Sunday, December 12, 2010

Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Promiscuity, Pain Practices, and Other Perversions

It's time to get into some of the really tough stuff. There is so much sexual dysfunction in this culture that it's totally appalling. On the one hand, people are acting out so many shames that they are constantly partnering to try and find some gratification. On the other side, there are people with their sexuality so locked down that they are stripping themselves of their power and subsequently wanting to deny others of their sexual power. Make no mistake about it, sexuality is power. It is one of the most natural, carnal powers we all have. It creates life. If the energy of sex is channeled, it expands our creativity and our own confidence and charm in this world. It's energy can further be channeled to move us into spiritual awakening. Instead, this power has been denuded and mashed down into a tiny box for its expression, and in trying to get out of that container, it's often become twisted and warped in its expressions.

Sexual Promiscuity: Healthy Partnering Versus Constant Partnering
I want to be clear about what I mean when I say promiscuity. Having different consensual partners isn't necessarily promiscuous. Promiscuity is when the individual is constantly having to find a partner for personal gratification. The process is repeated over and over, but ultimately this individual isn't actually getting what he or she wants. In some cases, the individual may not be even enjoying the sex. This happens to a lot of women who become promiscuous in part because they think this how men will like them, and their drive for male approval is so strong that they continue to find partners. It's easy to say they just have low self-esteem, but there's usually a lot more going on in someone who is constantly looking for sex.

Pain and Sexuality: When the Love Is Gone
There's so much pain involved in our lives that it's not surprising that for many people pleasure and pain are intertwined in sex. Sadism and masochism can oftentimes be sexual without actually involving sex. Once again, I'm not talking about a little love bite or a smack on the ass, here. I'm talking about the full-on whips and chains. I mean we've got to really get into this topic, people. So much shame has been hiding this stuff that no one can really deal with what's going on.

In the spiritual awakening path, a great deal of the work we have to do is to peel apart pleasure and pain. They're so intertwined that when someone actually feels something healthy or good, they may have no idea what to do with it. It may scare them. They may run away and return to their old unhealthy patterns. But the point of the spiritual awakening path is to begin to see that pain never has anything to do with love. It's important to delve into it and begin to see where pain was first introduced into any aspect of ourselves, especially sex, if we want to reclaim ourselves and awaken.

Puritanical Repression and the Shaming of Sexuality
I've heard plenty of things about how the Christian church decided to control sexuality in order to maintain it's control as an organization over its followers. I'm not going to actively support that particular stream of thought because I'm not so interested in pointing fingers as in healing souls. All I do know is that the particular stream of Christianity (the Brownists and the Puritans) that seemed to really take hold of the United States culture certainly can't handle sexuality. Even today, it was big news for the Pope to decide that condoms are okay in some cases of AIDs. Truly, there are some pretty backwards views around sexuality.

At some point, with limited contraceptives and the need for social control in communities, waiting until marriage to have sex made a lot more sense. It created a structure for successful child-rearing so that the community could prosper during most eras when food was often scarce and resources were limited. People also got married way younger. Today in the U.S., the average age of marriage for a man is 28 and for a woman it's 26. But with so many contraceptives available and people getting married later, there is naturally going to be more exploration of sexuality outside of marriage (not that that wasn't happening before).

Nonetheless, sex has been taboo. It's been scary. So it's been squelched down out of most conversations. If you bring up sex around a lot of people, they're instantly uncomfortable. So, down, down, down, into the depths and backrooms and drunken forays its been pushed. In so doing, the repression has built up a counter insurgence. This arising is almost like physics--an equal and opposite force being created. But because sex has so few healthy avenues to appear in our society, it's gotten twisted and contorted as it's reared back up. It's kinda like the dude or chick who goes to college from a repressive family and just goes hog-wild for four years. It's not the healthiest thing to do, and there can be serious consequences depending on how far he or she goes.

Rape, Sexual Abuse, and Incest: Root Causes Rotting Out Sexuality
With so little awareness and so much shame and fear around sexuality, traumatic sexual violations get hidden. Women and men don't want to talk about them. They feel powerless around them. But those things cannot be forgotten, so these individuals act out. They act out through promiscuity. They act out through different fetishes, dominance, submission, and many other sexual practices. If the individual was raped, they may put themselves in a dominant controlling position--mostly unconsciously--trying to take back their power. But without a lot of love and awareness, there's nothing gained. In fact, the pain is redoubled as the person falls farther and farther into pain practices and continues the pain cycle. Others (men, usually) may become rapists, child abusers, and sexual abusers, acting out what happened to them again and again on others with no avenue for healing. And they probably don't fully recognize that they need one.

Here's the tip of the iceberg for sexual abuse in the U.S. Keep in mind, the iceberg is much, MUCH bigger because shame forces people to not report many of these crimes and traumas.
  • In 2000, there were 88,000 children sexually abused (this number includes only the substantiated child sexual abuse cases).
  • In 2007, there were 248,300 people sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their life time.
  • 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their life time.
The depth of sexual hurt in this society is staggering, and as I said, much of it is never reported.

For more about healing sexual abuse, please read this blog post:

Healing Sexual Abuse

Taking Back Your Sexuality: The Long Healing Road
In spirituality, I've learned that every part of us learns differently. The body learns one way; the mind learns another; and the heart, of course, learns in yet another way. The same principle applies. Spending time with a therapist or psychologist to help you understand what happened to you is very important, but it's not the whole of the equation to healing your sexuality. First of all, you need to stop whatever you're doing with your sexuality. You're going to have to pull yourself out of whatever relationships you're in and the communities you're cycling with. You have to stop and look at what you're doing. If you don't, you're just going to keep cycling through the same unhealthy sexual practices. Once again, as in just about every third post I put up, this is where I mention that you must find a spiritual community to help you. A support group (incest survivors, sexaholics, etc.) is very helpful too. Really, you're going to need a ton of support from multiple angles to reclaim your sexuality. And if you are getting away from the current groups of people you're hanging around, you're going to need to replace that support mechanism with a new one. Some people can do it on their own, but really, it's very important to be looking for and asking for help.

As I said, victims of sexual abuse will need to heal on multiple levels. You've probably been so sexually active because a part of you knows that there is deep healing within you. In some ways, your own sexuality will be your key to healing. As a doorway to creating life and to spiritual awakening, that energy can also be cultivated to heal you. There are energy practices that you can learn from a Western Tantra community that can help you to focus your energy in your personal sexual practices. In doing so, you can bring a lot of love and light right down into the very center of your sexuality and to the places and areas of your body that were traumatized.

You may also combine this with work with an energy healer clearing your energy, and you may also consider other somatic experiences. Deep tissue massage, cranio-sacral healing, and many others can go deep into your physical and energetic bodies (it's plural--in many respects, your physical body and energetic body may even have separated and need to be re-merged because of the trauma). I've had one friend tell me that there are healers that have someone relive the trauma so that they can fight their way out. This, of course, is done with profound integrity and with a very well-trained, professional healer.

Sexual Healing: Yet More To Heal
And still, this is the tip of the iceberg. There are levels of self-forgiveness that will have to happen within your own heart. There will be many tears, and having a spiritual teacher can be super important to have the energetic support to move some of these issues as well. You're going to have to open your heart to yourself and to your perpetrator, and if you were the perpetrator of sexual crimes, then you're going to really have to open to yourself and be accountable for your actions. Re-meeting your victim or perpetrator may or may not be necessary or possible depending on circumstances and what happened. And if it happened in early childhood, it may not be even readily apparent who it was (early childhood sexual abuse is horrible--it requires so much energetic support to help the event just to surface into the victim's conscious mind). That meeting would be a lot of trauma to face, and it would only make sense further along the line as someone has cleared the issue and can more easily talk about it.

And talking about it is key. It is the doorway to the conversations that we've all avoided in our society around sexuality. Because as we talk about sexual dysfunction and what is really causing it, we begin to also start to see where the healing needs to go. And with that deeper healing and awareness, more room will be made for healthy sexuality to re-emerge in our society. It's time to re-think how we approach sexuality. It's time to stop shaming teens who get pregnant. It's time to stop avoiding this topic in conversations, and it's time to stop hiding the pain. As a whole society, it's time to be accountable to our sexuality instead of trying to forget that it exists.

Next blog: Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Abstinence and Self-Denial
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