Sex and food are two primal urges with more in common than our basic survival. Who can argue that lusting after one another over a good meal is double the corporeal pleasure? On the other hand, gluttony of either leaves lovers sore and aching when they fail to say “enough” or “slow down” before that final tempting morsel. Denial of both, ‘hunger-strikes’ if you will, keep us bone dry, cranky and starved for nourishment. It’s not a far stretch to say that, for many, their experience of the modern American sexual culture is akin to a binge-starvation cycle.
In a column for Examiner.com, I wrote about the difference between sexual freedom vs. promiscuity; for our purposes here, I submit (no pun intended) that the latter for this discussion treats sexual intercourse akin to junk food. Sex is something to gorge on, consume, and imbibe in abundance. But we all know the consequences of a binge. That booty call may scratch a momentary itch, but is it enough to feed your soul? It’s equally important to point out that prudishness (the equivalent of starvation in our analogy) is also reactive. The message of ‘don’t have sex!’ because it is dirty/shameful/sinful is rooted in fear and misinformation. I am convinced that people are dissatisfied with these choices, and want to improve personal relationships. But first, it helps to understand what our sexual options are.
First, we must clarify the difference of sex between the genitals that scratches a temporary itch vs. intimacy that binds us beautifully to our beloved(s). Wisdom is drawn from one of my favorite mentors, Diana Daffner, a well-respected teacher of sacred sexuality and co-founder of intimacyretreats.com. According to Daffner, there are three types of sex that correspond with the state of awareness we bring to the table (or the bedroom, if you will.)
Getting your groove on with your genitals, heart and soul?
In her blog ‘What type of sex are you having?’ Daffner describes three types of sex using the ancient language, Sanskrit; Tama, Raja and Sattva, “reflect how we live our lives and make love,” she writes. Because I’m not versed in this language, my first (admittedly somewhat irreverent) thought was that the type of sex we are having could easily correspond to a how we show up at the table. Are we junk-foodies, fast-foodies, or soul-foodies when we feed and frock?
By now, I hope you have a good idea on what junk-food sex is, that is, the kind of binge booty calls referenced above. In the sacred sexuality traditions, this is called Tamasic Sex, and it refers to simple, uncomplicated pleasure, the kind of urges, that once satisfied, disappear.
“Sexual energy is often treated as if it were an itch. The energy begins to stir in your genitals. If you’re fortunate and have a willing lover close at hand, you reach out for them, letting them know of your need. Together, you “scratch the itch”, soon experiencing relief, a delightful release as the tingling intensifies and then dissipates through an explosion of muscular contractions,” Daffner explains.
Sex like this feels good and helps to relieve stress and tension, “still, when it’s over, it’s over. The impending sneeze has reached its climax and become history.” She continues, ”In the lexicon of Sanskrit language, sex which resembles the scratching of an itch can be referred to as tamasic sex. In its benign form, this is sexual coupling that is pretty much restricted to one partner “getting off”.
Daffner further describes such intercourses as limited in real and abiding connection. This isn’t memorable sex any more than picking at a bug bite is a massage. Sometimes, this type of intercourse involves little effort to please one another. I further submit that this kind of contact typifies attitudes of shame and guilt around pleasure vis-à-vis the fantastic and dirty sort of sex that sustains long-term pair bonding (Read my previous column on Fearlesspress.com).
Sure, this basic primal romp serves a purpose: men climax, but as Daffner puts it, “for women, this leads more to bore-gasm than orgasm. She will often fake pleasure in order to hasten the end more quickly.”
Next on the menu is fast-food sex, the kind characterized by passion, energy and spice. Known as rajasic sex in the tantric circles, this is sex with a goal in mind, i.e., pleasure and orgasm for both partners.
“A loving relationship forms a good basis for rajasic sex. Rajasic couples engage in foreplay, exploring one another’s bodies, touching, sucking, thrusting, manipulating. Fantasy and erotica can provide additional fuel, arousing and stimulating the body through the mind.” (Fan’s of Alphabet Erotica and my Erotica Reviews can appreciate this benefit of Fast-Food, Rajasic Sex)
Daffner further explains that during rajasic sex, lovers are tender, warm and concerned for one another’s pleasure and satisfaction. “Yet, exhilarating as it is, rajasic intensity takes place on a personal level, and at its completion can still leave each person alone with his or her own thoughts and emotions.” That is because, “a rajasic lover is often driven by a need to prove herself or himself, a desire to be a good lover. Failure, or the fear of failure can have dire effects on the ability to succeed in doing so. The dreaded performance pressure can create a downward spiral into unhappiness.”
The problem with sex like this is that relationships “cannot sustain the required energy output” to have these sorts of interludes on a regular basis. Real life kicks in, and we grow bored. Bedroom antics are prone to becoming routine, dull and, ultimately unsatisfying because they don’t satisfy our, “hunger for more passion, more intimacy, more something.”
That something else that we yearn for, it turns out, isn’t found in more athletic sexcapades, but in the stillness and quiet of the final level of intimate contact.
Sex that emphasizes the timeless moments before orgasm, and the continued renewal of energy between lovers is the final experience of tantric intimacy. This Soul-Food sex is characterized by “timeless moments… prolonged experience of delicious and conscious awareness.” That is because “no longer is there a concern for sexual performance. Personal pleasure is expanded to include a cosmic sense of being. Individual satisfaction gives way to the universal presence of love. Spiritual oneness prevails.”
This experience, known more traditionally as “Sattvic sex” is, according to Daffner, “calm and tranquil, and can best be enjoyed in complete stillness. Instead of the headlong rush toward the release of orgasm, there is a continual renewal of energy as it circulates within and between the lovers.”
That something extra that lovers yearn for is found in this “spiritual experience [of] sexual energy, which is honored as the sacred and vital force of life.” Intimacy born of shared pleasure, and of energy exchanged through the heart-soul complex as well as the bodies, introduces lovers to that something extra many yearn for in their couplings.
“There is a sweetness to sattvic sex,” writes Daffner. “And like a well-flavored dessert, the sweetness lasts beyond the moment, permeating the core of your being and refreshing your sense of existence.”
This all harkens to a desire to be more conscious in our lovemaking and love choices. For sure, we can scratch that temporary itch and get off on one another. But if we choose a transcendent path with our beloved, “we partake in a lasting gift of communion that endures and nourishes us on an ongoing basis. Before sattvic sex, we may have been best friends and lovers. After sattvic sex, we become divine mirrors for each other, reflecting our shared ecstasy and bliss.”
That is not to say that couples don’t continue to experience all types of sex in their day-to-day experience. “Sattvic sex is not divorced from the realm of tamasic sex but rises upward from its physical roots into a rarified atmosphere of meditative surrender,” Daffner admits. That’s fancy language for saying what should be clearer for those who have read to this point. A relationship that is rich in sexual intimacy, spiced with variety and a heady dose of slow is much like choosing a balanced diet; a palate that is nutritious and delicious to balance out the occasional binge.
Originally posted September 13, 2010