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when love goes wrong

image: wallsave.com

image: wallsave.com

On Valentine’s Day, for those of us who don’t participate in the traditional lover’s gift exchange,
we may see plenty of self-love articles.
(I’ve written a few myself.)
This year I believe perhaps there is space, today, for sadness and grief –
without any suggestion or requirement to transform it into something more pleasant.
Not today, just because it’s V-Day.

she Cried,
Feeling the Loss of a Love
that Promised to be Destined

she Mourned,
Realizing the Hope of what was to be
will Never

she Grieved,
Understanding that the Woman she was
Before she met him –
She’ll never Know Her again

If she can Think rather than feel,
Maybe she could Celebrate
the Incredible Strength Unfolding
from all the Pain
disappointmentsorrowtemptationtoregret

But Not So

Not right Now

these Moments
are for Tears
and Anger
and Insulting Epithets

Perhaps tomorrow
or
Another Day she’ll think again,
laugh again … soften
– forgive –
and move on

“A fool for love is a fool for pain
But I refuse to love you again”
~Lisa Fischer, Lisa Melonie, Narada Michael Walden

When love begins, the possibilities are endless of what can be and how. Then the true invitation comes. G~d asks lovers to strip and grow and too many of us decline – for a host of reasons: fear, cowardice, this-isn’t-what-I-signed-up-for, etc. But love is about stripping and growing – always. There is no way around it – no matter how it lives – between parent and child, between friends or between lovers. As I’ve written before, love (especially romantic love) is designed precisely to be the one vehicle that will pierce and penetrate to the depths of our souls and wreak incredible amounts of havoc on the familiar, protected places there.

My problem with Valentine’s Day is built upon a host of mythical, romantic fantasies that belie the essence of what it means truly to love another and the vulnerability, the utter nakedness, involved in that authentic exchange. Perhaps this explanation is at the heart of why I so dislike this holiday. If V-Day was about reality, about the grittiness of love, I would have a different opinion. (To be fair, I’m adverse to most holidays which I deem to be “made-up excuses to spend money.”) Perhaps intended as days to force us to remember each other to be with each other in love – most become days in which we are forced to be, to feel and to act in ways that we wouldn’t if it weren’t for the facades we don to live up to certain expectations. Pretense is always where I get off the bus.

“[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?” ~Margaret Farley in Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness

Sometimes love disappoints. And it sucks. And it’s all worth it because love is not the ultimate goal or benefit of our exchanges with the other. Becoming our best selves always is. And that destination is worth everything it will ever cost us.

This Valentine’s Day I invite you not to pretend to be OK if you’re not. Be fucked up if that’s where you find yourself – BUT DO NOT be there alone. Ideally, get good, faith-based clinical help. If that’s out of reach, lean on the shoulder of a trusted friend or mentor. If you allow yourself the luxury of this pain and move through it, this time next year, your next V-Day will be a whole different story. If you do not allow it to be what it is in this moment, the chances increase greatly that 2015 will be a repeat of now.

These are my flowers and chocolate treats to you –
the reminder that roses come with thorns and candy can be bitter as well as sweet.

Love yourself. Treat yourself. Absolutely – do that. But ALWAYS be real and true!

Simply, sometimes V-Days suck.

(c) 2014 candi dugas, llc

love un-conditioned, part 2

love un-conditioned, part 2

You know you’re free. So, now what? How do you live as a free woman of faith, reclaiming your sexual and spiritual goodness in the context of un-conditioned love?

Simply, but not easily, we remove the conditions of love – conditions which tend to reflect our fears.

Many of our fears about our romantic relationships are rooted in two places – past hurts and social/religious ideals. We may move on after a break-up, but often, we carry with us its baggage. Once we engage with someone new, we hope our current lover will redeem all that the former ones screwed up. When we perceive that he’s showing signs of veering into that potentially hurtful lane, we react, usually before anything actually happens. So, we impose all kinds of conditions (i.e., rules and regulations) that we believe will keep him in the safe lane – safe for us, not him. This kind of feminine safety net feeds into the prescriptive rhetoric which society and religion promulgate to women. We women buy into their recipes (i.e., laws, doctrine and dogma) for virtue, respect and goodness because we believe doing so will garner the kinds of affirmation, esteem and status we seek. This belief has a public value for which we look to a private situation, our romantic relationships, to provide. Seeking public validation from something quite private is inherently problematic, setting up a condition in which true love (i.e., orthoeros) will never flow. (Orthoeros is great erotic love. To read more, please see “we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a lady … or act like a man (nsfw).”)

Removing the conditions of love means that we truly know who we are as women in this moment. We name and own what we want and why we want it. (e.g., We do not look for a man to provide that which should come from ourselves or G~d.) We create mutually safe space in communication with and connection to our lovers for orthoeros to flow. In this kind of space, our bliss can thrive and there is no need for conditions because there is no fear. Un-conditioned love can operate from an inner freedom and a fearlessness (See “love un-conditioned, part 1.”) that allows a great, magnanimous love to abound between lovers, almost effortlessly.

love is unconditional quote from love is facebook page

“love is . . . unconditional!” Image source: Love Is Facebook Page

But these rules and regulations have kept us safe and secure all this time, right? Yes and no. Let’s consider a couple of realities about rules and regulations. One reality is that even with conditions we sometimes still get hurt, because with pleasure comes pain. No law, doctrine or dogma can prevent pain. They don’t necessarily minimize the risk either. So, therefore if the fruitless avoidance of pain is our goal with the use of conditions, then, there must be a better way to love and be loved. We must seek a more authentic, lasting path to emotional and psychological security than the logic of pre-determined, cookie-cutter boundaries that break when pushed too far like weak levees in a hurricane.

Another reality about what we believe has kept us safe is that what works for one season of our lives doesn’t necessarily work for or is even required in another. Once we heal from an injury, do we still need the crutches to help us walk without falling? Are training wheels still necessary to keep us on our bicycles? Do we still need safety latches for ourselves in our adult homes to prevent us from getting into something that we don’t know how to use properly? As we heal and as we grow and mature, we need fewer and fewer conditions to keep us safe. Healed and whole, grown and mature – we now have agency, autonomy and an increase in our authority to love and be loved in ways that work for us – even if these ways work for no one else but ourselves and our lovers.

usa's declaration of independence

USA’s Declaration of Independence. Image source: founding.com

Un-conditioned love requires a kind of independence that, unfortunately, is deemed radical. Perhaps this is why I’ve chosen this post to be our 4th of July offering. (albeit 20 days after the holiday) Radicals dared to tell a world superpower, as their right, that they were no longer required to act according to the institution’s authority because the institution had become unjust. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed this right, explained why and listed the institution’s violations of justice. (Simultaneously, these radicals oppressed our ancestors, but that’s a path of discussion for another post.)

If you were to pen your own declaration of independence, what would you proclaim, justify and charge?

Mine would be something like:

As I live I realize the necessity to sever ties with social and religious ideals and to accept my agency, autonomy and authority as a daughter of this world, completely equal to every other creation in worthiness to assert my needs and desires to live a blissful life, full of sexual and spiritual goodness. … The history of my people, and therefore of me, is one of incessant afflictions and abductions, all with the clear disdain for and connected goal of solidifying a control over my body and its activities. To prove this, let the record show to an unbiased universe: (in my Claire Hanks Huxtable voice)

– Failure to allow me to be anything other than a stereotyped myth as evidenced by the percentage of black women in leadership positions and the roles available to black actors. I am profiled either a Jezebel (sexually immoral), a Mammy (asexual and familial) or a Sapphire (perpetually angry).

– Refusal to appreciate, learn and maintain the knowledge about my aesthetic as evidenced by the incessant questions about my hair length and texture, ridicule of the beauty processes and products I use, lack of faces and bodies that look like me to be  upheld as an epitome of beauty and lack of fashionista clothing that easily fit my body types.

– Annihilation of the vitality of my black brothers as evidenced by the disproportionately low high school graduation rates, high incarceration rates and low percentages of black males in leadership positions. Most of us want romantic relationships with our brothers, but without their freedom and vitality this desire becomes impossible to realize, leaving us without the good lovin’ that every human needs to thrive.

Declaring independence invites some sort of risk. However, “I prefer a dangerous freedom over peaceful

slavery.” (~Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Page) Are those our only two options – dangerous freedom or peaceful slavery? As a proponent of “the third way,” I declare that there is another option – being somewhere in between the two extremes. However, I find this 3rd option to be unacceptable; I liken it to Yeshua’s description of what it means to be lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15-16) I also believe in balance and continua, but regarding the foundational aspects of who we are and how we live our lives, we must make definitive choices in order to live with vitality and relevance, hallmarks of sexual and spiritual goodness.

The greatest risk yields the greatest return on our investment. And it is ours to make, from a sense of inner freedom. Reliance on outer freedom is often illusory, focusing on others – namely our lovers – to provide the kind of return we seek (e.g., emotional and psychological security). This focus is actually counterproductive as it strangles our inner freedom and clogs our romantic flow, preventing us from being fully present in our romantic relationships. We must come to a point of relying less on another person for our inner senses of security so that we can love unconditionally.

“[Y]ou cannot depend upon anybody. There is only you – your relationship with others and with the world. . . . When you realise this, it either brings great despair, from which comes cynicism and bitterness, or, in facing the fact that you and nobody else are responsible for the world and for yourself, for what you think, what you feel, how you act, all self-pity goes. Normally we thrive on blaming others, which is a form of self-pity.” (Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, p. 15)

Is this post sucking the rose colored tint from your glasses? Actually, I hope it is … and replacing it with an organic appreciation of reality that includes the beauty of social- and religious-deemed imperfections that only clear glasses can bring. You know, we kinda get off on bragging about the trustworthiness of our partners, setting them on high pedestals as if such loftiness is a badge of honor for ourselves. We become great because another finds us so worthy and special that their love for us overrides any human frailty within their being. Has this badge of honor become our love-goal in relationships? I hope not. I hope that we’re brave enough to love radically as I’ve described because on the other side will be a freer love than we’ve ever known. On the other side of this incredible risk, with our lovers, we will be present, supportive, caring – we will love fully, not out of obligation, but out of choice.

beauty of fearless love quote from candidugas.com

“The beauty of fearless love is in allowing it to unfold . . . & to become its unique essence, just for these lovers, just for right now.”
© 2013 candidugas.com

Love is the absence of fear, conditions and obligation.

 Love is the presence of confidence, requests and choice.

When we love freely by letting go of our fear, conditions and obligations – we experience the tremendous energy of un-conditioned love.

“We look to someone to tell us what is right or wrong behaviour, what is right or wrong thought, and in following this pattern our conduct and our thinking become mechanical, our responses automatic.” (Jiddu Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, pp. 9-10)

Don’t we owe more to the beauty and mystery of love and sexuality than mechanics and automation?

Inspiring Quotes:

  • “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Abandonment. In my search for emotional peace [after experiencing abandonment], I have learned that many choices we make are based on our capacity. I came to the conclusion that my stepfather cut ties with me, not because he was a bad man or that I was unloveable, it just meant he was limited. He made a choice that fit his capacity. This experience taught me how love MUST take weight, and love is about working with the complexities relationships sometimes deliver. … People may be limited, but we are still…lovable. ~Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Post, 19 June 2013
  • “She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go. She let go of the fear.  . . .  She didn’t ask anyone for advice.  . . .  She didn’t promise to let go.  . . .  She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.  . . .  No one was around when it happened.  . . .  There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that. In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.” ~Rev. Safire Rose

To Read More:

(c) 2013 candi dugas, llc

making a difference with Desire’s Kiss

making a difference with Desire’s Kiss

Making a difference . . .

Holidays 2012

I write today inviting all readers to help me raise money to film a trailer an independent film with a unique message of sexuality and spirituality, Desire’s Kiss.

Since childhood, I hold within me a compelling need to help make life better for more of us – free, just, and fair. When we talk about the war on women and hear the heart-wrenching stories of sexual abuse survivors, I hope we can begin to search for solutions at organic levels. With my whole heart I believe that when we are healed and better informed regarding our sexuality, our entire society will experience a greater sense of holistic health regarding our bodies and its various expressions.

No one project can facilitate such significant shifts in our consciousness and perspectives, but we must continue to contribute to changes in our contemplation and conversations toward better ends. Desire’s Kiss is one such effort.

Desire's Kiss - The Short Film

Desire’s Kiss – The Short Film

Desire’s Kiss – The Short Film

a nontraditional Christian woman asserts her independence from conservative views on sex & G~d

As I report in my recent book Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness (available on Amazon.com and candidugas.com), the Black church traditionally teaches more about religion than spirituality and is virtually silent regarding sexuality. With my research and with Desire’s Kiss, I hope to change that.

 And I need your help.

On Nov. 13th at 1p EST we will launch an online crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.com to raise $13,000 in 33 days. We hope you will be a part of what some are calling a sexual and spiritual revolution.

All contributions help us reach our goal. (Please click here for a full range of giving options and perks.***) Please note that your support can remain completely anonymous and that all supporters receive quarterly financial and narrative updates. (J.D. Reese and Associates (CPA) serves as the accounting firm for this project.)

It is important that our unique message of freedom, justice, and fairness live through the powerful medium of film to reach as many people as possible. I once thought that my own struggles with sexuality were just mine . . . until I heard others’ stories. I realized then that they are all part of a larger picture of the human tendency to discriminate based on shallow differences. As I discuss in a recent interview:

“It’s being me and who I feel inside. When I am held back, I am not free. Where there is no freedom; there is no justice. And that’s not fair.” (We film January-March 2013.)

I hope, while this is on your mind, that you’ll set a reminder on your phone or mark your calendar for 1p EST, Tues., Nov. 13th to contribute to Desire’s Kiss.

 Audiences laud Desire’s Kiss as being simply a really good story of substance: “rich characters,” “sensuality beyond the sex,” and “a curious mixture of sexuality and spirituality!” Our team simply can’t wait to get the full production before more audiences. We can do just that with your help.

 Always our team appreciates your prayers and good thoughts as we continue our work. To “meet” the team and learn more about Desire’s Kiss – The Movie, please visit our site.

Feel free to contact me personally with any questions via cdugas@candidugas.com or 404.287.0719. Also, please share this opportunity with others.

Thank you for making a real difference!

I look forward to seeing your contribution on November 13th.****

Truly yours,

Candi

Dr. Candi Dugas, Writer/Executive Producer

Desire’s Kiss – The Movie

Desire’s Kiss Site

P.S.Desire’s Kiss makes a meaningful difference by changing the conversation about sexuality in the context of faith so we all can be healthier people, but especially and particularly for our women.

P.S.S. – Desire’s Kiss also adds more voices of women and people of color to filmmaking (In 2012, only 5% of filmmakers are women, down from previous years and the percentage is even smaller for women of color – with women composing the majority of motion picture audiences.) Our production creates jobs and job training opportunities for Atlantans in film production.

*** – Perks are subject to change to comparable items and please note the estimated delivery dates on the attached list.

**** – Please note that Desire’s Kiss, LLC and candi dugas, llc are not 501(c)3 entities.

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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

Dictionary.com 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)

image

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

dating: the six-letter word for a single christian

dating: the six-letter word for a single christian

Dating after recommitting my life to Christ terrified me – ‘cause I didn’t know how I was gonna handle the sex question.

I was newly divorced and while I was not rushing to date again, I knew that I would eventually. I also knew that I had always had a healthy libido. What would I do now as I was just as excited about my fervent commitment to living out my faith with all of my decisions and actions? Well, I did what most of us do when we’re conflicted inside to the point of paralysis, I delayed a decision. I denied that I even had to make one. I pretended there was no issue . . .

. . . until one evening in Bible study when a classmate shared her testimony with us along with beautifully vivid color copies of a Celibacy Covenant. “G~d, you’re kidding, right?” The timing couldn’t have been more . . . providential. Thankfully, neither she nor our facilitators led us into any kind of public declaration of abstinence. As I tucked my copy into the inner pocket of my vinyl binder I hoped that my distress wasn’t showing on my face. Again, I attempted to dodge the entire issue . . .

dating. . . until I realized that I had x-ray vision. No, really. Each time I looked at the binder I could see the covenant clearly through the opaque vinyl cover. Everything inside me compelled me to sign it. But I desperately did not want to sign it and then break faith with G~d. My newly recommitted faith walk was soooo precious to me. I feared that I would destroy it by making a promise I’d never been able to keep in 12 years or so of sexual activity.

I became paranoid each week in class, thinking that everyone else was looking at me, wondering if I had signed my covenant or not. LOL. Eventually and willingly I signed it. Then I broke it, repented, and tried again. From that point I maintained a commitment of celibacy for a number of years, like 12. (After so long, I do not know if the actual number matters.)

My season of celibacy was challenging and rewarding, but a year or so before it ended I learned that it was indeed a season – and not one that would necessarily only end once I married again. I realized that celibacy is not the only ethically acceptable sexual choice available to single Christians who are passionate about remaining faithful to G~d. Furthermore, choosing sex in singleness while being saved is not a matter of being tired of waiting or settling or giving up – or even breaking faith. The availability of more choices is all about agency, autonomy, and authority. These issues are directly connected to issues of freedom and justice and this perspective propels us into realms of greater importance than doctrine, dogma, ritual, and rhetoric.

I am totally aware that such assertions completely conflict with the Church’s traditional teachings about sex and sexuality – and I am excited about that! After listening to the cries of women who trusted me with some of their most intimate struggles with love and dating, I cherish the opportunity to help provide meaningful information and tools so that they may make their own decisions in this area – not just settle for outdated and out-of-context guidance that has been passed down over generations. Dating no longer has to be a Christian’s six-letter word!

who told you that you were naked front cover

Who Told You That You Were Naked? by dr. candi dugas

Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness, recently released, provides this information and these tools. I write with women in mind because we have a particularly difficult time reconciling our sexuality and spirituality. Now, we can get off that incessant merry-go-round of desire, guilt and shame. We can live fully into our whole selves and enjoy life more completely.

And me? Loving G~d just gets sweeter and more potent each and every day! Yeah, it can be a bit scary at first, to be so consciously naked before G~d, but there is no greater freedom. I am fully me and fully free, the highest form of reverence and worship, huh?

Who Told You That You Were Naked? is available on Kindle (only $9.99) and paperback (only $14.99). Get your copy TODAY!

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

“no.” – ok for men too?

“no.” – ok for men too?

Is it okay for a man to say no to sex without having any hidden agenda? What about when he is disinterested in it for some reason – can that happen without others thinking that he’s secretly gay or a survivor of some kind of sexual trauma? Can we create enough safe space for men to say no to sex just ‘cause they don’t wanna?

sexNspirit focuses on heterosexual single women’s sexuality and spirituality. Yet connecting with this topic means that men’s issues surface also, simply ‘cause that’s who we’re having sex with. 😉

After our final reading for our upcoming indie film, Desire’s Kiss, several people asked me about one character’s sexual orientation. Woodson has a gorgeous and caring spouse, Catherine, but his marriage of 10 years lacks intimacy and tenderness. When Catherine begins to grow in her sense of sexuality, Woodson is more than turned-off, he is incensed and considers her actions to be whorish. “Is he gay?” No. And he’s not on the down-low. And he was not molested or anything like that as a child. He’s uncomfortable with sex and hasn’t had enough safe space to work out any of his discomfort. That simple.

black man with glasses

The Crunk Feminist Collective, a few weeks ago, posted a couple of blogs related to this issue:

These posts sparked lots of conversation, some heated, about what happens when a woman asks for sex and the man declines her invitation. The blog’s author suspects that her intended lover harbors some hidden agenda or motive behind his answer, that it’s some kind of power play. Some comments agree and some disagree. The blogger also raises the question of women’s agency and how that plays out in any rights we may have to experience love, affection, and sexual satisfaction. What it means for a man to say no also raises the question of what it means for a woman to be denied sex when she issues the invitation. The blogger is “interested in having [conversations] around effective ways to express straight Black female desire in affirmative, sex-positive ways, and thinking about what kind of world (and relationships with men) we need to have to have the reasonable expectation that those needs can be met on a regular basis, without getting into all this philosophizing about whether we have the right to have our needs met.”

After my asking her what determines if an expression of desire is effective or ineffective, she shares that it involves having a “reasonable expectation” of having needs met that took some effort to express in the first place. (I am amazed at her sharing so candidly such intimate struggles.) I share my thoughts on effective/ineffective expression and reasonable expectations:

perhaps, then, effective expression begins with whatever needs to happen within each one of us to be comfortable, to be ok with asking for whatever we need &/or want to have a fulfilling life. for me, only when i’m okay with what i’m doing can i handle well other people’s responses to it without all the heavy feelings.

so before i ask, especially if it’s an area in which i’m not used to asking, i sit down w/ myself to determine where i am with it all and how i can best respond to their possible responses. like counting the cost before i make a purchase. of course, we can never always anticipate all of what another person will do or say, but what this provides for me is a sense of being prepared which boosts my confidence & sense of security.

then i also have to know undoubtedly within myself that whether they say yes OR no, their response is about them, not me. so, if i cannot approach my ask in this way, i’m not ready to ask & should not ask yet. the best thing for me to do is to wait until i’m ready to engage at this level of living. (of course waiting means actively doing so, working on whatever to become ready.)

when i am truly ready i have a clearer assessment of whether there is “reasonable access” to what i’m seeking AND i can be ok with a decline of access, even if it is reasonable. i also know & understand that being ok w/ all of this can be excruciatingly difficult when i’ve been existing in spaces of what is or seems like perpetual denial of fundamental goodness in living.

black man with dreads

To piggy-back on her question of the kind of world we need to create for reasonable expectations of met needs for women, I ask, what kind of a world do we need to create so that men can say no for earnest reasons that they no more have to share with us than we have to share our reasons with them – without any suspicion of hidden sexual orientations, agendas, or power moves?

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announcing candi’s 2nd book!

who told you that you were naked book

Who Told You That You Were Naked? by dr. candi dugas

Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness

Sex is a good thing! And the Church ought to celebrate it and preach/teach about it more.

Traditionally the Black church tends to teach more about religion than spirituality and is virtually silent regarding sexuality. Who Told You That You Were Naked? focuses on how Black women’s experiences and other sources for theological ethics can inform their desire to reconcile sexual and spiritual goodness. With this exploration, we can reverse the adverse effects of this tradition, thereby improving the single, heterosexual Protestant Black woman’s understanding of herself as a sexual being.

Pre-order your copy today! 

only $14.99 + S&H (please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.)

Who Told You That You Were Naked? includes an interview with Pearl Cleage, best-selling author and award-winning playwright

“[M]any of the painful things that . . . happen in our romantic lives happen because we are still not behaving as free women. . . . I encourage women to seek out churches that address their concerns rather than trying to revolutionize a church that might not be open to these ideas.” ~Pearl Cleage

To learn more & pre-order your copy today!

As always, thank you for your interest in sexNspirit and your support of candi dugas, llc.

© 2012, candi dugas, llc

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with liquid myrrh, . . .” (Song of Songs 5:5 NRSV)

The Shulammite is my hero! (I don’t like gendered words like heroine or shero.) Her orgasm represents a full expression and enjoyment of feminine sexuality, a sexuality that is not adjusted to socialized masculine behavior or thought patterns (thinking like a man). Neither does she allow it to be shaped into society’s prescriptive mold of femininity (acting like a lady). She is who she is, in and of herself, created in the feminine image of G~d – dark, beautiful, and so hot for her fine lover that she can’t stand it!

“My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.” (Song of Songs 5:4 NRSV)

If we both cum during intimacy – not necessarily at the same time – then we’re experiencing great sex, what Christian Ethicist Miguel De La Torre calls “orthoeros.”

“Mutuality is a characteristic of orthoeros. It is with mutuality, rather than the requirements of covenant, like marriage, that we ‘gain full security. Only by giving of oneself can there be hope of fully possessing another. . . . Mutual giving (rather than taking) presupposes autonomy. . . . Total surrender, each to the other, cannot be achieved as long as one of the two parties is holding onto power over the partner.'” (Candi Dugas and De La Torre in Dugas’ Who Told You That You Were Naked?)

Now we’re talking – intimacy in a relationship without hierarchy, patriarchy, and ossified gender roles. A woman isn’t adjusting to a man. She is herself. He is himself. They come together as full human beings when the two connect well. They connect in ways that can be transcendent and newly experiential of themselves and G~d. We miss this most amazing life-experience when we become distracted by antiquated gender roles, rules and games.

The wonderful box office success this weekend of Act Like a Lady . . . Think Like a Man, unfortunately, only signals that we are stuck in antiquity. I celebrate its success and I am thinking about what it means for women and the genuine fulfillment we seek in relationships with men. On Twitter, Roland Martin encouraged Black people to stop hatin’ on the movie; go see it and just “laugh”: “All of these haters of the movie @thinklikeaman are ridiculous. It’s a MOVIE! You know, fiction. Do some Black folks know how to laugh?”

I do intend to see the film for several reasons, including simply that I enjoy Steve Harvey’s humor and I’ve read great reviews from moviegoers. Yet it remains a work that celebrates a book which reinforces antiquated gender roles, rules and games. And that is not simply a laughing matter.

Many women take seriously the advice in Mr. Harvey’s book of the same title. Yesterday I read several women’s comments on Essence’s Facebook page lauding the movie, identifying with certain female characters, pledging to change her ways accordingly, and following up with a purchase and read of the book to reinforce her new relationship ways. Mr. Martin and everyone else who thinks similarly, it’s not simply a laughing matter.

When I listened regularly a few years back to Mr. Harvey’s “Strawberry Letter” segment of his morning show, I found his responses humorous with the kind of rings of truth good humor has to have to make it absolutely hilarious. My issue begins with the book and women’s acceptance of it to create the relationships they believe they’ve always wanted. My issue begins when we perpetuate traditional gender roles, rules and games that at the end of the day do not advance the quality of relationships.

If we want to keep the same-ol’-same-ol’, then this type of advice, I suppose, will help us do that. Well, Mr. Harvey, almost guarantees that it will from the title of his book’s  introduction – “Everything you need to know about men and relationships is right here.” (Harvey; Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man)

But if we want something more and something else, as I hear from women, then we need to think, understand, and act differently.

As I study what keeps women from enjoying sex, I find orgasm among the top reasons. The more I think, the more I find that it makes for the perfect symbol of equality in intimate relationships. Pretty much men will get their satisfaction – erection to ejaculation – from an intimate encounter. Women? Not so much. If there is no unhealthy circumstance (physiological dysfunction, sexually related trauma recovery, etc.), orgasms elude women for very solvable reasons. A woman may not get the amount of time she needs to build up her arousal or the kind of stimulation in/on areas of her body or with ways that are pleasing. She may not even know for herself what gets her off. Furthermore, she may not have the ovaries (guts/courage) to communicate to her partner what feels good, where, and for how long. So she takes what she can get (settling for saying she enjoys the entire act/foreplay is more important/it’s not just about orgasm), endures the rest, and maybe satisfies herself later on.

Does anyone agree with me that this is totally unacceptable?

What are we gonna do about it?

Truly, I am a fan of Mr. Harvey’s work. I also applaud him for doing something to try to make things better between women and men since we all want, need, and deserve to be desired and fulfilled. Stating so is not enough. Something needs to be done to make it happen. He is one person who did something.

But we must keep going further and deeper.

Can we start moving beyond conceding to socialized gender roles that leave both women and men stuck in thought and behavioral patterns that continue to leave women responsible for the man’s stepping up and for the success of the relationship?

“He [Mr. Harvey] essentially advocates sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy as truth. He supports, then, the objectification and commodification of women masked as empowerment. . . . Her [the woman’s] call to be prophetic is not only to get rid of these issues, but to offer a better alternative.” (Dr. Miranda Pillay, Presentation of Paper in Response to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA – 13 December 2011)

I [woman] am not responsible for his [man] stepping up. I am not responsible for creating conditions to force him to step up. I am aware of what pleases me and I am willing to communicate that to a man whom I choose as a lover.

We are more and capable of more than traditional teachings from the Church, society, and family have conditioned us to know, believe and understand.

Are you restless too?

Are you looking for something more and something else?

What are your thoughts? Is mutuality in intimacy even important to you? What about orgasm?

Leave a comment, anonymous, if you’d like.

Annnnd, REGISTER TODAY for more sexNspirit conversations – group or individual webinars & workshops!

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(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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