It's a landscape in which we're at once more brilliant and more deranged than usualAnd that's what's so fantastic about it!
In my “According to Orgasm” posts, I’ll take a current news or culture topic and view it through the lens of Orgasm.
“Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” Phaedrus
Today’s morning scroll through Facebook illuminated several new angles of the media and cultural splash around Caitlyn Jenner. As expected, much of the splash showed up in the form of dirty water and smears rather than celebratory champagne (or gatorade, as this case may be.)
Most of us are not famous to the degree of even one of Caitlyn’s fingernails. So our decisions are much less public. Most of us are also not transgender and don’t have the experience of navigating that particular set of condition-breaking decisions. And I think most of us can relate with making decisions that are deeply personal and garner negative opinions. On some fundamental level, we are all grappling with the question of: Is it OK to be me exactly as I am? Can I come all the way without editing myself?
Often we interpret slander and attacks on our character as negative and something to be stopped. Let’s look through the lens of Orgasm for a different interpretation.
In Orgasm, we often talk about getting turned on—only it’s not the way you think. Getting turned on in my world means gaining access to more sensation in your body. When we hear the words “turn on” we often think about sex or feeling sexy—we see someone hot or think of something arousing and we feel “turned on.”
But getting turned on isn’t actually about sex. Sex is just one example where this phenomenon takes place—the phenomenon of stepping outside of your comfort zones and into your involuntary. It happens all over: when we get angry and blurt out a harsh word we’d never normally say, when we’re about to give a speech and we can’t even remember how to talk, when we feel awkward and embarrassed. This is how it feels to get turned on. It’s when our habituated responses get bypassed and we step into the fresh landscape of our own unedited reactions.
It’s a landscape in which we’re at once more brilliant and more deranged than usual. And that’s what’s so fantastic about it! Getting turned on is what gets us into trouble, so to speak—and that kind of status quo-breaking trouble, as far as I can tell, is what makes life so interesting. When we’re turned on, we move beyond the appropriate, metered response. Our systems heat up and we actually get to see what we’re made of.
So what does this have to do with Caitlyn?
All I see when I read both the next excited revelation or nasty hate-meme around Caitlyn’s recent transition is a human feeling turned on. In the case of the nasty memes, it is a human getting turned on—and not knowing what the hell to do about it.
Because getting turned on is A LOT of sensation to feel! Our hearts race, our skin is on fire, our mouths go dry, our palms sweat, our cortex goes out the window. We stutter and yell. We enter an involuntary state. To be turned on means we are entering the unknown and departing civilized society. It’s a state of aliveness and vitality that we all deeply crave—yet will also avoid at many costs.
So when something happens like this that pushes people right to the edge of what’s appropriate, what they view as normal, what their brains and bodies will stretch to understand—there’s a massive amount of turn on.
Groups and individuals getting turned on by Caitlyn doesn’t explicitly have anything to do with sex or sexuality. The negative press and wild array of offensive social media only mean that her decision, so publicly made, is one that puts many people outside of their comfort zones and into their involuntary. In short, we all begin to feel—more and differently and in greater volume than we are accustomed to. Remember, anger is a sign of turn on. Disgust and panic. It all counts because when our systems heat up and we step out of our comfort zones, we have all sorts of reactions. Honestly, the reactions aren’t even a problem. Once you see them for what they are—as normal human sensations—you won’t be so reactive yourself. The sensations themselves are never a problem. How people interpret them, and then what they say as a result, can and does hurt. Certainly we can all learn how to be in a turned on state and do less damage. But the turn on behind our reactions is never a problem. It’s a beautiful thing, a normal part of being alive.
From the perspective of Orgasm, America is massively turned on right now—feeling things that take us straight to our edge. Which is AWESOME. Orgasm doesn’t distinguish happiness as better than disgust. (My work with Orgasm has taught me, however, that disgust is attraction cleverly masked—but that’s a different blog post.) They are both simply involuntary reactions to being right at the edge of what we’re used to, the same way some people’s mouths water when they’re nervous and some people’s dry up. What can you do about that? Nothing. It is your body acting without your permission. That’s what happens when we get turned on. It means America is uncomfortable. And that is a very good thing. It means the status quo is being broken.
Every time you read something “negative,” reframe it as a sign of deep impact and power. That’s what I do—because it’s true. Emotions are signs of being turned on, and I will take a turned on culture any day over a turned off one.
Are people mean to each other? Certainly.
Do I wish that the world would be more inclusive and celebratory of differences? Yes, of course I do.
And we get the privilege of working the world we’ve got. The first thing we can do is not be afraid of other people’s turn on and see if for what it is. In this way, we can have true compassion for each other.
Because I look at this and think, “Oh, honey. Your body must be just twisting up inside. Your eyes must want to pop out of your head! I bet you feel fire in your veins and your teeth grow longer. You’re insulted and scared. And that is awesome. That means you’re alive and feeling. And baby, don’t I know it—is it deeply uncomfortable to feel so alive.”
Turn on ultimately leads to innovation and collaboration, however. When we let our own turn on lead the way, others naturally follow. It is the most compelling force on the planet. So when you see things you don’t like in the news, let your own turn on come out and be felt. Not the part of you that wants to bash back, but the part that sees where we’re heading and leads the way towards something better.