I’ve been having a series of revelations on the theme of writing about sex, and why my writing strikes some people as controversial. In a thread below that has racked up more than 80 comments, I describe the connections between sex and astrology in theoretical terms: using the astrological houses as a model. Fair to say that my ideas about sexuality and astrology inform one another on a regular basis, and I’ve learned a lot from both reading charts and listening to people. I see the potential in my own chart and I do my best to live up to it and honor the mission I perceive (Cancer rising, Aquarius Moon conjunct Vesta, 8th house, and a bit of Chiron next door in Pisces). Studying astrology opens up a whole dimension of veiled information, much of which involves perspectives on how self encounters self, and how people encounter one another.
The first issue I’m aware of is that I don’t conflate relationships, sex and romance. I don’t conflate sex with morality. Being natural, sex is inherently moral. Relationships are inevitable. When people get to know one another they often want to share sex. It’s been said that put any two people together long enough and they will become sexually curious about one another. (And we know it often doesn’t take long at all.) I strongly encourage and celebrate sexual curiosity. I believe it’s one of the highest forms of curiosity and self-awareness.
In my view there is no ‘right’ format for relationships or for sex except for some grounding in authenticity. People who take a view that sex must only happen with certain people under certain conditions may find this pushes their buttons: morality, control, disease anxiety, whatever.
I am not saying that sex is appropriate under any special conditions, either — only that the short list is waaay too short, and that we have a lot of room to conduct ourselves ethically under an expanded or more relaxed relationship model.
Next, I bring a value to all of my writing, be it about sex or astrology: I encourage women to be as free in their relationships as they want to be, and as sexually free as they want to be. I believe in free love — the freedom to love, and the freedom to choose our lovers. I encourage women to lead the way, and to be self-aware enough to choose men or other women as lovers who honor their individuality. Men could make some progress here as well, and I am open to that conversation.
I have focused my writing for an audience of women, who I perceive as as having an especially complex situation to work out, due to the conditioning that many receive — what I call the guilt issue.
This freedom of self is impossible without a corresponding sense of responsibility, even an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. It’s not possible to over-emphasize this point, though of course, to connect with someone, there is always a risk involved. So you have to know your boundaries and the direction in which you want to push them. This process calls for a lot more exploration and conscious conversation than we’re accustomed to. Women in my view are entitled to be as monogamous as they want, as long as it’s not compulsory. I am aware how difficult the guilt issue makes sorting out ‘compulsory monogamy’ from ‘monogamy by choice’, and to distinguish the two takes enormous self-honesty and gaining experience that many people will frown upon at first.
What will your mother think? Many women are cruel to other women who aspire to the least modicum of sexual self-expression, with the exception of what happens within romantic orthodox monogamy. Independence and strong self-esteem are necessary for this, and the idea is controversial for a few reasons.
One is that the dominant relationship model in our society is codependency, and women in particular are still trained to feel incomplete if they don’t have a relationship. Some men have this issue as well, but as Simone de Beauvoir points out in The Second Sex, no boy is brought up specifically to be a husband, but many women are still raised wanting to be a wife more than anything. In that work, she writes, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” I use the word codependency in the colloquial sense rather than the clinical one: people who depend on one another to feel like a whole person.
One problem with making the slightest move toward sexual independence is that it can threaten our relationship structure. In the next instant, this can reveal that we don’t feel like a whole person, and that we depend on someone else for our sense not just of completion, but also of existence. This topic is covered by a much more experienced writer than I am, William Pennell Rock, in an article called Jealousy and the Abyss.
Note, this one page collects more views than any other article on Planet Waves and has for a decade (about 12,000 a year). Pennell takes the perspective that jealousy is connected to the fear of death. This is perceptive and useful; it helps us understand why we respond so strongly to jealousy. Pennell distinguishes the differences between jealousy, envy, the fear of abandonment and the lack of self-esteem. I bring another idea, which is that jealousy veils a profound depth of erotic energy.
I have seen how intensely how many people are turned on by what they say makes them jealous. The word for this is compersion. Here is some fairly recent thinking about that idea. Last, I have an idea that masturbation is truly feminist sex. If feminism is women defining themselves as people without the necessary involvement of men, the way that looks in a sexual context is masturbation. Men who embrace conscious masturbation can relax their demand on women as their only possible sexual or emotional outlet, finding their center and easing the pressure for sex that many women feel. In the 70s we were told that the only truly feminist sex was lesbianism.
But that excludes women who orient as heterosexual; and it excludes men. I think that self-sex is closer to the core of who we are — our primary sexual orientation — and it allows for the freedom of self-knowledge that we can share with whomever we want.
Further reading: The One and the Many
Musical interlude: from The Music Man.