Dystopia in real time is not like the movies. We’ve digested so much spectacular violence we know no tender alternatives. Fighting feels so good. The characters we play on screen form dead weight on the streets and sink us in our bedrooms. Persistence is extractive.
As surf buries smoothed rock, we turn the calendar page to July. We spread like picnics under cloudless skies. Our flesh a moral document scrolling out beyond politicized reach. After all, the bottom line is always evolving. Sea levels have always been inconsistent.
Ideological battles are to be taken for granted outside a schema of pursuit. This adoration, a relationship of necessity, remains prone. A curious posture. Abuse is normal. Its purpose to feel. Subtly is consensual. Perceived as commodities, we trade.
Auspicious tensions act as purifiers for taste, a basic sensation. Our judgements psychic protection. Didactic fracturing agitates into frothy comfort. Perceptions valued for ahistorical subjectivity. Aspirational dissent is the chorus and the bridge to —
If we listen carefully, joy is elegance reproducing itself into near future referential fits and starts. Inspiration a slow bleed. Murmuring into abruptions delightful as salt penetrating unhealed wounds. An intimacy as ancient and poetic as opiates or fire.
It’s familiar. A disguise as common as the East Bay Bridge wrapped in a nest of clouds. We learn early to reinforce reductionist tendencies into a path of least resistance. They deny rules have been written down. We witness endless unrequited anticipations.
Promises of love remain unfulfilled. Your acts of caring were abusive. An informant, linguistically speaking, is the expert of a community. When I tell you the sun broke the clouds, spread them, cracked them open I want you to believe me.
We harvested each other. Consent became an avalanche. Absorbing your urges felt like being wanted. It was a match. A pattern. Magnificent corruptions of circumstances. I woke up afraid and believed I was loved.
These edges are sharp yet relaxed as confidence.
My hand holds your fist. Repetition an arc.
Self-care is self-defense.
experts have named our environment “rape culture”
fueled by an economy that exports & imports incertitude
funny how even the state’s gospel won’t accept no
even with a sovereign request
another way fringed borders bleed reciprocity
thick as oil as war as water
desire can transform anything
corporeal physics as vim and vigor
like soft kisses melting hard intentions
it’s why embodiment alludes enlightenment
& landscapes matter when our eyes close
horizons become their own grounding binary
pressure is a gilded warning signal
jouissance its own casual experience
how deeply our metaphors inform us
as angels, as deviants, as complicit
love is in here somewhere, or should be
Andrea Smith’s foreword in Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia states, “a liberatory vision for immigrant rights is one that is based less on pathways to citizenship in a settler state, than on questioning the logics of the settler state itself.” This expansion of decolonization, a revolution to undo “zones of invisibility, exclusion, and death,” requires a radical vision and daily practice of justice. For those of us who are not indigenous to the nations we occupy, liberation is no longer a theoretical space you can opt in and out.
Undoing Border Imperialism is a collective expression of a migrant justice movement grounded in healing justice. Starting from a place of opportunity, “as a prefiguring framework, decolonization grounds us in an understanding that we have already inherited generations of evolving wisdom about living freely and communally” Walia shows us a future few movement theory books dare dream. Through various entry points in the book, which are beautifully supported by poets, philosophers, and activist’s lived experiences, the reader is profoundly transformed.
Undoing is not used haphazardly nor as a metaphor. We are asked to enthusiastically have a decolonized orientation to self and others. The systems few move through with ease are relational, which is political and embodied. Borders are human-made. That’s one clear justification for resisting violence with nonviolent direct action. If one needs a concrete example, follow #NoDAPL.
Chapter 3 entitled Overgrowing Hegemony: Grassroots Theory puts everything into perspective. Consider this your manifesto.
Given all the power-over we have internalized, traumas we have metabolized, and walls and hierarchies we have maintained between one another, it is imperative that we unravel and confront these effects of border imperialism within our movements as we work to dismantle the systems that propagate it.
Name it. Analyze how power functions and distorts. Commit to steering “movement strategies and relations toward collective liberation.” This requires consent, accountability, and communication that is transformative, not transactional.
We all have a role in this vision.
Strategy cannot be applied in a cookie-cutter approach; it requires collective deliberation, trial and error, and reflection. It necessitates a willingness to experiment, and make mistakes, and humility to change our ways.
Syed Khalid Hussan’s epilogue is a reminder that “our actions are just as much visceral as they are analytical, theoretical, or intellectual.” It’s time to declare that we are no longer obligated to be monogamous in identity, story, or victory. However, we are bound to practice compassion, respect, forgiveness, and evolve our ways of being in community with each other. Walia, and the voices she shares this revolution with, moves us beyond those never-ending conversations that center frameworks (talk). A tactic designed to distract and delay justice. This embodied power is found through a decolonizing praxis that honors generational resistance. To deny this is to remain complicit in settler logic.
We can, as Smith so clearly states, dismantle the logic of the settler state. And in its absence, we move freely with self-determination.
In a previous post, I coupled the early essays of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure as “academic stimulation with real-world sensations.” The chorus of voices throughout the remainder of the book continue on that path and give more support for using an erotic economic analysis. The production of porn is about selling pleasure, consuming (queer) desire, and fucking loving yourself.
Ingrid Ryberg in Every Time We Fuck, We Win pushes you to understand watching porn is witness to intimacy. It is telling that we have to learn to repress so much to fit into assumed historic preferences. Keiko Lane’s Imag(in)ing Possibilities spreads your psyche out with respect. Experiencing “fantasies made conscious” is a particular arousal of “embodied subjectivity.” That point of view, a corporeal validation, is useful. Porn can heal us if we experience it without shame or remorse. If you want to get the deepest and quickest purpose of this book, read Constance Penley’s A Feminist Teaching Pornography? She gives you the permission to study porn as film. We are the audience to a multi-dimensional experience from performer to director to public tastes.
Presentation matters: angles and agency. Lorelei Lee demonstrates that to the fullest. “Sexual desire and sexual identity are absolutely essential to the freely defined self.” Feminist porn performs power which is why it deserves its current patriarchal reputation. Own that what you feel from seeing is pleasurable. This feminist entertainment project is political. That’s no-fucks-given explicit from the begging to the end The Feminist Porn Book. As is Ariane Cruz’s call to “take up a politics of perversion, a disruptive shift in black feminist studies, to critically analyze the engagements of pleasure and power through pornography consumption, performance, and production.”
All anthologies straddle numerous opinions and I agree with Nina Hartley that “porn houses our sexual dreams, which are vitally important to our happiness.” The how – worker centered – is what makes feminist porn feminist. It is what mutual satisfaction looks like – good enough to share. Tristan Aormino knows both sides of the camera. I’ll watch sex that is “presented as joyful, fun, safe, mutual, and satisfying.” Sexual expressions of joy! Who would be against such imagery?
That was a larger question that was often left out of the frame. We hear and see enough of the anti-porn position. It was a nice reprieve from that way of thinking. The Feminist Porn Book repeatedly and gently reminds you to consume critically and honor consent always. Sexual expressions are exchanged as erotic capital and culturally produced whether we agree with it or not. That’s why having more porn that thinks and fucks like me is where I’ll be putting my hard-earned feminist dollars.
“We need, each of us, to begin the awesome, difficult work of love: loving ourselves so that we become able to love others without fear so that we can become able enough to enlarge the circle of our trust and our common striving for a safe, sunny afternoon near to flowering trees and under a very blue sky.” – June Jordan
I knew a long time ago.
I shouldn’t deny that I don’t practice conscious love. I do.
All those times when I said no.
All those times I said yes.
All those times worth was mine to know.
“Use the power of man. Use the word. Fuck. The word is love.” – Kim Gordon
Overhead, the backyards had pools and trampolines.
A land of only oxbow lakes.
A land where delayed gratification is a religion.
A land where there is no sympathy for the devil.
“Between us we create a circle of something like worship, a ritual of mutual incarnation.” Mykel Johnson from “Butchy femme” in The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader
We declaimed those who seem to own their identities so easily while affirming our own temporary status through amateur gif porn, bourbon, and sunburns in the unlikeliest of places – like the bend of your elbow or the middle part running across your scalp. Furiously finding ourselves up against our will, again and again, we realized much later how these proxies for desire, unfolded along an axis of repression and deviance, were sublimated into online conversations and polished stories shared in darkened rooms that no longer play the music we recognize.
I have a memory of you exhaling this is it for me onto the back of my neck. It’s resurrected as I sat sandwiched between stores filled with cheap shoes, bed fashions, drugs and groceries. In my direct view a poster warns, Don’t think, know. Another flashback holds a detail of strategically opened windows that bragged to your neighbors about our business, which was more carnal than intellectual. Others wane simply as background noise. Some are so intimate they can only be expressed as secrets found in between the way we choose to embody vulnerability and the actual practice of being authentic or the way these specifics are mine to own and tell.
breathing, a song –
a strategy for calm
inevitable after such
We waited together inside the bus stop. She told me teenage boys filmed her instead of letting her know her car was on fire. This is after we both agreed Jaguars were the coolest because of their hood ornaments.
When she walked off the bus, she said: be careful with who you bring into your house and watch who they invite in.
“Because there’s 40 different shades of black…” Pavement Elevate Me Later
I promise to hold your gaze, even those that are unwanted.
Or the erotic retelling of my life as told through your eyes.
It is the specifics that matter when we confess. Some may believe that is enough. The confession is the means to the end. But what would happen if we thought of that release as the beginning?
Until that expositional moment, those words, thoughts, opinions are internalized truths that are ours alone to own and to hold. Now they are all of ours to absorb, to manage, to learn from, and to let go to make room for what we do not yet know.
Please forgive me. I did what I was told to do. I was bound to pick up bad habits after all those hours of witnessing evangelizing and attempts at redemption.
I was taught over and over again, no matter what I did, I was never going to be good enough. I was taught my body was not mine and out of my control. I am just now understanding how much obvious violence, subtle and insidious, is needed to give your soul away.
There is a primacy in this ritual of naming, recording, and distilling into something that only I understand. I won’t be so naive to think that a mirror’s only job is to reflect.
Geographies contain multipliers.
They are containers of dreams,
a space for visions.
In a book that has nothing to do (at least not in an obvious way) with Nietzsche, I learn that he believed “philosophers tend to write their memoirs in their theories.” That feels like a well-known secret, an existential tenet.
That’s probably why I write about light so much. The sharpness of every one of those mornings when I realized I survived. I was alive. My breath my own. And rhythms. The way give and take should be an invitation. And the different shades within sadness. Understanding how much we had to absorb to get to the point of saturation. And the violence around silence.
There’s so much to tell you which is another way to say: vulnerability. Have you thought about how the intimate architecture of being out of body serves a purpose and the faith it takes to manifest this into pleasure? Why failures can quickly become ways to feel safe? I want to ask questions that lead to answers, or at the very least have a chance to form structure to a conversation.
In the end, this is simply a way to theorize this week’s memories into something concrete, into something I want to remember. I want nothing left but the details of how deliberately the sun slipped behind the ocean horizon and how the blue darkness now holds all my wishes.
That’s why we’ve learned to trust the sources that are closest to us; we assume them to be less distorted. There is catharsis in hearing our own voices.
Internalizing warm winter light’s revelations and recognizing our shadows are valuable endeavors this time of year.
I’ve recently calibrated how I think about boundaries; setting them and maintaining them. Initially, I saw boundaries as limiting. They had been described as methods to protect and ways to feel safe but that assumes too much maintenance on the individual end.
I am left wondering who holds the accountability.
We grow up learning about consent and boundaries the minute we start breathing. We learn the hard way or not at all.
I now see boundaries as better ways to make choices. They are not barriers but starting points. The borders that defined my early existence – rural, isolated, working poor, father’s anger, mother’s depression, lack, distance – so clearly shaped my understanding of choice and, what was often the case denial, that I feel no shame in coming to such an obvious conclusion so late in life.
I wish only to revel in this renunciation of limits.