By Peter Ragnar, EnlightenNext
A close friend of mine confided an account that took place within a fundamentalist religious group during his adolescent years. One of his religious supervisors happened to catch his own daughter masturbating. The preacher then promptly marched his daughter to the woodshed where, despite her pleas for mercy, he chopped her finger off!
For so much of human history, most people were confused as to whether sex was a blessing or a curse. In the intimacy of a sexual encounter with another, our nakedness is far more than physical. Our basic drives and instincts are fully exposed. Perhaps it’s one of the rare times when a person becomes completely authentic. The experience of sexual orgasm, I’m certain you’ll agree, is a here-and-now event. You’re not “past-ing” or “futuring,” you’re absolutely in the moment. Hence, here lies a deep and potent pull, as strong as the biological attraction it offers.
Biologically speaking, we are simply here to pass on our genes and die when we can no longer fulfill our evolutionary job. But the passing on of genes is not the primary reason we have sex. What is it? Pleasure–sheer human joy!
I once asked a radical religious devotee about his view of procreation. To my surprise, he was candid and openly told me that he and his wife had sex through a sheet so that they would never allow their eyes to behold the shame of nakedness. I replied incredulously, “You’re joking, right?” Wrong! He wasn’t joking. For him, sex was a necessary curse. I personally concluded that such ideas about sex were tragic and unnecessarily guilt-generating.
For this man, sex was indeed a curse because our mental states have more power over how our glands secrete hormones than we often think. There are, for example, numerous psychological case studies of people who, after observing a tragic incident to which they have strong emotional ties, experience a sudden loss of sight. So could strong negative emotions involving sex actually lead to impotency? Is there any connection between seeing sex as a curse (in other words, believing that sexual pleasure is a vice) and the presence of abnormal hormone levels that lessen desire? That would be “convenient,” especially for one who has been conditioned to accept sex as a necessary sin. However, if sex was actually a pleasurable blessing, then its loss would be the real curse.
I recall a cartoon of two elderly men sitting on a park bench as a hot, sexy woman walks past. One says to the other, “Remember when we used to chase after that?” His friend replies, “Yes, but for the life of me I can’t remember why!” Senility, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, decline of lean muscle mass, and those little fat bellies that men carry around as they race to find somewhere to urinate seem to be the plagues of the day. While men are worried about prostate cancer, women fear breast cancer and similar woes associated with aging and decline in sexual function.
However, a decline in sexual function can occur at any age when guilt, shame, and the concept of sin enter the emotional scene. Why? It’s very simple: Negative emotions create anxiety and tension, which can override biological function even in healthy people.