Dr Susan Block
Spring is in
the air. Time to catch Spring Fever and fall in love--or lust--and
time to worship your concept of God or Goddess. For Christians,
it's Easter. For Jews, it's Passover. For many Moslems, it's New
Year's. For Buddhists, it's Buddha's Birthday. For Pagans, it's
the Spring Equinox, the rebirth of Mother Earth, when Persephone
rises from the Underworld, where She reigns over the dead with Her
bad boy husband Hades, and enters Eleusis to rejoin Her doting Mother
Demeter, Goddess of Agriculture and Fertility, who is so ecstatic
to embrace Her beloved daughter that She showers the world in Spring.
all religions celebrate some sort of vital faith-affirming holiday
of resurrection, renewal and return, both complementing and contradicting
the season's natural blooming eroticism. Sex
and God are quite often at odds, but sexuality and spirituality
actually have certain key factors in common. The mystical and the
erotic experience are the most intense in human life; both connect
desire with awe, love, anguish, ecstasy, terror, pain and extreme
At their most
sublime, both religious and sexual feelings are great passions.
Indeed, the word "passion" comes from the Latin "passio" which means
"to suffer." We suffer for love as we suffer for God. Religious
mystics love God with a passion that can be feverishly erotic, and
to whom do most lovers call out in the throes of erotic passion?
God, baby, God, baby, God!
MAKE SEX SEXIER
though men are supposedly more sexually driven than women, Goddesses
tend to be more "sex-positive" than Gods. The great Goddesses of
ancient times ruled fertility, relationships, and encouraged sexual
expression of different kinds, not just sex within marriage. Of
course, many male pagan Gods, like Jolly Old King Zeus, had prodigious
sexual appetites. But the "all-powerful" ones like the Judeo-Christian-Islamic
God, also called Allah, Holy Father, Lord or Yahweh, issued and
still (apparently) issue commandments to repress human sexuality.
In a sense, the Big Three monotheistic religions that have ruled
most of the world over the past couple thousand years continually
reinforce the power of the sex-negative God over the sex-positive
and God are quite often at odds,
but sexuality and spirituality
actually have certain key factors
in common. The mystical and the
erotic experience are the most
intense in human life;
both connect desire with awe,
love, anguish, ecstasy,
terror, pain and extreme logic -
of the most damaging sex-negative messages of any religion is the
concept of "Original Sin," the idea that because we are born sexual
we are sinners who deserve to burn in hell, and if we want to go
to heaven, we must only have sex for procreation--and even then,
God forbid we should enjoy it. This ideology was developed by Saint
Paul, who seems to have been fighting unwanted homosexual urges,
and was cultivated by Saint Augustine who sought refuge in celibacy
after a love affair gone sour (his wealthy mother disapproved of
his low-class lover and made him miserable for it; no wonder he
abhorred lust!). Belief in Original Sin feeds the most violent alienated
parts of ourselves. It tells us that because we are sexual, we are
bad, and God, Allah, Saint Paul or Alberto Gonzales
will punish us horribly unless we repress our natural sexual desires.
the name of God, this belief that sex is dirty has perpetrated rampant
cruelty, bigotry, timidity and stupidity, creating religious sexual
abuse in homes, in temples and in churches, generating intense shame
about our bodies and desires, fueling the belief that parts of our
bodies are dirty, fostering hatred and confusion about pleasure.
Why so much
repression? What real purpose does it serve? Simply put, people
in power like to keep their power, and taboos against deviating
from the religiously decreed social order help them to do just that.
Individual religions may or may not really serve God, and we'll
only find out if they do when we pass through the Lord's Pearly
Gates or Mother Nature's Great Earthy Cunt. But there's one thing
we know right now: Religions serve those in charge of the religion.
Taboos help those already in power, keeping those with less power
in fear for their souls if they break the taboo and enjoy greater
power (or pleasure), than they "deserve."
against sex for men are generally pretty excessive. Religious rules
against sex for women tend to be considerably harsher, certainly
more degrading. But, when you remember that religions serve those
in charge of the religion, is it any wonder that women's sexuality
is riddled with taboos, covered up, denigrated and despised by all
the major world religions, when there are no women priests or ayatollahs,
and very few female ministers and rabbis?
the name of God, this belief that
sex is dirty has perpetrated
rampant cruelty, bigotry, timidity
and stupidity, creating religious
sexual abuse in homes, in temples
and in churches, generating
intense shame about our bodies
and desires, fueling the belief that
parts of our bodies are dirty,
fostering hatred and confusion
course, the irony of creating a taboo is that, once something is
forbidden, it becomes very exciting, kinky and very, very sexy.
Everyone knows that naughty sex is hot sex! Why is that? Because
Mother Nature always finds a way of asserting and expressing Herself--no
matter what. So, if, according to your religion,
sex is bad (and it usually is), then "bad" becomes very sexy.
But is it really
so bad? Even according to so-called divine standards? One of the
many odd hypocrisies of those that decry modern culture as obscene
and hold up the Bible as the Word of God is that they rarely actually
read the Book itself. In The X-Rated Bible, Ben Akerley,
a "recovering Christian," makes his case against pro-censorship
fundamentalists by revealing multiple scenes of incest, rape, homosexuality,
exhibitionism, child molestation, child sexual mutilation, bestiality,
adultery, swinging, scatology and more that take place (both with
and without punishment) in the very book the censors hold most sacred:
The Holy Scriptures,
a hotbed of sexual activity? You bet your bottom belief system--from
Lot's incestuous sex with his daughters to God's anal exhibitionism
(on glorious display when He dramatically reveals His Backside to
Moses). Some of the sex in the Bible is beautiful and very erotic,
as in King Solomon's "Song of Songs." Some of it is horrible and
sad, as when Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. But most Bible sex is
somewhere in between.
That is, it's
complicated, like the rest of life.
course, the irony of creating
a taboo is that, once something
is forbidden, it becomes
very exciting, kinky and
very, very sexy.
course, the Bible contains far too many rules against way too many
kinds of sex. And the punishments tend to be the stuff of Taliban
dreams. For instance, a woman who touches a man's genitals gets
her hand cut off; and if a man is caught having sex with a sheep,
both the man and the sheep are to be executed. But some of the stories
are practical, erotic, insightful lessons in human sexual nature.
Take the tale of Ruth,
a young widow who boldly and successfully seduces her wealthy male
cousin-in-law Boaz on the "threshing floor," at the suggestion of
her mother-in-law Naomi. Then there's Esther, the teenage beauty
queen who uses her powers of sexual seduction to save the Jews of
Persia from genocide. Perhaps the anti-sex religious zealots would
learn something about sex if they actually read the Bible instead
of thumping it so much.
Jesus? Though the "Holy Father" of traditional Christianity might
be even more sex-negative than the original Yahweh of the Jews,
the Jesus of the Gospels is a rather erotic, feminine, even feminist
God. He's not exactly sex-positive, but neither is he negative.
In fact, the Jesus of the Gospels hardly says anything about sex.
Of course, Saints Paul and Augustine more than make up for that
later. But Jesus
himself, though he decries adultery, never actually denigrates sex.
In fact, he advocates love, which is certainly related to sex. Nowhere
do the Gospels say that Jesus is celibate or that anyone else should
Bible contains far too many
rules against way too many kinds
of sex. And the punishments tend
to be the stuff of Taliban dreams.
For instance, a woman who touches
a man's genitals gets her hand cut off; and if a man is caught having
with a sheep, both the man
and the sheep are to be executed.
scholars (and Da Vinci Code enthusiasts) believe that the
"real" Jesus was, in fact, married, and that the Church vigorously
suppressed that marriage for political and economic reasons. After
all, the New Testament never says He isn't married, and the
great majority of Jewish men, especially rabbis like Jesus, were
married. Perhaps the wedding that Jesus attended and miraculously
"catered" was his own. Without a doubt, Jesus liked women, especially
sexual, independent, albeit "repentant" women. After all, who's
the first person Jesus took a meeting with when He resurrected Himself
on Easter Sunday? His favorite foot rubber, of course, Mary Magdalene:
The Original Easter Bunny.
Jesus also liked guys, being a "fisher of men." Award-winning playwright
Terrence McNally's Broadway play Corpus Christie presents
a gay Jesus who has sex with his Apostles. Outrageous, of course,
but no more farfetched than a walk on the water.
It's not just
modern interpretations of the Story of Jesus that uncover the sex
angles. Old and modern paintings and sculptures of Jesus on the
Cross are often highly erotic. After all, the man is practically
naked, and though sometimes he looks anorexic, and all that blood
is kind of gross (except to the likes of Saint Mel), basically he's
got a great body. Usually, his face is beautiful, "beatified," with
his big sorrowful eyes, open sensuous mouth, and long soft wavy
hair. Hanging on a cross displays his nearly naked body in an outstretched,
inviting, manner. Yes, of course, it looks painful, but we all know
that suffering (passion/passio) can be sexy. When the images
show Mary Magdalene looking up at him so adoringly, well, little
wonder why Jesus is more popular than rock stars. He's not just
holy; he's sexy. Which just goes to show: the one has something
to do with the other.
As you might imagine, when I discuss the eroticism of Jesus, I get
a variety of responses, all quite emotional. Most practicing Christians
are, as one would expect, livid. But a few years ago, after I spoke
on my show about the sex appeal of certain depictions of Jesus on
the cross, a young man from one of the Bible Belt cities where we
broadcast called me in tears, so relieved was he to hear that he
wasn't the only one who was sexually aroused by images of Jesus.
himself, though he
decries adultery, never actually denigrates sex. In fact,
he advocates love, which is
certainly related to sex.
Nowhere do the Gospels say
that Jesus is celibate or
that anyone else should be.
worshipping a sexy guy who's bleeding to death subliminally encourages
violence. It certainly makes bleeding to death look appealing. And
to think His All-Powerful Dad was watching. It seems like passive-aggressive
child abuse. But then, this
is the same God who commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, until
He stopped him with something like "Ha, ha. Only kidding, Abe. Just
wanted to see if you'd do it." What a sadist! No wonder our leaders,
when they undertake military aggression or state-sanctioned torture,
always assert that "God is on our side."
SEX, TANTRIC TABOOS
So, Sex and
God are pretty much at odds. An ongoing struggle between organized
religion and natural human sexuality pervades civilized history.
And though religion is powerful, sometimes seemingly all-powerful,
somehow sex always wins. Because no matter how religiously repressed
we are, no matter how much people like Saint Auggie, Dr. Laura and
the Reverend Donald Wildmon try to deny it, we are born animalskicking,
screaming sexual animals--and we die just like animals die.
passion of the erotic is that it puts us in touch with our animal
nature. The secret passion of Dr. Laura, St. Auggie and St. Don
is that they're sexually obsessed with trying to control the behavior
of the rest of us. Although their efforts to establish sex-negative,
racist, intrusive, inhumane taboos as the law of the land are ultimately
futile (sex always wins), they can do considerable damage.
is the same God who
commanded Abraham to
sacrifice his son, until He
stopped him with something like
"Ha, ha. Only kidding, Abe.
Just wanted to see if you'd do it."
What a sadist!
wonder our leaders,
when they undertake
military aggression or
always assert that
"God is on our side."
They can drive
the peaceful sexy spirit of Eros even deeper into secrecy, deep
into the heart's recesses of guilt, shame and fear of a wrathful
God who will strike you dead if He catches you so much as thinking
about something lustful. No wonder so many of us love a good spanking...or
a mystical journey into the spiritual sexual world of tantric sex.
From Asia to
California, Buddhist and Hindu tantric "yogis" incorporate sex into
worship, practicing the various disciplines of tantric sex to achieve
the bliss and harmony with God that is "beyond" physical orgasm.
Though much more sex-positive than the Big Three, Tantra has its
own taboos. For instance, men are encouraged to help their female
partner to enjoy as many orgasms as possible (which is great!),
but the men are rarely permitted to ejaculate themselves. Some tantric
schools insist that the man not come at all, except when he wants
to have children. Tantra is a great discipline for integrating sexuality
with spirituality, and I recommend it highly to my male clients
who have problems with premature ejaculation. But it's unfair, irrational
and bad for a man's health to "command" him almost never to ejaculate.
THE GODDESS &
THE BLOOD OF THE DIVINE
Ancient Goddess-worshipping religions, now revived by moderns disillusioned
with paternal monotheism, feature sex rituals, holy orgies, erotic
art, even "sacred prostitutes." Perhaps the resurrection of these
cults of Isis, Aphrodite, Kali and the rest is nothing more glorious
than an effort to create some kind of belief system in which people
can enjoy sexual pleasure without so much guilt. Then there are
the new worshippers of Eros who come to The Dr. Susan Block Institute
to celebrate the Greco-Roman God of Sex, Love and the Breath of
Life every Eros Day when the planetoid Eros is closest to Earth.
Even agnostics will celebrate God or the Goddess, if a good party
of which, back to those sexy Spring holidays when we do not overtly
celebrate sex, except for all that egg symbolism. But we do drink!
traditional Passover Seder, devout Jews guzzle at least four cups
of kosher wine. Drinking the "fruit of the vine" is a sacrament
to celebrate birth, freedom and the renewal of life, so you're pretty
much commanded to get good and shnockered
the blood of Jesus is represented by the wine of communion. Blood
and wine are ancient pagan symbols of divinity. Jesus, at that famous
Seder he presided over before getting busted, pointed to the wine
and said "this is my blood." Devout Muslims aren't supposed to drink
any alcohol, not one of the most endearing aspects of Ishmael's
branch of the Big Three. "Wine," says religious historian Dr. Walter
F. Otto, "has in it something of the spirit of infinity which brings
the primeval world to life again." The moral of that story is: Never
drink and drive; however wine is not the drink of the devil,
but the blood of the divine.
Sex, on the
other hand... Well, the ongoing debate between Sex and God will
continue, at least until we all start cloning ourselves.
Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr. Susan
Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit
her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com