On Humbling

As it’s been asked by a friend of mine, I should explain why someone might think I’m in an unsavory, or grinchy mood.  And here’s one of the reasons – the supposition of the necessity of a humbling experience in order to gain something further down the line, also known as redemptive humility.  I….HATE….REDEMPTIVE…HUMILITY.  I HATE REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING.  I HATE THE CONCEPT OF THE BREAKDOWN TO BUILD UP PATH FOR PEOPLE.  And now a brief interlude to explain why.

Morehouse College.  Great school.  I loved my time there.  Fun.  Fraternities are on the campus, Ques, Sigmas, Kappas came back my senior year, Iotas, and Alphas.  My freshman year I was staunchly anti-black frats and sororities.  I felt their existence was moot and was nothing more than enhanced social groupings of mostly well to-do black people that rivaled gangs.  As my cousin once told me, it’s similar to a gang initiation.  There’s the jumping in, the humiliation, the idea that this is your family, that it’s for life, and that ultimately you get colors, symbols, signs and handshakes – all a secret code so that people know which gang you’re in.  It made sense to me at 17.  5 years later, there’s still merit to her theory.

Clearly somebody has promoted Black Greeks to a higher calling.

Anyway, I said to people then I wouldn’t pledge nothin.  Not a thing.  Because I took issue with the process and the methodology of the process.  “Break you down to build you up.”  Forced humility to make you “look deep down inside of yourself and find….” whatever the hell they expect you to find in order to endure whatever hell they’re giving you.  A redemption amidst the suffering.  There’s a reason for it all.  Or at least, there must be, right?  Surely there’s no plausible reason for why someone would use a cane or a paddle on my ass unless there was some greater good to be acquired and this was the sole means of acquiring it?  Surely there’s no plausible reason for why I would be humiliated in front of my peers unless there was some brighter future to be gained and this was the only way possible for us to get it?  Surely, surely, surely…there are other ways to get there.  But there’s a delusion out there that this is the only way, so we swallow the big pill and find a reason for our swallowing.  We fabricate a reason so that we may deal with the suffering.

This isn’t meant to crap on black frats and sororities; at this point in my life I’m still not up for joining for a lot of the same reasons I had when I was younger but I’m not so militaristic about my stance, nor as dogmatic.  But this is a concrete example of what “humbling” has come to mean – an acceptance of bending over and taking it up the tail pipe because of the ideal that there is a brighter future ahead.  We just have to take that pain now.  You know, the ol’ “Frontload the work now so on the back end you can relax” theory.  It’s got its place, but to endure pain or suffering in the hope of a new future doesn’t resonate so well with me.

Back in my younger days, I mentioned this to a cousin of mine who is a Delta.  She didn’t tell me I was wrong, she in fact agreed with me on my commentary on black social life with respect to Greekdom, and then said that it’s why I should join – so I can make it better in the future.  And I said no, I have no impetus to go through a process just to change the process; I’d rather the reform be universal, if it’s going to happen.  And that’s where we left it – our agreeing that something must be done, but that it makes no sense for me to do it internally if it means having to deal with the “breaking down to build up” concept.

Now don’t get me wrong – there’s truth in that concept.  Sometimes the walls of a certain situation need to come crumbling down for a future good.

Social Humpty Dumpty was the gatekeeper of this wall...until capitalism pushed him through it, crumbling the wall.

The Berlin Wall is a physical example of this.  Race relations in the United States are a more theoretical example.  In both instances, for progress to be made, there had to be a complete overhaul, restructuring, or destruction of what had been in place for so long.  But both of these examples could well be considered extraneous.  So let’s get right to the individual and his/her (you know, I gotta be honest, it’s much easier to just use his and not have to worry about gender neutrality because I’m speaking so damn generally) experiences with redemptive suffering and “forced humility.”

What’s “forced humility?”  When there’s some sort of process in place that endeavors to constrain you, limit you, temper you, makes you submit to it in order to get ahead or through it.  It’s “humbling” you.  But you don’t know that’s the goal – you expect some sort of nurturing for your growth.  No nurture – just humility, being masked as nurturing.  So you have no say in this process you’ve stepped into, but you will bend to it.  You will bow to it.  And you will submit to it, all in the attempt to get ahead, and maybe blaze a path so that the next generation won’t have to be forcibly humbled.  But how do we get through this forced humbling?  By adopting a redemptive suffering-esque mentality.  We tell ourselves that THERE MUST BE A REASON, THERE MUST BE A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL…even if the light is just the ending of the suffering/”humbling process.”  Then we must ascribe a use for that light, a reason for that light’s existence – we must make it so that the light has meaning, otherwise we had no reason to go through the process we went through.  The human mind is amazing in its ability to trick itself.

So we’re now caught in a loop.  We have gotten out of the process and created a meaning for the light at the end of the tunnel.  We gave it a meaning in order for us to keep our sanity.  We rationalized the process so that there is a rationale, because humans crave rationale and logical reasoning.  We hate doing something for no reason, because that just doesn’t make sense.  So we’ll have to make it make sense.  “If it won’t make sense by itself, then by God it’ll make sense when I’m through with it.”  And we force ourselves to live with that decision, because if we found the hypocrisy, we wouldn’t know why we did go through the process and that leads to the realization that the process is reified and that ultimately, there is no reason for it.

There’s something markedly Christian about redemptive suffering.  You buy salvation now, but you don’t get it until later.  You get tested and tried now, and you find out later if you pass.  You get brow-beaten now, and you gain the ultimate gain later.  I could come up with a billion similar examples, but it’s clear – the whole “tabbed for something higher” is a very, well Abrahamic-based religious concept.  That’s why, for many people, the whole “destined for something greater,” “trials now for success later,” “take the ass-kicking now” mentality fits – it runs right in line with their religious affiliations or pretenses.

Perhaps those who believe in redemptive suffering find enough redemption to warrant their suffering.

I'm sure there's a redemptiveness to this tattoo. Or this could have been "forced humility."

But I don’t see why you chance it in the first place.  I suppose there’s the faith concept – believe in what you aren’t sure about, because in the end your belief is all you have.  From that standpoint, you engage in redemptive suffering because of what you believe to be true – that there is a redemption that far outweighs the suffering.  For the neophyte, it’s being a part of that esteemed organization with great brothers and sisters and history and you can call yourself part of it.  For the Christian, it’s the everlasting salvation of the kingdom of Heaven.

I don’t see how the suffering can be redeemed though.  They seem to be two distinct issues that have a remote causal connection between them, but not a direct one or a necessary one.  That’s the big issue I have – the acceptance of its necessity.  That, at some point, you must bend over and take it from the system.  From the players in the system.  From the players who consciously understand the system and still play within its confines.  This acceptance goes right in line with redemptive suffering, and pardon me if I don’t just scream hooray for knowing that I’m going to have my will bent for no good damn reason.  The common examples have been American chattel slavery and the Holocaust.  Both were events with enough suffering for the world over.  Where’s the redemption at?  And if there’s a redemption, were these horrific events the SOLE means of getting to that end?  I would argue no, there are other means to that end, we’re just too lazy to find them.

So it stands – being broken down to be built up, supposedly like the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin (not the beer swilling retired wrestler, Steve Austin) is the only way apparently for people to gain certain ends in character development and self-knowledge.  Well next time you’re forced to take it up the tailpipe, on the ass, or suffer some indignity or humiliation, ask yourself if whatever you’re going to get could have been received some other, less insufferable way.

Philosophy of Sex – On Head Part 1

A couple of years ago, I was listening to the radio in my car when a song came on that had the popular Atlanta upbeat tempo and 2 Academy Award winners working the mic.  Even with the words edited for radio content, I knew right away what the hook was: “I love having sex but I’d rather get some head.”  And with the DJ Unk created beat and the normal dark melody used by Three 6 Mafia, I knew it was a hit.  I downloaded the song later that night and still turn up the iPod if it comes up on my shuffle.  I am a huge fan of Three 6 Mafia, but all that aside there’s a huge philosophy of sex issue here.  Does one truly love having sex, but in the end would prefer just receiving oral sex?

In doing research for this little project, I noticed just how many songs articulate the preference for head over intercourse and how many of them are actually hits.  Just in years past, we had the Ying Yang Twins’ “Georgia Dome,” which could be where the colloquial term, “Dome,” originated.  Then we have Cam’Ron featuring Lil’ Wayne with “Suck or Not,” which features lines like, “Got somethin’ for ya face, fuck Proactiv,” and “Would you like a tissue/you gon need it for the cum in your nose baby girl cuz you’re suckin my cock.”  Lyrical genius, I tell you.  Of course, the aforementioned “I’d Rather,” has a brilliant line, “She told me she was hungry/So I told her she could come/And I didn’t feed her nothin but some dick and bubblegum.”  Again, beautiful lyricism from DJ Unk.  And most recently, Plies, “Becky,” which also has a quality line, “Keep that pussy/I want yo throat.”  From the female perspective, we’ve had Khia’s “My Neck, My Back,” which has an emphasis on oral sex and oral-anal sex (ass-licking, for those who couldn’t put it together) and features the line, “Then you roll your tongue/from the crack back to the front/then suck it off til I shake and cum.”  Lil Kim’s “How Many Licks,” was not evasive in its content, by any means, featuring, “He used to like me to spank him and cum in his mouth.”  Even Missy Elliott with, “Work It,” had some praise for the oral sex, “Go downtown and eat it like a vulture.”  Let’s face it folks; there’s been a lot of songs that showcase oral sex as pleasurable and at times preferable to sexual intercourse.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the aptly named, “Put It In Your Mouth,” by Akinyele, which was probably my first introduction to oral sex music.  And things haven’t changed – people are still making music about getting something sucked and licked.  So the question has merit – is it better to get head than have sex?

I think I’ll address this from a few perspectives.  First, I’ll defend the theory that it is better to get head for some practical reasons and some physical ones, and even a couple of psychological ones.  That’s what Part 1 is for.  We’ll see how I develop this theory as I go through multiple parts, but we’ll begin with the defense of oral sex as better than intercourse.

BE ADVISED – When I say intercourse, I’m referring (perhaps unfairly) to non-oral sex, in my mind, involving penetration.  Certainly there are other forms of intercourse (mammary, back of the knee, with foreign objects, etc.), but for men when I say intercourse I refer to them penetrating (or in the gay male’s case, possibly being penetrated), and for women when I say intercourse I’m referring (yes, from a heteronormative point of view) to primarily penetration, but for all intents and purposes for those of you reading this – when I say sexual intercourse in general I’m referring to men pumping or being pumped into, and for women the multitude of ways they can have non-oral sex (which include the heterosexual sort, and that’s where my emphasis will be placed).  ALSO, and this is a key point, I’m not referring to oral sex as foreplay but as a sexual end of itself – you’re going to bust a nut in this comparative example.  So keep that in mind when you see my comparisons.

The easiest practical reason why head is actually better than intercourse is that it’s a completely selfish thing and both parties understand this.  When a man or woman is getting head, there is absolutely no concern for their partner’s pleasure.  They are completely engaged in the pleasure they’re getting and loving every moment (if their partner is handling business, that is).  When Josh is getting good head from his partner, there are no concerns about the partner’s pleasure – in fact, the goal of the entire endeavor is for Josh to get one off.

Compare this to sex, when (good, at least) partners are genuinely endeavoring for mutual pleasure.  They’re not solely after their own nut, but they’re after their partner’s nut also.  The goal is for everybody to win, and that means you have to put in work and move in sync and heave and thrust and ride and sweat, etc.

The next set is the psychological aspect, and this is certainly (like most of my work) is up for debate.  As I spoke with some friends on their opinions of receiving oral sex, the guys especially mentioned how good it feels to look down and see a (in their case woman, but I imagine it still holds true for gay men) partner sucking their phallus.  It’s empowering apparently, and feeds into the “well-known” male ego.  I imagine the same thing goes for women, to a certain extent.  Looking down, seeing someone work your genital region; they’re in a submissive position.  Their only job is to pleasure you – they’ve been transformed into a sex toy that happens to be a real live person, and you have them under your control.  You tell them what to do, all for your pleasure.  You tell them what you want, and it’s their job to give it to you.  In a sense, they’re yours.  And that, for some people, helps get them off.  So again, the sheer positioning of the person, physically beneath you or on their knees, helps get people off in a way you can’t get with basic intercourse.

In the end, my pleasure is all that matters in this sexual act.  All I have to do is sit back and relax, give a few pieces of advice that might help me get some pleasure, and enjoy the time.  On the flipside, when going with full blown intercourse, I have to be in tune with my partner, have to try to give my partner pleasure, and we’re both trying to bust one off.  Just from a purely selfish standpoint, isn’t it better to just receive pleasure rather than try to give and receive?

Part 2 will give the counters to part 1, but what do you all think – is head actually better than sex?


Putting Theory Into Action – Responsibility

After my post on social responsibility to others when people are in distress, I ended up with a chance to showcase my theory, ironically enough. Halloween night, I was leaving a friend’s place when I was alerted by my buddy in the car to look out the window. I glanced over to see something I’d never seen before.

There was a man and a woman outside of the neighboring apartment complex who appeared to be arguing. The windows were up and it was late so I couldn’t make out why they were fighting. Next thing I know, this guy, who’s clad in a white hoodie and a white skully and looked to have an athletic build, shot his left hand around the woman’s throat. Her face was a mixture of shock, fear, and anger. She clawed at his hand, which looked to have a serious death grip on her neck. And he looked to show no circese.

This is all happening in slow motion to me as I make a right turn and pull out of the lot across the street.
Then I notice why the man hasn’t used his right hand. He’s holding a baby. I couldn’t tell how old, but the kid couldn’t have been older than 2. The windows were still rolled up so I couldn’t hear anything, but I know I had a look of shock similar to when I drank absinthe for the first time. Never before experienced from any perspective.

So here I am, watching this woman get throttled by a man holding a baby, and the opportunity presented itself for me to put my theory into action. I’d torn up the witnesses to the gang rape in California, citing their inaction as implicit participation and saying that I doubt their life would be in danger by stepping in and stopping the rape. But there’s something to be said for praxis and it’s practicality. I stand by my words and my actions, which I will detail below.

I pointed my headlights at them. Didn’t honk or yell, just pointed my car at them. Partly because of the frozen in time, slow motion effect the event had, and partly because I knew that he needed to see someone was watching him. He looked over and saw me and my friend, both of us staring him down. Now this is Memphis. Inside that hoodie could be anything and if he’s strangling a woman while holding a child, the guy is liable to do anything. He let her go, and she took steps back and caught her breath. The guy glared at me and took a few steps towards the car, which let me know it was time for my exit with the hope that I did something.

My brother said it was the right course of action, as he feared I’d get too deep into someone else’s business and that’s got the potential to turn a situation bad for me. But I must say, it’s completely different when you don’t know what the other guy has got to hurt you with. I wish I knew what she did afterwards, hoping she got away from him. But what do you think is the right course of action in moments like that? Get out of the car and confront the man? Honk the horn? What would you do and why? Was what I did enough considering how scathing I was with the rape bystanders?