Joy With Your Underwear Down

What is most human about human sexuality is our unique capacity for intimacy. It takes guts as well as gusto to get any of the glory.

One of the the great myths of American culture is the belief that we achieved sexual liberation in the 1960s. That was the era we convinced ourselves that sex is a natural function and gave ourselves permission to like sex. The squeaky clean effectiveness of "the new sex therapy" encouraged our technocratic society to believe we could break sex down sex down into its component parts with the right technology, study it, and subdue it. We were about to discover the secrets of eroticism the same way we had cracked the atom.

Many people think it has already happened--that it happened way back then. Not long ago, clinicians thought that sexual happiness was inherent in sexual function and successful completion of the sexual response cycle created as much pleasure as any sane person could want. There are many today who still believe this.

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The notion that sex is a natural function was actually a giant step forward from the moral degeneracy view of sex that prevailed until that time. It was so widely believed that masturbation led to moral and mental decay that Kellogg's Corn Flakes was originally marketed as a cure.

The trouble is, the belief that sex is a natural function reinforced another widely held idea: the notion that good sex just happens. We expect good sex to happen naturally, especially if we love our partner. The idea that good sex just happens, like that of sex being a natural function, is predicated on the notion that sexual response is biologically programmed for all species.

But when good sex or good sexual function doesn't happen, some couples conclude they must not love each other enough. Or they wonder if there's something really screwed up because good sex supposedly happens naturally in the absence of pathology. When the expected genital response does not materialize, you're unwittingly predisposed to jump to conclude that there is something wrong with you.

In my 16 years as a sex therapist I have found that the "naturalized" view of sex is not so liberating as it once appeared. It pressures people to have sexual desire and genital response while it makes worrying about sexual performance seem inappropriate. And it obscures what is quintessentially human about human sexuality: our capacity for intimacy. The sex that comes naturally is reproductive sex. Intimate sex, however, is a learned ability and an acquired taste.

I was trained in the conventional beliefs. Blinded by the still-popular rationale that "natural" is naturally good, I never asked myself whether the people I treated for sexual dysfunctions were actually sexually happy. They got happier when their genitals worked. Then problems of sexual desire came into focus.

The fact that some people whose genitals worked and who had orgasms could have little desire for sex upset the entire field of sexual therapy in the late 70s. Problems of sexual desire violated basic assumptions about the way sex worked. But rather than change directions, sex therapists made sexual desire "natural" too, comparing it to the desire for food. Low sexual desire was thought of as "sexual anorexia," a kind of illness.

In the 60s, approaching sex through a medical model legitimized it for scientific study. But the price has been a limited focus on anything more than just functional sex. The shining promise of the sex therapy of the 1960s and 70s never materialized. We must now face the difficult notion that what many of us regard as our "most meaningful sexual experiences" are only a pale version of what we are really capable of--profoundly transcendent communion with another human being.

We are likely to respond to such an assertion by defending our personal experience of sex as reflecting all there is to it, and that's understandable. Nobody gets a yardstick that measures "good sex," and no one gets a manual outlining the limits of human sexual potential.

Society has never promulgated views about sexuality and intimacy to help people get the best of what human sexuality can be. It has always been a palliative for the masses, and as long as it works somewhat okay, that is enough. As a result, we lack a language and concepts to guide us through the long traverse to sexual bliss. For example, we use the words intimacy and sex interchangeably, but they really do not mean the same thing. In fact, we use one to avoid the other.

What our confusion of terms does, however, is make us think they often occur together for most people. Actually, being profoundly intimate during sex is one of the pinnacles of personal development, and a stunning step for our species. Intimacy during sex is, as I shall later discuss, the cutting edge of human evolution.

INTIMACY

Sex can express the best that humans can be and also be a powerful vehicle for getting to that point of personal development. Sex can be ecstatic, self-realizing, and self-transcendent all at once. The great feelings of self-affirmation and declaration of our personhood can make our most powerful genital sensations seem like mere trifles. Experienced together, the physiological and the psychological make a very interesting concoction.

Sex can be more than just a euphemism for "making love." It can be the actual process of increasing love, of sharing it, of whetting your appetite for it, and of celebrating life on its own terms. This process, as I will show, is actually built into the nature of committed relationships. It happens almost spontaneously; the hard part is going through it.

The most important part of "making love" does not involve "skill"; it has more to do with personal development. That link is partly obscured by our attempt to reduce sex to a set of behaviors, and partly by the way we view intimacy. We think of intimacy as involving reciprocity, the expectation that your partner is supposed to understand, validate, and "be there for you" when you disclose your deepest secrets. In practice, intimacy commonly becomes, "I reveal something about myself and you tell me I'm okay. If you accept me, maybe I'm not as bad as I thought I was."

However, our common misconception destroys intimacy in long-term relationships and stops sexual novelty. It blocks people from moving forward sexually because it prevents the introduction of anything new. When we are young--or perpetually immature--our sexual preferences are more determined by avoiding what makes us too nervous, rather than by doing what we really like. The typical sexual relationship develops by each person ruling out what he or she won't do, and then doing whatever options are left. That means a couple is already doing everything consensual. To do something new, one has to suggest something the other has more or less ruled "off limits."

De facto, expanding a sexual relationship involves doing things that one partner doesn't want to do. And if you are dependent on your partner validating your sexual preference, you're stuck. You can't expand your shared sexual repertoire because your partner is not likely to stroke you for suggesting new things. And while I'm in no way encouraging marital rape, the path to expanding how we feel good sexually is paradoxically often through things that don't make us feel good at first.

The fact that most people without sexual dysfunction still have utilitarian mediocre sex reflects how few of us are willing to make the journey. Better sex is not a matter of technique or dexterity. To get it, you've got to hold onto yourself. That is the paradox: you have to learn to hold onto yourself emotionally while holding onto your partner physically.

While other-validated intimacy has its time and place, marriage is not often one of them. What is more often necessary and important in long-term committed relationships is a nonreciprocal intimacy I call self-validated intimacy. It involves self-confrontation and self-disclosure in the presence of a partner. Period. It doesn't say what your partner does.

It feels good when our partners agree with and validate us, but you can't count on it. If you demand it, you can land in the crazy conundrum that creates eternal insecurity: we put a spin on what we reveal about ourselves in order to get the response we want. Then we can never feel secure with those who accept us because we know they don't really know us. When you are willing to validate yourself, you can afford to let your partner know you as you are. You stop presenting yourself the way you want to be seen, and you just disclose with no other goal than being truly known.

Self-validated intimacy sounds like: "I want you to know me before I die. I want to share with you my days, which would otherwise be less meaningful. It would be nice if you agreed with me, wonderful if you liked me. But most of all I want to know that somebody really knew who and what I am. More than I fear your rejection I fear never reaching across my mortality, which separates me from you and others. I will care for my own feelings, just know me--including my sexuality."

Intimacy, it should now be clear, is not always soothing and doesn't always "feel good." It is, however, how we forge ourselves into the people we would like to be.

Our culture is replete with misinformation about sexual intimacy--meaning intimacy during sex. Women' s magazines, for example, regularly advise readers to dress themselves in Saran Wrap or do something else new. Everybody knows it is necessary to introduce novelty. Why don't we? Because it's a function of personal development, not knowledge.

It could be very exciting to do something novel like greet your sweetie at the door stark naked. The problem is the next step: what happens if he or she walks right by and asks what you fixed for dinner? Most of us would take our partner's response personally and feel devastated. We won't risk that because we lack the inner strength to handle this possibility. When you're so exposed, it's a test of personal integrity to remember your partner might be so frightened the only way he or she can handle it is to focus on pot roast. But don't make the common assumption that you "failed to communicate" just because your partner didn't handle your "question" well and you didn't like the "answer."

It's unrealistic (but common) to expect a partner to make the work of life easier--or to make sex easier, for that matter. For ease and efficiency, masturbation wins out. But sex with a partner can be a great teacher about life and relationships--and about oneself. A monogamous long-term relationship is a powerful way to explore the mysteries and paradoxes of human connection. Fundamentally, we are social animals. Deprived of feel-good human contact comfort, infants fail to thrive.

FEELING GOOD

Feeling good drives human evolution and our capacity for sexual experience. Sociobiologists like Helen Fisher, Ph.D., author of The Sex Contract and The Anatomy of Love, report that our ability to feel good with other people has literally driven the shape of human evolution--and prompted us to further evolve our capacity for feeling good. This is the force behind human females' evolutionary shift from estrus-related sexual receptivity to nonseasonal sexual desire; the development of a forward-tilting uterus permitting face-to-face intercourse; the natural selection of men for their capacity to pair bond; and our complex sexual-emotional interpersonal signaling system.

Bonded together by the ability to make each other feel good, our ancestors began staying together year round and paved the way for language, and with it, our capacity for self-reflection, our ability to bring high meaning to sex. All of these abilities came into being through our neocortex, the latest part of our brain to evolve. And with them came the ability to raise the "I/Thou" distinction, fundamental to intimacy, into an art form and to a spiritual plane. Perhaps if we were more open to the integration of sexuality and spirituality, we would not be so surprised to see sex, intimacy, and Martin Buber as bedfellows.

What we in Western society have previously considered human sexual response is more accurately a model of mammalian sexual response; it is purely physiological. True intimacy, however, is a self-reflective process, and the concept of self is rooted in the neocortex. This is what is most human about human sexuality.

Our neocortex increases our ability to give meaning to life. No other species has the capacity to bring to life and sex the meanings that we can, because of the subtleties we can make in meanings. Through intimacy we participate in evolution.

In contrast to a physiological model of human sexuality, I have developed a model of human sexuality, called The Quantum Model, that takes into account our neocortex and the impact of meanings and meaningfulness. We are meaning-making animals; the more meanings we bring to sex, the more richness our life has--and the greater our ability to feel good.

Several hundred thousand years ago, our species traded programmed sexual regularity for the ability to bring meaning to sex. The involvement of our neocortex in sex, however, not only paves the way for satisfaction--it's what causes most sexual dysfunctions. The receiver's mental and emotional processes, how we feel about what we're doing during the time we're doing it, is a bigger determinant of the overall level of stimulation we experience than the tactile maneuvers. How we perceive physical contact can either potentiate, mitigate, or debilitate the sensate dimension, and plays a large role in whether our bodies function the way we think they're supposed to. It plays an even bigger role than orgasms do in determining whether or not we're "satisfied."

SEX AND SPIRITUALITY

The point of all this talk about brain function and intimacy is to help us recognize the significance of common experience. Our involvement in sex can vary from absolutely superficial--where two people are just triggering reflexes in each other's bodies--to the point of profound meaning. When we are profoundly involved in sex, it taps the core of who we are. In other words, we often have untapped sexual potential for feeling good.

Having sex at the limits of one's potential involves profound connection that takes place on multiple levels. The obvious one is profound connection with your partner--but there is also something higher. There's the the experience of the oceanic, doing something that every generation around the world has done from time immemorial. You join the passing generations, part of the flow of life.

Strange things happen when we have sex at the limits of our potential. That we hear so little about this spiritual side of sex reflects how few people ever reach their sexual potential.

o There is time stoppage. It is a consequence of profound involvement.

o There's also a lack of awareness of pain. I work with people who have arthritis. I advise them to have sex in the morning, so they will have less pain--but to have less pain they have to be involved.

o There is a laserlike focusing of consciousness. Deeply engrossed, you become oblivious to extraneous noise, day-to-day reality fades, and your world ends at the edges of your bed. There is often a vacation like sense of transportment.

o Age shifting is another phenomenon. You may be holding your partner's face in your hands and suddenly see, in a very loving way, what he or she will look like older, or exactly what he looked like when he was eight years old. It is very moving.

In the timeless connection of profound sex--if we have the strength, and that is an important caveat--we have the opportunity to drop our mask, to drop our character armor, and to let ourselves be seen behind the eyeballs, metaphorically and literally. It's where we see ourselves and our partners against the backdrop of the mystery (and absurdity) of life. For this reason, I note how many people insist on having sex with their eyes closed or in the dark, and help my clients learn to have sex with their eyes open.

Another facet of the spirituality of sex reveals itself when people approach their sexual potential. There is a spontaneous shift in the nature of desire, from desire out of emptiness to desire out of fullness. The "blue-balls" or "horniness" biological model of desire that currently pervades both professional practice and society, is desire out of emptiness. It presumes that once you reach orgasm, you aren't interested in your partner anymore.

People who desire out of fullness find they're already emotionally satisfied. They seek out their partner not for purposes of reassurance or validation but to celebrate what they already feel. Orgasm doesn't diminish desire for their partner, or for sex either. Afterwards, they don't roll over and go to sleep. They want to keep going until their soul, not just their body, is done.

Desire out of fullness carries with it a wonderful feeling of finally feeling clean about your sexuality. Your sexuality actually enhances your personhood rather than diminishes it. You feel desirous and desirable in and of yourself and learn about desiring others. If the Garden of Eden were recreated on earth, I think it would take form in our bedrooms through our capacity for sex and intimacy.

Slowly a different conceptualization of sex, a spiritual sexuality, is starting to evolve. There's a lot more to it than just shouting "Oh God" in mid-orgasm. Part of that great feeling lies in realizing you've reached a level of sexual development beyond what occurs between adolescents in the back seat of a '57 Chevy.

Western culture, however, has been highly sex negative (and continues to be in subtle ways). This is a result of the mind-body duality that has dominated Western thinking for centuries. For too long society has preached that liberation of the soul involves rejecting the pleasures of the flesh. In reality it occurs through sexual development and feeling good, rather than self-abnegation. Even the secular world has almost no culture of happy romantic love, and certainly not within marriage. There is little foundation to support modern expectations for feeling good in long-term relationships, which is one reason why so many feel so bad about trying to feel better about sex.

SEXUAL STYLES

Most people think of sex as something that they do. We are here redefining sex as an expression of who and what you are. Eroticism determines who you copulate with and which behaviors you like. Eroticism is what turns you on. It's the style and manner in which you want to engage your partner sexually. It is the way you want to have sex. Eroticism is not the same thing as behavior, but is expressed in the nuances of behavior. It determines not just whether or not you like oral sex but the style of that oral sex.

Eroticism shows up in your sexual style, and people who give play to their eroticism often find style is more important than technical skill. Technical skill is just a tool. You need enough technical skill to express a variety of intents. The most important part of eroticism is a function of personal development--the breadth of meanings you can bring to sex.

Meanings are conveyed in the minute nuances of sexual style. The more meanings you can bring to sex, the broader the possibilities for engaging your partner. The more subtleties you can have, the more novelty you can have--because there are limits to the ways to juxtapose two sets of orifices.

Sex is like a language. Some of us can converse just enough to get along, like travelers in a foreign land, limited to merely making love and/or the exaltation of body sensations. Some of us, however, are poets; we bring a large vocabulary of meanings to sex. As a wordsmith recognizes fine distinctions among words, the sexual poet can bring so much meaning to sex it takes all we can muster to figure out the meaning, even if we can't author the message the same way.

It is the meanings in sex that drive us crazy. Think, for instance, about one partner performing oral sex on the other. What about the issue of gusto? If your partner really doesn't like it (or you), you can tell him or her how to move their hand or mouth till their fingers fall off--you're not going to get what you're looking for. Your partner may be stimulating your genitals to exact technical specifications, and you'll still be frustrated because you know something is missing.

You can bring another to orgasm and withhold from them at the same moment. We do that all the time. I call it normal marital sadism because it is so common in long-term relationships.

Eroticism is-not for the weak because recognizing there is more to get involves realizing that you're not getting it. The question is, why? Am I not up to it? Is my partner not up to it? Is my partner up to it but withholding from me? And how am I going to get it out of him or her?

SEXUAL PRIME VS. GENITAL PRIME

In the process of teaching medical students and physicians at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, I've learned that reading textbooks can be a liability. Textbooks teach us that men reach their sexual peak in adolescence; women supposedly reach theirs shortly thereafter. This is untrue--but people live down to it just the same. The textbooks are actually focusing on genital responsiveness, the quickness with which a man will have an erection, his speed in getting a second erection, and the strength of his ejaculations.

It is true that men reach their genital prime in adolescence. And it is downhill from there for everyone--if sexual prime only measured by how quickly your body responds. But if you want intimacy with your sexuality--which has a huge psychophysiologic impact--then there isn't a 17-year-old alive who can keep up with a healthy 50-year-old. Intimacy has to do with what's inside you; there just isn't that much inside a 17-year-old.

As people get older, their capacity for self-validated intimacy--and intimate sex--increases. At age 16, a girl might let the guy "do it to her." When she's older, she'll "do" her partner. This ability arises from acceptance of herself in general and of her eroticism in particular. That usually doesn't happen until she's got a few stretch marks and cellulite. Maybe we've "had sex" or "made love" with one or more partners, but many of us have yet to "do" somebody or allow ourselves to be "done." In terms of sex at profound intensity or emotional depth, most of us are virgins.

Our mistaken emphasis on genital prime gives rise to what I call the "piece-of-meat model of sex." One consequence is that what you do sexually is a consequence of what your body looks like. Women often don't do behaviors they might otherwise like because of the way they think their body might appear to their partner. It makes people self-apologetic and not expect much as they get older. When you don't expect too much, and feel you don't deserve too much, you don't go looking for much.

Confusing genital prime with sexual prime also creates a power struggle inside the typical American family. Most families with an adolescent have a topsy-turvy power hierarchy. Everyone at home believes the teen has more sexual potential than do the adults (who are supposedly past their prime), with negative impact all around. The unstated assumption that parents are over the hill fosters defiance and the belief that parents are advising teens against sex only because they want their offspring to be as sexually frustrated as they are. There are not many parents who want to tell their kids: "Look, your Dad (Mom) and I have been banging away for 30 years and we're just getting to the point we're getting good at it."

If we teach teens that they won't reach their sexual potential for another 30 years or so, they can relax (and parents can too). It suggests teens may have a reason to listen to parents about sex. It means less pressure to be sexually active now, and less disappointment with the experience if they are.

No other culture expects young kids to do what older adults can. Only in our youth-dominated society do we end up with the perverted view that adolescence is the epitome of sexuality. It fits our model of romantic love: two strangers who really don't know each other.

DOWNHILL PHALLACY

Most people never reach their sexual potential. Those who do so are often well into the fourth, fifth, and sixth decade of life. Yet, for most people sex does run downhill with age, although it doesn't have to.The problem is not age, but expectation. Conventional beliefs and rules result in mediocre, downhill sex. We never realize our experience is a function of how we approach it--we think it reflects irreversible physiological processes.

As long as couples take a phallocentric approach to sex--as our society teaches--sex indeed is going to run downhill, because men's genital response slows with age. And if women always "stay in place"--which means one step behind the men sexually--then couples will often stop having sex when they get older.

The research is clear. Studies of geriatric couples in good physical health who stopped having sex found husbands and wives in agreement: it was the man who called the halt. In sex, the lowest common denominator always runs the show. Early in relationships it's often the woman's reluctance that controls sex; in later life, it's the man's real or anticipated difficulty getting an erection that prevails.

It's not hard to understand how this happens: We believe that men in heterosexual relationships are supposed to be the sex experts and initiators. As the relationship starts out he is happy because he feels competent. She likes it because she doesn't have to demonstrate that she knows more about sex than he does; she feels taken care of. The two grease each other's identities and egos. He stimulates her and turns her on, and when she's (half) ready to be penetrated, he does. This works for 17-year-old boys because they have an instant erection, but the erection has nothing to do with their partner--seeing a brassiere on a clothesline has the same effect.

Over time in a relationship, more stimulation of every kind is needed. Sex gets boring because the couple is doing "the usual." In addition, the man now requires direct stimulation of the penis to have an erection. The woman needs comparable stimulation to become fully lubricated. The problem is, everybody believes the way you had sex at 17 is the way you're supposed to do it forever.

Until there's a problem, nothing in their experience suggests to the woman that she is supposed to stimulate his penis, or to the man that it is okay for her to do that. He feels inadequate because he "shouldn't need it." She feels awkward doing it, and possibly thinks he finds her attractiveness fading. She doesn't want to start something he may not want to finish and she'd unfortunately probably take it as personal rejection. The result is two people believing they are not desirable to each other on account of their misbeliefs. They are less likely to get started, and more likely to interpret anything that happens negatively--in line with their misconceptions.

Indeed, men who focus on the sensation in their loins report a roll-off in sexual intensity as they get older. (Women often report the opposite, because they finally allow themselves to revel in their experience.) But couples who learn to integrate their increasing capacity for intimacy in their sex often report the most intense encounters of their lives. Intimacy acts as another kind of stimulation; it has a whopping psychophysiological impact.

Profound intimate connection, often experienced for the first time when spouses are well over 45, can do more than compensate for the role-off in physiological responsiveness. Many of the people who come for therapy or who attend intensive couples retreats connect with their partner at levels some people don't even know exists. The result is often stronger erections in men, and more intense orgasms for both partners, than they've had in years--or ever. But the process isn't "easy."'

Achieving sexual potential requires the strength to change the rules in your relationship, usually with a reluctant partner. It's hard to do this as time goes on in a committed relationship because your partner becomes increasingly important to you (even if you don't like them). We get less willing to risk our partner's rejection, and less willing to show them a part of ourselves they have not yet seen. People often have to get to the point of desperation.

You also have to stand apart from almost everything you've ever been taught about sex, and use your own sexuality as a compass to explore what human sexuality can be. You have to follow what actually works, instead of a preconceived notion of what works. You have to become your own sexual scientist. In a sense, we are all pilgrims: Our capacity for intimacy has been around for a fraction of geologic time, and we don't yet have the owner's manual.

Long-term sexual partners can give up on themselves, or shed preconceived notions that worked (partially) only when they were younger. You have to claim your own life and your own bed, muster the courage to accept yourself, throw away the rule book, and see what works for you. It takes a tremendous amount of integrity and self-respect--often much more than people have. And yet, the challenge furthers the process of self-development.

THE SEXUAL CRUCIBLE

Very often, the reason we go on this ultimately liberating exploration is because our relationship is sinking. If you're able to float along with "adequate" genital functioning, you figure the old way is the right way. We want those sexual rules dear; they are our sole extant yardstick of adequacy. The difficult and frightening alternative is to believe in yourself. It usually takes sexual difficulty, sexual boredom, or the possibility of divorce to open us to a different course.

This is what I call the sexual crucible: when couples think they are falling apart, they are often on the verge of having the best sex of their lives. The fact that the relationship gets sexually boring eventually makes you push and shove in your relationship to create something new. It produces the stimulus for people to grow. It increases your level of personal development, forcing you to stand on your own two feet---or get divorced.

Sexual boredom is a dynamic part of committed relationships: It is often the catalyst in the sexual crucible, stimulating us to become people capable of having the sex we want. And in the midst of this anxious process, we stop being afraid of being anxious. Life rarely offers us the choice of being anxious or not. Adults realize that the choice is about which anxiety you're going to have. Ironically, the path to feeling good often involves recognizing things that don't feel good at all.

This just hints at the elegance of committed relationships. They are people-growing machines. What we think are "problems" are often the process of pushing ourselves (and each other) to become people capable of having the marriage we're angry we don't have.

The marital bed is where we play out our rituals of development. The Quantum Model offers a challenging solution: If you want better sex, you have to mature.

EYES-OPEN SEX

Normal sexual styles are designed to limit intimacy to tolerable levels, while getting one or both people to orgasm. Intense intimacy makes people nervous, particularly during sex. Therapists (who often have no greater capacity for intimacy than anyone else) have created a technology that can jump-start your body and bring you to orgasm while it destroys intimacy.

Take the sex therapy approach of "bypassing," which teaches that you should fantasize about somebody or something else during sex if you're angry at your partner. This is the style many of us actually use without lessons from a therapist. Therapists have trained people, and couples have trained themselves, to have sex in a nonintimate fashion, to focus on your body, not on your partner.

Consider my favorite example: people commonly have sex with their eyes closed. We like to think it's really a preference, or it's more "romantic." I believe it's one reason we think love is blind. We would seemingly rather have sex with the fantasy in our head than the partner in our bed. Then we turn around 10 years later and complain, "You're not the person I thought you were." If you want intimacy, open your eyes during sex and look inside your partner, behind the eyeballs, while your partner looks inside you.

Having an eyes-open orgasm is the epitome of intimacy, and relatively few people get there. To do it, you have to integrate your partner into your mental sexual pattern to such an extent that your awareness of him or her enhances (rather than distracts) your sensory awareness of your own arousal. When you get down to it, awareness of our partner during sex is often a "distraction." It's an elegant demonstration that most of us are not profoundly intimate during sex.

THE COURAGE TO FEEL GOOD

Feeling good takes courage. Contrary to conventional wisdom, feeling bad is easier than feeling good. If feeling good were easy, there'd be more happy people. Being unhappy requires much less of you than does being happy. Feeling good involves the courage not to fold in the face of life's disappointments and frustrations. As it happens, the invitation to develop that courage comes in the visage of a partner who refuses to do something new sexually.

Loving, it turns out, is not for kids. It is not for the weak. The end result of every good relationship is that one partner buries the other. That's what it means to love on life's own terms. How many of us have the strength to love our partner, embracing what the character of C. S. Lewis says in the movie Shadowland: "The pain then is part of the pleasure now"?

SEX AND THE ART OF ARCHERY

Sex is a lot like Zen archery. The preparation to shoot the arrow is arduous. Shooting the arrow easy. Once you do the hard work of personal development, you do is let the arrow go. The arrow shoots itself. Sex flows.

Throwing away the rule book and holding onto yourself can be framed as believing in the God within, believing that there is a good part of you inside. The bedroom, then, becomes a place for spirituality to emerge. Spirituality is the application of faith to everyday life, including when you have your underwear down.

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