CHURCH STILL SAYS NO TO GAYS


Driving to town today newspaper posters on the lampposts announced: The church says no to gay persons. On reading this caption, my soul floods with many different emotions: anger, deepness, frustration and gratefulness.

Anger because of the short-slightness of many churches and believers in terms of how they engage with their faith and the Bible with regards to sexuality. Such believers often employ a very legalistic reading of the Scriptures, that is might I add, of selected verses. Thus those verses which serve their purposes and support their beliefs, whilst other texts are ignored or interpreted with much greater hermeneutic freedom.

Why the deep sadness that moved me to tears? Great sadness about the thousands of gay and gay related people, whose souls have been wounded, trampled on and raped by the imprudent actions of churches all over the world. Sorrow about  churches’ seemingly inability to understand what Christ love means and how to extend that to all persons. Affliction because the church continues to sexualise being gay, just as it does with marriage. This sexualisation of the constitution of marriage is evident when the symbol of marriage is seen as heterosexual sex. How deeply sad that we trivialize a marriage to that of the physical and outward expression of love and passion. In my mind, a marriage union: heterosexual or gay, should imply and entail so much more than just physical love. It is a monogamous partnership in which two people can thrive as equals in the presence of commitment, trust, exclusivity, love, dignity and reciprocated respect. Should this not be the definition of a marriage instead of in what way a couple have sexual intercourse?

Frustration because so many people still do not understand that for the vast majority of gay people, being homo- inter- or transsexual are not a choice but a given. Their gayness is not rooted in the way they have sex, but in  their beings. This is their personhood. A gay person once summarized it so concisely for me: “I am a person who happens to be gay, not a gay who happens to be a person”.

To say to a gay person, you may be gay, but just don’t practice your gayness – live a celibate life – is as good as to say to a person: You are allowed to be a person, but you are not allowed to live. Or maybe the converse is also accurate: You are allowed to live just not to be a person. To love, to be in partnership with another human being, to attach, to share, to touch, to hold, to kiss and yes to enjoy emotional, physical and sexual intimacy is to be human.

You might wonder what it is that I am grateful for in the midst of this injustice. I am grateful that I left the formal church structures some years ago as I was no longer able to be part of an institution which is inherently unjust towards people due to their sexual orientation. I thank God that I no longer have to contravene my conscience because I participate in a structure which forsake and judge people because of their sexuality. Unjust, unreasonable and un-Christ-like.

I continue to lament: How long God, how long will this terrible injustice continue? O Lord be merciful as humanity do not what it does and that in the name of our Gracious God?

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DIE VERENIGENDE GEREFORMEERDE KERKE VAN SUIDER-AFIKA (VGK) Sê NEE VIR GAYS!


In die ry sien ek vandag die koerantplakkaat op die paal wat aankondig: “VGK sê steeds nee vir gays”. Dit vul my met soveel verskillende emosies: woede, hartseer, frustrasie en dankbaarheid. Woede oor die kortsigtige manier waarmee mense met die Bybel en hul geloof omgaan, of dalk is dit glad nie kortsigtig nie, maar juis calculated. Pharos vertaal calculated as “bereken(d), voorbedag, koelbloedig en as mens die sinsnede sou verbreed na “with calculated cruelty”, vertaal dit na voorbedagte wreedheid. So ja, nou pas die term baie beter by die kerk se optrede. Mense maak mos die Bybel en hul geloof pas – by dit tot wat hulle pas, en hul einddoel dien. Dalk is dit wat geloof eintlik beteken: om dit te glo wat nie gestaaf kan word nie, maar wat op eie manier van verstaan en interpretasie berus?

Waarom hartseer voel? Hartseer oor die derduisende mense (gay en gay-verwant) wie se siele deur die kerk se onbesonneheid gekwes, vertrap en verkrag is. Hartseer oor dat die kerk steeds nie verstaan wat Jesus-liefde beteken nie. Hartseer dat die kerk steeds gay-wees verseksualiseer, net soos dit die huwelik verseksualiseer deurdat hulle heteroseksuele seks as die maatstaf van ʼn goddelike verbintenis soos ʼn huwelik gebruik. ʼn Huwelik, heteroseksueel of andersyds, is soveel meer as net die seksuele daad. Dit gaan oor ʼn vennootskap tussen twee mense wat hulself op ʼn geestelike, emosionele, intellektuele en fisiese vlak aan mekaar verbind. Hierdie genootskap behoort geken te word aan liefde, gelykheid, respek en menswaardigheid. Dit is wat ʼn huwelik behoort te definieer en nie op watter manier ʼn paartjie seks beoefen nie.

Frustrasie omdat hulle nie verstaan dat die oorgrootte meerderheid van gay mense se gay-wees nie net is seks gesetel is nie, maar dit is wie hulle is. Dit is hoe hulle geskape is. ʼn Gay persoon het eendag dit so mooi verwoord toe sy die volgende vir my gesê het: “I am a person who happens to be gay, not a gay how happens to be a person.”
Om vir ʼn gay mens te sê dat hy of sy mag gay wees, maar moet dit net nie praktiseer nie, is om vir ʼn persoon te sê: jy mag leef, maar moet net nie mens wees nie, of dalk jy mag mens wees, maar moet net nie leef nie. Om lief te hê, om aan iemand te verbind, om te deel, om aan te raak, te soen, vas te hou, en ja seksuele genot en vervulling te ervaar, is om mens te wees.
Jy mag nou wonder nou waar pas dankbaarheid in hierdie donker prentjie in. Ek is dankbaar dat ek reeds vir baie jare nie meer deel van kerklike strukture is wat mense so liefdeloos versaak op grond van hul seksualiteit nie. Ek is Goddank bly dat ek nie meer my siel Sondag na Sondag hoef te verkrag nie omdat ek deel het aan ʼn kerklike struktuur, wat in terme van sy beleid aangaande gay mense, inherent veroordelend, onbillik, onregverdigbaar en versakend is. Godverlate.

Steeds ego my klaaglied: Hoe lank nog Here, hoe lank nog gaan hierdie verskriklike onreg voortgaan? O God, wees die mensdom genadig, want God-weet ons weet nie wat ons doen nie – in dit in Christus se naam!

OUR SEXUAL HERITAGE


I was invited to participate in this year’s Cape Town Open Book Festival, as organised by The Book Lounge and staged at The Fugard Theatre. What a great privileged it was to participate on specifically Heritage Day in the discussion: Is Afrikaners plesierig? (Are Afrikaners joyous?), which referred to how Afrikaans-speaking South Africans define, express and experience their sexuality.

The discussion centred on my recently published book: Seks nou wat is die eintlike storie? (Sex, what is the actual story?) and the literary work, Bloots, which is a collection of short stories with its focus on sensuality and sexuality. The title Bloots was an excellent choice, as it means to go bare-back on a horse or to experience something undiluted.

We found many connections between the intention of these two publications, even though mine was rooted in academia and the other in literature. The intention of both these publications was to portray sexuality in its diverse complexity as being multi-levelled and multi-storied. This reminded me of the constructions we hold in terms of sexuality and how these are formed. The meanings we put to sexuality, are socially constructed, yet many continue to believe there is only one sexual reality to which we should prescribe and accept.

I reason that the expression of sexuality should include and accept a multitude of realities and multiple story lines. However, it is often portrayed as a single line story with predictable outcomes. If one should accept such a single story line, what would this be for South Africa, in other words what is South Africa’s heritage in terms of sexuality?

Sadly, I must admit that this is not a heritage to be proud of, as for many the most constituting factors are that of fear, shame, suppression, but most of all violence and silence. Sexual violence seems endemic to our society, nevertheless, with the exception of a few annual campaigns, there is mostly a persistent silence – even in literary works –  which enables it to continue to breed and prosper pervasively.

It was interesting to note that Bloots included stories which spanned beyond heteronormativity, race and class, yet did not included stories about sexual violence.  Even in this groundbreaking literary work the silence regarding sexual violence pervaded, despite the fact that South Africa holds the invidious title of the rape capital of the world. Rape being the reality of so many, I postulate that it will reflect in people’s stories about sexuality. Does the absence of stories about sexual  violence speak of how power politics and gender prescriptions continue to restrict, censor and determine what is  spoken with regards to gender and sexuality in South Africa?

Looking to the future we need ask ourselves, what heritage and legacy are we busy creating in terms of sexuality in the South African context? Furthermore what role should we as writers, academics and social commentators play in creating a live-giving sexual heritage for our children and their children?

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Seks-Nou-wat-is-die-eintlike-storie/397437996953753?ref=hl

http://openbookfestival.co.za/

http://www.nb.co.za/Books/12437

“CORRECTIVE RAPE”


Two days ago I met with two Swedish researchers for a discussion about their research. Their research is about “corrective rape”, thus the rape of lesbian women because they are gay. The focus of their research is on how therapists and caregivers do hope in the absence of safety and any guarantee that the rape survivors will not have to endure again such violence against.

Sarah and Calle wanted to speak to me about how South Africans understand sexuality, sex and sexual violence. During our discussion I had a profound realisation which I want to share with you.

Ever since I heard the term “corrective rape” it made me extremely uncomfortable. At first I thought it was about the incredible injustice of this violent act, but soon realised it was not only about that. There was more to my discomfort and anger with this term. In my conversation with Sarah and Calle it dawned on me what my discomfort was about.

It was about the term “corrective” rape. This term implied that there was something to be “corrected”. Men rape lesbian women to punish and to “correct” them. Such perpetrators believe that being lesbian is a choice and therefore it can be change. “They just need to have a real man, and then these gay women will change.” Thinking about this made me realise that if we continue to use the term “corrective rape” we are using the language of the perpetrator and therefore give credibility to this mindset. We should reject the term “corrective rape” outright. This kind of rape is not about “correcting” but intends to humiliate, violating and harm another human being. There is nothing “corrective” about this.

I came to the conclusion that this kind of rape is not only about supposedly “correction.” I believe that this kind of rape is rooted in fear and the indignant anger which results from patriarchal discourse. How could a woman even think of rejecting a man by wanting to be with another man? How can a women challenge the system of what is “acceptable” – thus that a women would want to be with a man?

I then thought about what other term could be used. The term needs to portray what this rape is actually about. I thought about the term “unjust rape”, but all rapes are unjust! It left me with the question: “Why do men rape lesbians?” It was not only about power: there is more to it – it is specifically because they are lesbian. It is because lesbians women are judged and find “guilty”. Maybe one should speak of judgmental rape, but this again might imply that there is something to judge. The same goes for discriminating rape.

Maybe we need to use the term homophobic rape, because that is what it is. A hideous and repulsive act of violence based on an irrational phobia of gay people!

We need to be aware that language is powerful. Words can give legitimacy to and even rationalise horrific acts. In future, when you hear the term “corrective rape” you have a choice, you can just accept it, or you can challenge it.

Not tonight honey


Two weeks ago a male colleague of mine shared a “joke” with me. It was about the very old and boring joke of the husband giving his wife two paracetamol tablets after having dinner, to which the wife responds: ‘I don’t have a headache’, leaving him with a smirk on his face and the words, ‘Good, then you have no excuse’. I was instantly irritated by this “joke” and my aggravation did not dissipate as the days rolled on. At first I thought it must be because I regularly heard a very different story during couple’s sessions in my practice, as it is often the man and not the woman who is avoiding sex in a marriage or longstanding relationships. However, my uneasiness continued and this “joke” kept forcing its presence into my thoughts.

After two weeks I eventually decided to deconstruct my discomfort and agitation about this joke. It then dawn on me why this “joke” alarmed me to such an extent. It is because this joke is based on the general discourse that, firstly, most men have a higher libido than women, secondly, that sex is something that it done TO women and not WITH women and thirdly, that sex is often only seen in terms of penile penetration with the sole purpose of a male climax. I realized that neither the teller of this joke or the listeners thereof, asked, if ever, why do women often refuse sex or try and find “excuses” not to have sex. It then immediately left me with the undignified question: Why should a woman present an excuse not to have sex? Underlying to the ‘having to give an excuse’ is the mindset that women are supposed to give sex as it is their duty and what they are made for! In other words women are there for men’s sexual pleasure and not that men and women are equal partners who should enjoy sex with each other for both partners benefit.

Moreover, why do especially men not respond to this “joke” with the question: Why is it that women supposedly often do not want to have sex with her husband or partner? Does it not say more about him as a lover and how he engages in sexual play than about her libido? Furthermore, is it not because of the way in which he treats his wife/partner? May it be that due to how we understand and live gender roles in our homes and relationships that women are often totally overworked and just do not have the energy for sex, especially late at night? Anyway, who would like to be intimate or share pleasure with someone who treats you as being less than him or expects you to do the majority of the work around the house?

A smile slowly spread over my face as I realised this joke was actually on men. However, very few men will actually think this far or ask themselves what this joke is about. Maybe it is also not only indicative of many men’s short-sightedness but also of women internalisation of the idea that she is a sexual commodity. This joke is not only a dig towards women, but actually also towards some men and their inability or unwillingness to treat women as equals. By treating their wives and partners as inferior to them, they do not get to enjoy WITH their wives and partners the joys of the intimacy and the pleasures of the flesh!

This joke is not an impeachment against sexual unwilling wives, but about the unimaginative, boring, predictable, monotonous, inexperience, selfish, dismissive and unexciting clumsy sexual approaches and love play of men who don’t get it! They do not get it because they don’t get it on a physical, emotional or gender equality level!

NAKED BODIES: WHAT DOES IT SAY?


 I am in the process of creating a concept for my, soon to be published book, that will deal with how we understand sexuality and the effects thereof. In my discussions with the publisher, I suggested that we consider having an outline of naked bodies for the cover page.

What transpired from this brief was very interesting and telling. It confirmed my understanding of how many people view sexuality and the gender discrepancies that we experience. Most of the examples with body figures that we could find, presented women. I then requested that both the male and female form should be portrayed. This idea transpired in a design in which the naked male outline was so subtle that you could barely see that it was a man next to the very distinct naked female figure.

I realized that I was not conveying the idea in my head with much success. I then decided to ask a young female artist friend of mine to compile my brief visually, in the hope that an illustration of my idea would advance mutual understanding and greater clarity. As my young friend is not that familiar with the naked male body, she did what all young people do – she used Google images to find a realistic image to guide her in her creation. Here’s the thing – she really battled to find naked, non-pornographic male images, whilst the female naked form was plentiful.

This made me think about why this might be so. I am sure that there are many reasons. One could possibly be because of the dominant discourse that women do not sexually respond to visual stimulation and therefore there is no need for such images. This idea circulated for so many decades that people are not even aware of the discrepancy in how the female body and male body are used and exploited in the media. The female body became the marketing tool and is often seen as a commodity. We have become so desensitised to this because it became the dominant discourse.

Professor Bronwyn Davis (1993:153) uses the metaphor of a pane of glass to describe the invisibility of discourses. Discourses take on the qualities of a pane of glass through which one observes the world. It is only when the glass fractures or breaks that one’s attention is drawn to the glass. Discourses are thus usually invisible to people and we have little or no conscious awareness of discourses. This might explains why we continue to accept the use of women and their naked bodies (out of context) as a marketing tool, whilst the use of male bodies are mostly excluded. However, I believe that there might be another coinciding discourse present.

Being naked holds a vulnerability, especially if others can view our naked body. Maybe in our gender indoctrinated minds, this vulnerable position is only reserved for women. Maybe naked images of men are not as available because men are not supposed to be vulnerable, but are portrayed as strong, in control and invincible? Your thoughts on the matter?

Reference:

Davies, B 1993. Shards of glass: Children reading and writing beyond gendered identities. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin.

Sexual deprivation of wives


Lately, so many women shared with me their stories of sexual deprivation and isolation within their marriages. The withholding of sexual contact reminds me of the dominant discourse that a wife’s body becomes the property of her husband. I argue that this discourse is based on the premise that a husband has the power and right to decide when and how his wife could engage in sexual activity. Linked to this premise is the dismissal of female sexual desire and female sexual fulfillment. Women’s sexuality was and still is at times mostly linked to reproduction, and therefore men and women often hold different expectations for sexual fulfillment. Women (and men) are socialised to be indifferent to female sexual desire and fulfillment. This indifference is reinforced by the dominant discourse which encourages women to be passive in sexual activity and to wait for men to initiate sexual contact as “good girls” don’t. This discourse was present as far back as the time of Plutarch (46-120 CE), when it was believed that a wife who seeks sexual fulfilment for herself was regarded as bad, meretricious and impetuous. This discourse placed the fulfillment of a wife’s sexual desire under the control of her husband. It follows that if a husband disregards his wife’s right to sexual fulfilment – or even worse, if he believes that she has no need for sexual fulfilment – he might never attend to her sexual needs and desires.

Extract adjusted from my doctoral study: Spies, N 2011. Exploring and storying Protestant Christian women/s experiences living in sexually unhappy marriages. DTh thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria. 

Electronic version available at – http://hdl.handle.net/10500/4823