Here in the US we’re very proud to live in a free country. We’re passionate about the idea of freedom, free will, and self-determination. My way on the highway…born in the USA, with the top down and the wind in our hair. That’s us, right?
But there’s something strikingly amiss.
Let’s step right over the gnarly philosophical debate about determinism vs. free will to assume that we do have at least a modicum of influence over our fate.
As a culture, we lack the basic tools needed for real freedom, the most critical part of which is directly related to sexuality. Now let’s unpack the toolbox for a look at why there’s such a pile-up of carnage on the free-way.
What’s required for genuine self-determination?
Intent. The principal element is called intent. Chances are most of us have a pretty paltry appreciation of intent. Culturally, we’re hardly introduced to the idea of “intent” beyond its formal use as the distinguishing feature between “guilty” and “not guilty” on Law & Order. So we need to infuse some fresh insight into this realm.
Powerful intent has two components: The first one is clarity of vision (can’t steer the vehicle if we can’t make out the road ahead). The second is personal responsibility (gotta be attentive and responsive to avoid the hazards along the way).
The problem is that culturally, when it comes to sex, we’re given no models from which to learn these two things nor a context that would foster manifesting them.
Vision. Think about it: What kind of clear vision can we possibly have of something that is always kept hidden and in the dark?
What quality of attention do we learn to pay to something that we’ve always been taught to observe askance, but never directly? (Add sexual abuse to the equation and you get even more avoidance and aversion.)
How can we design a better course for ourselves, as sexual humans, with fewer obstacles if we’ve never even really looked at the course we’re on? How can we possibly have the kind of clarity of vision that sees how to take responsibility at the level required for being in charge of our lives?
Responsibility. Let’s call it what it is. Our cultural habit of keeping sex hidden and secret, covert and haphazard is patently irresponsible. Sex, because it functions at the root of our existence, steers us around (and it does this whether we’re paying attention to it or not).
But, because we’re taught to keep it all behind closed doors with the lights out (not only the act itself but, more importantly, how we relate to our own sexuality), we end up being driven around by an entity wearing a blindfold, not even knowing it’s us at the wheel, because we’ve effectively closed the door on that deeply creative and powerful part of ourselves.
Hence all the havoc on the highway. Instead of showing us how to drive intelligently and responsibly, our culture teaches us to leave things like sex and sexuality up to chance and sloppy accidents.
That means we resort to looking for ways to be irresponsible, like getting drunk (see earlier post for more on that hoedown), so we can have an excuse for letting go and having sex. That’s what happens when we run away from directly and deliberately handling something with as much horsepower as sex. (And, of course, we all know what happens when we drive drunk, wearing a blindfold.)
Our culture’s sexual paradigm actually steers us all into a really nasty position, as the consensus lists toward the inane (and insane) suspicion that having a conscious, willful intent around sex is fishy, as opposed to sexy. (I’ve frequently had this reaction directed at me.) That’s because it bursts the bubble of our cultural fantasy-view of how sex is supposed to happen (explosive, impulsive, tearing off each others’ clothes, overwhelming our senses…you know, like it happens in the movies).
Willful intent means we’re guilty of having these suspicious (think “impure,” “dishonorable,” “ulterior,” “disrespectful,” “insensitive”) motives—and that, if we admit to such motives, it means we’re a slut, a nympho, a creep, a pervert…or possibly even a calculated criminal.
There’s not many options here. We’re just supposed to keep it all neatly under the rug until it comes slipping out when we’re not looking…oops!…and then we can write it off as an accident or a “crime of passion.”
“Passion” is that racy thing that grabs you in the moment and gets you “off the hook” in a court of law, or in the court of public opinion. It’s “not premeditated,” so you’re not quite so guilty. Your lack of intent mitigates your level of responsibility in that venue. The impassioned mind is considered a legitimate state of impaired judgment (although it’s really just drunk on desire).
Such is how sex, and murder, are handled in our great culture (pause a minute to take in the irony of the juxtaposition here). It may make for a lot of juicy novels, but it doesn’t make us free.
Passionate irresponsibility around sex titillates and drives our entire society, but it in no way gives each individual power…the power to determine our fate and master our lives.
Only clear vision and willful intent can do that.
Divorcing desire from intent is separating power from responsibility and, while that may appear to be a winning recipe for holding political office, it doesn’t make our lives more livable…just more messy. Because, the inconvenient truth is that (no matter what condition may impair our judgment), we are the responsible agents of our own lives, and not anybody else.
On a deeply personal level, power is responsibility and responsibility is power, and embodying these facts generates the conditions of real freedom.
Of course, responsibility, awareness, and deliberate intent don’t destroy passion, which is often what unknowing people fear. Instead, what these things do is to make passion a more joyful, carefree affair, by lightening the load we carry and clearing away the obstacles. It also makes passion into an adult affair (rather than a delinquent, juvenile one) which not only makes us all the more free, but also much more trustworthy with one another (which fosters intimacy, which enhances sex). Pretty fancy.
So intent. It’s premeditated, deliberate, aware, and a whole new way of being in our culture, particularly regarding sex. It means taking everything out from under the rug and airing it all out.
It means examining ourselves too, under a bright light, in order to see what we really need and want, where we’re really coming from, where we really want to be going with our lives and why, and what we really want to be doing with our bodies and with whom.
It means knowing fundamentally what drives us, and taking back the wheel called intent that we were never supposed to get our hands on in the first place.
Intent of this caliber is the only thing that gives rise to the possibility of genuine self-determination, which is precisely why you’re not supposed to know all this. Nobody wants you that empowered—especially when it comes to sex—because people so empowered cannot be controlled (sisters, I sure hope I have your attention).
Then, and only then, can we really ride down the freeway of love, drop the pedal, and call ourselves free.
2 thoughts on “36. Freedom, Passion, Sex, & Road Rash: Taking Back the Wheel of Our Lives”
I like how you take the driving analogy even further, Glen, pointing to societal priorities. (Since I just finished paying my taxes, it hits me in the purse!)
We spend a lot of taxpayer dollars on street lights so that people can see better while driving at night (even though cars already have headlights). We do that because it’s important to us that people see clearly while they’re driving. We put our money where our priorities are. So it’s obvious that the lack of any spending on helping people see their way to healthy sexuality shows that we as a culture have no interest in this. If anything, the impetus is toward keeping sexuality in the dark.