Wednesday, April 13, 2016

AUDRE LORDE, THE USES OF THE EROTIC

There are many kinds of power, 
used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise.
The erotic is a resource within each of us 
that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, 
firmly rooted 
in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. 
In order to perpetuate itself, 
every oppression 
must corrupt or distort 
those various sources of power within 
the culture of the oppressed 
that can provide energy for change. 

For women, 

this has meant a suppression of the erotic 
as a considered source of power 
and information within our lives.
We have been taught to suspect this resource, 
vilified, abused, and devalued 
within western society. 

On the one hand, 

the superficially erotic 
has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority; 
on the other hand, 
women have been made to suffer 
and to feel both contemptible 
and suspect by virtue of its existence.

It is a short step 

from there to the false belief 
that only by the suppression of the erotic 
within our lives and consciousness 
can women be truly strong. 
But that strength is illusory, 
for it is fashioned 
within the context of male models of power.

As women, 
we have come to distrust that power 
which rises from our deepest and non-rational knowledge. 
We have been warned against it all our lives 
by the male world, 
which values this depth of feeling 
enough to keep women around 
in order to exercise it 
in the service of men, 
but which fears this same depth too 
much to examine the possibilities of it 
within themselves.


So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position 

to be psychically milked, 
much the same way ants maintain colonies of aphids 
to provide a life-giving substance for their masters.
But the erotic offers a well of replenishing 
and provocative force to the woman 
who does not fear its revelation, 
nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.

The erotic has often been misnamed by men 
and used against women. 
It has been made into the confused, 
the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation. 
For this reason, 
we have turned away from 
the exploration and consideration of the erotic 
as a source of power and information, 
confusing it with the pornographic. 

But pornography is a direct denial 

of the power of the erotic, 
for it represents the suppression of true feeling. 
Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.

The erotic is a measure 
between our sense of self 
and the chaos of our strongest feelings. 
It is an internal sense of satisfaction 
to which, once we have experienced it, 
we know we can aspire. 
For having experienced the fullness 
of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, 
in honor and self-respect 
we can require no less of ourselves....

Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. 
So we are taught to separate the erotic 
from most vital areas of our lives other than sex. 
And the lack of concern for the erotic root 
and satisfactions of our work is felt 
in our disaffection from so much of what we do. 
For instance, how often do we truly love our work 
even at its most difficult?

The principal horror of any system 
which defines the good in terms of profit 
rather than in terms of human need, 
or which defines human need 
to the exclusion of 
the psychic and emotional components of that need 
- the principal horror of such a system 
is that it robs our work of its erotic value, 
its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. 
Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, 
a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion 
for ourselves and those we love. 

But this is tantamount to blinding a painter 

and then telling her to improve her work, 
and to enjoy the act of painting. 
It is not only next to impossible, 
it is also profoundly cruel.

As women, 
we need to examine the ways 
in which our world can be truly different. 
I am speaking here of the necessity 
for reassessing the quality 
of all the aspects of our lives and of our work, 
and of how we move toward and through them.

The very word erotic 
comes from the Greek word eros, 
the personification of love 
in all its aspects - born of Chaos, 
and personifying creative power and harmony. 
When I speak of the erotic, then, 
I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; 
of that creative energy empowered, 
the knowledge and use of 
which we are now reclaiming 
in our language, 
our history, 
our dancing, 
our loving, 
our work, 
our lives....

Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase, 
"It feels right to me," 
acknowledges the strength of the erotic 
into a true knowledge, 
for what that means is the first and most 
powerful guiding light toward any understanding. 

And understanding is a handmaiden 

which can only wait upon, or clarify, 
that knowledge, deeply born. 
The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid 
of all our deepest knowledge.
~Audre Lorde