Re*Imagining the Erotic

Affirmative Self-Pleasure

Many of us are feeling tremendous loss in our lives over the past few months. It is difficult to quantify the suffering that is being experienced in the spectrum of severity ranging from mere inconveniences to deaths without final goodbyes. While many have access to basic human needs, many others do not. Even in best-case scenarios, we are still losing our dearly held illusions of certainty. We don’t know what the future holds, and we are doing the best that we can to adapt. Our perspective is maybe one of the most powerful tools that we have, and in shifting it, we may be able to tap into a realm of possibilities. We are being called to reimagine who we are. With some new tools, a shift in perspective may be closer than we realize. 

In my own work in queer sex and intimacy, I am observing an acute collective loss of identity. We and the brave people before us have fought vehemently for the sex that we enjoy and defend as a community. Sex is central to the identities that bind us. We pride ourselves in the behavioral ecology of mainstream gay life: lots of sex and a shared sense of freedom from norms that have constrained us and our forerunners. In this current moment, as we are sheltering from a pathogen and its global reach, we might be contracting in our bodies, in our communities, and maybe even in our capacities to imagine. We are unable to freely access the sex that has defined our subcultures. Truly, a temporary moratorium on fucking does suck, but the way I see it, we are likely experiencing greater grief about a perceived loss of meaning. There is a subtle yet profound distinction between behavior and identity, and if we follow the trail of our emotions into our shadows, I’m confident that we can discover ourselves again as a community. Maybe like never before in your own personal life have you been called into the inner dimensions of your erotic mind, body, and soul. 

Soulful sex is a transcendent delight that transports us beyond the socialization of our preferred self-images and our amenability to time and loss. We seek the experience of losing ourselves in something beyond our control. At the same time, a great many of us have struggled significantly to allow ourselves to be fully present in our bodies and in our sexual experiences largely because we have been suffering tremendously in shame under the burden of our culture’s sex-negative injunctions against pleasure. As children, we were not celebrated as erotic beings, nor were we spiritually inclined towards bodily sovereignty and expression. For a great many of us, the link between sex and spirit has been severed since we arrived on the planet. Maybe we have been trying to get back to that wound ever since and through every single body that we touch. When we have sex, it is impossible to NOT contact that original wound within our depths, though there are many well-practiced reasons as to why we may not realize the pain when we do encounter it. Additionally, we have learned to seek sex and the resultant source of life-force “out there” somewhere. We imagine it to be exclusively housed in the physicality of select idealized bodies and discovered within specific settings that enable the shedding of our inhibitions. We might use substances to blunt our sharp and deafening self-criticisms. In a myriad of maneuvers, we concurrently demonstrate the presence of our wounds and our forever yearnings for the Erotic. For millions of queer people, our present circumstances share ghastly parallels to our formative life struggles with sex and prohibition. We might actually be deeply feeling what has been there all along and are wondering how we can get back to “normal.”

The Erotic is a dimension of our experience that is intangible, yet it permeates everything that we can possibly encounter in physical existence. In sex, we touch it, but it is not the sex, itself. From the Greek word Eros, erotic essentially means life-force. The Erotic flows through our bodies, through every particle in and around us, though our imaginations, fantasies, and dreams. To me, the Erotic is the holiness that we may seek to describe in the languages of religion, philosophy, and science. This force animates the totality of life, and even, dare I suggest, the Coronavirus. At this moment, as we are confined to specific physical spaces, we may feel like we have lost touch with our aliveness. We may be suffering without human skin-to-skin contact. Even in romantic partnerships, we are encountering many different dynamics than we are used to, dynamics of seemingly irresolvable conflict and tension in tightly confined spaces. Disputes that have been obscured beneath the surfaces of our day to day lives are now bubbling up as we have nowhere else to go but in front of each other. In these relationship tensions, sex is declining for many. For each of us, whether in relationships or alone, sex has immediately become even more complicated than before.

The veil is quite thin between life as we know it and everything beyond. Our own personal barriers to the unknown were never really a buttress against the truth, even if our controls have served us well to get to where we are in our present life journeys. At this time, if we are to re-establish our connections to sex, radical queer culture, freedom, aliveness, and transcendence, we are being invited to utilize our imaginations. If we desire to connect with others, imaginative expansion is essential, and it is a cherished feature of our species. 

All this existential stuff may seem like a reach, but I assure you it is closer to us than we may envision. All we need is our own presence and curiosity to inquire within. I suggest that all of us practice a kind of self-pleasure that increases our capacity for intimacy and promotes a sense of self-inquiry. This video includes some practical tools to help you engage in the cultivation of your eroticism. Invoke the power that enlivens you!

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