A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

Sexuality and the Sacred

Frances Kissling over at Salon has a good discussion of fallacies in the views held by kinder gentler “pro-life” proponents who loudly oppose abortion but support Obama.  They are people who have expanded their moral and spiritual compass to be able to include more than fetuses and zygotes as intrinsically worth supporting.  That is a huge step forward morally and intellectually.  Even so, Kissling’s critique is a telling one as far as she goes.  

But from this Pagan’s perspective Kissling still misses some important points.  She writes that one of the weaknesses in this new more humane ‘pro-life’ position is


Making sex sacred. This squeamishness around contraception is closely related to the conservative religious community’s concept of sex as sacred. More modern religious thinkers as well as secular philosophers look at sacredness not in the context of individual acts of sexual intercourse, but more broadly at the sacredness of procreation. For anti-abortionists, if women were not invisible, a concept of the sacredness of creation would include understanding that one of the most sacred decisions a woman makes is whether it is appropriate for her to participate in procreation, in bringing a child into the world. If we believe that the act of creating new life is sacred, then we want men and women to have the tools necessary to fulfill the obligation to create life responsibly and not create it when they cannot — or choose not to — bring it to fruition.


As far as she goes, I agree.  But stopping here still evidences a subtle anti-sex attitude in this otherwise excellent article.  She still gives credit to the view that what is most spiritually meaningful about se is reproduction.  I think this is wrong.

In humans sex is unconnected to reproductive cycles, although obviously necessary for it.  Women do not go into heat.  In general, human beings are sexually responsive every day of the year.  It is one of our greatest pleasures, and that pleasure involves momentarily overcoming the feeling of being an isolated ego unconnected with the world.  It can instead be a momentary loss of such perception as we are drowned in the intense pleasure of orgasm. .  It can stop there, where there is little difference between intercourse and masturbation, but it need not. (I write as a man and make no claim to get it right from a woman’s perspective.)  


The sexual experience can go even more deeply, the two lovers experience a melding of selves along with the orgasm, a melding that can go very deep.  Reportedly it can bring about a sense of mystical connection with much more.  Spiritually speaking, sexuality can arguably be one of the most potent means by which individuals can come to experience their participation in a context of intrinsic value wider and deeper than their own selves.  

Reproduction can achieve the same goal, especially for mothers and certainly for many fathers, who enlarge their own sense of what is important and valuable to include others, and a span of time far beyond their own life time.  Biologically this achieves reproduction, but spiritually it is more than that.  But this ‘more’ is of a piece with the spiritual benefits of sex that does not lead to reproduction.


Sex is also good for health. As the British National Health Service says, “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away” because it is good for the cardiovascular system.    None of these findings have the slightest thing to do with reproduction.

Even as our culture sexualizes everything, especially through advertising,  its general failure to take on the ancient argument that sex is only or most truly about reproduction is central to denigrating the importance of relationship compared to power and wealth.  This attitude is a combination of the masculine monotheistic downgrading of the feminine combined with an even more ancient down grading of the status of women by societies valuing domination and assertion over others as evidence of success.  The combination of the two is terrible for women and for men.

In humans, at least as much as for reproduction, sex is about deepening relationship and providing relief for the isolated ego.  In their opposition to contraception the  less strident anti-abortion people actually act to cripple the spiritual potentials in sexuality.

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Albert the Abstainer

posted July 21, 2009 at 1:15 am

Sex is biologically about reproduction.
Socially, connection formed through sex encourages the creation of an environment that enables a baby to grow to a point of greater viability. (Note: Due to the size of the head, human babies are born “prematurely”. This requires ongoing support which is significantly greater than for other mammals and for a signicantly longer period.) From an evolutionary perspective, that which permits and encourages greater viability wins out, and in the case of humans, this includes all those wonderful emotions which encourage bonding between partners to increase the probability that a baby passes through the early years where that growing child is most vulnerable and unable to survive on its own.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually think it is a remarkably beauty state, to sexually couple and to experience the euphoria and sense of unity which can accompany that. I merely submit that from an evolutionary perspective these are collateral benefits, (albeit fantastic ones.)
This in no way implies that sex is only or even predominantly for the purpose of having children for any particular person or their partner. The great thing about having intelligence is that we are not strictly bound to evolutionary drives, and that those collateral benefits of sex can be realised without having children, or with them, as a couple chooses.

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posted July 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

Looking at the world through Neo-Pagan eyes for pretty much all of my life, I gotta say that it is fruitless to try to “make” sex “sacred.” Or to “male” nature and the natural realm “sacred.” Or to “make” a range of other things of importance “sacred.”
“Making,” here refers to an instrumental valuation–for ideology, agit-prop, or others–that remains blind and ignorant and unacknowledging of what is, of all that is, SACRED in itself.
I, as a Neo-Pagan, do not “make” sex sacred in my life and in the world. Certainly not to further any ideological or social goal. Rather, the inherent sacredness of sex permeates my existence, and Neo-Pagan practice enables me to enjoy and respect this condition.

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posted July 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Gus said:
“Even as our culture sexualizes everything, especially through advertising, its general failure to take on the ancient argument that sex is only or most truly about reproduction is central to denigrating the importance of relationship compared to power and wealth. This attitude is a combination of the masculine monotheistic downgrading of the feminine combined with an even more ancient down grading of the status of women by societies valuing domination and assertion over others as evidence of success. The combination of the two is terrible for women and for men.”
To me, this is the core of my Feminism. If we see the world from the point of view of Feminine sexuality, it opens up a world of peace and pleasue for Women, Men and their children. Reproduction is a byproduct of the divinity inherent in sex. Children happen because there is so much joy found in the union of Male and Female that it cannot be contained in only two people. The joy begets the third. When women are empowered as sexual beings, they are empowered as Mothers. Empowered Mothers raise empowered children. Empowered Women help to free and empower Men. The great power of that moment of Joy to spread through the world is truly Sacred.

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