Embracing Eroticism

Audre Lorde explains and explores the idea of embracing erotism for mankind, but more specifically for women. She immediately breaks down the public perception of what the term “erotic” means. For example, she speaks to the fact that we mainly access eroticism as limited to the bedroom and to sex as one way in which the hierarchy of power within our culture is supported and enforced. Thus, eroticism as a possession belonging to the bedroom extremely limits the way in which an individual woman is able to feel about, control, and explore her own body. Lorde emphasizes the constant denial of the erotic as a source of power; “We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and devalued within Western society” (88). The most immediate and relevant example of this devaluing is in the roots of the teaching of many religions, mainly those pertaining to Christianity. The fact that a lot of “American culture” has adopted aspects from religion further allows this view of eroticism to become a wide-spread cultural norm. And this negative connotation for the idea of eroticism can still be viewed in various ways such as the continuation of the word “slut” used in a demeaning manner or the fact that female masturbation is still viewed as a somewhat taboo topic, or the idea of sex for women can be compared to the “way ants maintain colonies of aphids to provide a life-giving substance for their masters” (88). Lorde also understands religion to be a motivating factor of this oppression in stating; “such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife” (89).

However, Lorde want women to understand that the term “erotic” needs to be reclaimed. It is not eroticism that is demeaning, but rather pornography because it ignores feeling. This emphasis on feeling is how Lorde re-examines eroticism. It is not limited to sexuality, but as a word of empowerment in a more holistic sense. For example, Lorde explains, “The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person. The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference” (89). Thus she illustrates the erotic in a whole new light, than what we have been taught to interpret idea as. She demonstrates that it is a power that allows one to understand satisfaction and the true meaning of feeling. Further this empowerment can be found with the help of another or by oneself; “That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling” (89). Thus we must allow ourselves to live fully and utilize the feeling that accompanies eroticism. We must embrace this new definition of erotism and find the power that it provides for the individual. Lorde fully delineates how, “As women, we need to examine the ways in which our world can be truly different” (89). By reclaiming, embracing, and understanding eroticism through a new lens, we can start to do so.







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