What a strange title to this blog post!
There has been much talk in recent years about the mind-body connection, as well as other types of harmony within us. “Splits” between feelings and intellect or between mind and body are frequent topics at psychotherapy conventions, and the whole topic of mindfulness is about healing this split. One important split that also often exists is a split between heart and genital sexual expression.
Anne Stirling Hastings, in her book Finding sexuality that will satisfy you both (out of print), states her belief that sex is more about feelings than about sex. I agree with her. It’s easy for impersonal sexual arousal to become a pursuit to heal our wounds or provide excitement for a lagging emotional life. In fact, sex addiction itself is typically about impersonal sex, not relational sex.
Dr. Hastings also describes two different kinds of sex…what she calls “sex from the inside-out” and “sex from the outside-in”. Sex from the inside-out happens when you know someone, have feelings about them, and your body tells you what it wants to do to their body. This is the “good stuff.” Sex from the outside-in is about using objectified others, images, or objects to create sexual arousal because one “gets off” on the high of the experience. It tends to be impersonal in nature, and ones heart, or emotional self, is relatively shut down during the experience.
Sex without relationship can be very arousing, but it typically isn’t all that satisfying. It can feel empty to have one’s heart disengaged during what is a really intimate physical body experience. Gestalt therapy, which I enjoy, emphasizes the importance of healthy contact with self and others. Many people in the gestalt world define healthy contact differently, of course, but to me having one’s heart engaged simultaneously with one’s sexual body is a good way to avoid pseudo-emotional contact that happens during impersonal sex.
In fact, in some ways we learn about intimacy and sex at different points in our lives. Much of our learning about intimacy happens during the attachments of early life within our families. When that doesn’t happen in a healthy way there are often negative effects in our ability to engage intimately later. Genital sexuality tends to be learned when the hormones start to flow in adolescence. The goal for most of us is to blend the two types of intimacy together into a loving relationship.
We don’t tend to see articles about nutrition recommending “junk food” as staple ingredients for a good diet. In the same way “junk sex” leading to pseudo-emotional momentary intimacy isn’t a staple ingredient for a satisfying inner life. Learning to express ourselves emotionally as well as physically is a mark of maturity.
Heart and genitals function well together…they are a great gift when used in harmony.