. Se îndrăgostește de inconsecventul care îi spune că nu vrea decât să o fută, ca apoi să o plimbe cu elicopterul și să o ducă la o cină în familia lui (el, care nu fusese niciodată văzut cu o iubită până atunci). Este doar o altă naivă care crede că bărbatul ăla nu are nevoie decât de o femeie bună ca să devină brusc și el un partener iubitor.

Ca să nu mă mai lungesc, povestea e slabă, cusută nu cu ață albă, ci cu resturi de ațe de toate culorile. Nu are nici măcar cea mai mică urmă de profunzime, senzualitatea se pierde în idioțenia scenelor următoare, iar finalul e atât de prost încât mi-a lăsat senzația clară de ”wtf have I just seen?”. Fix senzația pe care ai vedea-o dacă în plină stradă ai vedea pe cineva țipând din senin ”tocmai mi-am omorât verișorul pentru 100 de lire ca să-mi iau cocaină, dați-mi și mie vă rog 10 lire ca să-mi pot cumpăra doza!”.

Spunea cineva la un moment dat, am citit undeva, că filmul ăsta este despre cum un tip cu bani se chinuie timp de câteva săptămâni să convingă o tipă naivă și altfel simpatică să îl lase să o bată. După ce o mângâie cu pana și îi arată că o cravașă în palmă sau peste cur nu doare de fapt chiar așa tare și se pierde în intensitatea orgasmului care urmează, o pune cu fundul în sus pe banca de pedeapsă și îi arde cele mai serioase curele la cur pe care le-ar putea da orice supărat pe viață. Face treaba asta el, cel care vrea ca femeia să rămână, să-i fie submisă în sex, el, cel cu experiență și resurse, și nu un începător care nu știe că a-ți domina erotic partenera nu înseamnă să o faci să vrea să fugă mâncând pământul, ci să stea și să ceară mai mult.
Dezamăgitor și chiar dăunător. De ce este însă chiar așa dăunător am să vorbesc într-o postare următoare.

 

 

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From a woman to another woman

It has been four years for me now in the UK and I have finally got a woman friend very close to me now. Ever since moving further away from both my mother and my grandmother, since I left the city which I once thought I would always live in, I did yearn for that joyful, tender and intuitive bond that a woman can only have with another woman.

I have always had great male friends, but there is nothing like a long chat over a cup of coffee, between two women who are good friends, while the daylight begins to dim and get a honey-like consistency, and the words flow from one to another like kitten bouncing softly over a bunch of velvety pillows.
And there is nothing like going for a walk in the nearby park, while your legs ache from the last Body Balance session, led by a woman (yes, don’t tell me I am biased, but I find the energy of a female trainer more beneficial to me in such a class), while you complain and laugh of your aches and make silly jokes, only so that a few minutes later both of you talk lively about how the sunlight falls over the trees crowns projected against a picturesque sky, then go sit on a bench and you find you need to take a photo of her hair shinning with cherry-like reflections in the sunset rays.

There are many, many great moments I have shared with male friends, and the first one to jump in my mind is having hours of discussions on literature and all sorts in a basement rock club, smoking a whole pack of 20 fags between the two of us and him having lots more beers than me (I am done at two, thank you), and one of these crazy intoxicating nights going for a stroll with him to the most beautiful square in the city only to start talking about climate change and maybe a possible new ice age, all on a freezing January night, and then parting there to go in different directions half frozen, half terrified (him) and half drunk (me), but completely relaxed and satisfied with the whole evening.

Today though it is all about women. It is the International Women’s Day and I should have sent cards back home to my mum and both my nans, but I forgot.
With my mum I have always had a strong emotional bond, and there was always great attachment between us. I can honestly say that I was my mum’s girl until about a few years ago, when I finally grew up and took the necessary step to independence. She has always been a strong active woman, despite being a housewife for many years now, or even due to it. Back home, she is the one who pulls all the strings and organizes everything in the family, and makes sure that everybody is somehow taken care of, fed and clean and sorted out, and not doing all sorts of stupid things.

It was my mum who named me Catalina after the name of a princess in a Romanian philosophical poem about the eternal love of an immortal soul, embodied by the Evening Star, and the mortal beautiful young lady. She used to chant it to me on an old classical Romanian romantic song, but with the verses of the poem, whenever I could not sleep, possibly due to illness, when I was about two-three years old. I do remember how it sounded and I do remember how I misunderstood a certain word in the verses, thinking it is the shade of a certain colour, when it was actually a verb.
It was my mum who was very strict with me doing all my homework to the highest standards, because I had the intelligence for it, and who ripped the page out of my homework notebook had I made too many mistakes on it and I would start all over again. This happened only during my first two years in school, as later on I moved over to my grandparents in the city, partly due to illness, partly to go to a better school, and there I did all my homework unsupervised. So her being demanding of me worked and helped me have high standards of myself later on.

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(photos:
Left: My nan with me, when I was 1 month and a half old. Right: With nan, probably 3-4 years old, at Govora resort. Centre: With nan on my 11th birthday)

My nan, my sweet old grandmother whom I then grew up with since I was eight and continued to live with in the old city flat until the second year of my University studies. My clashes with nan were very seldom and strictly in the first years of me living with her and with granddad, as at times I was not only feisty, but really naughty and speaking nastily to her. And once I did broke a boy’s teeth out in the street, with my foot, when I was actually just trying to scare him away, and that time I was harshly punished.

But then she was the one who always cooked for me, did my laundry, ironed, made sure I washed my hair right, rinsed it with a certain camomile concoction to make it strong and shiny and to preserve its blonde highlights. She was the one who woke me up in the morning and my glass of hot cocoa milk was ready on the table, together with the two pieces of bread, butter and jam or a few biscuits, or fried egg and sausage. The in the evenings she’d sometimes ask me if I fancied this or that for dinner, things which I actually had in my mind and she just seemed to have guessed them. It is since then that I strongly believe in telepathy.

From her I had learnt how to organise my day into sections, so that I planned for a time to study and a time to relax, and all the evening routine. Unfortunately, over the years I have kind of forgotten this precious lesson.
With her I shared a passion for music, as well as for knitting, doing tapestry and other crafts which she highly encouraged me with and even taught me a few tricks. And she was the one who’d play my student when I was the teacher, at times praising her, at times scolding her and making her laugh and telling her she needs to be serious for the game to work.

If I am to mention all the amazing women whom I have known over the years and whom I think fondly of and treasure as friends, or teachers, or inspiring people, I will turn this text, intended for my blog, into a book. Thinking of it, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea after all.
Some of the girl friends I had in the past I lost contact with and probably will never regain it. But that is life, sometimes you go different ways from the people you love and keep the lasting, shiny memory of them and the things you had together. With N. I used to spend chilly autumn evenings in the garden or in the front of my or her house, sometimes in the church yard (considering my father is a priest and we lived just next to it) and sing our favourite songs together to a bright full moon. In the summer days we’d go on a stroll to her nan’s house, taking my massive mongrel dog, who had some Schnauzer DNA in his blood and looked exactly like one, a gentle giant, and her nan will always have some goodies aside for us. When we grew into teenagers we’d always go to the local disco together and dance our shoes off, and then next morning would wake up to go to church for mass and we’d stay close together with our arms intertwined during the whole service. We loved each other like sisters and one summer afternoon decided we had to become blood sisters, so we made small cuts in our palms, in the church yard, held our hands together and swore eternal friendship. She would always listen to me reading her my poetry and we’d always talk for hours about boys, our favourite TV series and the stories from school.

But then I know all of you, ladies, have such stories which are most precious to you. Some of you might even have been blessed with sisters, or daughters, or granddaughters, I always wanted to have one, but it just did not happen.

My diploma work when I graduated University was centred around Virgin Mary as an inspiring motherly and womanly figure,  and the other feminine types which appeared predominantly on Middle Ages and Renaissance literature. I was particularly fascinated by the adored Lady of the Heart in the troubadours’ creations, as I had learnt in Anthropology that being a dedicated admirer of the beauty and virtues of a (generally) married lady was a wide practice for noble young men during those times.

Reaching this point I felt I needed some Bjork on the background, and I think I will conclude with posting one of her songs/videos. She is one of the women I admire and I have gradually discovered growing up, with her universe of surreal images, with her voice made for magic chants and with that air of a sorceress that both awes me and makes me love her. Bjork is, somehow, my good Snow Queen, whom my heart needs when it has to sink without fear into its own femininity and, at the same time, into the secret understanding which only a woman can have for another woman’s emotional inner dance, cry, jump and flight.  

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Philosophical garden. On men, women and original sin

Most of my revelations come when talking to people or when listening to people. I would have probably made a great woman (or even man, in another life) philosopher in an Ancient Greek style garden where debates were held. Nevertheless, recently I and my friend Ana have started our own small philosophical garden at home. It is comprised of our black table and chairs, usually some bright coloured flowers in a vase, the bookshelves, CD and DVD shelves around us, with additional make-up boxes, and a few plants, amongst which my revived Joseph’s Coat and tow cacti which won’t stop growing.

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There has been much debate lately in this small philosophical garden-in-a-flat. On Monday I found the article about India’s Daughter, the documentary on the horrific rape which mutilated and eventually killed an Indian young woman in 2012. It is shocking, enraging and terrifying at the same time. We spent the whole morning talking about it, about how men can do such things to women, and about how such things can happen.
I won’t go into details with this now, as I want to dedicate it a whole text on my blog.

Do you think philosophy comes easier on an empty or on a full stomach? Well, today it came on a full stomach. After a good walk on the beach of Bos Vegas (otherwise known as Boscombe), we had some fried egg and veggie burger lunch and over a cup of coffee we started to talk about men, women, and the original sin.
As some of you might know, I come from a tradition of priests in the family. My great-grandfather and my grandfather were priests, my father is one as well. I was the one in to carry on in line of the tradition, although nobody really asked me or pushed me to do it. I went to study Theology and English in the University, passing both the entry exams and the graduation ones with the highest grades, as well as having the highest grades each of the four years of study. And I loved what I studied, despite not all of our professors being really qualified and some of the knowledge being very superficial, scarce, even a mock of Theology. However there were the books recommended by our best professors, and they still mean a lot to me.

One of these was Elements of Faith by Christos Yannaras, a Greek Orthodox Theologian close to my heart. The part of his book where he speaks of the original sin is like a chant to me, and I can remember it in Romanian. Today I have searched for it and found it, to my joy, in English. You can read it by yourselves either on this web site, or at the end of my text.
Somehow, me bringing Christos Yannaras’ presentation on the matter is related to the articles read about the Indian woman raped and tortured three years ago. We went on to chat about how, in many places in this world a woman is still seen as some sort of inferior being only there for the pleasure and use of man. Actually, let’s be honest, you will find this sort of thinking in every country and every culture, only that in the Western world this is more  restricted by law, as a result of the feminist movement and social changes which started more than 100 years ago. Still, you read and hear about women’s alleged inferiority and see how they say today that Hillary Clinton paid her female employees 72 cents for every dollar she paid her male staff, when she was Senator. However, news such as this I take with maximum circumspection: is it just half the truth, used to point that “oh, look, even one of the biggest and fiercest feminist activists treats women as less worthy!”. To me, this smells a bit rotten.

But then, isn’t all this inequality between men and women even based on the Bible? Well, no, not really. If we do go back to the Bible and read Yannaras’ writings on the creation and original sin parts, we see how actually all of this is complete and utter non-sense.
Telling Ana today about the Greek Theologian’s writing, about how man was created first and he received the warning first (not rule, not threat), and Eve received it from her equal, the man, not the higher divine being, about how none of them took responsibility for their act, about how choosing the deceiving so-called fruit they chose separation from God, self-sufficiency, egotism, their own ego crowned over the whole world, greedy and not caring, I came to the question “but why did God make Adam alone first and later he made Eve?”. It seems to be a lesson yet not learnt by human beings…
Maybe God made Adam first so that he could feel he is alone, so he could feel he needed another being equal to him, who is like him, with whom he could share the love he had learnt from the divine being. Having a partner equal to him, but not completely like him, with the sexual distinction which makes erotic love possible, would be his (and hers) best chance of practicing the communion for which they were made.

And, after all, this is how the Bible introduces the divine intention to give man a partner in life: “It is not good for man to be alone; let us make a helper for him who is like him” (Genesis 2.18)

Blaming your own choices on the others comes always handy. Handy for an ego which believes it is its own cause and purpose and, even more, the whole world is here to serve it. This is the choice the human beings made, according to the Bible, at their creation, and this is still the choice that many of us still make. Probably each of us, throughout our lives, act in line with our grasping ego. But then some of us (many of us as well? or not really?) learn the lesson of love, which was first given by a divine being who wanted to spare us the lesson of death.
According to Yannaras’ analysis, it is death to think and to behave like you could exist on your own, even if the whole Universe disappeared today (not to mention it is absurd as well, but anyway). An ego which thinks itself immortal is the agent of death within. Our essence is divine, which means our ultimate purpose is the communion with the whole: the person next to us, whom we choose to share our life with, the people whom we call friends or workmates or neighbours, nature itself, God (or however you want to call the divine). Once human beings placed themselves in opposition with their existential purpose, is there any wonder they became destructive? Ego above everything leads to destruction, and this is evil.

So evil is treating women as if they were not human beings. Evil is treating women as if they are here only to serve men. Evil is destroying women who do not obey. But then evil is leaving people in utter poverty, with barely any chance to a better life, so that big corporations can raise their profits and directors can award themselves to $1 million bonus yearly. And then these people commit crimes, even horrific raping and torturing of women who dared to go and watch an evening movie with a male friend.
But then there is hope, even in the last hours of one’s life, such as the thief on the cross next to Jesus or the criminal in the “Dead Man Walking” movie, with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. If people are shown constant love, if they are treated like human beings and not like monsters, a nuisance or disposable machines, they might respond like the human beings they were meant to be.

Now, at the end of this moment in our philosophical garden, I will let Christos Yannaras speak about one of the consequences of sin:

The sense of nakedness is the first consequence: “the eyes of the two of them wereopened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves and madeaprons for themselves” (Gen 3.7). Until the time of the fall “the two were naked, both Adam and his wife, and they were not ashamed” (Gen 2.25). What, then, is the feeling of nakedness, the shame of nakedness which accompanies the fall? It is the awarenessthat the look of the other which falls on me is not the look of the beloved, of the one wholoves me, whom I trust. It is the look of a stranger; he does not look at me with love, butsees mejust as an object only of his desire and pleasure. The other’s look objectifies me,transforms me into a neutral individual. I feel him taking away my subjectivity, mydeepest and unique identity. To feel naked is, the rupture of relationship, the revocationof love, the need to protect myself from the threat which the other now constitutes for me. And I defend myself with shame. I dress myself in order to save my subjectivity, toprotect myself from the look of the other, not to be transformed into an object at theservice of the other’s individual pleasure and self-sufficiency.

(Christos Yannaras – Elements of Faith)

 

 

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