Monday, January 20, 2014

Working at a Sex Shop & Navigating My Triggers

I work at a sex shop & absolutely love it. My main job is to educate customers, who are polite & respectful 99% of the time. My co-workers & boss are great and we all share the work without any problems. This is the best job I’ve ever had.

A trigger is a thing, however seemingly minute, that brings a person back mentally to a previous, traumatic experience.  They are often considered symptoms of PTSD, whether from warfare or rape or terrible abuse.  My triggers stem from rape that happened when I was 4-16. It wasn’t until 2010 that i realized exactly what had happened to me (I’m 28 to give you an idea of time). A dark few months passed during which I sought help & recovered. I’m very high functioning today & can pull myself out of the lows that pop up occasionally.

My triggers are easily avoided; I’m very clear about them with my sexual partners, who respect them. But every now and then something at work will start to trigger me: covers of certain porns that fetishize what I went through. Mainstream porn is problematic for more objective reasons, which I won’t tackle right now, and I don’t think any less of the people who enjoy those porns. It isn’t the fault of the porn, of the customers, of my job, nor of myself that I work with my triggers.  I shouldn’t have them to work around, but I can do it.  Sometimes there are parts of the shop that I just won’t go by on bad days. Sometimes I need to go outside and breathe a bit.  This heightened sensitivity is usually brought about either by an attempted contact from my rapist, from a nightmare, or something else unrelated to work.  I have worked on healthy habits to shorten these periods.

Although I’ve known many people who’ve had similar jobs, encountering triggers in the workplace isn’t a topic I’ve ever found. I haven’t brought this up at work largely because it’s not a big enough problem & I want to stay professional. I do want my experience known, nevertheless, for those who might worry that something is wrong with them for having similar triggers. I’m not alone in my experience, and I think it’s important to discuss.  There are resources for rape survivors, abuse survivors, and people who have triggers (contact me if you have questions!!), but I have yet to find any for sex workers and educators?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anti-Theist vs. Spiritual

A recent trend in my life is that most of the outspoken atheists I know are less compassionate than the outspoken theists I know, who are in the minority.  This trend coincides with a shifting of my active spiritual development from recovery to exploration.

For many years, I shied away from theists (save for NeoPagans during high school) because most of the ones I knew had used spirituality/religion to manipulate and hurt people.  My personal search was that of a victim/survivor trying to get away from trauma.  Ideas of What's Going On, commonly referred to as God to the detriment of theological language, were separate in my mind from the terrible people around me.  Blame the music for the douchebaggery of the dj?  Blame the art for the snobbery of gallerist?  No, I try not to mix the unmeasurable with the measurable so it never made sense to me to blame "God" for the acts of humans.  Other people can come to their own conclusions.  Nevertheless, it took a long time for me to stop judging theists.

After years of theological and philosophical study, summer '13 was when I chose to stop being a victim/survivor and to begin being a practicant, however curious and hesitant a one. Although I have yet to actually talk to anyone at any of the parishes that I have visited - including the one I've found that promotes both compassion and intellectual search - largely because I still distrust dedicated parishioners in general, I have opened discussion of spirituality/theology with friends, family and appropriate acquaintances.  The trend I find today is disturbing.

At this point I should make a distinction: "belief" is a word that I shy away from using.  A religious belief used to mean a lifestyle (traditions, symbols, holidays, values, languages, rituals, etc.) that a person practiced.  What a "believer" actually thought didn't matter; an atheist was simply someone who didn't practice what any established religious community practiced.  The meaning of belief changed when our culture changed away from separate groups of lifestyles.  The understanding of belief as an idea that's accepted as measurable reality, an understanding promoted by both anti-theists and fundamentalists, is relatively new.  I hate to say it, but I find that this definition cheapens the personal meaning that a person can discover - whether it's through religious practice, scientific research, or something else altogether.  In any case, when I say "atheist" I mean a person who refuses any religious affiliation in all aspects of life, and when I say "theist" I mean a person who regularly participates in religious practice.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

What a person accepts as reality/truth, whether it's 100% scientific evidence or angels, really doesn't matter to me.  It's frankly none of my business, nor are my "beliefs" anyone else's business (though I'll gladly discuss it with any interested, non-judgmental parties).  But the trend among many of the vocal atheists I know today is to harshly judge anyone who isn't as reliant on science as they themselves claim to be.  What is the point of this?  I can agree that certain ideas are, for lack of a better word, stupid: arbitrarily attaching doctrine to something mundane and trendy.  But who does more harm, the person who prays before every meal or the person who refers to pray-ers as cattle?

It's common for anti-theists to deride all religion altogether because of atrocities done in the name of religion: the Spanish Inquisition, Al-Quaeda, the Exodus (ex-gay "therapy") program, witch-hunts, etc.  To affiliate violence with religion, either a specific one or in general, both devalues the benefits of religion as well as shifts the focus away from actually solving violence.  I've met atheists who advocate genocide of all theists, I've met people who are atheists because scientific research brings more personal meaning to them than anything unmeasurable, I've met theists who win religious community service awards while locking children and dogs in their basements without food or water for days, I've met people who began volunteering at poverty-stricken nursing homes because The Virgin Mary "told" them to.  The religion isn't the point, the practices of both compassion and personal meaning are the point however they are brought about.  What disturbs me is that many of the very atheists who blame religion for cruelty are beginning to act out the same hostilities.

I used to block out theists because the only ones I knew were malicious.  Now, I try not to categorize people through their practices - and I don't want people in my life to line up into patterns of spite that way again.  That does appear to be the trend, though, among many of the atheists I've been meeting the past couple years. As I establish myself as a practicant rather than as a victim/survivor, it is a priority to distance myself from those who would put me back into that state.  After all, it seems to me that anyone who thinks less of me because I find personal meaning through spiritual practice would also think less of me because I find personal meaning through art.  They're both unmeasurable, personal, nonverbal, harmless exercises that I enjoy and have spent years studying.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5+ Animated Films You Should Watch

1) Kirikou and the Sorceress

Visually stunning and well-written, this European film stunningly illustrates West African folk tales.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be blown away by the incredible artwork.  I really can't recommend Kirikou & the Sorceress enough.  A midquel has recently been released and I can't wait to watch it!!

2) The Flight of Dragons

Made by the creators of the more popular animated Hobbit and The Last Unicorn movies, The Flight of Dragons is artistically wonderful.  But the writing is unbearable, so watch this one on mute with some Jefferson Airplane or Led Zeppelin playing. This film is purely aesthetic.
Availability of this movie on DVD has been shaky, sadly.

3) The Secret of Kells

Another one that's absolutely amazing to watch, but the writing is just okay.  The first 10 minutes of the movie aren't much either, so just skip ahead and turn on some Primus.  Inspired by Celtic knotwork and medieval calligraphy, the artwork of this film never ceases to amaze.

4) Heavy Traffic

A Bakshi film clearly based on Eisner's Contract With God, this gives a gritty idea of life in NYC in the 70's.  You'll be left feeling filthy and disturbed afterward, but grateful for the experience.  It's unpleasant at best, raw and honest.

5) The Point

Created by musician Harry Nilsson (and narrated by Ringo Starr!), it was clearly the Schoolhouse Rock people who animated this trippy film.  Nevertheless, this film of hippie-philosophy takes you down the rabbit hole where you can turn on, tune in, and drop out.

Honorable Mention: The Puppetoon Movie

Ok I can't not mention George Pal.  A Hungarian claymation artist and producer who fled to LA to escape the Nazi regime, he revolutionized both his field and special effects overall.  Yes, his films can be extremely racist - it's important to preserve that sour chapter of American history to see how far we have[n't] come.
Also, these were among the first music videos: Dutch-inspired claymation set to big band!