• Deborah Lukovich

When is Sexual Attraction NOT About Sex?

Have you ever become sexually aroused by contemplating a new idea, or by participating in an intellectually stimulating conversation?


Or how about while watching a beautiful sunset, getting caught in a warm summer rain, or while meditating, praying or breast feeding?

What about those moments when you want to make out with the musician on stage?


Or while you’re reading Fifty Shades of Grey during a car ride – while your husband is driving.


And of course, there is the forbidden desire for someone other than your significant other or for someone who is pledged to another.


The lack of a framework to explore the symbolic nature of the experience of sexual attraction has contributed to two extreme versions of making meaning out of sexual energy. They both play out as literal and concrete beliefs and behaviors that end up degrading the relationship between sexuality and spirituality.


One version attempts to control sexual energy and shames people, especially women, who do not follow the rules established by authoritative figures who brilliantly use religion to gain women’s permission for their own sexual oppression.


The other version promises liberation through an anything goes approach. Sexual energy as a creative life force becomes reduced to quantity, techniques, and self-gratification.


Between the two extremes exists a space to explore the mixing of what C.G. Jung suggested are the two most powerful human instincts – sexuality and religion.


Sexual Attraction as Invitation from the Self/God


I ran from the oppression of religious ideas about my sexuality right into the trap of considering sexuality as a purely physical experience.


It was not until my midlife unraveling, which included ending my twenty-four-year marriage, that a deep wound reflecting a warped relationship between my sexuality and spirituality, began to make itself known. It was not until I did the work of coming into healthy relationship with my body and sexuality that I received an invitation which I could not refuse.


From my memoir:


It was the intuitive sense of being watched that caused me to look up. Is he looking at me? I quickly looked down. Just my imagination probably. Is he looking at me? I wondered again, after casually sneaking another peek at the tan man with curly light brown hair, who was dressed in white shorts and a jade color shirt. He was leaning back on a table. My body became excited with anticipation as my mind wondered whether the confident looking and attractive man was looking at me. I could feel his stare through his aviator style sunglasses. But I couldn’t see his eyes to know for sure. I felt both excited and exposed.


***

“I just had to find out what you’re reading,” he said.


What? There he was, squatting down in front of my chair. How long as he been watching me? I can’t move! “I’m reading about psychological types,” I innocently and truthfully blurted out. Then I smiled back at him. I was done for.

***


“Do you believe in absolutes?” asked the younger man later in our conversation.


“What do you mean?” I asked. Then I offered, “Well, I don’t believe you can reduce most things into absolutes.” His stance and pacing resembled that of a lawyer now. I giggled at his earnest presentation of his conviction. I was both amused at his naivete and challenged by what he said.


Lay me down and kiss me now! I desperately thought. I felt intellectually and sexually aroused, and I felt a deep connection with who this man was underneath his charismatic persona. Kiss me please! I screamed inside.

***


There was no choice involved. The Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty Aphrodite had jumped into my body. The Goddess knew what she wanted, and she needed my body to experience an archetypal desire so intense I couldn’t say no to the journey being offered to me.

I would not realize the irony of this attraction until long after the relationship began, but it was not an accident that the relationship would force the reconciliation between what felt like the opposing forces of sexuality and spirituality. In this case, intense attraction was indeed an invitation from God.


You’ll have to read my memoir to find out what happens. My depth psychology framework did not save me from the wild ride of the relationship, but it did affirm that it was a vessel in which a complex alchemical transformation was taking place, one that would lead to my spiritual and sexual growth.


Sexual Attraction as Creative Force


For me, the most interesting part of the movie Social Network was that the motivating force behind Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to create was sexual attraction. According to the movie anyway. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps being rejected by the woman he loved way back then has contributed to his seeming insatiable desire for domination.


For much of my first post-divorce relationship, literal sex was not an option. Anger quickly turned to openness though, as I sought to understand where my sexual attraction was leading me. Stillness now brought arousal, and the deepening connection with my partner turned vulnerability into trusting receptivity of what wanted to flow through me.


From my memoir:


“Let’s write poetry,” Phillip excitedly said.

“What?” Oh my gosh, I can’t. I could feel my adrenaline hormone rushing through my body. It was one thing to write a Haiku in the privacy of my workspace at Perkin’s restaurant, or a bar. I had written a couple and shared them with Phillip in my letters. But to be put on the spot. Phillip had this way of connecting with the most vulnerable parts of me. Just by being him. This is good for me, I negotiated with my ego.


“Let’s write a Tanka,” he suggested. His eyes lit up. I know you’re probably familiar with what a Haiku is, but the Tanka format became my favorite. The extra two lines allowed me to say a little more, while still feeling comforted by the constrained format.


“Think of a topic,” he challenged me.


“I don’t know. You know I’m more of a reflector.” I started sweating.


“Okay, let’s go with police,” Phillip offered. Writing poetry seemed to come naturally for him. I on the other hand, felt so self-conscious I could hardly stand it. But I did it!


My poem:


Two opposing roles

Wounds are the call for the work

Protect and enforce

Projections onto others

Becomes a perpetrator


Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but for me it was a huge deal. Sexual attraction was transforming into a new creative urge.


My Music Man


Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes sexual attraction is most definitely about sex. We come into relationship with ourselves and with God through embodied pleasurable experiences with others. In fact, in Riane Eisler’s book, Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body – New Paths to Power and Love, you can learn about the latest theories about how the emergence of romantic love and sexual pleasure are evolutionary urges that contribute to the consciousness of humanity.


Picking up and leaving the place where I had spent my life was not an easy task. I had left behind one persona, but all I had to replace it with was a newly acquired PhD, a desire to publish a memoir and my research, and a small coaching business. That’s it. And it all coincided with the beginning of the COVID pandemic. I had no idea what I was going to do.


For two weeks, I never deviated from the path I walked to the beach and back to my new home. My life felt too uncertain. Finally, I ventured a little further, and came upon a historic hotel located right on the beach. A sign boasted of happy hour martini’s, served at the rooftop bar called the Penthouse. I decided I would come back.


And I did. Earlier that week, I had signed up for an online writing program. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t realize I’d have to write my first short story. Yikes! Interestingly, at the same time, I was being tortured by the fantasy of reconnecting with a man I had met six months prior. I couldn’t make it go away.


From my memoir:


“I don’t know what I’m doing Deb.” his tone serious. What an odd thing to say.


What? “With this?” I asked looking confused as I pointed to my body and our sexual escapade. “Or with life in general?” I asked, tilting my head. I didn’t know what he meant by what felt like a vulnerable sharing, but the look on his face answered my question. He seemed to be going through his own midlife journey.


“I’m the best person to be vulnerable with,” I said cheerily. I connected with him on a deeper level than he knew. I had come to realize that those rare times I felt intense attraction for someone was because I sensed a complexity about their life. I didn’t ask him to share more, just like I didn’t ask for details about his not being able to reciprocate.


After some quiet time just laying together, we got dressed, and he politely drove me home. I don’t remember what words we used to express our mutual appreciation for each other, and there was a clear absence of talk of the future.


That was the last time I saw Jason. After three weeks of desperate grasping on my end, and his waning responses, I deleted Jason’s number from my phone. I let him go – or at least I tried. Memories of his assertive kisses and touching, nerdy interests, and his admission of feelings of being interested and intimidated, replayed in my mind over and over as I sought to re-experience the intense arousal that I felt just being near him.


At the time, my encounter with Jason seemed to be a sign that there was still something new to be experienced in the realm of love. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time or perhaps it wouldn’t be with him.

But now, as I was starting my new life, maybe this fantasy of his return wanted something from me. I arrived at the historic hotel bar. It was my third time, but tonight was different. The entertainment was back after a brief lockdown, with social distancing and masks, of course. As I wrote, I noticed a man setting up a staging area.


“I’ll have a house Cabernet,” I told the server as I watched the musician set up his small stage.


“Check.” This was the first word uttered by my music man. “Great to be here after a break,” something like that. His bass sounding voice was warm and had a hint of a casual southern accent. He started singing, Slide, by the Goo Goo Dolls.


My mouth dropped open. Is that him? I wondered. Is that Phillip? No, it can’t be. Was it possible that Phillip up and moved down here and became a singer? No way, my ego rationally scolded me. I wondered if the music man could feel my possessive energy. I wondered if there was another alchemical thing going on. Had his body been overtaken by Hermes, the Greek god known to be a Trickster? I felt such arousal for this man, this music man, who was channeling another man, the man who caused my soul to grow.


The sexual arousal from the music man flowed into my body and out my fingers as I typed feverishly on my laptop. My body had been overtaken again, by some other god or goddess. Words poured onto the page. Was I attracted to the music man? Yes, but I didn’t know the meaning yet. In the coming weeks, we chatted some, I would buy him shots during his break. We talked music. I kept my desire secret. Thankfully, one evening, I overheard him say that he had a girlfriend. I snapped out of it. How embarrassing.


As I became more receptive to what wanted to flow through me, the sexual desire for my music man waned. Thank goodness.


Once embraced, the awkwardness I had once felt about my body and sexuality opened the door to deep connection with a romantic partner and with my inner being, which then led to a whole new awkwardness for my budding creative urge. As I continue to surrender to the mysterious forces that are seeking expression through me, I feel more deeply connected to my Self/God than ever.


Where Do You Start?


The insight that my sexuality and spirituality were intertwined came suddenly, but only after spending about ten hours journaling about my most intense attractions to men. The first one was with a boy in fifth grade at a Catholic elementary school.


There’s no right way to do this. Journaling is a great way to release what’s stored in your body. Your ego is very clever at keeping things from you, especially things that when explored, grow your capacity to be vulnerable, which is required for growth.


I Would Love to be Your Reflection Partner


Send me a note at dlukovich@gmail.com if you’re interested in exploring a more symbolic approach to life.


Thank you!


Photo of woman laying on rock by Maria Lupan on Unsplash

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