Far-from-fleshed: Unbinding Pleasure and Shame
by Ryan Tarr
In this post, I’m writing from my experiences as an asexual trans person, whose relationship with desire can be elusive and frustrating. My anxious brain can often get caught in a tract of fixation on asexuality as failure or a lack. A few months ago, the Xaga Curve entered my life as both a pleasure object and a ritual object, encouraging me to reengage with the work of breaking down that fixation. This piece of writing is a meditation on my relationship with the Xaga, and how it has helped me to palpate the boundaries of desire, fear, magic and dysphoria.
How do I understand my shape?
This curved rock, my Chakrub, nestled, channeling. To have a piece that can redirect my energy, reflect me back to myself, healingly. This is the first piece of obsidian I’ve had; it rests on and under my altar, beneath dried flowers hung in a past ritual.
Desire and pleasure can escape me, obliquely. It’s hard to unbind my body from the shroud of uncertainty and shame that descended on it.
I’m not sure when this happened, or how it happened, or if it’s been that way forever.
I have images of cum slipping through my fingers and staining the floorboards. Wood holds those memories, as my fingers do.
I use the language of asexuality at times, but I will pair that with a shrug, an uncertain caveat.
I couldn’t provide a cohesive account of my sexuality even if I felt like I ought to. I want to focus on the atemporal cascade of pleasures. The flurry of moods that coat my sexual experience. I’m learning to melt this coat, to change its state to understand its constituent parts.
This obsidian came to me at a time when I was/am investigating the space between asexuality and sexual anxiety. The lapse between shame about desire and lack of desire.
Xaga ignores the lapse, or celebrates it. I’m still learning, still pressing the boundaries within myself. Trying to move pleasure from being an interjection to being a ritual with intent, stages. A droning state of superimposed presence and absence.
Being and Becoming.
Often: The frenzied touch in solitude.
A stifled gasp,
echoed by ripples of shame and disgust.
Having a far-from-fleshed implement, like a staff or divining rod:
To take energy and channel it to different pieces of me,
To loosen knots in my back and to rest along my heart,
To engage in shadow challengingly and caressingly,
To investigate the flighty border between asexuality, anxiety, shame, and repulsion.
These parts are hard to parse: is this fear inherent or wrapped in past experience or bound in dysphoria?
Obsidian asks me to see these parts and welcome them. Incorporate myself into myself.
We know about the mind-body problem, the tension between the cognitive self and material self. I don’t know how to reconcile these, and can feel my gaze melt my own flesh into a sopping heap. It’s trouble to learn to reconstruct myself into a moldable assemblage. Through uncertain ritual I can begin to take shape again.
In my room, there is a full-length mirror that opens to a closet. My bed lays parallel to this. For a dysphoric Capricorn with a Leo ascendant and moon, this is both a gift and a challenge. There have been many nights that I stonily gaze at my figure and find pieces to resent and adore. To wake up and be confronted, endlessly, with my own visage.
This cleansed stone sleeps next to me, mirroring my spine.
What do these radiant tools transform in me? What turns, decomposes and is reborn?
Time, and fixation on the carcass.
I can leave the Moebius loop of anxious, dysphoric distrust.
I can transmute my body into something more.
The superimposition of many things, the staggering collapse, the clatter and shatter.
The many small pieces.
I understand myself as assemblage
Last night some pieces were swallowed, digested by digital aether - jaw unlocked, maw gaped, and fragments gulped – leaving me with a hazy, stonewashed memory.
The weight of a cold chain across my chest, linked across my shoulder, and tightening its way down my arm. The tension built, as I twist my hand away from my heart, reminds my body of its presence and reality. Is this sexual? to feel grounded and comforted by this Object?
Steel, like obsidian, is patient, enduring; encouraging, insistent. An ill-twist can sting, can raise a call for reconsideration, can point to [failures? neglect? regret? destructive routine? grooves worn, like tracts for someone else?]
They ask me to commune with patience, to find a nook in my frame to imbue heat.
What about volume? about silence, echoes, murmurs?
Maybe this stone is more a tuning fork than a divining rod, and I've been trying to harmonize in silence.
Swallowed notes and cries. A moan unspoken, an embarrassment with being discovered or witnessed.
How does obsidian amplify or sustain my notes?
I don't know what makes me try to isolate the pitches of my moan. As if separating these frequencies will reveal a truth in creation or point to a primordial origin of a miasmic state.
My pleasure changing direction, like a shoal.
My pleasure, in a quantum state.
Written by Ryan Tarr
Image by Alex Kacha