Do You Have Her Patience

Alexandra Manukyan

Alexandra Manukyan

That’s what he said to me.

Or more precisely,

“Do you have the patience to be like the nun in the picture?

She looks dreamy, like you.

Would you take your time like she is?

Would you have all the time in the world to seduce me?”

My relationship with Him has always been complex. How can it not be when He himself is complex? And what about me? I’m hardly a simple minded creature. But the symbolic gestures in the image are not all that complicated. Primarily it speaks to me of a splitting into two. The traditional mind-body separation which has been an issue for centuries. Throughout history we’ve been subjected to one story or another that demonizes the flesh and exalts the mind, Medusa being only one of those stories. Do I identify with that in the picture? Of course, I do. I’ve acknowledged the apparent split between mind and body for many years, and this image makes it pretty explicit. I spent my twenties being incredibly “spiritual” and for a while, the only thing stopping me from joining a convent was motherhood…well, that and the fact I was shamelessly quick to admit that I enjoyed sex and frequently masturbated. New age beliefs were accepting of a certain amount of sexuality, traditional religion was not. So I became a sister in an-unconventional-sense and spent over ten years living as a mystic. I remember being acutely aware of many people who had issues with acknowledging the desires of the body although it would be years later before I learned that the fear of death was probably playing a big part in all of that.

A superficial interpretation would say a nun is symbolic of devotion to an ideal, a way of thinking. It also suggests purity of intent. Nuns have supposedly sacrificed their bodily desires to serve a greater purpose in life. They serve God himself, the man at the top of their particular hierarchy. The image has her head covered, hair being one of the symbols of strength, so she’s hiding her personal power. Hair has also become a symbol of one’s personal identity, and with that comes an association to pride in oneself. Nuns are supposed to be an expression of humility - which traditionally curbs the interest in the self and any expression of it. Modesty, another word which has an association with nuns, is a close companion of humility although it has a slightly different meaning when applied to a personality. The churches and all who work for God have a reputation of providing sanctuary. It’s not just an escape from the pressures of everyday life; it can be a sanctuary for criminals, a place of confession for the wicked and sinful. It’s where people go to wipe the slate clean, to make peace with the highest authority known to man. In short, a refuge from all that occurs in the world outside.

But what about the general sexualization of nuns? I’ve wondered about that on and off through the years. Anything can be sexualized, but some themes are more likely to appeal to a larger number of people and become acceptable as a mainstream “fetish”. So, what is it that people find so erotic about nuns? Is it just the idea of someone who is supposedly pure being corrupt or corrupted by another? I wondered if it had something to do with devotion, and how that would translate when applied to sexual behaviour ~ as in their being submissive, and ever ready to serve their master? I’ve never really experienced my genitals as sinful, so I find it hard to relate to the idea that people are excited by that which is forbidden, although this could indeed be a reason for those who were brought up in the Catholic tradition (for example). Pushing that thought further, is there an unconscious desire to usurp the big man himself? If I turn God into a symbolic representative of the psychological father, then issues of personal autonomy are brought to the fore. Desire, perhaps, for increased independence in the external world. A desire for better status, or wanting to be free of the conforms dictated by society? Or could it be a simple desire to be worshipped and adored by women? Faithful women at that, who are completely committed to them and them alone? When I asked Him what He thought, he mentioned the repressed sexuality of the nun and the grappling of such issues which is certainly relevant although it’s hard to know for sure if this isn’t a projection. Could it be the man is grappling with something repressed? It doesn’t have to be his sexuality that is being restricted; it could easily be a desire for autonomy in any and all aspects of his life, which may, or may not, be conscious. A man’s sense of power in the outer world is intrinsically linked to his penis. It’s not necessarily the actual activity of the penis, but the attitude towards it, and whether he feels impotent or all powerful. So an attraction to nuns could be seen as a massive symbolic offering from the psyche of exactly what qualities it is that one desires from the partner as well as a confirmation that one wants MORE power in the outer realms. It’s an indication of ambition, and of a desire for increased autonomy. It would be easy to try and claim that a man which such an attraction is arrogant in his quest for absolute power, but that would just be the voice of society talking. We’re conditioned into believing it’s a bad thing to want to overthrow our parents (another common theme in myth). Freud blamed it all on wanting to fuck the opposite sex parent, but that’s a distortion of the real desire which is to be a man, or woman, in one’s own right. It screams of the need to be free from the parental rule, which we commonly transfer onto God, or the state, at an early age. These psychic restrictions limit the ability to move freely in the outer world; it inhibits the potential of the self. And in extreme cases, it suffocates, or cages, the personality and at some point the inner adolescent is going to rebel against the restriction. Wanting to fuck a nun, or getting off at the thought of doing so may just be the psyche’s way of telling you that you’re in need of increased freedom from the opinions and restrictions around you.

I came across this picture after being internally mortified by another image which had been created by the same artist. I don’t know what I was hoping to find, but I needed to escape the horror I’d just felt and so hoped and pleaded to the universe that she had another image which would be more relevant to I. The me of me. And He, the one I continue to be in love with. This picture calmed me down because I knew it was closer to what we had, or at least where we began our journey together. At the onset of our relationship, he actually did find sanctuary. And he found acceptance of his mortal self - the bits of him that had sinned, that committed so-called morally abhorrent crimes against those around him. Specifically, the women he was involved with, or at least had been in the past. He was looking for something, didn’t find it. Nowadays he tells me he’s found what he was searching for. But did it have anything to do with that part of me that is capable of devotion and faithfulness to one who is his own authority? Was there an attraction to the mystic/philosopher who retained the rights to her sexual self? Was it a particular kind of balance? Between logic and instinct? She’s wearing a crucifix which suggests a sacrifice has been made, but it can be removed. Did I, or am I temporarily sacrificing something? Did I hand over my will to him? I’m not so sure about that, but I certainly had to park myself to one side a time or two; had to suppress my feelings too. And I have been patient and given him time, and it has come at the expense of my sexual needs.

The problem for him was that most people lie about who they are. They pretend to be this way when they are that way instead. It’s only ever a matter of time before the veil of illusion blows away, and reality can bite like a cold wind. He was lying about who he was; the women were lying about who they were. He was feeling psychically hounded; so, of course, he ran to the church for sanctuary. Where else was he going to go? Translated into everyday language, he needed to restore his faith that he had control. He also wanted to affirm that he had a choice as to how he was living his life. He tells me that he thinks I needed someone to believe in me, someone to believe in what I was doing. But secretly I think it’s the other way around. I believe it was him that needed someone to believe in him. He was the one needing to be adored, not me.

Alexandra Manukyan

Alexandra Manukyan