Tag Archives: sexuality studies

2014: Marcos Cochrane “Making women safe”


Marco Cochrane with his wife Julia Cochrane as interviewer presented this talk at the Innovate Berkeley Social, July 16th, 2014.

Marco quickly goes to the heart of his work and his message, and his life:

“What would it be like in the world if women felt safe and what would it take to have women feel safe?”

Known for his series Truth is Beauty in The Bliss Project of Burning Man, Marco’s  ‘Woman’, is made from mesh a 55 foot essence and form of a woman reaching with every inch of herself toward the sky. She is felt as well as seen;  celebrated at Burning Man’s annual celebration in the desert of Nevada.

Marco is speaking at the Innovate Berkeley event at the Impact Hub Berkeley,  as creative artists, writers, welders, designers and people excited about life and its possibilities,  gather for his presentation.

Marco describes himself as the child of hippie parents raised in Berkeley.  In his early years he was introduced to antiwar and feminism viewpoints.   By age 7 was aware and sensitive to the possibility of the need for radical change.  He was aware, from an early age,  of the insanity of war.   He saw how people treated each other and wondered why,  and what that was about.  His radical question also comes from his attention on women.  Not just attention on the inches and hills and valleys of a woman’s body,  while in the process of sculpting the Truth is Beauty series;  but also noticing the silence, the holding back, the absence of exposure behind the unspoken speaking of the women around him.

Marco’s question “What would it take to have women feel safe?” brings to mind that because of their silence, the withdrawal of their presence, humanity has less to work with.  Marco expresses the value that women feeling safe and free to express themselves, would make their feminine energy available to the world.  He observes that his own ability to speak, to respond,  is easily available to him.  And that is not the case with women.   He observes that men don’t need to have permission to speak.   Men fear other men.  They know they carry  aggression associated with fear for their survival.  They sense it in other men.  Violence against women, rape and abuse, Marco describes as a coping mechanism to keep women silent. The effect is to shut down women.

We need the direction from women that would make the world a different place.”  We have a world where rape and assault, not just in far off worlds, but in our military, in our universities, in our churches, in our schools are constantly being revealed.  The revelations generally are exposed by a woman,  who,  at significant cost to herself,  and often under duress,  speaks.  The different energy that women contribute and the potential of that energy to the world, is what Marco’s words convey.

If women felt safe, their silence would end and the feminine energy of connectedness, transparency, and creative possibilities,  would be available to the world.   Women feeling safe did not come about through the feminist movements or the hippie movements of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s,  he asserts.  Marcos is intent that the challenge of having women feel safe must being taken up by all.  The implication is that everyone who wants to see the end of violence against women and in the world,  needs to be up for the job.  He suggests we do it because it’s the right thing to do;  because it’s fun, and not out of generosity.

“Its going to take all of us to do it,” Marco says in closing.  In saying all of us,  there is the implication that that means women as well as men.   Women making it safe for women to speak out is the basis for women’s groups and the trust that is built there.  But out here in everyday life,  in the office, in meetings, or social events with our daughters, making it safe for other women is our job as women as well as men.  Women know which women in their lives  make it safe for them and they trust them.

Marco has traveled around countries far and wide to speak to people about Truth is Beauty, his magnificent sculptures celebrating the beauty and spirit of women;  as well as his message about making it safe for women, and what that can contribute to humanity.  The connection is clear.  The job is out there for each of us.  This is what we are left with as we leave the evening at the Innovate Berkeley Dinner presentation.  Amy and Revival has filled us with excellent food, and our minds and hearts are a great deal richer than when we entered because of the opening provided by Marco.  That opening is as high and wide as his 55 foot sculpture and then some.


The History of desire: What do women want?


The history of desire begins with the new question that emerged after the sexual liberation of 1960’s:  What do women want?

Women having desire, and focus on what women wanted in their sexual lives was a new problem, a new question coming from the place of women choosing their own participation and choices in sexuality.  Masters and Johnson began as a result of fertility studies, the role of women prior to the sexual revolution was to be the carrier of life, producing babies in families.  It was a new perspective and a new area of concern to have as a focus: what women want sexually.  Worthy to the barefoot frontrunners, the focus to of  the studies  focused on female pleasure  illuminated choices and integrity around the subject of female sexuality. The value of women had been related to their productivity as child bearers, and mates to their partners.  The new day was about a realm of satisfaction around sexuality expressed in the choices available to women today. 

David Buss, Ph.D and Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D, Head of the Sexual Psychological Lab at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 developed  through their work and offered a further perspective on “Why Women Want Sex Today?”  Forty years after the feminist movement, what we know is, women do not need to marry to have a family.  Adoption is available to single parents;  partnerless conception is a medically sound alternative to becoming a partnered biological parent. The structure of family has shifted over the years to accommodate these changes.  The need for the contract of marriage for  women has also responded to these changes; women marry and birth children later in their lives,  and do not require marriage to have a family.  They have their own 401K’s, Affordable Healthcare Insurance availability which they can acquire on their own.  A majority of the college graduates are women and they represent the highest number of Ph.D’s in recent years.  So for the  Meston-Buss study,the question was a significant one.  Why do women want sex and how do they experience their sexual roles today.   The Buss-Meston research reported that 32% of women 18-24 years of age, single and married reported little interest in sex.  33% of the women of all ages single and married reported little interest in sex.  37% of the 50-60 year old women reported little interest in sex.

Irony prevails when women born before the 1970’s had little power over their sexual choices that sex or the lack of it suggests that freedom to be sexual also allows not to be.  The lack of sex was not a problem  for the couples that they studied.  They reported that the decline in sexual activity was a loss to their relationship.  Rather than the lack of interest and activity in sex being a negative, the couples reported satisfaction in their lives with each other.

To that point , A study by Erik Jassen at the Kinsey Institute  in 2010 added in his study that if one side of the couple is not in agreement with the other in terms of sexual desire, that does have a negative impact on the relationship.  There was a time when sex was only allowed if you were married to the opposite sex; if your partner was not interested or was absent from you, you did without sex.  Jassen’s study suggests negotiation by women around their sexuality is another new advance resulting from the sexual liberation of the past fifty years.

Practice of sex a positive

Why is this subject important?  Barefoot Frontrunners takes the position that once women were free to choose how to express their sexuality and with whom, sex falls into a response by women to honoring their own desire, not obligation or compensation or qualification for being a woman or being in a relationship.  Sex has its place, and coming from a place of want and desire, authentic expression is the agenda.  In fact, the role of women around sex also changed the measure of sex for men as we discuss.   Dr. Oz and most authorities on the subject of the importance of sex in relationship express that sexual activity is healthy throughout all ages of life, and increases vitality and longevity.   Choice may be the mark of a culture demonstrating the level of  how free women feel to express their sexuality on their own terms.

True liberation could be measured in the freedom women have to express their desire around sexuality as part of the process of identity honoring their own choices of the conditions and content of their sexual expression, and personal power to determine their roles in or out of the family structure, and in the world they encounter through their participation.  It could be said that  modern feminism is seen in the choices available to them.

There are  women in many places in the world where the criteria for sexuality falls within the realm of no choice:  from entitlement to sex by their partners, to obligation due to social perceptions of the role of women, to the woman’s  value being attached to procreation and availability of sex for their husbands.

For these women, choices are made for them at birth or at age ten about the use of their bodies and  sexuality around gratification and pleasure is not on the table of awareness or practice.  In an Indian village last week, NPR had  a story about a town council that punished a woman who wanted to marry outside her social level by having the whole tribe of men rape her.  These stories are painful to hear but a reminder that women and their ability to choose their lives, sexually and otherwise, is a recent fifty year old consequence of those who worked hard for change in rights and privileges for women.

Recognizing how recent the developments have been that  allow women to choose their destiny, their paths as sexual beings as well as every other significant choice is important.   It’s good to be reminded that harsh judgement and punishment,-including stoning, bride burning  are sanctioned by both men and women in some  cultures.  There are many parts of the world where women are enslaved by their sexuality.

The new day, the new context of who women are began in the early feminist movements e will discuss, but sexual liberation in the 70’s provided the practice and  conversation about choice and gratification, dignity and respect for women.   Female sexuality is a fresh opening of discovery and self knowledge at all ages that are recognized as a source of well being and self expression that is the new order of the new day for women.