50 Shades of Grey, or how sexuality dominates our lives, literally.

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SEX. Sex sells, sex traps, sex creates, sex liberates.

Sex is all around us, unless you happen to live in a conservative Muslim country. (Even there, where women are entirely covered, I would venture a guess that sex is on the mind.) The hijab, the burqa, and all the other garments are meant to conceal a woman’s image, face, body and gender from from any men other than her husband. It’s very existence makes one “imagine” what is underneath. This alone must give rise to sexual thoughts. What is hidden is mysterious and desirable.

Here in the West nothing is hidden and nothing is mysterious; we attempt to make everything desirable. Why? So you will buy something, consume something. We are shameless about the use of sexual imagery in advertising. We use it to sell everything from hamburgers, to bras and panties, from cars to cigarettes. But what does that mean, shameless? The Oxford English dictionary defines shames as:

  1. The painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct or circumstances (or in those of others whose honour or disgrace one regards as one’s own), or of being in a situation which offends one’s sense of modesty or decency.

Is shame the same as embarrassment? The Oxford English dictionary defines embarrassment as we understand it usually in common term as:

  1. Intense emotional or social discomfort caused by an awkward situation or by an awareness that one’s own or another’s words or actions are inappropriate or compromising, or that they reveal inadequacy or foolishness; awkwardness, self-consciousness. (Now the usual sense.)Freq. associated with particular bodily reactions, and expressed in terms of e.g. blushing (cf. quots. 1863,1947), squirming (cf. quot. 1911), or wincing (cf. quot. 2008with embarrassment. Typically distinguished from shame in being caused by something that is socially awkward or inappropriate rather than morally wrong or debasing.

The shame is the corruption of sexual intimacy. We are shameless, or Madison Avenue is shameless, or our engine that drives vapid consumerism is shameless, because it has cultivated no collective consciousness. It would have to acknowledge a conscious self-awareness in order for there to be an instance in which which a painful emotion might arise and be transformed. But is that really true? Do all the “Mad Men” & Women executives in the advertising agencies have no idea that their campaigns effect how women and girls view themselves? Sure they do, they just don’t care. Why? It’s all about money.  They will not own the conscious awareness that exploiting women and girls as sexual objects to sell a hamburger, or a bra, is in the long-run, detrimental to our culture, our country and the world. Giving credit where credit is due, there are some brands that are trying to counteract this destructive trend, Dove soap, for example.

There are many examples of people and organizations who have spoken out against this damaging trend. The female image of unattainable beauty and physical perfection sets up all women for failure. The damage to the psyche of the feminine is deep and ugly. All of this debasement of our very natures leads to a few damaging mind sets-

1. Women as objectified sexual objects. Check out this article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-leo/five-trends-the-advertisi_b_149354.html

2. The removal of the sexual act from the context of a loving, supportive, mutually beneficial relationship.

What is wrong with sex? Nothing! What is wrong with wanting to enjoy sexual pleasure? Nothing! It’s all in the context. The Human body is magnificent.  So, let’s liberate sex and sexual relationships, the desire for sex, and the need to be and feel desirable, from a sales technique. ” If you wear this bra, all men will find you as beautiful and desirable as a Victoria’s Secret model.” “If you eat a huge hamburger while sitting on a car with a hose shooting forth water like ejaculate, you will be desirable and men will lust after you and want you.” This is where we have gone horribly wrong. By commodifying sexual attraction and the sex act itself, we belittle it, invert it and corrupt it.

Sexuality and it’s expression is natural. As a concept, that is true. Perhaps a little Romantic, but true at it’s core. However, in the living of it, it is no where near that simple.

The release of the film 50 Shades of Grey, is causing quite a stir. Have I seen it? No. Will I go see it? No. I am not eager to support a film that glorifies an abusive relationship on any level. I’m not talking about what two consenting adults like to do together in the bedroom, I’m talking about psychological abuse. Again, there is plenty written already on the pros and cons of this film. And yet the “bruh-ha-ha”, it has caused, brings again to the forefront the struggle of women in our society to have pride, self worth and agency, of any kind.

Why has sex become this HUGE THING in our collective consciousness? Maybe it has always been so. If we think about the beginnings of human kind, primitive man and woman lived in time of survival of the fittest. Anthropologists disagree about the finer points of human societal development. Did women band together and make demands of the men? Did they withhold sex for the food from successful hunts? Did men fight to assert primacy over one another for their females? Was the urge to protect ones young, (in males), the  pattern of nature protecting its gene pool? I’m not sure when the family unit as we know it evolved but much of the moralistic and shame thinking regarding the sexual act of intercourse came from religion. Here in the land of Judeo-Christian founding fathers, sex was/is looked on as a sin outside of marriage and sometimes even as a sin in marriage, unless for the sake of procreation. Masturbation, a sin. Same sex relations, a sin. Multiple partners a sin.

On the other side of the spectrum we have the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of Tantra. The studying and practice of the sacred tradition of sexual union as a way to evolve spiritually and transcend the lower worlds of karma and illusion. There have been great texts written on this tradition. Lady of the Lotus Born is one. There have been great Bodhisattvas and Buddhas who have transcended through this path.

Could these two cultural ideals of sexuality be any further apart?

Could the time have come for us to look at our sexuality differently? Is it time to evolve again? Primitive man evolved into societal groups, tribes and peoples. Each of these cultures comes with its own mythology, with rituals, and rich histories of cultural identity. Each culture with its mythologically prescribed rules, taming sexuality. Perhaps this time it is our consciousness that must evolve. We must out grow the idea that sexuality and sex between consenting individuals is “something dishonouring, ridiculous, or indecorous in one’s own conduct.”

Our ideas of human sexuality, it’s expression and the container of marriage are due for an upgrade. Let’s take sex out of the dark closet of sin and honor it for the beautiful union it is. If sexual relationships are undertaken with mutual respect, safe practices,  kindness and attentiveness to the needs of the partner, with love and compassion, we might make a great leap forward. That which is burdened with guilt would be set free. Is it possible to have multiple partners, to love more than one person in a lifetime?  Perhaps we could explore different models of life, commitment and love? Could we have more than one commitment at a time, i.e. one to whom you bind yourself to have children and raise them, and others who fill unmet needs for companionship, love, or camaraderie, without all the guilt? Could we build a new set of relationship structures that free the ” guilty pleasures of sex” from thousands of year old constructs of traditional marriage?

By freeing sex and love from religion, we free ourselves from the hidden, dangerous, forbidden, and sinful perspective. What would happen to human sexuality when all this guilt is lifted? That which is no longer forbidden loses much of its fear and guilt. What is freely given cannot be stolen and cannot not be hidden.

Ginnette Paris, Ph.D, a practicing psychotherapist, wrote in a paper that she delivered to The Dallas conference on “Marriage, Intimacy and Freedom,”  “. . . one of the things wrong with our marriage—myth besides its psychology and its sociology, is its theology: one yin, one yang, and one God! It blurs the conscience. It is responsible for the fact that we ask of one man, or one woman, to be all, to be perfect, impeccable. . . .” In her papers she proposes three sacraments of relationship. “One, an intimate ritual, no contract, no witness, a private celebration of the eternal union of two bodies in lovemaking. A ritual as renewable as the sacrament of communion.”

The second,  a public ceremony with contractual obligations and legal agreements. ” . . . a sacrament that would unite . . . mother and father, forever linked to the child that is being conceived. Thus it would be clear that the making of a child is a lifelong commitment for which there is no divorce. And it would also be made clear that procreation implies the union of two families, two clans, two branches of ancestors that become forever part of the same family tree.”

Her third sacrament. ” It would clarify not only matters such as inheritances, family names, property titles, insurance benefits, scope and limit of the partners mutual financial responsibilities, but would also address the more profound aspect of the king and queen metaphor: that of the sharing of powers between two partners of equal strength and abilities in building their financial empire.

I for one am all for these kinds of marriage. It eliminates adultery. Leaving it to the partners to decide the boundaries of their relationships. It takes sex and sexual relationships out of the hands of the church , who reduced them to unnatural, of the devil, full of sin, temptation and the resulting guilt.

These ideas, radical as they may sound, still do not solve the problem of the images of women in the media and the cultural beliefs that tell us we are not enough, just as we are. But…. changing our deeply rooted, inverted and shaming notions of sexuality, relationship and marriage, will go along way to transforming our collective consciousness about each other and ourselves. I think that’s a great start.

(Photo:Kandariya Mahadev Temple, India)

 

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