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Sex and the Spirit

2004

 

 

Not too long ago, a friend shared how her husband had confessed to an affair.  Despite the shock and pain, she agreed to work it out. They had sex. It was awful. “Why”, I asked, “was sex your first stop?  When things fall apart, when wounds are fresh and deep, isn’t this the most difficult place to start?”  “Because that is his language”, she says. “It is what he knows. It was his way.” She spoke about other things that caused my heart to contract: wifely duty, the need to prove her desirability, the need to erase what could no longer be undone.

 

My friend stared blankly into space and recounted her experience. “How can I feel so dirty and violated when he is my husband; the father of my children?  How can he just sleep with someone else then say sorry, he loves me, and then turn around and sleep with me? And why isn’t it that simple for me? It felt horrible physically and elsewhere,” she said, uncomprehendingly.  Elsewhere.  I cringe at the sound of it; the singularity. She had just dumped her soul and spirit into a body bag she absently marked “elsewhere”.  Part of her clearly sees sex as a purely physical thing but the depth of her pain and confusion proved she knew, on a deeper and higher level, that it was much more than that.

 

Another friend shared the details of her rather active sex life.  She’s so active I felt I had to remind her there is no such thing as casual sex. She then admitted that sometimes the sex is so bad and the person turns out to be not her type at all, but something in her always wants to go back. She was obviously confused by her own incongruous feelings.  I asked if she didn’t feel this gnawing emptiness anyway after her near-anonymous encounters.  She nodded sadly and said it was why she always needed to be with someone.  What a vicious, depressing cycle.

 

The sexual act is so intimate—sacred, even if so many of us no longer remember—that it is binding on so many levels.  There is an exchange of more than bodily fluids.  Something happens deep inside us that we cannot name. Especially for a woman, sex is never just a physical experience, no matter how we try to convince ourselves. We open too much of ourselves and take too much into our being.  We are touched at the very core, which is why negative experiences wound us so deeply. Why is it so difficult for women to walk away from men they know aren’t good for them, men they realize they don’t even like, once they have opened their bodies to them? How can it be casual?

 

In his book, “Friends and Lovers”, Julian Sleigh writes:  ‘The modern idea that ‘I cannot know you deeply unless I know you sexually’ does not really apply.  Rather the question is ‘How can I dare to know you sexually before I know who you are and what we have in common?” 

 

We seem to have forgotten this path.  We treat sex as a tool. We use it to get to know someone better, to prove our loyalty, love or commitment; we use it to exert power over others, to lick our emotional wounds. Sex is the way human life comes into the world. What have we done that it is reduced to duty, pure physical release, a 5-minute anonymous transaction, a cosmic bandage, a place of pain and sadness rather than joy and creation?

 

Sleigh further writes:

“When a woman finds her own fulfillment in a man, she gives a part of herself to him: she identifies the masculine element in her soul with him.  She is then bonded.  If the relationship enters the physical-sexual sphere, it is not only her body that she offers, but with it her soul and spirit.  Thereby the bonding takes the risk of being turned into bondage.  But she accepts this as wholesome provided the man she loves remains devoted to her; she allows herself to be vulnerable.

And she expects his loyalty towards her to be equally total and unwavering.  If he divides his attention between her and another woman, she is deeply wounded.  Because what she has given to him cannot be retrieved; it has been given without reserve, in total trust.

When a woman makes love, her need and her soul-tendency is to devote herself with her whole being.  Not to do so would prevent her from feeling fulfilled, and she would lose the desire for the relationship.  A man easily ‘makes love’ with his body only, even when he loves his partner dearly. Men have to learn to love in wholeness, so as to be worthy of the love of a woman. This is a man’s schooling in integration.  When he fails, the woman suffers greatly.”

 

We all know that sex is different for a man and woman.  Just look at our bodies!  The male body gestures outward. The female body is the opposite. We are inward.  That says a lot even about our views and emotions; the way we process our experiences. But we have ignored the deep spiritual implications of the male and female anatomy and have managed to treat sex as a purely physical act with procreation as its mostly unfortunate side effect.

 

A new mother feels anything but sexual.  Though she will probably love her husband more after they become parents, she will not want to experience him sexually. Suddenly she sees her body differently and even senses her womanhood in a new and deep way.  Her husband, having waited so long, can’t wait to have sexual relations again.  But the very life forces that are exchanged during sex are the ones that now nourish her child, especially if she is breastfeeding.  The man then feels displaced and rejected, thinking only that his needs aren’t met. But how can the couple even begin to understand and support each other if their view of sex remains limited; if they can’t go beyond their bodies?

 

Sexual attraction is blinding. If we are so consumed by desire and can’t see clearly and fall into bed with someone because we feel there is no other way, are we acting out of freedom? How different are we then, from animals, who are driven by their instincts and desires and are sometimes even bound to earthly cycles, coming together sexually only during mating season?  As human beings, we have the power to choose.  This is what separates us from animals.  We have the same carnal instincts, yes, but surely we can exercise our human capacity to discern and choose.  Yes, we will still feel sexually drawn to people but, unlike animals, we can think, exercise restraint, come to a place of equanimity so that we can rise above the dark hole of self-indulgence and self-centeredness.

 

And what of love?  How many people still approach sex with reverence and do it out of feelings of deep love for their partner? How many people actually still make love? Sleigh says: “ Love is only possible in freedom, and sex is fulfilling only if based on freedom and not on unconscious drives.  True freedom is a benefit that comes from commitment: we are only truly free when the basis of our life is secure.  But we live in an age of freedom, and so our decisions on moral behavior must be our own, original and convincing for ourselves. This motivation must arise out of our own consciousness.” He further writes: “Sexuality engages the forces of life: and we need to face the question ‘Are they ours to use as we wish?’”

 

That is the big question. I don’t mean to suggest that sex should be free of desire or that we should simply sublimate our very human urges. We are, after all, flesh and blood. But I think that we should all begin the process of thinking, feeling and acting more clearly and more consciously, especially about how we use and engage our life forces.  It isn’t just the men who need integration.  Women need to actively honor our bodies and never allow ourselves to be used. Ever. Being married is not license for us to be casual about sex, either.  I think that married couples should be even more sensitive and loving towards each other sexually, especially since we are aware of our responsibility as parents, knowing that every sexual union is an invitation to life.

 

We have a long way to go towards understanding humanity and sexuality, but we can begin by questioning ourselves and exploring attitudes that we know are destructive, limited or negative.  What would the world be like if we could all experience sex imbued with love, respect, pleasure, truth; if, beyond the physical, we could all participate in the conscious exchange of life forces in a true act of spiritual freedom?

Imagine that.

7 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Nex / Jun 7 2008 12:32 am

    Una po, ang ganda ng waldorfmom website nyo…

    Pangalawa, itong article na ito ang una kong binasa kasi parang… kung magustuhan ko ang paliwanag nyo dito, am sure magugustuhan ko na ang iba pa…

    At, nagustuhan ko po siya…you explained it the way i understood it, and still need to understand it…

    Kaya…excited na akong basahin ang iba nyo pang articles…

    Galing! Kewl! ;p

  2. panjeetapales / Jun 7 2008 6:51 am

    Nex!! Welcome to the site. Buti naman nagustuhan mo. Isang mahaba at matinding lakaran talaga ang pag-unawa sa “sex, sexuality and spirit” at one pole lang iyan, isa top isa bottom. Pero kund hindi naman natin tatrabahuhin, di talaga natin mararating! Kaya… lakad, takbo, luhod, para mailagay natin sa tamang lugar at mapag-ukulan ng tamang pananaw at respeto. See you soon!

  3. Marie / Jan 1 2009 12:30 am

    This is a wonderful insight. Even for little girls.

  4. glow-worm / May 2 2009 6:38 pm

    This made me cry. I hadn’t realised how empty I still feel having lost my virginity to a shallow person who I thought I could keep close to me. It’s been 3 years.

    And my current relationship suffers from it. Why does it seem so ludicrous that a woman takes sex so seriously? Why do men think its okay to have nothing else to bind them?

    It hurts. It really hurts.

    • panjeetapales / May 2 2009 7:14 pm

      Glow-worm, I can feel your pain and feel sorry that you had that experience, but it’s also good to know that sex can be healing and that your past trauma doesn’t have to be the story of your life. Though it is understandable that your current relationship suffers from this experience, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, give yourself time but leave yourself open for healing and accept it with an open and grateful heart. It will happen if you let it.

    • Markus Buergi / Jan 24 2013 10:13 am

      dear glow-worm,
      our collective confusion is quite simply based on our collective ignorance. And the more we know about it, the more we see the … most impressive, to say the least – extend of this our lot.
      We all take sex very seriously ’cause we are made that way. Think about it. It is all the junk and false concepts between our ears that bring about accusations, lies and the like. The Who’s “… I spill out like a sewer hole yet still receive you kiss …” comes to my mind. Most do not get to that point of the universal ‘know thyself’.
      As to your two questions, well, may they lead to many more! First, the world over did, and do, man defend their position and status. Do not listen to their propaganda. Second: it is ever so tempting to generalize. After all, the evidence is right there. My friend, please realize just how many women dump their partner at will! We are so much all in it. And if you are of the searching kind, then please check out the ‘Women’s Federation for World Peace” at wfwp.us
      And to your pain for which I’m sorry I would like to quote C.S. Lewis:
      “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Lovin’ it!
      Keep searchin’, my sister, for you shall find.

  5. taiwo faluyi / Jun 9 2015 9:20 pm

    This is very rich. But which spirit are we talking about?

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