Friday, February 18, 2005

My Day with Annie Sprinkle

Yesterday, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Professor to convert me from my life of hermitry, I spent most of the day with Annie Sprinkle. First, we had a long, leisurely lunch and then, that evening, she gave a talk to a packed house at the artsy-fartsy theater. There are two things that I'm still mulling over from the experience. One is just how positive she is, not just about sex, as you'd expect, but about everything. At lunch, there were maybe seven of us and she was just as interested in us as we were in her. And she was very respectful of everyone in the room and where they were in their lives. I expected her to be kind of brassy, but she was open and calm and good. Not that those are opposite traits to brassy, but I was expecting someone who was like, "This is who I am and if you don't like it you can kiss my ass," but she was like, "This is who I am and I'm curious about you, whether or not you're comfortable with me." The other is how holy she is. Watching video of her sacred prostitute ritual was incredible. More incredible was watching her on stage lighting a little candle and indicating that even on film, the ritual reverberated into the audience. I've spent my fair share of time in churches. In face, if retirement were just based on the years one lived in a parsonage, I'd have been able to retire from the Methodist church shortly after college. So, I know a great deal about how that kind of sacredness feels. This was very different. Still that same feeling of something holy and good and that intangible presence like something very old has filled up the room. But different, too. It's hard to talk about things like this, because even though they make perfect sense to me and are important to me, I know it's that intensely personal for everyone else--their understanding of the supernatural--and that people go to war over it, personally and nationally. And, though I'm woo-woo, I don't want you guys to think that that's all I am. But still, indulge me for a minute and imagine growing up in a household where all that is sacred is gendered male. Everyone in charge of accessing the sacred is male. And imagine being certain--having experiences that reaffirm it regularly--that there really is something there, that the atheists are wrong and there really is some thing greater than you, who rules the world, and that this thing is male--father, son, and holy ghost. Even if you, as a girl, feel holy, nothing in your culture reinforces that. The one pure woman the world spit out has already done her part by giving birth and dying, so all that is left for you is to try very hard to not be too dirty, too tainted by your gender. You can support sacred endeavors, but you can't be sacred as you are, because you are corrupted by virtue of your body. You might, like some folks, women in my family, for instance, just ignore the stuff in church, in the Bible, and in the doctrine that devalues you. Or you might find that you can't ignore things, can't not take the Bible at face-value, and, hence, can't be well-adjusted and happy and continue to be Christian. I've met a lot of people--men and women--who have seemed to me to be holy in a way that is outside the Christian paradigm. And I've spent some time trying to convince myself that I could appease my parents and satisfy my own desire for ritual by becoming a Unitarian. (That didn't work out because I don't believe people are inherently good; and I think all religions have something to teach us, but once you get past the level of curious seeker, the differences between them make honoring them all resemble too closely honoring none of them.) But this was the first time that I ever saw a woman know she was sacred, and know that what she was doing brought close to her something that resembled her, but greater. It was tremendous. Also, I realized that I've been a jack-ass in my advocating for the legalization of prostitution. My mental image of a prostitute is some drug-addled street walker who hates what she does but has no other choice. So, I've been arguing from a very paternalistic view point: we should legalize prostitution so that someone can keep an eye on them, make sure that they're healthy and not being exploited and not being picked off by serial killers. But we should legalize prostitution because a woman's body is her own, as is a man's, and what they choose to do with it, as long as it's with consenting adults and not hurting anyone, is not the business of the law.


Blogger the Professor said...

Growing up where being Catholic is more culture than faith but nobody explains that, I still have a hard time understanding spirituality that is not religious dogma. So, I love the way you talk about your experiences with Annie and only wish I could have the same things to say.

I think that she might be a feminist sex worker for similar reasons that I am a feminist philosopher - because no one could explain to us why we couldn't be. As I was reading your post I just kept remembering announcing to my family that I wanted to be a priest. I was probably not yet 10 years old, and if you knew the exciting life the priest in the family leads, you too would have wanted it. Everyone laughed and smilied in both encouraging and hurtful ways, and they also explained to me that I couldn't be a priest but instead would be a nun. Instead? That's not a fair trade-off and I kept saying I wanted to be a priest. No one was able (or willing?) to explain better than "but girls can't be priests, they are nuns." I think I left the church and became a feminist that day. It just took another 8 or 10 years for it to really sink in.

Yeah for Annie Sprinkle showing us another place and way to worship ourselves and others.

2/18/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

It sounds as though you had an amazing day. Thanks for sharing.

2/18/2005 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Professor, perhaps if the Libertine had been there, you would have felt... something... too.

At least, that seemed to be the general impression of the people in our row.

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

2/18/2005 01:18:00 PM  

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