Memoirs of a Superfan Volume 16.5: On OnlyFans, Hardasses, Badasses, the Abrahamic Faiths, and the Great Vehicle of Liberation and Compassion

September 18, 2021
Ravi Chandra, M.D.

Every prominent hardass in our psychic and relational lives births necessary badasses, or alternately, painful, soul-murdering psychic defeats. Hardass controls come to us in many religious and cultural forms, but most prominently and dangerously in the Abrahamic faiths. They create a fundamental split in the psyche, especially along gender lines, leading to fallout in body image, eating disorders, alienated and destructive sexualized aggression, shame, and hierarchies of conformity, acceptability and perceived social power. The resultant torment and unrest is welcomed by the most sociopathic and selfish of the hardasses, who have learned through long practice how to push society’s buttons and so remain empowered and cause distress. Power-moves subordinate and displace empathy and compassion. Accepting, loving, and understanding our badass selves – those that resist oppressive historical forces – is the most urgent and necessary form of compassion. We must not become complicit to soul murder, but allow ourselves to give birth and continuity to our great human soul of feeling, conscience, and consciousness, deeply related and embodying our deepest love, foundational for our journey in time. In a world of hardasses, badasses, and tormented and murdered souls, we need more of what I call Platinum Club Frequent Fliers to handle our trip – people who know how to be really present and related to their fellow travelers. Together, we will determine our destination, and destiny. As a psychiatrist and Superfan, I vow to do my best to be a Platinum Club BFFFF – Badass Frequent Flier Friend Forever. As I wrote, years ago, “every heart is a rescue boat.” All hands on deck. The great vehicle of universal liberation and compassion calls us to be friends, companions and allies, and we cannot survive without it. It is, above all, a relation-ship. I’ve called the First Noble Truth (“Life entails suffering”) the “first horrible truth” or the “first global truth.” Dealing with the suffering (isolation, frustration, and anguish) that comes with sexuality and gender relations must be a high priority on our journeys of our individual and shared journeys of identity, belonging and wellness. It continues to be agonizing and dismaying, but perhaps we must hold all this suffering in full consciousness, community, and compassion for there to be some hope at resolution and even enlightenment. (Trigger warning on content which includes some biologically explicit language.)

“Catharine A. MacKinnon is a lawyer, scholar, writer, teacher and activist. She teaches law at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School and works for sexually violated people around the globe.”

Professor MacKinnon’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times about OnlyFans (“OnlyFans Is Not a Safe Platform for ‘Sex Work.’ It’s a Pimp.” September 6, 2021) takes aim at the “world pornography has made,” whose ugly costs include “desensitizing consumers to violence” and spreading rape myths and other lies about women’s sexuality. I know nothing about OnlyFans, and I trust her observations and opinions are sincere and add substantively to the debate in this particular matter. I absolutely share her concern about the costs of pornography and a world that is all too often bent in the direction of sexualized male aggression, and aggression and antagonism more generally, creating problems borne most visibly and frequently by girls and women, but impacting sexual identities and psychological journeys of men, women, people of all genders, and society itself. However, the understandable moral outrage in this area does not deal with the root injuries causing the problems we see: principally, inter-gender and internal psychic splits which leaves many boys and men alienated, unrelated, conflicted and thus desperate for pleasurable contact, control, and temporary relief and release, sometimes at any cost, leaving conscience aside and in fact split off from their journeys of identity, belonging, and wellness. Sexual pleasure and pornography, and unfortunately, even sexual aggression, can become compelling, even irresistible vehicles towards a sensation of contact with another and letting go of the self and the moralistic and tyrannical forces which have demanded sexual and societal separation and stratification. It’s not pretty, it’s extremely painful, and I wish it could all change for the better. But that won’t happen unless people of all genders can transform judgmentalism to compassion and understanding of suffering, while also pressing for accountability, growth, and mutuality in gender relations.

Adobe stock image by monitor6, licensed by Ravi Chandra

Again, I know nothing about OnlyFans. I only know about being a Superfan of my fellow human beings and their journeys in life. Something this Superfan knows in detail is that familial, cultural, and religious judgments on our sexual journeys are cruel, oppressive, and still extant and threatening. They are in fact growing in strength, from Poland to Texas, because sexual repression and scapegoating of sexual identity has been the easiest shock collar of right-wing cult control for at least 2000 years. But we are at a turning point. We must ensure safety for sexual journeys, even as we support healthy body images, self-worth, and understandings of desire, love, and compassion, for all people.

Adobe stock image by belokrylowa, licensed by Ravi Chandra

I question whether MacKinnon, distinguished law professor, understands gender relations or the psychologies of men or women at all. At best, she is advancing a social agenda, but this ignores complicated and deeper psychological, relational and historical issues. My last essay asked whether it’s better “to understand or to be understood.” I’m not sure if MacKinnon’s line of discourse satisfies either imperative, and nowhere is it more imperative to understand and be understood than in gender relations. However, chances and costs of misunderstanding are extraordinarily high. As I wrote in an essay in 2014 after the Isla Vista massacres, where a male assailant wrote a misogynistic manifesto about his sexual frustration before murdering 6 people, including 2 women, and wounding 13 others:

 “This ‘world-defining relationship’ of men and women, marred in the extreme by violence, is prime evidence of the world’s brokenness and suffering. It is also, by nature, the main hope for the world’s redemption, which must, of course, be in the triumph of love. If there is a gender war, there are many more gender collaborators. We are, after all, not entrenched enemies. We’re mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, partners, friends. Community.

With, one hopes, a mutual, common destiny.”

“I feel for you/I think I love you”

These words still remain tragically relevant to me, seven years later. My Asian American community was deeply affected by the Atlanta spa shootings in March, 2021. A young White man caught up in his church’s purity culture committed mass murder, killing 8 people including 6 Asian American women, whom he devalued and sexualized. Every day brings new reminders, on social media, in real life, and in my practice of psychotherapy, of brutal outcomes and painful divides in our fraught psychology, where our gender and racial identities form our most essential roots.

In 2021, it appears to this humble private practice psychiatrist that power myths and savior complexes are meeting a deeper reality which calls for understanding and relatedness, not shame, blame, judgment and persecution. Nowhere is this more evident than in sexuality and gender relations. In therapy and in friendship, people speak frankly of sexual experiences in ways that might shock conservative or narrow individuals into recoil and judgment rather than understanding. Presence and companionship with intimate matters is vitally needed if we are to move forward.

The MeToo movement has been critical, but it is at an ebb as it faces an entrenched structure that is identified as patriarchy. To get flow, we need a more comprehensive understanding of the ocean of gendered selfhood and its palpable forces of tide and storm. I believe that patriarchy is a functional component of or complement to the Great Mother archetype, a feminine principle which, womb-like, provides all but also demands total obedience, rigidity, purity, and particularly, conformity to stereotypical gender roles. It doesn’t matter whether the Great Mother and patriarchy are in cahoots or are at war, the outcome is the same: a gendered psychic split which they cannot resolve, but which lands on and frustrates anyone with conscience. This is a dilemma which cannot be solved in the head, but which must be enacted in actual journeys of relationship, many of which are necessarily intimate, erotic, and sexual in nature.

Here’s my Superfan update of the Superfriends archetypes. You’re welcome!

Power myths and savior complexes create the sense that self-righteous rage does five things: it raises awareness; defends the vulnerable; brings down those it designates as bad actors through legal systems or public humiliation; expands a platform for justice; and somehow paradoxically increases the level of consciousness and sensitivity around vulnerability itself, through the use of power tactics.

They may well do all of these things, to greater or lesser extent, but they also founder by creating self-righteous distance and contempt for excruciatingly intimate material born by our humanity. The psychological split created by power myths and savior complexes relies on a behaviorist, prosecutorial, persecutorial, even avenging, wrathful, and judgmental, intercession into our behaviors, yes, but even into discomfort with fantasy and imagination.

In short, who wants Jesus Christ in their bedrooms? The Jesus who got all wound up about “lust”:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28, King James Version)

To which I say: “You spot it, you got it.” Methinks the Lordy doth protest too much.

Pornhub traffic increased dramatically during the 2016 Republican National Convention. The delegates included an anti-porn plank in their policy platform. Methinks the delegates also doth protest too much. See references.

Kidding aside, the sexualized cruelty and violence of monotheistic Western religious traditions have produced incalculable harm on the people of the world. Even now, their toxic misunderstanding of sexuality and human identity is wreaking havoc from Afghanistan to Austin to Atlanta, sister territories in the colossal, catastrophic, inexcusable failure of Abrahamic traditions.

Adobe stock image by jesussanz, licensed by Ravi Chandra

And this is not completely a question of patriarchy. Women are also understandably concerned about safety, but also often about power. Safety and power are often misconstrued by some women – including mothers and perhaps Professor MacKinnon – as a behavioral regulation issue rather than creating the conditions for deeper safety and lasting mutual empowerment through emotional, relational and experiential understanding for their children of all genders.

I’m sure there are some Christians who spout different translations of the above verse, and it’s quite possible that Jesus never even said any of this at all. But this is the crazed, psychotic, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, self-harming attitude towards sexuality that has been handed down to us in Western religious beliefs. St. Augustine was famously shamed about his spontaneous erections by his mother in 370 C.E., and then developed beliefs about Original Sin and the fall from the Garden of Eden that became foundational for Christian theology. Augustine was convinced that only full faith in Jesus would allow him to develop total willful power over his penis, and thus be free of the shame of having a member with its own mind.

I. Kid. You. Not. (See “How St. Augustine Invented Sex,” by Stephen Greenblatt in The New Yorker, June 12, 2017)

“How weird it is, Augustine thought, that we cannot simply command this crucial part of the body.”

This is one of the “geniuses” whose ideas have guided Western civilization? His ideas, frankly, are delusional. At best, they poetically connect the mythical dots within his narrow spiritual tradition, kind of like a sophisticated, cerebral QAnon hoax of the 4th Century. It is the height of ignorance of bio-psycho-socio-cultural reality, totally ungrounded, and false. His complicated relationship with his mother Monica, his African mistress, sexuality, shame, celibacy, and what must have been an egoic wish to be a major “influencer” for Christ and Christianity led him straight into heady fantasy and the concept that humanity was damaged; judged and only reparable through Christ. Thus, Christianity finds our human vulnerability, then expands and exploits it by claiming Christ is the pathway from it. One size fits all, and all must be made to fit the one size. Shame becomes the shoehorn.

In modern America, sexuality ranges from traumatized inhibitions to outrageous exhibitions. We often profess and display a relatively carefree attitude, but hidebound ancient attitudes still find their way into our intimacy, without sufficient and rigorous questioning. Conservative American Christian shame and disgust about sex and desire are weaponized most fiercely against women and people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community. They are the projected tools of White supremacy, tools of conquest, subordination, hatred, and violence.

Emmett Till never whistled. Tom Robinson never raped Mayella. The Central Park 5 were innocent. Christian Cooper didn’t threaten Amy Cooper.

The judgment of humanity will be on this tripe and nonsense that has derailed our psyches and societies for 2000 years and more. But we have to contend with the fact that this view of sexuality has been a primary and continuing source of cult power and control over human behavior and sense of acceptability and self-worth for all this time. It has been thoroughly corrosive, and this is no accident.

Jesus and Augustine seem most afraid of, or perplexed by, sex and death. To me, the two seem like fading celebrities and social media influencers who try to find cultural relevance as judges on the Christian game shows “Who’s Got Afterlife?” and “Repent: The End is Nigh!”

Adobe stock image by Krakenimages, licensed by Ravi Chandra

In my view, Catharine MacKinnon and others cannot complain about derailed and toxic masculine identity without also reading it as a conscious or unconscious response to 2000 years of misunderstanding, control, suppression, oppression and judgment in our gender relations, a response that White men typically get away with, but Black and Brown men are persecuted for. This misunderstanding has tacitly and explicitly sanctioned toxicity, because it has devalued compassion and common humanity in favor of power. Power, not compassion, love, or common humanity, have been the dominant principles of American and Western culture and ego development. All cultures have struggled with power and love. But power motives trigger us into counter-response, and pose an alarming threat to our collective survival.

Can we make love instead? Or is making love to be about power as well?

I wrote in MOSF 16.3 that history is primarily transmitted in feeling. Our sexual history in particular is being transmitted in agony and anguish, in torment over body image and desirability, in an evacuated and digitized landscape for human contact. Is there any wonder that many young people are looking for some way to feel good, if only for a moment, no matter the cost?

***

Erections generally feel good to men, and sometimes those who share my gender feel that their erections should make everyone feel good. Sharing is caring, right? The eggplant becomes a fave emoji during puberty, and somewhere along the line, we have to make more room for the care and mind-blown emojis. Sigh. Such is life.

Once again, you’re welcome!

I don’t know that any religious tradition centering male teachers is the best “final word” on sexuality or gender relations, particularly male teachers who had mothers who were judgmental, shaming, or narcissistic, like Augustine’s mother Monica. At least my own tradition, Buddhism, relies on mindfulness and compassion to generate insight and guide action and relationship. It also trusts the seeker to discover their own path, instead of simply relying on authority. Buddha, pretty famously, had really solid and public relationships with many, many women. This included the poorest prostitutes and women of wealth and privilege. He had a reputation for helping them with their suffering, no matter their occupation or station – not judging them for their lives. Buddhism and Buddhist teachers have not been free of the dangers of power and the abuse of power, though, and Buddhism is undertaking significant resets around gender relations, spearheaded by a large community of women teachers and lay practitioners.

Fostering good relationships between genders is better than judgmental authority by any gender, which leads to policing, which leads to both scofflaws and the need to be a scofflaw. OnlyFans appears to be the latest mole in the whack-a-mole of punitive judgment and escape from judgment that marks the cycles of suffering and power in American sexual life.

I would propose that getting out of this sordid tangle must push us to greater compassion, conversation, and healing of the gender split. Boys and men have a need for relatedness and touch, yet many do not get nearly enough of either. All people struggle for both autonomy and belonging. The needs for autonomy and satisfaction in sexual matters can complicate or even sideline informed decision making. There is both tremendous suffering and welcome joy in sexuality. Consent is a gigantic step towards safety and equality. Power and disempowerment are dangerous and avoidable outcomes. Our sexual journeys and desire cannot be isolated from our journeys of love, compassion, identity, belonging and wellness. They all come wrapped in the same package, if you will, which is as beautiful and complex as our vulnerable, resilient humanity. Sexuality, our own and others, might make us uncomfortable. And it should. It’s not something that has to or can be solved. Instead, we must explore, accept, understand, and relate. It can be a great source of comfort and enrich our lives immeasurably, and that’s exactly how it should be. And, of course, there’s often frustration, loneliness, and anguish in sexuality, and we have to learn how to deal with these difficult emotions and situations with compassion and relatedness.

“I run for the bus, dear/But while ridin’, I think of us, dear (us, dear)/I say a little (prayer for you)”

MacKinnon makes valid points regarding the need for systemic regulations. Others, such as Peggy Orenstein and Nancy Jo Sales have similarly called for greater awareness and understanding of vulnerability and the role that pornography and digital media are playing in distorting relatedness. David Mura’s 1987 essay Male Grief: Notes on Pornography and Addiction is still a groundbreaking look at the issues from a man’s perspective. (See references for links to all.)

There is no top-down systemic solution or judgment without widespread harm to individuals. And there is no individual solution without harming the systems which isolate and even incarcerate us emotionally. These systems of power, judgment, control and alienation have displaced the growth of relatedness, feeling, conscience, and consciousness.

In gender relations, now more than ever, we need healing circles, not shock collars. We need compassion, not shame, emotional stunting, and trauma.

My personal and individual solution to our deranged cultural systems?

Let’s fuck ‘em.

***

Purity demands and complete misunderstanding of sexuality, attraction, and even friendliness, from Asian and Abrahamic cultures in particular, intersect to produce quite a tangle of unresolved feeling and consciousness in the Asian American community. An older Chinese American man remarked to me once, “men are always assumed to be on the make, Ravi.” In his eyes and grin, I could see a patronizing and bullying tease that I, as a younger single man, was obviously an insatiable craven lust monster, wink wink. ICLM, for short. In that moment, he defined, defiled and limited me, as well as proclaiming himself an authority on male sexuality from a Chinese American perspective, in front of his true audience, a younger Chinese American woman whom he probably felt he had to impress, validate and somehow “protect” from my willingness to explore gender relations and my wish to advance the conversation out of the institutionalized and constitutionalized blame game, however awkwardly. In that moment, he affirmed the view that Asian male desire was inherently problematic, pathological, and parasocial, and that any desire I had should remain one-sided and stigmatized. And, of course, he affirmed that these conversations were awkward and should remain so. Fear, mistrust, misunderstanding, judgment and alienation were there, between the three of us. The fact that we were together physically was the sole balm, but I was the odd man out, the one who wasn’t party to business as usual.

“Stop, the love you save may be your own”

I didn’t want to be in the middle of Chinese American conversations about sexuality, desire, power, objectification, and possession, but here I was, and possibly still am. Please send reinforcements. In their scheme, the only “safe” male was possibly one who was married, and definitely one who was silent on matters of gender relations, and above all one who was subordinate to the understandable, but disproportionately applied, fears of women as a whole, particularly, in this case, Chinese American women; fears put into motion by history and the palpable possibilities of current experience. Thrown in the midst of this, it can feel almost impossible to be oneself, to find one’s identity between the projections and transferences made possible by a disconnected past and present. None of our gender identities is wholly acceptable in toto to all other parties. So we must rely on amplifying the receptive and collaborative qualities of acceptance. This has not happened, to date.

I think we are all in the middle of conversations that in important ways, are not really about us, but about causes, conditions and forces beyond us. And yet we have to find identity, belonging and wellness anyway, and perhaps this is the conversation we need to create, between the polarizations which drive us all nuts. Between and beyond emotional and intellectual valences lies safety, survival and growth. Can we find them?

“Papa was a rolling stone, my son/Wherever he laid his hat was his home/And when he died, all he left us was alone.”

I don’t think the worst of the Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese or other Asian historical transmissions on these matters should be our only inheritance as Asian Americans. Particularly because they fit all too neatly into the Abrahamic discomfort and lack of depth around these sensitive matters, and worsen the racist component of our gender divide. Our sexuality as Asian Americans becomes automatically suspect from all sides. Asian American men are bad and undesirable. Asian American women are exotic objects of lust. Asian American women are to be saved from bad and undesirable Asian men, by White men, of course, not by Asian American men, who are always, in the end, suspect, and in any case, weak.

The only thing fucked in this situation is our minds. Asian American women are strategically positioned to save and advance themselves, but I’m not at all clear how they see Asian American men in their journeys. Some of them clap back, on Twitter and in life, “do we even NEED to see Asian American men?”

I wouldn’t dare answer for them, but it does feel like something’s missing.

Contrary to this cultural belief in the badness of Asian American men, my Indian immigrant mother who raised me as a single mom has consistently warned me to be wary of women who might seek to take advantage of me. She has worried more for my safety and well-being, and has never for a moment worried that I would harm a woman. I think this is because she knows me, not because she is naïve. I have been super-pissed at several manipulative and psychologically abusive women (and men), so she was not totally wrong to warn me. Fortunately, my good experiences far, far outweigh the bad. Still, it would have been good and affirming for the two us to have talked about what good male behavior is and isn’t when I was growing up, though the examples in the negative direction have been pretty self-evident in my life. Individuals have to work out their own journeys of relatedness and belonging, I think. Affirmations would be nice on these journeys, but they seem to be rare and only come with Herculean effort, and only then, begrudgingly, a fact which engenders (pun intended) demotivation.

Men die by suicide almost 4 times as often as women. Currently, college enrollment in America is 60% women and 40% male. I’m obviously not in favor of male entitlement at female expense, but we can do better than reverse the situation, don’t you think? And of course, I recognize that women’s advancement still faces numerous obstacles. For example, Title IX college sports programs for women are in jeopardy. It should not have to take another century to get to gender equality. All parties can do better.

“This is a man’s world/This is a man’s world/But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing/without a woman or a girl”

***

Many Asian immigrant parents are notoriously avoidant or negative about sexuality. Their words still reverberate in younger generations, from what I’ve seen on discussion boards. “Don’t do it!” “Wait til you’re married!” “Only marry (insert one’s own ethnicity or White) people!” “Avoid darker skinned people!” “Only date a (Christian/Muslim/ Hindu)!” Sexuality becomes a taboo topic for children of immigrants, and the purity ethos of avoidance can extend from sexuality into all ways of relating. It’s part of the “cottony avoidance” and increasingly segregated relatedness I’ve noted over my years in San Francisco. The pan-Asian American relational field is ambiently present on social media and in some arts and community work, because many of us have actively created those connections. But to my observation, IRL inter-ethnic, inter-gender, and inter-generational relatedness had become an increasingly rare commodity, at least before COVID. I think social media has created awkwardness and distance in IRL relating for many. Actually, COVID may have improved some potential and heightened demand for relatedness, but our “return to normality” may sink all of that progress, which manifested in more and deeper conversations, new friends, and actually returned emails and texts.

Our “return to normality” includes a return to predominantly parasocial, or one-sided, relationships, particularly with people who think we don’t advance their particular interest or desire, and thus rate us as “inferior” or even “unnecessary,” or at best, part of their “audience.” Self-interested drives and economic survival demands have made relationships more transactional and less about understanding, care and mutual support, at least in the San Francisco I’ve witnessed. San Francisco has become Whiter, more elitist, more conformist, and more corporate over the course of my years here, although important progressive elements have blossomed at the same time. We talk a lot about solidarity, but how deep is it, across the Asian American gender divide?

“I’m awfully bitter these days/Because my parents were slaves/What do they call me? My name is Peaches”

I don’t think you can be friends with someone unless there’s a bit of chemistry or attraction in some form. I think a fair number of Asian Americans and others run from each other precisely because they like each other, and feel mirrored a little too closely. This complicates their American Dream of success and obtaining and maintaining “face” through achievement and autonomy, rather than relatedness. At the extreme, we become so dissociated from sexuality that we avoid, attack – and, this is going to sound weird – psychologically imprison – people to whom we are attracted. Attraction is powerful. Collectively denied attraction creates a palpable field of avoidance which others adhere to out of uncertainty and caution. We avoid because we see the ruin of our ambitions in the possibility of “hanging out” with people who value us for our humanity, rather than our net worth, because the latter can increase our own net worth. As a single man, it’s been assumed by many that there’s something “wrong” with me, rather than understanding the reality that my life is the product of complex causes and conditions involving unresolved issues of race, gender, and my own preferences for mutuality in friendship, as opposed to affiliation for advantage.

At 54, perhaps I am in fact closer to Augustine, hoping to make a difference in the culture rather than devoting my time to pursuing a romantic partner. Unlike Augustine, the difference I want to make is in grounded, real relationship, not in abstract devotion and subordination to religious delusion. This requires actual relationship and conversation, but all that is not quite up to spec yet, primarily because of this curious psychic split I have been observing and describing.

At the very least, I…uh, kind of tend to think a lot when things go badly. Maybe you noticed. And a lot of things have gone badly. And maybe this is why we’re still working on our relational field.

If we’ve been mind-fucked, I’d like us to get unstuck and unfucked, especially where race, gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation are concerned.

“Let’s make reservations for two/This is just between me and you/There will be no standing in line/Because tonight you’re mine”

***

I have just three questions for any person, whether atheist, agnostic, or of any faith or philosophy.

  1. How do you work with your suffering?

  2. How do you work with other people’s suffering?

  3. How do you treat people who believe differently than you?

How would Jesus and Augustine answer, particularly around sexuality? How are they informing us now? I can trace their 2000-year-old answers to purity ideals that manifest in Christian myths, such as those of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which has just inspired a movie starring Dev Patel as Gawain. These same purity ideals manifested around Aaron Long, the Atlanta spa shooter. Purity, of course, is masked hypocrisy and shallow understanding of psychology, behavior, feeling and emotion. Purity manifests throughout American history, casting non-Whites as impure and inferior. White society disproportionately targets Blacks and Browns for incarceration and death, and interferes with our ability to be seen and relate to each other as Asian Americans. White supremacy has not yet come to terms with its own flaws and criminal history, and instead projects these onto others, and we reflect them onto one another. Internalize them. Choke on them. Die.

How does American society deal with suffering? With sexual identity? How does American society treat people who fall out of the dominant culture’s mainstream?

We are not ok. We are still in a crisis of ignorance and malice.

“One can wish upon a star/two can make that wish come true, yeah/One can stand alone in the dark/Two can make the light shine through”

The Great Mother and the Patriarchy, the Abrahamic Faiths, and perhaps all religions, face off in their abusive streaks: judgmental, megalomanic, and ultimately insecure and unrelated, convinced that their power, and only their power, should rule. They treat us like spittoons. The world twists on between overbearing parents, no longer on speaking terms. The children of history do the best they can, to relate to one another, create a space of healing, out of spittle, phlegm, bile, earth and whatever heart, mind and soul has carried them.

The wayfarers wander, and seek a place to heal. We are migrants, refugees, homeless, stateless, in this storm of inherited antipathy. We swallow collective karma and rigid dogma, and still make love by any means necessary.

Because we are who we say we are, not what those parents have told us.

In the end, don’t the Great Mother and the Patriarchy, the Abrahamic Faiths, Jesus, all ungrounded religions and mythologies, the delusion of White Supremacy, and all forms of distance and control in fact function as complex obsessions?

Much like pornography.

Except they masturbate us.

We have been masturbated by mental formations, which take us out of embodiment and away from relatedness, feeling, conscience, consciousness and reality itself.

***

Researchers Matt Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert used an iPhone app (Track Your Happiness) to ping people several times a day and ask them four questions:

  1. How do you feel? (From very bad to very good)

  2. What are you doing? (Out of 22 activity choices)

  3. Are you thinking about something other than what you’re doing? (No or Yes)

  4. Is the topic of these thoughts pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral?

They tallied the results of 650,000 reports from 15,000 people. On average, people’s attentions were wandering 47% of the time, with a high of 65% when brushing their teeth or taking a shower … to a low of just 10% when having sex.

Sex is a real scene-stealer. Apparently, we can barely look away. It’s the shiny disco ball of our humanity. What makes this even more powerful is that we are most happy when our minds aren’t wandering. One of the reasons sex makes us happy is because it brings us right into the moment and into our bodies, with a spritzer of fun chemicals for our neural synapses.

Now, thankfully – for the world’s sake, lol, and my own – I’ve found other ways of paying attention and being present.

But maybe what we call “lust” is just a hankering for being really present, for melting all those heady mental formations and misconstrued morals to just let go and feel safe, connected, and right here, right now. These are all deeply embodied synonyms for loving and being loved. But this hankering can become so powerful, self-centered and disconnected from the needs of others that it can cause harm through power, control, and entitlement. Misunderstanding the hankering for human contact can likewise lead to great damage.

I have no policy proposal to “solve” gender relations other than this: let’s just be really present for each other, and see where that takes us.

In the end, it’s not who’s on top that matters most. It’s what qualities we cultivate between us that should proliferate and rise topmost, to our depths, and throughout our beings. What qualities are you cultivating in your mind and heart? What qualities are you cultivating in your relationships with others, of same and different genders?

References:

  1. About Nancy Jo Sales work, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers: Sense and Sensibility – and Sexting? A Wake-Up Call, Psychology Today, April 3, 2016

  2. From Peggy Orenstein: When Did Porn Become Sex Ed, New York Times, March 19, 2016

  3. About David Mura’s work: A Possible Cure for Pornography Addiction—in an Essay, Psychology Today, January 24, 2012

  4. My 2014 essay about Isla Vista is available for free download in the ebook Asian American Anger: It’s a Thing!

  5. Killingsworth and Gilbert’s work is described at “Does mind-wandering make you unhappy?” Greater Good Science Center, July 16, 2013

  6. More about Erich Neumann’s conception of The Great Mother.

Photo by Bob Hsiang

Ravi Chandra is in an open relationship with the Sun and Moon, and invites you to join him. His gender pronoun/identity is R2C for Resistant to Categorization. He is a psychiatrist, writer and compassion educator in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and now looks forward to broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts hereHe writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure, though one has permanently shuttered during COVID. His award-winning debut documentary, The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice, will release on September, 29, 2021. You can find him on Psychology Today,  Twitter,  Facebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.

Leave a Comment