Flickr photo of couple by Tammy McGary

Viewpoints: Is there a spiritual component to sex?

Viewpoints is a SpokaneFāVS feature where our writers respond to a weekly question. Readers are invited to participate by posting in the comment section below.

Recently panelists at Patheos addressed the topic of sex and spirituality. A variety of featured writers wrote about the role of sex from their religious traditions. We decided to invite FāVS’ writers to the discussion, and we invite readers to chime in too!

Do you believe there is a spiritual component to sex? Explain.

Jan Shannon: Not merely a physical activity

Jan Shannon
Jan Shannon

I believe that all aspects of our lives are to be governed by our faith. I believe that God created humans in God’s image, and one way we show respect for creation and our creator, is by thoughtful and ethical attitudes in relation to sex.

A sexual relationship should not be entered into thoughtlessly or selfishly. One should not use another’s body for their own satisfaction, not should one disregard the emotional and psychological impact their sexual activities will have on them personally. I do not take a legalistic view of sex, rather, I would simply recommend that before entering into a sexual relationship, each person should be mindful of the import of all aspects of relationship, and not allow sex to be merely a physical activity.

Kelly Rae Mathews: It can be healing

Kelly Mathews
Kelly Mathews

Sex has been viewed as part of spirituality, and as a pathway to awakening and higher levels of spirituality by many religions and faiths the world over. Tantric sex is one of these practices that is still mainstream all over the world. One can reach new levels of creativity and feeling closer to the divine in sex.  I know the last time I had this experience, with someone I loved deeply, the sexual energy we shared gave me  several new ideas for activist work, problem solving, epiphanies of wisdom and insight, inspirations for stories and I was glowing with joy. I was able to be more loving and kind to everyone else around me as well and had more energy to do all I needed. To me sharing love and sex is a wonderful gift that often brings such spiritual blessings. I sent that love and energy into the world as the love was given to me.

Unfortunately, in Christianity and Judaism, and  even Buddhism, sex, and desire, can be seen as paths leading to destruction and part of sin, or what is keeping one from attaining enlightenment. Many philosophies and religions that separate the body from the spirit and embrace the kind of transcendent philosophy that all that is spiritual must of necessity must be separate from the fallible body, have acquired the views, as well, that anything therefore, associated with the body cannot be inherently spiritual. I think that if we can harm our spirits by doing sexual wrong, we can heal and energize our spirits, emotional and physical health. It’s being shown more and more that the key to our heart health, has more to do with our emotional well-being than just what we eat or how much we exercise alone. Emotions, like sex, are often viewed as treacherous and untrustable as they can change.

Marriage in Christianity, therefore, is often seen as something beyond momentary feelings, and why people must trust in the higher love of god to guide them in a long-term marriage, for lasting until death partnerships. Lust was seen as a sinful, separate emotion from the many kinds of love, very often in some religions. Sexual attraction, in and of itself, should not be a sinful thing, just a healthy thing to feel, because one is alive. It’s dwelling on it, that makes a partner feel unloved, and destroys the spiritual bond of a relationship.  Yet,  as the saying goes when we act, think and feel, we do so “in the spirit of” and what we do with our sexual energy, and how we apply it comes from our emotions, which are in our body, and our thoughts, too. The neuroscientists and psychologists like Susan Johnson, who are proponents of attachment and love theory in neuroscience, have affirmed much of what tantric teachings have been saying, unlike some of the vaunted other scientists and researchers claim, great sex, like a mature sexuality one is creative in and imaginative, is not about technique, or just the motions alone. There is an art to it. Synchrony sex is possible and bringing one to different levels of connection with a loved one within a bond. Two people who share love and a bond, can enjoy more satisfying sex over time than their counterparts as shown in numerous research studies.
 To me, this is an integral part of any spirituality: healthy attachment between people. And sexuality it’s time for people to stop compartmentalizing it, but seeing the larger context and greater whole. This will lead to the reparations of many wrongs in our world. The greed, for instance, which is leading us towards an extinction level event by merely wallowing in pleasure because it “makes one feel good” is not going to lead to a healthy spirituality, if it entails using other people for one’s sexual enjoyment, selfishly. Objectifying others, is not the kind of sexual art or connection  that is spiritual and nurturing. So, yes, sex can be spiritual, on a number of levels.

About Kelly Rae Mathews

Kelly Rae Mathews grew up in culturally and faith diverse San Diego, Calif. during the 70s and 80s before moving to Spokane in 2004. Growing up in a such a diverse environment with amazing people, led Mathews to be very empathetic and open to the insights of many different faiths, she said. She loves science fiction and this also significantly contributed to and influenced her own journey and understanding of faith and values. She agrees with and takes seriously the Vulcan motto, when it comes to faith and life, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." Therefore, it is no surprise she has a degree in anthropology as well as English. She has studied the anthropology of religion and is knowledgeable about many faiths.

She completed an anthropological research project on poets of the Inland Northwest, interviewing over two dozen poets, their audiences, friends, family members, and local business community who supported the poetry performances. Mathews gave a presentation on How Poets Build Community: Reclaiming Intimacy from the Modern World at the Northwest Anthropological Conference, at the Eastern Washington University Creative Symposium, the Eastern Washington University Women's Center and the Literary Lunch Symposium put on by Reference Librarian and Poet Jonathan Potter at the Riverfront Campus.

She was a volunteer minister in San Diego for about 10 years while attending college and working in various editorial positions.

Her articles, poems and short stories have appeared in Fickle Muse, The Kolob Canyon Review, Falling Star Magazine, Acorn, The Coyote Express, The Outpost and Southern Utah University News.

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