After I blogged here yesterday, I felt great—satisfied with what I wrote and satisfied that I am expressing honestly what I feel called to say. I hope my Lenten journey will offer you some strength, hope, and courage for your journey.
WARNING: ADULT CONTENT
My old ideas about Lent were consistent with my old ideas about desire and pleasure. Like so many people, I believed that I had to control and set limits on my desire and pleasure so I could live a moral/spiritual life. So often it seemed that I wanted the wrong things: I would rather travel than work, I preferred sleep to exercise, I would rather watch a movie than read a book. I was lazy and childish. I always wanted more fun, more pleasure, more attention, more affection, more sex than was available.
And when it came to my inner erotic life, much of what attracted me could never fit in the average heterosexual marriage or committed relationship. I judged myself as wanting too much passion, too much intensity, and too much kinkiness. In my adult relationships, I was usually the high desire partner, always wanting more. And I felt ashamed for wanting.
As a teenager I took my Roman Catholic religion seriously. I prayed and read the Gospels. I wanted to be a good boy who would grow up to be a good man. I wanted to be the very best, but I never could measure up. I got angry at friends and family, I was lazy and daydreamed, I wanted things I couldn’t afford to buy, I struggled with my desire for sex. Every time I masturbated I felt ashamed and promised/prayed that I would not do it again. I loved it while I did it, but felt bad afterward. I struggled with how to speak of this continuing sin when I went to confession. Thankfully confessions were Saturday afternoon, so I only had to make it through to Sunday morning so I could have communion without having sinned in the interim.
Unfortunately, my guilt and shame about masturbation followed me through my entire life. In some ways I was more self-critical as an adult because then I believed that all of my sexual needs should be met with my partner. It was not until I was in my sixties that I realized that the guilt and shame were not just “unfortunate” but actually were tragically deep wounds on my soul. Much of my erotic life had been banished to my Shadow.
A few years ago I decided I did not like the cold, impersonal feel of the word “masturbation.” Words are important. They can limit or expand our perceptions. They define our reality. They focus on specific aspects of reality to the exclusion of other parts. Now I prefer the term “self-pleasuring.” That seems to offer a more clear description without judgment or stigma. Self-pleasuring as a term feels good to me and is consistent with the pleasure that is experienced during erotic touch. I have no shame in self-pleasuring.
As I write this, I wonder why any of this has to be said. It seems crazy that we have to be having this conversation about desire and pleasure and sexuality. But the really crazy part is how taboo these subjects are, especially on a personal level. Despite the flood of porn and more talk about sexuality, our society is not really open about sexuality. It is rare for people to have a deeply honest dialog with anyone, including their partner, about their own personal sexuality.
One of the biggest blocks to healing is the prohibition for speaking the truth. Now I know that my healing is absolutely dependent upon being open and speaking honestly about my feelings and desires and experiences.
So in this healing journey of Lent, I am shedding more of my judgments and the crippling shame that comes with them. I will not hide. I will not be silent. I will not deny that I have desires or want pleasure. I gladly give up whatever blocks me from honoring the gift of Life.
I commit to exploring my body through exercise, meditation, and self-pleasuring everyday for the forty days of Lent.