Love in the Time of Suppression


Dr HerukhutiBy Dr. Herukhuti

This is a dangerous time for love. Pleasure and desire are at risk. Ecstasy and the erotic are in need of sanctuary. Over the last several months, I’ve felt these things to be more true than ever before. It’s why I haven’t written an article here in some time. The urgency of the moment has made blogging feel too small in the face of the enormous challenges that threaten our movement to liberate the ways people experience love, pleasure, desire, ecstasy, and the erotic. When people with such vastly different backgrounds as Kim Burrell, Boy George, and Donald Trump use their platforms to advance fascist, demagoguery in the name of Christianity, gay rights, and nationalism respectively, something is indeed afoot.

Attacks on the rights to have a healthy body, environment, and sex life–even if that sex is not intended to produce children and is purely for pleasure–are numerous, diverse, and dispersed. Even the Women’s March on Washington had an apparent crisis of conscience on the support of sex work as a decriminalized profession worthy of the protections and rights of all other professions. The terror and threat that many people feel is palpable on social media and in offline spaces.

These feelings are contributing to a hostile psychic environment that has implications for our movement. Many were first shocked and then terrified by the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Millions of people took to the streets to voice their outrage. With each day of the new administration, there are new executive orders, legislative acts, and actions of the Republican-led government that signal a return to the prominence of a Reagan-era domestic and international worldview. For some observers, the emerging worldview predates US President Ronald Reagan who unlike President Trump did not have the level of unity of spirit across state legislatures, governorships, and all three branches of the federal government as is currently the case. Distressing as it may sound, the worldview that we currently face may have more in common with the 1950s or even the 1850s than it does with the Reagan era.

In analyzing the current moment, we can not dismiss the role of the Obama era in helping to get us here. The Obama Administration played a role in contributing to where we are e.g., the escalation of drone warfare, the surveillance state, and mass deportations of immigrants who did not have requirement documentation, fecklessness in the face of epidemic levels of violence against Black and Brown people and the collapse of the housing bubble, which was the single greatest loss of Black wealth in the history of the United States, etc. But no one person or US administration, past or present, can be held solely responsible for where we are. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a society to mess things up this much.

I worry that what will be lost in the upcoming battles that must be waged will be our connection to the importance of loving our bodies. That our need to consistently and fervently put bodies on the line in service to a social justice agenda will socialize some of us into believing that our bodies do not deserve our intentional kindness. Or that some of us will forget how to be loving to our bodies. And that a few of us will start to believe the falsehood that loving, nourishing, and pleasing our bodies is somehow counter-revolutionary, a bourgeois entitlement, or frivolous.  I am concerned that many of us in the interest of being practical will lose perspective on the power of the Erotic as a tool for personal and social transformation. My concern is that the pace of resistance and guerrilla stagecraft will condition many of us to choose a quick nut over orgasm, short-term gratification over long-term satisfaction, as well as taking shortcuts in building relationships with comrades, allies, and partners.

And so I have committed myself to developing tools, resources, and opportunities for us to strengthen our erotic capabilities in these challenging times. I am investing in the creation of artist, cultural, and educational projects designed to advance our sexual health and wellbeing. And I welcome partnerships, coalitions, and alliances based upon shared principles and values toward that goal. It is not lost on me that I do this at a time when social conservatives and corporatists are stepping up their ongoing assault on progressive, socially engaged, and critical art and education. Rumors of plans to defund the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts  (NEA), which had already been undermined by changes since the NEA4, foretell the possibly of a future that is eerily similar to past attacks on the arts by other regimes. And the nomination of a billionaire education corporatist to be US Secretary of Education only serves to continue the perpetuation of the US educational system as a vehicle of social control, miseducation, and deculturalization.

Stay tuned in the days, weeks, and months ahead for details.

 

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