Sex Positivity and Mac McLellan

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The Internet has been all abuzz the past week or so with reaction to an article penned by Mother Jones’s reporter Mac McLellan about how she finally found some relief from her job-related PTSD. It seems Mac had been covering some of the hardest stories, those that involved earthquakes, human rights violations, rapes and the like. She thought she was coping pretty well until one day, while escorting a Haitian woman from the hospital back to the rubble she called home following a brutal attack and rape, Mac found her defenses lying about her in shambles.
She sought help from Meredith Broome, whom she describes as “a brilliant Bay Area therapist who specializes in trauma,” who wisely let Mac follow her own instincts. Mac bravely admitted her belief that to shake the recurring terror of memories and intrusive thoughts of all the violence toward women she had witnessed, she needed some rough sex herself. Really rough sex. She wanted the fear knocked out of her. As she put it, “violent sex wasn’t a matter of recreation for me. It was a way, one way, to help get better.”
Uncharacteristically (and very professionally), Broome gave her permission to try this remedy, with appropriate safeguards. I wonder if Mac realizes how rare it was to have located a therapist with this level of sex positivity and non-judgmentalism.
Armed with encouragement and belief in her own best judgment, Mac asked a trusted ex-lover if he would oblige, explaining the reasons and the desired process. Together, they loved and fought and struggled until …”My body felt devastated but relieved; I’d lost, but survived.” She was free.
Mac wrote about this whole story here: Unsurprisingly, a number of women missed the point and wrote a rebuttal ( defending the beauty of Haiti, which was not what her article was about at all.
Following this, Mac did an interview with Ms. Magazine. (Yes, Ms. Magazine is still around, still insisting on thinking clearly and speaking out logically. Gawd, I have been lovin’ that rag for forty years.)
Ms. did an interview with Mac ( in which Mac defended her right to speak about PTSD and to speak for herself personally, not only as a journalist. The piece was unsurprisingly well done, yet I was left asking myself if there was yet another point that still had not been made. In all this discussion, had something else vitally important been overlooked?
Was I the only one cheering Mac for writing about wanting rough sex, finding it, and then championing its beneficial effect? She experienced a need from somewhere deep within her wounded psyche that compelled her to revisit and redefine the juxtaposition of physical ecstasy and physical disempowerment. She went for it because she knew somehow that sexuality, unfettered and uncontrolled, would set her free and make her safe again.
Without excluding Mac’s story, or the stories of her detractors, I think this one, too, should be heralded.
Mac McLellan had the courage to embrace sexuality as a possible solution to her hurt, and to seek help that would not shame or belittle her for sexual awareness and pride. We are so easily intimidated by even the hint of the pejorative “slut” that we are often willing to deny our own erotic desires and expression. Not so Mac, nor Broome.
And Mac didn’t stop there. She considered something potentially out of her comfort zone, and for found safe, consensual ways to experiment with her desires. We are lucky that she shared it with us all, even when she must have known we wouldn’t understand, we would judge, we would scold.
It is so common to be afraid of stretching our limits. Mac showed us how, and proved that, regardless of ‘popular’ response, the benefit is undeniable.