Sex and the Soul
Sex wrecks everything. Unacknowledged, sexual attraction becomes the elephant in the room. Acknowledged, it becomes the impediment to friendship. And as a question mark hovering above another’s head—Is he gay? Is ‘she’ really ‘they’?—sex blinds us to one another's humanity.
It’s difficult even to write about sex. What will people impute about my own sexuality by my interest in it, by the questions I ask, or by the topics I avoid? What am I revealing? What am I hiding? It’s a private world and most of us most of the time would prefer to keep it that way. I know I would. And I don’t mean anything by that.
But perhaps, to get us past this difficulty, what we need is more talk about sex, not less, and certainly more honest talk. Personally, this might mean telling our partner what we prefer in our sexual encounters, and what we don’t. Publicly, this might mean using real descriptors for body parts and sex acts rather than euphemisms. (Years ago, I bought a dictionary of euphemisms, thinking it would help me with my writing. The contents turned out to be 90% crude sexual innuendo, which wasn’t quite what I was looking for, though I could probably write a pretty good pub song.)
My recent guest in The Mystic Cave, a counselling psychologist and a gay man, was hired by a university in its faculty of education partly to represent the face of “diversity.” This sounded progressive, until he began speaking openly and honestly in the classroom about sex. This, he said, is what gay men tend to do, talk as openly about sex as one might talk about the food in the refrigerator. Besides, as a psychologist, sex was his area of academic expertise. But students complained, the administration blanched, and he discovered that diversity didn’t extend as far as honest talk about what goes on in the bedroom (which, you’ll note, is returning to euphemism).
So, it was enormously refreshing to have Kevin Alderson join me in the Cave to talk about sexuality and spirituality. Only, once we started speaking openly about sex, especially about sexual orientation and gender identity and the definitions that peg us sexually, we found ourselves gravitating instead toward that which reunites us as humans, not that which divides.
Kevin spoke of overcoming ‘we’ and ‘they’ distinctions, preferring to put us all into the same basket, as ‘we’. He spoke of character defining us, not sex, and of the need for all lovers, whatever their orientation, to negotiate their way, through honest talk, to pleasurable intimacy with their partner. Specifically, he said, we bring to our sexual encounters the maturity and wholeness, or the lack thereof, that incline us to be either givers or takers. A ‘taker’ in sex is a ‘taker’ in life, he said. Sex didn’t make them that way; character did.
Our conversation about sexuality turned out, in the end, to be more a conversation about spirituality. Which made me wonder: why all the fuss? Why do we continue to trip over all our sexual definitions and distinctions, the current nomenclature—LGBTQIA2S+—beginning to look more like a Welsh town name than a useful modifier? Why are we so quick to judge one another, whether in schools or on the streets, about the sexual paths our humanity has taken? Is character, as Kevin said, not the more important thing? Besides, wouldn’t we rather talk about spirituality than about sex?
To listen to my conversation with Kevin Alderson, press the Play button below. To find out more, follow the Information button ("i") to the show notes.