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Sensuality & Sexuality
by Virginia Stewart-Avalon, M.Ed.
The lesson of the archetype of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, is not sexual in the modern sense of the word rather she is based in the sensual world.
sex•u•al from Latin sexus sex
sen•su•al from Latin sensus sense
Sensuality and sexuality are opposites.
Sexuality in the modern world is blatant; a strutting display of goods, a means of gaining power over others and a method of turning others into objects. Sex is often self-centered self-gratification.
Sensuality means being completely at home in one's body, trusting and living through the senses. Tasting-savoring the flavors that life offers through touching, exploring, the body, the tongue, feelings... Seeing-recognizing the beauty in all that is beautiful-animals, flowers, trees, people, symmetry and asymmetry. Inhaling the fragrances of all and enjoying each. Listening to the voices of all living things and reveling in the uniqueness of each. Sensuality may be enthusiastic, even athletic, but it is always in unison with another.
Patriarchy has perverted sex. It shattered the consciousness of the Divine Sensual, separating it into controllable, cold, remote virginity, which led to possession; and crude sexuality, the perversion of sensuality. Sex as just a physical act can be uncaring even violent or brutal; twisted into the conquering and subjugation of another; the denial of the Divinity of another. When the sex act is finished, there remains only emptiness, an awareness of isolation and loneliness to be escaped through departure or sleep. The veneration of perpetual virginity and the disdain for the sexuality of woman is a denial of life and of life-enhancing values. They represent the enslavement and the murder of the God/dess. A virgin brings no new life into the world and a prostitute destroys the divine in herself. Sexuality focuses the attention on control and destruction. The foundation of the sexual experience is the self; the foundation of the sensual experience is the other.
Making love is not sexual; it is sensual. It is being swept away by the immersion of one's senses in another person… and more. Making love is experiencing the worship of the God/desshood of another. It is adoration, in the original meaning of the word, of the God/dess, of the perfect Divinity of another through the senses. It is tender, gentle, awed reverence; a passion approached through complete vulnerability and surrender to the Divine Other and her/his surrender to the Divine Self. Implicit in surrender is complete trust and respect. Trust that this vulnerability will not be abused and that the gentle, reverent worship will be returned; and the respect of independence. Surrender is not conquest or possession. There can be no enslavement or ownership of a God/dess; the divine can not be controlled by anyone. Love is the most precious sacrament of adoration; it restores the sacred to what has been profaned.
There is no sensuality if each does not experience the overwhelming passion of total surrender, a voluntary experience of worship and the relinquishment of the center of one's own ego; the placing of the fate of the self completely in the hands of another. It is a selfless experience of unity; two become one and then two.
Surrender is rebirth. A mortal experience of reincarnation, it is the "little death" of the self in total trust that strengthens all aspects of life. It is an affirmation of life. In the surrender is the return to the self, yet it is also a return to the more perfect awareness of the sanctity, the beauty, the whole being of another. The desire to adore the other remains, sensuality lingers to fill up the heart, embracing each other even in dreams. The absolute revelation of each others scent, taste, touch, sound and sight is the perfected worship of the Divine life that lies within each of us.
Sensual awareness does not confine itself to one person, or to people in general. One may share the totality of surrender only with other people, yet the sensual awareness of all is also worship. We can experience the softness of a cat's fur, the rough aliveness of a tree, the taste of the salty ocean, the panorama of a sunrise, all with the sensual reverence inherent in Divine awareness. A Sensual individual is aware of all people, irrespective of gender, as being the Divine Other. It is not a sacrilege to desire the sharing of love with than one partner, many partners, or with more than one gender. A truly sensual person understands her/his own nature first and respects the choices of all others, whether they be bisexual, heterosexual, or homosexual.
Sensuality, by its nature, can never force itself, for then ceases to be worship and becomes a perversion of sensuality.
Sensual intimacy can enhance a friendship, if both (or all) communicate, understand and accept the same definition of intimate friendship. An intimate friendship is based in freedom; there is no jealousy, possessiveness, or exclusiveness as in monogamy. Friends may derive much comfort and a deeper understanding of one another and themselves from the sharing of love. Yet if both do not communicate and understand the boundaries and meaning of the sharing of intimacy, then it is wise to limit the sensual awareness of the Other to an acknowledgment only, for this can destroy a friendship if the expectations are not clear.
Sensuality teaches us not to fight our senses and encourages us to learn to consciously sense and interpret the pheromones produced by others and use this knowledge to determine an appropriate response. A sensual person learns to recognize pheromones, the natural scent produced by all people, if only subconsciously. Fear, desire, anger and disgust, among others, all have a particular scent.
The subconscious response to positive pheromones is usually expressed as "chemistry". Individuals of the same pheromones type will experience a physical response to one another; individuals of different types usually will not. When the "chemistry" does not match, a sensually aware person will feel a vague discomfort if attempts are made to further the intimacy. Individuals with no sensual awareness often focus only on the physical attributes of another rather than searching for the elusive “chemistry” and often find encounters empty of the elusive deeper connection. The body, the physical response to another, determines when complete sensual ecstasy is possible and pheromones play a large part in this. To attempt to force the self to feel an attraction for another or to have sex with another where there is no attraction is a denial of sensuality. We must not attempt to fight the body, to force what is not there.
Sensuality heightens the awareness of life, relaxing the inhibitions perpetrated on the innocent by patriarchal society. A sensual person reveres the integrated Divinity of Others, even those to whom she feels no physical attraction.
This is the ultimate lesson of the archetype of Aphrodite; to trust the senses and when drawn to another to experience the worship of the Divine.
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