When it comes to sex and desire, we haven’t really been helped along the way to understanding how it all works. It likely took quite a lot to claim sex as your own as a queer individual. After years of emotional and spiritual abuse over sex, we may resist investigating how we relate to desire in our own lives. I receive so much feedback from the men around me about how we, both individually and collectively, struggle with these forces while longing for deeper fulfillment. For some, desire triggers shame, fear, and feelings of deep unworthiness–and sex that bears these marks. For others, desire is an enlivening force that allows one to feel free, fully expressive, and whole. I have encountered a spectrum of unique variations in between these two poles of experience–and I can personally relate to most of what I’ve heard on either side. I ask this question of us all.
Maybe you have a lot of sex, but are you experiencing your Self?
We may love sex, and are, for better or for worse, somewhat defined by it as queer men. However, we have often picked up a lot of baggage along the way that keeps us from really accessing the fullness of the power within us that we call sex. I believe that the majority of men have learned about sex from porn and from chatting with their friends–lousy sex ed. Rarely, have we experienced the kind of education that positions the potency of sexual energy into a relational context of a whole person with another whole person (or people). Instead, we have been denied access to know and describe our emotions. We are missing key interpretive frames to understand our experiences of sex aside from a forbidden pleasure localized to our dicks and asses. As a tribe, we are a scattering of many pieces cut into images of cocks, torsos, and asses in little boxes on digital profiles. I believe that in all of this searching, we are looking for each other in order to put each other back together again, dick to dick and heart to heart, a deeper experience of our own selves.
Let’s backtrack a bit. In a somewhat simplistic way of looking at history, many religious ideologies have provided a moralistic framework, a way of containing man’s sexual vigor. Unbridled, sex can, and absolutely has wreaked havoc in many of our lives. It is truly an epic force. Although, I don’t at all believe that sex, itself, is the source of our havoc. Instead, I think it’s maybe our lack of awareness about how we are using the potency of this power. A fundamental teaching in Tantra that has guided me these past few years is this:
Give yourself over to your desires, with the practiced awareness of what happens when you do so.
That bit. The practiced awareness. What does that even mean? Why would I want to do that? And where the fuck do I start?
For me, this teaching asks me to intend with personal inquiry about all of the following: what my sex means, how I use it, what I am getting from my connections, and whether or not I am making space for the healing of myself and others. I need tools so that I can learn to open up to the ways that I hold back. When I cut myself off from others, I have to find a way back; nobody is going to rescue me. I need tools to help me uncover the personal meanings behind my judgments about others. I need some guidelines to better understand what I’m really looking for when I use other people or when I lie to myself about my own motivations. Basically, a practiced awareness is an ass-kicking assortment of tools of my own gathering. With it, I am transforming my own experience of sex and desire. I am beginning to feel my way through my own life with an internal compass that has proved to be more powerful to me than the inherited rules that previously governed my body, although the echos of formative abuses remain. I am learning that doing the best that I can do is, at last, good enough. To me, spirituality can now be summed up as one’s own personal art of paying attention and making choices.
In sex, when we integrate the parts of ourselves that yearn for the ascension of our spirits alongside the parts of us that thrive when tethered to the dirt of Earth, we can then experience the totality that is human. In so doing, our desires become an integrated source within us, not an outward pursuit. We cease to cut off our deepest, dirtiest, sluttiest parts in an effort to bypass our animal natures in the name of “spirituality.” At the same time, we may lose interest in the kind of validation that solely physical pleasure without awareness can afford us. We take ownership of sex, and we can use our intentions to produce peaks of pleasure and transcendence that fills our hearts. We begin to cultivate embodied experiences of being desirOUS rather than desirING. To me, that distinction really matters, because in understanding the difference, we tap into the realm of possibility, more pleasure, more awareness, and more connection with all parts of ourselves. As author Esther Perel puts it, “To desire is to own the wanting.” We cannot possibly own the wanting if it is scattered outside of us, if we pursue it from an inner place of lack, and if it remains attached to some of our deepest unexamined wounds. We have to go into our darkest places with the faith that we can make it back out alive. And we can.