Amongst those interested in tantra, there is often a tendency to view sacred union in an abstract, metaphysical way which rarely corresponds to people’s experience. This is particularly so when tantra is repackaged as feel-good practices for couples. The striving after cosmic orgasm in union becomes, I have no doubt, a complete illusion for many, which entirely masks the essential radicalism which tantra embodies.
I suggest that, in so doing, we reify an abstraction, while allowing ourselves to maintain an ambiguous relationship towards that which concretely points towards it – its sociobiological context.
A sacred approach to sexuality has to begin at the roots and must be absolutely free of any social discourse which attempts to frame its expression. Transcendence in union, I suggest, is the end result of a process that begins in our bodies. We often try to judge and direct this process, either suppressing sexual instincts or, on the contrary, obsessively stimulating our sexual imagination in order to obtain a response which is not organically present. However, like everything else in life, we cannot productively force sexual feeling either into being or into non-being; we must let it come to us, bestow its gifts, and lead where it will.
We fear the destination of a liberated sexuality only because we bring to it too little awareness or we emancipate ourselves only from a part of the oppressive framing discourse. So many voices in society tell us that if we feel something then it “must mean” X, or if we do not feel it then it “must mean” Y. But feeling a sexual response preordains absolutely nothing, and presents a useless degree of risk only if you are not ready to be free. Otherwise it shows only that you are alive, and offers a bliss beyond analysis, just as does any other transcendent experience such as a sunset, a butterfly, or the laughter of a child. We are always free to choose how we respond to any stimulus, and to my mind this response, whilst not unimportant, is secondary. We may often be lying to ourselves if we claim to admit the feeling but manage the response, but still it is fundamentally true that no feeling requires a certain response. It merely opens our eyes to something that our biological nature wants, to a certain beauty which is already present within.
We cannot claim to consider the sexual act as sacred unless we begin by honoring the drive and allowing it to lead us into plenitude. It may well be a hard teacher, but if we are serious about living in alignment with our nature then we must embrace all of its wisdom and teachings. I see the sexual drive as an inner guru attempting to lead us into the light, but one which is so often suppressed that its distorted, violent manifestations are frequently catastrophic – a fault which is roundly to be ascribed to the distorting discourse and not to the drive itself.
To allow this energy to guide us, it is clear to me, though, that we have to abandon mononormativity. We need also, though, to maintain an incredible openness of heart and hence vulnerability; this is the only way that we will learn lessons and not simply get hurt. Paradoxically it is only by opening ourselves to feeling pain in the short run that we can avoid it predominating over the long run.
This process of opening up has of course to take place in stages. I am not advocating a great leap forwards, and it is fine for me that all sorts of things exist which allow people to take things at their own pace, and even take time out or place limits which they never deconstruct. However, I do not think that it is ethically justified, as some do, to market something in a form which does not make sense just because it allows people indefinitely to maintain a comfortable illusion.
In my opinion, mononormative tantra is simply an oxymoron. Either you remain behind in your nest, or you abandon yourself to the winds.