Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. In the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms, so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience, whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, examining an idea.
That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand form all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife.
This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of.
Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
–From Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic”
Audre Lorde has been a fixture on my moral/spiritual compass since I was assigned her collection of essays Sister Outsider during my first weeks of college.
She was the ultimate Other: a Black woman, lesbian, feminist, mother of two children, daughter of Grenadian immigrants, educator, cancer survivor, activist.
When I think of a brave writer, I think of her.
When she talks about the erotic, she doesn’t mean “the confused, the trivial, the plasticized sensation.”
I think she is talking about what can’t be named: a creative joy or a union with the source or just basking in the sunlight.
After feeling sick with fear for the last few days, I wonder if the greatest rebellion against a public spectacle called TRUMP, which is nothing if not made up of “the confused, the trivial, the plasticized sensation,” would be focusing on a capacity for joy, connection, and a conviction to do anything but play it safe.
So in saying “Use the Erotic!” I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian flashing her assets in a selfie, but tapping into a power that is available to everyone, yet rarely advertised.
It is a subversive pleasure in the moment.
It is slow and sensual.
Because when you’re frightened, the erotic evaporates and the only thing left is a glossy display.