Today’s BBC news reports that “[a] Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his ‘wife’, after he was caught having sex with the animal.”
“The goat’s owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders,” the BBC continues. “They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.
‘We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together,’ Mr Alifi said.”
As amusing as the story is (but, for god’s sake, nobody tell PETA), it illustrates the common habits of men (and no doubt women) who live in cultures, including greath swaths of the U.S., run by religious institutions that repress natural human sexuality.
In the hills [in the late 1960s] I was shooting a session with some medical students from Stanford and the Sexual Freedom League illustrating a Ken Kesey project. The basic premise was that the doctors spend all their time at school and in hospitals and are not exposed to the free life in the real world. Kesey felt that they were losing their sensitivity. This unknown old man walked in and sat down on the bench among some people sitting around. Suddenly they all got up, took off their clothes and danced around him. He refused to remove his clothes even when the women pulled at them. Everyone kept asking “Who is that old man?”
Somewhere in Yemen, as well as in the red states, there are many men who wish they’d been that old man on that day.
And, below, what does this have to do with anything on this blog?
A lot of you have admonished (and in some cases outright condemned me or labeled me) because I dared to find lightness — and light — in a controversy.
One difference between some of you and me, it’s occurred to me, is generational. A lot of you are simply too young to know the rather revolutionary times through which people like me have lived. Therefore, you don’t perhaps appreciate how hard we fought for, experimented with, and sought expressive freedom. Often, just to say words that were forbidden.
I grew up in the repressed 1950s. We did NOT say the word “pregnant.” (And nobody on television said it either.) I knew nothing about various sexual body parts and their functions, except when I sneaked a peek at the book on marital sex that my mother hid in the back of her bedside table drawer.
What DID I know? I knew, even when I was a tiny girl, that young women who got pregnant outside marriage were ruined forever, were a disgrace to their families and — most frightening — were condemned from a bright future because “no decent man” would ever marry them. (Trust me when I tell you that I spent endless childhood hours trying to figure out how a girl could avoid getting pregnant since it seemed, from my vantage, to just “happen” to some girls and that they must have done something wrong, but what I had no clue.)
You get the picture. Then I get to Stanford. By my sophomore year, I’d participated in an anti-war sit-in in the university president’s office and was accustomed to walking by the “Sexual Freedom” table in the quad, which made me somewhat uncomfortable but aroused my curiosity.
I so wish I still had the button I picked up from those rather rowdy sexual freedom advocates. It said, “If it moves, fondle it.”
I had a pal at Stanford who I knew already from state high school debate tournaments. He came from the state capitol city, Olympia (which boasted the greatest public high school in the state, brilliant students, and the scariest debate team to come up against). I came from a tiny farming town in Eastern Washington. Mel and I had met at a high school debate camp, and became fast friends who corresponded until we both ended up at Stanford.
Mel belonged to a fraternity that some say partly inspired the movie, “Animal House.” (It fit the bill, and had been long banned by the national organization. One member went off to NYC and appeared in several of Andy Warhol’s films. Surprise features at the parties included laughing gas and an unending array of drugs, which I avoided, thank goodness.) Mel invited me as his date to the Polack party. He knew I’d need help with a costume, so he came with a large bowling shirt, under which we stuffed a pillow … he told me I was to be a pregnant Polack war bride .. and I spontaneously grabbed that sex freedom button out of a drawer and, twisting its original meaning, fastened it on my pillowy preggers tummy.
The costume was a hit. The party was riotously fun. And, because especially on a campus with a ratio of men to women of 3-1/2 to 1 and where I was told for the first time in my life that I was “beautiful,” was finally “feelin’ my oats” and Mel and I were mostly friends (at least that’s how I saw it), I ended up going “home” with someone else.
(And, surely these days, such a party or costume would be roundly condemned by all the PC enforcers on today’s college campuses, about which Bill Maher spoke so eloquently and rather sadly last night.)
Since those “heady” days, many scholars have weighed in ponderously on that sexual revolution.
But, for me personally, it was hugely liberating. I could SPEAK words I’d never spoken before. Inside, it felt shocking. It still is. Sometimes, I’m completely unnerved by the TV ads for male “enhancement” products and I’ve never become used to the title of Eve Ensler’s play, “Vagina Monologues.” Even when I saw in the local Sunday paper that the arch-right, Bush-lovin’, spotted-owl-shootin’ logging town of Forks — around which so much national forest has been logged that the hills look like a nuclear bomb went off but where there’s a museum to memorialize the rapacious logging — was doing a production of “Vagina Monologues,” I was shocked a bit. (But it cracks ME UP that the nearest town to Forks is Sappho.)
Hey, you never quite get over being so thoroughly repressed in the KEY developmental years, but — boy howdy — do I ever appreciate the chance to have unlearned so much of that tripe. So, when I’m ordered, condemned, and shunned (!) for saying what I think, and about an intellectually interesting subject that I’d rather naively thought we could discuss, it’s a true blow.
We have not progressed. Nowadays, I can scarcely keep up with what’s alright to discuss and what’s all-of-a-sudden verboten. I’m also eternally damned because I happen to have a wildly imaginative, irreverent mind that “travels freely” in its thinking, and which finds subjects that, oh, I wish we could discuss rationally even if they’re “sensitive topics.”
I wish I could give you the list of topics I’d have liked to have written about recently. But even mentioning them would provide “ammo” for some.
So, these days, I tiptoe through the prissy pursed two-lips who disapprove, and who rule what’s alright and what isn’t. And who shun.
If time travel is ever a reality, I think I’ll return to the mid-1960s. It’s the only era of my life that ever made any sense because nothing was “settled,” everything was an experiment …
… and everybody but the horrified administrators was too busy exploring to stop and police each other.
Of course, the time travel would have to be precisely calibrated to circa 1965-1967. Within two to three years of my sophomore fun, it’d all become deadly serious, and the thought police were everywhere, most particularly on the far left which by then could only speak what was in Mao’s little red book or in admiration of Stalin and Lenin.
As an old acquaintance wrote me recently, ” I watched this same crap in the ’60s and ’70s when ultra-leftists started browbeating social democratic leftists for “not being ‘revolutionary’ enough. These people wrecked the left in this country and tainted us all for two decades with their bullshit.”
Right on, bro. Power to the people. (But only if they can handle freedom. Some clearly can’t. To quote the King, “They hate our freedoms.” He’s right. A lot of people on the left hate our freedoms too.)
I was walking back to CCAC with some fellow art students when we came to a Goodwill box. Next to it was a bathtub. One guy took off his clothes, jumped into the tub and starts using an old brush to wash his back. As I got ready to take his picture, I noticed my other two friends kissing in the phone booth. A spontaneous street theater event right next to the busiest street in Oakland. (From Larry Keenan)