Writer-Counselor-Wellbeing Coach

Category: Sexuality

Sacred ties

Sacred is a word tied to religion or God and I don't like my writings to contain words or phrases that may present a barrier to people who have different beliefs or no beliefs in this regard.   So I searched for another word.

I couldn't find one that had the same depth of reverence that I wanted to discuss.    But not reverence in a religious respect.  Reverence in the valuing and respect worthy of it.  Maybe even in the bond of mother and baby itself exists a kind of spirituality and that's why the word seems to fit the best.

The only other word I found that said something in a little more  secular way was 'indissoluble', but it really doesn't sound as special.    It is however a perfect descriptor for the perpetual nature of the bond between mother and child.  It cannot be dissolved by death or by separation.  I am sticking with sacred, and hope those who aren't religious will hear the word as describing an otherwise indescribable depth and value.

We now know amazing things that may contribute to this longing for biology with scientific discoveries that fetal cells are found in the bodies of mothers decades after pregnancy.  Perhaps this contributes to the physical and emotional yearning we have toward our children when we hold within our bodies the very cells of the children we carried in pregnancy

When I listen to stories of mothers who have lost children to adoption, I try to imagine what my life would have been like if the same had happened to me.  As a 17yr old mother the road wasn't easy, however I cannot even begin to imagine how much harder it would have been knowing my daughter was out there somewhere needing me.  It feels as though every cell of my being would have been yearning for her in every moment of my life.

When I hear stories of adult adoptees, some of whom yearned for their family of origin even as children and even if they were loved by, and loved their adoptive family, I imagine that as well.    My own mother had just turned 17 when I was born, at a time when unmarried mothers often endured huge coercion, and sometimes force to give up their babies.   My mother was fortunate that my then 19yr old father married her.   At that time it was the only saving grace for a pregnant teenager.

Would I have yearned for my mother?   Would I have known something was missing?  I have no doubt about it.   As I've grown older I see the significance of my maternal line as the roots of my entire ancestry.  I see the strength of my maternal grandmother who endured great hardships during the war and who emigrated to Australia from Germany with my then 6yr old mother in tow.   I see my own strength and resilience in my mother who spent her life working full time in an environment not always supportive of women who chose this path.   I see her commitment.   I also see myself when I look at them, something people who grow up in adoptive families can never do; search the eyes of those who love them and see something of themselves to connect them.

The grief I hear from both mothers and adoptees  is palpable.  The not knowing where your child is, how they are, is they are even alive, an added layer of complexity and trauma to accommodate.   Even in reunion the loss continues.   Meeting an adult who grew up in a different family, with different values, a whole different view of the world, is not the same as healing the arms that longed for a baby, a toddler, a child and all the milestones of your child's life.   For adults meeting a mother who may reveal that she never wanted to lose them, or looking for a mother who to this day has kept them a secret and now can't meet them, the road is paved with more pain and confusion.

What prompted me to once again address this issue is the concept of the sacred ties.  When do they begin?   When do cells from a fetus make their way in to the mother's body where they can remain for her life?   Is it in the first weeks of pregnancy?   The final weeks of pregnancy?  We know that pregnant women, even very early in pregnancy and even when they are contemplating, or have decided on termination will cradle their wombs with a hand, often unconsciously.   I've heard the confusion in the words and tones of women talking about whether to have an abortion or not.  The move from words of 'this pregnancy is just too hard' to 'I don't know how I will support this baby'.   From 'I've always been pro-choice so this should be easier' to 'I can't think of it like a baby, even though I guess it is'.

I've heard women describe sitting in an abortion clinic waiting room saying they had to force themselves not to think, not to look at anyone else, to stay focused on just getting 'it' done and getting out of there.   I've heard dozens of descriptions of other women and girls in waiting rooms, crying, staring blankly, also looking determined not to make eye contact or be swayed from what they are there to do.    I've yet to hear any story of women smiling, encouraging, expressing a sense of autonomy or freedom as they sit and wait.

What of their sacred ties to their child?  Do they already have fetal cells from this baby circulating within their bodies?   I know that many of these women also yearn for and mourn their lost babies.    Their grief is as palpable as the grief of mothers who lost to adoption.   I have been in a room with women who sob as they tell of nightmares of crying babies they can't find, women who relive that moment of 'what am I doing here' just as they succumb to anaesthetic for a termination, women who wake after a termination and wail about what they have just done, already wishing they could undo it.  I hear from women regularly who have begun a medical abortion and now wish desperately to stop it.

What binds all these women except the sacred ties; to their children, to each other, to our maternal history; one that so many of us have forgotten, or been forced to forget as we devalue all that is womanhood.  We moved from the forced removal of women's babies to shame them and provide children for more 'suitable' parents, to the forced removal of women's babies through abortion.   We sold adoption to earlier women as the solution to their shame and a way for them to get on with their lives with a 'fresh start'.    We sell abortion to women as a sign of their independence and autonomy and as the only way in which they can fully participate in the social world. 

In both of these situations we use the time of a woman's greatest vulnerability, to undermine her greatest strength.  When she is feeling alone, anxious, scared about her future, we reinforce these by telling her the best and easiest solution is to not have her child.   We sell adoption through words like 'selfless' 'brave' 'loving' and that her baby will have a better future, with loving parents, as though the future she could give her own child is too terrible to contemplate.    We sell abortion in the setting of fetal medical conditions as 'compassionate' and 'loving' and 'saving your baby from suffering'.     We literally turn the woman's love, compassion, courage, and strength to do all she can to protect her child and give him/her the best, against her by convincing her that she isn't 'best', that her love is deficient, that she could never cope.    We sell abortion in other circumstances by undermining her sense of what she can accomplish, that she will never get her promotion, her degree, the right man, if she has a baby in tow, that children are an interruption to life.  

How did it happen that women led the charge to freedom by telling each other that there are no sacred ties; that the only way to have all that men had was to give up all that women had?    How is it that women attributed so much greater value to men's worlds that they not only willingly gave up the value of their own, but now they encourage other women to do the same no matter what the cost?   How is it that we lost touch with the strength and value of ourselves as women and allowed these to be labelled and demeaned as weakness?

Why didn't women demand that society move to accommodate them?   Why didn't they demand educational opportunities that accommodated their pregnancy and parenting needs, workplaces that allowed flexible practises for both parents and support for one another to achieve all that they are capable of?    We live in a world where we perceive greater gender equality now, yet women are still forced to choose between motherhood and education or motherhood and career.    Motherhood has become an isolated, unsupported journey that so many undertake, bewildered, overwhelmed, and alone in their own homes. 

Women got us here.  Women must get us back.   We have to take back everything we lost, including our dignity and value as women.   Women are slowly being erased, both in language, our reproductive capability, and our equality.   The major contributor to infertility is age, with so many women still uneducated about their own bodies and the fact that child bearing is a time limited option.  

We are already living The Handmaid's Tale where fertility was lost and only a few left to reproduce.  At the moment, the rich predominantly buy their babies from the bodies of poor women in developing countries.   There have already been media stories of gay couples asserting their 'right' to children meaning their 'right' to use the bodies of women to produce them and stories of celebrity couples expecting 'their' child, produced from the body of an unidentified, irrelevant woman.  

How far down this path to we have to travel before it will be too late and all women will be subject to reproductive laws totally outside their control?  All  because they bought the lie that in order to have any kind of life you need to deny, suppress or destroy sacred ties or at the very least that you should see your reproductive capacity as the enemy.

I want a different world for the generations of women to follow me.  I want them to be able to see generations of women following them and I want them to know their value, in every sphere of life.   It is going to take an uproar.   I hear the rumblings in the voices of those women and men who recognise the deception they succumbed to or that was perpetrated on them.   I hear it from mothers who lost children to adoption or abortion.  I hear it from adult adoptees, who lost their family ties and even as adults have few rights to regain them.  I hear it from professionals who bear witness to the suffering and silencing of these women and men in their consulting rooms every day.   Until we break the silence and demand the voices be heard, each of them will continue to feel they are alone, again buying the lie that their greatest strength doesn't exist: in this case their strength in numbers.

We must reclaim our womanhood for the future of both women and of men.






State sanctioned rape of children

As parents, we generally want to do everything we can to protect our children against life's harshest circumstances.  Many of us go to great lengths to do so.  Some may work very long hours in undesirable jobs to make sure their children are well fed, clothed and educated.   Parents often make personal sacrifices so that their children's lives are somewhat better than perhaps their own had been and to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed.  Parents would surely do everything humanly possible to protect their children from physical and emotional harm, and it would be hard to hold back the outrage against any person who threatened or hurt them.

Imagine then, a scenario where your 12yr old daughter comes to you because she has been sexually assaulted.   You call the authorities, or take her to a local doctor, first of all to ensure that she is physically okay, and secondly to find out what you need to do to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice and your child will be safe.  She might be examined and probably questioned about what happened to her.   She is then told that there is something even worse than this that could happen.. in fact, it is so bad, that the first thing that needs to happen is that her body needs to be chemically altered to ensure it is impossible.   A small metal rod needs to be inserted under her skin so that she won't fall pregnant.   Having a baby would be terrible.   She might wonder how on earth she would be having a baby;  you are probably wondering the same thing; perhaps concerned that you're misunderstanding; perhaps they think she might already be pregnant and that's what they are talking about.

The doctor then explains to you that 'no, she isn't pregnant, but we don't want her to get pregnant do we... you know.. when this happens again.'

What you have just been offered is the solution currently on offer to a number of Indigenous communities in our country, where pregnancy is considered intolerable, but rape of children is tolerated.  Children from Indigenous communities in Queensland are being given contraceptive implant to prevent pregnancy when it is known they have been sexually abused, sometimes for years.   They are then sent back to the perpetrators, who are not charged, and are perhaps expected to be happy that they have been saved from a fate worse than repeated rape:  an 'unwanted' baby.   Tolerated isn't in fact a strong enough word for this.  When we sterilise girl children so that they won't get pregnant, knowing that the most likely way this will happen is if they are raped, you are not only condoning the actions of rapists, but encouraging them. 

In what ways must a mother have given up hope for her own life, and the life of her child, for her to give her consent to such an action?  What are we saying about the value of the lives of these little girls when we tell them that having a child would be worse than being raped, therefore we are going to ensure the former doesn't happen and send you back to the danger? 

Why isn't this making every national headline, repeatedly?  It is nothing short of state sanctioned rape of vulnerable children, and it has to stop. 

Aphrodite and sex

aphrodite1Mythology, particularly feminine mythology has been a life-long passion of mine.  I have seen the mythological stories play out in my own life, and in the lives of clients, friends and family and I have been thankful for the insight that mythological story has helped me develop when living out my own tragedies and triumphs.   As an educator, I found that the reading of stories to a group could elicit a completely different perspective when then discussing the topic of the day, with people's minds engaged not only on the doable, but the dreamable.

At a series of seminars I attended in the USA, facilitated by one of my favourite authors,  Thomas Moore,  I was re-introduced to some of these stories in ways which have helped me think anew about some issues we face today.   One of these is the issue of sexualisation, or more importantly the hyper-sexualisation that our social world subjects children to in particular.   It is difficult to walk down any street, or enter many stores without being exposed to overtly sexual imagery.  While such exposure is less of an issue for most adults, there is evidence that early and pervasive exposure to sexual content can be harmful to children.  Moore talked about the way in which the gods and goddesses of mythology will make their displeasure known if they are ignored, or their significance not given its due respect. In terms of sexuality, few surpass Aphrodite in significance.

If you know anything of Aphrodite, you may be familiar with some of the stories of her wrath when those around her failed to give her her due.  As the Goddess of pleasure, beauty, love and procreation, Aphrodite brought a uniquely feminine power to sexuality, which she wielded without mercy when ignored.  Interestingly, the punishments she dispensed to those who ignored her often reduced the act of sex to a functional, unwanted act that left those who were cursed often having or desiring lots of sex, but in ways that were considered distasteful or forbidden.

When Hippolytos scorned Aphrodite to live a life in worship of the less sexual Artemis, Aphrodite caused his step-mother to fall in love with and pursue him.

When the Princes of Rhodes drove Aphrodite away, it is said she inflamed them with unnatural passions which led them to commit a variety of sexual crimes and ultimately be killed.

Other mythological characters who scorned or rejected the beauty and sensuality offered by Aphrodite suffered a variety of fates, including being turned into prostitutes, developing unnatural affections for relatives or betraying those they loved.

She was a pretty vengeful Goddess.

It would appear on the surface today, that with sex everywhere we look; on our televisions, on billboards, in supermarkets, magazines, and of course the internet, that maybe we're getting a little too much of it.   Looking through the lens of mythology, I wonder if we should consider that it isn't that we're getting too much sex, but that we're getting too little of what is important about it.

Today sexuality is often touted as simply a recreational activity, devoid of emotion, as much a 'need' as that for food or water.  Many young people have bought this message.  We have teenagers having sex at younger ages.  We have rampant sexually transmitted infections.  Unintended pregnancies lead to a very high number of abortions.  Children are being exposed to sexual images in public and on the internet that their minds aren't yet ready to process and which give them an unrealistic and distorted view of sex and of each other.

Yet people don't seem to be much happier for being able to fulfill this 'necessary appetite' in this way.  I've had several young women over the years attend my private practice who talk about the ways in which they have to act in order to fit into the social-sexual world of their peers.  It is expected that if your girlfriend's boyfriend brings a mate along to a party, and your girlfriend goes off to have sex, that you would 'entertain' the mate in a similar fashion.   If you don't, there is something very wrong with you.   If you do, and you get pregnant, you're a total idiot who better fix it quickly.  If you do and you get an STI, the stigma, even among those who push you down that pathway can be debilitating.  Young women simply can't win.  The expectation on young men to always be ready to perform is also great, and often comes with different risks as they navigate issues of consent in today's political climate of #metoo.

The fact is, that in most things relational, we are not just physical beings.  Even food isn't just about feeding an appetite.  We love to prepare it, to display it, to taste it.  We have favourite foods.  We love to eat in the company of people we care about.  It isn't just functional.  It engages our senses, reminds us of people, places, and things.  Eating has an emotional and relational component that we don't ignore.

So does sex.  Aphrodite punished those who scorned the kind of sexuality she offered, by forcing on them a sexuality that destroyed them.  Yes, we are sexual beings.  But this doesn't mean we should consider sex as simply a functional act, devoid of depth.  Just as we lovingly prepare food, celebrate special occasions with food, share food with people we love in order to create beautiful memories, we should also honour sex.   In fact, we should honour sex a great deal more, given that is with our bodies that we share it.

I would argue that while we appear to be over-exposed to sex, it is the wrong kind of sex that is more of the issue.  We are teaching children that sex is purely physical.  We teach men (and women) who are exposed to pornography that all you need is some over-sized physical equipment and a forceful nature and women (or men) will do your bidding without need for reward.

Yet the experience of sex for most is much more than this.  It isn't just about our bodies.  That's not to say sex can't be just plain fun in the context of something richer, but it is the something richer that is missing.  As the Goddess of sexuality, Aphrodite didn't just demand lots of rampant sex.  She was also the Goddess of beauty, of love, of passion, and of procreation.  There is a depth to all of these things that is less likely to be met by random strangers.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but in a mythological sense, I wonder what would happen if we gave sex a higher place in the world and in our thinking, a greater honour for the beauty and passion it can offer?

As politically incorrect as it appears to have become, we could begin a new conversation that places the power of sexuality, of both the feminine and the masculine qualities on a bit more of a pedestal.  Sexuality is powerful.   It is innately feminine and masculine regardless of sexual inclinations.   Perhaps we could learn to celebrate and honour that and teach our children something of passion, love and the richness of sensuality in a way that doesn't just need to be about myth, but about what they can truly aspire to.



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