Sex as Religious Experience

AngelAll bliss, and calm, like floating out on soft warm waters afterward.

With heavenly music coursing thru her ears “Marcella’s” introduction to sexuality made her sure of God’s approval.

But soon her Bible Belt community taught her that sex could send her to Hell — excepting one circumstance. (Marcella is a fictional character based on Marilyn Coffey’s childhood experience.)

Not all religions at all times have seen it that way. In fact, there’s a centuries-old association between religious ecstasy and orgasm.

Some American Indian tribes saw sexuality as a gift of the great spirit (at least before contact with Europeans).

Among the ancient Hawaiians genitals were considered holy and treated with respect and worship.

The depth and breath of sexual energy is also explored through the tantra, practiced by many Hindu, Buddhist and New Age adherents. It is said to bring one closer to higher power.

Or “open” the sacral chakra by meditating on it and welcome abundance, well-being, pleasure, and sexuality.

Sex as a religious experience may not be everyone’s experience, but among my students nearly one-third of the women and a quarter of the men call “transcendence” one of the best things about sex.

A Jewish woman told University of Texas/Austin, researchers, Cindy Meston and David Buss this:

In Jewish law it is a good deed to have sex with a partner on Shabbat, and in Jewish mysticism, there is a form of sexual ecstasy that mimics the union of God and man, and recreation of the world. I can’t really describe this experience… but pure joy and connection with another person I feel is becoming closer to the cycles of life and the underlying palpable energy of the world… in essence, God.

On a less religious and more spiritual note, another woman felt this way:

It was a dream come true, being with this incredible man. I was able to lose myself and seek God, for the edges of the dream in the real world met.

There’s a reason why sex can feel like connection with God, say Meston and Buss. Apparently, the brains of those seeking deep spiritual connection through prayer or meditation can undergo a change that makes it difficult to distinguish between self and non-self.

Perhaps that deep spiritual connection mirrors what happens when we feel deeply connected to our partners.

So yes, sex can be a religious experience.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 2, 2016, in sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Considered holistically, the sexual union climaxing at orgasmic summit is a replication of spiritual bliss, attainable when individual self becomes one with the universal. Every creation is born out of desire. The universe itself stems from the desire of purusha and prakriti, translating to male and female energy. Sex is worshipped in ancient Indian tradition. Kama Sutra, the oldest treatise on Sex, is written by an Indian sage by name Vatsyayana. . .

  2. In India, the “Tantric” path of practice, often called “tantric yoga” says the same. It’s a very complicated theory, the crux is, seeking divinity through sexual relation with the partner and strengthening the spiritual bond through the process.

  3. Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but I note that many are known to call out to God during the experience.

  4. That seems more so with the passionate, love making sex with a loved one or when having that where a deep experience and connection would happen. And this might be so for the early stage of the relationship with strong love, but infatuation too. I’m not sure about the 20 years married, have kids, tired, but want to get it on before bed, routine sex, even though the couple loves each other, it’s more a routine, less passionate sex. Sure there’s connection and the sex may be good, but some reason I feel that this religious, highly deep experience can come with madly in love, new couples more often. Because there’s that strong spark and novelty hasn’t worn out yet and strong lust too with that love.

    • “That seems more so with the passionate, love making sex with a loved one or when having that where a deep experience and connection would happen.”

      Yeah, you probably won’t get this with casual Sex.

      “And this might be so for the early stage of the relationship with strong love, but infatuation too.”

      I haven’t seen any numbers on this exact question but some studies have found that sex often gets better over the course of long relationships. And another study found that deeply connected couples can have really great sex. Maybe this kind?

      • I don’t know, a problem for long termed couples that have been with each other for lik 20 years is things get ‘stale”. So I can’t imagine a religious like experience with sex for long relationships like that, unless they both are committed in their effort of spicing things up. Because sex will probably be routine and mundane for long term couples, which wouldn’t seem to be the case for new relationships, because there would be more likely to be “excitement” and all that crazy sex on the kitchen counter, etc. To me, passionate, loving, but mind blowing sex would seem to provide that religious experience.

        In what perspective is sex better with older age? Seems like there would be less of it and less exciting. Only thing would be a closeness which maybe couples are forced to do, because they are older, they can’t move like they used to, don’t have the libido they used to, so they need that emotional connection to keep the relationship going.

      • Well I guess you are someone who hasn’t have the experience so it’s hard to get.

        The study is based on questions asking people of different ages and relationship lengths how satisfied they are sexually. And there was a pattern– Not always followed–that many people rank their sex lives as more fulfilling the longer they have been together. One possibility is that people with fulfilling sex lives and more likely to stay together. Nonetheless, they were still fulfilling.

        Here are a couple books with different perspectives on the issue. The first one is more similar to your perspective, and the second is more similar to my own. I think it depends on what you want in relationship; What you’re looking for:

        Mating in Captivity, by Esther Perel (2002)

        Perel is a couples therapist who says that domesticity and sexual desire don’t go easily hand-in-hand. The solution lies in creating distance between yourself and your partner in order to spark a level of instability and uncertainty that allows “wanting” to emerge.

        The Science of Trust, by John Gottman (2011)

        Gottman spent something like 20 years studying couples, looking for patterns. He would have couples spend weeks in apartments that were hooked up to observe them and their bodily responses. I think he also hooked them up to check certain physiological responses as they looked at pictures of their partners. And he also interviewed or surveyed them. Based on all of this research he sees things differently from Perel. He says sexual desire is sustained not by distance but by an intimate turning toward one’s partner.

  5. Tuyet jasmine pham

    I like how you write about how the ancient hawaiians respected the genitals. I feel like the genital area should definitely be appreciated most. After all, most women get sexual stimulation from that certain area.

    • They do indeed. And men, too. And it is all the source of life – which is a very good thing! Between that and the ecstasy, no wonder sex was often a worshipful thing in early religions. (And these religions tended to be gender equal!)

  1. Pingback: Sex as Religious Experience – Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world

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