Friday, December 31, 2010

Finding the Sacred in S-E-X (or, how I conquered Good Girl Syndrome and learned to be a Lover)

Today's post is very personal, and I debated with myself for a while before deciding to write about it. I finally concluded that I wished that someone had shared these things with me years ago, rather than having to slowly find them on my own. So I write today with the hope that, perhaps, someone out there will benefit from what I share.


I was raised as a religious youth to be good and chaste, and subsequently I ended up suffering from the all too common "Good Girl Syndrome." In other words, once I'd saved myself for my wedding night, I made the transition physically, but not mentally or emotionally. I adapted to all the other aspects of marriage quite well, but I did (and still do) turn red if my sexuality comes up in a conversation (for example, telling someone that I'm pregnant). It wasn't that I never enjoyed myself, but I had been fed so many cultural messages about sex being dirty, just physical, animalistic, and anything but spiritual, so it was hard to look at it as good, let alone holy. I still wanted to be a righteous person, and I wasn't finding much (especially from religious sources) that ever talked about sex in a positive light. So even though I knew that it was ok to have sex when you're married, there was still a part of myself that was always uncomfortable with the fact that I was sexually active. I even recall shortly after my wedding having the thought "well, there's no going back [to virginity] now, it's too late."

Now physical pleasure is a valid aspect of sex (and needn't be considered 'dirty,' I think, unless it is the only reason for the sexual relationship...which of course would not be the case in a marriage). Procreation is an important part of sex too (but, again, not the only reason for the relationship!) With that said, (at least for me) finding the spiritual side of sexual intimacy was what finally helped me move out of the 'virginal youth' mindset and into being able to be a 'lover' wife. I deeply wish that I had figured out both my problem and the solution years ago when we were first married, but it's better late than never I suppose. I finally tuned in to myself as a sexually active person, and it's remarkable how much better my life (all aspects of it) have become.

So how did I recover from my Good Girl Syndrome and find the spiritual side of sex? There were several parts, but first I should note that my husband has been supportive of me throughout this process, and that it was not his fault in the first place. He always wanted me to be able to love the physical side of marriage as he did, and tried to help me in whatever ways he could think of. But there were things going on inside me that couldn't just be loved away, and it took a while to find and fix them.
  1. I had to realize what was wrong with me in the first place. It wasn't just that I was tired, or hormonal, or had low libido because of the nursing was that in some deep-seated part of my unconscious I wasn't comfortable with my own sexuality. I faced that and called it by name, and naming your demon is the first step to killing him.
  2. I read The Soul of Sex and it was very helpful for me in appreciating sexuality as much larger than just the physical act. The author explored classical archetypes and discussed sexuality from a philosophical perspective that was very helpful to me. (If you didn't read my book review, click the link there and go read it. Please! That book was literally life-changing for me.)
  3. I got in touch with my pagan side. A number of pagan religions (notably wicca) teach that the sexual act is the ultimate thing in the universe, the Great Rite between Goddess and God. It joins opposites into a whole that is greater than the parts, and finds resolution in the dichotomies of existence. Considering the common pagan belief that we all have aspects of gods/goddesses within us, or all have the potential to become gods/goddesses, then when we enact the Great Rite we are creating a microcosm of that holy (and vital) resolution. 
Since beginning to see both sexuality and sexual intercourse in this new (better) light, I have sought ways to keep sacredness in my sexuality. Here are a few:
  • Think about things like what I mentioned above (both in and out of the bedroom): the unified whole being greater than the parts, the physical unification being a symbol for spiritual and other unity in your marriage, etc. Discuss these ideas with your spouse.
  • Lighting candles. We have a few fancy ones from this etsy shop, but mostly we have cheap tealights and they work just as well. The ambiance of candlelight is not only romantic, but many
    photo by Alice Harold
    religious ceremonies utilize candles, and the light/fire of a candle has many spiritual connotations.
  • Try a bath (you can add candles there too!) Ritual washings are part of many religions, so try washing each other before proceeding to other activities.
  • Massage one another with oil (or lotion). Anointing with oils and formalized touching are found in many spiritual practices. Take the opportunity to use repetitive motions and physical touch to arouse and relax your spirits as well as your bodies.
  • Anything which shuts out the world can be a way to tune into the spiritual. So, in intimate times, shut out the world, and tune into your own spirit, your spouse's spirit, and the Spirit that is over your marriage.
  • If consummation is the 'magic moment' (afterwhich you are 'married' and would have to seek a 'divorce' rather than an 'annulment'), then every time you re-consummate your marriage it could be considered a way of renewing your vows. Think about that!


Laura said...

Thanks so much for posting this!

Libido was something I struggled with when I was first married, but not because of "good girl syndrome." I have recently realized that it was my birth control pills! I went off of them because hubby and I are ttc, and oh boy...

Now, I took bcp because of a family history of endometriosis. Not because it was "the easy way out." But we have reason now to believe that I don't have it (miraculously). From now on, I want to do FAM.

Thanks again! I think I might utilize these ;)

Destiny said...

I think a lot of LDS women face this after becoming married. It's quite a transition (emotionally) to make that really isn't mentioned often. Good for you for addressing it and sharing your experience.

Jena said...

This is an interesting post for me, given the whole "haven't explored that country"-ness of my existence. I don't -think- I'd have as much problem with it now as if I had married even just a few years ago (in fact, I'm really getting pretty sick of this whole virginity/celibacy thing... I want to get on with the show, already! There's a part of me missing that I can't manifest on my own!) but I definitely know that is a recent transition in the past year or two, and there's still echoes of GGS in my life.... as there should be at this point.

But I think I'll be ready to make the transition from "No no no" to "Go go go" when the time comes. This is definitely a good bit of advice, though, and I'll have to keep it in mind! I think it would also help me keep away from feeling kind of... weirded out by the act. I'm pretty sure that's presently just because I've never done it.

Argh. But excellent post!

Brian & Charlotte Carper said...

I guess I was really lucky in that even though I was raised in the church, I never came away with that teaching that sex was dirty or bad - just something that was to be done later when married. After I was married there was lots of debate about what parts of sex where allowable and not within marriage and my friends and I had lots of discussions about it. But there have been lots of things I have heard from general authorities that sex is not just for reproduction - it is a binding act that helps you connect with your spouse for eternity. One of my favorite memories is seeing Camille Kimball holding hands with President Kimball and blushing just like a bride when he smiled at her - and they must have been in their late 80's at the time.

MamaOnABudget said...

One of my good friends dealt with this when they got married. She said it was really hard to flip the switch from "NO NO NO" to "YES YES YES" after all that time. She said that she really wished they had approached their relationship with more of a "not yet" than a "no."

So when I met my future husband, that's exactly what we did. Whenever either of us were tempted, our answer was "not yet." I think that helped immensely with only a few moments of "oddness" on our wedding night rather than months and months of it in our marriage. We had finally arrived at okay - the time we had been waiting for!

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