The ETSU’s Women’s Studies blog would like to spotlight the exceptional writing of students currently in Women’s Studies classes by reposting selected posts. The following is a guest post by Eva Alom.
Throughout history, religion has been notorious for promoting heavy gender stereotypes. From idolizing virginal figures such as Mary to the overwhelmingly popular choice to classify God as male, religious traditions conflict with many feminist ideals. Christian or otherwise, the presence of these heavily patriarchal systems of beliefs has a definite impact on the lives of women. One of these effects is the attitude towards sexuality in religious women. In her writing Indecent Theology, Marcella Althaus-Reid brings to question the great divide between natural human qualities such as sexuality and religion. Attending church is perceived as higher than any other activity one partakes in throughout a normal week. This apparent holiness is grasping at the idea that connecting with spiritual forces is outside of our quotidian experiences, but fails in doing so in that the result has been a separation of humanity and spirituality. This separation manifests itself most strongly in the separation of sexuality in religion. Feminists teach that women should not be made to feel ashamed of their sexualities, but religion, by excluding such a prominent part of anyone’s being, strengthens any sense of shame. When this is done, the implication is that humanity is on such a lower level than spirituality that it may never achieve pure goodness, happiness, or holiness. Even farther, the belief that one is fundamentally flawed becomes a barrier in doing all that one can to be good.
Though these negative attitudes towards sexuality are present for both male and female sexes, it is undeniable that female sexuality is scrutinized much more harshly through the lens of religion. The small number of female characters in religious texts creates an “all or nothing” dilemma, wherein the only examples of women are unnaturally pure or unnaturally impure. This phenomenon translates to an unfair expectation for women to maintain an unrealistic idea of purity in all aspects of her live. Since this is impossible, women are instead left with the expectation to keep these “impure” parts of themselves hidden.
Much can be learned by stepping back and looking at sexuality as an experience that can coexist and even enhance spirituality. In many ways, sex can be the epitome of spirituality. The act of sex has often been described as the merging of two souls. When two or more people connect with each other in such an intimate way, a loss of ego can occur, creating a powerful feeling of being one. During masturbation, accepting one’s body can become a symbol of love and appreciation of the creation that the universe, God, or any number of spiritually forces, provided as a home for the soul. When orgasm is achieved, a state of pure bliss at losing all control is experienced. It could be argued that this state is the work of a spiritual being.
Deepak Chopra provides 12 “insights” into sexuality and spirituality.
Religion was created for the soul purpose of understanding humanity on a deeper level. Since nothing has ever been achieved by suppressing truths, it follows that at least part of the path to understanding would involve the acceptance and celebration of sexuality, for both men and women.