In my post of October 21, 2012, I raised issues around one of my passions, sexuality and the female body. Some items in the media at the time, and my belief that we need to talk about healthy bodies and sexual expression – for and with people of all ages –prompted me to share my views.
Two things have prompted this blog. First, I recently finished the book I referred to in the October post: “Vagina, A New Biography”, by Naomi Wolf (Harper Collins, 2012). The second: my colleague and friend Bruce Sanguin, a marriage and family therapist who, along with his wife has taught pre-marriage workshops for many years, posted a blog addressing the challenging topic of sexual intimacy in marriage. The recurrent questions, he says, invariably boil down to two: How do you deal with differences in sexual appetite? And how do you keep sex hot?
From my reading, Wolf’s book offers compelling scientific research and analysis that addresses these questions. It has to be said that the response to her book has mixed. Some reviewers challenge her interpretation of brain function, the related science, and her conclusions. While I am not qualified to critique this aspect, much of what she described makes sense to me. Regardless of the scientific “doubt”, I think this is a very important book for both women and men who wish to be in a significant, healthy, and satisfying sexual relationship with a partner. I can see why the book troubled some women reviewers, especially if they feel that they have not had a satisfying sexual relationship.
Wolf’s main argument states that when a satisfying sexual relationship exists within a committed relationship, women are more alive to their life, more creative, and are basically happier people than they would be otherwise. What woman would not want that for herself? What man would not want that for his partner? She discusses the profoundly negative impact of the proliferation of easily available pornography, and the “hook–up” culture on today’s college campuses. As a culture, but also as parents, teachers, and grandparents, we need to be aware of how internet pornography, and other pressures on young people affect their health generally, but more specifically their personal and sexual relationships. This part of the book was a big learning curve for me. I have been naïve about developments in this area, and now feel even more passionate about how children and young people are being educated about bodies and sexuality.
It strikes me that Wolf is taking the feminist conversation a step further in helping women not only to understand themselves, but also to take responsibility for satisfying, “hot” sex. She indicates how men can truly stimulate what she refers to as the “goddess array” of sexual expression in their partner. The last two chapters of the book are essentially a manual that every woman would want her partner to read!
Sexuality and Spirituality
Writing several years ago, author Marianne Williamson said that it is no surprise that women cry “Oh God” when having an orgasm. Wolf notes that in the matriarchal cultures of humanity’s early history, the vagina was considered to be sacred. In the later shift to patriarchal traditions, it came to be depicted as shameful, even hateful. She lists the myriad of derogatory words used to refer to the vagina, and how such words flood a woman’s sense of self, body, and spirit, in deadening ways. Ultimately she addresses healing of these deeply ingrained messages, and our perhaps unhappy sexual experience: referring to the ancient Hindu spiritual practice of Tantra, she states that culture had “figured out pretty fully a set of insights about the mind-body connection in sexuality with which Western science was only now beginning to catch up.” (Pg 272)
Since marrying my husband over 25 years ago, I have felt that our relationship, and more specifically his tremendous support, love, and encouragement, have made me much more in my life and the world than I would have been otherwise. Little did I realize before reading this book how central our sexual relationship is to that awakening of my whole being: body, mind, and spirit. Wolf’s book rings true to my personal experience. I see it as one more resource as I continue to heal the split left over from my Judeo-Christian upbringing, which taught me that my deepest sexual self was quite different from, and likely in opposition to, my deepest spiritual self. These are not two, but one. They need to be healed in us individually, and also in our culture.
Don’t give up; don’t ever give up on this aspect of your life and relationship.
Check out this PBS interview with Naomi about her book.
If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. If you have, please leave a comment below and tell me what you think.