Although Carl’s Jr. sells meat by portraying women getting their rocks off by eating hamburgers and women are sexually exploited daily, very few people talk openly or respectfully about female sexuality. As always, female sexuality is exhibited as something solely for the consumption of men’s needs and pleasures. But what about a woman’s experience of herself and her own pleasure?
Yes, I’m talking about the female orgasm, a topic that has been hushed up about for God knows how long and if talked about, is primarily bragged about in conquest in the football locker room.
As a Christian single woman, I’m also aware that I’m breaking a taboo in even bringing up this topic. Sexual pleasure is supposed to be reserved for marriage and there are conflicting teachings on whether masturbation is allowed. Some theologians say it is fine; others staunchly say it is a sin.
I have always been curious about the link between people’s life force and sexual expression. What is it that people are actually saying, “yes!” to when they cry out in ecstasy? Is it the pleasure they feel or does the affirmation extend beyond this to include an all resounding “yes!” to life? And can you have that same fierce “yes!” in celibacy as well?
I am in agreement with religious teachings that human sexuality, in its highest intended purpose, entails a covenant between two people and is not to be taken lightly. Sharing one’s body in union with another person is a profoundly intimate experience that involves a complete fusion of one’s being with another, even if only temporary. As a culture, we’ve come to take intercourse way too frivolously and relationships as well. The end results can be devastating to the human heart.
But focusing just on one’s relationship with oneself, why do so many people negate the profound mystery that occurs for a woman when she pleasures herself in this way? So often, I’ve heard women share that they are in essence at war with their bodies and their sexuality. They do not feel entitled to any kind of pleasure for reasons that might be attributed to disliking their sizes and shapes, or feeling they can’t relax, or because it reminds them of rape and/or incest. Without men exploring their bodies, some women feel their bodies have no value or beauty.
This is sad to me. A woman’s sexuality is her own. It belongs to her. It is then something she chooses or doesn’t choose to share with someone else.
I remember talking with a Christian friend who shared he felt masturbation was a sin. He said it led to fantasizing about others, which was both a form of idolatry and adultery (if the individual who was the object of desire was married). I agreed that coveting someone else’s partner was problematic and that fantasizing about someone taken was not a good idea. And yet I shared with him that for women, masturbation can be a profoundly healing act, particularly if they have been abused. It’s a way to take power back and a way to practice self-love. Furthermore, women are far less prone to visual fantasy than men are.
I am more inclined to think about orgasm as an extension of our life force. William Reich, who was a little out there as a psychoanalyst had a similar notion, although I wouldn’t say I’m agreeing with Reich’s practices. Nonetheless, he was on to something. Why is there such a link between orgasmic release and emotion? Why can experiencing contact with oneself in this way, induce such pleasure, but also tears, if there is suppressed sadness in one’s spirit? What is it about allowing oneself to surrender that opens the heart to all of its feelings? What is it about intimacy with oneself that we as a society simply can’t tolerate? Is it not the basis of all relationships, to know and be comfortable with one’s own heart, feelings, and bodily experience in the world?
I think of small children who have to be taught not to touch themselves (or at least not to touch themselves in public). I think of all the ways in which we as children are socialized away from our innate and direct experience of the world. I think of how we have to find our metaphoric “yes!” when life presents its challenges and limitations, losses and grief. In fact, it almost feels biblical for are we not all crawling back to a state of union with something much higher than ourselves? Don’t we all want to return to Eden, to a time and place when we all knew bliss and didn’t hurt ourselves and others?
Yes, this is proof-texting 2 Corinthians but I quote it anyway because it is a bigger affirmation of the sacred than orgasm. The orgasm can be sacred and it can also be a form of escape and idolatry. But our faith is never that. “For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’ to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.”