What do Madonna, Prince, and Leonard Cohen have in common – with evangelists, ministers, and priests? They all feed on the proximity of religion and sex.
But, but, you stutter, don’t religions mostly prohibit sex, considering pretty much anything to do with the body to be distasteful or unclean or just plain immoral? Well, yes. Could be hypocrisy. Could be denial.
But on more than one occasion, doesn’t God in The Bible require the sacrifice of a virgin? And look at St. Theresa’s face – it’s orgasmic.
So what can religion and sex possibly have in common? Well, they both promise transcendence, ecstasy. (They both fail to deliver, but that’s another point.)
What else? Religion is like infatuation (which is fuelled by sexual desire): both involve adoration, worship, of the object of one’s desire. Add a little confusion and pretty soon one deifies the object of one’s desire or desires the object of one’s deification.
And both religion and sex involve salvation: one looks to God like one does to a lover, for salvation in the other’s arms. (They both fail to – never mind.)
Furthermore, sex involves a release, a purging if you like – rather like fasting, or confessing and then doing penance. Again, one gets confused with the other, and pretty soon sex is thought to purify. I’m sure that’s what all those priests thought when they had sex with those boys.
The extremes of sadomasochism and bondage and discipline highlight the similarities between sexual fanatics and religious fanatics. More than one saint has submitted to flagellation, by self or by others. Isn’t every monk given a hairshirt and every nun her own little whip? Suppose things aren’t exactly consensual – well, it’s no coincidence that ‘rape’ and ‘rapture’ come from the same root.
And to kneel in prostration is to put one’s ass in the air – I’m ready, enter me, oh Great One.