My mother once told me that, according to the Catholic faith, in God’s eyes a man who imagined having sex with a woman who wasn’t his wife was as guilty of adultery as the man who actually had sex with another woman. Now that I’m older, I realize that means we’re all going to hell for adultery, so we might as well have some fun along the way. Seriously, though, where and how do you draw the line? I took an informal poll recently about affairs; I wanted to know if people thought an emotional affair with no intercourse or a one night stand (with intercourse but no emotion attached) would be more damaging to a long term relationship. I suspected the line would be drawn across gender lines, and for the most part I was right. Most of the women thought an emotional affair would be more damaging, while most of the men thought the one night stand would be worse. This speaks to how men and women view sex differently; most women need emotional stimulation to become aroused, while men need visual stimulation. The other day my friend David Cates had this to say: “I've often said that many women are addicted to porn, too – it just comes in the form of romance novels instead of the graphic pictures men prefer. There's eye-porn and emo-porn... and they're all fantasies that take us away from real people in the real world... and eventually take us away from our real selves, too. Genuine intimacy flows from authenticity.” Everyone fantasizes about sex. Most people use fantasies during sex to help them get or stay aroused. But do you want to know what’s really arousing? Open your eyes and become present to your partner. Use all of your senses to really feel both of your bodies. Engage your mind with what’s actually happening rather than what you’re imagining. This might sound simple, but it actually requires courage and a willingness to be vulnerable to your partner. Most people in our culture are terrified of true intimacy. It requires us to be naked, spiritually and emotionally, with ourselves and our partner. Most people can’t even handle being that intimate with themselves. It’s too vulnerable, and we’ve been conditioned for too long to censor our real thoughts and feelings to subscribe to cultural norms. We use fantasy, pornography, and affairs to ensure we don’t have to become too intimate with anyone. Used properly, fantasy, pornography, and even affairs can help to increase intimacy. The stage has to be set properly and both partners have to be conscious participants, but sex within long term relationships can be an amazing way to help us grow emotionally and become more authentically ourselves. It’s not for the faint of heart, and its intention is not just to make better sex, although that’s a delightful side effect. Sex, handled in this way, becomes the crucible for raising our consciousness. It teaches us about ourselves on a deep level, uncovering the hidden language of our self-talk and bringing it into the open for transformation. It makes us more authentically ourselves, and from that place of authenticity we can make empowered choices about our lives. Imagine how much better the world would be if more of us began using orgasms to achieve enlightenment. Who wants to play?
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