Paper presented at the annual convention of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
Las Vegas, NV, November 10, 2006
By Charles Trull, Ph.D., LCSW
2000 Waterford Village Dr. Clemmons, N.C. 27012
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While religion and spirituality were viewed as separate entities in this inquiry, the prevalence of religious congregations and organizations in the United States were seen as an indicator of the strong urge for spiritual connection in our society. This urge for connection was evident in responses of the participants. The tension created by the sex-negative attitude of mainstream religion complicates the juxtaposition of spirituality and sexuality that is the subject of the inquiry. This sex-negative attitude often makes sexuality in Western culture complicated and confusing. As a major aspect of the human experience it is an important area of study. A subculture exists that explores alternative sexual experiences as a spiritual practice. Twenty participants of Tantra, Quodoushka, and Taoist sexual practices participated in the study
Tantra is a body of teachings arising from Hindu Yogic practices to develop one’s connection to Spirit through sexual energy. Quodoushka is a form of Ceremonial Sexuality that is Shamanic in origin with roots in the indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America. It is a body of teachings that progress from exploring one’s own sexuality, to teachings about sexual relationships, to practicing sex magic. Another subset of Ceremonial Sexuality for this inquiry is Taoist sexual practices. Taoism is a philosophy or body of spiritual teachings from ancient China. Taoism is mainly concerned with the balance of Yin, the receptive energy, and Yang, the active energy, inherent in all that exists. In some schools of thought receptive is termed feminine and active is termed masculine.
This inquiry was a basic qualitative research study, utilizing interviews with 20 participants who are long-term practitioners of ceremonial sexuality. Ceremony linked to a sexual act, sexual energy, or sexuality constitutes Ceremonial Sexuality. The goal of the inquiry was to create an in-depth description of the experience of long-term practice of ceremonial sexuality. Long term was defined as practicing Ceremonial Sexuality for 4 years or more.
Constant analysis and using open coding and axial coding were the instruments of the analysis. The interview phase of the inquiry took place over a period of one year. The length of this phase allowed ample time for second and third readings of each interview with further analysis
The interviews were centered on the participants’ firsthand experience. A facsimile of the interview was created within a week and returned to the participant who was asked to provide clarification, expansion or correction. Instances in which the participant had used a key word, pattern or theme in their interview were given special attention when asking for elucidation. Seventy categories were created from the key words. The categories were then combined into seven patterns or broad themes. These themes are as follows: background and history; something missing; connecting; relationship; altered states; benefits; and pitfalls.
In Varieties of Religious Experience, William James criteria for determining the validity of a religious practice are: immediate luminousness, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness (1994). This study found that the practice of ceremonial sexuality is a viable spiritual practice. The experiences of the participants included instances of altered states of consciousness, direct experiences of the Divine, enhanced self -esteem, and intimate connection to others. Each participant found that his or her life had been enriched through practicing ceremonial sexuality, and each reported challenges and pitfalls. These included challenges in relationships with primary and family relationships, relationships with teachers of ceremonial sexuality, and cultural taboos.
Background and family history of the participants varied, however the majority reported that they came from conservative homes in which sexuality was not discussed openly. Several reported repressive sexual education or sex-negative messages from parents or religion. For these participants engaging in ceremonial sexuality included the challenge of breaking through these early experiences.
Both women and men reported body image issues that were healed through the practice of ceremonial sexuality. Penis and breast size, body type and shape, and idealized body expectations were all encountered as challenges. Learning to love and appreciate their bodies as they were led to enhanced self-esteem and confidence.
The practice provided all of the participants with tools for creating better relationships with significant others and deeper intimate relationships in general. The practice creates challenges in relationships, such as jealousy over partners engaging with others in ceremony. Overcoming these challenges is a focus of maturity in the practice.
Seventeen of the 20 participants stated that they found an increased sense of spiritual connection through their practice of ceremonial sexuality. When asked if they felt they had benefited from the practice all of the participants enthusiastically responded “yes”. The fact that all continue their practice is evidence that for these twenty participants the benefits out weigh the pitfalls.
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