Saturday, May 28, 2011

Witch Hunt

Last week, The Daily Mail ran an article called “Disgrace of the six drinking, pole-dancing primary school teachers who published the pictures on Facebook…Outrage after parent printed pictures and posted them through neighbors’ front doors.”

Evidently the photos show six women at a bachelorette in sexy army gear, drinking, smoking, and yes, pole dancing.  The teachers failed to make the photos private on Facebook.  A very motivated parent found the pictures online, printed them off, and put them the neighbors’ front doors with a letter which read:  “If you are as appalled as I am by these images which these tramps post freely for the world to see, how safe are our children?  Answer, not very! Children might be seeing these images.  What does this tell you about this school and how it is being run?  These women teach my children, but not for much longer.  I say remove the scum…”  The article goes to describe the parents’ reactions (“shocked”) and then to name four of the six teachers. 

It goes without saying that the teachers made a mistake by making the pictures available for all to see on Facebook.  However, publicly shaming them for what amounts to a harmless, free play of pleasure frankly has all the makings of a modern day witch hunt.  These women have a right to enjoy their lives outside of their work environment.  You know what I find shocking?  That in the year 2011 we still label women who enjoy their sexuality as tramps without a second thought.  And that we feel comfortable publicly humiliating them and then quickly move on to worrying about the effect “these women” will have on the children.  I am far more worried about what kind of an effect such blatant narrow-mindedness and venom will have on the children.  There is this unspoken belief that if you are a woman who partakes in sensual, pleasure-oriented behavior in any type of public venue, then you lose your right to be treated with respect and dignity.  You are a fallen woman, a tramp, scum (unless you are a celebrity of course – then you are worshipped for this same behavior).  This belief exists to varying degrees in many different cultures around the world and it is at the heart of why so many people struggle with accepting expressions of female sensuality, including those found in pole dancing. 

I am happy to say that it appears as though the school is standing by the teachers.  While they acknowledge that having the pictures circulated through a social networking site is regrettable, they also acknowledge that the photos were taken at a private event.  Additionally, the head of the school reportedly told the parents to “mind their own business”.   Now that’s more like it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Pleasure Principle

I’m sitting outside at Le Pain Quotidien on Melrose, enjoying a salad and a mimosa.  It’s one of those perfect LA days – blue skies, palm trees rustling in a gentle breeze, flowers blooming everywhere.  Le Pain Quotidien is one of the few places in LA that has real French bread.  And because I have a French mother, I am acutely aware of what constitutes real French bread, and what amounts to a sad approximation of French bread.   Tearing into and chewing a slice of pain rustique at this place immediately transports me to my grandmother’s apartment circa 1986.  My brother and I were sent every morning to get the bread from the boulangerie on the corner.  It was sometimes still warm from the oven, and we could barely wait to get home and sit down to a breakfast of bread and butter dipped in hot chocolate.  These days I dip my bread into Earl Grey tea, but the taste and texture of the bread is still my favorite part of the ritual.

This afternoon reminds of a different vacation though.  One I took with my lover two years ago.  We spent hours eating bread dipped in olive oil and consuming vast quantities of white wine in the South of France.  We lay on the beach, we lay in bed, and we went out to eat almost every night.  There was this sense of deep pleasure and immediate connection with our surroundings.  We lived with the luxurious feeling that time, for all its constraints and demands, was irrelevant.  Except for the day we almost missed our train back to Paris.  But that’s another story!

My relationship to time is challenging.  So is everyone’s I suppose.  I frequently feel rushed, I have a hard time scheduling time for myself and I’m often overcommitted.  But I recognize, on days like today, that the ability to let go of time, to let the day unfold on its own, without commitments, without plans gives me tremendous pleasure.  Sensations, such as the sun warming the wood of the table underneath my hand, or the smell of my perfume as the breeze blows through my hair, become heightened and I appreciate and connect with what is around me so much more.  My desires, both physical and emotional, become clearer.  I feel deeply relaxed.

I wonder sometimes if America’s relationship to pleasure is tragically intertwined with their relationship to time.  We so often rush through our lives; we put emphasis on being productive and on accomplishing our goals.  From this perspective, pleasure becomes another thing to experience, or to do rather than arising from an internal sense of peace or relaxation.  Of course, there are many different ways to experience pleasure.  But how I feel today reminds me of how I feel in dance class these days: unrushed, delighted, alive, aroused, playful and….happy.  Wait, happy? Yes, the woman who spent three years stomping around class threatening to bite your head off and spit it out is now smiling seductively and joyfully while she dances.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a complete tease.  I’ll still fuck with you if you sit in the chair.  I’ll draw you in and push you away.  But I don’t want to kill you anymore.  Au contraire.  I want you to come play with me.  Take me for a walk.  Tell me what to do.

My teacher Sheila said to me this week, “You know Claire, we all know that badass thing is just a bunch of bullshit.  I mean it’s hot as hell, but it’s complete bullshit.  Your vulnerable moments are what really make me want to fuck you (she really does talk like that – it’s all metaphorical of course).  That moment where you slipped a little bit and almost fell over?  (She turns to the class) Didn’t you want to fuck her?” They did.

My own personal experience of my vulnerability while dancing is of course, quite different.  It’s a bit scary at first, but I feel a great deal more pleasure when I dance from a place of relaxed happiness.  Why relaxed happiness makes me feel vulnerable and scared is yet another story, but I will leave it at this: I’ve never felt like I can trust it for too long.  But I care a lot less these days when I make a mistake (aka “something goes wrong”).  I don’t try to “do” a trick; I just follow my body and improvise.  Don’t misunderstand me though - that angry in-your-face dancing has its place too, and sometimes I need to move that way.  But the amount of freedom I feel when I dance from a place of lazy, timeless pleasure, a place where I let go of expectations is like a mini-vacation to the South of France in and of itself.  And frankly, so is an afternoon at Le Pain Quotidien!

You know, if I weren’t in public right now I would probably open my legs wide on this bench I’m sitting on and drop my torso and head in to a lazy seated hip circle.  Oh well.  Instead I will settle for an ultra slow hair pull with both my hands and a lazy, sexy, happy, head roll.  A tout a l’heure mes cheries!