May 1, 2008

Lit by Chicks

Pleasures of Scotland and of Paradise

by Beate Sigriddaughter

Braveheart was wonderful, of course, and made the unicorn long for heather, thistles, and mist in the highlands. Yet the idea that not too long ago they tied up the swings on Sunday in Scotland so that the children wouldn't inadvertently experience pleasure on the Lord's day... that felt like a hoof to its stomach, stunning in an aching sort of way.

Not that it was that much different in concept from cutting women's clitorises in Africa, so that the women wouldn't have any pleasure in Allah's world.

Meanwhile medieval doctrines of paradise - Thomas Aquinas', for instance - had it that the righteous were destined to sit in front row paradise and one of the perks was a view of the torment of their enemies who had ended up in hell. This in itself was not too far off from the earthly reality of popes forcing heathen slaves to copulate in the arena, and then feeding them directly to the lions to punish them for such sinful carnality.

Since then, concluded the bewildered unicorn, humanity had made great strides in the direction of paradise indeed. You didn't even have to die first, for nowadays just about anybody could sit on a comfortable sofa and turn on the television set to view countless channels of documented torment. The stoning to death of a woman for loving in the wrong religion was always a draw.
Why, even in fiction, the general consensus was that there is no story without conflict - no pain, no gain. Documented pleasure, the theory went, would be boring.

As often, the unicorn felt personally affronted by the staunch hostility of human beings to pleasure without pain. Yes, the unicorn took things personally. What else was it to do in a personal life? If it were sunlight dazzling through the universe indifferently at the speed of light, that would be a different story. But it was what it was. Suddenly it wanted to gallop out into the sea and feel the pleasure of wind in its mane and life lapping gently at its legs.

Beate Sigriddaughter divides her time between Denver and Vancouver. In 2007 she published “The New Parcival,” a novel that describes women’s experiences with war. She is fiction editor at Moondance and has established a Glass Woman Prize to honor authentic women’s voices. Details on the Prize and more of her work can be found at her website,, and she can be reached via e-mail.

*Photograph by Michael Schulte