Sex in Religion
The ways in which the sexual body and sexual pleasure are viewed have changed drastically over time. This is due in large part to the teachings and interpretations of Saint Augustine and the Christian Church. Today and for the greater part of the last thousand years, the woman s body is constantly degraded through the use of slang terms, its depiction in movies, books, and magazines. Religion in general has made successful attempts in condemning the art of sexual pleasure through persecution and isolation.
Throughout ancient times, especially in the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, the male and female sexual organs were continually praised throughout different cultures. Archaeological remains of sculptures and art have shown this praise in all parts of the world. Even the structures or caves were considered symbolic as a sacred portal or a vaginal opening. Large numbers of sculptures and artifacts of the Neolithic period have been interpreted as emphasizing vulvas. It is obvious that these are religiously influenced because the art of this time is mainly concerned with myths and rituals. Another example is, In ancient Indian religious tradition, the female pubic triangle was viewed as the focus of divine energy (Eisler 17). Still today, kundalini energy involved in the pleasures of sex brings about a state of ecstatic bliss. There have been other findings in burial sites where the vulva is symbolized by an object such as a flower. Not only are the female sexual organs praised in ancient cultures, but also the male phallus is viewed as an object of worship especially in the Bronze Age. For example, A sculpture in a shape that suggests both a phallus and a highly stylized Goddess figurine was found in the Gaban cave, near Trento. As if to reinforce the sacral connection between female and male sexuality, there is also a carving on this sculpture. A pair of crescent horns symbolize the male principle, and the vulva is represented as a flower (Eisler 17). Another example can be found in ancient Greece: Dionysus, the God of wine and sexual pleasure and his Roman counterpart, Bacchus, who was worshipped by women with wild and excessive behavior. Through these many excavations it is clearly seen that both the male and female sexual organs were praised and worshipped in the everyday life of ancient cultures.
In contrast to the ancient views of the male and female sexual organs, the modern view of the phallus and the vagina is one of obscenity and degradation. Such commonplace slang terms as cunt or cock degrade these organs in a way that greatly diminishes the sacred power of physical regeneration. Also, rather than being depicted as females goddesses, modern pornography is mainly associated with male domination and female submission and humiliation. Such magazines as Hustler and Penthouse constantly illustrate women as degrading objects rather than praised deities. For instance, Hustler featured a picture of a man shoving a jackhammer into a woman s vagina over the humorous caption Foreplay (Eisler 18). This type of commonplace pornography leads to such things as the beating of submissive women by the so-called dominant man. The reality is that, There are still men fixated on sexual scoring and women for whom the idea of their own bodies as sacred is so counter to everything they have been taught about sexuality that it seems to them sacrilegious (Eisler 21).
Some of the ideas of male dominance and the end of sexual freedom and sacred pleasure can be traced back to Saint Paul and furthermore with Saint Augustine. This is when the Christian church began to fully back the notion that the female body is corrupt. Augustine s support for this comes from his interpretation of the third chapter of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. God said, I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16). In Augustine s eyes this made both sex and human body corrupt and was the woman s fault. Furthermore, according to Augustine, the normal acts of sex and birth are, for all humanity and for all time, the instruments of God s eternal punishment of every woman and man for this original sin (Eisler 23). The Church eventually backed and accepted Augustine s belief that all humans born on this earth from sexual intercourse are tainted with sin because of Adam and Eve s disobedience. He also believed that because of Eve s sin, there was a complete loss in the holiness of sex, and that women must be controlled by men. After Augustine, it became a Christian duty to procreate without pleasure. Furthermore, the Christian church began to heavily vilify sexual pleasure. For example, the church persecuted possibly millions of women who were involved in heretic sects. The Church claimed that these women participated in corrupt sexual practices. These sects were only known to honor women and frequently worship goddesses. Eventually sex, once a holy gift of the goddess became the source of all evil.
The drastic change from free sexual expression, sexual pleasure, and the views of the sacred sexual organs can be traced, in part, back to Saint Augustine s interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve. His ideas of male dominance and the corruptness of the female sexual body have, in part, led to the modern degradation of females.