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Our work ahead is clear: we cannot go back...

Ian_MacKenzie_fIn the book Sex At Dawn, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha convincingly demolish most of our assumptions about love & sexuality in the dominant culture. For instance, they argue that humans are the most sexual species ever evolved, with origins closer to peace-loving bonobos than war-mongering chimpanzees. They reveal that women are biologically geared for multiple partners per sexual encounter, and that monogamy is extraordinarily rare in the animal kingdom.

And finally, they reframe our assertions about “natural” human partnership, where men offer their protection and resources for the sexual fidelity & fertility of women. Instead, they suggest much of what we “know” about human partnership & sexuality is in fact an adaptation from the shift to agricultural civilization; when we abandoned the ancient structure of community for the recent nuclear family.

Let me detonate that again: all of our modern beliefs about sexuality & partnership are, in fact, born out of the TRAUMA of losing the VILLAGE.

This is why it is so difficult to talk about love & sexuality. All of us who grew up in the dominant culture carry deep wounds inflicted by the story of separation. From the religions that told us sex was sin unless practiced within the sanctity of marriage. From the sexual abuse that ripples through the generations unobstructed in the silent shame of families ‘saving face.’ From the isolation venerated by condo developers that proves entirely soul-crushing to the urban dweller.

This is why the myth of THE ONE sounds like a good idea. When your only chance for companionship and intimacy is limited to a single monogamous partnership, they are the promise of a life raft in a sea of chaotic, cosmic cruelty.

We then manifest the structures of scarcity that already dominate the rest of our lives. We seek in our partner that which they cannot provide: a vast spectrum of sexual fulfillment, superhuman parenting without inflicting their own neuroses, solid productivity in a material economy, and a never known but deeply longed for connection to the web of life.

To be clear: I’m not attacking monogamous marriage, nor am I advocating reckless polyamory. What I’m declaring is that one cannot have authentic conversations about their own sexual & relational proclivities until they’re willing to recognize the depth of their woundedness.

I know from experience.

Since the end of my marriage almost 2 years ago, I carried a torrent of anger holding back a tidal wave of grief. Stoic by nature, I was also programmed by the culture that crying is not for men. It took this journey to Tamera and the unfaltering support of community to bring forth my anger, then grief and finally… a deep sense of healing.

The sexual revolution of the 60’s was sincere but ultimately premature. “Free love” when practiced as freedom from responsibility left a generation of broken families and disillusionment. But the lessons were not lost. The true depth of “free love” is revealed when understood as “freedom to love without fear.”

This is why Tamera has placed TRUST as their beacon and TRUTH as their aim. We need communities of trust to heal our wounds before proceeding to build a resilient culture in service to life. And lest you believe this a fantasy, in my few short weeks, here is what I have already witnessed:

– Children encouraged to explore their own curiosity & creativity, supported by their parents and an array of adults who each provide their own wealth of guidance and wisdom.

– Women young and old(er) enjoying unprecedented freedom and pleasure with their erotic selves. As they are liberated from a culture of shame/purity around sexuality, many discover their appetites are varied and vast.

– A community of villagers dedicated to relentless experimentation and personal & collective growth, each discovering the paradox of intimacy in public: the more we are willing to reveal our private selves, the more we recognize kinship in each other.

Make no mistake. Tamera’s community of trust has been painstakingly crafted from 35 years of triumph and heartbreak. They are no perfect utopia; and much of their research will need translation and adaptation to be effectively grafted on the wreckage of the dominant culture.

For those of us dedicated to system change, we must first be willing to recognize our own brokenness, then sit for a long while and grieve how things came to be as they are. Be courageous enough to shed a river of tears for the long arc of shame, abuse, and betrayal that riddles our family trees. And be compassionate enough to forgive them and ourselves for the hard time that has come upon us.

Our work ahead is clear: we cannot go back. But we cannot go forward without surrendering the sanctity of the private self, and step into the messy, vulnerable, heart-opening work of resurrecting the village.

Will you join me?


  1. thank you ian. beautiful synopsis. i too had a healing experience during my few weeks at tamera (in 2010). and i continue, even just yesterday crying tears of mourning and grief over the lineage of shame, abuse and betrayal, as you said… and as i was sobbing, the prey/predator roles being lived through each of us in so many ways because of the trauma of losing the village. i have had three mediation clients in the last few weeks… all variations on this theme, reflecting my own similar personal/lineage woundedness, and the pain of how to bring healing to them and me while we mire in the same system that bore the trauma. may we continue to find each other, and begin again, together, our steps toward village making and the making of humans. (past, present and future are intentionally concomitant in the grammar of that last sentence :)

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