Thinking Sex: Spirituality and Adultery Forum


Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

spirituality and adultery
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-25 08:01:08
Link to this Comment: 7391

Our last group conversation will be on the topics of spirituality and adultery. We are reading for today's class Scott Peck's essay on "Sexuality and Spirituality" and Laura Kipnis's essay on "Adultery"--as well as (a late addition; I'll bring it along) John Donne's poem, "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God." What are your reactions when these two texts are placed in conversation with one another? How do they challenge and extend one another's claims--and (more importantly) your own thinking about both of these issues?


"I Believe..."
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-25 10:06:54
Link to this Comment: 7392

Before answering my question, above, regarding the "extension" of your own thinking (believing?) about spirituality and adultery, you might have a look @ this meditation on the Significance of 'Believing' for Individuals, Science, and Politics....



Name: Ro.
Date: 2003-11-26 08:09:46
Link to this Comment: 7398

As I wait for someone who's coming to fix a broken pipe, I'm thinking about our truncated discussion in yesterday's class...much more engaging than plumbing...at least the kind of plumbing I'm about to have fixed :-)

The treatise regarding adultery was fascinating for the tight connections it makes between the irresistible urge to "commit adultery" and the social/cultural conditions surrounding power and the contract of marriage. Made me think, once again, about taking and giving--first in a contractual nature and then is the context of what feels as though it's happening in "little death." Marriage appears as a cold and calculated event with expectations that have more to do with fiscal well-being/safety/social status etc than with the achievement of a blissful state akin to that which happens to some who passionately embrace their god(s). Yet, marriage is often the upshot of physical passion between two people and is consumated (in a very legal sense) with/by the act of sex, while the most poignant act--of Christianity anyway--was most notably an immaculate, sexless conception. Is the collection of christian churches saying that sex was not intended for procreation after all?! If so, Scott's article may be on to something. I realize that what I just wrote is an unsorted jumble of thoughts, but maybe there's a pony in that pile...

If people seek each other (either for purposes of marriage or adultery) in an unconscious attempt to find a substitute for a god-figure, and then--in the grips of those two people having sex, their orgasmic climax results in each of them losing sight of the other person in that moment, isn't that a form of giving? For me, giving is the willingness to lose that which you give. In good sex, a person is giving not him/herself but that disengagement from her/himself after having come to rely emotionally on the intense bond that's been created through marriage or adultery. With the same sort of logic (or lack thereof), an adulterous person is adulterous because he/she is taking away/spending/whatever something that was contractually committed in their marriage vows and contract. Adultery, therefore, has little to do with that which takes place between the adulterous couple. It is a crime (both civll and religious) not because it is sex between two people not married to each other, but because it violates the contract between two people who are. Which makes the Mass. ruling on same sex extramarital affairs misses the point. Could it be that our friends in Mass. believe that, as long as the conjugal union does not carry the prospect of reproduction--a sort of inside-out definition of "immaculate"--that there's no social violation/ risk to the act?

Period. New paragraph. Looking at the two articles side by side, it's a little freaky to think that a reader could deduce that adultery is understandable as the reoccuring persuit of a god figure, and is therefore OK...keep looking. My head hurts. It feels better only when I think about taking that single engine plane up for a spin and throwing it into a stall....which, ladies, is better than sex!

Have a great holiday!


thinking about thinking
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-26 10:33:01
Link to this Comment: 7401

You can find an account of the faculty discussion I described to you yesterday, which seemed very relevant to our on-going discussion in this class about what it means to "think, " @ Sentiment vs. Statistics. And @ relation between narrative and numbers, redux you'll see an account of my own thinking thereafter.

Enjoy the "break" from thinking that this week will provide...
see you guys thereafter--
Anne


Peck on marriage as work...
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-12-01 14:35:07
Link to this Comment: 7415

Last week I asked what the notion of work had to do with Peck's formation of sexuality as a potentially spiritual experience. I actually found another of his books, _The Road Less Traveled_, on my bookshelf at home over break and started reading the section on love. He defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (81). He says that it is not a feeling--ie not "romantic love", when we always feel warm and fuzzy toward the other person and associate those feelings with "being in love". He goes on to say that once this period of romantic love is over, then "genuine love" can begin. "Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present" (119). So even though the short chapter we read last week does not mention work, Peck elsewhere supports the notion that a good marriage IS work, which a spouse must do even when he/she doesn't feel like it. However, the payoff is spiritual growth for both parties--through the work of love, and, I suppose we could infer from "Sexuality and Spirituality", through a sexual relationship with a beloved other.

In relating this to Kipnis, I guess what is missing in her piece is the spiritual aspect...the goal of all that marital work. I'm not sure whether the chapter we read is from Kipnis's new book, Against Love: A Polemic, but in that she basically argues that people aren't meant to meant to be in long-term monogamous relationships...that it's unnatural and that we shouldn't have to work so hard at relationships that aren't fulfilling anymore. (Read a review at http://slate.msn.com/id/2087897/) Maybe I've been brainwashed by society or whatever, but this point of view seems immature to me...of course love isn't always going to be fun and exciting, but there are other benefits of long-term commitment...right??

I guess I'm feeling a bit disillusioned by both authors. I'm not very religious, so I don't know that I love my boyfriend in order to facilitate our spiritual growth, but I'm hoping there will be some reason for us to be together in 25 years beyond our indoctrination into the capitalist institution of marriage. Peck is writing from the Christian perspective that this world is only a precursor to the next, and so we'll have to struggle in this one; meanwhile Kipnis seems to feel that if we only have one life, we'd better make it a good and satisfying one. I'm not sure how I feel about the afterlife, but I do want this life to be as rewarding as possible. Maybe I'd feel better about the idea of "personal growth" rather than spiritual...I think my boyfriend and I are both learning more about ourselves as our relationship progresses. I don't know. Maybe the institution of marriage only works if you truly believe in it. I don't have enough life experience to really answer all my questions! Anyone have any suggestions?



Name: Ro.
Date: 2003-12-02 08:07:37
Link to this Comment: 7422

Sarah,
I guess I just want to weigh in as one person who has been married (twice)--for ten years the first time and then 20 years of living with a great guy before we decided to get married. We are still together and it gets better every year. I've often wondered what the terrifying U.S. statistic--that 40% -50% of all marriages end in divorce--is telling us. Do we make more choices based on physicality/sex/lust the first time around? Or are we not mature enough early in life to set aside self-centered considerations for the other person? I think that marriage does require attention--a balance between selfishness and selflessness. Perhaps things come unglued when one party's need to take is greater than the other party's ability or willingness to give. Of course, it's not that simple. I'm not even sure it's all that natural. Like you, I prefer to think that it is, but that statistic is troubling.

Reportedly, the divorce rates among various Jewish and Christian faith groups vary from between 21% and 30%, which is considerably lower than that which is touted for our overall population. But still high, I think. I wonder what people who are religious expect or get from their marriages that contributes to these statistics. Or are they just more tenacious, even when things become impossible?

And perhaps your notion of shared personal growth is not so different from spiritual growth. Does spiritual growth require a focus on an explicit god figure? Can't that figure be within us? If so, I see no difference between personal and spiritual. And I see sex as an expression of that shared growth, not as a means to achieve it...an effect, not a cause. Just some random thoughts triggered by your posting.

Thanks.
Ro



Name:
Date: 2003-12-02 11:05:49
Link to this Comment: 7423

Hey everyone---

Reading these pieces was very interesting for me... it made me think about the "institution" of monogamy in our culture. It seems like so much hinges on commitment and loyalty, when in reality, maybe that's not how we evolved to live our lives. Were we really meant to find one person and settle down with them, never stray in body or mind, and grow spirtitually with them and live happily ever after? I don't know... sometimes I feel that's what's been forced into my brain since I was a little girl. Here's my question: if sex can bring us to new spiritual heights, does it matter what kind of "sex" we're having (as long as it's meaningful sex)? Does it have to be "vanilla sex" in order to connect us with God? This just got me thinking...
Ro, interesting comment about the MA court ruling....

"Could it be that our friends in Mass. believe that, as long as the conjugal union does not carry the prospect of reproduction--a sort of inside-out definition of 'immaculate'--that there's no social violation/ risk to the act?"

I think that in many ways, you've got a good point. In our society, marriage has traditionally been thought of as a loyal union of two people who procreate (IMO). If the MA court is assuming that a conjugal homosexual union "does not carry the prospect of reproduction," does that mean that they are REALLY willing to legalize gay marriage because they don't see it as a risk to society as long as there are no children involved? If so, wouldn't this mean that they were viewing gay marriage as "less serious" than heterosexual marriage? This bothers me so much I don't know if I can get my words out....

Anyway, I must say that I greatly enjoyed Peck's piece. I found what he had to say about reaching new spiritual levels through sex fascinating. This has been a theory of mine for awhile.... after all, when one comes to orgasm, it's like losing oneself-- and one's ego. And when one's ego is out of the way, God (or whatever there is) can feel a lot closer. Just a thought. :-)



Name: Grannis
Date: 2003-12-02 11:07:04
Link to this Comment: 7424

Hey everyone---

Reading these pieces was very interesting for me... it made me think about the "institution" of monogamy in our culture. It seems like so much hinges on commitment and loyalty, when in reality, maybe that's not how we evolved to live our lives. Were we really meant to find one person and settle down with them, never stray in body or mind, and grow spirtitually with them and live happily ever after? I don't know... sometimes I feel that's what's been forced into my brain since I was a little girl. Here's my question: if sex can bring us to new spiritual heights, does it matter what kind of "sex" we're having (as long as it's meaningful sex)? Does it have to be "vanilla sex" in order to connect us with God? This just got me thinking...
Ro, interesting comment about the MA court ruling....

"Could it be that our friends in Mass. believe that, as long as the conjugal union does not carry the prospect of reproduction--a sort of inside-out definition of 'immaculate'--that there's no social violation/ risk to the act?"

I think that in many ways, you've got a good point. In our society, marriage has traditionally been thought of as a loyal union of two people who procreate (IMO). If the MA court is assuming that a conjugal homosexual union "does not carry the prospect of reproduction," does that mean that they are REALLY willing to legalize gay marriage because they don't see it as a risk to society as long as there are no children involved? If so, wouldn't this mean that they were viewing gay marriage as "less serious" than heterosexual marriage? This bothers me so much I don't know if I can get my words out....

Anyway, I must say that I greatly enjoyed Peck's piece. I found what he had to say about reaching new spiritual levels through sex fascinating. This has been a theory of mine for awhile.... after all, when one comes to orgasm, it's like losing oneself-- and one's ego. And when one's ego is out of the way, God (or whatever there is) can feel a lot closer. Just a thought. :-)



Name: Megan
Date: 2003-12-02 21:17:42
Link to this Comment: 7434

I don't really have a lot to say about the topic but I wanted to mention a concern I have. I'm fearful that if we say monogamy is not "natural" it gives us an excuse not to be faithful. It's like the scientists who say there is a biological link to violent crime--so criminals can use that as an excuse and say they were predisposed to be violent. The same goes for adultry. It's a cop-out for uncontrolled behavior and being weak. Instead of blaming it on nature people need to take responsibility for their actions.


"Oh god just like that!"
Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-12-02 21:44:38
Link to this Comment: 7436

Thinking about the 50% divorce rate and 7 year average length of marriages is too upsetting and therefore confusing so instead I'm going to think about sex.

I LOVED the idea of sex being spiritual. I'm one of those non-religious cliches, but I always love finding a connection between my life and something with a spiritual element in it. Sorry Ro, but I have to disagree about falling out of a plane vs. great sex. I've found nothing better than the kind of sex hopefully all of us will be lucky enough to have. Great sex is spiritual, no matter how disillusioned and bitter you are about religion, gotta admit that being that close to another person, feeling that good, goes beyond the physical. I don't want to assume that everyone likes sex as much as apparently I do...it requires a history of good fortune to allow yourself such invasion...so I don't want to cum off as being presumptuous, but I also think it's great to link religion with sex--it really kicks us pretentious folks who think religious people are sticks in the mud you know where.

Apparently I'm punchy tonight. Or horny. I hope I haven't crossed any lines. I'm going to work on my thesis now. See you Thursday.



Name: Jessie
Date: 2003-12-09 14:03:59
Link to this Comment: 7489

Combining the non-monogamy and the sexuality/religion arguments... I was thinking... what if sex IS sacred? Does that mean that we're necessarily suited to monogamy? Or, if monogamy denies us sexual pleasure (as Kipnis says), would monogamy actually be sacreligious? Or, maybe if we argue that "chaste" sex is the better, more spiritual sex (as Peck says), that would potentially mean that humans Are necessarily suited to monogamy. This would make adultery absolutely unacceptable -- it isn't just harmful to the spouse, it's a SIN, now that God is involved. Though Peck's argument is quite benign, I think his idea of a "three-way relationship" with God is pretty loaded. Once a superior authority is involved, people in a relationship aren't just accountable to themselves, they're also accountable to that higher power.

So, combining sexuality with religion may be great in that it could integrate spirituality with our daily lives, but, does putting religious obligation on our sex lives limit our pleasure? Does it create more "work," or another (heavenly) "supervisor," as Kipnis may put it? Peck's argument integrating God with sex could potentially just be another form of control for sexuality.

I'm actually of really mixed opinion about combining sexuality with religion -- I like the idea itself, it's just some of its conclusions that I may disagree with. I think it's good to integrate sexuality with religion -- religion usually EXCLUDES ideas that frighten us/feelings that we're ashamed of. So, I like the idea -- UNLESS integrating sexuality into religion is a way to control it / reduce it. In other words, I guess, I like bringing sexuality "down" from the realms of asexual heavens, but I don't like the idea of "raising" my sex life up somewhere where I am no longer in control.



Name: Catherine
Date: 2003-12-10 22:33:47
Link to this Comment: 7500

In many ways, this topic seemed like a good way to end the class. Out of all of the different ways we tried to read the language of sex, I think that infusing it with spirituality and religion is to empower it in the eyes of many people. At the same time, it scares me to think that such a basic act, one which many people do not take as seriously as maybe they should, is tied to your soul.
Are we making more of the 'language of sex' than we should? Are we trying so hard to find a medium to relate to others about our experience that we are ruining its simplicity?
A part of me loves how we took an entire semester to study and discuss this topic, but at the same time, I am tired out from all of the searching.


my wandering vulva
Name: Ali
Date: 2003-12-15 04:51:57
Link to this Comment: 7532

Megan: "I'm fearful that if we say monogamy is not "natural" it gives us an excuse not to be faithful. It's like the scientists who say there is a biological link to violent crime--so criminals can use that as an excuse and say they were predisposed to be violent. The same goes for adultry. It's a cop-out for uncontrolled behavior and being weak. Instead of blaming it on nature people need to take responsibility for their actions."

Well, what does natural mean? I think that polyamory/polygamy could be instinctively natural, because it maximizes reproduction. I think you are presupposing that fidelity is inherently the right/good thing for everyone. I will not deny that feelings get hurt intensely when a partner cheats in a monogamous relationship, but that doesn't mean all relationships are monogamous. I agree that the partner who cheats is responsible and can't blame it away with a sweeping generalization about nature and hormones. But I don't think that person is weak. Each individual needs to figure out for herself what kind of relationship person she is(or lack thereof). Love cannot be forced into boxes. The heart, mind and genitals will do as they please and its up to the person to decide how to act on feelings, both immediate ones (i.e. drunken sexual banter at the bar) and general ones (i.e. polyamory or monogamy).

I've certainly cheated on a whole bunch of monogamous ones (albeit high school relationships) - am I a wretched person? I didn't love my one ex any less after cheating (I even fell a bit more in love in realizing what I had). The concept of being with more than one person, of an open relationship opened up a world of doors for introspection within myself. I'd like to think that I have a plethora of love and affection and certainly sexual desire. I did the multiple partners thing and it had its complications but it TOTALLY, without a doubt fit my lifestyle at the time. I don't feel a spiritual connection from sex (although it's been 3 years since I've had sex and Love on the same plate), but I love sex and I love people. I didn't feel unnatural or that I was acting uncontrollably - I did feel sexy and independent for doing what I wanted instead of trying to squeeze my wandering vulva into a relationship that wasn't healthy or right for me.

Phew! Hope ya'll enjoyed that, it's 5 AM and I've been writing papers all night!



Name:
Date: 2003-12-19 23:39:35
Link to this Comment: 7566

when first asked to read the articles and compare them, i had a straight-forward, unmoving thought about them. i wondered how one could look at sex and spirituality and sex and adultery when adultery is obviously wrong. how can anything spiritual be found in adultery?
however, i think this connecting is in the aspect of always searching...a lover searching for God in an orgasm can search through a husband, wife or lover. while i do think marriage vows should be upheld, is it fair to deny that right? should we be able to search through anyone?
i also wanted to talk about the "three-personed God" poem. apparently the author had an orgams from God. but i couldn't help but think about all the srories and jokes about priests and nuns gettin it on, orphans that are really the children of nuns. maybe one can only reach God through a connection with another.


oops
Name: tia
Date: 2003-12-19 23:43:25
Link to this Comment: 7567

that last posting was mine. i forgot to put my name


down with dissapointment
Name:
Date: 2003-12-20 02:14:48
Link to this Comment: 7573

just a quick thought...Peck talked about the danger of thinking about a partner as a god, and searching for a partner to fulfill a spiritual gap. This seems like an idea perpetuated by society's (a specifically a christian-judeo society's) insistence on monogamy. Perhaps if we didn't have the idea that there was one "soul-mate" type person out there for us, for the rest of our lives, this idea would not be so overarching. So, perhaps Scott Peck's idea of celabacy and Laura Kipnis's idea of polygamy are in a way striving for the same thing.


the spiritual side of sex
Name: Bill
Date: 2005-01-24 22:36:30
Link to this Comment: 12215

Read through the comments and noticed that no one referenced Song of Solomon, a work that shows that eroticism and spirituality can exist side by side. In fact, my wife and I read this one to each other a couple of times a year to maintain the proper balance in that aspect of our lives together. The entire poem is devoted to two lovers, their love, yearnings during absence, fulfillment of their love, and even the afterglow. "I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse... I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey." Is this a metaphor aluding to oral sex? I think so. Immediately following, there is a third member involved in the narrative. "Eat, O friends. Drink, yes, drink deeply." Is this God coming on the scene speaking apporval of married love thusly expressed? If so, then there is an undeniable spiritual dimension to sex. Of course, anyone who has encountered another person in this fashion is already familiar with this fact unless they simply weren't paying attention during the proceedings.





| Serendip Forums | About Serendip | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Tuesday, 27-May-2014 14:31:21 EDT