Marianne Elliott

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Courageous Company with Justine Musk: The Courage to Speak

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

Courageous Company with Justine Musk

As we gear up for the next round of 30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action, (registration closes on Friday & the course starts Monday) I’ve invited some courageous friends to join me in exploring the small steps and choices that add up to a brave life. Find the other Courageous Company posts here.


I once co-hosted an erotica-writing workshop for women only.

There were about 17 of us. The workshop lasted all day, punctuated by strategic sessions of wine-tasting.

The alcohol, the increasingly personal and daring nature of the material we shared, the growing camaraderie among the women: bonding ensued.

(Like the movie BREAKFAST CLUB. But different.)

As the hours lengthened, the talk deepened, and the women began disclosing bits of their sexual histories.

What I noticed was this:

There was a lot of erotic trauma in the room.

It wasn’t severe. It was low-grade and almost mundane, the kind that gets experienced as a girl grows up and the world takes notice: the comments and small harassments and unwanted touches, the looks and feelings of ick, not a big deal especially when compared to the atrocities that others endure.

Yet there’s something shadowy and almost taboo around this part of female life, how it rarely gets acknowledged, discussed, because why would you talk about it and who wants to hear?

That day, we talked, this group of lively and intelligent women who wanted to celebrate female sexuality — and seemed (at least to me) to be surfacing a collective wound instead.

You take self-defense courses, you’re aware of what you’re wearing, you learn how to be careful at night, keys between your fingers as you walk alone to your car (has there ever been a case where a woman scared off an attacker by the deft and terrifying way she wielded her car keys?).

You learn the rituals of self-protection (or at least the illusion of protection).

As for the stuff you can’t protect against, that is in the air like miasma, you ignore. More or less. No big deal.

But you breathe it in over the years. You don’t discuss with women because it’s such a given part of the female experience, you don’t discuss with men because you get tired of being reminded that not all men are rapists. (You know that not all men are rapists. You never said that all men are rapists. A lot of men are actually pretty great.) When #YesAllWomen explodes all over Twitter – women worldwide sharing their experiences of misogyny – you maybe contribute a tweet or two yourself.

Sometimes it seems like inhabiting a female body is, in and of itself, an act of courage.

As a writer I’m fascinated with voice, the courage to speak as your true self, from the bones of authentic experience. According to psychologist Carol Gilligan, girls learn to suppress that voice around the age of 12, burying how they really feel and what they really know in order to get along and be accepted. This is around the same time they begin moving into young womanhood, in a culture where menstruation is regarded as dirty and taboo – “the curse” – and the female body something to be guarded contained controlled.

This is also the time when many girls experience a loss of self-esteem.

Is there a connection, then, between the onset of sexuality (and, with it, the growing awareness of potential rape), the loss of voice, of confidence?

What does it take to get that voice back, to give it breath and power?

I think about those women in the erotica workshop.

I think about the power of writing, how it can bring things into being, shining the light of conscious attention on what lives in silence and darkness.

I think how few things can steal away your voice like sexual abuse: hush, don’t tell, our little secret, you’ll be in big trouble. To grow up in rape culture means to live with a sexuality that has a knife edge, potential threat like a hum in the background. The challenge is to flourish anyway – and, in our flourishing, change nothing less than the culture itself.

So many young women learn to give pleasure, and take delight in being objects of pleasure, without feeling much entitlement to pleasure of their own.

But to write your sexuality – to literally become the author of it – shifts you into a different position, from object to subject: the one who chooses.

Your writing comes through your body as your hands move across the keyboard or push a pen across the page. As your speaking voice is carried on your breath, linking the internal to the external, the private to the public, your writing bridges the space between the world and your soul. It manifests your soul in the world.

It says: I am here.

It says: I am.

It lays claim to experience, including your right to pleasure, sensuality, and a story of your own.

Women were silenced, once. A woman’s body was a story over which male forces assumed authorship.

That isn’t the case anymore, but the legacy is still embedded in the culture, in the sense that women need to please — with their appearance, their warmth and deference — instead of being pleased, in the deep feminine wounds of a patriarchal and post-patriarchal culture, in women’s relationships to their bodies that too often become sites of self-loathing.

Voice equals identity and ownership, and the power to push back through bringing something else into being: your own deep radiance. Your voice is your invitation to meet in the country of yourself — for those with the courage to enter, encounter, and be transformed.


 

Justine MuskJustine Musk is the author of 3 dark-fantasy novels published by imprints at Penguin and Simon + Schuster, and is at work on a metaphysical thriller called THE DECADENTS.  

She blogs for wandering, spirited, questioning women (and the men who love them), and believes that being uncooperative with bullshit is to be cooperative with your own audacious truth. Find her at justinemusk.com.

 

Courageous Company with Marilyn Sewell: The Power of Story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

As we gear up for the next round of 30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action, (registration is now open) I’ve invited some courageous friends to join me in exploring the small steps and choices that add up to a brave life. Find the other Courageous Company posts here. Chapter 40:  in […]

Courageous Company with Alessandra Cave: The courage to share ourselves with the world.

Saturday, July 26, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

As we gear up for the next round of 30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action, (registration is now open) I’ve invited some courageous friends to join me in exploring the small steps and choices that add up to a brave life. Find the other Courageous Company posts here. About two years […]

Courageous Company with Lisa McKay: The Courage To Say Yes

Thursday, July 24, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

When I told Marianne I’d write a post about the courage to say yes, I had it all planned out.

I was going to start the piece by referencing saying “no.” There would be a brief anecdote about how my two-year-old’s main mission in life seems to be finding new and creative ways to provoke me into using that very word. Then I’d talk about how my inbox is full of people telling me to “Say No, No, No All The Way To Success,” and how my new book, From Stranger To Lover, looks at how the dynamics of meeting someone online conspire to lower our inhibitions, encourage casual intimacy, and facilitates poor boundaries in a new relationship. (In other words, when we’re online dating or in a new long distance relationship, many of us don’t say “no” enough.)

Courageous Company with Dani Shapiro: On Doing What Scares You

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

As we gear up for the next round of 30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action, (registration is now open) I’ve invited some courageous friends to join me in exploring the small steps and choices that add up to a brave life. Find the other Courageous Company posts here. I’ve been thinking […]

Courageous Company with Jen Louden: Courage Needs Fear

Friday, July 18, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

I used to believe I was fearless. I remember when Bob, my now husband, and I were dating. We were juggling kids and often couldn’t see each other for days at a time so we hit upon the plan to share my office so we could spend work time together. So adorable. I was on a call with someone talking about a possible big project, and when I hung up, Bob looked over at me and said, “You’re so afraid.”

I bounced out of my chair and huffed, “I am not afraid! I am fearless! Do you know what I’ve done in my life?”

Courageous Company with Andrea Scher: The Courage to Believe There is Room for Everybody

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

A few years ago, I was designing the curriculum for an e-course “Cultivating Courage” and was getting really excited about the idea of a 30 day courage challenge. One day I googled “30 days of courage” (what I was originally going to call the class) to see if anyone was doing something similar. I was shocked to discover that not only was someone already doing a course by that name, but it was someone I knew! Someone in my creative circle who I have always adored and admired – Marianne Elliott. Crap! I thought.

A Hard-won Lesson: what I learned from a harsh review

Thursday, June 5, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

This month I’ll be sharing some of the hard-won lessons I learned in the process of writing, publishing and promoting Zen Under Fire as a Guest Contributor in the online Conscious Booksmith workshop. A book doesn’t come to life in a vacuum — mine certainly didn’t. A book is made real in the midst of […]

Is it time to recalibrate your compass?

Saturday, May 31, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

There’s a lot of talk, in personal development and activist circles, about finding your purpose. I’m wary of that turn of phrase, with it’s implication that ‘purpose’ is both singular and fixed. I think of it more as ‘living a purposeful life’, or - as my friend Tara puts it ‘recognising your callings‘, plural. Julia Butterfly Hill calls […]

Meet Aoife Kenny — doctor & expat yogi.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 by Marianne Elliott

One of the greatest rewards of my work as a yoga teacher is getting to know, learn from and be inspired by the people who take my courses. As we’re gearing up for the next round of 30 Days of Yoga, we wanted to stop and put the stoplight on a few of the students […]

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