RSS Feed

Tag Archives: erotica

knowing & being known in the bridges of madison county: love & erotica series

knowing & being known in the bridges of madison county: love & erotica series

“Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Those who follow my writings know that I can be rather cynical about tomorrow – its hyper-commercialization and the very thought that all the love we feel should be compressed and best expressed during one 24-hour period with flowers that are already dead, cards that will hopefully be recycled and candy and alcohol that will throw off the healthy lifestyle resolutions made just 6 weeks prior. (Check out an archived article: “How Do We Love Ourselves? Self-love, An Ultimate Gift for Valentine’s Day”)

While my cynicism still exists, it is not as prominent this year as my continued fascination with the concept of different kinds of loves. Margaret Farley contends: “[L]ove is the problem in ethics, not the solution. [Our] experiences of love, and our loves take multiple forms. . . . [N]ot all of our loves are good, though they are loves. There are wise loves and foolish, good loves and bad, true loves and mistaken loves. The question ultimately is, what is a right love, a good, just, and true love?” (quoted from Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness)

So, this season is a prime time to pick back up on our love and eroticism series with a post about The Bridges of Madison County and how we love to love inappropriate love affairs (i.e., Liv and Fitz on “Scandal”). In Bridges we celebrate the love born from a brief affair over 4 days between an Iowa housewife and a celebrated National Geographic photographer. We don’t bemoan the fact that Francesca is betraying the loving trust her husband places in her. For over an hour we watch the chemistry ignite and the tension build between her and Robert. And then we watch for about another hour as they resolve their dilemma of forbidden love.

Francesca and Robert

Francesca and Robert in The Bridges of Madison County (from

What is it that draws us in, particularly those of us who ascribe to some level of moral and ethical accountability?

Perhaps when we applaud long-term married couples we are not celebrating the longevity of their union. Perhaps we are cheering for the depth of love we surmise they share because they have been together for so long. It’s the depth of love to which we connect, not the social and legal construct [marriage] we tend to perch upon pedestals. So, when we witness it between lovers, it matters not that they are married or even connect outside the bounds of another committed relationship. We seek love and we celebrate it wherever we find it – the kind of love that means “you get me.”

Francesca declares early in the movie, “What becomes more and more important is to be known, known for who you are.”

While she’s been with her dear husband for probably about 20 years, we understand that he does not truly know his wife for who she really is. They met in her native Italy and her agreeing to marry him meant that she would immigrate to America, an adventurous notion. Instead of her perceived glitz and glam, she got rural Iowa with its stable and loving community devoid of adventure. Even when she found joy in teaching, her husband preferred that she be a stay-at-home mom. Meeting Robert, she experiences an almost instant connection with a kindred soul. Both are intrigued by the other. He touches her place of adventure within and she wants more. After they make love for the first time on her living room floor in front of the fireplace, Francesca requests with tears in her eyes, “Take me some place, huh? Right now, take me some place that you’ve been. Some place on the other side of the world.”

 And we root for them because we root for [depth of] love, however it’s defined.

Let’s love ourselves first and well this Valentine’s Day. Then we will draw unto us a depth of love that burns with authenticity. Now, that is worth celebrating!

the cdllc calendar

Current Events

  • “Interrupting Race & Gender Oppression” – Now through March 1, 2013 – Travel to the west coast is expensive right now and I’m attending this fabulous training that addresses race & gender oppression “using storytelling, laughter, deep listening and other creative models and media.” Any amount is helpful! To donate (tax-deductible) and learn more, please visit my fundraising page. Thank you for your generous support!

Upcoming Events

  • “Single, Saved & Sexin’: The Redux” – Coming in March, Google+ Hangout – Revisiting the renowned Crunk Feminist Collective (CFC) post, I join Crunktastic, Rev. Arabella Littlepage, and Rev. Theresa Thames on a panel to discuss “what it means to be a spiritual person and have an intimate life,” especially in singleness. We will be live; so, get your comments and questions ready! Read the original postCFC on Google+.

  • Urban Grind Book Club” – Premiering April 2013, every 2nd Sunday, Urban Grind Coffeehouse, Atlanta, GA  – Featuring books (fiction & non-fiction) and their authors, as a community that loves to read, write, and discuss interesting literary work. Interested authors should email me at to register.

Recent Events

  • “Doug Pagitt Radio: Religious Radio That’s Not Quite Right” – Last month I was a guest on Doug Pagitt’s radio show discussing Who Told You That You Were Naked? What a great conversation! Here are the links, in 2 parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

Annnnd . . . Texts for Our (Re)Consideration:

  • “Love never ends. . . . For we know only in part, but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor 13:8-12, NRSV)
  • “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will [rescue] you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (Gospel of Thomas, Saying #70)
  • “When have you last had a good session with yourself? Or have ever had it out with you? Most often you are brought face to face with yourself only when such an encounter is forced upon you. Usually it is in connection with a crisis situation. . . . Now you look for some clues outside yourself and there are none to be found. You must decide and abide. . . . Whatever may be the occasion there comes a deep necessity that leads you finally into the closet of yourself. It is here you raise the real questions about yourself. The leading one is, “What is it, after all, that I amount to, ultimately?” Such a question cuts through all that is superficial and trivial in life to the very nerve center of yourself. . . . This is found only in relation to God whose Presence [Light] makes itself known in the most lucid moments of self-awareness. For all of us are God’s children [or children of Light] and the most crucial clue to a knowledge of God [or the Light] is to be found in the most honest and most total knowledge of the self. (The Inward Journey, Howard Thurman, 40)

NOTE: Since a wonderful group, CommonUnity, shared points 2 & 3 with me, I share them with you. Check them out on Facebook.

(c) copyright 2013, candi dugas, llc. All rights reserved.

love & erotica: they’re different, right?

love & erotica: they’re different, right?

No. They’re the same. Well, erotica is one expression of one kind of love.

love & erotica: an introduction

When we talk about love in the context of coupling (i.e., companionship, dating, marriage, etc.), as we are in this blog series, we typically characterize it in idealistic, mushy, feel-good – even pristine terms. Love in this way has to meet certain standards or we determine that it’s not love. This substandard love is deemed lust or ulterior motives or objectification (i.e., a series of booty-calls). Perhaps it’s time for a fresh perspective and a reconfigured working definition of love in our lives because keeping love in a box also keeps some of us in one and the rest of us thirsting for it because we don’t think whatever we’ve experienced is actually love.

love and erotica side by side

A stereotypical depiction of acceptable love – dinner and surprise flowers. An erotic love captured in visual art. Images from the MS Office image gallery and an online website, respectively.

In Christianity we generally view love from three definitions derived from Greek philosophy – agape, philia, and eros. Agape is deemed to be the highest form of love – selfless, unconditional, and perpetually forgiving. (1 Corinthians 13) Christians believe that this is the kind of love that G~d has for us and that we should strive to have it as well for ourselves, G~d, and others. Philia is also highly regarded, the love of friendship. This is the love that compels us to be our “sibling’s keeper,” to care for and go the extra mile for a friend. Eros, in the context of faith, generally is preached or taught rarely (if at all), certainly not to the extent of agape or philia? What is the cause for its absence among sermon and lesson topics? Some scholars believe that eros simply isn’t regarded as a high-enough, if elevated at all, form of love for a spirit-minded person to ascribe.

But if G~d is love, especially in an incarnational faith like Christianity, then would G~d not also be all forms of love – agape, philia, AND eros?

So, what is love – a feeling, an expression, a decision?

In her book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, Margaret Farley defines love as an emotional response, an emotional way of connecting to another, and an emotional “affirmation of what is loved” all at the same time. She contends that this definition applies to all beings and inanimate objects/ideas. We can love our children, our significant others, the trees in our yard, our favorite meal, that song that takes us way back, and our Deity. Whatever the context, it’s all the same response, connection, and affirmation. (Farley, 168)

What strikes me is this sense of emotion, connection and affirmation. Because I have this feeling for the beloved I want to connect. Because of this feeling and connection, I then affix a stamp of approval on my beloved. Is this why we all persistently seek love from others, so that we may be approved, affirmed? I know. I know. All of our psychological, self-help coaching loudly and firmly warns against pursuing external love to achieve affirmation. The healthiest approach is to have that affirmation within ourselves first. I agree with that, but love – self-love – is still the source. And as human beings who are designed to be in relationship with others, it’s natural to need also the affirmation of others. It’s not weak or unhealthy. It just is.

No matter how much she enjoyed the affections and connections with her elusive lover, the Shulammite, at the end of the day, still needed his permanent affirmation:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart,as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” ~Song of Songs 8:6-7

So, what ignites this initial sense of emotion? Where does this feeling come from – as sudden, overwhelming, and unpredictably present as coupling love can be?

Its origin is part of the mystery of being. Some people in certain times in our lives “somehow awaken a response” in us. “Love, therefore, is in the first instance receptive – of the lovableness of the other.” (Farley, p. 169) To love fully, outside of any box, we must release the notion that lovableness somehow translates into some version of perfection, without flaws of real consequence. ‘Cause, see, we lack that affirmation that we seek if our beloved is so flawed. When the perfect one loves us, then we become perfect. What actually happens is that we attract to us whoever we are. “I see you in me.” (I cannot remember the source of this quote at the time of writing.) Whether we can see the other person’s challenging qualities at the time we meet her/him does not change this law of love. Spend enough time with your beloved, the qualities will emerge, usually sooner than we prefer. You’ve heard the sayings, right? We keep meeting the same person over and over, just in a different package. Or from long-time couples, they often report that they are still quibbling about the same issues from the beginning of their relationships. That’s because we’re the same persons. Yes, we may make some improvements to our personality and behavioral patterns, but I’m not sure that the essence of who we are changes in our physical lifetimes. Furthermore, I believe that our challenging qualities are what make us most lovable, not the easy stuff. The easy stuff is just too easy to be worthy of what love truly is.

Now, let’s move on to erotica.

who told you FRONT cover  only 091812

Who Told You That You Were Naked? by dr. candi dugas defines erotica as “literature or art dealing with sexual love.” Therefore, it is not synonymous with pornography. Pornography, I suppose, may be considered a form of erotica, but there are other forms. (Please see Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual and Spiritual Goodness for a section on erotica.) Those of us who consider ourselves to be spiritual also need to release our aversion – or admitted, public aversion – to erotica. In his essay, “Relationships: Blessed and Blessing,” Rev. Dr. James B. Nelson writes:

“We desperately need more embodied, more erotic, more incarnational, more sexually-positive spiritualities. That realization still escapes many in the church, . . . Eros is that love born of our hungers, our passions, and our desires for one another. Eros has often been contrasted with self-giving love, agape, and, to our impoverishment, the straight-white-male tradition has embraced an agape reductionism. So, we’ve been taught that agape is good and eros is cheap and sub-Christian. Most of us were reared on that kind of theology. Many religious people still learn to fear, despise, trivialize, and be ashamed of their erotic bodies. I surely was. I got the idea that if you just sat real still and didn’t wiggle, eros would go away. (It didn’t.)” (Nelson)

Now is a good time to let our bodies wiggle, if you will. Allow them enough safe space to be all of who we were created to be – in goodness, no less. Whatever that thing is that ignites response in us from another is part of the universal energy that flows from G~d and through every created being and thing. Sometimes we experience this energy, that which we call love, through a desire to couple with another. Sometimes that coupling involves sex. Sometimes it does not.

With this understanding of love and erotica we embark on our journey through 10 of my favorite films that inspire (re)consideration of these themes. Thank you for joining me; I look forward to hearing from you! (What will be the first film? We find out tomorrow! ;-))

“[A] relationship with little erotic hunger and little passion gives little blessing. A relationship that fears the ecstasy of shared pleasure dries up. Alice Walker reminds us [via Shug], in The Color Purple of the importance of sexual pleasure: ‘God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff that God did. And when you know God loves ‘em, you enjoys ‘em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God liking what you like.’” (Nelson)


Desire's Kiss

About this blog series: The “love & erotica” blog series supports the development of the fundraising campaign for Desire’s Kiss – The Short Film. Desire’s Kiss celebrates feminine sexuality and spirituality, based on candi’s book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual and Spiritual Goodness and the Judeo-Christian sacred text, Song of Songs. Desire is a nontraditional Christian woman who asserts her independence from conservative views on sex and G~d. The 10 films we will explore over the next five weeks or so come to mind as we produce Desire’s Kiss. We will highlight the love themes (including erotica) in each film.

To learn more about Desire’s Kiss

To purchase your copy of the book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?

 To learn more about candi and her work

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

For the next five weeks or so I will share 10 of my favorite love and erotica films. (Not pornography – there is a difference.) I am not giving them any particular ranking. Nor am I declaring with this series of posts that these are my top 10 of all time. Yet, as we produce Desire’s Kiss, a film that celebrates feminine sexuality and spirituality, these films come to mind. (To learn more about Desire’s Kiss, click here.)



I kick off the series this Tues., Oct 9th. Which favorite film will I share first? 😉 I hope you will share your favorite films with me as well, along with any thoughts on my list and responses to my comments. I’m enjoying this already! 😉

(You’ll know best when I post the next film by subscribing to sexNspirit. Check it out to your right or below.)

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

we can’t handle the truth: chasing away who we are

we can’t handle the truth: chasing away who we are

Passion, desire, the erotic – supposedly emotions and feelings that ought to be avoided or at least strictly controlled by any person of faith who deems herself holy. Let’s (re)consider (from a Christian perspective):

Asceticism – the denial of desire and pleasure as an act of religious devotion – is not really a pronounced biblical theme. . . . [It] really develops after the biblical period in the third century C.E., mostly with the desert hermits, who renounced worldly affairs for a desert of silence and hardship in service to God, and then with monastic orders beginning in the fourth century.”

Too often, too much Christians forget and/or deny our roots:

Desire [in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament] is not something to be suppressed, discarded, or channeled strictly into religious devotion, but is presented as simply a facet of human life. . . . Desire itself is nowhere prohibited, just redirected or schooled.”

Let’s not even mention the erotic! Fear displaces erotica to a hidden and banned place in our lives when ought to be honored and utilized toward a fullness, a robust sense of being and doing.

Audre Lorde describes the erotic as somewhere between our ‘sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.’ That edge is both potentially disruptive and the source of our vital energies. This is why, for Lorde, it is worth the time to explore and celebrate sexuality. It is the resource for our truest selves and our creativity.”

How aware are we that chasing such a foundational and critical part of ourselves does more harm than good – for the self and for the communities in which we live?

[L]onging tells us about ourselves: who we are is our desire, what our soul loves. It need not be ignored, downplayed, or even displaced. And even if we opt to ignore our desire, Freud’s caution is that it haunts and scripts our life nevertheless in muted (or not so muted) screams of need, neuroses, and desolation. What is truest about our inner selves, our souls, is certainly worth knowing.”

Let’s put on our big-girl panties, allowing ourselves to (re)discover, accept, embrace, and share exactly who we are with all of our desires fueling truth, awareness, and knowledge!

Walsh citations – Carey Ellen Walsh, Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs – part of the second chapter, “Erotics in the Bible”

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

%d bloggers like this: