Sex and Community edited july 2014
I have been sexually free for so long that it no longer occurs to me to need to think about it. My sexual freedom is essentially the freedom to choose how to express my sexuality as an integrated part of myself and not simply the freedom to be physically sexual or not. There is a long discussion in here, but the truth is that I am only really interested in physically sexual activity as a way of making love, of making love happen, of giving birth to something and nurturing that. Sexual excitement and creatively applied imagination can be a wonderful part of a sexual relationship, and the deep communication between the partners and the shared exploration of the journey into the mystery of it all is for me the real heart and soul of sexual love-making. For that I want safe containment and a shared commitment to let go of all the old conditioning and expectations and a partner’s willingness to stay with me in the journey and hold my hand in the darkness we may encounter along the way. In my past I have experimented and explored various kinds of risky and chaotic encountering and nothing has yet changed my view that it is doesn’t ‘work’ for me (and I guess for many people) to mix up the energy and experience of my sexual journey with extra connections of mine or my partner’s.
That said, it must be acknowledged that in the course of life there are likely to be occasional connections with people other than our partners that generate undeniable sexual feelings and a desire for intimacy with that other person. At such times I think what is needed is openness to a creative exploration of those feelings. This is often all that is really required to fulfill a need that has arisen. The needs we have for intimacy, closeness, unconditional acceptance and so on, are likely to have become suppressed and distorted in us through our upbringing and our cultural experience. In our extremely sexualised consumerist world, physical sexual activity has often become the only or at least the most direct and accessible way we know of to express our emotions and have our personal feelings met. In the Humaniversity-Osho (different but connected projects see www.) style of world, it seems that to act freely on sexual attraction when it arises has now become a normalised part of that culture. As I understand it, such sexual license is often strongly encouraged regardless of existing relationships, as a recommended way of exploring the underlying reality of personal experience.
This new normality is now defended by some as vigorously as much ecologically unintegrated activity is defended as normal by the people who say, “Oh we must have it, do it, to get the energy/materials/labour/water/whatever we need!” The fall out, consequences and repercussions of activity and behaviour that is done, ”Because we can!” are considered to be a price we must be prepared to pay and a process we must learn to deal with in more and more sophisticated ways. For example, we still haven’t devised any way of safely containing or transmuting nuclear waste and I prefer the option of limiting its production to the small amounts generated by medical or other essential provisions. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with nuclear energy as such; it’s the wholesale recommendation of its benefits that is essentialist and dangerous. There are other ways of generating the energy we need that are creative, integrated and beautiful. This analogy may seem far too extreme in this context. I use it because in a similar way, it seems to me that the expression of our sexuality must be ecologically integrated in our culture. I don’t like belief systems, whether the one that is being pushed that we must have nuclear power or the lights will go out or that we must be sexually open or we won’t be truly alive. Once we start to believe that something is right or wrong we weaken our powers of discrimination in the moment and marginalize the importance of examining the big picture. I do wonder if our failure to properly address the big picture of sex has allowed the shocking division that has opened up between the sexually licentious Americanised ‘west’ and the sexually locked down Arab ‘east’ .
I feel that recommending free and open sex as a means of personal development is to sidestep the wider socio-ecological implications. For example, if young people are engaged in the kind of education for life that they really need, being skillfully enabled to design and follow their own creative interests, inclinations and passions, my intuition is that they would safely express and develop their sexuality with a natural responsibility. In true community where freedom, honesty and love are fully and consciously designed for and integrated in every part of life, there is little problem with teenage pregnancies, STDs and all the other kinds of chaos resulting from the current consumerist and often emotionally un-integrated sexual activity. If I am not misinformed, it seems that there is a relative absence of children, food production and ecological energy production, sustainable transport practice and waste management etc in the ‘communities’ where open relationship is favoured.
I feel that when we can be held and loved without judgement and enabled to express our feelings fully, then the need for actual sexual contact often melts away and much has been learned. The Community Building circle can be vital to provide the strength of support and safety to explore and process at such times. I do accept that sexual freedom cannot exist in name only. To insist that sexual exclusiveness is the only sensible choice in town, or even that it is better than other choices consciously and honestly made is to deny human liberty and diversity. However, I don’t think we can put structure into freedom but only experience freedom within some kind of adequate or appropriate structure. The freedom to swim, climb, fly, build or make love is always accompanied by considerations of possible risks or consequences, regarding our own or the common good. But denying the essential human experience of and right to exercise freedom is also to deny the love and honesty that must always be integral with it.
I know we can design models of community that support the freedom and responsibility of individuals as one experience. The co-dependency of two individuals in a couple in a nuclear family is replaced in true community by the interdependence of individuals whose place in the community is sustained over time regardless of how their relationship life may evolve. For me the key is living the tri-unity of honesty, love and freedom, knowing we can’t really have any of these without the presence of the others. If I or my lover chooses for an important occasional reason to become sexually intimate with another within an overall culture of honouring, then I want to take responsibility for my whole experience of that, hopefully with the love and support of others. If my partner or I are angry or in grief, then we will need to be supported to be able to express those feelings safely but fully. I would want them and myself to be able to stay with the love while being honest and free to respond as we need to. If it is a single event or a temporary situation, then the relationship may survive and grow from the experience. If it heralds the death of the relationship I know that being interdependent individuals in an intentional community offers us and any dependents and valuable social relationships and patterns the best possible protection and support. The choice to become sexually intimate with another doesn’t mean we are not loved, or are not enough for the other, or that the trust and joy between us is destroyed. People do meet sometimes in the great journey through life and experience an undeniable need to meet each other fully and completely. Maybe there is some way in which a mysterious exchange of energy and spiritual-emotional information can sometimes only take place with the fullest possible earthly contact. I dream of a new generation of children growing up in an environment where they learn they can choose not to take anything personally however painful it feels, where they can really be loving, free and honest, living their word, treasuring all their feelings and supporting others to do the same.
If we need marriage it may be best for that to be an annually renewed commitment. Or when a child is born from a sexual relationship, that may be the time to celebrate and ritualise what will now be a lifelong relationship supported by the community regardless of whether the mother and father remain sexually connected. In an interdependency of individuals then relationship can be freely chosen, freely sustained and consciously evolving. No-one needs to leave their home or be left alone if and when things change. This doesn’t mean there will be no pain. The late, great and somewhat mixed up Rajneesh, now known as Osho, said something like this. “What do you want, short suffering or long suffering?” In the old competitive and divided world we are leaving behind, our suffering can be long. Indeed it can last for a lifetime as it did for Dickensian characters like Miss Haversham, whose abandonment by her promised husband blighted her own life and those of all around her. In the community we are building for ourselves out of the rubble of the old, we can hold each other tenderly and fiercely enough to pass quickly through the pain of living dynamically with the freedom, love and truth of our lives. Suffering can’t be avoided but it can be short if we are clever and wholehearted about it.
Sex is perhaps the greatest force in the world. It can move mountains. It can take us across the world and bring us back again. Without it we would be extinct, finished, gone from the earth. With real freedom of choice, to really be able to choose to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for ourselves, then all our relationships can be joyful and creative and passion with one lover or more can be sustained for as long as we choose. With love and honesty, sex can raise children to achieve their potential and go on to sustain us through vibrant and joyful long and lusty life.
written while fast approaching the solstice in June 2012