How Can We Learn To Trust Our Desires?

Lynn Beisner says eating and screwing is what has kept our species alive. Can’t those desires that were at one time life-preserving now be life-affirming?

I love that my friends are more evolved than I am. One of the things that I especially love about my friends is that they believe in accepting people of all sizes and shapes. A friend of mine calls it the “fat acceptance movement” but even as I write that I sort of cringe. I’ll be the first to admit that my fat still frightens the hell out of me. Every wobbly bit, every saggy chunk screams at me that I am a failure. I recently lost 90 pounds, and kept it off for over three years. Now it is starting to slowly creep back. My judgment of myself is that my appetite is too big—and I have let it get the best of me.

Last year, I read an article about Kim Cattrall, in which she finally admitted how much work she has to put into keeping her body so damned perfect. In the past, she has made it seem somewhat effortless. Come to find out, she has been on a diet since she was young. Sadly, she blames this on her “tremendous appetite.”

She says this as if having a tremendous appetite, or at least a reputation for having a tremendous appetite, has not made her wealthy and famous. Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn’t that what we were supposed to love about her character—her tremendous and unabashed appetite?

My husband tells me that he read that “Samantha Jones,” the character from Sex in the City that made Kim Cattrall famous, was based on a full-bodied black woman. But for the sake of television, they wrung out her love of food and tried (somewhat unconvincingly) to cram all of that joy of life into a rigorously toned white woman’s body. I am not sure if he is repeating an urban myth, but I would love to believe that he is right.

I would love to believe that we can, once in a while, trust our bodies and love our desire. As it happens, our desires were once what saved our species. It ensured that we ate and copulated when mates and food were available. Eating and screwing is what kept our species alive. Can’t those desires that were at one time life-preserving now be life-affirming?

I would love to believe that women of tremendous appetites do not have to spend their lives being so damned controlled all the time. And when we have moments of true weakness, I hope that they aren’t always limited to chocolate cake. I hope that we all, at least once in our lives, trust our appetites.

But desire has become pathologized in our society. I would like to say it is just women who are censured for wanting exactly what our bodies and minds are designed to want, but that is not entirely true. Even male desire is becoming increasingly pathologized in some circles. Although, guys have the advantage in one area: most still give themselves permission to crave, relish, and rhapsodize about a good meal. You should see my husband’s face as he eats my cooking. It is more convincingly erotic than porn.

So what is the source of all this censuring? Many people point to religion. But I don’t blame our religion for our desire to regulate our own bodies to within an inch of their lives. I blame our desire to regulate for our religion. I am not sure how it works yet, but I am thoroughly convinced that our need to control our bodily appetites leads to our puritanical religion, not the other way around.

Lynn Beisner is the pseudonym for a mother, a writer, a feminist, and an academic living somewhere East of the Mississippi. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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