Joys of the Flesh
One of my favorite quotes is from Richard Feynman: “Science is a lot like sex. Sometimes something useful comes of it, but that’s not the reason we’re doing it.” To me this declares loudly what science and sex are all about, the unmitigated joy in discovery. What’s astounding is how many are overwrought with anxiety and concern over exploration into either. I’ve touched on science before and will undoubtedly do so again, but like a song I grew up with said “let’s talk about sex, baby.”
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian social experience. Sex, much like any topic touching upon uncertain taboos, was talked about, at times openly but later as puberty set in and opportunities for exploration arose, with a degree of judgment as fundamentalist dogma sank its teeth in. There would seem to be no greater fear of the conservative-religio-minded than that of sexual power being awakened. Finding it to be wholesome in itself is simply beyond the pale. Only in the carefully constructed parameters of “holy” matrimony can sexuality be explored, all else being at best a slippery slope to debauchery and sin.
I’m quite certain that were my parents confronted with the notion of sex as inherently evil they would recoil as well and quickly attempt to mitigate such a strong teaching, but much like the doctrine of sin, there are consequences to such ideas whatever may have been intended. As with sin and total depravity, the inevitable conclusion to be reached is the beautiful art your child posts on the fridge was done so by a deplorable cesspool of depravity fit only for eternal damnation. To praise is to praise the wicked flesh. Clearly only the most horrible of parents would think this of their beaming 2 year-old and as such the inevitable hypocrisy of religious dogmatism rears its double-head. So it is with sex, where the fall of man was orchestrated by the lascivious character of woman and sexual energy becomes evil except as it is made “holy” by a state-sponsored social apparatus called marriage. The consequence follows that until such an event occurs all feelings of sexuality are inherently wrong and point to the failure of humanity in the face of divine prudence or is it prudishness?
I recently heard someone say (which I’ll likely paraphrase badly) that a god who created everything, set the stars in alignment and played with the massively destructive forces of supernovas and blackholes would hardly be afraid of someones genitals.
The immense amount of shame such thinking creates in people “suffering” from an inevitable outpouring of biological energy can only be described as horrendous. How it has gotten funneled down into even secular thinking and the social consciousness is perhaps one of the most enduring thought-crimes of the millenia. Here in America we are inundated by sexual energy, so much so it’s a wonder we aren’t literally oozing it out of our pores in a colorful sludge of smelly goodness. Faced with all of this we seem to retreat behind a thin veneer of anxiety and false-distance, looking away while all the time soaking it up out of the corner of our eyes. We scoff at politicians caught in sexual scandals and hope nobody finds out what we view on our computers. We look with disgust upon various other life-styles and then gobble up copies of “50 Shades” like a dying man gazing upon the elixir of life.
The consequence is that sexual energy, tacitly accepted and explicitly denied, runs our lives anyway and by ignoring it we create a schizophrenic dichotomy wreaking havoc with our minds. This boiling kettle of a situation makes a lie out of the fact that not every impulse must be acted upon, but as the water heats up and boils over we find ourselves acting in ways we would otherwise have not. There is strength to be had in acknowledging sexual power and then riding it out. Where every touch and embrace does not need to be an overture however much attraction there may exist. Sexual energy can be treated like a wading pool and by floating through it, not have it become a wave-pool pulling us under with every crest. Attraction becomes simply another outlet of our sexual natures, not something to hide behind with humor and blacked out magazine covers, nor immediately acted upon like crazed animals. Make no mistake, we are animals, but our instincts are there to be explored, not denied and hedged around by tall walls.
There have been relationships through the years that have helped me recast sexuality as a means of personal expression rather than shame and condemnation. Sex-positive communities have taught me much of touch and how sex is simply one part of sexual energy, not it’s entirety. We can do much as people, as human beings with a brain wired to enjoy sensuality. To do so we must first accept that we are sexual beings and second that such is not bound to any one particular act or behavior but like heat, pervasive throughout our experience. Then we can create a space where the joys of the flesh are shared and laughed with rather than nervously at.