| Anne Williamson |
I am going to let you in on my little secret: I am a "buck the system" kind of gal. Blame it on my follow-the-rules childhood, liberal arts education, or millennial-noding 1981 birth year, but once I understood many of our “truths” are in fact constructions – of culture, society, even religion – my inner rebel was unleashed.
Maybe this is why I'm fascinated by psychologist Christopher Ryan's TED Talk on the history of human sexuality. In it, he argues our standard sexual narrative – where men and women exist in an oppositional relationship of male goods and services for female reproductive potential and fidelity – was/is a construction of culture, not biology. Before agriculture, our ancestors were sexually egalitarian and inclusive. Some of us may respond to this idea with unease, worried Ryan is advocating sexually liberal relationships for all; but, his argument isn’t in support of a particular lifestyle. In fact, this is kind of the point and what makes his talk spiritually interesting to me.
Our spirits, they desire to tell the truth. They desire to be authentically embodied. Ryan’s talk reminds us this applies to our sexuality as well. To live the way of love, all of us must be authentic. Our bodies – male, female, non-gender conforming – must be our own. It’s when sexuality is culturally mandated we falter.
Of course, living our sexual truth gets infinitely trickier once we’ve entered a relationship. It’s no longer just about our truth; his is equally as important; hers equally wise. In relationship, we wade the muddy waters of unfamiliar perspectives and compromise. But, the joy and grace of shaking off our culture’s sexual constructs remains because now, at least, we come to the table honestly. Whatever is agreed to is far less likely to end in betrayal because it’s far more likely to be true and meaningful.
Traditionally, especially once partnered, lust has been the metaphorical step upon which we’ve tripped. It has been the deadly sin. Maybe, in truth, lust is simply our spirit’s longing to tell our sexual truth. Maybe it operates more like a sign. Yes, sometimes the sign points to our own brokenness or misunderstandings of "manhood" and "womanhood"; but sometimes, it points to deeper authenticity and meaning. Either way, it seems to me, it’s what we do with our lust that determines whether we sin. Do we lie and inflict pain? Or, do we heal and discern our truth? Do we speak it in a spirit of reconciliation?
Our cultures, secular and religious, love to tell us what to think, value, believe – especially when it comes to sexuality. Here, we get lied to, blamed, objectified, minimized, silenced and shamed. No wonder we so often do the same to ourselves and each other. All the while, our spirits cry out for a different kind of sexual morality – one rooted in our own truth. Getting there will not be easy; our spirits know this so they also cry out for something else: rebellion.
We'll be exploring these ideas and more this week in WAYfinding. If you can't join us in groups, listen to Ryan's interview on the TED Radio Hour, as well as his full TED Talk. Both available here. In conversation with this blog post, what do you think? Share with a friend, partner, family member. What do they? Then, take a moment to listen for what's stirring in you. Perhaps you're feeling pulled to listen more deeply, learn something new or love better. Set your intention and go about the work of being or doing.