The Only Sex Tip You’ll Ever Need

I know; it’s a clickbait title. And it worked, and I’m going to deliver.

So, what’s the best sex? The Liberators, whose influence peaked in the ’70s, claimed they had the answer: Whatever turns you on. That sounded tempting, all right.

But they were addressing a culture with serious sexual issues: prudery, fear, and stigmatization of sex as evil or somehow beneath human dignity. To say “whatever” was rather like offering an emotionally troubled person a selection of narcotics. He’d feel better for a while, then come back for more. His troubles would continue.

I’ve seen something similar play out in the area of politics. The Talk Radio age began in 1988 with Rush Limbaugh, and continues with a rash of imitators whose daily goal is simply to keep us tuning in, day after day. They play on our need for agitation. When people feel “dead” inside, they want something that makes them feel alive, even if it leads to a non-solution that hooks them.1

Not much different from narcotics, is it?

The real eye-opener for me was when I finally watched Ronald Reagan’s amazing 1964 speech on Goldwater’s behalf and realized that every complaint was still valid today. If anything, the federal juggernaut’s only grown larger and more intrusive, and its opposition more impotent.

The core problem is, no one’s offered a viable alternative and stuck with it long enough to reverse our path.

I chalk it up to our prideful assumption that every problem is new, and that it’s up to us to devise a novel solution. We often forget that we’re not the first to confront it.

 

As a young adult, I never imagined there was a spiritual answer to the quest for sexual gratification. (I don’t mean spiritual in the sense of crystals and Tibetan incense, but within the realm of a supreme being.) As a teen, I figured that our apparently asexual ancestors had no idea. Try to picture Colonial Man struggling out of his breeches and fording the folds of his wife’s petticoat. I saw much greater promise in the images of my time, such as Playboy.

I dwelt on this form of other-worship until, desperate for a better answer, I started reading Dr. Alexander Lowen’s books. His titles alone (The Language of the Body [1958], Love and Orgasm [1965], Pleasure [1970], and Love, Sex and Your Heart [1988], to name a few) should have been enough to tempt anyone, but he couldn’t compete with the graphic, how-to books of his era.

Dr. Lowen, a practicing psychiatrist in 1950s Manhattan, worked with patient after patient complaining of frustration in their sexual lives, despite having pretty much all the sex they wanted.2 He began to see the problem for what it was: most people had never understood intercourse as an experience meant to point them toward God. Instead, a prudish American culture saw sex as a vice, or maybe a necessary evil. Like the bottle of hooch at the teetotalers’ wedding reception, it was to be stashed in somebody’s trunk, out in the parking lot. Not in public view, and certainly not in God’s house.3

As a pioneering therapist who combined body work with talk therapy, Dr. Lowen sought to reintegrate body, mind, and spirit within his patients. What this secular Jew may not have known was, the Vatican was doing the same thing at the same time.

 

Priests were the original therapists. As hearers of confessions, they probably know more about their penitents than all but the most probing modern analysts know about their patients. And, whereas parishioners are expected to tithe regardless of whether they frequent the confessional, no one writes checks to a psychotherapist unless he thinks he’s getting his money’s worth. (That’s how we get the Woody Allen situation.)

In 1968, Pope Paul VI responded to the Sexual Revolution with Humanae Vitae, a reaffirmation of church teachings on the sanctity of human life, marriage, and sexuality. I was too young to have heard of this at the time, but I can imagine the response, at least in the U.S. secular media and popular culture: Yawn. The Old Men of Old Europe still don’t get it. Popes and cardinals are celibate anyway; what could they know about sex?

Further, growing up mostly unchurched in a secular environment, I’d never been exposed to the idea that the cross had anything to teach about sexuality. Undoubtedly this is still a new idea to many of us as adults—even Christian adults. Which is partly why Humanae Vitae didn’t move the cultural needle, and would not, until Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body began to wend its way into the culture through writers who could translate its dense text into widely accessible ideas.

TTOB needs a book or three to map, and maybe more to plot an individual’s course. Let me commend this one, for starters. What remains for us is reconciliation of the “sex” we’ve come to picture when we hear the word (which is often like porn, and porn isn’t sex), and its author even got himself into some hot water trying to do that. This is treacherous territory, connecting God and sex within the human mind, but it shouldn’t be. Our American culture has taught us they have little or nothing in common.

Here’s some of what Dr. Lowen, addressing a delicate mix of American readers, had to say about that connection:

Precisely because religious communion can move us (in the emotional sense), we experience it as a valid expression of our link with the universe or God. Sexual orgasm is a deeper, more biological experience of man’s unity with nature and the universe.

Glow and lumination are other aspects of this phenomenon that bear some resemblance to cosmic events. The full orgasm is generally accompanied by a feeling of glow that is a “higher,” perhaps hotter, stage of the phenomenon of sexual heat. If the intensity and extent of the orgasm reach a high peak, the glow may extend over the whole body and be experienced as a feeling of lumination. The external manifestation of this feeling of lumination is seen as a radiance that is the natural expression of a person in love. Glow and lumination are properties of heavenly bodies. The person in love feels that he is in heaven.

In love, the individual transcends the experience of his finite existence; in orgasm, he transcends the feeling of his physical existence.

This passage (from Love and Orgasm) reminds of these verses in Exodus 34, where Moses’ face was seen to glow in the aftermath of his direct communion with God.

This communion, this unity, is available through sexual intercourse but only attainable through complete surrender. Two individuals can’t become “as one” if they still count themselves as individuals.

In my book, I use an extended metaphor to illustrate this: the ballroom dance. Having grown up with disco and New Wave as my musical guides, I had little knowledge of what ballroom dancing was and even less of an idea what it symbolized. But a dance as simple as the Texas Two-Step introduces a few points foreign to those of us whose youthful dance-floor skills have always added up to little more than controlled flailing.

In the ballroom dance:

  • The man leads.
  • The woman follows.
  • They pay attention only to each other.

He cannot lead if he’s thinking of the attractive women nearby, or about how he looks while he’s dancing. If she gets absorbed in her own appearance, or tries to modify the step, they will probably trip.

It’s the giving up of distractions, selfish interests, and manipulation that enables unity. In unity, they achieve a beauty unattainable through other means. Two become one, and in the process they reach something higher than either could achieve alone.

In all my self-guided, youthful learning about sexuality, I never heard anything like that. The cultural lessons were all about self-gratifying pursuit—or “pleasing” the other, which is self-gratification in disguise. For the most part, in the popular culture, that’s still what passes for “sexpertise.”

 

In writing about the design of mechanical things, an engineering historian once wrote, “Perfection is achieved not when nothing more can be added, but when nothing more can be taken away.”

I think that applies to sex, as well. And that’s the summary of this particular tip: Forget everything the world has taught you about sex, and start over. You might be surprised how little you really need to know.

 

1 I’ve often wondered if the reason these shows are so commonly sponsored by bankruptcy attorneys is, so many of the listeners feel and behave as if they have no control over anything important in their lives—and their finances reflect it.

2 The Sexual Revolution was in full swing in the 1950s, before mass media caught on.

3 Of course nobody has sex in church or in public. The problem is excluding God from sex when it happens.