The 2nd Annual World Sexual Health Day is happening tomorrow evening (yes, September 4, 2014) in New York City. Not anywhere near New York City? No worries! You can follow the streaming video at the link above.
Shan Jeniah and I are going to the city to meet August McLaughlin, whom we met through WANA (the brainchild of Kristen Lamb) in a recreation of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse that should prove a growth experience for each of us. Why in heaven’s name, you ask, would I take a day of precious annual leave to go to New York for World Sexual Health Day? Well, I’ve already named two reasons in Shan and August.
I met Shan in person soon after I moved to upstate New York a little over two years ago, We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to meet up, but I enjoy each time we manage to do so. August is someone I got to know online, to the point that I find it hard to imagine I’ve never met her in the flesh. When my brother passed away last December, August was one of the first of my “online” friends to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I was honored to participate in her Beauty of a Woman Blogfest last spring.
That is the friendship/personal side of things. I have other personal reasons to be interested in this event. Many of them echo Shan’s in her post about this event. I was raised Irish Catholic in a time when the schools felt besieged by the changes in the world around them. Skirts were shorter, so we had to kneel on the floor to show the modesty of our uniforms before we could enter the school. The Pill had arrived, heralding sexual freedom, so we were terrorized with the fickle nature of men, who “wouldn’t buy the cow when they got the milk for free.”
On a more individual note, I had found my freedom and my passion in the life of the mind. The body was secondary, whimsical and illogical, prone to flash judgements that promised only decades of regret. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure,” might have been emblazoned on the family crest, had poor shanty Irish had one. I was at war with my body, confused and betrayed by physical desires I little understood and tried to put in their subterranean place. As luck would have it, most of the young men at my high school saw me as the brain with whom they did homework and confessed their secret desires for the cheerleaders, popular girls, and the beauties. Thus, without an outlet, the desires dimmed and guttered out.
In my mid-twenties, a divorcée, I reluctantly put myself back in the dating pool. On one of my first dates, a man asked to come into my apartment for a glass of water. He drank the water, shattered the glass, and threatened me with the shards while he raped me. At the time, AIDS was in the headlines, with people dying by the day, yet it was too early for date rape to be a concept. The police sympathized with my cuts and bruises, but could not prosecute given that I had gone out with the man and let him into my apartment.
Long story short, I have a deeply personal connection with sexual health, both physical and mental. I sweated through the weeks of waiting for my test results; I worked through months of therapy. I am not the common story, but I am more common than one might think. Because of my scars, I rejoice in the physical, the sexual, the freedom, because I have fought harder for that freedom than most people (until now, I suppose) know.
So, join us. If not in the flesh, in the spirit; if not through the streaming, give a thought, a wish, a dream, to a freedom that should come naturally but often does not.