May 29, 2019

What is the relationship between sex, power, and social authority?

Allie Kerper, 25

My poem explores contemporary attitudes toward sex and sexuality through the lens of historical speculation. The information that sucking an ancient Irish king’s nipples was an expression of fealty becomes a springboard for thinking about how power is negotiated by and during sex, how consent is given and under what circumstances, and how gender and sexual orientation affect access to social power. By using history as a means for thinking through contemporary issues, the poem questions the status quo – why are things the way they are, and have they always been this way? Who gets to make the rules, and who does that process exclude?

In a world where straight, cisgender wealthy white men hold most of the power in the world, and are actively using it to restrict the bodily freedom of others, these questions matter. World leaders such as Trump demand outrageous expressions of loyalty and threaten to punish those who don’t comply; how is this any less ridiculous than a king who makes his subjects suck his nipples? What gives him the right to make those demands, and what happens if we say no? In asking these questions, this poem calls for democracy, equality, and justice.

Questions I Have About the Ancient Irish Practice of Showing Fealty to a King by Sucking His Nipples (According to the National Museum of Ireland).

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