When our dog, Leela recently went through her first heat, I gained a greater appreciation of the burden of responsibility placed upon women in matters of reproduction and birth control. As the master of a sexually intact female dog, taking the proper precautions against pregnancy was entirely my responsibility. It would be irresponsible of me to bring Leela out to places where other dogs would be, but would be unreasonable for me to expect the same of the owners of intact male dogs. The responsibility lay with me because of my dog’s gender, and the nature of her sexual cycle.
Tragically, many human beings extend this animal sexuality to our own relationships. Men take on little to no role in contraception, and many men have little awareness of the nature of a woman’s fertility cycle, or where she is in that cycle at a given time. Few women take the time to study their own cycle, the minute shifts and changes in anatomy, chemistry, and emotionality that occur within each phase throughout the month, and fewer take the time to educate their partners on these nuances of their femininity. An entire cycle of magnificent change and fluctuation is bleakly summarized by the word “period,” often referring to the only aspect of the cycle that is, for many women, unavoidable.
But where do men fit into these feminine rhythms? Do men have a role in contraception? What is the nature of male sexuality in relationship with female fertility?
Undoubtedly, men are as responsible as women for the conception of a child. Men are the creators of life, women the vessels. Men are the sowers of the seeds of generation, women the earth that nourishes and nurtures. And as any good farmer, men must learn the cycles of the days and the seasons, learn the rhythms of the earth. Men must choose the proper soil, and be respectful and mindful of where they spread their seed. The male responsibility in sexuality and in fertility is a weighty one, something to be taken seriously and meditated upon deliberately.
Even in the absence of biological conception, sexual engagement is more than just pleasure. Every sexual act between masculine and feminine forces, forces of activity and passivity, dominance and submission, is a dynamic of creation or transformation. This is true both inside and outside of the gender binary, in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. When we work in the midst of polarities, we work between two complementary forces. The tension between two poles is the force of life that allows us to learn, to grow, to create, and to evolve. Human sexuality is not something casual. However liberal or however conservative you may be in your sexuality and its expression, maintain a reverence and respect. The sexual act is the ultimate expression of your body and its power; be sure that it is a human act, and not simply an animal one. Maintain your reverence for your sexuality, making sure that the exercise thereof is intentional and premeditated, and you will endow it with humanity and purpose.
It is true that there is, for women, a sacredness and an intimacy in pregnancy and childbirth that men cannot know. Similarly, there will be intimacies of woman’s cycle that remain foreign to man, beyond the breadth of his experience and the grasp of his imagination. But he must learn what he can. He can at least know when she is menstruating and, equally importantly, when she is ovulating. Know what these things mean. Understand that the power of a man’s virility changes with his woman’s cycle. When his female partner is fertile, a man must know the potency of his sexuality. When she bleeds, he must contain himself to respect her boundaries and sensitivities, both physically and emotionally.
Men have a responsibility to control their sexual drive. Despite common practice, and despite any codependent feelings to the contrary from both parties, a woman has no obligation to make her man orgasm. You may hear this and say, “Yes, of course, that’s obvious,” but it is easier said than done, for men and women alike. How many sexual encounters have you had in which the male partner did not orgasm? (“75% of men and 29% of women always have orgasms with their partner.”) There is a strong, deep, dysfunctional belief that the purpose of sex is the male orgasm and ejaculation, rooted in the animal sexuality that we see in my female dog and her boyfriends at the dog park. But a human sexuality transcends this belief. Humanity in sexuality is about respect and value, and is about the ability of our human will to gain mastery over our animal nature. Our animal self provides the force of passion in sexual relationship, but our humanity must provide the proper orientation and expression of those passions.
So how can men humanize sexuality? The simplest way to begin is to refrain from climaxing. Maintain control, and retain your seminal fluid. From the littlest amount of this practice you can experience dramatically increased vitality, and immense strengthening in your immune system and powers of attention. It is an excellent exercise in self-discipline, one that helps to establish the mastery of our human will over the emotional impulses of our animality and the material drives of our physicality. Through the strengthening of our will and the establishment of proper intention, our sexuality is endowed with humanity.
There is a long history of sexual practices associated with spiritual development, and as sexuality is such an important part of our lives, how can we separate the two? For an accessible entry into these ideas, I strongly recommend the works of Mantak Chia, particularly his books titled Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy and Awaken Healing Energy Through The Tao: The Taoist Secret of Circulating Internal Power. The first goes into depth regarding seminal retention and the ability of men to have multiple orgasms without ejaculating, and the latter is a more serious look into the essentials of Taoist practice. Please note: seminal retention must be paired with a practice of cultivation of sexual energy. Retention alone can lead to suppression and a build up of energies, possibly leading to disease and dysfunction. Understand the system thoroughly and, if possible, work with an experienced teacher.
I urge you strongly to refrain from “casual” sex, whether you are sexually active within or without a committed relationship. How casual it is for you is entirely within your control. Give yourself and your sexual partner the respect you each deserve. Endow your sexuality with humanity, even as you maintain its roots in animality, by giving the physical and emotional act even greater purpose. Incorporate your spirituality by exercising your will. Choose carefully and deliberately. Be present to where you are and whom you are with.
And above all, mind where you sow your seed. Learn and respect the feminine cycle, and maintain reverence for the power of creation and life.