I want to korero on something (I'll be doing more on sexual trauma and sexual identity further on) that comes up so often in 'womens circles', Moon Circles, Priestess Training and books on womens' healing, relationships and spirituality.
It's like a weird... Spiritually Poisoned Fanny Fallacy. (What, ew? I know. I haven't yet had breakfast, my creative brain has called in a lazy substitute this morning).
We need to unpack this because, like many colonial-grade shitty spiritual messages, this is something that gets promoted and venerated in a spirit of 'love and light' but actually is limiting, steeped in patriarchy and old religious fear and ultimately, hatred. (And also, white supremacy. Most non-white ancient historical/mythological depictions of women incorporated their sexuality but didn't define them by it. The colonial horror that black & brown women could be sexual but also... healers, warriors, hunters, scholars and God forbid, actual people, still reverberates within the spiritual community). So it's time that we unravel this message and release it into the wind.
By the way, if you're woman-identifying and you've been fortunate enough to NOT encounter this pseudo-spiritual message, you're lucky!
So it's this: That when you have sex with someone (usually a man), their 'energy' stays with you. I've heard this trope extend from 'his energy will block any other potential love energy from coming your way', to 'this can poison your energy and attract negativity and bad entities'.
...I'm not kidding. This is a thing. And it's super common.
This message is usually shrouded in some kind of self-love mantra about worth, as in 'choose very carefully who you have sex with/ only have sex with someone you love/ don't have sex with anyone other than husband material otherwise you're debasing your sexual energy and lowering your vibration'.
And let me delineate: that it's absolutely fine to choose celibacy for spiritual reasons or to limit your sexual contact to committed relationship/marriage if that's what you, with your own independent agency, are choosing for yourself.
Where this message starts to colonise the spirit though, is by not taking into account any or all of the following, very common and real realities (trigger warning also for those who have experienced sexual trauma):
1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in childhood (by the age of 15), most by family or family-adjacent relationships. Many parts of the world (including places of 'spiritual enlightenment' throughout Asia, Europe and South America) are hotbeds of human sex trafficking. Sex Education in schools is often nonexistent, underfunded, abstinence-modelled or poorly delivered. 'Enthusiastic Consent', sexual safety and respectful relationships are not taught to young boys and men. Media and advertising sexualises children and young girls (while shaming those who display sexual agency), glorifying violence and toxic relationships. 78% of sexually-active women report having at least 2 instances of breached consent (including being made to kiss or hug an unpleasant relative or having a partner insist upon sex too soon after giving birth) in close relationships. 67% of women have experienced sexual pressure in the workplace (including being pressured for a date by a customer or propositioned by someone in a more senior role). Girls in lower socio-economic areas are more likely to have children by 18 than to complete higher education.
I could go on. The point is that for a huge percentage of women-identifying people, sexuality and sexual experience commonly (especially in earlier life) comes enmeshed with experiences of everything from ineducation and pregnancy, to boundary violation, shame or even abuse. Often, even negative consensual sexual experiences are a natural follow-on effect from the way a woman has been educated, seen relationships modelled, experienced mental health struggles and more.
So when we blanket-statement under the guise of 'self-love' that 'women need to choose carefully who they have sex with because their energy stays in you', we're discounting the lived experience of many, many women who at some point have had that choice limited or taken away from them and should NOT ever be defined by it. And to burden women with fear, shame or the desire to 'cleanse' themselves as a result of sexual contact, breaks their spirits. It colonises their spirit.
I've worked with many girls and women over the years seeking spiritual guidance about the 'after-effect' of a sexual experience. And let me tell you, most of the most confused ones are the strong, brave, independent women who have been committed to healing and growth; who reached out to self-love or self-help books, women's circles or 'goddess groups' and come away with the message that they are, will be, or have been punished for who they had a sexual experience with if they don't 'get it right'.
Let me clarify, so that together we can unravel this thread of spiritual colonisation.
YOU ARE NEVER CURSED, BLOCKED, POISONED, PUNISHED FOR OR DEFINED BY ANYBODY THAT YOU HAVE HAD A SEXUAL EXPERIENCE WITH.
*Unless they were not consenting, but this post is not directed at those who have committed sexual assault or abuse.
Trust me. Being 'promiscuous' or being celibate don't matter to the Universe. Being celibate doesn't mean that someone is doing their personal growth work, any more than someone engaging sexually with many partners isn't still available for a serious and committed relationship. If you need to be physically disconnected in order to heal, grow and focus for a period of time, that's fabulous because it's your choice - not because the Universe will reward you a gold medal in some metaphysical Purity Olympics. Spiritually, our sexual expression has NO link with our worthiness or healing. Know that, ok? One of the very few gifts that spirits are given during our human experience is the potential for healing, happiness and joy through sexuality and affection. We honour that with consent and respect, nonjudgement and gratitude. But someone who has shared a sexual experience with you doesn't necessarily have some sudden magical power over or insight into you, unless you, now, allow that with no expectations of return. It's like, if a friend visits your house, do they suddenly own it because they sat in your kitchen eating chips? Not unless you, for some reason, handed over the keys and the deeds. So why do you believe spiritual 'gurus' who tell you that someone who has been present with you sexually, has ownership over your value in some way? Sex can be healing regardless of physical appearance or commitment. Sex can be traumatising, regardless of physical appearance or commitment. So how is this possible unless... it's not sex itself that defines or has anything to do with your personal growth, life, healing or worth, as a woman? (meanwhile in the Vatican, floor tiles are disrupted as Popes of yore turn in their graves).
The message - mainly delivered to women - that sexuality is something we need to hold closely, keep 'pure' and wield for only 'deserving' men (let me guess, he's a wealthy woke mixed-race muscly Tantra teacher who makes cute babies and has long hair and likes puppies? Like that isn't some violating fetishisation of men, mostly of colour on their own spiritual path? I see you, Pinterest 'spiritual' quote images!) is simply old, harmful religious and white-supremacist programming marketed as modern self-healing. Bullshit. It's damaging and unrealistic. And it's more than time to decolonise this toxic, psuedo-spiritual message.
If a sexual experience has left you feeling (or you've been told) in some way 'haunted', like you've taken a step backwards, energetically blocked or stagnant; this doesn't mean that you're being punished or done a thing wrong. What you CAN do, is a ritual - such a shower with music, a salt bath, smudging with herbs, sound healing or self-anointing with oil or sacred clothing or jewellery. This isn't about 'cleansing' you (as though you're dirty), but about re-aligning your energy and focus with your true spirit, your sense of worth, safety and love. Can you see the difference?
A disclaimer: Spiritual harm can be caused to yourself if, over time, you consistently engage in a sexual relationship with somebody that causes you harm, hurt or disrespect (even if it's not as severe as abuse). The reason for that, is that your body will form a neurological/emotional link between the physical sensations/experience of sex + intimacy, and the feelings of hurt or fear. You CAN train yourself to expect things, and so you may find yourself in a relationship or dynamic where those two experiences have become linked. It's rarely an overnight process to escape, but have the knowledge that it's NOT a) a secret superpower that person has over you or b) a shameful weakness on your part. Your awareness that your body has come to link these two experiences, can be replaced by a consistent effort to un-link them. Start by avoiding physical or verbal contact, if it's safe to - ask for social or professional help. Replace your physical reminders or triggers (such as clothes or sheets) and stimulate the desire for sexual expression or intimacy in safer experiences as you go - read or watch good (respectful) erotica, take up a dance class, get a massage, ask a trusted friend to hug you or hold your hand. What you're doing is simply re-training your body to experience sexuality and intimacy in a caring, respectful way; and de-normalising the experience that intimacy = suffering. It's not about that person. It's about decolonising the belief that they or others, deserve to define your experience of yourself as a worthy, valuable & loved person.
HOWEVER, having said that - equal spiritual wounding can also be caused to yourself by non-sexual acts of intimacy, care or service to harmful people or dynamics. Such as being bullied into a family obligation, covering up a work superior's behaviour or having to spend time with someone toxic. The crux of this is that it's not sexual activity itself that is inherently causing harm; but the learned dynamic of intimacy= suffering. Does that make sense?
To unpack further: the shame, self-loathing and sense of uncleanness that may be present in your body from abuse or sexual violation belongs SOLELY to the perpetrator. No matter what inherited (read = colonised) justifications or beliefs you may hold about what you wore, said, drank or encouraged; the above feelings are NOT yours to hold. Do what you can safely to, if not release, then slightly dislodge them. Replace them with compassion for yourself. (Despite being two sentences, this may be a years-long process and that's ok. Those feelings being present in your body don't mean that you're somehow poisoned /blocked from being loved or attractive - know that, in reality, this is only your *colonised* perception because you've taken ownership of THEIR shame as your own. Which we are going to unravel together in this series). Trust that you have always done the best that you knew how to do at the time.
The guilt, embarassment or mortification that may be present in your body from a sexual experience that was maybe not traumatising but regrettable (think: alcohol-induced, infidelity, being caught in public, someone inappropriate et al), is allowed now to be replaced with wisdom, personal growth, simple remorse and ultimately wisdom. Remember that you are a spirit having a HUMAN experience in this lifetime: and that means, occasionally, running into the limitations and foibles of being flawed and human, in order for you to grow and learn. You're not 'unworthy' for your mistakes - you are wiser.
What we collectively and personally need to be aiming for is not 'choosing carefully who we have sex with' out of some colonial fear of being unworthy.
But aiming to:
1. Be able to, with clarity and safety, MAKE THE CHOICE with whom, when and where we experience sex or intimacy
2. Have spiritual and mental tools in place to dismantle systems + beliefs that try to punish or define us for sexuality, intimacy, vulnerability or experiencing abuse
3. Have agency over our own sense of value and identity outside of our sexuality
4. Have compassion and empathy for the sexual experiences of others
Whether you lead women in a yoga, meditation, manifestation, therapy or spiritual practice; or you participate, consume or read messages directed at women, it's time to decolonise the way we're talking to women about sex in the spiritual community.