In divine synchronicity, late this morning as I was driving to the shops I caught a portion of the latest episode of Conversations on ABC (Australia) radio. The episode was an interview by Richard Fidler (he of previous Doug Anthony Allstars Fame in the late 80s/early 90s here in Australia; God those guys were funny), with the journalist Julia Baird and her journey through some very difficult life events. The thread of the interview – and inspired by the book Julia’s recently published book called Phosphorescence – is about finding light light in dark times. The part that I happened to listen to was about the concept of ‘awe’.
As in something being ‘awe-inspiring’, or eliciting in oneself a feeling of awe.
How intriguing I thought. I’ve never heard anyone discuss awe, and what it actually means. Let alone how it plays out in one’s life and the importance of awe.
Richard described awe to have two components: delight (overwhelmingly this) and fear (just a little). This makes perfect sense to me – and I imagine it would to many others.
Being in awe of nature is a prime example of this. Especially big nature: thunderstorms, lightning, huge mountains, deep valleys, powerful oceans and rivers, the stars and moon, glorious sunsets and sunrises, huge land and sea creatures, cyclonic winds. But also as especially little nature: tiny beasts, spider webs, grains of sand (have you seen these under a microscope??), leaves, flowers, feathers, blades of grass. When we see or witness the natural world in action, it often creates feelings of both delight and fear. A thunderstorm can be terribly exciting but also a little bit scary; and therein is the awe (and the fun).
Julia also talks of the importance of ‘training your children in wonder’ – fuck yes! Wonder inspires awe. Children naturally are still wired into experiencing awe; its very natural and normal for them. Everything is new and amazing.
Remember that feeling?
I believe this is where sex and pleasure have a powerful and very important in our lives (aside from populating the Earth of course); it reminds us to play. The childlike wonder that pleasurable experiences is clever. Sex keeps us connected to our inner child.
Sometimes it is so overwhelming – the wonder, the awe – it elicits strong emotional responses. Tears, heart bursting, mind stilling. Nobody and nothing does it better than the Universe/nature. It’s all perfection, every bit of it.
Naturally all this talk of awe got me thinking about sex and how beautifully it applies to the realm of our bodies and pleasure. We are creatures of the Universe after all. Think of the awe of pregnancy or when a baby is born. The fact that a whole new human being has been created from nothing is deeply awe-inspiring.
I wonder though, if many men, women and those in between or outside of these binary genders, feel the same sense of awe about their bodies and it’s processes? I know so many women who feel disgusted by their periods, which is just heartbreaking. I believe the causes of this disgust are many and warrant an entire blog post just on that topic; so I won’t go further on the topic of disgust. I’m relieved to say that I know or know of just as many women who have a very positive relationship to their cycles. These women tend to be slightly less mainstream and (I’m going to generalise here) practice non-mainstream methods of managing their periods and/or utilise alternative methods to solve menstrual issues. I don’t know how many of them feel in awe of their bodies and of what it can do, create and produce but I would bet it would be a fair few from this little sub-culture of society.
So let’s turn to pleasure (boy was that a long introduction!) and awe. Sex and awe. Orgasms and awe. Sex has been so awe-inspiring to me that I’m here in the blogosphere writing about pleasure and I now study sexology. It’s completely changed my direction in life and in my career.
But that’s just my happy little experience 🙂
What about orgasms? I mean seriously, the mechanics and hormones in the body that enable both genders to experience orgasm is truly incredible. Sure, they helps us procreate (I’m sure women would have built armies and fortresses to keep out men by now if sex wasn’t pleasurable for them also), and possibly fall in love, but an orgasm can also create a transcendental experience. Intense pleasure is like touching God. The ecstasy, whilst ephemeral, can leave a lasting imprint on the body, mind and soul. It can ripple through the body like soft electricity – it is an energetic discharge after all.
We describe orgasms in terms of nature sometimes: the waves of an orgasm, or a thunderous orgasm, or that the ground ‘shook beneath me’ – like an earthquake. Really what is happening hear if the replication of nature inside of us. We’re all part fluid, part solid, part air – just like nature. Ecstatic experiences of orgasm can feel similar to ecstatic experiences of observing nature. A beautiful sunset or the view from a mountain can move us all to tears because of the sheer ecstasy in viewing it; of being in awe.
By the earlier description of awe, an orgasm creates intense delight but I think also plunges us into a small state of fear. You lose yourself when you orgasm. You become intensely vulnerable, intensely open, intensely big and small at the same time. You become everything and nothing. It asks you to risk deep connection – to yourself and/or to another person. It’s easy to see how frightening this state of being can be. Why, for many women who literally invite someone into their bodies during sex, it can be too scary to contemplate. Some never orgasm at all, ever.
What must they be afraid of? What in their heads (and I do believe in these instances it is predominately mental ‘block’) is going on for them not to allow themselves to experience an orgasm? In this situation, the lure of the intense pleasure is not enough to risk the serious vulnerability that comes along with an orgasm.
Women need safety and they need to trust, in order to really let go. In order to be willing to dissolve into herself as she hands herself over to pleasure. To do this with another person is the ultimate in risk-taking.
Sex and pleasure should always create awe, even in tiny amounts. Whether it is a quickie, or a 3 hour sex date, pain and pleasure or dominance and submission via BDSM, totally vanilla missionary style sex, anal sex, oral sex, sex toy only sex, self-sex, group sex, Tantric sex, outdoor sex, holiday sex, kitchen table sex, kissing, or millions of other possibilities, pleasure needs to create awe.
Otherwise it’s not really pleasure is it?