David Wraith is a sex educator and co-founder of Sex Positive St. Louis, an organization whose mission is to provide safe spaces for people to discuss and explore their sexuality. Among others, he teaches a clothing optional class on radical body acceptance. From his blog:
I am David Fucking Wraith, queer heterosexual and free-range poly man-whore. Just another Catholic, polyamorous, sadomasochistic, pro-choice, pro-black, pro-woman, pro-gay, pro-trans, anti-war, writer, filmmaker, performance artist and activist for peace.
Jera: The sex-positive, queer, kinky, and poly communities have become my “church” in many ways. Do you feel spiritually fulfilled by groups outside of your actual church community?
David: Absolutely. I rarely go to mass anymore. I feel like if God is everywhere, then they’re not confined to a church. I hear God speaking to me at poetry slams, in lesbian bars, at protest marches. Recently, Sex Positive St. Louis co-sponsored a Female Ejaculation Workshop. It might be a stretch to call that a religious experience, but I don’t know, being surrounded by that energy, the intimacy and ecstasy of a couple dozen people, many of them strangers to me, all making love in one room. Women having really intense orgasms. It was really powerful. The church has a weird relationship with ecstasy, I think. The church loves people speaking in tongues, catching the holy ghost, religious ecstasy that’s a public spectacle, but public sex, orgasm, pleasure, yeah… not so much.
In more concrete ways, I think being sex positive enhances my faith and also being a person of faith enhances my sex positivity. As a Christian, I feel called to be in solidarity with the most vulnerable populations. I would put trans folks, particularly trans women and trans women of color in that category, so I definitely feel called to fight alongside them. People used to say, “What Would Jesus Do?” Well, among other things, I think he’d be working alongside the trans community.
Jera: Sexuality is another way that groups in power control others. And, of course, so is skin color. If we believe that God wants ultimate justice and equality for all of God’s people, then Christians have a responsibility to fight against oppression in these two areas. This reasoning shows that sexuality matters. And free sexual choices of marginalized people matter most.
David: Absolutely. Dr. Marty Klein talks about how if people have freedom in their bedrooms, next they’ll want more freedom in the public sphere, so one of the best end runs around people in power being questioned in their public behavior is to control the private behavior of those out of power. Every religious fundamentalist movement, every totalitarian government that I can think of has sought to limit people’s private lives, even their sex lives. I often feel like sex and art, things that take up a great deal of my time, are frivolous pursuits, but if these things weren’t important, people wouldn’t be trying so hard to limit them.
Jera: Does being a black man who is sexually deviant (according to this country’s sexual norms) feel like a powerful political act? Where does God fit into that intersection for you?
David: I don’t think of being sexually deviant as a political act. It’s just who I am. I think being open about it is definitely a political act, because it’s a conscious choice on my part. I could be in the closet about my sexuality, but I’m open about it in hope that other people who can’t be open will know that they’re not alone. As far as God’s intersection, I’m honestly not sure. It’s not something I’ve given much thought to, honestly.
Jera: On Lee Harrington’s podcast, The Passion and Soul, you also said, “If we really are going to walk our talk as Christians, we have to see the God in everyone and see everyone as divine, and I don’t think we get to exclude them and even if we disagree with their lifestyle ‘choices,’ if they’re made by God, they’re divine and we’ll have to respect them even if we disagree with them.” What does respect look like?
David: It’s fucking difficult. It’s easy for me, as a liberal Christian, to respect Muslims, atheists and queer folk. It’s a struggle to respect conservatives Christians. It’s hard to respect someone’s humanity if they would deny you yours. It’s even harder when you live in a liberal bubble and you have your own secular “amen corner” that will support you when you say things to conservatives that they might label a hate speech if it was said to marginalized person. It’s hard to love people who don’t love you, but it’s kind of what I signed on for as follower of Christ. I fail at it more than I succeed.
Jera: You also said, “I’ve had really deep conversations about Catholicism and Christianity and Jesus and the gospels at dungeon parties. Someone is getting whipped and flogged in my peripherals and I’m talking to someone about accepting Jesus Christ as their lord and savior which I think is totally appropriate.” What it means to be a Christian witness and the call to evangelize is something I still struggle with. Can you give me more context?
David: First off, I don’t proselytize. I respect everyone’s spiritual journey and don’t try to convert anyone. My wife is an atheist and it’s totally not an issue for us. That anecdote was a very specific situation. I was in a dungeon with a friend who was very liberal, very feminist, and agnostic. She was considering converting to Catholicism and marrying a Catholic man who she’d fallen in love with, but she was torn about it. My message to her was that God belongs to her. Jesus belongs to her, and not to let something as fallible as man, or the church or the clergy come between her and Christ. I’m Catholic because it’s the tradition I was raised in and where I feel most comfortable, not because I think Catholics have a direct line to God or because I co-sign everything the Catholic church says a hundred percent. I’m very capable of going to mass and absorbing what is useful and ejecting what is useless. I don’t believe in a God that respects blind faith over healthy skepticism. That was basically the conversation we we were having a few tables away from the spanking bench and the St. Andrew’s Cross.
Jera: Spirituality to me isn’t defined to an idea of God, but some people don’t consider themselves spiritual at all, and I need to respect that and find other ways to connect with them. Do you find ways to spiritually connect with your wife that are not about “God”?
David: Spirituality isn’t a huge part of our lives together. My wife is an artist, and I think that art (when it’s good) can be transcendent. One of the ways we come close to a spiritual connection is our appreciation of art. Recently, we were listening to NPR and there was a story about the Rothko Chapel, and it was about taking art from the secular world and putting it in an almost religious context, but one that people from any faith or no faith could appreciate. It was really a wonderful thing for us both to listen to, for me as a person of faith who loves art and for her as an artist who can still respect the faith of others.
Jera: You love service subbing. Is that a spiritual act?
David: In a way, yes. It’s definitely meditative. Serving someone else gets me out of my head. It’s very Zen to put all of my attention into the service of someone else.