05 Feb, 18
Sex and Faith
Join us on a tour of sexual history and religion.
By Emmeline Peaches
Religion and sex and two very contentious topics, doubly so when the two come together.
It’s a sad truth that, too often, religion has been used to create a climate of sexual pressure, shame, or misinformation. A lot could be said about abstinence education in the US, and that’s just one country and one set of religious beliefs. Start bringing in different nations, religions, and denominations and things can get even messier, and not always for the better.
There’s been a lot of focus on such religion-driven sex shaming issues (and with good reason), but here at Dusk we’re big fans of finding the silver lining and shedding light on alternative and underrepresented aspects of sex, sexuality, and relationships. As such, this article is going to look at some of the more interesting, positive, or just downright strange ways that sex and religion meet.
So, get ready to get your Religious Education hats on because it’s back to school for this article (consensual teacher/student roleplay optional).
Adam and Lilith…?
We often hear of Adam and Eve but did you know that, in some Jewish texts Eve wasn’t Adam’s first partner at all? Instead that honor goes to Lilith.
That’s right – the historical demoness and symbol of dangerous (i.e.. overt) female sexuality.
As the story goes, Adam and Lilith were created at the same time from the same dirt as Adam. Thus, when Adam tried to exert dominance over her by wanting to be on top of her during sex Lilith refused.
Lilith reasoned that, as they were both created at the same time and from the same dirt they were complete equals and she would not submit to him simply because it was his (or God’s) will.
When Adam tried to persist, she left him and the Garden of Eden and refused to return.
Kudos to Lilith.
Not all scholars agree that this was the historical origin of the Lilith mythology, which may even pre-date the story of creation, but her strong-willed sexuality has remained a consistent feature of her character in most historical texts. No wonder Lilith is a feminist icon for some.
Hinduism is widely known for its open approach to sex (I mean, when you think about it, most religious texts talk in great detail about sex, but Hinduism does it with flare).
There are different life stages in Hinduism that a person is expected to go through, the first is Brahmacharya (also known as the ‘student’ stage, through which they learn about dharma, the furthering of one’s societal and occupational duties), and karma (an understanding of earthly actions.). Once a person has progressed through the student stage to reach Grihastya (known as the ‘householder’ stage) then kama becomes an option.
‘Kama’ literally means sex, desire, or longing and comprises the first word in the well-known ‘Kama Sutra’ that the western world is now fascinated with.
Focused on far more than just sexual positions, the kama sutra (‘sutra’ meaning ‘teachings’ or ‘discourse’, so ‘sexual teachings’) gives advice on relationships, love, family living, and (of course) pleasure.
Although not everything in the kama sutra would now be considered sexually progressive or acceptable, the fact that is acknowledged that sex and attraction can (and should) involve many different aspects of a person’s life is pretty damn awesome. No pretzel-poses required.
Collective Fatherhood (and Fucking)
From a biological standpoint we now know with confidence that a child is born from the sperm of one individual which then makes contact with (and fertilizes) the egg of another, but this belief hasn’t always been a pervasive one.
Sounds crazy, yes, but keep in mind that up until a hundred odd years or so we used to think that sexual frustration in women was a hysterical medical condition that needed to be treated by doctors, so it’s not like mankind are exactly rocket scientists (or, at least, we haven’t been for very long).
But why does this matter? Well, because in some cultures the ambiguity of conception led to a variety of different sexual and relationship dynamics.
Take, for example, the Bari Indians, whose belief system held that a child was created from the seed of one individual but that it could then be further nurtured and improved through the additional sperm of other males.
This lead to sexual situations where a woman would often have multiple male partners, with different social roles and interests. From there Bari Indian tribes would go on to practice open communal fatherhood, in which their children were taught and raised with multiple paternal figures. This allowed them to get the benefits (and psychological and emotional nurturance) from multiple people with a variety of different skills and perspectives.
Such a system is far from utopian, of course, but it does go to show you that not every society shuns the notion of multiple sexual partners and relations and may even actually see it as a fundamental belief in their culture. It also falls in line with the current historical and biological notions that humans did not evolve to be monogamous animals with only two parental figures.
Food for thought.
Finally, perhaps some of the most interesting religious and sexual intersections are happening in our very own industry – where some toy makers have opted to make sex toys out of various different religious icons.
Whether it be a nun or a rabbi, baby Jesus, or Christ on the cross, there are quite a few creative offerings out there for those who wish to get close to their faith in a different way.
Some people have argued (fairly from an emotional stance) that such objects can be distressing and provoke feelings of disrespect or upset in certain religious individuals, but others see them as an empowering way to bring their faith to the bedroom. Others, still, consider them to be a protest against conventional or conservative religious beliefs, which might be something that they need in their lives. People who have sadly had bad experiences with sex and religious beliefs may even see such items as a vital part of their healing process (or, again, as something that just brings up distressing memories).
Whatever the relationship felt with these items, they are, in many ways, artistic manifestations of our current discourses surrounding sex and religion.
Perhaps, then, the take away is that – no matter the finer details – religion and sex are just two aspects of human nature. Belief and desire coming together in different ways to create mythology, social structures, and feelings bodily delight or shame depending (as religion and sex often do) on how you choose to interpret them.
A matter of faith.
Leader image: ‘Lady Lilith’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
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