What is Sex?

by Chas August


Everyone knows what sex is.  Sex is “coitus, ” from the Latin for sexual intercourse.  Sex is “copulation”, from the Middle English for sexual intercourse.  Sex is “doing it”, from the playground at most middle schools.   In high school biology they taught us that sex was the means of reproduction for lots of animals and plants.  The male has a seed, the female has an egg; sex is the activity that transfers seed to egg.  Simply put, sex is a piece of skin wiggling around in or on another piece of skin until something goes “pop”.  Right?  Sex = wiggle-wiggle-pop. 

Well, there you have it.  No need to attend any workshops, classes or trainings.  Sex is “wiggle-wiggle-pop” and its purpose is reproduction…unless…unless… sex is actually something more than just reproduction, something more profound than just wiggle-wiggle-pop.   

Who taught you what sex is?  Did your parents explain sex to you?  (Do you think they were nervous?)  Was Sex Ed on the curriculum of your middle school or high school?  Did your parents or your teachers give you a book or pamphlet that explained sex?  Do you think either your parents or your school teachers were trying to give you as full and complete an understanding of sex as they possibly could? Did you learn about sex from your friends?  Do you believe that your friends knew very much about sex?  Do you think your parents did?

What if the people who taught you about sex didn’t really know much about sex?  

When we use the word “love” we can mean so many things.  People love their car, some love pizza, many love their favorite team.  We love our children, our spouse, our pet, and our favorite music group.  If the ads are to be believed, we love New York, Virginia is for lovers, and Subaru asks us to “love wherever the road takes you.”  Love is a big word that covers a wide range of feeling.

On the other hand, when we talk about having sex, people pretty much go straight to wiggle-wiggle-pop.  In a 2009 study of adult men and women, conducted by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, when asked about which sexual behaviors constitute having ‘had sex’, there was no universal consensus.  Quoting from the article abstract:

“More than 90% responded ‘yes’ to penis-vagina, but one in five responded ‘no’ to penis-anal, three in 10 responded ‘no’ to oral-genital and about half endorsed manual-genital. Fewer endorsed penis-vagina with no male ejaculation (89.1%) compared with penis-vagina without a qualifier (94.8%). Manual–genital was endorsed more often when received (48.1%) than given (44.9%).”

In other words, about half of adults don’t consider masturbation of themselves or others to constitute having sex, 30 percent think oral sex is not having sex and 20 percent believe that anal sex is not having sex, and, it seems about 25% think that gay men and lesbians must be virgins or asexual because they aren’t having sex!

Why does it matter how you define it?  It is my observation that our experience in life is not so much a result of our circumstances, our experience is the result of our thoughts and beliefs about our circumstances.  Numerous scientific experiments have demonstrated that our ideas and beliefs limit our ability to perceive reality.   For far too many people, their narrow definitions of sex actually impedes their ability to experience the spirituality, sensuality, sacredness, and magic of what sex can be.  

Take a moment to remember the very first time you held hands with someone you felt attracted to, your first girlfriend or boyfriend.  Can you remember working up the courage, overcoming the shyness?  Can you remember how it felt to join in your mutual innocence, to feel the intimate connection?  Maybe that was sex?  Remember the first time you really kissed someone you had a “crush” on, someone you were crazy about.   Can you remember when kissing was sex for you?  Can you remember how “hot” it was to “make out”?  Maybe that was sex?

Maybe sex is any behavior that “turns you on”?  Maybe sex is any behavior that embodies desire for another?  Maybe sex is any behavior that honors and reveres a human being?  Sex can be looking deeply into your beloved’s eyes.  Sex can be breathing together.  Sex can be playful exploration, heart-centered meditation, hotter-than-hot genital manipulation, and sweet, tender caresses. 

What is sex?  The word itself – S –E –X – might be an acronym for Sacred Energy eXchange, or Sensual Energy eXchange, or Spiritual Energy eXchange, or Sweet Energy eXchange, or Salacious Energy eXchange. 

I thought I knew what sex is, I thought I was quite the expert, until I took my first workshop with HAI.   In one short weekend I discovered how my habits and beliefs about sex – and love, and intimacy – actually got in the way of my sexual satisfaction, my relationships, my body image, and my ability to find and sustain love.  Instead of sexual techniques and performance tips HAI helped me find genuine, heart-centered connection and helped me open to a view of sex that wasn’t about an “act”, but rather about a way of being.

I have come to believe that sex is intertwined with intimacy and love in complex and ever-changing ways, that are different with different partners, different at different times of day, different as we age, different in each new moment.  Sex is not so much an act or event but a language, a language spoken in looks and touch, and in breathing and sighing.  This language is spoken through a shared experience of vulnerability and strength, a shared experience of giving and receiving, a shared experience of human-ness and divinity.  Sometimes this language can be spoken in the instant it takes for our eyes to meet, and sometimes one can spend a lifetime learning this language, embodying it.   Seems to me that’d be a mighty a good way to spend a lifetime.

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  1. Thank you Chas, Thank you HAI,
    I have learned so much from you!
    Love Carole