Erotic feelings can be natural and precious—and a source of great healing.
Surely sexual abuse is the opposite of spiritual love, yet it is easy to reject the latter in light of the former. Coming from a sexually abusive childhood and a religious family belief that sexuality was shameful for a woman, I decided, right from my early years, that sex, in all its definitions, did not belong to me. For years, whether alone or with a partner, I felt invisible during sex—and like other survivors of abuse and shame, I “left” my body in order to cope. By cutting myself off like this to escape my painful memories, I induced a safe numbness. But what I didn’t understand back then was that such numbness walled me off from healthy sexual experiences and my own spiritual growth.
Then, one day at a bookstore, I discovered the diaries of Anais Nin. Here was a woman who wrote about arousal with the meter and language of poetry: “I swim in the sky,” she wrote in her diary, when expressing her longing for a new flame. “I float; my body is full of flowers, flowers with fingers giving me acute, acute caresses, sparks, jewels, quivers of joy, dizziness, such dizziness. Music inside of one, drunkenness.” Such lines showed me that erotic feelings could be natural and precious. What’s more, Nin’s language sang with the ecstasy of sexual abundance. It seemed rebellious to read her words, yet they were so deeply felt that they read like a prayer to me and I absorbed a whole new way of bonding and relating.
Recognizing the beginnings of my own erotic healing, I sought out more stories with which I felt in sync. I was particularly amazed to find that the Bible urges us to value our spiritual-erotic potential for love. The Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon) shows the profound bliss that can be shared between two erotic partners. I remember reading these verses with absolute astonishment—after years of being taught that the Bible was anti-sex, here, at the heart of the book that had so terrified me, was the poetry of deep desire, along with the proclamation that erotic love is divine. Why was it so surprising that the Bible should bring erotic healing? Perhaps because, within my early religious life, sexuality and spirit had seemed opposites, not partners.
The healing process for me has taken many forms over the last twenty years. Considering that most of us don’t realize healing is possible, I count myself as fortunate. Even when alone, my experiences were only vivid when the “real me” wasn’t present in my fantasies—she simply watched through a crack in the door, not daring to make herself known. I projected my needs onto the characters in my head, and imagined erotic scenes for them to enact. These unshared illusions can be helpful, making sex feel safe. However, they can also make an armored shell of our body’s temple, keeping trust and openness firmly locked away.
When our erotica is created by another, however—or is created by ourselves for another—the shared experience can help us to open up. This discovery led me to now teach others to write about sex. Through this sharing, we learn to awaken our bodies to intimacy and compassion. One erotic writing student told me that her body was coursing with newfound life, plus she credited this with the return of her periods after months of absence. Another, who had given up on sexual relationships, started joyfully dating a man who was half her age. For myself, when I first started opening up to erotica, I realized that if I could heal a saddened friend by laying a hand on a shoulder, showing them that we were one and the same, why would a trusted sexual connection—with myself or another—not be healing also? Once we’ve found erotica that we can safely connect with, we open the door to shared intimacy, often for the first time ever.
Erotic Writing Task
Sex itself can be a powerful element in erotica, but it is the build-up of desire—often the kind that makes us vulnerable—that forms the beating heart of any erotic transformation.
To practice, write an erotic love letter—either from one character to another, or from yourself to someone else—expressing deep yearning. Draw on the thoughts, emotions and sense-impressions (including sight, hearing, smell, touch, and maybe even taste) that spur this profound desire. Has the writer ever hugged or made love to their beloved? If so, how did s/he feel and smell? How does this beloved look when they walk, laugh or smile? And, perhaps the most important question of all: What does the letter-writer long for most? Expressing these yearnings not only helps you to create your own erotica, but can also tap your deeper sexual desires. If you long for a deeper catharsis, you might choose to write this letter to an old flame—but it is important to only do this if you feel comfortable, safe and ready.
As an example of an erotic love letter, here is an excerpt from one of Henry Miller’s letters to Anais Nin, when they were having an ardent affair:
“But you make me so happy because I can talk to you. I love your brightness, your preparations for flight, your legs like a vise, the warmth between your legs. Yes, Anais, I want to demask you. I am too gallant with you. I want to look at you long and ardently, pick up your dress, fondle you, examine you. Do you know I have scarcely looked at you? There is still too much sacredness clinging to you.” (From A Literate Passion: Letters of Anais Nin & Henry Miller 1932-1953.)