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Polyamory and Sexual Healing
by Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D.

Virtually everyone who has been raised in a sex negative culture such as ours is sexually wounded. For some, this wounding is simply a matter of barely conscious sexual guilt, shame, and inhibition. It manifests in subtle—or sometimes not so subtle—discomfort about social nudity, public displays of affection, or erotic art. It manifests in an inability to freely enjoy sexual pleasure, in ejaculating too soon (for men) or not at all (for women), or in difficulty reaching orgasm. It manifests as a lack of sexual confidence, an inability to truly let go sexually, or an obsession with sexual privacy.

In addition to this general malaise, many of us have experienced personal traumas as well: one out of three or four girls and one out of seven or eight boys in our society are sexually molested as children. Rape, abortion, insensitive medical exams, circumcision, unskilled or uncaring lovers, and guilt over masturbation also take their toll.

I discovered very early in life that polyamory has a way of bringing sexual wounds to the surface. It was post Summer of Love time (the late '60's for the culturally illiterate) and I was a freshman at Barnard College in New York. A few of my friends had taken LSD together and were sprawled half naked on someone's living room rug taking in the sounds of the Moody Blues on the stereo. Alice was one of my closest friends. A dark-eyed, long legged beauty with flowing waist length black hair and a deep hatred of anything bourgeois, she had a lovely soprano voice and played a classy Martin guitar. Her musician boyfriend Jason had grown up in Greenwich Village and was very hip—and sexy. The three of us began to slither over and around each others bodies, grooving on the sensual electricity between us. But Alice became uncomfortable. Jason and I didn't pay much attention to her withdrawal at first, we were magnetized by the powerful erotic force between us. We probably would have gone on to make love right then and there had not Alice exploded with jealous rage. Jason and I were bewildered—we all loved each other, did we not? Surely Alice knew we had no wish to hurt or exclude her. We all rejected the sexual mores of our middle class families, did we not? We had all agreed to explore group sexual energy, had we not? What was the problem? Well, the problem, it turned out, was that Alice was overcome by sexual guilt and shame and felt totally inadequate and over-shadowed by her high libido buddies. None of us, including Alice herself, had any idea she was so hung up.

After replaying minor variations on this scene countless times over the next twenty-five years, I finally caught on. It's not possible to enjoy sharing your sweetheart if you're sexually wounded. It's not possible to enjoy having multiple partners if you're sexually insecure. And you may not realize you're anything less than fully functional until you're intimately exposed to people who are relatively free of sexual inhibitions at which time you may be more prone to running and ducking than seeking liberation.

I don't mean to imply that everyone who chooses sexual exclusivity is dysfunctional. Fear is not the only motivation for chosing serial monogamy, but it's far more common than is usually acknowledged.

Many people give up on polyamory, or at least retreat into the safety of intellectualizing or fantasizing about its glories, once they realize the amount of sometimes painful healing and deconditioning which may be involved. Very unfortunate! For it is precisely the driving necessity to make the leap to higher consciousness which gives polyamory its evolutionary value. Those who see polyamory primarily as a means to greater personal fulfillment or family security and bemoan its challenges fail to appreciate polyamory as a spiritual path. And the first step on this path, in my opinion, is to shed the sex negative belief systems which keep us alienated from our bodies, from each other, and from Nature herself.

Compulsory monogamy is the brain child of a sex negative philosophy which holds sexuality to be sinful, disgusting, and evil. In keeping with their eagerness to denigrate the Feminine, the early Church fathers viewed celibacy as the most spiritual option, but realizing that it would be impractical, if not impossible, to make celibacy the norm, they opted for the next best thing. Their teaching was to have as little sex as possible with as little pleasure as possible and only with your lawful mate. In contrast, a sex positive belief system would recognize sexuality as a form of worship, in which women's and men's bodies, pleasure, fertility, and life itself are celebrated. Sex would be recognized as a means of of entering higher states of consciousness and directly experiencing the Divine. Erotic ritual would be valued as an expression of love and a powerful means of bonding the entire tribe or community. In a sex positive culture, polyamory would be seen as a contribution to society rather than an immoral act.

The fact is that even the more conservative forms of polyamory, such as polyfidelity or Robert Rimmer-style closed group marriage in which all the sex is one on one, will always be anathema in a sex negative culture. The fact is that individuals who have been raised in a sex negative culture and internalized it's values will find it exceedingly difficult to practice polyamory without first finding a way to heal sexually. The fact is that couples who are not sexually satisfied with each other will probably find it difficult to feel comfortable taking on other lovers.

Over the last several years, I've discovered that for me and perhaps for most people, a combination of sexual healing work, erotic ritual, and polyamorous concepts provide a solid base from which to make the shift to new paradigm relating. Polyamorous ideas alone tend to lead to intellectual sterility at best. Without the deep emotional clearing and releasing of genital armouring which the sexual healing work offers, polyamorous relating must often be kept superficial or else degenerate into melodrama. Sexual healing harnesses the enormous power of our sexual energy and channels it for transformation. It paves the way for tantric or sacred sexual practices and is wonderful for opening the heart and getting the creative juices flowing. But without a polyamorous framework and understanding of new paradigm relating, erotic ritual can open a Pandora's box. Together, these three components combine to create a synergistic whole. And that's what the Love Without Limits work is all about.

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© Deborah Taj Anapol

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