In many religions, sex is a dirty word. Sexual activity is only tolerated in carefully defined relationships (ie heterosexual marriage) and for the purposes of reproduction. I can’t begin to imagine what this does to a person who buys into it. The human body, in its capacity for sensuality, affection, physical love and pleasure is a thing of wonder. It must be awful to live in a body that you think is shameful and dirty, with urges your religion tells you are sinful.
Mainstream culture seems to have come up with a backlash to repressive attitudes, which consists of turning sex into yet another cheap commodity. It’s still sordid, still filthy. The way adverts sexualise everything, the availability of images of all kinds, the exposed breasts that feature on page three… this doesn’t feel like a healthy and empowering attitude to sex either. It’s just another thing you can get with enough money and the right consumer goods, to be thrown away afterwards like the other disposable commodities in your life.
What both approaches have in common is a total lack of respect: For the self, the other, and for sex. I’ve had far too much first-hand experience of this one. There are too many people out there for whom another human being is just a warm means to gratification. Something to use and discard. A way to scratch an itch. The desire to get a physical release without having to be vulnerable, emotionally engaged and therefore able to be hurt, is a terrible thing. The desire not to know what the other person feels or needs, tuning that out to make selfish wants the only consideration, is in itself a denigration of sex.
We might talk about consent, but based on personal experience I think a lot of people don’t really know what that means. I didn’t. Coercion is not consent. Fear and bribery do not lead to consent. Ignorance of intention, intoxication or unconsciousness are not consent. How unconnected with a person do we have to be, not to know, confidently, whether they want this or not? But if we don’t talk about it, or don’t want to be told to stop, we won’t know. One in three women will be raped, at some time in their lives, and most likely by someone they knew.
We tend to still think of sex as something a man does to a woman, missing out all the other available combinations, and assuming a one sided balance of power. How many songs and quotes go ‘make love to you’ and how many say ‘make love with you’? Or similar. It is a world of difference. Whether you get to be a passive receiver of someone else’s frustrations, or actively engaged in a process between two (or possibly more) people makes a lot of odds. Whether you can speak about feelings, needs and responses, or have your behaviour constrained in some way. Whether you come to sex as an equal, or as a commodity.
Sacred sensuality begins with respect. It embraces vulnerability. A person not willing to get their soul naked really should think twice about taking their pants off. If all you want is a quick physical release, no strings attached, there are ways of sorting that out by yourself without inflicting it on someone else. If you enter a situation with another person, it should be all about the sharing, of whatever you end up doing between you.
Druids talk a lot about relationship. We talk about honour. We’re pro freedom of expression, and diversity. These are ideas that need to be in the world, to counter the long history of sexual repression and to counter the equally destructive mainstream response. Too often still, our culture treats women purely as sexual objects, with our sexual attractiveness the only thing granted any importance. We do it to our sporting heroines, our female politicians, actresses… anyone in the public eye. It’s not enough that a woman be good, clever or talented, she must also present as sexually appealing. I’m very tired of it. Until we stop assuming that women should be viewed as sex objects, that statistical probability of rape will stay with us. There needs to be change.