All through this week (and next!) I’ll be chatting with some of the awesome facilitators working on Sacred Sex Week at Good For Her (September 22-29 2008). We’ve already met the excellent Suzanne Blackburn, and now it’s time to meet the fabulous Jessica Yee. She’ll be facilitating Aboriginal Power, Pleasure and Sex Positivity on Monday, September 22nd from 7-9:30 pm. It’s sure to be a fantastic, eye-opening workshop!
Here’s more with Jessica:
Can you tell me a bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m a young, proud, Indigenous feminist and a 22 year-old loud mouth Mohawk! I’m also the founder and Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, which basically means I work across North America on healthy sexuality, youth empowerment, and cultural competency. I define cultural competency to mean using the things we already have in our culture to stay healthy and examining what we used to do to live with our sexuality positively. I’m keen to work a lot with youth since it is us who are overrepresented in unhealthy statistics surrounding sexual health, like the higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence, yet we are rarely included in any major programming decision that has to do with us.
Reproductive rights, anti-oppression, and violence prevention education work are also issues that are near and dear to my heart, that I have the privilege of working with other amazing organizations like Canadians for Choice, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Maggie’s: Sex Workers Organizing.
And after about 3am, I’m a writer! You can see me activisting it up on sites like SHAMELESS Magazine: For Girls Who Get It!, RABBLE.ca, Racialicious, and I also write in the Native community about sex in Turtle Island Native News, and the Kahnawake Eastern Door.
Read more after the jump!
How did you come to explore sacred sexuality through an Indigenous lens?
I basically got tired of seeing my own people shown in such an adverse light, especially when it came to exploiting our sexuality. Our long history of genocidal oppression whether through colonization, residential schools, or blatant racism has drastically severed the ties where traditionally we might have received the knowledge that would enable us to make informed choices about our sexual health and relationships. Many of our ancestral teachings show us that many of our societies were matriarchal and this included healthy, educated decisions over matters of childbearing and sexuality. We have different ceremonies and traditions that we’ve been practicing for centuries to back this up.
I did a lot of research, reading, and listening to old stories that showed me that we as Aboriginal peoples have long believed in the sacredness of our sex, as we of course recognized its powerful abilities! I mean, what do people think we used to do before the arrival of sex toy stores or clinicized health care? Not believe in pleasure? As if!
There is so much knowledge and strength to draw on in our past that is directly related to what we modernly term as “healthy sexuality”, yet there is a great shortage of culturally appropriate resources available that actually includes our traditions. We must become the stewards of the information going out about us, and not allow anybody to take claim on what our people actually started.
I think that the word “sacred” is a really interesting term that all people have the right to self-determine. Your sacredness belongs to you, and whatever you need to intersect it with so that it becomes real (as long as it’s not hurting someone else!) I respect.
What are your favourite sacred sexuality resources? (books, videos, websites, etc)
In 2004, Anishinaabe writer Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm released Without Reservation: Indigenous Erotica, a collection of written erotica by some of the most celebrated Indigenous writers in the world, that is a constant re-read and inspiration to me. Sto:lo/Métis writer and long-time activist Lee Maracle has produced some of the finest feminist material out there that has personally helped me to identify as an Indigenous feminist, which I needed to do in order to truly understand what sacred sexuality was all about in our Native communities.
This year, Canada’s leading Aboriginal magazine Spirit came out with it’s very first SEX issue that I still cry over when I turn its pages to read beautiful stories of passion and the emotional reconciliation of oneself through sex; whether it is was a tale of Two-Spiritedness, or learning to enjoy making love again from a trusted friend.
I’m a big fan of the musical stylings of Mohawk singer/songwriter Kinnie Starr, who literally talks about getting some, liking it, and honouring your body all at the same time, whether she’s rapping hip hop or folk singing acoustic melodies. She’s a breath of fresh air in a male dominated industry and isn’t afraid to talk about us women doing what we gotta do to get our rocks off.
I’m also a frequent visitor (and contributor!) to youth websites like Scarleteen and Sexetc.org!
What do you hope people gain from your workshop, Aboriginal Power, Pleasure and Sex Positivity ?
Often times we put culture and sex into two separate boxes when trying to live as healthy, pleasure-filled, sexual beings in this modern world. This workshop will demonstrate that you don’t always have to do that, and maybe you can learn from us on how it’s been done, for quite some time now.
I hope that people will gain an understanding of Indigenous identity, challenge themselves to think outside the box of convention, and be able to recognize some cultural appropriation that’s been going on in the sexual health world that we need to get to the truth of.
I also hope that people will be able to find their Indigenous roots (since we’ve all got ‘em somewhere!) and be able to call on them when they least expect it, to uncover the sacredness of their sex!