At the Root of Joy: An Interview with Dr. Jin Fererz-Khan

Dr. Fererz-Khan
Dr. Fererz-Khan is a noted feminist and expert on sex. Trained in anthropology with a degree from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, she also has a keen interest in poetry, ecology, and politics. A controversial figure, she has received threats from several fundamentalist groups for advocating women's right, pro-choice policies, and secularism in general. Born in Lahore to as the eldest daughter of a Pakistani civil servant and French teacher, she grew up in six countries, frequently exposed to conflicting ideas and always surrounded by books. Briefly married in 1985, she came to the conclusion that marriage involves too many compromises. Fluent in French, English, Korean, and Punjabi she currently divides her time between teaching part time at three universities and writing. The author of six books, recently she has gone on tour to promote her most recent book A Woman's Guide to Consciousness-Raising (Faux Press, 1999). This interview was conducted in February 2000 in a cafe near her home in St-Cloud as her long-haired calico cat observed inscutably.

Q: What do you believe is best way to promote happiness?

A: If you look closely at primates you'll see the answer. Humans have the potential for violence, but also capacity for skinship and intimacy. As those factors increase, it seems that proclivities for violence diminish. I want to believe that non-violence can be socially engineered: it's an imperative as our planet's population grows.

Q: So are you saying that the roots of intimacy are somehow sexual?

A: Intercourse is merely one of many ways towards intimacy. Healthy people can see manifestations of sex in simple gestures such as a smile or handshake. And in its broadest sense, sex is highly civilizing. It's one way of increasing warmth.

Q: Well in that case how can we distinguish between sex and love?

A: It's a matter of perception. Martin Buber, Diane Ackerman, and many others have explored this question. If you probe deeply, seeing the otherness of another as part of yourself, embracing difference, and accepting diversity – that's love. Whether it becomes 'sexual' or not ultimately doesn't matter.

Q: Do you think it is possible for humans be totally loving? Don't we also have evil inside of us?

We can a lot more loving than most people recognize. Humans have a capacity for love which is generally underdeveloped. It's precisely for that reason that evil arises.

Q: Why do most religions seem to fear sex or physical expressions of love?

A: I don't know – I do not claim to be an authority on religion. Perhaps some religions seek to control people through fear. One of the easiest ways to manipulate the masses is that way. It does seem many religions try to make people feel fearful of what they enjoy. The formula is simple: declare people sinful, make them feel guilty, then devise a plan for "salvation".

Q: That sounds rather cynical. Doesn't religion have a nobler aim?

A: It probably has many different aims for many different people. The real question is: what are you aiming for now?

Q: Well, that shifts the focus. By the way, don't you feel sex has become too commercialized today?

A: This is nothing new. For millenia, sex has been made into a product and marketed. At they same time, there's something very frigid and non-caring about monitzing intimacy in any form. And this coldness leads to great hunger.

Q: So where do you stand with respect to pornography?

A: I am for human dignity. If sex is the only language people seem to speak, we should help them expand their vocabulary. There is nothing wrong with sex and I am not puerille in any sense. However, if people have 'sex on the brain' too often perhaps it is a sign that in some other way they are not fully engaged in living. I think Kabir had it right. If we discover real love, human sexuality is but a shadow on the wall. We should mind the Light.