To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Year 4: Interlude 6

Hello, Daniel-of-2016 here,

I'm posting on Friday this week, even though I usually don't, because Samhain is coming up fast and I wanted to get this interlude in.

About last Monday's post, it's odd how difficult that was to write. Not that I'm embarrassed about having been a 23-year-old virgin anymore, I just find I don't really like writing about my own sex life, even in the merely R-rated way I did so. I'm not one to kiss and tell.

But the story had to be told. Not that it matters much when I had sex and when I didn't, but the particular way that my first time happened may be unique to the school. It says something about our community.

You have to remember the impact of fiction and fantasy on our community. A lot of us had ideas about how a pagan community should work, what it would be like to live in a world free from Christian "oppression" (yes, such oppression certainly happens, but in most cases I've come to believe that narrative is an oversimplification), and those ideas were fed largely by fiction. I'm thinking of the writings of Jean M. Aule, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jeanne Kalogridis, and others, alongside J.K. Rowling and Ursula K. LeGuin, whom I've already mentioned. And in the more feminist of those books, sexual attitudes are very different than the ones we're used to hear in 21st century America.

These books are full of ritualistic, and somewhat impersonal sex. The characters often go to bed with each other, not because they love or desire each other personally, or even to scratch the proverbial itch, but to honor the Goddess, mark seasonal changes or rites of passage, or to make magic.

For Joanna to offer to...un-virginize me as a friendly favor seemed a lot more reasonable and normal to us then than it does to either of us now--we, and more especially she--saw it in the context of those books, as a form of sexual initiation free from judgment, body shame, or social control. Me, I didn't know what to think. As usual, I wasn't being very self-analytical.

I don't regret it, precisely, and I have to say the operation was a success. My paralyzing shyness on the subject vanished. But I'm no longer sure it was the best possible thing to do--or that Joanna was really sincere in her desire to serve merely as my initiator, no strings attached. Had we not belonged to such a community, we might well have slept together anyway, but justified it to ourselves with different narratives.

That's the thing about belonging to a counterculture; you become more aware of your interior programming and of the fundamentally arbitrary nature of most of the things we tell ourselves.

I'm going to tell the rest of the story of me and Joanna in the upcoming posts, but I'm going to include a good deal more self-analysis than I actually engaged in then. I'd been at school for years, by that point, and I'd learned how to notice and name my own feelings, even to consider them important, occasionally, but I didn't process through my feelings quickly--I still don't. I remember at the time feeling gratitude, eagerness, and a vague discomfort all rolled together, but I didn't even start learning to articulate any of it to myself for years afterwards. Since inarticulate jumbles of feelings are hard to write about (and probably boring to read) I'm going to give the me of the past more understanding and self-awareness than he really had.

I should also point out that I've quoted myself as being wrong at least twice.

First, I thought that 23 was freakishly old not to have had sex yet and, further, that the people around me would care. I actually don't know how many 23-year-old virgins there are or what the actual chances of running into one are, but I've gathered it's a lot less unheard of than I thought and, in fact, most of the people I met after I graduated couldn't have cared less either way.

Second, the whole concept of "virgin" is problematic. You can watch YouTube videos on this, actually. The heart of the matter is male sexual possessiveness and some highly questionable gynecology mythologizing female sexual purity in a way that makes even less sense transposed to men. Yes, there are first times, but the reality is that sex isn't just one thing. There are sex acts I have heard of but have not tried and probably won't because they don't appeal to me. There are sex acts that I had in fact done several times even when I was obsessively worrying about being a virgin. At what point a person starts feeling experienced in bed is pretty arbitrary.

But I didn't realize any of that back then.

On a completely different note, here is some quick "housekeeping" for the blog. Usually, I begin each "part" with a sabbat, but I'm going to put Yule in as the final post of Part 7, instead of making it the first of Part 8. That way, the seventh Interlude will be around Christmas and the first post of Part 8 will be around New Years. I will not, however, put the narrative on hiatus for January as I have in recent years. Instead--and this is going to be kind of odd, so bear with me--I'm going to cover Brigid twice.

The thing is, I graduated at Brigid, 2004. From then on, for three years, I was in Absence, meaning I literally had no contact with the school at all. So, there is no point in covering those years in this blog, whose purpose is to describe the school. So, I'm going to speed through those years with just two or three posts, and then start up again in 2007, when I started my candidacy for mastery--and of course, I started on Brigid.

So, while I haven't worked out the details yet, I'm going to cover Brigid of 2004 in mid-January sometime, then do an extended interlude of two or three posts to explain a couple of important things that happened while I was away, and then Part 1 for next year begins with Brigid 2007 in early February. Does that make sense?

In the meantime, I have to say, we're all very worried about the election right now. I don't usually discuss politics on this blog, and I'm not going to discuss it now, but certain things go beyond politics. We, in our little community, don't have any particular agreement as to whom we are supporting--we certainly haven't endorsed a candidate as a group--but we all agree on whom we are not supporting. If you don't know who I mean, you haven't been paying attention.

Most of what we as a community care about--the environment (especially climate change), the rights of women and LGBT people, racial and economic justice, and participatory democracy itself--are all on the line this year. There is no one who really stands to win on this one, although some could lose more or more quickly, and yet his supporters seem to view him as some kind of savior. I could go on, but I don't really want to overstep my bounds. Political writing is not my strong suit, and I don't want to do it wrong.

But please vote. Make sure your neighbors vote. If I can work a magic this year, let it be this; victory for the candidate amendable to reason.

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