What You Can Expect from Sex
June 6, 2019
In my early 20’s I began a regular yoga practice. A few years in everything was waking up in my body, including my sexual energy. Yoga also became a place where I was able to exercise my spiritual inclinations. I remember feeling so alive, sensual and connected in my entire being through my yogic practices. Something else happened in this awakening, I began to feel a split between the embodied intimacy that I experienced with my sexual partner and the embodied intimacy I felt in my own practice.
My yoga practice was ecstatic, every cell in my body turned on and I felt more plugged into myself as well as something much bigger and cosmic. In contrast, sex with my partner at the time felt unfulfilling and disconnected. All of me was met through my yoga practice whereas my sex, with a partner I was very much in love with, was mostly focused on getting off. I was becoming more honest with the fact that I wasn’t enjoying sex with my partner much. I remember telling my partner that I wanted our sexual connection to feel as sacred as my yoga practice and I had no idea how to get there.
There was nothing particularly wrong with my relationship, nor our sexual connection. We were just working with what we knew—which wasn’t much. I remember that we would watch erotic films to get aroused. This was very artistic, beautifully filmed, “female centric” porn however, in hindsight I see that even these “out-of-the-box” depictions of sexuality still carried the primary scripts around heteronormative sex. Glamorous women viewed through the (patriarchal) male gaze, high heel clad with voluptuous curves and skinny waists acting seductively meek and girlish etc. etc.
I had learned that sexy was a thing you put on, like lipstick and a mini skirt. My partner had learned that sex was something you conquered, like killing a deer or winning a race. We acted in our predetermined roles with fleeting glimpses of true sexual union. I felt more and more empty putting on sexy. Meanwhile I longed for the soul penetration that I felt on my yoga mat enraptured by breath, prayer and sensual movement.
In truth it took years with many steps and experiences to feel the sacred depth of connection in a sexual relationship that the intimacy of my yoga practice had provided a window into. Some of the most primary work for me—which is still active, daily work—has been to liberate myself from all of the cultural “norms” and scripts that occupied my bodymind. These are stories that my mind and body adopted as their own. What it means to be a woman. What it means to be feminine. What it means to be attractive. What it means to be a sexual woman. And all of this training accompanied by a definition of sex that was about pleasing and providing for another in their quick and easy genital gratification. I can see that the primary images of these narratives reach back a few millennia to the dawn of patriarchy. Each of us, in our own way, have worn the sheep’s clothes even in the process of freeing ourselves from the wolf. The messages and unconscious agreements are insidious.
Now I think of the hundreds of people that I have worked with around sexuality over the years, many of whom are steeped in spiritual and embodiment practices. People who found themselves frustrated, dissatisfied and perplexed around mediocre or nonexistent sex. People who tolerate painful sex, pleasure-less sex or sex that their body just does not want.
And yet, we are told a-million-and-one ways via the advertising and media industrial complex, that sex is something we should (always) want and enjoy. In fact we are constantly reminded of our sexual inadequacies whether this be our sex appeal or the simple fact that many of us are not having toe-curling orgasms most of the time, if ever. We are subliminally spoon fed how we are not enough and the ways in which we are broken. These sneaky messages also attempt to affirm our freedom and choice, except that this freedom is false freedom, like living in a glass cage, hinging on the standards of cultural approval which dictate a certain kind of woman, a certain kind of man, a certain kind of citizen and a certain kind of sex. It’s a zero sum game. In my work, we spend a lot of time unpacking the fact that there is nothing wrong with the individual, it is actually culture that is most fucked up around sex.
There is absolutely more to sex than what we generally know. My hunch is that the longing that people experience for something more, is not about new positions, fancy gadgets or even better orgasms. The more is about intimacy, about feeling fully seen, met and connected. It is the kind of ecstatic unraveling that occurs when we merge soul to soul. It’s about creative expression, expressing one’s sexual energy in the most radically true way.
The truth is that most of us are terrified of the vulnerability that is required for this level of intimacy and self expression. So we become unconsciously complicit. We numb out, avoid and tolerate in our sexual intimacy and, again, this is exactly how consumerist culture is designed. There is tremendous power in taking a risk with one’s heart and identity, to put oneself out there—naked in all the ways—to be fully seen. There is power in taking ownership of one’s pleasure and then boldly living that into the world. The very passion that many are yearning for arises out of this risky, vulnerable place.
Deep pleasure is entirely an inside job. It’s about getting in touch with the unique way that you move through the world, what enlivens you, what brings you joy, how you play and a sensual connection with your animal body. None of this requires a partner and, in fact, it all begins from intimacy and connection with self.
Here is what you can expect from sex, here is truly what is possible (with some unlearning and re-learning). You can expect presence that makes your entire being swoon. Touch that feels delicious on any and every part of your body. Sexy communication where you feel expressed. Safety and excitement. Slowing down and savoring. Deep listening and sensing. Being guided by your body’s natural pace. Wanting with all of you. Knowing what brings you pleasure and being met in that. Orgasmic sensations throughout your body and soul. And finally the wild, free and boundless love of eros.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.