Yoga: Truth and lies… sex and spirituality

truth_is_freedom-458145Just when I thought I couldn’t undergo any greater transformation, the universe put other ideas into play for me. A few posts back I described how an Italian man lured me into bed with his charm and physical beauty before revealing that in actual fact, he wasn’t really available and was very unhappily married. The heartbreak this brought about caused me to explore new avenues for healing including an ayahuasca journey (more on that in another post) eventually seeing me brave a 5 day water fast. However, the last thing I could have foreseen was how much of a transformation this actually brought about. When we undertake energetic healing, it sometimes takes a while for our body and mind to catch up.

I very much believe that the work I did brought me to a place where I was able to recognise and be capable of receiving the love I give out reflected back to me. A couple of months ago I found myself falling completely and utterly in love with my best friend – a woman who is also very involved in and open about practicing BDSM and S&M and only has open relationships.  These activities are based entirely on trust, respect, communication and understanding. The complete opposite end of the spectrum to Mr Italian and his wife who were obviously, living in the dark when it came to each other’s sexual activities.

You may be wondering why I am revealing quite so much personal information on a blog about healing, yoga and spirituality? Because in society generally, we seem to spend a great deal of time deceiving each other and ourselves, particularly when it comes to the female appearance and sexuality. Suddenly, getting botox on your lunch hour and a boob job on a mini break is an applauded recreational activity yet eyebrows are raised when people talk about whips and chains in the bedroom. Ironic that practices which deceive the observer are accepted and yet those in which people openly share themselves and their ‘kinks’ in truth are so frowned upon.

Many might ask what has sexuality got to do with spirituality? Well everything. When was the last time your body took a walk without your brain or your soul left your body? The idea that mind, body and spirit are separate entities is an illusion as is the idea that we are nothing more than our physical form. What we do with our body affects our mind and vice versa. Equally, sensation is a gateway to our spirituality as the Buddha himself attested and sex is surely another aspect of this?

With the introduction of the Pill in 1961, suddenly, women were openly accepted to have sexual needs beyond those of child bearing. For the first time, the sexual needs of women were being considered as acceptable but only within the institution of marriage. Otherwise, they entered the ‘prostitute’ category. But somehow, in order to be worthy of sexual attention, they still needed to adhere to some aesthetic which included pert breasts supported in bras often using wires and uncomfortable straps.

Although sex for fun was technically allowed, in society at large much of this activity was only really accepted when fitting into the heterosexual bracket. In fact, to be specific, within the institution of marriage which teaches that sexual relations with anyone outside marriage are legal grounds for divorce and effectively make null and void any love that may still exist within that relationship. There may be many couples out there who, were it not for the reinforcement of the ego – in this case, society saying this is right and that is wrong – through use of the term adultery, might have been able to view things differently and find a way forward together without splitting up or going through divorce. Though having an open relationship has not proven an easy step for me and I could write another essay about that in itself, I am open minded enough to accept that everyone has different needs and understand that we can manage our own pain and suffering and life is about discerning what’s really important – love and mutual respect – and letting the rest go.

Sex between girls, is even more taboo given that there is still timid acceptance of female sexual needs through society and the way that sex should be conducted. One only need glance at the women’s magazines to see reams of articles on, “how to attract the right man,” or “how to behave on a one night stand” – the pinnacle of female sexual liberation – more often than not, a drunken night out winding up in some guy’s bed who more often than not will need a lesson in female anatomy leaving the aforementioned female doing a walk of shame without even having the satisfaction of a post-orgasmic glow.

When I found myself realising that the same emotions were awakening in me that I would normally feel toward a potential partner of the opposite sex – both sexual and emotional, I was confused as hell. Suddenly I found myself feeling nervous at the thought that my best friend might find a girlfriend and become a background feature in my life. She had become the first person I spoke to in the morning and often, we would message each other late into the night. When I couldn’t call out from my mobile phone, she was the one person who would always phone to check I was ok and when I was feeling low, would drag me to see her horses or nudge me onto a dancefloor.

The more time I spent with her, the more I found myself proud to be out with her and thinking to myself, “…if only…” She complemented me perfectly. I’d never met another person with whom I shared such an outlook on life and so many interests. Both healers, both obsessed with horses, helping others and the planet. But at the age of 35, it seemed like I might be ridiculed at best for ‘suddenly’ deciding I’m homosexual – if it were even that clear cut. And what would happen if we did make it into bed and I found I wasn’t into it? What if Sheena and I split up? Would I have gone through all that for nothing? After all, I wasn’t ‘into women’. I just happened to fall in love with my best friend right? Not only that but she was ‘into things’ that I could barely imagine but which I found fearful, more due to society’s disapproval than my own opinion or experience.

I realised that part of the problem was that I was being asked to define myself by society. I felt as though I were being asked to move from one box into another though I was confident that all those close to me, including my family, would be understanding and support any decision I made. Yet why should it even need to be a decision? I believe it would be a complete lie for anyone to deny that they have had some kind of fantasy or visualisation involving a partner of the same sex and/or and third partner or more. The only difference is that they may not have acted this out. Also, most people at some point have played with a blindfold or restraints of some kind in the bedroom and if they haven’t, they ought to think about it! Unfortunately, society has portrayed BDSM and S&M culture as dirty, filthy and wrong. However, despite the fact that their sexual preferences are listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as potentially problematic, people who play with whips and chains in the bedroom may actually be more psychologically healthy than those who don’t.

Like anything, it’s about balance and intention. If we are being kind to ourselves by exploring our bodies and sexuality in safe ways with the ultimate aim of being compassionate and loving to ourselves and our partners, where is the harm? In the Buddha’s terms, a thought is no different from an action and it is through meditation that we come to realise this. As we recognise that we all have similar impulses, we are able to exercise compassion but it can only happen by each of us standing up and being unashamed of our any impluse which does not cause harm to oneself or others. In fact, we often harm ourselves by failing to do this.

Someone has to start breaking these illusions; the illusion that homosexual relationships can only be about sex; that we should never indulge in sexual relationships with more than one person and any one time; that the woman’s body must be strapped up, covered, wired into shape, covered in make up and be as skinny as Bethaney Wallace in her final days. We have become accustomed to seeing breasts plumped up in wonderbras underneath office suits and stiletto heels worn for work. We each have a responsibility to be honest. Honest about our sexuality, honest about our bodies and honest in our relationships because honesty breeds honesty. In freeing ourselves we free each other. We begin to see that underneath our class, colour, sexual orientation, football t-shirt or relationship status, we all have the same wants, needs, hangups and fears. The more that we accept each other for our ‘hang-ups’ the more we are able to transform them and live happier more peaceful lives.

According to historian Leigh Summers, “the corset was the first item of juvenile material culture to be sexualized”. Indeed, the juvenile corset became a necessary garment for female children and adolescents by the mid nineteenth century in order to properly mold the female body during its crucial development. Thus, the seeds of the ideal Victorian woman, gender division, and control over female sexuality were planted at a very early age.

Yet, up until the middle of the nineteenth century, men and boys wore corsets not only for support, but for fashion purposes as well. Caricatures of the early nineteenth century, however, depict “dandy” men in corsets, indicating that the trend of wearing corsets for men was going out of style. Men who continued to wear corsets, however, wore them for medical purposes. Therefore, as male corsetry was going out of style, the female corset increasingly became a means of distinguishing gender.
Juvenile corsets reasserted female gender roles and were used to control the perceived fluidity of the female gender. As early feminists continued to threaten the concept of the traditional female identity, the juvenile corset reinforced gender division and in effect limited “the physical behaviour of girl children to that considered appropriate to their gender…Consequently, the aim of the juvenile corset was paradoxical in that it was used to promote female sexual objectification and admiration while at the same time attempting to contain and suppress female sexuality and sexual desire among girls and pre-pubescent women.” (For the full article, please follow this link)

In admitting our fetishes and fantasies (regardless of how tame or extreme they seem) and in baring our bodies, we are celebrating all that it is to be human and the similarities we share with each other. Wearing a bra all day every day suggests to me that the female body is available 24/7 for male sexual pleasure. In the West, we are so quick to judge the use of the burkha and yet we live in hypocrisy. How many women reading this would be worried that their partner would find them less attractive if their cleavage isn’t pointing towards their chin or what the public would think if they saw under a t-shirt, their breasts swaying with their feminine swagger?

I’m not suggesting that we should never indulge in corsetry or bras on occasion but why should we feel obliged, day in day out, to conform to some man made image designed to encourage male sexual attention, when frankly, having stopped wearing one day in day out myself, I am suddenly keenly aware of how uncomfortable and restrictive they are. I am also conscious that as I write this, there will be those reading who have already placed me in the, ‘raving, bra burning, feminist hippy’ stereotype. Amusingly, one of my friends joked when I told her about Sheena, “Ah, so does that mean you’re now going to join a commune and start selling beads on the beach?”

People can laugh all they want but until each of us starts to question the fabric of our being, how we make decisions, what those decisions are based on… only then can we hope for a more equal and liberated society. It may be amusing to turn me into a caricature but is it so amusing when you realise that your paypacket is 10% less than your male colleague performing exactly the same job? I know that suddenly being given the label lesbian in a world where same sex marriage in Britain was only legalised one year ago and where I wouldn’t be able to travel to certain areas with my girlfriend for fear of being raped or killed simply because we love each other has given me new lenses to see through. What really helped me through this journey is yoga’s teaching that everything changes and pain comes from resistance to change along with the knowledge that we are all divine regardless of the body we inhabit or how we behave. We are simply consciousness experiencing itself. There is no right and there is no wrong, each of us to our own. That includes how we conduct our relationships.

I hope that this gives you some food for thought and encourages you to let go of your inhibitions and trust that you will not be judged for I, most certainly am not judging. I just know that if I had listened to society, I’d have missed out on the love of my life.

For some useful articles on BDSM and S&M and managing open relationships, here are a few links. Happy reading.

A loving introduction to BDSM

12 surprising facts about non-monogamy

A useful article on how to make open relationships work for you and how to introduce rules and guidelines:

A useful article from a counsellor on managing jealousy