What I’m on about
What you should expect from this article is a radically subjective point of view. It concerns matters close to my own heart and life, which means that it’s about fairly straightforward hetero sex, and written from a definitely pagan perspective. I’m saying this in advance because I want to emphasize that I see any form of sexuality (as long as it’s legal and between consenting adults) as valid and beautiful, I’m something of an idealist free-thinker and in my view, nature’s diversity is part of the miracle of life. The reason why I don’t mention, for example, homosexuality, is that I have no personal experience with it and I’d feel pretentious trying to write about it. What I want to express concerns “my niche” only.
So if you feel I’m not speaking for you in this article, chances are that I’m not! In fact, I only presume to speak for myself, even when I speak as a pagan, for example. I know lots of pagans would whole-heartedly disagree with me, and that’s fine.
Whatever happened to sex?
Sex sells. Indeed, if sex were to compete for Salesperson of the Year, nobody else would stand a chance. Sterilised and distilled to a clean, glossy exposure of smooth skin, it is being exploited as the universal attention-seeker. It’s pretty, and it’s safe, disconnected from the real world. Phew.
Sex is being utilised in the “war of the sexes”, mostly as a power game and a tool of manipulation. I’m not going to open Pandora’s box and start talking about the whole issue of feminism and double standards like the fact that women are still sluts and men studs. The fascinating thing is that people are holding on to behaviour patterns that used to make sense about 100 years ago, and they are completely unaware of it. One example is the way women use sex to manipulate a man into commitment. Glossy magazines discuss in all seriousness how many dates a woman should have had with one man before she can safely consent to sex, “safely” meaning that the man will be likely to consider her as a potential steady partner, not just a sex adventure. Notice how it’s not about whether she wants sex (or a steady partner, for that matter); notice how all the choice is given up to the man. The woman is the passive manipulator. Back in those days when most careers were inaccessible to women and they had to get married to ensure their financial and social survival, withholding sex was one effective way of luring a man into matrimony. Why women in our day and age, who are free to choose their life and career, basically behave in the same way, is beyond me. I suspect that the financial dependence has simply been replaced by self-esteem related dependence. The outcome is the same.
Sex is dynamite. It is capable of breaking through the fortresses of propriety, reason, and better knowledge. Sex is a force so powerful that it’s about the first thing any dictatorship or military government seeks to regulate, either by imposing pseudo-religious moral rules on their people, or the secularised version – laws for “the good of society and the protection of family values”.
Sex and its disruptive potential is not only feared by dictators in distant countries though. Even our oh-so-openminded and liberal western society is doing its best to try and force sex into rules, morals, and pre-conceived ideas to stay safe from the scary unknown, the unpredictable nature of urges, and the forgotten connection of mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Sex is allowed to take on very few, limiting forms. Whilst people nowadays live all varieties of sexual relationships, the vast majority still insists on seeing sex as one of two things: either as sex in a loving, exclusive relationship, or as purely physical satisfaction without depth, respect, or love. In an attempt to keep everything neat and easy to comprehend, they stubbornly ignore the many nuances in between. An open relationship that works, a loving affair full of warmth and mutual appreciation – unthinkable! Don’t get me wrong, please: Any kind of relationship is fine with me, as long as it’s consensual and honest. I have a deep respect for committed couples who manage to keep up love, respect, and open communication in their relationship. What I have a problem with is people who are judging everyone else by their own standards. There’s a difference between choosing a way of life for oneself, and proclaiming it as the universally only way of having a sexual and meaningful relationship. I suspect the motif behind this is fear, fear of the unknown, the part that’s potentially overwhelming. In order to keep control, it’s safer to be narrowminded and judgmental.
But sex is uncontrollable. Lou Andreas-Salomé, the highly accomplished free-thinker and one of the first women to study psychoanalysis with Freud himself, once said that to try and control a strong sexual attraction between two people made about as much sense as trying to stem the tides of the ocean. Personally, I think that a purely physical attraction can be overcome by willpower (been there, done that); it’s the aforementioned mix of body, mind, soul, and spirit that is next to impossible to resist. It’s a conspiracy that can turn sexual attraction into a force powerful enough to overthrow everything that might stand in the way of fulfilment. It is the force of the wild.
Utopia: Wild Sex
The idea of being whole, undivided, is the one recurring theme in the many different answers people give when you ask them what “the wild” means to them. To have no nagging doubts or petty worries disturb your enjoyment; no physical needs getting in the way of plans and decisions… To have mind, body, soul, and spirit aligned and all going in the same direction, is a state of utter bliss and one that many people seem to long for.
Conversely, “divide and conquer” has been a well-known oppression strategy since the Roman Empire. It works for individuals just as it works for nations. If you are divided within yourself, you can never live up to your full potential. Yet most people choose exactly that state. They fight a constant war against themselves, by trying to suppress their urges, rationalise their emotions, or vice versa, letting the emotions rule without taking reason or anything else into consideration. If it doesn’t make them happy, why are people holding on to it?
I believe it’s because being whole, accepting oneself fully and allowing every part to be there, includes things like facing our deep instinctual nature and our darkness, often called the shadow. In our society, certain qualities are so taboo that we deny them, refuse to even acknowledge their existence. The ironic thing about the shadow is that it’s only ever dangerous when it’s being suppressed, much like the boiling saucepan might explode when the lid is forcibly held down on it, while it’ll bubble away without causing problems when the lid is off. But most people can’t face the fact that they are killers as well as nourishers, aggressive as well as meek and mild, envious and cynical as well as generous and compassionate. We’ve been taught that these things are bad.
People who are doing advanced spiritual or magical work will sooner or later encounter their shadow. By then (when we’re adults), the process of denial has been going on for so long that the shadow often shows up in the shape of an outward force or demon. It can be very scary, but only until we realise that we’re actually facing part of ourselves. Most people never get past this stage; they are frightened and take a step back, or stop working magic altogether. Only very few ever come to realise that all they need to do is acknowledge and accept the shadow as part of their own being, and integrate it. It might not be pretty, but it’s human, natural, and normal – and it won’t do any harm as long as it’s accepted, and allowed to coexist with social bonds and love, which balance the shadow qualities.
It’s easy to recognise the few people who have done this part of their “spiritual homework”. They have powerful charisma and near irresistible personalities. Wholeness, the above-mentioned state of having every part of your being move in the same direction, is awe-inspiring.
What is to be gained from being whole? For one, peace of mind. The absence of internal strife frees up unexpected quantities of energy, energies that you never realised were bound in the constant struggle. As well, being in touch with all parts of oneself provides a very deep knowledge that also goes with a better understanding of other people and the world around us. And because this article is supposed to be about sex, I’m going to outline my personal utopia of whole-being, unashamed, all-forces-united wild sex.
It’s pretty obvious that sex involves the body – that’s the easy part. Most people would agree that a connection on the mental level doesn’t go amiss either. It’s a nice thing to resonate with someone’s mind, their wit, humour, and language. The area of the soul, emotions, is where most complications are coming into the equation, all the preconceived ideas about relationships, the judgement about what sex is supposed to be in which context – everything the previous chapter dealt with. It’s a shame that even some who’d agree that all life is worthy of awe and worship, can’t comprehend how you can love someone without being “in love”. And so emotions are often cut out from sex, unless it happens within a steady relationship. If however, both partners aren’t afraid to feel and allow it to happen, there can be respect, appreciation, and love, and that is a very fulfilling experience.
Easily the most elusive component of wild sex is the spirit, especially in our day and age and the secularised world we live in. Pagan spirituality isn’t exactly mainstream… and even the pagans one meets don’t usually agree on their views. Personally, I spent about 15 years on a quest for the unity of body/mind/soul/spirit, and while I’ve been lucky in that the first three aspects have always been in place (even in affairs) and I never once had a negative experience, I never found spiritual harmony. I’ve met men who are spiritual, or interested in spirituality, but most still see the body as inferior, as the least important part of our being, not as a sacred manifestation of life, growth, abundance, joy, and pleasure. There are some who in theory share my view that sex is a fusion of very powerful divine male and female energies and a celebration of the most primal life force, but they’re not actually living these views.
By now, I guess it’s fairly obvious why I called my wild-sex vision “utopia”! I’ve outlined some of the obstacless that stand in the way of being whole, of harmonising body, mind, soul, and spirit. Looking at these obstacles, it seems almost impossible that one human being should be confident and independent enough to move beyond them in all four areas. Which doesn’t stop me from dreaming, of course… I’m an idealist, or in the words of a friend years ago, pathologically optimistic. And I have seen people who are definitely close to the ideal. Even if they are few and far between, they prove it’s possible.
Imagine the absence of judgement, and instead appreciation, love, and respect. Seeing the divine in the other, and also realising what’s individual and unique about him/her. Marvelling at their beauty – not beauty in the sense of physical perfection, but the beautiful, life-filled, pleasure-giving body of a whole, unselfconscious human being. No fear of rejection, or of looking ridiculous… joy, lust, and passion that is allowed to be there, on both sides. Wild isn’t violent, it’s confident and unashamed.
This is where ritual sex comes in. Now a lot has been written about ritual sex, how it’s supposed to be kept between loving long-term couples only, how it’s no laughing matter and shouldn’t be “just” good sex (shock, horror!)… Forgive my directness, but in my view that’s all rubbish. First of all, I abhor strict and judgemental rules in the sense of “who should and who shouldn’t”. Besides, I’m one of those people who think that every act of joy and love is a ritual, and according to this definition, wild sex equals ritual sex…
However, I would go further and say that wild sex has a definite place in actual pagan rituals, with its emphasis on celebrating the divine male and female energies and the way they flow together during sex. It is something that can’t be planned very well, it will happen spontaneously. Which is of course a nightmare for all whose tradition favours formal ritual structures. But then, these aren’t particularly wild anyway!
My utopia is a world where there are a whole bunch of people who share these views. A world of evolved people who are in touch with themselves… enough people to provide a choice – for all sorts of exclusive or open relationships, all equally rooted in love, mutual adoration, respect and awe. A world where fun and laughter, even silliness wouldn’t be out of place in ritual, because nature is wild and unpredictable, and the ability to laugh is deeply magical (sometimes the comical energy is stronger than the more conventional kind that was planned initially). People who don’t take themselves too seriously, but take each other very seriously, and who find joy in each other.
I’m sure I will find them. I just haven’t figured out yet in which lifetime that will be!
To conclude this article, I’d like to invite you into the world of baroque. This is a first in my life. I’m one of those people who used to think old oil paintings were boring, being more of a modern art person myself.
In February however, I went to see an exhibition of Rubens’ works in Vienna with a friend, and I was absolutely ravished by what I saw. It was a firework of sensuality, abundance, and pure joy of life! The wild was staring down at me from every canvas. In raptures, I walked through the gallery, audio guide by my ear.
The commentary about the painting “Boreas Abducts Oreithya” made me giggle: Boreas, the god of the North wind – it doesn’t get much more “wild man” than that, does it? – has grabbed Oreithya, and according to the commentary, the painting shows them in the very moment when Oreithya’s fear and struggle “…turn to love”. I doubt very much they mean “love” in the way I describe it in my utopia, and I turned to my friend and said: “Love? I think they mean lust. It doesn’t really look like they’ve had much time for small talk yet…”
I love that painting, here it is:
Written in 2005