“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… .”—
“One of the most important tools we can give young people — boys and girls alike — is the reminder that their sexuality belongs to them. Pleasure is a deep and profound good, and for all of what we imagine to be their self-indulgence, young people today don’t have nearly as much healthy pleasure as they need. This is about more than teaching young people to masturbate without shame (though that’s never a bad idea.) It’s about giving them the time and space and privacy to reflect on their sexuality as something that belongs to them. With young women, it’s about teaching the difference between the desire to be desired and desire itself. (I’ll deal with young men in another post.) It only takes a girl a few seconds to realize what someone else may want from her sexually. It often takes her much longer to figure out what she really wants, to discern the pleasure she gets from bringing pleasure to another from the pleasure she wants for herself. And once she’s figured that out, it’s vital to work to create a culture where she can articulate that want without shame.”—
…young girls, often barely into puberty, find themselves on the receiving end of the aggressive cultural sexualization that has become so commonplace in recent years. You combine the pressure to please with the requirement to be sexy, add in the wild overestimation of one’s own capacity to change and influence others for good, and top it off with the common and tragic overestimation of one’s capacity to suffer, and you’ve got a young woman keenly aware of how she appears to others and what others want from her — and far less capacity to articulate her own desires.
Not every young girl experiences herself as an object of desire. But virtually every young girl is aware that young women are “supposed” to be desired. Unprecedented opportunities to compete on an equal playing field educationally, socially and financially with men have done damn all to release young women from the pressure to be sexually alluring. And given how blunt and brazen so many of their male peers (and, sadly, so many much older men) are about what they want sexually, it’s little wonder that developing one’s own sexuality is often a much-later development than developing one’s sexiness.
Last year, a friend of mine sent a shipment of green rubber flooring, at great impractical expense, to a villa in the south of France because she was worried that over the summer holiday her toddler would fall on the stone floor. Generations of French children may have made their way safely to adulthood, walking and falling and playing and dreaming on these very same stone floors, but that did not deter her in her determination to be safe. This was, I think, an extreme articulation of our generation’s common fantasy: that we can control and perfect our children’s environment. And lurking somewhere behind this strange and hopeless desire to create a perfect environment lies the even stranger and more hopeless idea of creating the perfect child.
Though I’m not (and likely will never be) a parent, I found myself resonating with this article a lot…mostly because I do this to myself, most of the time. Overly high expectations for myself and all that. Sigh.