So Ferocious (2016)
Hot Night
Vim & Vigor
So Ferocious
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Fat & Happy
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To Be Known
The Animal I Am
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Laziest Gal in Town
Heavenly Thing
Two Sleepy People
You Don't Know What Love Is
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Ain't So Green
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thoughts on love, sex, music and ferocity
tagged: pleasure
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Sex, Shame, and Your Ferocious Inner Pleasure Goddess

Since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in sex. I’ve been fascinated by it, titillated by it, amused and inspired by it. I was the kid who pretended her Barbies were prostitutes. I was the kid for whom “playing house” included the Mommy and the Daddy having sex (i.e. making out with my friends under the bed). I was the kid who found the stack of Playboys in my dad’s office, and distributed them.

And as long as I’ve been interested in sex, I’ve understood that my interest was something to be ashamed of. I was the kid who got blamed when J’s brother got suspended for bringing Playboys to school. And when M’s mom caught us making out under the bed - and subsequently activated the Rural Virginia Concerned Moms phone tree - I was the kid whose friends stopped answering my calls; who got disinvited from parties; who got shunned, publicly, in gymnastics class.

Apart from the occasional public shaming, though, I didn’t catch much of the usual anti-sex propaganda. I was raised in a sort of new age Group Therapy Commune, by an atheist and an agnostic/Christian mystic Jew. Nobody ever told me outright that sex was bad, or that I was bad for being interested in it. Of course, this is how shame prefers to operate: covertly, behind-the-scenes, under the cover of night. Nobody had to feed me shame; I breathed it in and absorbed it.

Sex is hip, desire is square.

As a teenager, very little changed. I wanted to try everything, to feel everything, to make out with everyone. I remember the first time my boyfriend went down on me - I was stoned, and the room was dimly lit, and it was like I was seeing the stars for the first time. Pleasure, sweet and bright and fluid, filled my whole body.

But I also remember being called a slut, and “nasty”, and being told repeatedly to “change into something appropriate”. I remember my boyfriend telling me he didn’t want to have sex with me because “sex ruins everything”. I remember a series of drunken hookups, all of them fun at the time, all of them followed by ugly words and dark, shame-infested high school dramas.

And I remember the slow realization that, despite the cultural imperative for every woman to be a recently-shaven, fresh-smelling “down there”, Kegel-squeezing sex bomb for 100% of her life (waking or sleeping), it was not actually cool to want sex, or to enjoy it.

I’m thirty now, and my little perverted heart remains unchanged. Sex is still the central fascination of my life. It is one of my primary sources for joy, inspiration, and connection. Sexual energy, for me, is the same stuff as creative energy; my songs come to me by way of my libido.

But the shame also hasn’t changed. When I’m feeling insecure, sex is the hammer I use to bludgeon myself with. Every hot-cheeked, sweaty-palmed moment comes rushing back, from that humiliating gymnastics class to the other day, when I tried and failed to initiate sex with my husband. “Why do you have to ruin everything?” I think. “Why are you so obsessed? “ “Why can’t you just be cool, like a regular gal?”

And then, in my funk of self-loathing, I’ll turn on the TV. And that is almost always a mistake. Because there, I find an alternate universe where every man is always turned on, and pursuing sex with a goofy, dogged-but-endearing determination. And every woman is the hot and flighty babe-next-door, for whom sex is a sort of side-hustle; the game she plays to win the stuff she really wants: romance, marriage, nail polish. If she does deign to have sex with him, it’s because he said something mushy; in which case she will grab him by the head and suck face like a CPR instructor, then remove exactly one item of clothing, and be primed for penetration in four seconds flat.

Or, maybe she is “troubled”, and thus uses sex to get other stuff she wants: attention, social status, the jealousy of other women. Rarely, if ever, does she want sex because sex is fun - because it inspires her, and fills her with bright and fluid pleasure.

How to Feed Your Pleasure Goddess

So, I am making my own media. I wrote ‘Vim and Vigor’ from the perspective of my righteous, unabashed Id – the Pleasure Goddess who lives deep inside me. She is full of desire and delight, she is ferocious and unashamed.

“I know I got a dirty mind
It’s in the gutter all the time
I don’t believe that it’s a crime
I consider it a service!”

In the video, we find her in her desire mansion, surrounded by men who turn her on, get her off, and feed her cake, according to her whims. She eats burgers by the pool. She has a pair of tap-dancing butlers, and a thousand pairs of pink shoes.

This creature lives in me, and I believe she lives in you, too. Maybe your Pleasure Goddess loves pie, or snowboarding, or women, or fennec foxes. Maybe she lives on a boat, or in a cave. But I’d wager she is down there now, making mischief and getting perma-laid. I’d wager she comes out to play sometimes, when you are truly in your party place.

And the great irony is this: the people who shame us, the so-called Good and Decent People? The gym teachers, and the pastors, and the moms who activate the phone tree? The Pleasure Goddess lives in them, too. She is in there somewhere, on her velvet throne, drinking Sake and watching Patrick Swayze (circa Dirty Dancing) shine her shoes.

But eventually, because they never let her out to play, she becomes a Goddess of Destruction, and starts to eat them up from the inside. So they lash out - they try to beat down their own desires by beating you up for yours. 

And before long, these people are not good and decent, tempered by their love of God and country. These people are bullies.

And bullies do not respond to reason, nor do they back down from intimidation. You can’t fight bullies with bullying. You can only fight them by being good to your own Pleasure Goddess: by living, delightedly and ferociously, right in front of their ugly, stupid faces.    


The ‘Vim & Vigor’ music video comes out next week, on my birthday: July 22nd. 

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(Photo by Ben Berry of Mountain Craft.)



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How to DO Creativity - Part II.

The truth is, friends, I’ve got a top-secret project brewing, and it involves me interviewing some of my favorite creators about how creativity works. It’s been inspiring and informative, and has only thrown fuel on my obsession with the creative process.

I’ll be sharing some of what I learn on this blog - then, one day, I’ll share the top-secret project itself!

1)   Get into an altered state.

Inspiration is impractical, and it is not often drawn to practical-minded individuals. When you are in a practical state - primarily concerned with money, housekeeping, or keeping your job - chances are not good that the muse will pay you a visit.

Inspiration is itself an altered state. Being inspired feels a little like being in love, or sleep-deprived, or high. The creators I’ve been talking to agree that to kick oneself into that altered state, it helps to be in another one first: falling in love is a common catalyst - so is heartbreak, and loneliness, and anger, and lust. Our brains are full of chemicals, and their combinations cause all kinds of interesting responses; creativity is one of the best.

But in case you’re not in love or heartbroken or angry, many creators find ways to alter their mental states using external stimulus. Common methods include travel, sleep deprivation, naps, alcohol and marijuana (just reporting - not recommending… necessarily).

I believe in muses and song-angels, but I also believe in science. If I’m speaking in sciencey terms, I think it’s fair to say that what we call ‘inspiration’ is probably what happens when the innovative, associative, emotional part of our brain is fired up, and the inhibiting, analytical, self-conscious part is temporarily switched off. Inspiration feels like riding a wonderful right-brain wave – the art of it is learning how to keep your nervous nellie of a left-brain from pushing you off (more on that later).

2) Allow your mind to wander.

Creativity requires idle time. I don’t mean staring-at-your-phone time, or watching-Netflix time, but an actual empty expanse of time, when your mind is free of distractions and can alight on whatever is at hand.

It helps to put your mind in a comfortable physical space: creativity especially seems to like beauty and silence. It thrives in quiet rooms, empty houses, and the outdoors. It doesn’t like phones, or anything else that can interrupt it abruptly.

It also helps to give your body something to do while your mind wanders. Some common mind-wandering activities include: moving through space (walking, driving, skateboarding, rocking chairs and hammocks), drawing, washing dishes, sweeping, cooking, gardening, kicking or throwing a ball. For best results: do these things alone, in silence, and without fear of interruption (ie: turn off your phone).


 3) Have a deadline.

I am working on songs all the time. Like, for 100% of my life, since I was thirteen, I have been working on a song. I am not always working actively - sitting in a chair with guitar in hand - but I always have journals and iPhone memos and the back half of my brain full of little scribbled song snippets: lyrics, melodies, chords, titles and themes. Mostly, I scribble these ideas down and then forget them, at least consciously.

When I say “I wrote a new song”, I usually mean “I finished a song I’ve been working on for a while”. Only about 10% of the time do I start with a brand-new idea and complete it in one sitting.

Two things can shove these half-finished songlets into full-fledged songs. One is inspiration (usually brought on by one of the altered states listed above). The other is a deadline.

One of the things I love about making albums is that, without fail, the prospect of being in the studio shakes loose a whole cascade of songs. They wriggle out of my subconscious and wake me up at night, as if to say, “Wait! Don’t forget me! I’m coming too!”

The artists I’m talking to, and interviews I’ve read with songwriters who worked in the Brill Building, or on Tin Pan Alley, say similar things: you might think that a deadline would scare inspiration off – and sometimes it does. But just as often, inspiration shows up at the last-minute and sprinkles a little fairy dust before you turn in your work.

4) Practice.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the point of practice is not just improving at your craft. The point is making your ego so mind-numbingly bored that it wanders off and bothers someone else.

Creativity means doing something new, and your ego hates it when you do new things. Your ego wants you to be successful at things, and nobody is successful at anything new. If you try writing a new song, for example, and ask your ego what he thinks about it, he will say that it is stupid and lame and contrived of six other songs, and that all of your songs are in fact stupid, and that if the world needed more songs it would ask Patty Griffin to write them, and that Patty Griffin by the way would agree that this is a stupid song.

It’s hard to get your ego to shut up. No amount of begging or bribery seems to do it. I recommend boring it into a stupor. Meditation helps with this, so do long drives and plane rides, and so does practice.

You want to start training your mind that when there’s a guitar in your hand, and you’re sitting in a quiet room, your ego might as well go do something else because nothing interesting is about to happen. After the 600th time you sit down to practice, your ego will wander off unbidden, and you can write a song in peace.

5) Be carried away by pleasure.

Songwriting, at it’s core, is about the pleasure of making sounds. Painting is about the pleasure of form and color. Dance is about the pleasure of moving your body. Science, as Richard Feynman famously said, is about the pleasure of finding things out. All creative acts are driven by a single motivator: the deep, personal, sensual pleasure of creating.

If you can connect to the pleasure of the things you make, and stay connected to it – if you can reconnect to that pleasure when your ego comes crashing through your mind – you will have a long and happy relationship with your muse. 

The muse is a hedonist. Everything she does, she does because it feels good; and just like any good lover, the best way to please her is to please yourself.




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