Sex fascinates us. Whether we turn toward it, flushed and excited or away from it, tense and disquieted. Archetypal images of sex adorn the thresholds of ancient temples and inform most mythological systems. Shiva and Shakti, in their union, create the universe – she providing all forms for his undifferentiated light. The gods beget gods as they mate, giving rise to infinite imagistic permutations of cosmic and personal qualities. These religious images of creation and pleasure inform our individual psyche granting sexuality a numinous intensity.
Human culture shapes our initial attitudes toward sex. When infused with monotheistic religious feeling, sex is held as a sacrament subject to the rites and rituals believed to protect the couple from its overwhelming power and god’s jealous monitoring of the behavior. Polytheistic religions generated a multiplicity of god-forms and related myths to reflect a wide variety of possible relationships to sex and its outcomes. Pan, the lusty fertility god of the rut, Aphrodite the mistress of beauty and refined passion, Anteros the god of love returned, and Pothos, the god of sexual yearning – the infinite diversities of sexual expression, were held by related images and protectively tended by their devotees.
With the age of enlightenment that inevitably led to the current juggernaut of science and empirical attitude, we disposed of the archetypal images of sex, driving them into our personal and collective shadow. Defenses like shame and resentment keep the gods of sex at bay. At war within our bodies, they cause genital tissue to ossify and choke off requisite blood flow.
Freud was foremost in the battle to understand and liberate trapped sexual forces. As a neurologist, odd cases of functional disorders came to his attention – a patient who mysteriously could not feel a limb or a loss of sight without organic cause. His rigorous exploration of symptoms and personal narrative led him to a theory of psychosexual development which clarified how sexual energy, when thwarted, could lead to a host of mental and physical suffering or neurosis. Jung expanded the theory, suggesting there were many kinds of psychic energy, in addition to sex, that produced symptoms when trapped by unnatural attitudes or traumatic interference. He accepted the creative reality of sexuality and was an early champion of sexual diversity and self-determination.
As moderns, we have tried to liberate sex by reducing it to a transaction, making it subordinary and thus non-threatening. Kinsey championed the natural fluidity of sexuality by surveying and analyzing personal erotic experiences and publishing them – he tried to restore consciousness to the diversity of sexual themes, hoping it would broaden modern attitudes and cultivate acceptance. The chorus of explainers now spans widely from biopsychosocial researchers to evolutionary psychologists, gender role theorists, to social constructionists. Add to that list theologists, talk show hosts, and podcasters, and we can all agree – we can’t seem to take our eyes off sex.
Here’s the Dream We Analyze:
“I was running a marathon in the desert. First, I saw pueblos, familiar from an old dream. Then I saw a sleeping dragon, then a stack of rainbow-colored rocks. Finally, I entered a taqueria, and the man behind the stand gave me a sugar-covered tortilla. Then a woman with a veil came in.”
From Freud to Jung: A Comparative Study of the Psychology of the Unconscious by Liliane Frey-Rohn. https://a.co/d/63atnIv
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex Paperback by John Gray. https://a.co/d/4ZWjSmW
The Kinsey Institute, https://kinseyinstitute.org/
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