“We are the recorders and reporters of facts – not the judges of the behaviors we describe.” ~ Alfred KinseyWhat does sex mean to you?
While no one else can provide an intrinsic meaning to the concept or practice of sexuality, we all struggle with defining this most basic and integral part of ourselves.
The desire to name and define the sexual experience in a general way is the source of much conflict for the individual, the couple and the culture.
Thinking of sex as an emergent rather than objective reality is a good place to start. We come to understand our sexuality and its meaning moment by moment, re-inventing it anew each and every time we are sexual.
Our fears of sexuality arise in part from the unpredictable nature of the act itself and the intensity of impulse—feeling and power that has the potential to overwhelm us as much as it does to transform us and our relationships.
The transcendent quality of sexuality is the forbidden fruit that much of religion has tried to shield us from for millennia. Sexuality is frightening because each time we move into it, the outcome is never certain, never the same and the risks never cease. The desire and simultaneous fear of being consumed in its fire is fertile ground for all kinds of addiction and dysfunction.
Our sexual urges are borne in the body and are processed in the right brain, which makes the sexual experience a felt one more than a cognitive one. In fact, trying to think through it usually cuts off our ability to experience it at all. The mental unpacking of a sexual experience denies its core sensuality, like dissecting the nutritional elements of an extravagant dish.
Defining what constitutes a sexual act in an objective manner is the way we limit our discomfort with the wide range of meaning sexuality embodies. Religious and governmental attempts to restrict sexual behaviors into socially acceptable “normative” categories construct artificial standards that simultaneously shame and provoke. The more rigidly we set the boundaries around our sexuality, the more that individuals and we as a collective need to repress and silence our sexual selves. The Kinsey data demonstrated that “normal” was a much wider bell curve than anyone would have predicted. Instead of helping us to embrace our sexual selves, the data was repressed for decades.
One of the biggest reasons that we can’t deal with the range of sexual meaning is because of its profound link in our psyche to not only the altruistic qualities of love and acceptance but also, to the darker side of our emotional capacity of anger and violence. Just a quick glance through humanity’s sexual history demonstrates the pain and suffering that was often reflected through human sexual practice. That our sexual impulses are equally linked to our capacity for ecstasy and violence makes our sexual choices literally ones of life and death. It is no wonder that the first and most frequently asked question about our sexuality is “Am I normal?”
When we have the courage to let sex educate us about our relationships and ourselves we are stepping up to one of the most significant levels of freedom and responsibility that this life can offer. Not only does the experience, which is ever changing, hold our attention to the present moment and company completely but we also automatically move beyond any cultural dictates about our sexuality into an intimate world of our own making. This freedom exacts a cost- not only must we accept the reality and consequences of our own choices, but also we must allow our partner the same freedoms. So much of the dishonesty and judgment about what sex means comes from the inability to be responsible for our own sexuality while allowing our partnerships the same freedom. Taking political sides is easier and safer.
Trust is the basic building block of human sexuality. The orgasmic reality of the body taking control can only happen when we can fully abandon ourselves to the moment at hand. The trust begins with the belief in your self. Not having something to prove about your own sexuality leaves room to discover the magic of the mating ritual, as unique as it is universal. Trusting your partner allows the dance of sexuality to play out with the tension of the mysterious coming together and coming apart as the lead choreographer.
The most coveted sexual experience on the planet—of ecstatic, transcendent sex—has nothing to do with any socially-constructed, objective ideas of sexuality. It is not a spectator sport—and the pornographic images that we buy in great volume are too often nothing but its shadow.
At the root of conception of life itself and all the creativity that lies dormant in us, sexuality is the teacher, the guide, the way to the momentary epiphanies that make us believe in the force of love as the guiding principle in the universe. Getting near real sex—the kind that can never be bought or sold, only given and received in the responsible freedom of self-exploration—intimate connection and the alchemical divinity that we all hold defines sex and all of its mysterious meaning.