“Bear down on it,” he ordered. I was naked and collared, on my hands and knees at the foot of the four-poster bed, around the leg of which he’d used a thigh harness to strap a large, purple phallus at the exact height required for my impalement.
Just kidding. I’m not telling that story yet. I have things I want to say, but the people I want to share these thoughts with are the ones would only get this far into my essay hoping for more of that story.
I’m talking about the people who put up walls and tune out when certain words are uttered. They respond to words like “privilege” and “patriarchy” like I do to words like “prayer” and “God.”
Those are words that make me uncomfortable. They’re the words that expose the bias I have against all organized religion and religious people that’s similar to the bias our current administration has against people who are Muslim or brown in general.
Religious people frighten me because of the atrocious things done in the name of religion throughout humanity’s history. But, I remind myself that #notall religious people are power-hungry, hypocritical, selfish, and hate-filled people. That’s what separates me from this administration and its followers: I wouldn’t kick all religious people out of my country – but I admit that I sometimes fantasize about what this world might be like if nobody had ever invented religion.
So, here I want to share my thoughts on so many of the subjects that would include words like “privilege” and “patriarchy” and “equality” and “marginalized” and “personal agency” and “women,” and I know that the people I want to reach have already bailed.
They don’t want to be made to feel guilty.
But that’s the thing. I’ve found in my own life that digging in at the things that inspire icky feelings like guilt or resentment has been the first step in my moving past those feelings. Similar to how it works in the final stage of mourning, it’s acceptance. Those of us who cling to the #NotAll when we’re feeling lumped in with a group that does bad things need to lean into the discomfort of being seen as #OneOf and make a conscious choice to listen to those who have been affected.
That’s it. Just listen. Don’t argue. Don’t #NotAll. Just hear out the people whose words bring up those yucky feelings and try to empathize. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask the question – respectfully. And if they don’t want to answer it?
Then keep making an effort to listen. Go in search of the answers by others who have already shared their truths with the world. All the answers are out there.
Eventually you might discover that there have been some instances in which you didn’t do all you could to help their cause because it was easier for you not to, and that the only person that’s making you feel guilty is you.
All guilt ever did for me was two things: 1) make me feel resentful, and 2) make me react defensively.
But after I decided to confront that discomfort and take ownership over my part in these things, the guilty feelings started to erode. You don’t have to take the blame for the continued existence of all the isms and the phobias: just recognize the areas where you have inherited an advantage and accepted it without question. Once you do that, you might find yourself able to let go of the guilt and start taking action to help our shared society move past this.
Listen – not everyone’s gonna welcome you as an ally. You just have to do your best to be the best version of a human being you can be. But don’t cut corners – if you are able to tune out the injustices of the world, that’s evidence of your privilege. If you choose to tune it out, then that’s when you are part of the problem.
This from someone who tuned it all out in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death because she couldn’t handle negative information. I recognized my privilege. I know why I did it. I would counsel someone struggling with that degree of trauma to do the same.
But not everybody can. There are people whose lives and livelihoods are constantly under siege and have been for a long, long time. They don’t have the privilege of tuning out injustice, because it is part of their daily lives.
So I won’t tune it out. Not anymore. Not because I feel guilty, but because I feel it’s right.
That’s not the same as disconnecting for a night and focusing on the things that bring me joy for a few hours. That’s self-care. Deciding that I’m just not going to think about, talk about, or pay attention to politics at all, or go pretend I’m still ignorant of the issues facing marginalized groups? That’s tuning it out.
The people who have read this far already grasp this. As soon as this post was not about the time I was ordered on all fours to be fucked from behind by my bedpost while my lover knelt before me and jackhammered his lust into my hungry and willing mouth, the ones I wanted to reach had already tuned out.
But those of you who stuck it out this far, at least get to know how that story ended 🙂