|Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on November 2, 2016 at 6:00 AM|
Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I write from a pretty vulnerable place. I share a lot of personal details about my struggles, my joys, and the various teachers who have inspired my journey. In this blog I’m taking my vulnerability to a new level. You see, for the past 2 years or so I’ve been learning about (and greatly inspired by) a topic that I rarely (if ever) mention publicly.
The topic is sacred sexuality.
In reflecting on why I don’t write about this topic much, I realized it’s because of embarrassment and shame. I was worried that if I blogged about sacred sexuality people would think I was a crazy hippie. Or that I had some sort of sexual dysfunction. Or that I was practicing “deviant” sexual activities. The ironic thing is that one of the first few things you learn as a woman studying sacred sexuality is that women have been taught - for centuries - to harbor embarrassment and shame when it comes to the physical act of sex and their sexuality in general.
There are women in my life who are doing deep spiritual work and who are blogging about it from the rooftops - but they keep their explorations of sacred sexuality behind closed doors. They are learning awesome things from great teachers, but they’re afraid to post about their teachers' work because they don’t want their friends and family to know about the “risqué” things that they’re studying.
On the one hand, I get it. To some extent, sexuality is a private matter and we don’t all need to be preaching our pillow talk. It's understandable that some people don't want their friends, colleagues, or children learning about their sex lives. However, as I’ll explain in more detail below, I think it’s crucial for women to come clean about their interest in, and explorations of, sacred sexuality in a way that both honors their lifestyle and respects their privacy. Why? Because the world needs it. Mother earth needs women to own and be proud of their sexual nature, and I truly believe that women waking up to their divine sexuality will help make the world a better place.
Last summer I attended a retreat in Montana led by Sera Beak. At one point during the retreat, Sera asked the group to close our eyes. Then she said, “Raise your hand if you’re a sexual priestess.” I’m not sure how many of the other women in the group raised their hands, but I did. Sera went on to explain that whether we realize it or not, all women are sexual priestesses. In my opinion, one of the first steps to owning our roles as sexual priestesses involves releasing the shame and guilt that we might feel around claiming such a grand title.
I’ve realized that withholding my sexual truth inevitably leads to hurt and pain - for myself and others. So I’m coming clean. The reason I’m writing this blog is to be transparent and do my part to pull back the curtain of shame and guilt that often surrounds this topic. So here goes.
A Few Disclaimers
First, a few disclaimers:
- I’m very new to the study of sacred sexuality, and this blog is in no way meant to be an in-depth exploration of this topic. I’ll be referencing a few teachers along the way - feel free to explore those resources if you want to learn more.
- Throughout the blog I’ll be referring to dynamics that can exist in heterosexual relationships - not because I don’t think these dynamics exist for same-sex couples - but because most of my experiences have been with men.
- When I use the terms “masculine” and “feminine,” I’m not necessarily referring to men and women. I’m also not saying that either energy is better or worse than the other.
- When I talk about “sacred sexuality,” I’m not just referring to physical sexual intercourse.
- When I use the word “pussy” I’m not trying to offend anyone. What some authors call pussy, others call yoni, or vagina, or soul, or your true self. They are all the same thing: the core essence of who you really are as a woman.
- I’m going to make some generalizations about male-female relationships. I’m not trying to say that all relationships are like this - I’m using it as a literary device to give examples of how certain patterns might manifest in our daily lives.
My Initial Explorations
So what exactly do I mean when I use the term “sacred sexuality?” I’ll be honest by admitting that I don’t completely know. At the broadest level, my personal explorations into sacred sexuality have involved delving into the masculine and feminine energies that live within and around us. In other words, sacred sexuality isn’t only about the physical act of sexual intercourse. It’s about finding ways for the true masculine and true feminine energies to dance within you and within your partnerships.
I particularly enjoy Lissa Rankin’s musings on what sacred sexuality might look like in the context of dating - a concept she calls “open monogamy.” Lissa shares:
“In a spiritual partnership, sex becomes a gateway to communion with the Divine, rather than simply a mutual quest to get off. With love and tenderness holding the vulnerability of the heart safe in an ocean of trust, physical intimacy becomes a gateway to expanded states of consciousness, where you see the Divine in the eyes of your beloved, and you are seen as the embodiment of the Divine in the eyes of your beloved. As you share breath and heartbeats, you experience pleasure not just from the superficial level of genital orgasm, but from the deep heart connection and deep pleasure of full-bodied ecstatic union. As two people commune sexually as a gateway to spiritual connection, unhealed wounds can be cleared, conflicts between the partners can be healed, and Divine love can enter the union as a reminder of what is possible when unconditional love marries the flesh.”
This might all sound a bit abstract, and in truth, it is. But let me try to offer a few concrete examples.
For years the various coaches and teachers that I worked with told me that I needed to get more in touch with my inner feminine - but I had no idea what they meant. My first attempt to connect with the feminine involved attending a retreat by Sally Kempton at the Kripalu Centre for Yoga & Health. The retreat was about developing a personal relationship with the feminine - specifically through studying and meditating on various goddesses, like Kali and Lakshmi. During one of the meditations - which wasn’t explicitly sexual in any way - I started to experience an energy that felt kind of like sexual arousal, but bigger. Where did I feel this energy? In a spot that we women are still having trouble finding a word for, so I’ll use a few. I felt this energy deep within my vagina/pussy/genitals/yoni. The energy slowly moved up my body, and it felt delicious.
I later learned that I had experienced a manifestation of feminine energy in my body, and that this pleasurable energy is my birthright. I realized that the more I give myself permission to feel this energy in my daily life, the more I’ll shine in general and make the world a better place.
However, as is the case with most personal development, change happens slowly. After coming back from the retreat I got back into my busy life and all but forgot about my experience. A year later, something nudged me to read Sera Beak’s book Red, Hot & Holy, which led me to sign up for her Soul Fire Retreat. The retreat was a life changing experience that helped me get a better sense of my soul/true self. The retreat wasn’t explicitly about sacred sexuality, but we did a lot of work with reconnecting with the divine feminine within and around us.
My post-soul-fire experience has ushered several fantastic teachers into my life, like Shakti Malan, Jennifer Posada, Esther Perel, and Mama Gena. I’ve taken courses on reconnecting with my sexual cycles - which means acknowledging the fact that as a woman, my body changes every week in a cyclical way, and there are practices I can do to honour each phase of my menstrual cycle. I’ve taken courses on energy orgasms and becoming a sexual priestess. I’m reading books about “mating in captivity.” Right now I’m reading Mama Gena’s new book called “Pussy: A Reclamation” which is absolutely fantastic (seriously, her chapter on “Cliteracy” should be required reading for both men and women). I also have teachers on my list whose work I plan to delve into at some point, like David Deida and Alison Armstrong.
What have I learned from my initial explorations?
That I need to give myself permission to be a woman.
Men, Women, & Relationships
Like many women, I’ve spent most of my life operating purely from my masculine, because that’s what’s valued in modern society. Masculine energy tends to have a one-pointed, goal-oriented focus. In other words, the masculine runs a tight ship and gets shit done. If you look up “Bethany Butzer” in the dictionary, I fulfill these requirements to a “T.” Do you want productivity, reliability and achievement? Call me up. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve skipped class or handed a project in late or forgot to do something on my To Do list. In 10 years of university I never pulled an all-nighter to get work done. My personal and professional lives are probably the most tightly run ships around.
The problem is that my ships run so tight that I've lost my ability to loosen up. I forgot how to flow and be open and creative and spontaneous which, among other things, are some of the energies of the feminine.
And I know I’m not alone. Countless women in my life, from a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds, have followed a similar pattern. In fact, I would argue that the majority of my female friends and colleagues live from their masculine. How does this manifest in their day-to-day lives? Well, for starters they do almost everything. They work, they raise kids, they cook, they clean, they pay the bills, they organize family events, and the list goes on. In other words, they get shit done. And they do an impeccable job. The problem is that they stop taking care of themselves in the process. They spend time carefully braiding their child’s hair while they barely have time to wash or style their own. They make sure their husband has a healthy lunch packed for work while their lunch consists of instant coffee and a bagel.
Now before I go any further I want to make it exceptionally clear that this isn’t about man bashing. Because guess what? Women are helping perpetuate this problem. First of all, I think most men aren’t exactly sure how to handle women who are operating from their masculine. I think that many men from my generation and socio-cultural background were raised by (well-meaning) parents who made them unsure about how to inhabit their masculinity and femininity. In other words, these parents didn’t want their sons to be over-controlling assholes who abuse their wives. Many (but of course not all) men from my generation were taught to respect women. They were taught not to be “too masculine.” However, they were also taught not to be “too feminine.” Their parents didn’t teach them how to cook or do laundry or cry in public because then they’d be pussies. The result is a generation of men who have a lot of ambivalence about their inner masculine and inner feminine. They aren’t sure which “camp” to inhabit - if they inhabit any camp at all.
But don’t worry, because super-masculine-woman will come in and fix all of this by doing everything! Because the (well-meaning) parents of my generation taught us women not to ever have to rely on a man. We were told that we can do everything that a man can do, and more. We were taught to reach for the stars and achieve, achieve, achieve, because we don’t need a man to make it in this world. We were taught to be hyper-masculine, and to avoid the feminine because was too weak, too emotional, and too sappy to make it in this cutthroat world.
Men often come from families that didn’t encourage them to be masculine or feminine, whereas women are often taught to inhabit their masculine.
(Side note: I’m extremely grateful for my upbringing and for the women who came before me who fought for our rights. Many of us, however, have taken these original intentions too far. Also, please let me reemphasize that I don't think that all women and all men were raised like this. It's simply a pattern that I often see in many men and women around me - which I absolutely realize is based on my personal social/cultural context).
This results in many heterosexual relationships that look something like this: the woman controls almost all aspects of the household, and the man walks on eggshells doing his best not to piss her off. He sits still, wide-eyed, watching her run around like a hurricane until she tells him what to do. When he does what she asked him to do, he never does it good enough (i.e. her way) so she ends up re-doing it herself or getting angry and accusing him of not doing enough around the house. When the woman gets upset because she’s physically and emotionally exhausted (typically during PMS), both partners get frustrated and can’t figure out what all the fuss is about, because things seem to run relatively smoothly at other times of the month (usually because the woman is able to successfully suppress her anger when she isn’t PMS’ing and because women aren’t taught how to ask for what they need).
Modern men and women are stuck in a place where they don’t know how to allow both the masculine and feminine to dance within themselves and their partnerships.
Sound familiar? Personally, I’ve seen this dynamic play out in my relationship many times. The worst part is that sometimes when my husband would try to take the initiative by cleaning the house or surprising me with dinner I would actually get annoyed. Annoyed! Why? Because I’d notice that he didn’t clean the way I’d clean. He didn’t use the right detergent on the hardwood floors or he didn’t put a bounce sheet in the dryer. Or he’d make a dinner of pork wrapped in pork with a side of pork (my husband is Czech and thus loves meat, bread, and beer). During these times I’d act like I appreciated what he was doing, but I would be giving off an annoyed vibe and/or “fixing” whatever it is that he’d done (like delicately picking pork chunks out of my risotto). Living in my masculine and always wanting things done MY way actually emasculated my husband and made him feel like he couldn’t do anything right.
Bringing The Masculine & Feminine Into Balance
My explorations into sacred sexuality have taught me that there shouldn’t be shame in operating from my feminine. She is not weak or emotional or crazy. When properly nurtured, she is the seat of my divinity, my intuition, and my creative potential. Which is why I’m starting to give her the attention she deserves. I’ve been pulling back on my household duties and letting my husband take more of the reigns - even when he doesn’t do things my way. I’m giving my husband (and myself) permission to dote on me, to take care of me, to adore me. Sometimes this means I let him pay for dinner instead of insisting that we go 50/50. Other times it means I let him buy me a pair of shoes without hassling him about how much they cost. Or it might mean that I leave it up to him to schedule his own dentist and doctor appointments. These days he does his own laundry, and we take turns cooking. The steps are small, but they add up.
My explorations have also taught me that my inner masculine is not wrong or bad. It’s just that I’ve let him control too much of my life so far. As Shakti Malan shares:
“It's often very valuable to clearly see, and appreciate, what your masculine has brought into your life. It's not about telling him to leave - it's about developing a conscious relationship. Without the masculine, the feminine has a hard time being in the world and she gets overwhelmed by her own intensity of experience.”
So I’m taking this opportunity to publicly thank my masculine for all of the amazing things he’s brought into my life. My inner masculine is responsible for giving me the determination, focus, and discipline to be the first person in my family to attend university. He’s responsible for helping me get my PhD, win awards, work at Harvard, and run a super-organized household.
But these days I’m craving feminine qualities like joy, pleasure, and flow. I want to let go of the reigns. My inner masculine perceives these qualities as slacking off, but my true self knows that these feminine aspects, in combination with my masculine, are essential to a life well-lived.
Case in point: Combining my masculine qualities of focus, discipline and organization with my feminine qualities of flow, pleasure, and spontaneity is how I ended up leaving Harvard to live in the woods, followed by a move to Prague. My current lifestyle is the result of me combining my ability to get organized and go after what I want (masculine) with my desire for beauty and inspiration and an ability to leap into the unknown (feminine).
It’s not about eliminating the masculine or feminine. As with all things, balance is key.
Cultivating Radiance Through The Feminine
Now that I’ve been settled in Prague for a year I’m starting to up the ante on nurturing my feminine by taking more unscheduled time for myself. I've devoted every Thursday to spending time with my soul / true self. I’m surrounding myself with small things that make me feel good, like high quality essential oils, lovely body creams, and comfortable socks. As Mama Gena calls it, I’m “pussifying” my life. In other words, I’m surrounding myself with an environment that makes my pussy/soul/true self feel good. Because when I honour these aspects of my femininity, I shine. I radiate a light that is infectious and that changes the world, one person at a time.
I know this because I’ve experienced it. I just didn’t know exactly what it was. There have been times in my life when I’ve been tapped into my soul/pussy/true self, and I know that others can feel it. Both men and women. Sometimes men interpret the feeling as sexual attraction - and sometimes they’re right. However what’s been more common in my experience is that when I’m “tuned in” to my radiance, both men and women simply want to be in my physical presence (without necessarily wanting to be sexually intimate). My light acts like a muse or a courtesan - inspiring them to reach their highest potential. Sometimes I’ve taken things further and this light got transferred into a sexual relationship, which in my opinion is sacred sexuality in the truest sense of the word. For me, sacred sex happens when my radiance is turned on, and the sexual relationship reaches a level of intimacy and closeness that inspires both partners inside and outside of the bedroom. It’s rare, but it happens.
There are, however, shadows to be aware of in the realm of sacred sexuality. For example, there is a difference between turning on your radiance and attracting men and women into your life in order to inspire them and change the world, versus attracting people to make yourself feel better about yourself. Personally, I’ve done both. There were times in my life when I had a series of men orbiting me, not as a muse or courtesan to inspire them or help them grow, but instead as a method to boost my low self-esteem. These men might have been tapping into some of my radiance, which is what kept them interested - but I wasn’t using my light in an honourable way. This meant people got hurt in the process. As I mentioned in my last blog, discernment is key. These days, I’m doing my best to discern when someone is drawn to me based on my inherent, natural radiance versus attracting people based on a desire to boost my self-worth. It’s not easy, but I’m getting better at it.
Sacred Sexuality: It's Happening All Around You
What's my take-home point? I want to share my explorations into the masculine, feminine, and sacred sexuality because I’m tired of hiding it in the shadows. I want to be an example of the fact that not all women (or men) who study sacred sexuality are “far out” deviant hippies with names like “moonbeam” and “sting.” There are people studying sacred sexuality all around you - you just don’t know it because they’re hiding. There’s the wholesome soccer mom down the block who is actually in a polyamorous marriage. There’s the CEO who wears a suit all day and then dances naked under the full moon at night. There’s the strict schoolteacher who spends her weekends practicing orgasmic meditation (OM).
Keep in mind, however, that having an interest in sacred sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything “kinky.” It simply means that you’re working/playing with the dance of the divine masculine and the divine feminine in your own unique way(s). This might mean that you’re interested in moving orgasmic energy through your whole body, or it might simply mean you’re interested in taking a dance class.
Personally, I don’t have a “spiritual name” or a perfect understanding of what sacred sexuality is. I’m a (relatively) normal, down to earth woman. I’m also a scientist who places a great deal of value on rigorous research. I even did my PhD on romantic relationships - and published a study about sexual satisfaction - but there’s a difference between reading about sexuality in books and actually living it. To be honest, I don’t have any research to back up a single word I’ve mentioned in this blog. But it is my lived experience which, in my opinion, is more rich, juicy, and meaningful that any peer-reviewed academic article.
Now that I’ve come clean I’d love to hear from you. Have you been studying sacred sexuality but you’re too scared to admit it? Are you a woman (or man) who is starting to give yourself permission to embrace your inner masculine or feminine? Come out of the shadows in the comments below!