“Passion and expression are not really separable. Passion comes to birth in that powerful impetus of the mind which also brings language into existence. So soon as passion goes beyond instinct and becomes truly itself, it tends to self-description, either in order to justify or intensify itself being, or else simply in order to keep going.” — Denis de Rougement, Love in the Western World
(NB: As I have mentioned before, I am a sexual assault/molestation survivor. I know what it’s like for my consent to be ignored, taken away, violated. The things I describe below are all consensual activities. Let me be very clear. Very, very clear. Everything I mention was something I entered into with an enthusiastic YES. Please keep that in mind.)
How does the quotation at the top of the post make you feel? For that matter, do you think of
sexuality or spirituality as forms of self-expression? When you consider spiritual elevation, self-expression, and sexuality, do you think of any of the following consensual, seductive experiences?
Seeing the Divine in the face, in the body, in the arousal of a lover. What about if that lover is your spouse of many years? What about if you didn’t know that lover before tonight?
One night or many, and the moon shining on their face, or rain falling hard and fast, blessing you both.
Being exploded into smithereens by an orgasm you didn’t even know was atop you. Feeling the energy that is running between you and another person.
Being tied into intricate knots—or simple ones. For fun. For love.
Having sex with more than one person at a time. For fun. For love. Feeling the energy that is running among all of you in pairs, in figure eights, in whatever configurations are happening from moment to moment.
Leaving marks on another person. Finger painting, drawing, biting, leaving handprints, complicated body paint. For fun. For love.
Having sex with the “wrong” person, the “wrong” gender, given your expressed sexual orientation. (I identified as lesbian, and then I had a relationship with a man for three years. Weird!)
Being part of scenes involving fire and dancing and mud and tears or anything else set up as ritual and performance with audience and preparation and awe.
Awe for the energy moving, the Spirit that is present in the glory of the body.
For some of us, tattoos are commonplace, but leaving temporary marks on another person is beyond the pale.
For some of us, having sex with more than one person at a time—in real life—is beyond our reach, desire, or willingness to countenance. And that’s okay.
All of this, and all of it being spiritual sustenance.
And yet I have had all these things at various times in my life.
Some of them in my early twenties, a period of glorious experimentation.
Some of them I have only witnessed.
Some of them I maintain in my life now.
And I have found many of them full of spiritual power. The “vanilla” things. The “kinky” things. Whatever you want to call them.
When I took a performance art class, the teacher took great pains to explain that things like suspension for art were not sadomasochistic. They were not sexual. They were not the same thing; one was art and one was sexual and ne’er the two shall meet, it seemed to me he was saying.
When I asked him what the difference was, he couldn’t give me a satisfactory answer. One was art and one was just perversion. Even I, mouthy as I was, kept that mouthy mouth shut.
Spirituality is just as variable as sexuality. And the two are so often related. I cannot pick them apart, myself. I cannot tear them one from the other. I cannot undo the threads that have come together so intricately in my life.
When I look at someone I love and whom I find sexually appealing, a great deal of me is engaged. At some times in my life, love hasn’t even been part of the equation.
But awe has.
And when we touch, or look at one another and understand, energy moves from one to another and back again in a glorious feedback loop.
All these things are also part of spirituality for me. The trembling in the presence of the Divine. The shuddering of being taken by the power of ritual. Awe. So much awe.
How does it work for you?
I understand if this is too much for you. I won’t always write like this. But I am moved by the quotation above. I am moved to be a truth-teller. I moved to invite you to tell yourself the truths about your own sexuality and spirituality and their relationships.
One of my dearest friends has described herself as having been “a judgmental prude” at times. If you’re feeling that way now, it’s okay. If you’re feeling constricted and afraid, it’s more than okay.
Nonetheless, I hope you’ll hang in here with me and wait to see what happens next!
So much, so much love and blessings.
PS – I had a really powerful response from a lot of folks to this past Reflections. The love letter of the week was about ugliness.
The distillation of that Reflections for those of you who don’t receive it or didn’t get a chance to check in: Ugliness needn’t be transformed into beauty to make us worthy beings of strength and dignity. I have used “beauty” (of myself, especially) as a synonym for “worth,” and I think that’s a mistake.
No matter what we look like, what we do for work, how we organize our lives, we matter, and we do well never to forget it.