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.
July 9th, 2013 at 12:55 pm
“A person not willing to get their soul naked really should think twice about taking their pants off.” – I love that.
Your post reminded me of a video I saw recently: Holly McNish on breastfeeding. Why is it that the natural body and its functions should be suppressed, while at the same time the artificial image of the ideal body is commercialised and exploited? http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/05/hollie-mcnish-breastfeeding_n_3552062.html
July 9th, 2013 at 1:21 pm
Totally agree. And I speak as someone who isn’t all that interested in sex, and feels like I’m a freak as a result (and like I don’t really fit into the often sex-focused Pagan community). And I’m disabled, and not that attractive, and gay, and so I get overlooked a LOT by society. There is so much judgement about sexuality out there – especially towards women.
July 12th, 2013 at 1:43 pm
If we are truly permissive, then not being sexual ought to be equally fine…
July 12th, 2013 at 1:57 pm
Agree entirely. Yet that isn’t the experience I often have.
July 20th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
I agree that those of us who are not all that interested in sex, and who grow bored with the importance placed on the mythology that centers around the king of the land having sex with the local river goddess etc., seem to be a freakish minority. Seriously….there does appear to be a disturbing segment of the pagan community who think pagan women serve two functions–sexual commodities and kitchen help,
I’ve been watching a sit com on Hulu.com called Little Mosque. While I have no interest in being a Muslim, this show has really opened my eyes to dressing modestly and requiring respect from men. No…I’m not going to start wearing a scarf to cover my hair–but I now understand the beauty of doing so. And while I wore mini skirts and make up and dyed my hair and did any other number of things to appear sexually attractive in the past, it has now dawned on me how pathetic that was and how I did it out of a sense that I was worthless unless I was sexually attractive.
It’s a real soul searching question we all need to ask ourselves–is that mini skirt for me because I like the look and feel, or because I want to look sexy because I think that affords me a higher status in society…or that I’m worthless if I don’t look sexy? Pretty tragic that the question even needs to be entertained.
July 21st, 2013 at 7:00 am
If it’s happy, comfortable, feels good, it’s going to be a good call, appearance wise. Totally agree that if we do it to jump through someone else’s hoops, we have problems.
July 10th, 2013 at 5:12 pm
Excellent and much needed post. I can’t help but see the body more and more as an aspect of the soul. The sort of things people do to their bodies, and how they treat the bodies of others, is just tremendously disrespectful, and even harmful from my perspective. I wholeheartedly agree that sexuality is a significant part of our existence, but it’s not the whole of it or the sole goal of it. The topic of people as sexual objects and sexism in general should really be more open for discussion in our society. Thank you for writing about the spiritual side of this, I really appreciate it!