Sexuality is something that we all have to deal with. There is a profound impulse to mate in each one of us. No person can escape it. No animal can escape it, unless they are pets who have been surgically altered. Nothing in nature can escape it. Sexuality is the foundation of life. This is something that I have deeply understood through my garden. This amazingly creative act happens in nature all the time. It is where fruit and food comes from. So much of what we eat is a result of flowers having sex with each other. Sex is fundamental to life. Without it, nothing could exist.
As a young girl, I was exposed to sexual energy when I was too young to understand it, and when the social context was completely inappropriate. I have spent a good part of my life trying to understand the impact of this on myself. And the impact of far far worse situations on other women. Spending years doing yoga and meditation has given me a sense of sanity and perspective about it, for which I feel truly grateful. The essence of what I have come to understand over time is this. Humans have impulses that are natural and normal, like every other living creature on the earth. But unlike every other creature, the social context in which those impulses play out is everything.
The gang rape in New Delhi is appalling. Yet, the unfortunate fact is anyone can get on the Internet any time of day or night and watch videos of men “gang-banging” one woman. The Internet has normalized these kinds of sexual activities. The social context of sexuality today, for many young men, begins on the Internet with access to pornography that glamorizes and normalizes sexually violent acts. The trade of women as sex slaves is the worst it has been in human history. Tens of thousands of women are forced into prostitution each year against their will. In my lifetime, there have been wars where women endure “rape camps.” This is the real and terrifying sexual-social context of the world today. It is the very very large shadow of civil society.
As a women, I know that sex is sex. Getting pregnant is getting pregnant. Having a child is having a child. But whether I will have a chance at being happy is completely dependent on whether I am a willing participant in that activity. And whether I am a willing participant is only partly under my control.
Women navigate this potential tragedy every day. It is not just in India that these things happen. The painful contradiction is that deep down inside, many women want a mate. A partner who is going to share his strength with her, not turn it against her. A woman may long for a strong mate with one part of her psyche. Simultaneously, she has to protect herself from the possibility of rape with another part of her psyche.
The rage in New Delhi is understandable. Civil societies exist for a reason. Throughout history, humans can affirm from their experience that a voluntary social context for sexuality leads to happier homes, more stability, more prosperity, and a greater enjoyment of life. A violent or involuntary context for sexuality leads to mental illness, pain, struggle, poverty and difficulty.
The problem is that governments do not have the power to end the sexually violent culture that exists in the world. They can pass laws that may act as a deterrent. They can enforce punishment after the fact. But governments cannot end that haunting specter of sexual violence.
Watching nature, it is easy to see the glory, beauty and wonder of sexuality. Plants engage in their creative dance according to the movement of the sun. They flower at certain times of year, cross-pollinate, bear fruit or seed, and then go dormant – all on a predictable schedule. Animals go in and out of heat. Their glands dictate their actions. But humans are the only creative beings on the planet who must regulate their own sexuality. The impulse to mate may be primal. But it is a test of human consciousness to pick our moment. To pick our partner. To choose the context. And those choices define our entire lives.
Whatever I have been through in my life, no matter how small and insignificant compared to the stories of others, I have always been able to find support through books, groups, and a sense of understanding. I know this may not be so true in other countries. But it is true in the U.S. One of the victories of the women’s rights movement is that there is no shame in asking for or receiving help as a woman if something has happened to you.
Yet, there is very little help for a man who is thinking about raping someone. There is no hotline for him to call. There is no support group for him to go to. There is no safe place for him to deal with it. He either acts out that impulse or keeps himself under control. If he cannot control himself, and he has nowhere to go for help, the consequences are devastating. Sexual violence may leave a man feeling temporarily in the superior position, but it destroys him in the long run. How can that man know love? How can he create a peaceful and cozy home? How can he be a stable and prosperous human? When a man creates a non-complicit sexual-social experience, he harms himself as well as the other person.
When it comes to change, both sides of the equation matter. How do you help a women heal who has been a victim of sexual violence? And how do you help men heal so that they never commit these acts in the first place?
If sexual violence is going to end; if there is going to be a social context for sexual expression that allows people to enjoy the beauty and majesty of life, I sincerely believe it has to begin with each of us. Every choice we make when dealing with our own sexuality either contributes to a healthy social context. Or it detracts from it. We know that choices with food or exercise matter to the health of our body. It is the same with sexuality. How we think about if, how we talk about it, how we deal with it either creates a healthy environment or a sick one. If each person who cares about this issue would develop the healthiest possible social context for his or her own sexuality, and teach their children to do the same, the shadow of sexual violence could become much smaller.
There is nothing I can do for the gang rape victim but pray for her soul and for her family. The perpetrators will face the consequences of their actions, one way or another. But when it comes to change, personal habits are the first, most empowering line of defense. We can create, in our own lives and with the people we know, a context for sexuality that is human, respectful, mutual, and kind.
With Divine Light,
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur