A reader asked me to talk a bit more about why sex and issues of sexuality take such a primary position in religious morality. To quote the scripture, ask and ye shall receive!
From a human perspective (because we are the narcissistic center of our own universe), sex is the source of life. Now, life is a mysterious, troublesome thing — terrifying and awesome. We see tangible objects and marvel at the intangible forces underneath, trying to make sense and meaning of this chaotic thing called living (which, of course, leads us to divining our gods — usually, low and behold, according to our likeness).
Humans have always groped around for ways of taming our world, taming our lives, or taming life itself. At whatever point we figured out that the consequences of “getting down” were other small people, we must have been overwhelmed to recognize that we, by our very own choices and bodily actions, held the power to create, control, or limit, life itself. What a powerful moment of self-determination that must have been. What power; what control! That must have registered on the same scale in the development of human civilization as taking control of fire!
And while deliriously enthralling, it most certainly becomes a bit of a burr in the blanket from a pious point of view. For, particularly in monotheism, only god almighty is supposed to have that kind of power, directing who begets whom (among all those important patriarchs from Adam to Noah, Abraham to David, right on down the line to Jesus the Dude). In reality, where anyone past puberty can spawn new life, that creative power is far too democratic and it has to be tamed and contained. In a tense patriarchy commanded by god to be fruitful and multiply, to go forth and conquer, it’s also a bit of an annoyance that the bodily source of new life happens to have a female anatomy. That seems an awfully unlucky imbalance in the distribution of godly power — surely a slap in the face to all the subsequent generations after Adam, who (conveniently) was able to directly beget Eve from his own body, with a little help from the master. Perhaps this is the very origin of patriarchal misogyny and all the fussing about women’s reproductive rights stems from this seed of resentment since, dammit to hell, Eve was also granted agency of choice — another annoying oversight given that she was created, purportedly, to serve Adam. (What on Earth was god thinking? But that’s why we have these clever fables to support biblical views like male primacy in spite of the realities of nature.)
Sex is a very powerful thing when you view it this way: that we each harbor in our own bodies a creative power that seems as though it borders on divine potency. Like I said in the last post, I think at the outset there’s an honest element of respect and a sense of humble responsibility to handle such a capacity with reverence and discipline. But when that gallant motivation tumbles downhill into the hands of those ignorant of this higher quality mindset, you get all the dogma that revolves around the cheap quest to control others, control the world, control life itself (and then, of course, the inevitable nosedive from delirium to discontent!).
Now, this drive to control the world around us motivates people from all walks of life, and should not be labeled as a conservative phenomenon of the religious right. The other day, I witnessed the same thing happening during a zoom event populated mostly by young, liberal millennials. It was a conversation about sexual “objectification”, and it was all over the map. The bottom line was sex, and how to control the world and its folks to make it something more palatable, more comfortable, safer, easier. I didn’t see us making any progress on the issue, because the focus stayed on the superficial aspects of personal preference and egocentric reactions instead of the underlying problem. When I, personally, strained to see the underlying problem, all I saw were people wanting what they want, when and exactly how they want it, in any given moment. With maximum control. They wanted rules, a map, codes, guidance. They wanted their own dogma, because…life is frightening and problematic.
But the underlying problem, as usual, is sex and control. Why does everyone, even those who claim to want sexual openness, want to control everybody’s sexuality? Because we cannot get away from sex. Because sex is life, and life is scary and out of control. Because sex is who we are and, as such, we cannot really be human together without sex showing up everywhere. And, because our view of what sex actually is (simple, natural, bodily desire and response) has become so bent out of shape over the span of our neurotic human existence that we’re all so confused we can’t see it clearly. We can’t distinguish subject from object, or wrest the ego out of the equation, in order to see our way straight to the pure golden glory of sex unadulterated. The confusion compels us to grasp for fixes, grasp for certainty, grasp for control.
But that is why we are here, together, streamlining our vision with Sexual Humanism. So we can distance ourselves from the dogma. So we can empower ourselves to reclaim the pristine, sublime, sacred power of our innate natural sexuality by teasing out all the dross, religious and otherwise. When we are honest, we tell the truth about how scary and uncertain life is and that allows us to peek behind our ways of thinking and behaving that are motivated by fear (of what others will do or think, and how that will make us feel or otherwise affect us; of not knowing what’s really right or wrong, good or bad, or even what to do in any given moment; of accepting the fact that we are not in control, etc). This naturally makes us more aware people with more power of self-determination to choose different, more intelligent ways of being. And that is responsible.
It takes tremendous audacity to live like this, not grasping, but instead throwing out all the unneeded baggage we collect through a lifetime of striving to blunt the sharp truth of uncertainty. It takes incredibly courageous daring and inner strength to forsake the pursuit of safety.
But it makes us much more vibrant, supple creatures…and that’s what makes life scrumptious.