A literature professor in my new england Liberal arts college makes a sweeping generalization: Man destroys the wild because we fear the Wild in ourselves. It is a narrative that dates back to the beginning of our nation’s history. The white man hunted the wolves, called the people he found ‘savages.’ He conquered the land, claiming it was His manifest Destiny. John Winthrop spoke of a City upon a Hill, creating a rhetoric of self-importance, of anthropocentricity. So prideful that we use the word animal to describe something primitive and barbaric, she says, we ignore our roots and chop down our family tree with no hesitation. We try to suppress what is wild and fearful, but instead it escapes in diseased ways. Our culture, she says, is a diseased culture.
The first time I saw a vagina that wasn’t my own was in fifth grade when I was assigned a group project with three other girls. Jackie was the only one of us with her own computer, and we sat huddled around it one afternoon researching American history. None of us were yet privy to all the possibilities the Internet held. Being fifth grade girls in the early 2000s, the four of us tried to find Christina Aguilera’s website and subsequently learned two important lessons.
One: Her last name is not spelt Agulara. Two: if you try to visit “www.ChristinaAgulara.com” you will be directed to a porn website. We had never seen pornography before. We shrieked and squealed, but we were intrigued. We clicked around on the website for a long time, gawking over the perverse but captivating images of bare flesh and forbidden acts.
The next few times we got together, we couldn’t help but slip back onto the website. We had never seen anything like it. We vowed never to tell our parents; we knew it was wrong, but we weren’t sure why. All we knew was the dirty feeling under our nails that we could not scrub clean.
Our culture has created this taboo, its attempt at suppression forcing our curious hands. If we had been raised to view sexuality as natural, perhaps we would not be driven to seek it out in such distorted ways. Perhaps it is not the animal inside us to blame, but the caging of it.