After finally gnawing my way through the most unforgiving yet most-cited book in the sexual genre (The History of Sexuality, by Michel Foucault), I have a higher vantage point than ever on the gnarly path that’s brought us to such a confused condition here and now (if you really want to know why we’re so messed up about sex, read this book!).
But I also got a brisk takeaway that reminds me of more lighthearted moments….
There’s a scene from Annie Hall where Woody Allen is in the bedroom with his soon-to-be ex-wife during a stodgy cocktail party. “You know,” he says, “that’s one thing about intellectuals, they’ve proved that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what’s going on.” While groping at her clothing, he babbles, “…all those PhDs are in there, like, discussing modes of alienation, and we’ll be in here quietly humping.” In his winning style, he pokes fun at intellectualism, contrasting it to the simple reality of the flesh.
As Woody says, the body doesn’t lie. It’s great to know the intricacies of theory and history and so forth. Even necessary. But what it all boils down to, if anyone is going to get anywhere of any practical value, is knowing what’s really going on. And to know what’s really going on with sex, we have to bring it all back to our own bodies.
Bodies and pleasure. According to Foucault, that’s the only way out of the jungle of our hyper-sexualized-yet-ever-inhibited modern sexuality. Fortunately, that’s accessible to anyone willing to venture into the clearing.
Last year a popular book hit the shelves called Pleasure Activism, calling on all who want to make this world a better place to focus on what feels good, to make the revolution irresistible by making anything less than fulfillment unacceptable. And that relates to what we’re doing here with Sexual Humanism…as sex is surely the most feel-good thing in life!
All we have to do, really, is shut up and listen. Listen to the silent murmur of our own flesh, to hear that it’s actually screaming at us. Screaming at us to shut up and listen! There is wisdom there, and truth. (Where there is truth there is freedom, and where there is freedom there can be great pleasure.)
But we have to teach ourselves how to listen, especially when it comes to sex. The world is not showing us how to do this. Never has, never will. Too much noise on the outside makes for too much noise on the inside (how we should look; what we should or shouldn’t want or do; how we ought to feel, think, believe, and behave…all them fancy ideas).
So it’s all up to us! To hear, touch, and feel the body’s wisdom and truth, we have to learn to be quiet. And learning, as always, is going to require some effort and attention, at first. I’m not here selling slick tricks so I can slip out the back before you figure it out!
Part of the initial challenge we may encounter is in the way we tend to view sex, or at least “good” or “great” sex. That vision often lists toward high levels of squealing, panting excitation. That’s a lot of fun, and we don’t necessarily have to give that up altogether, as long as it’s real and not just a performance.
But, in the long run, that funky fiesta isn’t conducive to listening to the body, either yours or your partner’s. Besides, sex goes on long after that kind of lust settles down. And once that party’s over, the only way to keep having great sex, I believe, is to learn the art of listening.
Listening requires slowing the fuck down! That’s where, in the long run, all the really-good goodies of great sex are found. That’s where we can learn who we really are sexually and what our bodies really like and need and want (and even do!). And it’s also where all the sexual healing get’s done, due to the increased level of awareness.
So at first we may have to rein ourselves in a bit. To shut up and focus. To breathe and to relax. But once we taste the stillness, and surrender our grip on all the outside push-me-pull-you stuff, it becomes a refuge. It nourishes us at the most basic, cellular level.
Any time you spend at this (alone or together) is time well-spent. It’s a practice of training your attention, letting go mentally, emotionally, and physically, and a way of learning to listen to your body. This will, in all probability, lead you to a freer, more satisfying sexuality.
Many areas of modern research are honing in on the fact that sexuality thrives on body awareness and abandon, or the freedom from constraint and distraction. From what I can see, we’re finally beginning to get smarter…the kind of smart that’s more in tune with what’s really going on, for a change…which, naturally, is super sexy.