As a coach, I meet clients with questions about sexuality and the part it plays in their life. I always begin by reminding them that sexuality is part of what makes them human. Sexuality is part of our destiny. What we do with it decides our fate. This article is for them and others with the same sorts of questions.
Face it—sexuality’s basic function from an evolutionary perspective is to guarantee the continuation of the species. But for sure, sex and sexuality goes way beyond the, at times, overpowering instinct to make children. It’s also about the physical, sensual pleasure it brings. Excitement. Enjoyment. Even ecstasy. On top of those fabulous things, the thrill of actually touching and being touched by another person, the growing excitement anticipating the final release, enjoyment of the climactic joy of orgasm, and the effervescent, peaceful afterglow of the exhaustion following orgasm also gives both psychological and spiritual purpose to it all. In its most basic form, sex is a way of reducing our alienation, isolation, and the aloneness we all suffer. It allows for a physical connection at the most fundamental level with another person at their most primitive reality. In that moment of penetrating or being penetrated, sex validates and humanizes our existence. It produces joy, love, affection, and comfort.
In its most basic form,
sex is a way of reducing our
and the aloneness we all suffer.
Here is what sometimes people don’t realize. Ecstasy is not just a physical, but a psychological experience as well. At its best it can, at times, be a spiritual experience. The origin of the word “ecstasy” is ex-stasis. This means the short-term transcendence of time, ego, and our common human reality of being fundamentally separate beings. Have you felt that connection, not just with the other person, but also with your own personal self and your own mortality? At some deep level, it reminds us all of our essential ability to be involuntarily taken over, lost at that moment of orgasm; to be in the hold of passion; to abandon or surrender control. Both love and lust are examples of this kind of possession. It never grows dull, does it?
That very “never growing dull” capacity is one of the most important centering parts of being human. We are, at our cores, passionate creatures, inspired and driven by primitive and irrational forces living just below the surface of the rational lives we imagine ourselves living. These feelings are a great deal stronger than our egos.
Sex (as with romantic love) is a steady reminder of our own irrationality and its power over the hard-earned rationality with which we try and run our lives. It is a constant reminder of our unavoidable physical selves. When left unmanaged, it can be humbling to our spiritual pride, and it can be dangerous.
The concept of “safe sex” is one that always makes me laugh. The term is an oxymoron. Sex, when fully and unequivocally engaged in, is always risky. Possible pregnancy, disease, injury, and even death run hand in hand with sex at the physical level. Falling in love, rejection, obsession, loss of self, fear of death, psychosis, and the wild craziness of ecstasy are all potential side effects of sex. How many of you have had that one passionate, spontaneous sexual experience…that experience that changed the very course of your life, for better or worse? Yep, I thought so—most of you.
And yes, at some really deep level, sexuality is connected with our own mortality, with birth and death. Sexuality fights against death, affirming once again, life. In the end, death defeats sex, but that instinctive sexual energy we all experience will always express itself. Sexual energy, regardless of method, creation of children, artwork, music, caring relationships, or heroic accomplishments, beats out death by surpassing it in the future. Life goes on, children enter the world, your family remembers you, and your friends and lovers keep you in their hearts, what you created in life, lives on long beyond your death.
At some really deep level,
sexuality is connected with
our own mortality, with birth and death.
Have you ever substituted sex for love? We all have had that kind of sex that is separated from love and caring. How many of you have felt that moment when sex becomes routine and mechanical? In some spiritual and religious traditions, sex as seen as sinful, evil, or just too carnal. It is often rejected in favor of celibacy. Spoiler Alert: taking a vow not to have sex doesn’t cause sexual instinct to just magically disappear. It just expresses itself in other ways, some positive and creative, and others, not so much. So face it, no matter who you are, your primal sexual energy is more or less always with you, beginning at birth and lingering into old age. Yes, as you might say, it comes and goes at different times in your life, but even in old age the heat of sexuality never completely disappears. It seems that only death ends it.
Taking a vow not to have
sex doesn’t cause sexual
instinct to just magically disappear.
Sexual energy is often what motivates us to enter into intimate relationships, sometimes despite the fact that the relationship may be impossible to maintain, and in the end, could be heartbreaking. The thing that lots of people miss is that like with any strong emotion, sexual attraction doesn’t have to be acted upon every time. Married people know this and for some, it is a continuing struggle. It’s also true for single folk that aren’t in a committed relationship. Sexual attraction is terribly complex, psychologically and biologically. Learning to appreciate, listen to, and honor our human sexual instinct leads to discerning who we really are and who we need to be moving forward.
It comes as no surprise that sexuality is very different for women and men. Most men tend to see sex as something they can’t get enough of, and at their core, attempt thoughtlessly to spread their seed as widely as possible. Most women see sex as secondary in importance to intimacy, physical closeness, and commitment. Men can usually separate sex from love, or romance, whereas women are inclined to connect the two. Men tend generally to be less discerning in pursuing sexual satisfaction, while women tend to be a lot more selective and focus generally on one particular sexual partner at a time. For most women, sex is about the relationship first, and pleasure and sexual satisfaction second. In the case of most men, their priorities are just
Men can usually separate
sex from love, or romance,
are inclined to connect the two.
the opposite. There are exceptions to these tendencies, you say; yes there are, and in some cases, there are total role reversals. But, for the most part, psychologically, the consequence of sexuality is fundamentally different for women and men. This difference is one of the basic sources of friction and misunderstanding between the sexes.
For some people, sex becomes a replacement for real intimacy, used as a way to maintain a distance rather than becoming closer together. At the same time, sex can be used as a way to avoid facing ourselves and the fact that life is finite.
Most people don’t consider the primal energy that fuels sexual interest which gets its energy from the life that is in all of us. It’s always there. That is what makes it possible to use this energy in so many ways, e.g., artistic, altruistic, or spiritual. But this sort of sublimation doesn’t completely substitute or eliminate the sexual instinct itself. If you don’t give it a way to express itself, it shows up in obsessive behavior or other psychiatric problems. As with a drug, sexual activity can be used as an escape from feelings of low self- esteem, loneliness, anxiety, meaninglessness, etc., or it can be used to manipulate or exert power and control. Who doesn’t know someone who hasn’t occasionally wielded sex like a weapon, hurting those around them? When used that way it can become a tool of humiliation for real or imaginary wrongs. Those kinds of cancerous mixtures of sex and anger reach their peak in the deeds of rapists and psychopathic sexual serial killers.
As with a drug, sexual activity
can be used as an
escape from feelings of
low self- esteem,
loneliness, anxiety, meaninglessness.
In Western culture, sex may no longer be the biggest taboo, yet it remains a profound force to be reckoned with, particularly when it runs amuck, as in nymphomania, satyriasis, pedophilia, mania, pornography, and sex addiction, or just the garden variety marital infidelity. When the absence of sex in someone’s life becomes the source of frustration, anxiety, or anger, you are forced to deal with its capacity to take possession of your personality and drive you to destructive behaviors.
Like weeds pushing through the smallest of cracks in the road, sexual energy will leak out in some form when persistently denied a healthy outlet. It takes all manner of forms, many suitable only for discussions with psychiatric personnel. In some cases though, dissociated sexuality takes the form of susceptibility to dangerous cults that use sexuality to exert power and control over their members. Creepy, huh.
Humans are, for better or worse, congenital lovers, natural sensation chasers, limitless sources of love, and essentially sexual beings. Sexuality is part of our destiny. What we do with it decides our fate. The supernatural power of sex to inspire and drive us to seek fulfillment can’t be underestimated in our modern world. Sexual power can be either creative, and procreative, or destructive to oneself as well as others. It is, by definition, irrational, irrepressible, and unrelenting.
As a key component of the spiritual forces involved, sex and love demand expression. What we do (or don’t do) with this sexual energy decides for us who and what we become, what kind of relationships we create, and how we express ourselves in the world. And, of course, collectively, whether we as a species survive.
If you have questions regarding aspects of sexuality, seek out the services of a life coach as we are trained to help with relationship issues.
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Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.