The Meaning of Sex.

Via Wendy Strgar
on Nov 14, 2010
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aeneastudio/ Flickr

“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.


About Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy, she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook, as well as in paperback online. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


23 Responses to “The Meaning of Sex.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    beautifully written

  2. Dan Slanger says:


    Love how your post ties sex to being balanced (between right and left), creative, present, and altruistic—four things you might tie to mindfulness practice, too. Wondering what you might say to someone who thought sex was good INSOFAR AS sex was tied to these sorts of goods that transcend sexuality and can be realized through non-sexual means. I imagine you would say there are goods unique to sex (beyond sex obviously being a means of forming a family). And that sounds right. But, if so, curious what you think those other goods might be.

  3. Dylan says:

    Indeed. Very fascinating and deep too. Good things happen when you let go…

  4. indrasingh says:

    what does sex mean to me?
    a sense of deep love and intimacy, a connection, a bond.
    But this has changed with age:0)
    great article thank you

  5. yogafreedomfoundation says:

    I needed this today. Thank you!

  6. Steve S says:

    Thank you. You have put into beautiful words some thoughts that have been spinning in my head.

  7. really well written! great job

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  11. Katherine says:

    "The transcendent quality of sexuality is the forbidden fruit that religion has tried to shield us from for millennia."

    Actually, knowledge is the forbidden fruit. Egos of religious leadership have twisted this message for centuries. Our ecstatic selves is our original nature. It is ego and knowledge that keep us from being within the borders of the "garden of eden." It is that letting go of self, not trying to think it through that was the original lesson of the story. The church has twisted it into something grossly unrecognizable.

  12. Satheesh Lal says:

    highly,creative like sex.i know better now. thanks and regards,to the author and my fb friend.
    satheesh lal.
    91 9870391004

  13. Justin says:

    I agree that sexual relations are a ritual of connection between two human beings. That is the problem I have with pornography.

    The Creator intends that the hormones and chemicals that flood the brain when sexual excitement and stimulation occurs to be directed towards a real human being to whom a person has covenanted to remain with and continue making love to.

    That's why I think there is nothing wrong with depictions of people having sexual relations as such. There is nothing unclean of itself.

    The sin lies in that which is not real – that which does not continue/endure. To me, it’s not what is displayed on the pixels that is so bad – it’s the fact that millions of men and women are connecting themselves with pixels, instead of with real human beings.

    Wendy: I liked your conclusion very much,

    It is not a spectator sport- and the pornographic images that we buy in great volume are 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.

  14. Danute says:

    correction: –if not played out literally–
    The youthful games of "cowboys and Indians" were compelling, because they provided the experiencing of visceral response to the "forceful use of power," with which they were learning to contend (participate? resist? restrain? empathise? abuse? rescue?), during their growing years, before reaching independence.

  15. Just posted to the elephant Love FaceBook Page

    Jennifer Cusano, Editor elephant Love and Relationships
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  16. X247 says:

    I didn't actually read the article because I didn't get past the picture of the 20-somethings with perfect bodies undressing each other. The message I got was, "sex is for them, not you." I doubt this was the message of the article, but this photo next to the title sent me that message, loud and clear. It is a shame that the elephant journal professes to be about enlightenment but uses the same stock photography as the fashion/beauty sites whose purpose is to sell product by promoting insecurity.

  17. Jaeleen says:

    Fantastic article ~ thanks so much!

  18. […] I’m not saying every moment was bliss and rainbows and magical Candyland. For me, sex encompasses a lot more than the linear trajectory we typically ascribe to it (a kiss leads to above the waist action which leads to oral which finally leads to the grand slam […]

  19. […] I had even given up on the dream entirely as some old romantic fantasy when—wham!—it happened: I had the most blissful, loveful, ground-shaking experiences that were way beyond anything I had ever imagined. It took more than twenty years for me to finally feel as if I’d really made love. And then it changed my life. […]

  20. lisab says:

    Great article. I dig everything except the Kinsey bits. He went way beyond normal and whatever his data showed needs to not be removed from the social constructs of the time it was recorded. Our sexuality is learned and very much a product of our social norms and gender roles. This means it is changeable and rather easily influenced by the social groups we associate with and our culture at large. I think we might do better to focus more on that idea of learned behaviors and social influences so that we can then learn to harness our sexuality by choice instead of by happenstance.

  21. quilless says:

    Good point, and seconded – and I'm one of those 20-somethings you speak of! The image feels posed and manufactured. The editors would be well advised to rethink the visual choices. What is that ratio for pictures and words again? At least a thousand. The article, however, shines!

  22. jaded says:

    Well it does come down to lack of availability. For many people there is no, nor will there ever be a partner. Pornography is a far better form of release than other options. Connections that are discussed here are extremely rare (Unless you are very physically attractive of course.) Pornography is the Bachelors Wife. Don't Pooh Pooh it. It is all that many people will ever know of sexuality. And Love. Love is even more rare than sexual connections. All these things belong to a select group of people in life.