The Uses and Abuses of Sex
Last chapter in this present exploration, folks.
I originally thought I might write about some experiments in Tantric sex that you might choose to explore, and then decided to look, instead, at how "oddly" we deal with matters sexual. As to the experiment, check out a Tantra book or two, or do a web search on Tantra and look for the Yab-Yum Posture. This is one of those slow, rhythmic things one can do with a friend, which builds internal energy and flow of chi, while at the same time helping us to see the depth possible in a superficially sexual act.
So, I've been counselling now, as both a student and a therapist, for 21 years this past September. Let me tell you, that's a bit hard to believe. It would be difficult to "count up" clients, given a couple of stints working for agencies. Several hundred, for sure. And as my mind drifts back in time, I can't remember anyone in relationship difficulty who was also having a good sexual experience with their partner.
I suppose that shouldn't comes as a big surprise, given our mis-understanding about the significance of the sexual urge. If you've read my free booklets, and especially The List of 50, you'll remember that, for me, biological urges are "low" on the scale of motivators. When I say "low," I'm using that to coordinate, as I did with the Chakra series, with Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
As you'll notice, Maslow drew this as a pyramid, and the base is truly both a baseline and a "base" need. The sexual urge is a "biological imperative" only one step above the survival instinct. This matches the Chakra system, which puts the sex drive at Chakra 2.
What this means is that the sex drive is to a great extent "hard wired" into our beings, likely at the hormonal or chromosomal level. On the other hand, were we simply hard wired into sex as a means of procreation, we'd only have sex to procreate. So, we have to add into the mix the idea of sexual attraction and sexual charge.
Again, this is base-line material. Within each of us is what Ben Wong and Jock McKeen describe as our "microdot." (check out The NEW Manual for Life) This is a "picture" of the kind of person(s) that turn us on. While this "picture" allows for a fairly broad variance, the closer the person gets to matching our "microdot," the greater the charge. Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what is going to happen when we play the idealized (the microdot) vs. "real" (the actual person, once the novelty wears off) game.
It goes like this: I have a picture in my head of the kind of person I want to be in relationship with. I want to clearly note here that this picture is built upon the bedrock of my childhood and youth. Think about it: where else could it come from (and, remember, there's also the hormonal "hard wired part.")? As Freud was so elegant to describe, there is a ton of crossover from the sexual tension between parents and children (called the Oedipal and Electra complexes.) As we mature our infantile sexuality crystallizes in a "picture" of the partner we crave. Then, puberty hits.
For both sexes, a "wash" of sexuality colours and animates the rather infantile picture our child-minds created. We begin to pick up the cues that surround us, as to our desirability, as to the meeting of our own desires. In a sense, our initial forays into dating and mating are driven by romance and lust.
Most people, then, fall in love with the idea of falling in love. Two people meet, and an evaluative process begins. It sort of moves up the pyramid. There's a whole lot of subliminal checking out of smells, sizes, and other biological determinants of "suitability for breeding." (Hell, the Royals in Britain still send the fiancée of the Prince of Wales to the doctors to see that she is of, as they put it, of "good breeding stock." Ouch.) Once we get a "match," the romance begins.
The romance part is lots of fun and really chargy, as we pretend and pretend. We have our mental picture of the perfect partner, and we have the real person. Desperately, we attempt to make the real person fit the overwhelmingly desired fantasy. In order to sustain the game, we spend an inordinate time lying to ourselves. I've actually had clients, in moments of candour, say, "After six months I knew she wasn't right for me, but I figured, hey, I've got six whole months invested, and what if someone better doesn't come along?" I suspect a lot of you are squirming right about now.
And, of course, what happens next depends on one's willingness to drop both the pretence and the internal picture of "the perfect partner." Boy, is that one tough. And yet, that internal image was created by someone under the age of 16! Now, there's a scary thought.
As we continually say in Into the Centre, there's "reality" and there's the internal image. Often, the first step in therapy is to get people to admit the game: "I have a picture in my head of who my partner ought to be. Initially, when I was "in romance," the excitement caused me to ignore the differences between the two. As time and knowledge grew, I realized my partner was different from my image. I then set out to change him/her, to fit my image. For some strange reason, he/she refuses to go along."
Here's hard lesson # 2: Clients often say, "He's completely different from the man I married. He's changed. I don't like who he has become." The hard lesson is this: he hasn't changed. You have simply seen more of him. The kind person who "suddenly" acts in a way that seems cruel has not changed. In other words, he's still kind. He's also cruel. More information, not a change. And the new information really, really doesn't fit the pre-conceived image.
Most relationships begin to crack at this point, and many are the ways, from separation and divorce, to distancing, to affairs. Let's return briefly to the sexual realm.
As time goes by, for the vast majority of couples, sex decreases in frequency and in pleasure. This happens across the board, no matter how good the relationship. This is because the more we know someone, the harder it is to surprise and excite ourselves. While the intimacy of the relationship might deepen, the sex often times becomes predictable.
In a healthy relationship, this predictability can become an area for exploration, as per the approaches we've suggested in past issues of Into the Centre. However, in a relationship where the whole "internal vs. external" image hasn't been explored, raising the issue of sexual boredom or the wish for creativity is often taken, not as an interesting project, but as one more criticism.
Sex, in this case, shifts from a meeting of two bodies for a pleasurable interlude and a release from the "world," to a battle and a power struggle. Often, sex or sexuality is used to manipulate another person into doing something. Sex becomes a reward for good behaviour, and is withheld as a punishment for bad behaviour. Of course, the reward-er or punisher is still caught in the loop of trying to change their partner into the person they want them to be- in this case using sex as a club.
I was talking with a client this week, and she's in a major marital melt-down. She's trying to decide whether to stay or go, has felt unheard for 6 years, and had, up until 2 years ago, provided sex on demand as part of her "wifely" role. She did not enjoy sex. She endured it. Then, two years ago, she discovered that her Bodyworks and sex is pleasurable.
Now, in the midst of the "fight for the marriage," she's "repulsed" by her husband, and wants nothing to do with him sexually. She's also horny. Last weekend, they had sex twice. Despite her being, supposedly, repulsed. She did it, she said, because he's "easier to manage when he's gotten laid." What this means, however, is that he stops fighting, smiles and rolls over and goes to sleep. No talking, no working on the relationship issues. Nothing in the relationship changes when she "rewards" him. He sees this as his just due as "the husband being serviced by the wife." (His actual language, in a stunning display of honesty.)
Sex becomes a tool to get a moment's peace. With a smile, my client added, "But I made sure I didn't enjoy it." I opined that we had a name for people who have sex, not for pleasure but for a reward.
The way out of this dilemma, and as a conclusion to this series - is a radical thought. Perhaps sexual attraction and the sexual act is not a particularly good indicator of much of anything. Sexual attraction is not an indicator of emotional or spiritual or relationship compatibility. Sexual attraction is simply an indication that we are sexual creatures. When we make sexual attraction a characteristic of only a principal relationship, we then create guilt in ourselves when we discover that "marriage" didn't take away our sex drive.
It is total, unadulterated crap to think (or pretend that) I am only sexually attracted to one person.
If I can get to the point of seeing my sexuality as simply a part of my identity, like the colour of my eyes, then I can begin to explore my sexuality openly and honestly. I can move past the place of not wanting to talk about it, because it's private or because my partner might take suggestions as criticism.
If I can get to the point of seeing a range of sexual - sensual expression, I can find the ways and means of enacting this part of me, strengthening it and learning more about me in the process. I can do this with others, as we've said over the past few weeks. Once sex stops being "special," it can become deep and full and real.
If I can get to the point of accepting myself as sexual, I can let go of using sex as a weapon or as a tool to manipulate others. I can stop turning myself off to punish my partner. I can make a decision about how to express myself sexually based solely upon myself, in this moment. And, as I separate sexuality from relationship, I can deal with each in its own way. I can explore my relationship in terms of giving up on trying to make my partner over in my image of "her," and either accept her as she is, or leave.
Or, I can play games and fight and argue and sulk and manipulate, in an infantile attempt to get others to do what I want them to. I can make myself numb, then apathetic, then asexual and then die emotionally.
I am not restricted in how I choose to live my life - at least not by anyone but me. Perhaps, in the 21st century, we need to let go, again and again, of the ways we manipulate. Perhaps we can enter into an age of self-exploration and self-revelation. Perhaps, we can learn to be free. And reach out to others, in their freedom. And meet. And touch. And hold loosely. And, ever again, let go.