When I thought of writing this article, it wasn’t about sex. It was about self-judgment. But when I delved deeper into my motivation for writing it, I realized it was self-judgment of my past sexual behaviour. It also occurred to me that most people shy away from talking about sex. Or accepting their sexual desires as normal. Which is unfortunate, cause if it wasn’t for sex, we wouldn’t be here.
When I first heard the word sex as a schoolboy I was fascinated to know what it was. I opened my small Oxford pocket dictionary. It said:
a) Either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions
b) Physical contact between individuals involving sexual stimulation; sexual activity or behaviour, sexual intercourse, copulation.
Of these I found the second definition more exciting. ‘sexual stimulation’, ‘sexual activity’ ‘sexual intercourse’. As a nine year old I had no idea what all of this was, but it somehow seemed to do with something pleasurable, hidden and secretive.
Most of my sex education (miseducation) happened through pornography. It evoked the pleasurable, hidden and secretive button in me. Masturbation was a natural outcome of engaging with the part of my body that gave pleasure. Pornography and masturbation would consume most of my life, but I did not know it as a school boy.
Nobody ever sat me down and discussed about sex. The closest I came to a sex education was a single chapter on Reproductive System in my Biology text book. Most us schoolboys giggled our way through it. I was more concerned with memorizing the parts of the penis and vagina for my exams than to have any meaningful understanding of my sexual feelings and how to relate to the opposite sex.
Once my grandmother caught me reading an adult magazine. She reported it to my grandfather. “The next time I catch you doing that, I will spank you on your bare bottom!” he thundered. My embarrassment turned to shame. And that’s where it stayed for a long time to come.
Sex was shameful.
And since I could not avoid indulging in it, I was shameful.
My relating with the opposite sex has been ambivalent. One part of me wants intimacy. Another part wants freedom. It took me a long time to realize this pattern. It neither allowed me to settle down. Neither did it allow me to remain single.
But most importantly, I realized that my attraction to the opposite sex, stemmed from the urge to experience pleasurable emotional and physical sensations. It was like a drug. And I kept wanting more of it. And this led to a phase of my life where I was promiscuous.
All of this I have learnt through experience. And all these experiences were simply the child in me indulging in pleasurable activities, unaware of the consequences. One could say no one educated me on this aspect of life. Or one could say life experiences were meant to be my education.
They say when the student is ready the master appears. Yoga entered my life when I had realized the value of self-discipline. One of the self-regulation practices in Yoga is Brahmacharya which is moderation of the senses. Purpose precedes pleasure. Having experienced the pain that accompanied pleasure, I knew exactly what Yoga was saying. The seeds of suffering sprouted into flowers of wisdom.
I practiced celibacy for the next few years. I had had enough of bhog self-indulgence. My body wanted yog self-regulation. In these years I realized how much of my energy I was wasting through indulging in short term pleasures. All this energy got channelized into teaching, writing, counselling and even writing a book.
“So what are your views on sex and relationship now? Do you intend to remain celibate for the rest of your life? How do you manage your sexual desires?” you ask.
I think my views can be summed up in three words, which I have already stated.
Purpose precedes pleasure.
Which means as a natural part of self-growth we realize that the joy one gets from self-restraint is far more than indulgence. But this is not the self-restraint of suppression, this is the self-restraint earned through the wisdom gained from life experience.
And this is where it gets tricky. Sometimes I am asked “I have suppressed myself for so many years. I don’t see myself in a conventional marriage set up. Is it okay if I indulge?” I have no answer to that question. I indulged and saw the error of indulgence, but only after indulging. That was my learning journey. You have to find your own way.
Coming to relationships. I do not have any set notions of living celibate or being in a relationship. I am open to life experiences, without having the need to label them as boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, relationship, committed etc. What is more important is the quality of relating. Is there authenticity, sensitivity, fun, openness and responsibility. That is far more important than giving a name to what two people share.
So coming to your last question — how do I manage my sexual desires? By writing articles like these. No, I am not joking. What I mean is, by channelizing my mental-emotional-physical energy into my work as a teacher, writer, counsellor and a freshly minted YouTuber. Also being watchful of what and how much I eat.
Sexual energy is not different from creative energy. It simply depends from where we express it. If expressed from the lower chakras it is indulgence. If expressed from a higher chakra it is creativity. And if used for self-observation it is transcendence.
Just as graduation is not better than kindergarten. Or a doctorate better than graduation. All are simply necessary milestones in a learning journey. Similarly no expression is good or bad. It is what it is.
But it is good to be honest with oneself. Rather than deny any part of us, we must accept all parts. Especially our sexual self. And our attraction to the opposite sex. When we do that our self-judgment ceases. Clarity dawns, and we can deal with this explosive energy more sensibly.
And even if we don’t, we don’t beat ourselves up for it.