A Skeptic’s View of Sexual Transcendence


Please note: This piece mostly isn’t about details of my personal sex life, but it does include a passing reference to my personal sexual practices. Family members and others who don’t want to read that stuff, use your own judgment about this one.

Im_flying_1I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog… and this one, both the atheists and the sex fiends will definitely want to read. (And the atheist sex fiends will absolutely want to read it.) It’s titled A Skeptic’s View of Sexual Transcendence, and here’s the teaser:

For some reason, the sex- positive community is also, very often, a spiritual community. (At least in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.) It’s not often a conventionally religious community; but many varieties of Wicca, Goddess worship, shamanism, Tantra, astrology, chi, chakras, belief in a collective metaphysical consciousness, and other forms of New Age belief and magical thinking permeate it, both privately and publicly.

This troubles me. I am a hard- core atheist/ materialist/ naturalist/ humanist/ skeptic/ whatever you want to call someone who doesn’t believe in any supernatural entities or substances. And I’m just as unconvinced — and almost as troubled — by the ideas of the Goddess and chi energy and immortal consciousness and so on, as I am by the ideas of God and angels and Hell.

Now, I’m not writing this piece to argue against religion. I may yet write a piece criticizing spiritual beliefs and practices in the sex- positive community… but it’s not what I’m doing here. (If you want to see my reasons and arguments for my lack of spiritual belief, you can do so here, and here, and here and here and here.)

What I want to do here is offer an alternative.

I want to offer a positive way of looking at sexuality and sexual transcendence that doesn’t involve any sort of belief in the supernatural. I want to offer a sex- positive philosophy that is entirely materialist. The materialist view of life in general and sex in particular is often viewed as cold, bleak, narrow, mechanical, reductionist, and generally a downer. I don’t think it is. And I want to talk about why.

To find out what my positive, non- downer atheist/ materialist/ naturalist/ humanist/ skeptical alternative is to sexual spirituality, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

P.S. If you’re inspired to comment on this piece on this blog, please consider cross- posting your comment to the Blowfish Blog as well. They like comments there, too.

Comments

  1. John the Drunkard says

    This overlaps with the ‘spiritual not religious’ post below.
    In my experience, as an atheist, an Alexander teacher and a sober alcoholic, most folks lack any vocabulary with which to own or appreciate really new experience. This is especially so if the experience is internal.
    So, the vast tides of sexual feeling, the kinesthetic suprise in an Alexander lesson, or the relief from the compulsion to drink gets shoehorned into the only language the subject has–usually generic ‘spirituality’ and HallMark card woo-woo.
    I believe that these clichés can really prevent people from grasping their new experience. The old mindset–religion, New Agery etc. crushes out the reality, the new learning is suborned into more support for the old prejudices.

  2. says

    Great article! Like your earlier ruminations about the religion-vs-spirituality issue, this piece is wonderful…one might say it’s made of win.
    You have a wonderful talent for bringing out the specialness of everyday life.

  3. says

    (Cross-posted to Blowfish.)
    Greta, you’ve managed to put these feelings into words where I could not. As an atheist, I’ve thought of sex as one of the things closest to a religious experience I could have. It never really occurred to me why (or solidified in my mind) until I read this:
    “It means that the act of sex, and the experience of sexual pleasure, connects us to every other living thing on earth. We are the cousins of everything that lives on this planet, with a common ancestor of primordial soup going back billions of years . . . and we are all related, not entirely but substantially, because of sex.
    That is awesome. That makes me want to go fuck right now, just so I can feel connected with my fish and tetrapod and primate ancestors. That is entirely made of win.
    

    I don’t think we need to see sex as spiritual in order to see it as transcendent.
    I don’t think we need to see sex as blessed by the Goddess, or a telepathic connection between souls, or a channeling of the chi energy, or as any form of worship or spiritual practice, in order to see it as valuable. I think we can see sex as a physical act between animals . . . and still see it as richly, deeply valuable and meaningful. I think we can see sex as a physical act , and still see it as an act that connects us intimately, not only with ourselves and with one another, but with all of life, and with the expanse of history, and with the vastness of the universe.”
    Also, “that is awesome” and “that is entirely made of win” made me laugh. I think I’ll need to share this with a few of my friends. Thank you so much for writing this.

  4. says

    What a great article. There are times when I wish I could lead two or three lives simultaneously. I am full to the brim trying to maintain a blog on rational materialism, science and atheism, but damn, I wish I had the time to be an advocate for sex-positive non-theist living.
    Having made the progression from fundamentalist Christian monogamist to something significantly more sex-positive (That’s my business… sorry…) I can say first hand that there is nothing so eye-opening as realizing that you’ve spent half your life being literally less than fully human. I can’t imagine going back to my previous attitude towards sex. It breaks my heart that so many of my friends, even my atheist friends, are so caught up in the cultural myths and lies that create so much sex-negativity.
    For what it’s worth, I wrote a rather extensively researched article on the cultural sexual myths, their origins, and their impact on modern society on my blog.
    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/myth-sexuality-and-culture/

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