It’s a Wednesday, which is a Declaring Our Erotic day!
Today I’m thinking about the idea of safety, of the psychic/emotional kind — not of the “please don’t tie me up with nylon panty hose because those dig deep into my skin when I pull at them” sort.
This idea of emotional safety, around sex and otherwise, particularly for survivors of sexual trauma, is important, and worth nudging into some.
What is safe? There’s physical safety, and then there’s emotional or psychic safety — there’s knowing that I’m unlikely to get beat when I walk out the door, or when I walk back in, right? There’s knowing, and attending to with enormous gratitude, that there aren’t bombs falling from the sky where I walk to the bus, there are no mines lining the roads that the bus drives to get me to my work, there are no check points, no guards, no ‘insurgents’ — and, too, there’s the fact that in the years that I broke away from my stepfather, there’s been no assault in the night, no agents sent to harm me or those I love — all of which I absolutely feared. There’s knowing there’s a roof over the place I sleep, that I have stability with that place, that there’s food in my cupboard and refrigerator, there’s a bed and a door that locks — these are all markers of physical safety. I can walk around the neighborhood without being worried about stray gunshots from police weapons or other weapons. The amount of privilege I have to be able to say all of this is astounding — to just step back and be aware — measures and measures of physical safety.
(Am I still conscientious and aware when I walk out into the day? Yes. Do I still often walk out into my day with my ears buttoned up with headphones and music? Yes — another layer of physical safety.)
And so it is that the sort of safety I tend more to be concerned about is of the verbal, emotional or psychic sort, having to do with triggers and rememberings, having to do with communication, how what you say, and how you say what you say, impacts me, and, too, how what I say, and how I say what I say, impacts others. I think about being a ‘safe place’ for other folks, and wanting other folks to be a ‘safe place’ for me, especially my friends and my spouse. That I need them to be safe so that I will be safe —
But yesterday, when I was journaling, I wrote:
What if I’m putting too much energy on safe — on how often I need to be safe, on where safe resides. Can safe be in me, no matter what the other person is doing? How do I step into that place? Safe is in me, of me — that’s a significant shift.
What if there were a way that I knew I was ok, now, in this time, no matter what the person I was with was saying — or, let’s say the person I’m with is doing something that I find triggering, that reminds me of something my stepfather would do: what if that was no threat to my emotional, inherent safety?
I’m not talking about asserting that I’m safe even when I’m getting nonconsensually hit. I’m talking about emotional or psychic safety being something I have access to, even during sex, even when I risk asking my lover for something new or different, even when the other person doesn’t respond the way I hoped they would (or, maybe even worse, when they do respond positively!) — what if that didn’t compromise my sense of safety, my sense of being-ok-ness?
The word safe means, variously, not in danger or likely to be harmed; not dangerous or likely to cause harm; not harmed or damaged; something that does not involve any risk.
And so that last: there again, to my question above about whether I’m putting too much energy on being safe: do I really want a life that doesn’t involve any risk? I actually want to take more risks. What if safe is a knot I’ve tied myself into, this idea that I need or am supposed to be safe all the time: what if I were to let that go, find another word for my emotional wellness that didn’t tie into not taking any risks.
And what about this ideas that girls are supposed to be safe: not dangerous or likely to cause harm. Sugar and spice and everything nice, all that: what happens when we shove at that idea, some, crumble it, take back our dangerousness?
Safe can be a trap, for me. (It’s a privilege to get to say that, to get to be aware that I want more risk in my life.) Safe, too, can be a way that I control others: what you’re doing/saying makes me feel unsafe. How often have white women used that to turn a dialogue away from talking about racism, for example?
Sex, for me, always requires risk — and so is never safe, just by definition. What if that’s ok?
Erotic writing has been a way for me to negotiate that risk, that space between safety and desire, a way for me to feel it in my body before I put my body against someone else. And can help me step off the page, too.
I’m asking this question today: what if I’m ok even if I’m not completely safe — that is, even if I’m taking risks and I can’t know or control the outcome. What would I do, who would I be, if I didn’t always have to be safe?
What about you?
Thanks for your fierce questioning, the generous work you did yesterday, the kindness you’re going to offer to the world today.