Ode to the Bodies of Women
All works pictured by Eurydice Kamvyselli, Fabric, hand stitched mobiles using hand-dyed thread on over lapping sheets and cut-outs of plexiglass suspended with fishing lines from the ceiling.
The work is created to present the female body as the see-through frame of all we see: the free the stitch from fabric &enable each stitch to float in space, in hanging suspense. All works conceived and created by Kamvyselli.
by Eurydice Eve
As a man is, So he Sees. As the Eye is formed, such are its powers.
- William Blake
Right after my girly body sprouted breasts & pubes, I was severed into two new selves that grew out of me like Hydra’s snake-heads: the inner Demon-Animal who drove my new body’s wants & the outer Sex Object to whom most men responded with strutting poses & deafening catcalls or with insinuating double-talk & excessive one-on-one attention, mistaking my silence & shame & terror for consent. The good-student-daughter Madonna self I had inhabited until then, had no idea that we are each a multiplicity of selves & she was shocked & horrified by the brand new lustful instincts that activated the two new, urgent selves. & as she tried to make sense of all the changes, she retreated into nonexistence, subsumed by even newer, more aberrant Me’s that grew out of me when I tried to choke the urges that made me sway my hips & shake my ass or fantasize about naked women while touching my labia which I called ‘my thing’ because I didn’t know a word for it, just like I didn’t know I had a clitoris & didn’t know the word ‘masturbation,’ & didn’t know that it was something done by other people on the planet besides me. I didn’t know what had possessed me but I did know I didn’t intend to ever divulge this secret compulsion to anybody. I didn’t know what I was doing with my ‘thing,’ what brought on the urge & what ended it with me moaning breathless & spent in my bed, vowing that this would be the last time, worried that if I got caught, my parents, who didn’t even allow closed doors in the house, would kill me. Not metaphorically. It was sex that first clarified for me my foundational split & my female blinders.
Despite all that, masturbation became the compromise reached by my new, unfamiliar & demonically possessed selves. In the unspeakable, indescribable, prelingual space of self-ecstasy, I 1. male-gazed at my own semi-naked, erotically posed body, 2. I man-zoomed in on my soft curves & swelling orifices arranged so they would peek out from my sheets, 3. I man-fingered my aroused holes & man-touched my softest tissues until they were wet enough that I orgasmed. I wouldn’t have traveled the transition from ‘they’ to ‘I’ in any capacity that didn’t qualify as madness if I wasn’t already high off my mind with prelingual, prelogical lust. But I did leap from thinking ‘they’ re: my erogenous parts to ‘I’ re: my erogenous release. & during orgasm, I felt the bliss of self-unification. So I knew that Oneness was possible, if only in the forbidden space of Sin during those concluding seconds when I rode the arc of self-satiety wanting to feel whole.
Since the pleasure was much stronger than the terror of exposure, I could not stop seeking that freedom from self & world that lifted me into blissful wholeness every time my parents fell asleep. Right after my orgasm, my body still microspasming & my eyes still blurry & crossed, lying in the dark blessedly emptied of my chaotic inner contents, listening to my heart pound violently against my rising & falling ribcage, I would count the seconds of relief I would get before the oddness of being me, & especially this new reckless me, kicked back in. I began to wonder back then if this new self was my birthright as a Lesbian, if Lesbian which in every vernacular meant pervert instead of woman born on Lesbos, signified a rebel Being.
In those liminal minutes when I was not yet quite myself as society knew me--daughter, student, churchgoer, school president, reader, good or best friend--but was no longer the female animal I became when my? Hunger took over, I would review the process of my transformation. Knowing nothing of hormonal spikes or the mechanics of the female anatomy & reproductive organs, I experienced arousal as the agony of a human turning into a werewolf under the lunar influence. I was mystified by the power of the Beast? that took over me. I realized that the process began with me becoming male, & objectifying/disrespecting my little body with the intense pornographic fetishization of my? male libidinal drive. I deduced that my mind was fucking my body. Yes, my mind would turn my body into my? own sex object, until my body would loosen its bond to my mind & jolt into orgasms. In the postcoital contemplative state, I understood that my body wasn’t represented by my mind. Even though mine was the only mind that controlled & directed my body, there was a disconnect. An open chasm. An irreparable dichotomy. A border that could not be crossed between self & beast, I & me. Knowing that my body was female, I concluded that my mind was male. Even though I had no feminist vocabulary, I sensed that my ‘I’ was male & that therefore every ‘I’ was male; that the formative logos with all its laws & mores was male, created by men to protect men from women like me.
One of the overnight changes that overcame me as I hit adolescence was the sudden awareness that I had always identified with Dad & looked down on Mom as designated rep of the needy ‘women-&-children’ group, which was what Dad called her & my sister to separate their domestic world from our intellectual one. I had been brainwashed to think like Dad & yet, unlike Dad, I wasn’t free to make any decision for myself & had to depend on him to. I had to ask for his permission for everything I did, & for forgiveness every night before I kissed his hand & went to bed. My new curves had taken him aback as much as they had me & were making him nervous &, when I wasn’t in his house, paranoid. He watched me physically transform into a desirable nymphet & he felt me pull away from him emotionally & mentally, & quietly shift my political, philosophical, aesthetic views as far away from his as I could get away with. Up to then I had espoused & eloquently mimicked his ideas & felt empowered by our emotional incest that elevated me to the place of his consort in public outings. Dad would show off to his friends & superiors my ability to recite the Odyssey by memory, my knowledge of every Greek historical date & description, the articulate answers that I could give to any question before any audience. I now understood why I had never felt any pride or accomplishment. I understood why I felt like a dancing bear at the circus, like Venus of Hoggentot. Thanks to my sudden sexual uprising, I now understood that I felt as an impostor & a fraud when I expressed myself because I was always using borrowed intel & borrowed language. I understood that I felt vacant & insincere--as if I might as well be anyone at any time, as if I lacked a solid core & a baseline of truth--because no truth was mine. Because when I said ‘I,’ it was a euphemism. I understood that I had taken on the identity of my oppressor & I had no other way in or out, no other way to belong to the world. I had no other way to be sexually active & whole.
My sexuality made clear to me the degree to which we women have no place of our own in the world. When we women succeed, we do it by thinking like men & by advocating for patriarchy, whether we realize it or not. We objectify our own bodies to attract men or we male- gaze at them as if we were porn in order to get off on them, because we can only see eroticism & beauty through the male gaze. It is the gaze behind every piece of art or devotion or advertising. We have no choice but to pimp ourselves to ourselves for our personal pleasure & to our lovers for our joint pleasure. Patriarchy has trained our (male) gaze to view the natural-born female nude as pornography. The (male) gaze turns the naked (female) body into an object of pornographic lust that exists primarily to be claimed & possessed, manhandled & penetrated to the point of impregnation, which is the ultimate male reward (that womb is mine), just like the (male) logos, 3000 yrs ago, turned the Lesbian woman poet Sappho into the first lesbian, a debauched practitioner of a deranged species betrayal, which justified burning & banishing her work before it could undermine the dominant discourse. Language (the logos which was in the beginning of civilization) is male. Every word, every meaning, every custom, every law, every moral value, every habit, every belief & superstition, every feeling & genetic code have been defined, described, & mediated by patriarchy in a myriad ways that guarantee its perpetuation.
I realized that the gender divide between the ‘real me’ I was born as & ‘interpreter me’ that translated me to myself, to everyone else, & to the world at large was so vast that it might as well be the river Styx that separated the world of the living from the world of the dead. I didn’t have access to these words back then in my native Greek, but I understood this impasse & this prison. I understood this despair & this pain. I understood that we women don’t have an ‘I’ & therefore we don’t have an individual identity. We exist in mass gender dysphoria.
In the next installment, I will explain why I now think the female gaze is the third eye gaze.
All artworks and photos courtesy the artist, Eve Eurydice
by Eurydice Eve
As the phenomena of greatest emotional significance to my consciousness, the bodies of the women I have loved, starting with my mother’s and climaxing with my daughter’s, seem to me countries I have inhabited, where I have assumed full-time work and family ties and undercover identities, manners and mores, rights and obligations as their committed citizen until, backed against one cultural corner or another, facing the existential threat that my culture would imminently annihilate my nature, I have had to escape or die. And, every time, I have escaped.
I have therefore lived at once in love and in exile from one homeland and its culture to another and from one wom-body and its habitat to another. I have lived enamored and enchanted with the elaborate sensual and aesthetic pleasures of all my anthropological experiences, and enthusiastic about the emergent meanings of life that rise out of its gravest contradictions. I have lived high on the ecstasy of being beyond my self-control, delighted with the enjoyments of genius, which to natives look like chaos and insanity, until I have felt a sudden reversal of fortune occur as soon as I have declared, Yes, I agree to belong to this nation, take the sacred oath of citizenship and ride this pinnacle of my harmonious union with my surroundings. At that juncture, in that blessed period when we don’t have to say a word in order to understand each other, which feels the most liberating of eras, when my senses are fulfilled and appeased and mellow and too happy for words and I no longer watch me live, just as I am finally present with all my multiple selves, I begin to see my beloved as my shackle and jailer and see her eye as that of the Medusa that can turn me back to stone. I start to note the subtle ways in which each one of my beloveds at that pinnacle of our relationship presumes and predefines, and thereby requires to morally enforce, my participation in proscribed intimate or public routines or rituals that are endemic to her because of her geography, and have been fascinating to me because I am a foreigner. A foreigner passing through.
I am a foreigner of course wherever I am in the world. I love most what I have yet to experience. I long for the unexpected. As soon as I am rendered predictable like a planet, I lose my ability to love, for I love unconditionally. When I can no longer love, I can no longer be loved, and I know our relationship is complete. I share our upcoming uncoupling and I propose rituals on the beach, for there is always an encircling sea nearby where we exchange the gifts of separation, of sacred goodbyes, holding containers for our emotions as we need until their wrath is spent.
The women I have loved have occupied most of my time when we have lived together, on one beautiful continent or another, often near bodies of water, most of them vast. I have loved them because I have drowned my past in them so that I would experience the lightburst of being born all over again. I have loved them because they have told me that my desires were unimaginable but welcome, because they defied their expectations by loving me back, because they believed that loving them well would erase them. It is only when they ask that I erase me—a need that the women I have loved have always reached—that I disprove them. I have loved them so that I could risk losing myself in each one of them, erasing any consciousness that wasn’t consciousness of them, and yet I have slipped out in the nick of time every time, only to fall and rise in love again because falling and rising together in love is the greatest emotion humans can know.
The more I have loved a woman, the better I have come to know through her what I do and don’t want and like and need. The more I have loved a woman, the better l have defined myself against the detailed backdrop of her and against the core of her being. It is the abstraction of my social identity that my passion for her frees me of. Of course identity is not essence. My essence is untethered. I merely come alive in the excitement of plenitude, and loving a woman is living in plenitude. I have told every woman I have loved that I didn’t believe in causes and effects or in the details of time, because the social me isn’t much of me. I’ve told every woman I have loved that love requires sacrifice or else life is meaningless, and yet I’ve had to flee each one.
The women I have loved have showered me with the boundless details of themselves, have cultivated and overwhelmed and overcome the receptors of my senses, have burned me down to my cinders and empowered me to be reborn out of them, have confessed and screamed and excavated my secrets, desires that would otherwise be hidden from the world, and risked their safety or sanity for me. The women I have loved, each in her way, several in a similar way, have confirmed my existence in a way nothing else could, even after I gave birth to a woman who confirms my existence by confirming her genetic hold on my loyalty. And I have slipped away just as the women I have loved, each in her own way, several in the same or a similar way, confirmed my existence by assuming to possess it. The women I have loved have driven me to the embrace of despair, madness, suicide, and homicide, but have driven me from these as well. The women I have loved opened me up like an oyster when a grain of sand slips into it, watered me with the nocturnal emissions of trust we release when we sleep with each other, and with our iridescent secretion of plenitude that is the equivalent of human nacre. I am alive because the women I have loved have been alive, plunging me into passionate love when not plunging me into passionate despair, and whichever it was, it was passionate; and when passion got absorbed into mundanity or when excitement got tinged by duty I fled them, as I had fled my birth country when I realized I belonged to it at the exclusion of others. I bear the marks of the women I have loved regardless of their presence. I contain them all, as a multitude, like churning seas.
When I think of the women I have loved, my body knows where they are in the world, and I can finger their location on a map. I can sense the women I have loved, their bodies on and on, interior and exterior, their exteriors more different than their interiors, because sensing is a consequence of loving senselessly enough to become another. I can sense how they live now, how they feel the instant I think of their feeling, what they are thinking while I am thinking of the specificities of our love, of how we lived, where, when, what our idiosyncrasies were, or the habits we succumbed to before we departed from each other on behalf of the possibility of thwarting the emptiness of our identities anew by rejoining another love under the shine of a moonlit sea, preferably vast.
I can spot from a distance a woman I can love. I know her from her walk, as I know that there will always be one more woman left in the world whom I haven’t fallen in love with yet, whose energy hasn’t stirred my embers to conflagration yet, whose gaze held in mine and breath breathed as mine I haven’t submerged myself in yet, and whose charms energized to completion by my enjoyment of them can sustain me in precarious bliss for more time after this present time.
I have seen the women I have loved day after day, night after night, year after year across decades sometimes, nude as often as not, with one or other body part inside another, or side by side, cupping or tracing each other’s curvatures, hands, mouths, tongues, the contents of our reproductive systems, where we find sense. Our love overwhelmed what was not it, becoming more than the sum of our parts, for years and years, until it became preferable to separate for the remainder of our lives, live far from each other while living on the same earth, this earth now littered with the women I have loved across the span of my existence. The women I have loved are the women I love and will continue to love where and when there is neither space nor time.
I know we loved each other, at times more than ourselves, and lived it, and it satiated us. I know that no matter where we might have lived or in what era, we would not have continued to love each other with the same passion, the same depth, fervor, tumult, breathlessness that we gave each other at the onslaught of our attraction when our waves of life ebbed and crested each other against our limited time alive and sensate. We shared tens of thousands of thoughts, year after year, because we were in love, which does not need thought, cannot afford thought, even though love and desire bring existence perilously close to meaning. We have separated precisely because love aspires to permanence, to timelessness and stasis, the eternal and enduring harmony to violate the physical universe so as to conceal the futility of human endeavor in ticking time, conceal what without another is unthinkable.
I have transitioned into and out of love always an optimist, looking to love my next beloved out of the totality of strangers from one curve of the planet to another, from horizon to horizon, looking to love and be loved, to be nude and accessible, nude as we were born, always curious to meet my next self who will be the creation of my beloved, and of being loved, by the women I have not yet loved in the arc of my existence, and who have not yet loved me back, bridging otherness, our reciprocities shedding a harmony which we feel makes life worth living, and worth living forever.
I have spoken many languages and abided by many laws and worshipped many gods and adhered to many customs, all of them odd, for one period of time or another to accommodate and please the woman I loved, the length of each stay and reenactment depending on conditions outside my agency such as her personality, genetics, generation, education, social influences and other variables that combined determine her norms—the very norms that on every occasion upon my avowing devotion to her have pushed me against an invisible wall and forced me to flee the landscapes of the women I loved and was most comfortable in and to seek refuge and passion in the crevices of other far-flung women at other geographic and socio-economic milieux, one of which would house my next pulsing encounter with an electrifying entrapment. I have transitioned from woman to woman, stationed and transitioned again, spanning the vast space of otherness between my selves. I have lived in this rhythm, orbiting from one woman I love to the next, even though I am not planetary, and I have known more countries than I care to count, all of which I have felt at home in, which makes me a citizen of nowhere and everywhere. Each time I have fallen and risen in love with a woman who, one way or another, sooner or later, is no longer a stranger when I move on. That is where I belong.
I have loved a woman, and was loved by one, day after day, my whole life since I was born. The women I have loved—mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, classmate, girlfriend, lover, nurse, maid, boss, partner, wive, ex-wive, mother of friends and friends’ mother and mothers’ friend, ample, overwhelming and overwhelmed, warm and impregnable, achingly beautiful each in her certain angles, her body sliding against mine across rumpled bedsheets, sighing and crying our hearts out and nodding through our tears or through the tangled strands of our hair, awake and asleep, loving best in my sleep, my skinscape crawling with the sense that this is how first life began, aching to be known—are the women I continue to love and will love until I am not I.
The women I have loved make up the parameters of my known world. I thank the women I have slept with in beds in Athens and in Crete, on Lesbos and on Corfu, in Salonika and Santorini, in New York and Santa Barbara, in Boulder and in Bend, in L.A. and in Las Vegas, in Normal and Champagne, in the Bahamas and Dominica, in Tulum and Tennessee, in Goa and Jaipur, in Alexandria, Tunis and Tel Aviv, in places whose toponyms escape me, in places I don’t bother to recall, the women whose names escape me but who, for the duration, kept me safe and set me free, the women whose bodies I came to know better than my own seeing them day after day, often for years, from front to back, and back to front, who told me they loved me thousands of times, or tens of thousands, each time imprinted in the sensorium of my memory differently, whom I kissed tens of thousands of times across the span of my existence, with whom I slept in domiciles across cities and towns and villages in the acute danger of our chronic proximity which in the disguise of familiarity becomes an omen of estrangement; because if I couldn’t sleep with women I would not sleep at all. In the continuum of love from mother’s to granddaughter’s, love must die and start over with the ease of seasons because lovers can never be fully satisfied, since the world takes place for the first time every time we embrace a new beloved and the story of our love defines our feeling of being fully alive. In love, we occupy each other’s thoughts and spaces, each grasping the other to form a circle, more egg than circle, sensing the elliptical eternity in it and wanting to compose life between us in the natural habitat of intimacy, the source of our urge to dissolve each into the other after exiting the known world in order to find the origin of the world in darkness.
I have spoken thousands of words to and of the women I have loved, each of whom confessed that she would never love another as she loved me, never love as well or as happily or as deeply, sentiments I have heard from thousands of women across many decades through the ruffling of linens, in the harmony of consent and complicity, who were convinced there was nothing more to the world than our desire. My sense of self permutes with my sense of the women I have loved, with whom I have shared domiciles, bedrooms, bathrooms, journeys, body parts, fluids, diseases, joys and humiliations. I know myself, only within the duality and bliss of knowing women from birth till now, their eyes and mouths as they discovered the emotion they felt, and wished to convey, one that took them by surprise, that was taking them by surprise as I watched it take them, and then as I watched the arrival of the word for the emotion, the sensation of transforming my subject self into an object to satisfy the one I desire, becoming less other to her, to satisfy my need to become other to my self, object to subject, especially in the presence of my beloved. Because we desire intimacy on behalf of a self seeking sameness in an other so we may overcome our difference, I objectified myself for women I have loved, becoming an object for the women I loved to root around in, inflamed by desire, to do with what they would, as flesh of one’s flesh until we could not remember the idea of perfection we had bestowed on our imperfect beloved, who had proven to be more imperfect than we could have imagined when we were falling and rising into love, hoping to preserve ourselves at the cost of others, and to convulse in our ecstasy in the presence of others who confirmed it and caused us to arouse again, on a beach under a yellow moon with sea and stars around us in whose presence we seemed to each other more like each other than like the abyss of otherness that we felt before we were in love. From first sight, desire identified us as flexible mirrors convincing us that love is rapture because, if not, it is madness.