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just free . . .

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just free . . .

Feeling the perfectly temperatured breeze on my skin last week during my morning walk, I felt so incredibly FREE!

From the time I decided that my liberty would be the topic of this week’s post, I’ve been struggling with the words to aptly convey to you that moment and its continuation into now. But the words escape me. I want to share it with you fully because I want you to feel it too, or at least taste a bit of it or catch a glimpse. But the words escape me.

In one of my Kabbalah books I find that words don’t exist for these kinds of experiences because the encounters didn’t happen there [in words]. I suppose it’s like one of those humorous anecdotes that don’t translate well to others. To appreciate it fully, you had to be there.

For this story, though, I’m not willing to settle for “you had to be there.” Not that you can join me in revisiting that exact moment, but I do so long for others to be free. From what? From whatever keeps you bound, you know – fear, desire to please everyone, lack, disease, insecurities, settling for less, unhappiness – all of that.

When I picture freedom, I see one of the early scenes of Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry. In this scene (within the first minute or so of the clip below), Ms. Berry’s character, Janie, takes off running barefoot under the sun in a flowing white dress and jumps in the lake, fully clothed. We can just feel the refreshment that the water’s coolness and the splash bring to Janie.

Prior to this scene we learn that she is awakening to her sexuality. She’s always been one to notice the exquisite details of

exquisite details of nature like Janie notices in her freedom

exquisite details of nature like Janie notices in her freedom

nature, like the bee feeding on the nectar from a flower’s center. Now she notices the exquisite details on the rippling muscles of a young neighbor, Johnny Taylor, as he makes his way past her home to catch some fish.

Her grandmother, Nanny, observes them kissing and wears Janie out for letting him feel all over her. Obviously Nanny is reacting to more than the budding attraction she witnesses. Nevertheless, she gives to Janie all of the burdens borne by generations of women before Janie, including the obligation to marry a “good” man who is old enough to be Janie’s grandfather. Nanny doesn’t see the bee on the flower petal and she blinds her granddaughter to it as well – for a time.

“Nanny took the horizon and pinched it into a little bit of a thang.” ~Janie,  Their Eyes Were Watching God

I fully understand that when these similar kinds of life-altering occurrences happen in our own lives, for the most part, our foremothers are acting out of love. They are doing the best they know how. Yet, for every Nanny there is a Janie. So I cannot help but wonder what makes a Nanny accept being the “mule of the world” for her lifetime and what makes a Janie not? And so when I complain that my mother-ancestors could have advanced our rights as women faster and sooner, that leaves me refusing their answer of, “We didn’t have a choice.”

 There is always a choice.

My heightened sense of freedom is truly a gift, a blessing. But it is also a result of years of intentional work and hard choices. I suppose, then, my wish for others is not just for freedom, but the courage, perseverance, and strength to do the work, make and stick to the hard choices. Yeah, I’ve cried and lamented and seriously considered regressing to try to alleviate some of the temporary discomfort and pain. Somehow, though, there is something inside of me that fundamentally will not settle for that, no matter how difficult the progress is. I’ve never settled for less as far back as I can remember. And I don’t think I’m any more special than anyone else in our world.

“Candi! Candi! Whatcha doin’?”

“I’m feelin’ free.  . . .  I’m feelin’ G~d.”

I hope you’ll join me . . . 😉

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

Their Eyes Were Watching God – (c) 2005 Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. and Touchstone Television.

All rights reserved.

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

body beautiful

body beautiful

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are. I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.” ~Alvin Ailey

Mr. Ailey certainly accomplished this goal with me. I’m sure that I saw his dancers perform in my youth, but witnessing their beauty and talent when I chaperoned a field trip for my daughter’s grade-school class was like seeing them for the first time. That’s the performance that’s burned into my brain.

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are.”

ailey dancers

Ailey Dancers - Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Andrew Eccles

At that time I’d begun to dance at church, a ministry that I never thought I’d ever be a part of – LOL! I’ve always loved to dance at parties and at home – but as a child I didn’t have much rhythm. Even as I developed rhythm growing up I couldn’t quite always get the more complicated, trendy moves. Yet, I always loved to dance! So, at church, I was grateful for the development of a prophetic movement ministry, which emphasized conveying a message through movement rather than specific steps that I would forget because I would get caught up in the music or lose count of the beats. Not to mention, even in my late 20s/early 30s, my body needed a LOT of work to stretch and reach like our traditional liturgical dancers.

Then the fateful day arrived – an Easter Sunday morning. A liturgical dancer had an emergency or had become ill or something that caused her absence. She and I were about the same size and at rehearsal on Easter Saturday I was summoned to take her place. What?!? The leader assured me the movements were simple. Yeah, right. She insisted that they had to have the exact number of dancers with whom they’d practiced. Okaaaay.  Well, it was a lifelong dream and here was my chance . . ., but, “Y’all do remember I’m the one who spun around and collided with the tithing box, right?” The leader said, “Just follow me.”

“I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.”

By the end of four Easter Services I was exhausted (no collisions with sacred items – or people) and very fulfilled – I did it! I did not, however, join the traditional liturgical group. I figured that G~d had granted me some level of grace in a pinch. I didn’t want to press it! 😉 Then came the day that I sat in the audience of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre watching Mr. Ailey’s dance company, totally enraptured by more than the grace of their movements, but by the exquisite beauty of their bodies. And I remembered all the layers I had to wear on Easter, covering up my very beauty – so as not to offend in the house of G~d. I actually grieved that the beauty I saw on the Fox stage was banned from the pulpit. “That’s not right,” I determined.

It’s about more than skin. It’s about freedom and openness, the kinds of fruits of the Spirit (no, not explicitly the ones listed in Gal. 5:22-23) that our faith/belief systems are truly about at their core. After I’d been dancing awhile with my prophetic movement group, I’d experienced incredible patience – rehearsal after rehearsal – from our own leader and other dancers. I tended to be the last one to get our choreography, as simple and flowing as it was. We also genuinely celebrated each other’s contributions to the ministry. And I learned to depend on others, something that’s not easy for me to do. These fruits began to spill over into the rest of my life. I grew in confidence to speak my mind when my thoughts disagreed with the majority or my truth might hurt another’s feelings. I reclaimed a freedom of expression that I’d allowed outside opinions to rip-off.

“Dance is fuel for the soul. I would feel lost without dance. When I found dance, I found myself.”~Antonio Douthit, Ailey dancer

dance is for the soul ailey dancer quote

Ailey Dancer Antonio Douthit. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

The highlight for me this Easter (2012) was seeing a woman I’d know in years past help lead a dance celebration, on stage! The look on her face of pure, gleeful joy was contagious – no one was having a better time this day than she! YES!!! Also, it was obvious that she’d shed some pounds from the last time I’d seen her. Maybe her leg didn’t extend like some of the others, but she was out there AND she was front and center. FABULOUS!!! By the way, all of the dancers had on the same body-fitting pants despite their sizes – yea! – which reminds me that I also celebrate the Dove soap commercials. This campaign reclaims “real beauty” from the snares of male-dominated marketing that only regards certain body types as acceptable for promoting brands, products and services.

CELEBRATE YOUR BODY!

And dance with it. By the way, today, my dance of choice is salsa ;-).

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

silence doesn’t save us . . . anymore

silence doesn’t save us . . . anymore

Let’s talk.

Speaking up versus shutting up as a woman – I think of Mary Magdalene. Mary, a loyal and beloved disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), was not a woman to shut up. She spoke up and spoke out. Particularly as this is Holy Week for Christians, I think of her being the first person to proclaim the Good News (Gospel) of a living Sacrifice:

“‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:18)

Over time, the spirit of feminine liberation waned in the Christian movement as it legalized, formalized, institutionalized. Today, even with the presence of female clergy and lay leadership, too many women continue to allow a gender-biased, hierarchical perspective of faith to influence and guide their lives. We continue to serve in churches where we know we aren’t being respected or recognized for the talented, gifted, capable, and able full human beings we know ourselves to be. We murmur and complain, operating somewhere between speaking up and shutting up.

For the life of me I cannot understand why oppressed women won’t simply leave! If the situation is so bad that you have to release your discomfort and frustration by constantly complaining, LEAVE. Find a ministry where you’re honored – or start your own.

While silence is an issue across ethnicities and faith/belief traditions, I recognize it as a survival technique used by my African American ancestors. There was a time that keeping our mouths shut kept us alive. Today it’s killing us. “Your silence will not protect you,” declared the late Audre Lorde.

Our oppressive history is also a barrier to our sexual freedom. Due to the hypersexualization of Black people in the USA,

once freed, [women in particular] set out on a mission to prove that we are more than attractive bodies. We were desperately trying to escape the horrors experienced by our ancestors, ancestors like Anastasia, a Brazilian martyred slave venerated as a saint by Blacks in Brazil. She came to a point in her life when she realized trying to please her slave masters was futile. Eventually she died in body, but rose in spirit. (Read more about Anastasia.)

To highlight our intelligence and social graces, we suppressed our sexuality – or tried to. We haven’t realized yet that people who are determined to dismiss us are going to dismiss us, no matter what? An incredibly intelligent, talented, articulate, Ivy League educated American president proves that, right? After all the self-denying effort to prove our worth, we seem only to have succeeded in self-injury. We’ve forgotten Yeshua’s words, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33) We’re losing our lives; our collective self-image remains imbalanced, unhealthy, and lacking in self-love, care, and appreciation.

Our deep and intense gifts of sensual rhythm need to be celebrated, not exploited or buried. I love the way we walk, the gestures and gazes that convey more than words can say (like Anastasia’s piercing blue eyes), and the ways our bodies can find a fit with music that grooves across genres. Can we think about it another way? Can we widen the life-producing aspect of sex and sexuality? Can we see beyond the mishandling of it to realize that the ear-to-ear grin we display when we “get some” is life-producing energy? Is it possible that if we begin to talk openly and honestly that we can reconfigure the Church’s traditional teachings to make sense with contemporary contexts and knowledge – and that when we do so, we just may reduce significantly the mishandling of sex that we are so fearful of?

That sounds like a plan I believe Mary Magdalene would be down with . . . and Anastasia.

And what a way to resurrect our lives!

Let’s talk.

sexNspirit workshop image

Let's talk. (REGISTER TODAY for the upcoming women's sexuality and spirituality workshop, April 28th 1-5p - http://sexnspirit042812.eventbrite.com/)

Simon Peter said to the Lord and his disciples, ‘Let Mary leave us, because women are unfit for the Life Everlasting.’ Jesus replied, ‘Wait, I’ll guide her soul, to make her as a real man, in that place which transcends the differences between the sexes, so she’ll become a living spirit. For each woman who makes herself male in this way and overcomes all differences will enter the Kingdom of Heaven!’” ~The Gospel of Thomas, a sacred text that was declared gnostic, therefore dismissed, by the Church

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

why sexNspirit?

sexNspirit is just one outlet for a huge conversation that desperately needs to happen, first among women and especially heart treeamong women of faith.

This sense of urgency to talk is heightened particularly at this time, given the recent economically privileged, white male dominated, and politically driven incredible rhetoric regarding proposed government regulations of female bodies and sexuality (i.e., contraception, abortion, etc.).

The faith part is important as well. In this Judeo-Christian (Protestant) founded country, despite our constitutionally guaranteed right to the freedom of religion, the reality is that many of our land’s laws and ideals have deep roots in this puritanical, westernized version of Christianity. These roots cause many women of faith either to choose between her faith and her fullness of life or to live in a rather schizoid manner regarding her body and her spirituality. That’s not living in freedom.

My current research reveals that we have more options than these two.  A woman’s life does not have to be so limited. We don’t have to be either the Madonna or the Whore. There’s at least a 3rd option – and probably several more. We can create enough safe space to figure out these options – to reclaim our goodness as sexual and spiritual beings.

If this is the kind of conversation for the women in your network, please email me (cdugas@candidugas.com). We can discuss ways to create such space in your community.

FYI – please check the “welcome” post for key definitions – sexuality, spirituality, & religion.

sexNspirit – it’s about more than just penetration . . .

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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