For a lot of religious and spiritual people, their relationship with God is the best one they’ll ever have. So it makes sense that it would become the model for the relationships they have with their sexual and romantic partners too. After all, euphoric transcendence is kinda the goal of both orgasm and prayer.
As such, I asked three people with three very different faith backgrounds about the way they understand and enjoy sex in relation to God and their faith—from a Mormon man trying to get rid of the restrictions that limit his sexual expression, to a Jewish Orthodox sex therapist, to a mystical, marijuana witch, each of whom considers coming a communion with the divine.
Daniel Burgess, a marriage and family therapist with a focus on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Even before I was a therapist, I recognized the disconnect between our faith and individual sexualities. When I started to get into the work, that became even more clear. What I’ve done now is written and researched what are probably the most comprehensive studies on Mormon sexuality, its history and its various teachings. I also run a Facebook group that specifically addresses how to incorporate more healthy sexuality within a faith-based context.
As for myself, I’m married with five kids. This is my second marriage, as well as my second within the LDS church. After 13 years of marriage to my first wife, we separated. The reason I bring this up isn’t necessarily because any cultural restriction or limitation on our sexuality was the reason for our divorce, but because there’s a contrast in the way my beliefs affected that marriage versus my current relationship. Breaking through some of those cultural ideas improved our sexuality and drew us closer to God, as opposed to further away. Needless to say, that’s been very enriching.
Overall, it’s important to understand that God wants us to have a healthy sexuality, and that we all have a different experience in that sexuality—some of us are very visual, while others of us experience sexuality in nonconservative ways, if you will. But that’s how God designed us, and we need to respect that, which is the message I generally give people. Personally, I’ve learned that through God and through my wife.
As a culture and a faith, Mormons draw on the best that science has to offer in terms of medicine, but when it comes to mental health, especially in regards to our sexuality, we limit ourselves. We think that honors our faith, but it doesn’t. Especially because the Mormon church has a history of being very progressive in our sexuality. Back in the early 1900s, we broke barriers against the Christian mainstream. Christians viewed us as progressive in our sexuality and our belief that God actually wants us to have a healthy sexuality. This took a 180-degree turn in the 1950s and 1960s. When I first looked at how this unfolded, I said, “Where did our history go here? And why have we pulled away from it?” That’s also when I started drawing on resources outside the faith, like David Ley.
When I brought this approach into the office, it was revolutionary, at least for the members of the faith with whom I’ve worked. They’d never considered any of it an option, whether we’re talking about incorporating masturbation within marriage, individual sexual discovery or even using erotica or porn to help their relationship. But being able to honor our potential in all its fullness is a form of worship, and sexuality is definitely a part of that.
Bat Sheva Marcus (aka “The Jewish Orthodox Sex Guru”), a sex therapist with a PhD in human sexuality
Orthodox Judaism has more laws that have to do with sex than almost any other religion I’ve encountered, even fundamentalist religions. Case in point: I got a call from a woman in the Netherlands a few months ago because she had a sexual problem and was thinking of flying to America to see me. When I asked her more about her problem, it seemed like a pretty straight forward issue that could be addressed by pretty much any sex therapist. So I asked her why she didn’t see someone at home. She said she tried, but as soon as that person heard about Orthodox Jewish restrictions on sex, the therapist pathologized that and wasn’t able to help her with everything else. Basically, the therapist had a hard time realizing that people make different choices about how they have sex.
Generally speaking, many sex therapists have a hard time realizing that cultural realities and spiritual practices are very important in people’s minds and sometimes inform their sex lives. In fact, their sex lives sometimes need to be addressed within that framework. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t have great sex lives.
In the “Song of Solomon,” which is probably the most erotic passage that the Jews have, there’s definitely a comparison between the union between God of man, God of Israel and the longing and ecstasy of human relationships. The text uses these ideas to discuss yearning and union. That’s one way the Jews realize that if you want to understand what it means to love God, you have to understand what it is to love another human being. If we want to understand the transcendence of longing and becoming one with God, we can do so by understanding a meaningful sexual union.
It’s so funny. I record a podcast called The Joy of Text with a rabbi. People write in questions to us, and somebody wrote in a bunch of questions about kink on Shabbat: “Can you tie someone up?” and “Can you slap somebody during Shabbat?” We got a lot of questions from this woman, so many we considered not addressing them because I was concerned somebody was yanking our chain. Then my husband said to me that I was being disingenuous because my whole motivation for everything I talk about is the fact that you can be deeply, deeply religious and deeply, deeply sexual, and to make that assumption was unfair.
As soon as we released the podcast, we got a note from someone anonymously, saying that was her question and thanking us for taking the time to talk about it. This is an example of how our preconceived notions about what religious people do and how they behave may not be reflective of reality.
In terms of her question—“Is kink a bad thing?”—I’d say no. If religion is important to you and you’re a religious person in a monogamous marriage, the way that you express your sexuality between you and your partner should be something that brings pleasure, fun, meaning and harmony to both of you. Ultimately, sex between partners is to bring people closer together and be able to enrich their lives. And so, with that in mind, we shouldn’t make assumptions about who does what and what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.
Ashley Manta, a self-created “cannasexual,” modern witch, reiki practitioner and sex coach who integrates weed into her client’s sex lives for greater intimacy
In last few years, I’ve started practicing what I define as witchcraft. For me, this involves mindfulness and spirituality surrounding nature, energetic forces and divine presence, honoring the divinities within each of us. I’ve worked with a couple of different modalities from intuitive magic with cards to crystal magic and plant medicine, which is where I incorporate cannabis. I’ve worked with other plant medicines too—and find value in them—but cannabis is my primary plant medicine.
As soon as I get it, in any form, I clear it. I’m a reiki level two practitioner, so I send reiki energy into the cannabis, and offer gratitude for the fact that I have access to it, for the growers who made it happen, for all the people who were involved in it getting to me and for what I want it to do for me in that moment—for how I want to work with the plant to unlock various aspects of myself, my sexuality and my relationship with the divine.
My boyfriend was the one who introduced me to sacred sexuality. I was skeptical. I still had a lot of East Coast jadedness when he and I first got together three and half years ago. But that changed the first time I moved energy with him—he responded physically without me physically touching him. My hands were hovering a couple inches over his cock, and I was focusing energy into them without touching him when he started convulsing. His eyes were rolling back in his head, but he wasn’t having a seizure. For him, it was an entirely pleasurable energetic sexual experience. I was like, “Wow, this is mind blowing!”
Another example is when I was giving a reiki hand job. I imagined all the energy of the sky, stars and plants—all of that sort of celestial energy—coming down through my crown chakra, through all of my other chakras, through my hands and into his cock and up his chakras and out his crown, out the top of his head. I didn’t say this out loud, I just visualized it. Later, when we paused to get water or whatever, he said, “It’s really interesting—when you were doing that, I felt like a constellation of stars were around my cock.”
For me, as someone with a master’s degree in philosophy, every part of my brain is like, “This is hogwash,” and yet, I can’t deny the things that I’ve experienced from connectedness.
Orgasmic energy is so potent. For that moment of orgasm, you experience utter bliss and that explosive power can be directed intentionally toward accomplishing whatever it is you want to bring into being in the world. That said, when you’re with a partner, it can be really great to share your intentions in what you’re trying to manifest so that you’re both focusing on each other’s desires before having sex. Get really clear on what it is you want to happen and you make it crystal clear in your brain. What does it look like? What does it smell like?
Make your image and experience of it so vivid throughout the course of your sexual experience that when you’re about to go over the edge of orgasm, you imagine flooding that intention into the universe so powerfully that it echoes to every corner of the galaxy. Doing that has made some really big shit happen for me.
I get it, though. Maybe crystals, incense and weed aren’t your thing. That’s cool, there’s nothing wrong with that. All I can do is give you the blueprints anyway, you’ve gotta be the one who builds the cathedral.