Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Overcoming Sexual Amnesia

My colleague, and writer's muse, Steven Otero, sent me a very interesting piece reflecting on how children and pubescent teens deal with" youthful sexual feelings and desires" in a sex-negative culture. Sadly, because our culture is neither emotionally safe nor sensually safe, we learn to cut-off, separate from, numb out or never develop our sensual and sexual feelings. We learn to dissociate from our sensual, sexual, emotional and bodily experiences, and seek safe haven in the intellect.

The result is an emotional, sensual and sexual deadness or numbness. In the piece Steven sent me, this "resulting lack of feeling is called sensory-motor amnesia." When it is not safe to have feelings and sensations, we learn to numb our emotional and somatic experience. When kids are taught to feel shame about their bodies, their genitals and their sexuality, it is safer to numb out and disconnect from sensation than to feel shame and fear about these vulnerable and very human parts of ourselves.

When children are sexually abused, to numb out emotionally, sensually and sexually is a common survival mechanism. What is sad is that in most cases of "sexual amnesia," the numbing out or disconnecting process is unconscious and involuntary. If a person has little or no sensation in their genitals or surrounding tissue, they may not even realize something is missing. Their numb or dissociated state is familiar, and gets labelled as "normal."

It is very rare that people find themselves in emotionally, sensually and physically safe environments where they can learn, heal and grow experientially. If a young man or woman has never felt safe, nurturing touch, all the intellectualizing in the world will never communicate what it feels like. If a young man or woman has not been sensually touched with sacredness and respect, this too will be foreign and perhaps, even incomprehensible.

I greatly appreciate the work of the Human Awareness Institute and its workshops on Love, Intimacy and Sexuality, because these workshops provide one of the rare, yet essential environments for safe, respectful and boundaried sensual and sexual education. The workshops provide a permission, modeling and invitation to learn, heal and grow.

If as teens or young adults, we had the opportunity to have an introduction to sensuality and sacred sexuality, in a safe, respectful, boundaried experiential setting, our capacity to relate and express ourselves as whole sensual, sexual human beings would be greatly improved.

Mind-body techniques can be used in pain management. They can also be used for sensory awakening and sensory discovery. I wish these kinds of tools were as available as internet pornography. Perhaps, if both teens and adults of all ages had access to sex-positive tools and experiences, we could provide much healing to our sex-negative, relationally-challenged culture.

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