Sex therapist Gina Ogden had known for years that sexuality and spirituality are connected. But when she did a national survey of almost 4,000 women and men on their attitudes toward sex, she was amazed at how strong that connection actually is for so many. She has published the results of her "Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality" (ISIS) survey in her book The Heart and Soul of Sex: Making the ISIS Connection. Ogden spoke to Beliefnet about getting past the "cultural missionary position," growing sexually through the decades, and why God has a place in the bedroom.
What is the relationship between sex and spirituality?
I find so often as a counselor and an educator [that] it really is about shifting your belief system about what marriage is, and what sex is, and what spirituality is. All of these are loaded terms because we've been trained in this culture to see spirituality as very separate from sex.
Spirituality is about being good, it's about being holy, it's about attending worship services, etc. Sex, the way the culture frames it, is a dirty word, and particularly for women. It's not okay for a woman to feel lusty, to feel open, to really love sex. So the first thing I would go over with couples who were planning to be married is to be able to understand that sexuality is part of our spirituality. In fact, spirituality is also part of our sexuality. You can't remove the piece called sex from all that we are as human beings and as married beings and still have a whole picture.
How do you explain to couples that sex has spiritual aspects beyond procreation?
There are certain religious belief systems that say, "Go forth and multiply." That's part of fulfilling the commandments of the Lord. In my nationwide survey of 4,000 people on sexuality and spirituality, I found that it wasn't so much sex being one thing and spirituality (i.e. God's command) being another so much as it was a whole picture of our sexual response involving our bodies, involving our emotions, what we feel about sex, what goes on whether we're sad, mad, glad, scared, or extremely joyous.
Also, we always have to remember the messages we've gotten probably as children, and certainly as adults, that good girls don't...or do they? It's a double-message of our culture that says sex is dirty, save it for the one you love. How do we put that together?
The Sexy Spirit continues...