This was my initiation into how deeply open sex has the power to heal.
I was in a committed relationship for 20 years when I locked eyes with a man and something shattered inside of me. We had worked together during an internship over a decade before and were both now married, and now here we were reminiscing over Indian food. He looked at me and said something simple, something honest, “When I told you back then that I wasn’t attracted to you, well, that wasn’t entirely true.”
Then everything suddenly stopped.
My appetite vanished and I would have sworn that I had dropped a tab of acid. What started happening between us became altered, intoxicating and undeniably sexual.
We didn’t act on it until later, after we had both divorced which took more than a year, but when it did happen the kind of sex and communion was utterly unlike what I had known before. It was transcendental which—though many people may claim this—was different from almost anything I have heard described.
It’s actually difficult to recount what happened now because the particular flavor of the intimacy obscured the ability for normal, chronological thinking. We would look at each other and somehow hours would pass like minutes—as though we had entered a different reality. Each meeting was drenched with meaning, with connection, and yes, outrageous ecstasy. But most profoundly, our communions were healing in a way that I cannot imagine experiencing in any other way.
This was my initiation into how deeply open sex has the power to heal.
I want to note that this wasn’t just our own, subjective experience of it. When we entered this state together and were out in public, people around us would light up. Their attention was drawn to us such that they became open and extremely friendly, as though we were already part of their inner circle.
We once had a waiter so smitten with us that he exclaimed, “My God you can’t even order, you are so in love!” He later brought us their best dessert, on the house, to honor whatever was happening between us saying that we had proved to him that love was real.
What I discovered in this relationship is that there is a kind of healing that can only happen in intense sexual union.
Most of the men I have known seem to share a need to be strong, in control and actually helpful to women. I love this, I’m moved by it, and I am definitely turned on by it. But there seems to be an equally strong desire in men to dissolve into the lap of a woman, and just as men seem to feel the need to help and protect women, women seem to have the need to hold, open to, and utterly adore men.
What I also notice is that most men are often too scared to allow themselves to surrender and just take the one thing that they most need, even when it’s offered.
In fact, the times that the men in my life have allowed a full dissolving into the feminine have all been times of intense transition. One was starting his life over again after his marriage and business failed; one had recently been left by his long-term partner; and one had just buried his only brother a few weeks before. All were split open by the realities of their situations. None of them could muster the wherewithal to resist their desire to return to the womb, which for most of us, only fully happens in sex.
In the dead of night I woke up next to him feeling him awake, stirring and not at ease. He was clearly wrestling with his demons and seemed more than a little embarrassed to be witnessed in this vulnerable place. When I turned to him he brushed me off, saying “this happens sometimes, go back to sleep,” but everything in me awoke further and moved toward him. He let me hold him, and then soft sobs came. Then bigger ones. We moved wordlessly into a kind of reenactment of something from his past, though I didn’t know what it was.
I was his mother; I was his friend; I was his lover; I was his angel; I was something indefinable, fluid and totally willing.
After a long time the spontaneous drama between us began to slow and I cradled his head on my bare breasts. It felt right. His sobs subsided and he began to root for my breast with his mouth. That felt right too. For a while we were on an edge of not knowing if this was mother-child or lover-lover and that, I think, is where the healing was. He was like a baby, totally owning his right to his Mom, to nurse, be loved and nourished. Then, after a while, he transformed into my lover, owning his right to love me, to take me, and we communed in love-making in a way that is both impossible and too beautiful to describe.
In playing out this drama there was some kind of completion.
We seemed to go all the way to a core vulnerability and then make the full journey home, without skipping any steps—moving, making sounds, being witnessed, total union, feeling, touching, and healing the impact that this wounding had had on every level. After a long journey, we finally came home to hear the perfect sound of a gate clicking shut. Something primal had come to completion.
It was as though we had entered a different world, one in which all of our needs were met—finally.
We didn’t orchestrate any of this. It happened all on its own—the same way that gashes in our skin heal themselves, naturally and organically. Something healed in me too, though I cannot tell you what. Maybe it was being so let in to the visceral healing of someone else, or maybe it was experiencing my own healing vicariously as he got his deepest needs met through me. But my best guess is that entering a non-dual space together—one that is so connected on every level that the word “connected” no longer applies—is just inherently healing.
Since that time, I have had other experiences of the closest kind of healing, the kind that can only happen through sexual union. Truly deep sex reaches our baby selves as well as our adult selves, and everything in between. It invites every vulnerability, grief and memory of harm that has ever come to us—and how else can healing happen, except to expose and then care for the wound?
Through these encounters it began to occur to me that only in sex do we touch each other in the same place that we were conceived, that we were born, that we were nursed, and only in sex can we be held, adored and physically met in that same place. Perhaps that kind of sex is the only way that certain kinds of healing can take place. Our bodies themselves need to know that we are truly met, along with our hearts and minds.
You can’t lie about it. The body knows when it can trust all the way down to the core, and being met on the inside is perhaps the only way to touch, love and heal such wounds.
Another, slightly different version of this kind of healing happened when I met a man whose marriage had just ended, and he was still reeling, unnerved and open. I felt an intense draw toward him, though I could see that it wasn’t personal for me—it wasn’t about “starting a relationship”—and yet something was calling me to take him in.
It reminded me of the time I nursed my niece when her mother was away longer than expected and she cried with hunger and need of comfort. For a moment I thought it would be odd to nurse her because she wasn’t “mine,” but as she suckled what struck me was how totally normal it was. Without a moment’s hesitation she availed herself of me and I lovingly gave what was needed, discovering an unanticipated feeling of rightness.
This man wasn’t “mine” either, and I don’t mean that in a possessive way. I mean that I sensed it was unlikely that the meaning of our connection had to do with each other personally.
When I made love to this man, a man in transition, raw and open, it wasn’t selfish—I wasn’t looking for what I could get out of it. I was meeting him not just physically, but on multiple, unspoken levels including, “you are welcome; you are lovable; you are wanted; you deserve; it’s not your fault; there’s nothing wrong with you; I love you,” and many more. I wasn’t thinking this or making it up, and I didn’t speak any of it. What communication we had arose wordlessly, spontaneously and offered itself honestly through our love-making.
It happened again, just a few weeks ago.
A man I’d known for some time had just returned from burying his young brother and unsurprisingly he was changed. I had liked him and felt connected to him before, but now his being was ripped open in a way that he couldn’t dress up or hide. His innocence shone brightly as he showed up, simple and astonished, clearly lacking any ability to comprehend what had just happened.
There is a quote from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, when the Italian, Martini, says to recently divorced Frances, “Please stop being so sad. If you continue like this I will be forced to make love to you. And I’ve never been unfaithful to my wife.”
Openness and true need invite the light of the sun.
This man received my loving him in a way that I had not experienced with him before. He asked me to kiss him and kiss him and kiss him as he dissolved. He knew exactly what he needed, and again I was reminded of an infant, powerfully, clearly and innocently demanding just what he requires. This man needed to be not only met sexually but to know that he was loved at the same time, and because his heart was ripped open by death he had no choice but to let go enough to allow his full vulnerability into the mix. He let himself be loved all the way through.
Nothing else touches our core wounds like true presence making love to us, the full communion of body, heart and perhaps some levels that we don’t yet have names for.
When someone takes us in that completely only then do we know that we are truly welcomed, that all of our being is totally loved. As children, most of missed the full connection we needed—being held, soothed, breast-fed, co-sleeping, as well as just the basics of physical and emotional ease and safety with our parents. Many of us were pushed away, yelled at, punished, blamed, hit, shamed, or undermined—and sometimes even brutalized or incested—at a time when we were the most vulnerable.
Being treated this way is deeply in contrast to our normal, human need for comfort, love and safety. It appears to me that the way to heal some of those wounds is by reversing the way that they were inflicted—by being deeply, honestly met in the most intimate of ways.
We long for communion with each other, with one who genuinely wants our best interests—something very much the opposite of exploiting or being exploited. When we finally know in our cells that we are deeply wanted and loved, and that no harm will come to us, only then does something let go and healing can happen.
Union will do that.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Alicia Wozniak / Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: Flickr/Sheri Samson, elephant journal archives