What does it mean to be a woman? To be a man? To be a human being?
As children, we are given many messages about how we are supposed to behave, what we are supposed to enjoy, how we are supposed to think and feel. The black-and-white world view of the religious reich and its bland Ward and June Stepford families leaves us very few options... because options make things confusing... and confusion is "bad." The billboard perfect smiles and figures of professional models hardly provide most of us with a viable alternative. Likewise, the often overly sensitive New Age "PC" movement. So, what do we do when we look in the mirror or into our hearts and realize down deep inside that even if we wanted to, we cant be who were supposed to be?
If were like a lot of people, we develop a dependency problem. We latch onto something we think is bigger and better than we are and then obsess about it. We work too hard or drink too much or exercise too often or do anything to avoid figuring out if theres something intrinsically good about the way we are. Sublimate, sublimate, sublimate. Self-acceptance isnt good for business, so it can take a while to realize that its not giving up to like ourselves; to realize that the person we are may well be far more interesting and attractive than anyone we could have pretended to be.
As ironic as it may seem, Ive had these beliefs constantly reaffirmed by the people who work and play in the sex industry. Yes, there are plenty of surgically created noses and breasts out there and nature surely didnt provide us with so many blondes... but so what? Ive got pierced ears and I wear glasses, neither of which are natural. Ive also got my personal bag of neurotic notions about my body and my talents, but you know what? Ive never met a person who didnt have a bag of their own.
What makes for real beauty (and therefore real personhood, in my book) is not a resigned acceptance of our limitations and abilities, but an enthusiasm for them. Theres nothing so sexy, so appealing, so attractive as self-confidence. I dont mean the false, 24-hour-a-day/365-days-a-year confidence that were encouraged to purchase or be prescribed. I mean the kind of confidence that, like all emotions, ebbs and flows but always stays with us on some level.
I battle my inner voices of self-criticism daily but I know they usually talk shit, so I try not to let them get to me. And I know Im not the only person who has these brain demons. Whether youre a sexuality performer, fan, protester or consumer youve heard the same voices. What matters is whether we let them trap us or use them to liberate us.
I recently attended one of the sexiest, most enjoyable and most liberating strip performance of my life so far: the Butch Strip Night at the Egyptian Room, a local lesbian establishment. Feminists and lesbians have often had an adversarial relationship with adult entertainment, although each group contains members of the others and all have been greatly misunderstood. It was a thrill to see such a packed house coming out in support of sex workers; publicly acknowledging their kinship and need for acceptance and solidarity. And, to be honest. some of those butch girls were incredibly, incredibly hot, hot, hot. It was wonderful to see butch women celebrating their sensuality. Let's hope that the straight community will wake up and smell the commonality as well sometime soon.
In the meantime, viva la difference!