If you’re in the spiritual community, you’ll be familiar with the concept of sex being a sacred act. But we’re all human, right? And sometimes sex is just fun and light, not deep and serious.
Sure, we’re sharing sexual energy but at what point does upholding this notion of ‘protecting’ our energy simply become another form of judgement? This is what I call Spiritual Slut-Shaming.
In this episode, I share:
- What Spiritual Slut-Shaming means and why it has to stop
- How to be sexual and spiritual
- Why Spiritual Slut-Shaming reinforces traditional, patriarchal & oppressive views
- The difference between, sex, love and attachment
- How to have great sex while honouring yourself
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Hello my loves, and welcome to episode number 14 of The Sensuality Academy Podcast.
If you’re anything like me you’re relatively sexually open, or at least have an interest in learning more about sexuality. I doubt that you’d be listening to this podcast if you weren’t intrigued about having a better Sex Life.
Sex is the ultimate taboo. We all think about it to some degree, and yet to talk openly about it can be seen as wrong by so many people. And not only that, but we receive messages from society about the ways in which we should and should not share or portray our sexuality, all the time. We’re told what’s appropriate and what’s not, what’s desirable and what’s not, what’s okay and what’s not. All of these beliefs and rules that get imposed upon us as we marinate in the stew of society and culture inevitably have a huge impact on our personal sex lives — or lack there of.
I believe that sex is sacred. It’s the most intimate thing you can do with another person. I believe that sex has power. I also believe that it’s really fucking fun (pun intended). It feels good and it’s normal to crave it.
Today’s episode is all about a concept that I call Spiritual Slut-Shaming. It’s a behaviour that I have observed in the spiritual community for some time now. And this episode … this topic has been a long time coming. Something that I initially bought into when I started exploring spirituality a few years ago, but now I see this as quite a toxic mindset that actually reinforces traditional, patriarchal, oppressive views.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a spiritual person — I do inner work, journalling, yoga, I meditate here and there, I work with crystals and the tarot and astrology, I love reiki, I follow the moon phases. When I started to get more interested in spirituality over 5 years ago, I naturally began following certain people in the “industry” (I guess you could say) and just online in general, joining groups. As is common of the internet in general, these communities develop their own terminology and jokes and memes, poking fun at things like Mercury Retrograde and how to get someone’s time of birth to look up their natal chart. Things circulate and some resonate.
Early on I started noticing common beliefs when it came to the theme of sex, and as I said before, at the start I really bought into this and I thought, “Oh yeah, okay, that makes sense.” But now, I’m questioning it all.
Now a lot of the ideas that underpin the spiritual world are about the power of energy. The idea that we are all made up of energy, everything around us is energy, the whole universe is energy, and as such we are all one (essentially). It’s a concept that makes sense in a lot of ways — we are energy and we share energy with others. You can walk into a space or meet a person for the first time, and without any other influence you just have this sense, this feeling. The space just feels good, or that person just kind of gives you the heebie jeebies and you don’t know why. That’s us tuning in to energy.
There’s also a popular notion that we exchange energy with people in our lives, and I really believe this. And spiritual healers will often talk about needing to clear themselves of negative energy from another person, citing ties of attachments to energetic vampires, narcissists and the likes. And I feel that’s a quite extreme example, but this is where it comes into the thing that I’m talking about today.
And when it comes to sex? Well, you better believe that there are strong opinions about the impact of merging not just your physical body but your energetic body with another person.
Essentially, the premise is that by having sex with someone, you are taking on their energy, and it comes with the warning that this other person’s energy will be somehow stuck on you or in you forever (or for some set amount of time).
To illustrate this, I’m going to read a few of these out to you. These are from quote pictures that I’ve come across, memes and different posts that I’ve been compiling for some time, and also a few that you sent into me when I talked about this topic over on my instagram stories recently. Okay, buckle in. Are you ready? The first one:
“Condoms will not protect you from spiritually transmitted demons”
—> Demons. Honestly? What a scare tactic. Apparently you’re going to be infested by demons by having sex. I smell bullshit.
“During sex, we are completely open and absorb each other’s energies. Feeling drained after sex means you took on energy that is not yours and can carry it with you for months. Your energy is the most important thing you have. Choose carefully who you share your body with.” And this one, with a similar theme …
“When you have random sex with another person, you exchange energies. If that person is carrying around guilt, shame or trauma, you can energetically absorb that. It’s like going around and plugging your phone into random people’s computers and downloading their files. If there are corrupt files in their system, you download them as well. Sex is sacred and should be treated as such.”
—> Okay — I agree that sex can be a sacred act. It can be truly fucking transcendental. But, to insinuate that suddenly we have inside us someone else’s guilt, shame and trauma? Shit. That’s just like saying to be celibate. Who, in this world, besides the Buddha (who I guess is probably celibate himself) doesn’t have some degree of guilt, shame and trauma within them? It’s inherent to being a human, right?
This kind of language in the spiritual world, I believe, is incredibly damaging. It insinuates that there’s something wrong with us. It tells us that our trauma is wrong, bad and negative, and that because of that we are wrong or broken because of it. It insinuates that anyone who has experienced some shit (everybody) needs to cleanse the hell out of themselves before they’re worthy of connecting with another human being.
Also, how dismissive for those who have experienced sexual trauma. These sentiments just add an extra layer of trauma by telling a survivor that they have their abusers energy inside them. That is fucking awful — that’s taking victim blaming to another level, and I’m not here for it.
Instead, I choose to see the value and healing possibility in actively connecting with others through sex. If we have a view of needing to stay away from people who aren’t spiritually enlightened and holier than thou — we’re all going to become completely, deeply disconnected and alone (and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s highest good).
Here’s another one:
“Dear Men, do you know that when you enter a woman, you are actually INSIDE of another human being? That when you leave her, she feels the separation as you physically pull out and leave her empty?”
“The womb of the woman is the most sacred place on earth. When you believe this, when you know this, you cannot allow an unqualified man inside.”
Now these two have sentiments that I agree with. I also believe that the womb is sacred — don’t get me wrong, to have a womb is to have the power of creation inside you, and I think that’s really fucking powerful. Too many people don’t understand, and don’t respect, how powerful it is to be able to create a life.
But — these, and a lot of other examples that I’ve come across, give off the tone that it’s the WOMAN who is going to have a detrimental impact from sex. A lot of these memes and quotes are directed at women in the spiritual community, much more so than men. It goes both ways, absolutely, but I see a huge majority of them being directed at women and how they need to be careful of who they let inside them. (Not so much about the men who need to be concerned about who they let on them.) Not to mention that these kind of quotes, these last two that I mention, are entirely heteronormative in nature — assuming that sex is between a man and a woman only. And further to that, that penetrative sex is the be-all and end-all as well.
These are both concepts that I can’t get on board with. Sex, gender and identity are much more nuanced than that.
Here’s another that I came across:
“Sex isn’t ever just sex; don’t let them lie to you. You may leave, but their energy is tied to you. Their thoughts, their vibrations, and soul becomes intertwined with yours. If you’re intimate with several people at the same time, then you’re taking in several energies. There’s a reason why randomly you feel confused, depressed, drained, angry, happy or stressed. You don’t live alone anymore; you have roommates. The only way they will get evicted is if you cleanse.”
Hmm. I find this statement to be particularly problematic, as it insinuates that after casual sex you are somehow now possessed by the other person’s energy or spirit, no longer yourself — to the point where your changing moods are attributed to whoever you had sex with last. Bullshit.
And then there’s this one:
“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.”
Okay, two things here. My naked body, nor yours, will EVER “belong” to someone else. Let’s just get that out of the way. Your naked body will NEVER “belong” to someone else. Sure, you can share your body with someone else and have them honour and explore it — but at no point do you give up ownership of your body. That’s not possible. This SCREAMS of patriarchal nonsensical ideas of seeing women as property, of virginity as something that can be taken from you. (As a side note, this bullshit, the construct of virginity, is another topic that I’m going to save for another episode.) SO, no. Your naked body should not — and can not ever “belong” to anyone else — in love or out. This isn’t just about casual sex; if you are with someone and you have devoted yourself to them, and you’re like “Yep, I’m going to be with this person for the rest of my life” … wonderful! They still do not own your body — your pleasure, your sex, nothing.
The second problem I have with that statement is the assumption that you should only be having sex with someone who has fallen in love with your ‘naked soul’. Don’t get me wrong, sex with someone you are madly in love with IS different — it’s magical. But, I don’t believe that love is a pre-cursor to good sex. Let me say that again: I don’t believe that love is a pre-cursor to good sex. I have had deeply conscious, connected and meaningful one-night stands. I promise you, it’s possible.
Okay, the last one that I want to share is this absolute doozie that my friend found on tik tok. Have a listen to this:
TIK TOK: “It’s a proven scientific fact, when you have sex with someone you take on their energy for 8 years. So if someone’s got really messed up energy, guess who’s got it for 8 years?”
Yeah, that’s a mother telling this to her daughter. Also, 8 years? What an arbitrary number. Isn’t that how long our mum’s used to tell us that chewing gum would last in our stomachs if we swallowed it? (Also, side note, I googled that — also bullshit.)
It really really scares me and makes me so so sad that a mother would be inciting this slut-shaming attitude onto her impressionable teenage daughter. Now, I’m not a mum, but I can imagine it would be a really tough topic to broach with your kids. But, holy shit, do you know the potential impact that talking openly and honestly about safe sex and the right to pleasure could have on a person? Seriously. One day I swear I’m going to be the best aunty ever to all my friends kids and teach them all how great and empowering sex can be. I wish I was taught this growing up, don’t you?
Now, the problem I have with all of these sentiments is the assertion that exchanging sexual energy, sharing your body with someone else will somehow make you ‘dirty’, ‘unclean’ or ’tarnished’ in some way. Hmm … does that sound familiar to you?
Hold up, sorry, I’m getting a call … Patriarchy? Is that you? Shit … really, it’s the SAME. THING.
In a community of self-proclaimed ‘woke’ people, we’re seeing the same sexist, oppressive messaging used and adored by the patriarchy … just, now it’s wrapped up and delivered in a brown-paper, compostable, sage-smudged, spiritually bypassed package. And I’m not here for it.
When they say not to have sex with people who have internal shame — yet are responsible for adding to the conversation causing people to internalise their shame around sexuality — that’s a problem.
Okay, so I think I’ve torn a significant enough sized hole in the spiritual slut-shamers argument. (What do you reckon?)
So now, what should we believe instead? I mean, firstly, you believe whatever the hell you want to believe. But, I’ll share with you some thoughts of my own.
I DO believe that sex is sacred. One of the most popular workshops I teach is called Sacred, Sensual Sex.
I truly believe that sex is powerful. Just like the tantrikas, I believe that sex can take us closer to god, the idea of our higher selves, towards so-called enlightenment. And when I say that, it’s not just hyperbole — I mean it. I’ve had the kind of sex that can ONLY be described as transcendental. Akin to a deep, wild meditation where you merge with the other person, lose all track of time and space like you’re floating, seeing colours — the works. It’s juicy as fuck.
Sex is a gateway to divine bliss, I believe that.
This kind of sex is even more than gourmet sex, as I spoke about in episode 10. It’s beyond that.
I also believe that sex can be light and fun. It doesn’t have to be wrapped up in attachment. Sex and love don’t have to go together to be valid. Can I say that again? Sex and love don’t have to go together to be valid. As I said before, I’ve had wonderful, connected sex with someone I never saw again.
Let’s actually speak to this a little bit more — casual sex and how it can be empowering.
We’ve all had experiences where we may have had surface level sex — maybe it wasn’t even that great — where we maybe felt used, not fully satisfied or ashamed of ourselves afterwards. I get it. But this guilt and shame is a direct result of internalised slut-shaming.
And I’ve been there.
A lot of us — particularly those of us who identify as women — have grown up with the messaging that sex makes us dirty, that our pleasure isn’t important, that good sex means he finished, that a low “body count” is desirable. (More on the bullshit topic of body count in a future episode.) And so, despite experiencing the incredibly natural urges for pleasure and sexual satisfaction, we’re often left with this guilt hangover after sex. You know what I’m referring to, right? Because we’ve internalised this message that to desire, to have and (god-forbid) to enjoy sex, deems us a SLUT.
I want you to know right now — and if you take nothing away from this episode but this, I’ll be happy. I want you to know that desiring, having and enjoying sex does not make you a slut. Having sex with multiple people does not make you a slut.
I’m going to talk in a future episode about the word slut and exactly its origins, and a little bit more about that … I swear, everytime I do a podcast episode, I get ideas for like 8 more. (But look out for that.)
Sex can be deep and intimate and wrapped up in love, just as it can be light and fun and casual.
When it comes to casual sex, I believe that the most important thing to prioritise is our own sovereignty and a sense of self-honouring. Have intentional conversations about your intentions. Vocalise your boundaries. Respect yourself, and the other people that you’re going to have sex with.
Casual sex does not have to equal disconnected sex. So often we see casual sex as being super surface level, throw away, snack sex. (If you’ve listened to episode 10, you’ll know what I mean.) So this is where intentions come into play — you can be clear that you’re not attaching meaning or expectation to your sex, but still communicate your desire to be fully seen and present with your lover.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve actively stopped sex to reinforce my need for my lover to make regular eye contact with me during sex, as (to me) it feels too disconnected otherwise. I want to know that someone is having sex with me, and not like at me — do you know what I mean there? There’s a difference where you’re not actually connected, and again this is why I really want to reiterate the idea of attachment and love, that you can have connected sex and not have it “mean” anything. And I’ve done this, and you know what? Going back to that idea of the guilt hangover — I battled with this for a little while, where I noticed that I had this internalised misogyny and this internalised slutshaming, where I would slut-shame myself and I would think, “Oh my gosh, I should only be having sex with people that I’m madly in love with and wanna spend the rest of my life with. What am I doing?”.
But then you know what I did? I gave myself permission to actually just enjoy connection, and realised that you can have really beautiful connected sex and not make it “mean” something, not have a story attached to it. And when I say “not making it ‘mean’ something”, that’s not to say it doesn’t mean ANYTHING — that’s just saying I’m not creating this story about like “Oh, well, we’ve had sex, now I must marry this person and spend the rest of my life with them” or “There’s something wrong with me if I have a one-night stand”. That’s intentional and we respect each other, and it’s super consensual and we’ve had conversations, right? There is a total difference.
So, when I say that I actively stopped sex and I said “Hey, buddy, you’re gonna have to look at me” — I definitely didn’t say it like that, BUT I had a conversation. It was simply a boundary that, once I expressed, was totally respected and understood by who I was with. If it wasn’t, we’d probably pack up and leave, right? And that’s where boundary setting comes into play, where we need to know and be sovereign enough to go like “Okay, cool, this person isn’t respecting my boundaries … I am going to maintain my boundaries, because it’s up to me (as I mention in my previous episode about boundaries, “Boundaries 101”)” — boundaries are for me to uphold. If someone’s not going to respect them, then I’m out.
Sex is just so wonderful and it pains me to know that many people aren’t enjoying it, let alone feeling shame for doing so.
So, I hope that these themes that I’ve discussed in this episode resonate with you. I know that it was a little bit of an angry episode, but you know what? Anger is a really valid emotion and I think it’s important to express it. I hope that these themes resonate with you. I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this episode — share with me how you have internalised slut-shaming, how you feel about the spiritual bypassing of the topic of sex. What comes up for you as you were listening to this episode, what came up for you? Let me know! Reach out to me over on instagram — @eleanorhadley — and let me know your biggest takeaways from this episode. Share it with your friends if you’re like “Ahh! That’s the thing I really really, I couldn’t pinpoint it” but that’s the thing that you found if you’ve been following spiritual stuff for awhile as well. Send it to your friends, have a conversation — I’d love to hear your thoughts and have you share the love on this episode, it’d be amazing. And I’d love to hear from you as well.
As always, if you have any other topics you’d love me to speak about here on the podcast, please be sure to let me know! After all, this show is for you.
Sending you so much love, and as always — stay sensual…
Let me know your thoughts!