Healthy and sacred sexuality is our birthright. Just like we’re born to learn and are wired for curiosity, so we’re born to experience pleasure in our bodies and to share this pleasure with a special other. But somewhere along the way, this natural desire and creative spark grow dim. We learn to feel ashamed of our bodies. We learn that sex isn’t safe. As soon as shame and lack of safety enter the picture, all circuits shut down. And then we wonder why most couples struggle with sex! If sacred sexuality is our birthright, why isn’t the most natural thing in the world to share sexuality with a safe other?
Let’s examine a few of the reasons:
First off, we don’t receive a manual for sex. Sure, we might have a “sex ed” class in high school where we learn about anatomy, hormones, and the menstrual cycle, but we don’t learn about the tidal wave of emotions, needs, and expectations that are unleashed when we enter into a sexual relationship. Parents can talk to their kids about sex (and they should). Kids can talk to each other. But ideally all families and schools would receive a thorough manual about sex – perhaps the same manual we should all receive about how to understand thoughts and tend to feelings – that would teach young people the truth about their bodies and what to expect when they enter a sexual relationship with a partner.
Secondly, not only is there a tragic gap in our healthy education, the education we do receive comes from mainstream culture’s dysfunctional depiction of sex, which we ingest everywhere from billboards and celebrity magazines to films and pornography. It’s through these channels that we absorb the damaging myths about sex that I wrote about last week.
These are some of the message we learn:
- We learn that sex is a game and that our entire self-worth hinges on being desired by a sexual partner.
- We learn to equate the chase with longing, which means that we wire ourselves only to feel desire when we’re in the role of pursuer.
- We learn that lack of desire means there’s something wrong with ourselves or our relationship.
And we fail to learn that:
- There’s a difference between response and desire: you can respond sexually but that doesn’t mean you desire or want the thing that aroused you.
- You can have a same-sex experience, dream, or fantasy and that doesn’t mean you’re gay.
- Sex anxiety is a normal part of most relationships, and it can express itself in a variety of ways.
Thirdly, many people are raised in religious traditions that teach from a shame-based model of sexuality. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big fan of healthy religious traditions, communities and rituals and deeply believe the absence of these is a root cause of anxiety, depression, and addiction. However, many religious traditions are steeped in harmful mindsets that are rooted in control, shame, and fear, and thus download a message about sex that says:
- Sex is sinful.
- Even thinking about sex is a sin.
- Sex outside of marriage is a sin.
- Sex is for procreation. Having sex for any other reason is wrong.
- If you like sex, it means you’re a slut.
- Your sexual orientation is shameful. Being gay is unacceptable and a sin.
- Your body is shameful.
- Your desire is shameful.
- Masturbation is sinful.
Thankfully, some of these messages are shifting in a healthier direction in some religious communities, but for many of my clients and course members, the original download remains a potent template of shame and shutdown.
And lastly, we shut down because we’ve been violated sexually in some way. What the #metoo movement has illuminated is that it’s nearly impossible to be a woman in this culture and not experience violation of your physical and sexual space at some point in your life. This doesn’t necessarily mean overt sexual abuse (although it certainty can mean that), but it also includes a recognition that 4,000 years of patriarchy where women have been viewed as the property of men has taken its toll. Even if our current partner embodies the opposite of this oppressive mindset, we still, as women, carry the legacy of colonization, and this commonly shows up in our sex lives, causing us to retract, recoil, and shut down.
But… what has shut down can be reopened. The shame response that causes contraction can be gently tended to until it starts to expand again. The trauma response can be healed in ourselves and with a loving partner.
Together and slowly, in a safe space with a like-minded community, we can unpack these messages and gently tend to the shame and wounds that cause sexuality and desire to shut down. There are two primary keys that can unlock the aliveness and creativity of sacred sexuality: safety and connection. We could say that these are the two keys that unlock the chambers of anxiety in any area, but we must enter the chamber of sexuality with utmost care and tenderness.
This is what we will do together in Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day course for women to heal body shame and ignite desire: create a template and community that offers safety so that you can reclaim the connected sexuality that is rightfully yours.
If you’re longing to rewire your sexuality so that you respond to a safe and emotionally available partner – as opposed to only feeling turned on by the chase – this course is for you.
If you’ve had sexual trauma and know that an element of your healing requires being in a safe community of other trauma survivors, this course is for you.
If you’re ready to receive a blueprint for sacred sexuality to neutralize the shame-and-fear based blueprint that you received growing up, this course is for you.
If you’re longing to grow a deeper relationship with your creativity and aliveness, this course is for you.