Last week, we shared excerpts about vaginas and penises and intercourse and masturbation. Everybody’s got ‘em. Everybody does ‘em. But what about their affect on our bodies and minds?
As can be expected, our writers have had a lot to say about the affect of sex and relationships on our bodies and minds. How could they not, what with it all being so intertwined? From sexual health to spirituality, whatever your worry, we’ve got you covered.
Get yo'self tested!
As we find ourselves delving further and further into freedom of sexual expression, we’re seeing sexual health become increasingly more important. Be it because we want to protect ourselves and loved ones from sexually transmitted infections, or because we want to extend our sex lives well past our prime. Luckily, as we become more sexually free, what we know about sexual health progresses, as well.
In 2009, STDs were on the rise. Elizabeth cited President George W. Bush’s abstinence-only focused sex education policies in her article Lower Education: Why STDs are Making a Comeback on College Campuses.
According to the CDC, after a long period of decline in the rates of sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy seen among young adults, the numbers of diagnoses have steadily begun to rise over the last few years. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and even syphilis have been seen in increasing numbers among young people, even though all of these diseases are largely preventable with the use of condoms.
Much of this increase, at least anecdotally, can be tied to the Bush administration’s abstinence-only focused sex education policies. Telling teenagers that they need to wait to have sex until they get married does not teach them how to have sex safely (even if/when they are married). So, if and when teens choose to explore their sexuality—and they will—they don’t have the information to do so without accidentally acquiring one of the natural consequences of unprotected sex: a baby or a disease.
In 2010, we were still hemming and hawing about the state of healthcare ... especially for women. G.L. Morrison graded women's healthcare for us in Grading on the Curves: A Report Card on Women’s Healthcare.
It’s no surprise that high school didn’t prepare me for real life. “Health” outside of the classroom is a maze of clueless or indifferent doctors, undiagnosable syndromes, mutating viruses and scariest of all: insurance companies. The simple apple-a-day magic that childhood promised does not fulfill any deductible or provide birth control, mammograms or pap smears.
I didn’t fail Health. Health failed me. Big F. Fat, Female, Feminist: All the F words your doctor and your insurance carrier don’t want to hear.
Q: How many radical feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: THAT’S NOT FUNNY!
Imagine our current healthcare situation as melodrama (that doesn’t take too much imagination): an old black-and-white film in which the pouty lipped heroine screams silently and the word “HELP!” appears in shaky letters. The villain, twirling his fiendish mustache, is the Insurance Companies. The starlet (usually tied to the train tracks in her petticoats) is you—and every other woman in America. Congress is the Keystone Kops.
And who can forget about the HIV patient in Berlin who was cured of HIV? Tinamarie Bernard explained the procedures that cured him for us in HIV Cure: Premature, Overstated Optimism or Medical Miracle?
By now, this is what we know: Timothy Ray Brown, an American living in Berlin, was treated for a type of blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, in a novel way. His doctors selected a transplant donor whose stem cells had a mutation; they lacked the presence of a specific receptor, which means that their white blood cells—the immune cells that are attacked by the HIV virus—are less susceptible to infection.
I learned to view receptors as “locks” that must be activated in order for something to get inside the cell. In this case, the HIV virus has a “key” that doesn’t work in this “lock.” Individuals with these altered cells are far less likely to become infected with HIV because the virus must find a back door in.
Of course, the HIV virus is tricky, known to mutate, and does find other receptor sites through which to infect a person’s white blood cells. Somehow, in the case of The Berlin Patient, this didn’t happen. Not only did Brown’s doctors find a suitable match for him—challenging in itself—but the donor belonged to that group of 1 percent of Caucasians with this genetic alteration. From a probability point of view, it was much like winning the lottery. Twice.
Three years later, and after difficulties related to chemotherapy, Mr. Brown is the first medically documented case of someone being cured of HIV. As far as tests can determine, his body is free of the virus and the leukemia.
Sex and Spirituality Intertwined
Since the dawning of time, sex and spirituality have been heavily intertwined. Just about every book religion in existence has its own opinions on sex. But besides that, sex can be a wholly spiritual experience!
What is the difference between sexual freedom and promiscuity, anyway? Find the answer in Spiritually Free or Sexually Promiscuous?
Sexual freedom is at the core of sacred sexuality. From the outside looking in, it might be confused with promiscuity (no slut-shaming implied here), so understanding the difference is essential to our journey.
“Humans crave erotic love and ecstatic sexuality, but we also fear them knowing how powerless we are in their path,” writes Deborah Anapol, PhD, a long time educator and founder of lovewithoutlimits.com. “Isn’t it safer to create rigid social institutions to contain them, even if we end up strangling the life out of them in the process?”
Indeed, following fear was the only way I found to understand one subtle nuance of true sexual freedom. What we fear most about love and sexuality (or anything in life) is where we must grow. Fear that isn’t dealt with can wreck havoc on love of self and love of other. It also interferes with our ability to be conscious in our ‘lovemaking.” The more we face our fears about love and sexuality and the more we push unnatural and harmful boundaries, the more we paradoxically have less to be afraid of. Our sexual choices become more authentic, unfettered by useless social constructs, prejudices or shame.
Dorian Darque reminded us there’s a dark side to everything – including sex and spirituality – in Faith No More: When Spiritualists Trade Sex for Healing.
To be fair, hucksters, swindlers and predators are everywhere; but they seem to like Sedona a lot. The vulnerable and hurt gather here, searching for help and healing, shared faith, or escape from judgment and a conventional life. There is no shortage of those willing to lend a hand, for a fee or for sex, and sometimes both.
This manipulation takes different forms. Cults will wear down your will gradually, using continuous positive suggestion, often seeming innocent at first. “It’s about mind control,” says Stasia, a former cult recruit. (Stasia is not her real name, nor are the names of anyone who agreed to be interviewed for this story.) “These are people you may work with, they can be neighbors, or someone you met at a party. This cult was about two things: surrendering your money and your body.
“They use their most attractive people to lure you in,” she continues. “Persuasion and pressure follow. It’s gentle at first, but the rhetoric and pressure keeps climbing. I was constantly encouraged to join this ‘group of amazing people,’ but they don’t tell you you’re expected to have sex with the whole group, both men and women, sometimes all together, sometimes alone. I was not the only recruit; there were others. I don’t know what happened to them, and I wasn’t hanging around to find out.”
And Erin ORiordan explained sex magic in all its wondrous – and sometimes terrifying – glory in her articles Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Reading the Sacred Sex Bible.
For further enlightenment I turned to P.F. Newman, a practicing witch and one of my online social networking friends. In a private e-mail, I asked Newman, “What is sex magic? How did you first learn about it?“ Newman sent me the following reply:
“Sex is a two-edged sword without magic, so it is logical that it is an even deadlier thing when used for magic. It is also a known fact that love magic doesn't work. Or more precisely, casting a spell to make someone love you is a terrible thing - terribly effective and works ruin. So much wiser to cast a spell to correct yourself and make yourself ready and worthy to draw the right lover, not the passing desire of the moment.
“I learned about love magic from my mother. She knows the ways of the craft much better than I, for she was a true master and I am more of a student. I requested her advice about love spells and got quite a lecture, which I didn't believe. So I went to my spellbooks, and found quite a lot written on the matter from Silver Ravenwolf's To Ride a Silver Broomstick about the consequences of casting love spells incorrectly. So since then, I have cast love spells, but have neglected to name a specific man. This allows the Goddess to choose my partner, should she be so willing, without violating the primary law of respecting the free will of all people. This includes any man you intend to have.
“Sex magic is a similar concept. But far more intimate, and far more powerful. An orgy must be considered a decadent waste of energy, because sex gains in its intimacy. Literature and myth are also full of the idea of sex fused with magic. One of the classic ways of sexual magic is to invoke Venus, and should you wish more information on this subject, I suggest you summon her and beseech her for an interview. But beware of her price.”
Free your body and your mind will follow? Free your mind and the rest will follow? Whatever approach you take toward all things sexual, one thing’s for sure. It will always be a deeply personal one. And that’s just the way we like it.
We love to hear from you!
We’d love to hear what you have to say as well! Leave it in comments, or write a post of your very own!
Yes, that’s right. We want YOU to write something for SexIs! See this post for details!