Posts Tagged ‘you can hang out with alllllll the boys’

Trembling in the “Tribe”

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Okay, honestly this unit is so multifaceted it might take several blogposts to say all that I need to say, but I will start off with the obvious: reactions to the documentary.

I felt my heart twist at some particular moments, certainly. Israel’s tirade against the God of an Orthodoxy that would deny him happiness and full spiritual health and connection, for example, was one of the most powerful parts of the film, in my opinion. And conversely, when David, our Jewish Englander, asserted that it was such a nice “present” just to be Jewish in the first place, I felt my heartstrings tug painfully. Each of these men is gay and desires to be close to Jewish culture (Israel), if not participate fully in Orthodoxy (David). But they chose such different routes to struggle through their sexualities and religiosities, and I can’t help but wonder who is happier. I know it is probably a facile question, since their situations in life are so very different, but I just wonder which is the less painful set of circumstances, assuming they feel this way: being repeatedly kicked out of yeshivas for “gay activity” while making honest efforts to be a full participant in Orthodox life, or cutting all ties with family and religious life in order to fully live out one’s life with a loving partner.

Then again, once a part of the tribe, always a part, right? When Israel closed his eyes and began to sing a traditional religious song in Hebrew, he still remembered the words after years and years of being separated from the synagogue. This seems to support the notion that once one incorporates halakhah into his or her life, it never truly goes away—after all, Jews return to the same words repeatedly, since no word is redundant. There is always potential for other meanings that can be wrung from the texts by which they live their lives, or once did.

Reconstructionist Jew Judith Plaskow, a lesbian feminist, helps illustrate this process by deeming it “Godwrestling”: a means by which Jews, particularly women and even more particularly lesbian women, can reinterpret halakhah in an attempt to understand the text in a way that is less heteronormative and patriarchal, and more open, modern, and accepting.

Isn’t she cute?!

Of course, this is all very reductive and I’m probably butchering her argument, but in her book Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, she states that halakhah can “replace God as the center of religious life or lead to God as its purpose and meaning. It can be a wall between the individual and the world or a way to apprehend the world more deeply” (70).

I could quote Plaskow all day, and there was literally a period of about two weeks when I ran around telling all my friends how she had changed my life and how I finally UNDERSTOOD the way I felt about God/deity/etc. But all my personal feelings aside, Plaskow makes a great point: the process of interpretation and, in that vein, reinterpretation is the key to success as a queer Jew. As Aviv and Schneer note, “homogenizing” queer Judaism is riddled with its own set of problems, but as Jews, they pride themselves on straining the word and picking it clean for all new revelations and insights…and they are neverending. This ceaseless process, this Godwrestling and careful combing of religious texts, is just exactly what may save this unique sect of Jewish society.

Also, speaking of gay Jews: I was SO thrilled to come across the last line of “America” by Allen Ginsberg in our reading today! Talk about a Jew who branched out: Ginsberg became really “into” Buddhism, drugs (particularly marijuana and hallucinogenics), and a life of wild and artistically-recorded homosexuality. Here he is, for your viewing and listening pleasure, reading “America,” the poem from which the line was drawn. Enjoy!

“America,” read by the man himself.

PS- side note: my boyfriend’s mother, who is both Catholic and Jewish, purportedly gave up matzah for Lent. I laughed sooooo hard!

The Body of Christ?/Marriage: The Eternal Love Triangle

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Okay, not to say that our other readings weren’t interesting and all– they were– but I was fascinated by Paula Jean Miller’s “The Theology of the Body.” One point of interest has a lot to do with Kristen’s earlier post, in defining the role of marriage and both (or roughly speaking, all three) parties contained within it: “…John Paul focuses on the true goal of human sexuality: the union of man and woman, body and spirit” (502). Although Miller proceeds to say that John Paul perceives this institution to be “the basis for a fully human, sexual-personal relationship,” (502), I wanted to push this a little further and argue that it is actually the basis for, scripturally-speaking, a sexual-personal-metaphysical/spiritual interrelationship. How’s THAT for complicating things??

I mean, New Order says it best when they beg the beloved addressee of the song below to pay attention and work on the relationship: “Every time I see you falling/I get down on my knees and pray/I’m prayin’ for that final moment/to say the words that I can’t say.”

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

The delightful throwback moment of classic New Wave Brit Pop Electronica circa 1982 aside, I’m serious when I say that God/the Holy Spirit is the third “partner” in marriage, and that this, instead of increasing the sin in carnal feeling, actually alleviates some of it (within the confines/context of traditional, legal Christian marriage, of course). Rather than being ashamed of the body (Eve/Fall from Eden, anyone?), “…the Holy Father teaches that the body is the very oldest sacrament, instituted by God at the dawn of creation: He calls it the ‘primordial sacrament'” (502). This seems to suggest a certain growing tolerance on the part of the Catholic church towards sex for pleasure (no birth control though!), and that our bodies are, indeed, a blessing, an instrument, and a constant source of temptation.

This is a frightening, weird, and tantalizing contradiction, when we think about it. Our bodies can be used for either evil or good, and we can neither become too appreciative of them (lest we fall prey to vanity), nor too harsh about them (lest we begin to covet aspects of our neighbor’s physique).Gosh, the seven deadly sins are everywhere, aren’t they?! Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s album “12 Deadly Cyns (And Then Some).” 🙂

12 Deadly Cyns And Then Some

What complicates this seemingly-impossible avoidance of body-related sin even FURTHER is that Miller outlines how our bodies are indistinct from our essential “selves.” In fact, she claims, we are all physical manifestations of God’s “body,” so that in order to be embodied, we must carry on with God’s perfect plan, or else we are not our actual selves, if that makes sense…or that our physical skin, muscles, bones and brain are somehow wasted, since we are not the “incarnate spirits” we are supposed to be. I think Miller puts it best in the following passage: “As embodied persons, there is no way for us to come to know one another except through glances, words, gestures, idiosyncrasies, hugs, and withdrawals, all of which we experience through the personal body” (502).

And then, of course, there’s the sexual-spiritual element we discussed in class last week when we talked about spiritualists/spirituality/spiritualism– after all, this class is about Sex AND Religion! But just for kicks and giggles (and good music), here’s John Mayer to teach you the good news: 😉

Haha 😉

 

For real, though…

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’m sorry to be that complaining student, but it is a grey, grey Tuesday, and it is time to be blunt: does anyone feel like this book could DEFINITELY be more interesting?

I just feel like walloping Ms. Joiner upside the head and hollering, “Hey! You’re talking about class warfare and politics when you could be focusing more on the plights of individual prostitutes/converts! What about minstrelsy? What about carnivale-esque clashes? I need some ACTION!”

I thought things started getting pretty interesting with the gospel wagons, but they were only a brief snippet of what could have (in my opinion) made a really intriguing chapter or two regarding the convergence of religious and secular society. Sigh…

Cruise Control? Not so much.

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Okay, so feel free to disagree with me, but a lot of this text seems to focus around miscommunications and confusion of goals at the YMCA. And a lot of these have to do with false assumptions. These include but are not limited to:

1.    Christians are wholesome.

False: Christians TRY to be wholesome. But hey, Christians are people, and people are whole, not wholesome (which, if you think about it, is an oxymoronic word in itself).

2.    Providing sex education will make young men MORE restrained and less likely to engage in sexual acts with other men.

False: Maybe this would have been true if the Y had been less demanding of the men who held positions within the organization, particularly the secretaries. Maybe if they’d gotten to spend more time with their wives, too, they wouldn’t feel such strong homoerotic bonds.

3.    However, in contrast to that previous observation, another assumption the Y held was that homosociality was just as “dangerous” to society as homosexuality…

False: From a 21st-century standpoint, neither is particularly “dangerous. But going along with that…

4.    Similarly, there was the assumption that the “scare” of rampant homoeroticism and homosexual desires being acted upon in the early 20th century were equivalent to homosocial bonds.

False: It is simply that the centuries had different ways of defining what was considered to be “erotic” and what was “good clean fun” in terms of men being around each other/craving each other’s company/expressing longing for being in close proximity to other men’s bodies…

…Sorry this is so scattered; there’s just a lot to say about this piece. Anybody else get a kick out of that one chauvinist who claimed that men were at the Y to get “real work” done, whereas at the YWCA, women do domestic things, such as “make food”? Or for the studies of gay pornography that trace their roots back to these early fitness manuals? That was extremely interesting to me, and I will tell you all why tomorrow…

I do think Gustav-Wrathall could have woven more of a religious context into this, but considering his background as an ex-Mormon may not have proven especially applicable to this scholarship, I do not count the absence of his religious input as a devastating drawback in terms of the work overall.

Cruise Control? Not So Much.

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Okay, so feel free to disagree with me, but a lot of this text seems to focus around miscommunications and confusion of goals at the YMCA. And a lot of these have to do with false assumptions. These include but are not limited to:

1. Christians are wholesome.

False: Christians TRY to be wholesome. But hey, Christians are people, and people are whole, not wholesome (which, if you think about it, is an oxymoronic word in itself).

2. Providing sex education will make young men MORE restrained and less likely to engage in sexual acts with other men.

False: Maybe this would have been true if the Y had been less demanding of the men who held positions within the organization, particularly the secretaries. Maybe if they’d gotten to spend more time with their wives, too, they wouldn’t feel such strong homoerotic bonds.

3. However, in contrast to that previous observation, another assumption the Y held was that homosociality was just as “dangerous” to society as homosexuality…

False: From a 21st-century standpoint, neither is particularly “dangerous. But going along with that…

4. Similarly, there was the assumption that the “scare” of rampant homoeroticism and homosexual desires being acted upon in the early 20th century were equivalent to homosocial bonds.

False: It is simply that the centuries had different ways of defining what was considered to be “erotic” and what was “good clean fun” in terms of men being around each other/craving each other’s company/expressing longing for being in close proximity to other men’s bodies…

…Sorry this is so scattered; there’s just a lot to say about this piece. Anybody else get a kick out of that one chauvinist who claimed that men were at the Y to get “real work” done, whereas at the YWCA, women do domestic things, such as “make food”? Or for the studies of gay pornography that trace their roots back to these early fitness manuals? That was extremely interesting to me, and I will tell you all why tomorrow…

I do think Gustav-Wrathall could have woven more of a religious context into this, but considering his background as an ex-Mormon may not have proven especially applicable to this scholarship, I do not count the absence of his religious input as a devastating drawback in terms of the work overall.