Why Sex is Not Spiritual

And while we’re on the topics of both sex and atheism, I wanted to point you to an excellent piece by Chris Hall, Why Sex Is Not Spiritual. Here are a couple of awesome pull-quotes to whet your appetite:

The fact that it is so very, very popular in sex-positive communities to put sexuality in the realm of the mystical by defining it as “spiritual” or “sacred” doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy; it gives me a numbing chill because what I really hear is shame. I hear people making excuses for their kinks and their pleasure. That so much talk about sexuality is wrapped in platitudes about spirituality, magic(k), or transcendence shows how deeply we’ve failed in being able to discuss sexual pleasure as a good thing in itself, without any excuses.


All the paganism, Tantra, meditation, sacred sex, and BDSM sex magic(k) books and workshops represent a step backward. They are very convenient ways of rationalizing sexual pleasure by letting people claim that it’s about “something more” than just making your body feel good. All the sweat and cum and juices and the delicious, confusing carnality of sex get shoved back into the closet in favor of much tidier abstractions so that we can believe that we’re not just shallow hedonists. And that takes us back to square one, where we were told by our teachers, priests, and parents that sex was good — or at least acceptable — when done for any reason other than physical pleasure.

Read the rest of the piece. It kicks ass.

Why Sex is Not Spiritual
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20 thoughts on “Why Sex is Not Spiritual

  1. 1

    Gotta agree. In my more rational (less randy) moments, it has always struck my how hilariously animal the whole thing is. People, bumping uglies, pumping fingers, licking skin and tissue, smacking, kissing, its all so incredibly physical.

  2. 3

    If there is anything silly then it is (pseudo)philosophical thoughts on sex. It’s meant to be fun. That’s all we need to know; then comes the question how to make it fun and that’s difficult enough. Typically all those spiritual people never try to answer thát question.

  3. 4

    Sex is spiritual more to people that don’t do it, I think. The ideal of it might be, but that’s all it is. The first time I started having sex I was struck by how physical, animal and fleshy it all was. Having sex and being intimate is to be put face to face with how biological we all are.

    And makes it all the more wonderful, really.

  4. 5

    Thanks, Greta. I think this essay’s been sitting in me for years. The very first sex parties I went to had awesome, fun sex, but began and ended with a Pagan ritual. At the time, I really felt like kind of an asshole for cringing at the corniness of calling to the God/dess. Over time, I’ve come to really resent that I’m expected to assume the legitimacy of this stuff. There’s also an incredible amount of racism and gender essentialism in some of these New Age rituals that makes it feel like a hard little lump of reactionary ideology at the heart of the radical sexuality communities.

    But thanks, again. Knowing that you appreciated makes all this bullshit more than worth it.

  5. 6

    The comments are full of rather depressing rationalizations or why the OP is such a horrible person trying to oppress others.

    To be fair, they’re right. I am trying to oppress them. I’ve been secretly training my Atheist Stormtrooper Squad in the Berkeley hills to raid Pagan and Tantric gatherings. But don’t tell anyone.

  6. 8

    Gotta thank you for all the supportive comments you’ve made over there, Azkyroth.

    I guess drunk sex would be “spiritual.”

    I await the day when some hippie twit in love with the naturalistic fallacy tells me that I should stop taking my anti-convulsants made by evil Big Pharma and embrace tonic-clonic episodes as ecstatic spiritual experiences.

  7. 10

    Chris Hall?

    Why wait… You should see the anti-vaccine guys I have the joy of knowing. I am sure someone in there would make that statement…

    In fact as medical luddite statements go, that isn’t the worst or the stupidest piece of advice I have ever heard.

    And while the seizure is bad for you, imagine your poor partner! And it could be worse… If could be an absence seizure.

    Okay… I will stop trying to make epilepsy jokes.

    Spirituality is where you find it. You can think sex is a pretty awesome thing filled with cool stuff and that the effect of it is quasi religious due to the chemicals released. However treating it as something mystical (I cannot read tantric stuff without giggling like a lunatic since my old primary god was Kali who is the god referred to in tantric and for those who are unaware… Kali is… a bloodthirsty demonic visaged monster goddess who wears a garland of skulls and skirt made out of human hands while drinking blood from a severed head.)

    Let’s just say that some of the stuff is really tame compared to old school kali worship which still raises it’s ugly head from time to time. Last year there was a case of a child sacrifice to Kali.

  8. 11

    Some of the people I respect the most in the BDSM scene are very into the idea of spiritual kink and it’s the one thing that make me cringe about them. It’s so physical, animal, and raw that I wouldn’t want any “fluffy bunnies” coming between me and that experience.

    Some of the things I’ve done have put me in a pretty altered mental and emotional space and I can see the appeal of seeing that as spiritual, the same as some people see certain mind altering substances as spiritual, because it’s so far outside the normal way you think and feel. So I don’t think it’s all about shame, I think some people have a hard time processing the mix of brain chemicals and it’s effects in a way that makes sense to them so they go the mystical route.

  9. 13

    Greta — how long do you think it will take for Be Scofield to write a response to Chris Hall’s article?


    There are pockets of sexuality-positive / bodies are good / we don’t have bodies we are bodies talk for some liberal religious traditions (Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ).

    But 2/3rds of the sexuality-positive education efforts in these liberal denominations are devoted to educating adolescents. Many adults in these liberal traditions still have the sexuality-negative messages they were raised with and they haven’t taken the time to unpack them.

  10. 14

    Greta — how long do you think it will take for Be Scofield to write a response to Chris Hall’s article?

    Oy. That I don’t need. The stupidity of his thing about Greta almost caused permanent brain damage.

    Ironically, the good Rabbi Lerner is an old friend of my in-laws and lives just up the hill from me. I was tempted to march up and ask him what the hell he was thinking with publishing Scofield’s garbage.

  11. 16

    The word “spirituality” has always been like nails on a chalk board to me, especially when applied to sex. Why is it such a bad thing to admit that sex is just a romping good time with someone whose company you enjoy? I do think it’s better with someone you love, but not because that love somehow makes it transcendent. It’s because love engenders trust and the ability to truly be ourselves with that person, no holds barred.

  12. 18

    Seems like a lot of people need to place “meaning” on events or experiences, in order to somehow validate them. Calling sex “spiritual” falls into that category, I think. Pregnancy and childbirth, too. Nothing makes you feel more like a mammal than that, though!

  13. 19

    While I agree that sex is neither spiritual, nor sacred. I like to think it’s more than just so much tactile stimuli. Like any other human act, people can arbitrarily assign to it whatever importance they wish. The symbols we assign to sex aren’t always correct, or wise, But as a species, we’ve always had a problem with confusing symbols with the things they’re meant to represent.

  14. 20

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