Mistaking Sex for Intimacy — Making Amends
WARNING: ADULT CONTENT
In 2012, after a long stretch of unhappiness and depression, I began actively exploring the intersection of spirituality with erotic energy, sex, and intimacy.
My quest was not just another academic exercise—it was deeply personal and the stakes were high—connect with the Life Force or watch my life whither away. In a period when almost nothing around me brought pleasure, relief, or hope, I kept feeling called to explore my sexual desires. For several years that was about the only area of my life where I found some energy and pleasure.
So I gave myself permission to fully explore my sexual desires, even the scary shadow stuff. That turned out to be a good decision for me. As I went along, I discovered that sexual desire can be a pathway to the Life Force. And I needed all of the Life Force I could find. Trusting my sexual desires turned out to be a life-saver.
In the last three years I have done a lot of experimenting with sex and erotic energy: with female and male partners, with multiple partners, in workshops, and alone. I have pursued sexual and spiritual ecstasy through Tai Chi and Tantra.
A few times, I have felt like I was living in an erotic dreamworld. Yet, I am discovering that sex is not the whole story for me. Sometimes after a sexual encounter, even a hot one, I have wondered if sex was just an excuse to be held and comforted. Maybe what I needed all along was simple human touch.
I keep being reminded of how easy it is to mistake sex for intimacy. The process is not that different from eating to numb out feelings of loneliness or stress or boredom. It’s accepting an easily obtained experience as a substitute for a more desired one—trying to find a short cut to satisfaction. But it’s just a consolation prize. It always falls short because the real goal/desire is never pursued and therefore cannot be attained. In fact the real desire may be so threatening that it cannot be expressed openly. Or it may be so deep that there is not even conscious awareness of it.
The desire for intimacy can be very threatening. I think men tend to sexualize everything to avoid the vulnerability of intimacy. As a man, I feel more vulnerable asking for love and comfort than I do asking for sex. It sounds so cool to say, “let’s have sex” but not so cool to say, “please hold me, I need comforting.”
I am learning how to respect and enjoy the limits of non-sexual touch. Just being present to touch and be touched without an agenda. And being more vulnerable. But for much of my life I just didn’t get it. Ugh. No wonder women get so turned off by men. I owe major amends on this.
In one of the Tantra workshops I attended, we joked about how Tantra had ruined sex for us. I had decided to go to the workshop in hopes of discovering ecstatic sex, only to find out that in this case safe erotic play was the vehicle to deeper intimacy and spiritual ecstasy. And the more I got into it, the less sex mattered. In fact, when you’re that blissed out, nothing really matters because you feel at one with the universe. After some of those experiences I felt a profound sense of peace, deep satisfaction, and wholeness that lingered for days.
What I want most now, even more than sex, is friendship and intimacy. My deepest desires are for human (and divine) connection. Superficial sex, no matter how hot, just doesn’t measure up. It’s hardly worth the bother.
I want relationships that have richness and depth and that are sustainable. I want to be with people who are real and vulnerable and present. I want to see and be seen. I want to touch and be touched. And I am doing everything I can to show up and be present for myself.
For the past two years, I have been defining my professional work such that I accompany men and women on their own journeys to heal shame and explore the connections between sex and spirit. I am so fortunate to share sacred space with these courageous people. As they find more of their truth, I am finding more of my own.
I am making my amends. To myself and to others.
We are beautiful.