The Point of It All: Sexual Union
Why do we have marital sex? Because it is a very essential or integral part of achieving sexual union with the person we love, to whom we have given ourselves completely.
Physical sexual union symbolizes or represents what it also helps to bring about, namely, the deeper human union – psychological, emotional, and spiritual. But achieving the personal union in and through the physical sexual union is a challenge, especially for men, because it is so easy to get caught up in, and focus almost exclusively on, the powerful physical pleasures of the sexual union.
One of the obstacles to sexual union is the differences between the sexes regarding "sexual union." (Of course, those differences are also an important part of what drives us to seek sexual union.) Men go for physical union more quickly, more intensely, and more superficially (with great emphasis on the physical, and insufficient attention to the deeper levels of union). Women need to be slowly and patiently drawn into the act of union, because what they want is deeper.
Men benefit from this difference because they learn to go deeper, to understand that sexual union goes much deeper than just the physical union. Women benefit because the deeper union that they desire and, in a way, demand (as a price for being fully engaged in the union) – often successfully, because men find the price well worth paying – is more satisfying to them, and they appreciate the intensity with which their beloved craves them.
Husbands need to meditate or reflect more on the meaning of sexual union. That is one important reason for this website. Who would have thought that we need to get men to think more about sex?!
The Surprising Rarity of Sexual Union
Just one note about something I find interesting. If you do an internet search for "sexual union", most of the websites that come up tend to be either definitional (defining what the act of physical union is) or Christian or Eastern.
If you put in "marital sexual union" they are mostly Christian. (Interestingly, when you do a yahoo image web search for "marital sexual union," it basically comes up empty! Of course, for "sexual union" the images are endless . . . and mostly pornographic.)
If you put in "sacred sexual union" they are almost all "Eastern" (e.g., Tantric).
Why is it that purely secular sites about sex rarely speak in terms of "union" at all? Maybe there is a tendency to think of sex as acts in which people achieve something themselves or do things to each other (e.g., have the biggest orgasm, or give a partner the biggest orgasm). This is not surprising, in one way, because if you focus on sex as a feeling of our senses, it is something that literally cannot be "shared." You can't "share" your orgasm with your partner, just as, strictly speaking, you can't share your food with someone else. In order to truly share something, it can't be just physical. The most you can do with material things is divide them up -- that's what we usually mean when we "share" material things. But really sharing things happens when you focus on the immaterial; you can share an idea, for example. And you can share the love expressed in physical sexual union.
The absence of much focus on sexual union in our culture probably reflects the much more individualistic concepton of sexuality that has grown so powerful in our culture and deeply influences our typical (often unconscious) views of sex. The union of persons in the marital act is not the prism through which we look at sex.
The Horizon of Sexual Union
The "horizon" of sexuality is the time framework within which you look at a sexual act. There are many different horizons of sexual union, and the act of sexual union may look somewhat different from within these various perspectives.
It can be viewed as part of an evening or a morning. Or it can be viewed as part of a particular week, or month, or year. with all of their unique characteristics.
It can be when this has been a tough day, or on a day of many delights. It can be during a challenging year or a relatively uneventful one.
It can be during a time when you are making love often, or it can be the first time in what feels like quite a while.
Besides time in the narrow sense, it can also be the time period of a relationship. So it can be set in the context of a marriage: on the honeymoon, or during the childbearing years, or after menopause. It can be a particular period of a person's life: youth, young adulthood, middle age, or old age.
What is popularly known as "make-up sex" -- having marital sex after you've had an argument or spat -- is another example of the framework of sexual union affecting the kind of sexual union it is.
It can even be set in a context that is broader: especially the family -- the sexual union that is part of a broader story that goes beyond one generation of the family.
Each act of sexual intimacy is a part of an overarching narrative, shorter or longer. Just as a paragraph looks different when viewed as part of a page, or a chapter, or an entire book. . .
This is one reason why sexual union between two 70-year old spouses will look very different to them than to an onlooker. The 70-year old person with whom you are uniting -- with his or her 70-year old body -- has a history of many years, with you. The sexual union is deeply influenced by the memory of that body over the course of their marriage. So even as the body declines and loses its natural beauty, the spouses see much more. Memory can play a powerful role.
Everything Coming Together
I sometimes wish that I could do a video -entitled "Sex" or "Sex: The Full Story." It would begin with a wedding ceremony, and then blend into the hotel honeymoon suite, an exchange of loving looks, moving into the various stages of the sexual act [including kissing of the breasts, and the husband entering his wife, with full view of the vagina], culminating in orgasm, and then . . . . blending almost seamlessly into the various stages of labor, culminating in the delivery [with full view of the vagina] of the child, and the mother's taking of the baby into her arms (and then to her breast), looking at her husband next to her, as they overflow with awe and joy, and one says to the other:"my God - we did this!" And then there would be little vignettes of that child at different points of life (baby, toddler, young child, adolescent, young man) and then marriage, and then the beginning of the sexual act with his wife, in the same way as his parents began him.
One interesting point to make, in this context, is that there are striking physical similarities between marital lovemaking and childbirth: a woman about to have an orgasm sometimes (in my experience, often) can have a look similar to that of pain, and the sounds of marital relations, especially at orgasm, can sometimes be similar to sounds during labor and childbirth. (Look at the pictures on this page -- they could actually be pictures of either.)
But, more importantly, there is a deeper underlying connection between marital intimacy and childbirth, since, in the natural course of things, one frequently leads to the other. Today that is commonly treated as an "accident." It's not, actually, in its deepest reality. Perhaps some of the physical similarities are nature's way of reminding us about the connection.
No, I'll never do this . . . . but it's an intriguing thought experiment all the same.