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The Weight of History: Why the West’s Convoluted Relationship to Sex and Gender Still Screws Us Up

I’m pretty sure that there’s no one in Western culture, whatever their perspectives on these issues, who wouldn’t say that the West is deeply troubled about sex and gender. And that trouble impacts every one of us throughout our lives, muddying the waters of an important area of life. This is the legacy of a particular path of cultural programming, and it is only by understanding that program and its alternatives that we can begin to deal with it.

Relations Between the Sexes

We start at the beginning, the cultures that originated Western programming on gender and sexuality, Ancient Greece and Judaism. Both were sedentary agricultural societies with patriarchal family organisation- the inheritance was passed through the male lineage. Any culture where this occurs begins to impose social controls and restrictions on women, who become viewed to some degree as breeding stock for the production of male heirs, and therefore must be kept “pure” to guarantee the inheritance. But these two cultures went further than many others. The reason was that each produced a negative dualistic view of women.

Anyone who’s read Aristotle probably has some idea of how the Greeks, or at least the Athenians who became the cultural centre of Greece, tended to see women. Women were inherently weak, inferior, servile, impulsive and irrational, needing male supervision. In Athens, to be a wife, especially in the upper class, was to be shut away from male society. To associate with men was to be either a prostitute or a courtesan- the latter being the main route to cultural participation for Athenian women.

In ancient Judaism, as one author has pointed out, the role of the man was delineated by duties- sacrifices, charitable works, other religious and social roles- and the role of women was delineated by prohibitions. They were limited in their ability to associate with men, had to observe numerous taboos, their sexuality was tightly controlled by men, and they had few property or other rights.

Christianity, although emerging from Judaism, afforded a remarkably prominent role to women in the first few centuries of its existence, as attested by the large number of extremely popular female saints during that time. Of course, when the Emperor Constantine decided to use Christianity as a means of unifying the fragmenting Roman Empire, Christianity went from a persecuted minority of committed believers to an official church, and had to welcome the social establishment into the fold. With them, they brought Greco-Roman attitudes about the place of women in society. Women were increasingly restricted, and their role in the church declined.

In the West, Augustine of Hippo’s explanation of sin and the fall posited that the ascendance of the rational mind over the emotions and the body, of male over female and of spirit over matter was the natural order of the universe, and that the “lesser” half of each pair was naturally predisposed to sin. As the most influential writer in Western theology, his ideas were passed down and magnified into even worse forms.

Nevertheless, the Middle Ages were not the low point for women. That came with Enlightenment, the era when the family declined as an economic unit and formal learning (exclusive to men) displaced informal study. The result was a bifurcation of society into a rationalised, masculine public sphere stood and a domestic, family sphere.

Sex

The Mediterranean world two thousand years ago was extremely ambivalent about sex. On the one hand obsessed to the point of paranoia with the danger of letting respectable women (that is women who are or will be married or are part of a sacerdotal order) associate with men in case they might lead them into temptation, the Greco-Roman world had no such expectations for men, which meant unequal divorce and adultery laws and a preoccupation with female virginity.

Into this fraught environment came various religions such as Manichaeism which saw sex itself as the source of evil. Augustine, a former Manichaean, imported the idea of sex, specifically sexual pleasure, as the means through which original sin was passed on to each new generation, a cornerstone of Western theology.

Christianity, which had inherited the sexual ambivalence of Judaism, quickly imported the ideal of celibacy from the many existing ascetic philosophical cults, notably neo-Platonism. Neither Eastern nor Western Christendom every developed a satisfactory anthropology of sexuality, with the result that the most restrictive and paranoid elements often carried the day. With the women, in good Greek fashion, seen as the source of temptation, it was they who were more and more tightly controlled.

The more rules piled up, the greater the transgression. When Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century enforced complete celibacy for all Catholic clergy for the first time, he created an untenable situation in which clergy, and especially higher clergy, were virtually expected to have mistresses. The famous example of Pope Alexander VI who sired a number of children as a cardinal and carried on an adulterous affair as pope was far from an isolated case. Only pressure from the Protestant Reformation caused a return to strict enforcement of celibacy, which as we see from the current crisis of clerical celibacy in relation to child abuse, was nothing more than a facade anyway.

But the real question for our culture is the value of romantic relationships, and of marriage in particular. In the Greco-Roman world, no spiritual value could be assigned to marriage, and the Augustinian position that marriage exists to propagate the species is likewise unhelpful. Marriage thus became simply a biological relationship. Our current fixation on romantic love, inherited from the tradition of courtly romance, values the crescendo of emotions and desires in the moment, but is ephemeral. Until we are able to restore spiritual meaning to romantic love, we will not have resolved the basic emptiness that underlies sexual repression in our culture.

The Result

The legacy of all of this historical baggage has been to afflict whole populations with guilt over their sexual drives and to complicate relations between men and women with an extremely fraught layer of sexual politics.

Each and every one of us has run into this at some point- flaming misogyny against women who aren’t fulfilling what we still somehow feel are their “natural” gender roles, difficulties in relationships coming from those roles, pervasive sexual shame. Restriction, especially restriction that interrupts basic elements of human nature, gives rise to transgression. Restriction and transgression alternate their way through Western history- the Renaissance gave way to the Enlightenment, the philandering Regency period gave way to the restrictive Victorian era, the fifties gave way to the sixties. Lurching from one extreme to another, our civilisation has yet to find balance.

For some more insight into the emotional damage done by this approach and how to undo it, have a look at this Ted Talk by Sheila Kelley:

 

Signposts on the Road to Balance

Things weren’t always this way, and don’t have to be. Hunter-gather and pastoral societies are often much less restrictive than what we would consider their “civilised” counterparts. Even my Celtic and Germanic ancestors didn’t have a lot of this baggage, and there are societies in this world that have come up with more creative ways to negotiate these issues.

One thing is certain: equality is not enough, and sexual freedom is not enough. Real relationship, meaningful relationship between the sexes on the basis of equal partnership, whether in a romantic relationship or in everyday life, is a skill that much of our society has yet to rebuild. Without shared values, shared endeavour, there can’t be real connection, real meaning to the relationship between the sexes. And that is the fundamental problem that allowed this stupidity to go unchecked for so long.

One suggestion from Authentic Ancient Traditions is that each sex has something to learn from the other. In the Orthodox tradition, female saints are often described in terms that in Greco-Roman culture were stereotypically male- strength, warriorship, perseverance, wisdom, courage and so on- while male saints are often noted for stereotypically feminine virtues- gentleness, humility, compassion and so on. Without affirming the stereotypes, the idea of seeking balance and completeness in this way, and thus overcoming the dualistic view of gender, is an interesting one for our society.

But to truly resolve the dilemma of sexual desire probably requires a Tantric approach, in which desire, rather than being treated as the enemy, is focused and reframed into an avenue for enlightenment.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Resilient Romance Teleseminar Q&A

“Someday, after mastering the winds, tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of sexual love. Then, for the second time in history, we shall have discovered fire!”


~Teilhard de Chardin

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To find out how resilient your romantic relationship is, take the
Resilient Romance Quiz here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XD2JWV5
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Our guests on Thursday night, Al and Pala Copeland, are internationally famous experts and teachers on the subject of “sacred sex”, an ancient paradigm that looks at romance and
sexuality in a holistic way and teaches you how to use your sexual energy to improve your health and immunity, heal your partner, calm your emotions, deepen you affection and even develop yourself spiritually.


Most often this is referred to as “Tantric Sex” and is associated with India in the popular mind, although there is a Chinese Taoist version of it that’s just as highly developed and that I myself was taught years over a decade ago as part of my Qi Gong training. And similar practices can be found among aboriginal cultures in the Americas.


Since there are a lot of misconceptions about this approach, I’ll address some of those misconceptions right now:


MISCONCEPTIONS (ideas from people who are “unencumbered by facts and information”)

1. “Tantric Sex contains deviant sexual practices”


NONSENSE.
While we can’t take responsibility for what everyone who claims to practice “Tantric sex” may do, this idea is completely FALSE. To learn Tantric sex and greatly improve your intimacy and emotional connection, there is no need to do anything that could remotely be considered “deviant”.




2. “To practice Tantric sex you need to practice Hinduism.”


NONSENSE. That’s like saying you have to become a Taoist to do Tai Chi. All you really need is a desire to discover the full potential of your God-given human sexuality and how this can

help you and your partner fall far more deeply in love than you ever have before, with all the benefits that will bring to you, your children and everyone around you.


3. “Tantric sex requires you to master difficult postures.”


No. Although the science of Tantra has devised many different sexual positions for various purposes, you don’t have to stretch beyond your capabilities to reap the benefits. Class is not
limited to Olympic gymnasts 😉


4. “Tantric sex is the hedonistic search for the ultimate
orgasm.”


No. Tantric sex will indeed introduce you to far greater levels of pleasure than you’re used to and redefine the whole notion of orgasm, but the PURPOSE of this is ultimately to deepen your
relationship with your partner and develop you spiritually.


5. “Tantric sex is incompatible with our Western way of life.”


Well, if you mean that it’s incompatible with chronic emotional and sexual repression, with the violence, deviance and self-loathing all that repression causes, with widespread neurosis,
sexual frustration, sexual dysfunction, failed marriages, broken homes and the rest of our social mess, then the answer is yes.


6. “There’s no point in learning this because my partner will
never get into it anyway.”


Lots of people have entirely transformed their relationships without getting their partner to attend a single class or read a single book. Once you learn this material, you will become the catalyst for transforming your relationship and, chances are, your partner will be delighted.


7. “Tantric sex is ‘new age’.”


Hmmm…. difficult to say. Maybe I should ask my university students what they think. “New Age” is simply a label and a very broad one. The question is, what are you afraid of? Tantric sex is an invitation to explore your total physical, emotional and spiritual potential using a very ancient
science that’s been used across many cultures with various worldviews.


8. “Only New Age people are interested in this stuff.”


NO. Tantric sex is rapidly becoming the sex education method of choice for committed couples of all kinds in North America. Tantra.com, a portal site for Tantric sex resources, is now getting over fifty thousand hits every day.


9. “There’s no point in learning this stuff since I’m not in a relationship right now.”


If you’re looking for a new relationship, what better preparation could you have than to master your own sexual energy? Many of the exercises are in fact ones that you have to do alone anyway, so you can still benefit enormously. And you’ll have a much clearer idea of the kind of person you want as a life partner in the future.


10. “I seem to have a sexual dysfunction, so there’s no point in trying to learn this.”


Actually, Tantric sex is a healing method designed to overcome common sexual dysfunctions (such as inability to reach orgasm easily in women or erectile difficulties and premature ejaculation in men) as well as previous sexual traumas.




Hopefully that’s put to rest some of the misconceptions you may have heard about Tantric sex. Remember to join us on Thursday night – here are the call-in details again:


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Thursday night, August 26, 2010 at 9pm EST / 6pm PST


Keep Love Thriving and Passion Hot for a Lifetime Together!
with

Al and Pala Copeland


Call-in Number: (218) 862-1300
Guest PIN: 550604
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Dr. Symeon Rodger












Building a Resilient Romance

Calling all Couples (and singles who would like to find their soul mates)!

If you’re in a committed, long-term romantic relationship or you’d like to be, you’ll want to read this very carefully.  It could be one of the most important things you ever read.

Healthy human relationships are one of the indispensable keys to building a resilient and fulfilling life.  And for most human beings the single most important relationship in life is with their spouse.  

Healthy marriages mean healthy homes, healthy kids and a healthy society.  And yet, as we all know, the chances of any marriage lasting for the long haul these days are barely fifty-fifty, if that. Part of the reason is that almost none of us are taught how to create a true romantic relationship, one full of trust, respect, mutual affection and everything that goes with that.  

What most people are unaware of is that this was turned into a science by at least two ancient cultures – the Hindu  and the Taoist – and it’s a science that anyone and any couple can learn with just a little dedication.  

Yes, I’m talking about “Tantric Sex” (TS).  Before you stop reading, I’d ask you to bear with me while I explain.  First, most people who’ve heard of TS buy into one of the many misconceptions out there, such as the idea it’s about using gymnastic positions for love-making, or it’s a hedonistic search for the ultimate orgasm.  

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth about this ancient science is that its real purpose is to introduce you to the spiritual potential of romance and love-making, and to build emotional and spiritual intimacy that not only lasts a life time, but goes far beyond what most people consider humanly possible.

As a Qi Gong expert, I’ve known about the Taoist versions of this for ages.  With further research, though, I’ve noticed that most of the Taoist writings about this available today will send you spinning off in the wrong direction.  Fortunately though, there are some excellent resources out there for you, resources that can make a huge difference in your relationships very quickly. 

That’s why I’m delighted to inform you that I’ll soon be interviewing two of the world’s most respected experts in TS, Pala and Al Copeland, on Thursday, August 26 at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific.  

Pala and Al are a married couple who have devoted the last decade and a half to helping couples to find a true spiritual connection through their romance, to keep that romance alive and  to elevate their overall health and quality of life in the process.  They’ve helped thousands of people worldwide and they can help you too.

You’ll learn:

1.       The difference between falling in love and creating love.

2.       Why sex fizzles, love fades, and passion dies after couples have been 

together for a long time.

3.       How couples can create love that will thrive for a lifetime together.

4.       What sexual nutrition is and why it is so important.

5.       What Tantra is.

6.       What spiritual sex is

7.       Simple practices any couple can do to re-introduce zest, spark, and 

sizzle into a stale relationship.


Now you may be asking yourself, “Does this stuff really work?”  Well, I can tell you from my personal experience that it is startlingly effective on all levels.  In fact, the only reason I’m bringing up this topic at all is that I believe it’s a crime that couples are not taught how to deliberately create the affection, the friendship, and the intimacy that they and every human being crave.  

So whether you’re in a committed relationship or you want to be, take note of that date (August 26) and mark it on your calendar.  Feel free to bring your spouse along and to invite anyone else who could benefit from this priceless information.  
 
I’ll be sending you further information over the coming weeks, including the call-in details.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 






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