|Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 7, 2017 at 4:30 AM|
At first glance, the title of this blog might seem a bit odd. The words creativity, sexuality and monogamy don’t often appear together in the same sentence, but lately I’ve felt called to pull them together and share my thoughts on how they interrelate. As some of you know, I’ve been studying sacred sexuality for a couple of years. During this time I’ve learned and experienced some very interesting things - but I’ve also bumped up against what you might call sacred sexuality’s “shadow side."
Sexuality is such a charged and value-laden topic that even new-age-types haven’t escaped the murky waters that lie at the intersection between sexuality and spirituality. It’s difficult to navigate these waters to find teachers who are operating with full integrity. I’ve found a few, but I’ve also been treading very lightly by approaching sacred sexuality with a lot of caution and discernment.
I recently finished reading Jacob Nordby’s new book, Blessed Are The Weird which, on the surface, has nothing to do with sexuality. Instead, the book is about harnessing your uniqueness in order to heed the call of your creative soul. Until you get to Chapter 18 - almost at the very end of the book - to a chapter called “Raw and Sexy.” In this chapter, Nordby makes the case that creativity and sexuality are so linked that it’s almost impossible to separate them. He writes,
“The thing is, art is sexy. Creativity is sexual. Sex is the energy of creation itself. They are inextricably bound together and certain traditions tell us that they emanate from the same ‘chakra’ or energy center in the body.
And, of course, sex isn’t just a matter of fitting body parts together. Sex is the collision of worlds, galaxies, universes, souls, birds, and bees, and…everything.
A person with great creative energy is likely to have above average sexual energy too. How they express (or repress) that may or may not be with another human, but it’s still there beneath the surface, boiling away and generating enormous power.”
He goes on to say that, “Powerful creative people exude this tremendous sexuality - others are drawn to them because of this energy in their work and because of the indefinable, invisible sexual radiance that shines from them.”
This is often the reason that rock stars have groupies and artists have muses. We are drawn to these peoples’ energy because it reflects an energy within us, which is the energy of creation itself. Nordby’s “Raw and Sexy” chapter was the first time I’ve read something so practical and down-to-earth about sacred sexuality. Nordby isn’t a far out tantrika with a Sanskrit name who talks about having energy orgasms. Instead, his chapter laid out, very matter of factly, the point that creativity and sexuality come from the same energy source, and that creatives throughout history have had difficulty knowing exactly what to do with this energy. We’ve all heard of great creatives who had many mistresses, muses, and sexual liaisons. In modern times, the tabloids berate us with these peoples’ multiple marriages.
You might not think of yourself as a “great creative,” but I bet you’ve had glimpses of the links between creativity and sexuality in your own life. You don’t need to be an artist or a writer or a musician to be creative - some people are creative through science or IT or raising children or coming up with business ideas. At its core, creativity simply involves thoughtful curiosity - and sometimes taking action on that curiosity. The next time you get a creative burst about anything - take a moment to notice how you feel. Often, creativity comes with a certain level of excitement and anticipation that very closely resembles how we feel when we’re getting sensual/sexual. If you feel into it, you’ll notice that creativity and sexuality seem to come from the same source.
So, what does all of this have to do with monogamy?
Well, as I alluded to a moment ago, creatives throughout history have often had troubled partnerships. But as Nordby describes, one of the defining features of creatives (or “Weird People” as he calls them) is that we have a lot of difficulty abiding a life that is not real. We seek authenticity in all areas of our lives, including our sexuality. Nordby writes,
“Many Weird People have struggled with a world that judges them harshly for stepping outside the sexual lines drawn by society. As with most of the other judgements leveled at us, this is because our insistence on getting and staying real makes us honest with our behavior. Where our behavior deviates from what is commonly accepted, society reacts out of fear.”
Creative people, by nature, push boundaries, regardless of whether they are painting, making music, or building a new app. Creative people make the unknown, known. They bring the subconscious, conscious. They challenge the status quo and provoke change. This is Art with a capital A.
One system that pervades our lives and is heavily embedded in the status quo is the modern monogamous marriage. In many ways, marriage is a ritual - some might even say a collectively shared myth - that many of us choose to take part in (myself included). There’s nothing wrong with this. But it’s natural for creatives to want to push against those walls, even if it’s ever so slightly.
Not too long ago, marriage used to serve economic, societal and practical purposes. People got married for family alliances, or to have children to help on their farms, or so that there was a woman at home to make food while the men worked. These days, we’re told to marry for love (whatever that means), and we seem to be trying to figure out modern marriage on the fly, without ever stopping to give it much thought. I think it’s a very interesting thought experiment to ask yourself why you want to get married (or why you got married). Your answer might be, “Because I love my partner.” But really, why marriage? You can love your partner without being married. Perhaps you want/wanted to make a public declaration of your love and commitment. Or maybe you just want/wanted to have a big party with your friends and family. Or maybe you decide not to get married, but you make a private commitment to be monogamous.
All of these options are perfectly ok - there are no right or wrong answers here. My goal is to get you thinking about the point, and implications, of monogamy in our modern society, especially in terms of how your choice for monogamy intersects - and might eventually butt heads with - your creativity and sexuality.
Let me make this more practical by using my own marriage as an example.
My husband and I are both highly creative people in our own ways. He’s a visual artist and entrepreneur who is like an open channel for creativity. His art spans everything from collage, graffiti, and graphic design to building sculptures and furniture. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t have some sort of art- or business-related idea. He has endless notebooks and folders and files of sketches and concepts. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met such a creative person in my life. And I’m creative in my own ways, too - some similar and some different from his. Most of my creativity comes through my writing, but it also comes through my research, my approach to science, and my insistence on asking and pursuing life’s big questions.
And, as you might expect based on this creative energy, my husband and I are also very sexual/sensual people in our own unique ways. Note: this doesn’t mean we have sex 24/7. It means that our sensuality and sexuality have always been an important part of our lives and our marriage - in ways that have been thoroughly enjoyable and immensely frustrating. Like most couples, sometimes our sexual needs and desires match, and other times they don’t. If nothing else, we’ve always tried to maintain an open dialogue about sexuality so that we can be clear with each other about our wants and needs.
How does all of this creativity and sexuality manifest in our relationship? Well, this mashup basically results in a life that involves us constantly pushing the limits and boundaries of everything around us - inside and outside of the bedroom. In a sense, we’ve served as each others’ muses in order to make our shared life a work of art. All of the decisions we make, from deciding not to have children, to deciding where to live, to deciding where and how we want to work, have been thoroughly discussed within the container of our most creative values and dreams.
And we continually push each other to be more creative. He has inspired my entrepreneurial ventures, helped make logos for my website, and coached me to get paid what I’m worth. I’ve encouraged him to be more public with his art by building him a website, making videos of him creating his art, and reminding him to post regularly on his Instagram feed. We’ve pushed each other to take risks and stay inspired by moving to different countries and traveling as much as we can.
Our life is a work of art that we’ve co-created between us. It’s a work of art that has not only inspired us, but also often inspires people around us.
Now, before you start thinking that our relationship is 100% awesome, let me set the record straight: our lives are not awesome all the time. In fact, there are many times that we struggle. We get tired of pushing boundaries, and sometimes we long for what you might call a more “simple” or “normal” life. We spend our fair share of time debating about life choices, values, wants, and needs. We yell, scream, cry, rage, make-up and everything in between.
And here’s what ties everything that I’ve been talking about so far together: my husband and I have often struggled to reconcile our creativity, sexuality, and monogamy. As Nordby described in Blessed Are The Weird, creativity is sexy. Creativity is one of the main things that attracted us to each other. And it’s also what attracts us to other people, and other people to us.
I mean seriously, it’s almost impossible to walk into my husband’s art studio and not find it sexy. The smell of paint in the air, canvases all over the place, raw creative potential waiting to be formed. My husband is also a natural flirt. He’s very charismatic and extroverted, and he’s friendly with almost everyone. Put him in front of a female bartender or administrative assistant and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get free drinks and a meeting with the president of the company. When my creativity is “on,” people sometimes find me sexy, too. Whether I’m giving a talk, sharing a blog, or speaking passionately about philosophical topics - for some people, it’s a turn-on. I sometimes think of myself as a “virtual muse” who (hopefully) inspires people by describing my life, and my struggles, online.
Long story short: there have been times when people have been drawn to my creative radiance and my husband’s creative radiance. And there have been times when we’ve been drawn to these people, too.
The thing is, when we try to dampen our natural creative spark so that others won’t be drawn to us, we die a little inside.
Perhaps you and your partner have been in similar types of situations. There are a lot of things to ponder when these attractions happen. One question is to ask whether the attraction is simply feeding your ego, or if it represents something true. How each couple deals with these questions is entirely unique. Some people split up. Some experiment with making their relationship polyamorous or monoga-mish. Some decide to remain exclusive to each other. The important thing is to realize that you have a choice. Yes, you get to make the rules about your relationship, regardless of what other people think. The people around you might not agree with your choices, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that your choices are true, and are filled with integrity, for you and your partner.
I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t actually have a clear-cut answer for how to reconcile creativity, sexuality and monogamy. I’m in the journey of figuring it out for myself. As Jacob Nordby writes,
“I don’t know exactly how we should resolve this tension - how we should raise the curtains and free ourselves to play in the great, unashamed dance of creation. It is a puzzle.
It is a puzzle worth solving.
When we solve what it means to be ourselves (and free ourselves to be that), something magical happens. There’s that word again: magic. But it is magical. It is high magic to leap the fences that once held us in a cramped little prison of other people’s opinions and run pell-mell toward the horizon of our own destiny.”
Perhaps, by sharing vulnerably here, I’m helping you know that you’re not alone. If you and/or your partner are creative types, you might have noticed that the areas of sexuality and monogamy are challenging for you. Developing an awareness around the links between creativity and sexuality might help you understand, and better channel, your creative and sexual urges. Note that “developing an awareness around the links between creativity and sexuality” does NOT mean that you get to use your creativity as an excuse to engage in behaviors that would be hurtful to your partner. (Besides, it’s highly unlikely that your partner would fall for an excuse like “my creativity made me do it!.").
Instead, this awareness invites you to get honest with your partner so that you can begin to co-create authentic partnership. As I mentioned in my recent blog about getting real about relationships, authentic partnership is not always pretty. It will most likely be hard for you to share of yourself so vulnerably. But it’s the only way to be real.
And, as with most things in life, finding the answer might not actually be the point. Perhaps the only way to reconcile these things is to live with them in a messy, human, honest and vulnerable way. As Nordby shares,
“Being human means being sexual. Both things - humanity and sexuality - also mean being constantly entangled in complication.
Entanglement and complication. We often use those words as if they are bad ones.
As if having deep, tangled roots is somehow wrong.
Of course, the great, soaring part of us (I call it Soul) knows flight and weightlessness. It fears the snares of earth for good reason.
But once conscious of this - once aware that we can free ourselves over and over again, no matter what - the only thing for it is to relish entanglement. Root deeply in the rich, dark earth of being ourselves; these strange, heavy, beautiful, temporary human creatures.
For everything fought against grows. Everything denied or disowned becomes more powerful. Everything hidden will reveal itself in darker ways.
And all that is embraced is liberated.”
At the end of the chapter, Nordby summarizes his ideas like this:
“Sexuality and creativity can’t be separated - they are the same energy.
The world has had a twisted, fucked-up way of dealing with sex.
We deserve better.
The only way to get better is to get honest.
When we get honest, we get free.
When we get free, we unleash our creative nature and our pleasure in all of life.”
And so, my friends, I encourage you to embrace your creativity, your sexuality, and your humanity. Live as your wild self, in partnership if that’s what you choose, with honesty and with integrity. Your truth might bruise your partner. It might scare them. It might dissolve your relationship. It might help your relationship grow.
In all cases, it will set you free.