Most often in our culture, we are taught that sexuality and spirituality are two separate arenas.
I was raised by a strict Catholic grandma who took me to church, Catholic preschool, and CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes. I don't remember overt messages about sex being wrong, as I left the church by age 12 (I lived with my mother by then and she became exhausted by my strong will), but you could feel the energy: sex was a sin.
I do remember that during movies my grandmother would cover my eyes during any depiction of sexuality. I would be sent upstairs if the movie showed anything beyond a quick peck on the lips (and I would sit on the stairs, watching the sex scene in secret, quiet as a mouse, feeling that tingling sensation in my lower belly, excited but not knowing why). I was caught and shamed more than a few times—for this utterly natural curiosity.
I posit that sex is sacred because Life is sacred.
We exist because of sex, and the act of sex couldn't be more natural. If Life is sacred, so is sex. Almost every person has a story of contacting their natural sexuality as a child—and having it shamed or chastised out of them, to live on in dark corners of the mind and body. When we're shamed about sex as children it causes a lifelong undercurrent of self-questioning. We begin to believe that we're sinners, or that there's something wrong with us. In our unconscious, sex gets connected with these false and disparaging thoughts; and those unconscious thoughts control much of our behavior.
Even as a sex-positive feminist in my 20s, I had a myriad of childhood messages running my sexuality. I’d created a new narrative around sex, but it wasn't embodied. I hadn't done the deep work of comforting and healing my inner child, and I still struggled with shame during sex and intimacy. It manifested in ideas like:
it's harder for me to orgasm now ... I must have masturbated too much as a child, and I've run out of orgasms.
no good man will ever want to settle down with me, after all the sex I've had.
I can only orgasm in this position or with this method, so there's something wrong with me.
I like sex, so I can never connect with God or any form of spirituality.
... and many more.
Sex in mainstream culture is rather limited—if sex were a piano, most of us are only aware of five keys on that piano.
When we begin to explore more about our sexuality, we can see how sex and self-pleasure can be used to heal deep wounding, transmute emotion, and connect to All-That-Is. We get access to more keys on the piano, and to more of Life. To transcendent states, to our higher Selves, to more wildness and our Original Essence (who we are without any of the toxic conditioning).
Regardless of which religious teachings you look at, most share common themes: women were considered property when the teachings were committed to paper, and those in power had a lot to gain from cutting people (especially women) off from sexuality. When we're cut off from our pelvises, we're not whole beings. Something will always be missing when we cannot to connect to pleasure and divine union. When we're not whole, it's easier to feel confused and helpless, and think we need others to take care of us or give us permission. We become disempowered.
We have a choice in the matter, and we can do the work to untangle the messages we got in childhood: from our parents, religion, and society.
One book I love, if you were raised with the idea that people are sinful and need to repent our very existence: Matthew Fox's Original Blessing (yes, the opposite of original sin). It's eye-opening and moving.
I’d also like to bust the myth that sacred sexuality has to look like two heterosexual people who are in long-term relationship, naked, in seated chakra meditation, surrounded by candles, invoking the Goddess. Yes, it can look this way. And it can look 1,000 other ways. It can look wild, innocent, playful, animal—what makes sex sacred is very individual. It’s about discovering what is sacred to you.
Try this at home:
What ideas do you have about sex that aren't yours? Take 10 minutes to journal: What is my earliest memory of my sexuality? When was I first reprimanded for it? What did my religion/caregivers/friends teach me about sexuality? What did magazines or media teach me? Look especially at your childhood. Then ask, how are these attitudes and experiences showing up in my life now?
If you have any questions about your own pleasure, sexuality, or empowerment, let me know. I love hearing from you, and I'm happy to suggest resources for your continued healing.