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The Sexual Models the Erotic Part 4

This is an excerpt from the book A Return to Eros by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid. Here you can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Series.

The Shechinah’s exile is all too apparent even in Webster’s dictionary. Webster’s defines erotic as “tending to arouse sexual love or desire.” The sentence would be perfect without the word sexual. In the Secret of the Cherubs, sex always points beyond itself. Sex is a kind of meditative practice for the common person. It is the area of our lives that most clearly points beyond itself to something higher.

marc gafni, gafni, dr. marc gafni, a return to eros

Photo by Kristina Amelong Associate Director of Outrageous Love Letters

Paradoxically, the place that understands this erotic secret well is the world of advertising. Even when television is bland and insipid, advertising is often erotic. We all realized long ago that advertising uses the sexual as a primary tool in its campaigns. Somehow we are meant to associate the beautiful woman and the sleek car. Moralists often accuse advertisers of a great ethical wrong in this kind of advertising. After all, it seems to falsely suggest that we will somehow get the girl if we buy the car. I think we have all figured out that the girl does not come with the car. Rather, the implication is far more subtle. On some level, this kind of advertisement actually intuits the Secret of the Cherubs. The profound implication of the girl/car nexus is that the sexual Eros expressed by the girl is a model of the kind of Eros the driver wants in his means of transportation. This profound and true idea drives much of advertising.

It is perhaps more than a telling coincidence of language that these glamorous women are called “models”–an obvious shoo-in for our theme! For essentially, they are illustrators of the metaphysical (and physical) fact that sex models the erotic. Their sexual allure is used to pull at the erotic strings of our soul. When we buy into the ad, we are chasing not the sex it displays but the Eros modeled there, the Eros we so deeply, if subconsciously, quest after. Models, then, become a handy visual and linguistic reminder of the fact that all I am really after is some good Eros.

Mind the Gap

A few years back the Gap’s ad campaign showed alluring young women with a caption underneath that said, “My First Love.” The reader/gazer/consumer expects some sexually provocative image or story to follow. Then comes the wonderful twist that makes this ad stand out. We see a picture of a woman with a book, “My first love–Anaïs Nin” . . . or with a tape, “My first love–the Ramones” . . . or a photo, “My mom.” What the Gap ads effectively did is suggest an expansion of the erotic beyond the sexual to include art, music, and personal nonsexual relationships. The ad plays off the Western mind, which expects a sultry story to fill in the blank of what is “love” or what is erotic! The Gap is ever so subtly suggesting that the Shechinah needs to be liberated from the mere sexual. You can live erotically in all areas of life.

While we give kudos to the Gap for intelligent, soul-broadening advertising, it is undeniable that all too often Madison Avenue goes wrong by manipulating Eros rather than serving Eros. That is to say, erotic manipulation is used to sell us products we don’t need or want. Madison Avenue feeds on our Eros-starved souls purely for the sake of uninhibited profit. Rather than exiling the Shechinah, Madison Avenue seems intent on pimping out the Shechinah–making her a prostitute, selling her wares to support “The Man.”

Fighting Fundamentalism with Eros

Whenever we divorce sex from the overarching frameworks of Eros, we vastly diminish sex’s power. If we either strip it of Eros or alternatively make it the exclusive focus of our erotic desire, then we exile the Shechinah. The result is a crisis of emptiness of overwhelming proportions both within the sexual and in the rest of our lives. When we allow sex to rise to its natural place, modeling Eros, sex responds by allowing us to step out of separation and into the erotic love affair that courses through all reality.

Sexuality has a natural affinity with freedom: the Eros and dignity of liberty. This is why sexual repression so often goes together with repressive and fundamentalist regimes. One of the first things the Taliban did in Afghanistan when taking power was to de-eroticize the country. Not only sexuality but also all music, art, bright colors, and so many other things that express our essential aliveness were outlawed. The true job of religion (re-ligare) is to reconnect that which has been rent asunder. Instead, the Taliban responded to the West’s divorcing of sex and love by attempting to crush the sexual and fully de-eroticize the public sphere. In doing so, they created the kind of nonerotic, distorted, and disconnected worldview that could produce evil in the name of God.

The Taliban, however, were not the first to attempt the repression of liberty through the crushing of the erotic and the sexual. There is an absolutely wonderful ancient tradition about Eros and liberty. It describes how the Hebrew slaves managed to attain freedom in the great chronicle of the Exodus.

When the Israelites were enslaved in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed that they not sleep at home nor have sexual relations with their wives. What did the daughters of Israel do? They would go down and draw water from the river, and God would provide for them little fish in their buckets. They would cook them, sell them, and buy wine with the money. They would then go to the fields and feed their husbands.

After they had eaten and drunk together, the women would take out mirrors and look at themselves and their men in the mirror. Teasing them, they would say, “I am more beautiful than you.” In this way, they would open their husbands up again to desire.

The story understands that the eroticism of desire is the dynamic that arouses the impulse to freedom and human dignity. Slavery is about the deadening of Eros and desire. A slave, of course, can have a great job, be highly successful financially, and sleep with many sexual partners. But this enslaved individual, whom we moderns recognize so well, has lost touch with the erotics of desire. The wonder of being on the inside–the sense of yearning that goes beyond fleeting sexual need, the sense of the erotic sexual that softens the harsh dividing lines of existence and allows us to feel the interconnectivity of being–all these are virtually lost to modern men and women.

So the story invites us back into desire as a way of counteracting Pharaoh’s decree. Raw lust is not foreign to the experience of the slave. But the playful desire that arouses union between committed partners–that is the mark of freedom.

The Hebrew word for “decree” is gazar. It has a double meaning: decree, and cutting or ripping away. Pharaoh’s decree rips people from the erotic womb of being. The women in the story, symbolizing the dual eroticism of both the womb and passion, reconnect us to our sense of dignity and the possibility of possibility, which we have all but forgotten. The sexual in this story models the Eros of freedom.

To be continued…


marc gafni, dr. marc gafni, gafni, eros, a return to eros, kristina kincaidAn excerpt from the book A Return to Eros by Marc Gafni & Kristina Kincaid – one of the key think tank projects of the Center for Integral Wisdom.

A Return to Eros: On Sex, Love, and Eroticism in Every Dimension of Life, from Drs. Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, reveals the radical secret tenets of relationship between the sexual, the erotic, and the holy. They reveal what Eros actually means and share the ten core qualities of the Erotic, which are modeled by the sexual. These include being on the inside, fullness of presence, yearning, allurement, fantasy, surrender, creativity, pleasure, and more.

A Return to Eros shows why these qualities of the erotic modeled by the sexual are actually the same core qualities of the sacred. The relationship between the sexual and the erotic becomes clear, teaching you how to live an erotically suffused existence charged with purpose, potency and power.

To be an Outrageous Lover–not just in sex but also in all facets of your life–you must listen deeply to the simple yet elegant whisperings of the sexual. This book will forever transform your understanding and experience of love, sex, and Eros.

>>> Buy A Return to Eros Here <<<


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