Sexuality and Poetry: Read Me in Sacred and Subversive

Faith and identity have been fluid experiences in my life. I am intersectional; a woman of color, born into Islam, raised in the Bible Belt, taught to view sexuality as static and holy.

I grew up feeling I had failed.

Was failing. I existed in a constant state of failure, sometimes for reasons I could not pinpoint. So I began writing outside my personal experiences to discover the outer limits of myself, those which existed beyond the packaged identity I’d been sold through parenting. To this end, fiction has long been a safe tool for self-discovery. Poetry offers the ability to slide further beyond definitions externally applied. Unknowingly interred.

When Jera Brown contacted me about a guest exchange, I was excited. Her publication, Sacred and Subversive, is an anthology which builds intersectional community through examination of sexuality and faith. While Jera composed an original essay (linked below) about her experiences as a Scarlet Christian for my site, I asked her if I could submit a piece I’ve held onto for more than a year. It was put in the proverbial writer’s drawer as it felt far more intimate than other work I’ve published, whether from my perspective or not.

You may have noticed that I do not write deeply into sex and sexuality.

This is a protection for myself from and for the family who reads my work. “Fluid” is a poem that steps outside my written and personal sexual experience. And more so, it steps outside any experience I have been taught it good, right, religious, proper, acceptable or allowed. Writing it was terrifying because each word was an exploration of what it means to be honest in place of obedient.

“Fluid” is deeply sensual and has been described to me as “hot,” “wet,” and “intense.” As a survivor of sexual assault, those words frighten me. And invigorate me. As a writer, those words tell me I have been successful in bringing an experience to the reader just as I brought myself to the writing.

I am very proud to have my work in Sacred and Subversive. You can read my published poem here.

But there is far more to this exchange than me pushing myself.

In the writing of her piece, Jera also stepped outside her preferred genre and wrote into a story which does just as her anthology intends–it deepens the conversation around faith and sexuality. Sexuality was defined for Jera as good within the framework of marriage and wrong outside of it, yet she was never given the tools to navigate sexual desire and expression outside religious union. Her essay consciously reclaims her faith through the defining and labeling of herself as a Scarlet Christian. While her story still exists on this site, it was republished yesterday–Valentine’s Day–on Role Reboot. In celebration, I am sharing the link.

You can find Jera’s essay on Role Reboot here!

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If you would like to write deeper into your own story, contact me by email (shawna.ainslie@gmail.com) for private coaching or using the linked form to participate in the Survive Your Story Guest Exchange

Discussion about this post

  1. Sexuality, I feel, is a deeply unexplored vast expanse. I blame religion and the raging emphasis on sexuality being a sin. The ancient greeks and romans for example, were sexually open. But that’s another story.

    I’m looking forward to exploring this 🙂

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