The Sensual Void: A Remedy
By Rabbi Shmuley
Who would have thought that in the modern age the soul would be doing better than the body? The spiritualist, new-age, wave which has swept the country for the past decade has taught us all the necessity of caring for the soul. Books by this and similar titles have become best-sellers. By contrast, the body has been sorely neglected. There is good reason for this. Most religions make their money by combating materialism. They identify the body as the enemy to be defeated, an adjunct of the soul to be used and discarded.
In truth, however, the body is the window to the spirit. Intimacy between two human begins is created through nurturing the needs of the body. Hugging, lovemaking, and sensual stimulation within a committed and passionate relationship is the principal delight of both the body and the soul. What we in the West seem sorely blind to is how the body is suffering terminal, sensual deprivation. Our bodies may be healthy, but they are hardly alive, becoming more and more like unfeeling stones.
We all understand the meaning of nutritional deficiency. There are impoverished nations like the Sudan, whose inhabitants tragically suffer from
a lack of food and clean water. But we in the West, surrounded as we with every material comfort, believe that we lack for nothing.
While we don’t suffer nutritional deprivation, we do suffer from sensual deprivation. The need of the body subdivide into two categories: material and sensual. The first is catered to by food, clothing, and shelter. But the body also has sensual needs which are addressed by a lover who makes our body feel loved and cherished. Sex is meant to induce a sense of closeness and intimacy between the man and the woman making love. Sex is a celebration of the senses and provides for five points through which a man and woman connect and become one flesh. But instead of feeling closer after sex, most couples experience what I call sensual disconnect. They’ve made love, but when it’s over they don’t stick.
This reason is this: they are only firing on one cylinder. They are making love with their eyes only.
What has led to the current crisis of sensual deficiency and sensual disconnectedness is the promotion of the sense of sight to the virtual exclusion of the four others. People have learned to be attracted to each other and make love with their eyes only. This is the age of magazines and television. The age of the spotlight and cosmetics. Seeing is believing. We are conditioned to be stimulated only by sight. A man or woman’s looks determines their attractiveness and making a strong impression is almost completely dependent on aesthetics. Men and women, recognizing this, will place all their time and money into health clubs, dieting, and buying
expensive clothes. The development of the personality by contrast – through the mediums of reading, introspection, and the art of conversation – are rarely addressed.
The erotic eighteenth century French literature focuses far more on a woman’s casserole ‒ her natural scent ‒ than her looks. But men today couldn’t identify a woman’s natural scent if it blindsided them. They recognize only artificial scents with names like Chanel or Dior.
But the images on our television screen, and the glaring glow of the human body, are very limited and restrict us to one particular locus. Gone are the days in which a the scent of a woman could drive her lover wild. Both men and women have fives senses by which to enjoy each other, five sticking points which join two strangers together as one flesh. Today we connect through only one so that the connection is tenuous and ephemeral. An appreciation, say, for the erotic quality of sound and the human voice has been drowned out in the din of light. While phone sex operators have long understood how much money can be made by exploiting the erotic nature of the human voice, married men and women almost never make sound an integral component of their lovemaking repertoire.
Even the sense of touch no longer sends us to the moon and back. Men and women still touch each other in the bedroom, but they do so without feeling each other. Why else have women been forced to become traffic cops in the bedroom, barking directions to their men as to what feels best? Men once
knew this kind of thing instinctively, but their instincts have been totally subsumed under the rubric of sight.
Another tragic consequence of the promotion of looks is that we are more inhibited than ever before. We all feel deficient in our appearance, and undertake every artificial enhancement to try and look better. Deep insecurity has become commonplace in most relationships as women feel they have to lose a few more pounds and men feel that they have to glue hair on to their balding scalps.
The beginning of the solution is the following: have sex in the dark. Let’s launch an international campaign calling upon all couples of the world to have a nightly moment of darkness. Practitioners of Kosher Sex unite! Around the world, a moment of silence is held as a vigil for the loss of a great personage. Likewise, a daily moment of darkness should mourn the loss of our sensuality. But more than merely commemorating it, darkness addresses it. Immersing ourselves in a moment of darkness, or shutting out the sense of sight and the vast “noise” of light allows all the other senses to come to the fore and be fed. Turning off the lights will also allow us to shed all inhibition and free our inner spirit so that we have wild passionate sex unencumbered by the anxiety over what we look like.
Desmond Morris, the noted social-anthropologist and author of Manwatching, observed that almost all fast-food restaurants use bright lighting. This is because customers, feeling vulnerable and exposed while
eating in this light, will finish their meals and leave sooner, clearing the way for other diners.
There is too much physical light in our relationships, leaving no room for spiritual light. Light shows up people’s flaws and they feel exposed and vulnerable. Notice that darkness is something which we experience in three dimensions. For the same reason that sight is more important to most of us than sound, darkness is a more vivid experience than silence. Darkness is palpable. Immersed in darkness, we feel all our other senses that would normally be hidden by the light suddenly springing to life. Sounds become louder, touch becomes deeper, and scents reach down to the depths of our soul. In darkness, the sense of touch brings glorious sensations precisely because it is sudden. The touch is spontaneous rather than being expected. The element of surprise makes all the difference. Darkness is also the perfect place to entertain fantasy in a relationship. It invites the mind ‒ our principal sexual organ ‒ as a participant in sex.
The best way to reinvigorate a marriage is for couples, every night, to observe at least five minutes of complete darkness. Each and every light in the bedroom should be extinguished. Revel in the sense of delight that touch, sound, even rates of breathing, bring.
Darkness has gotten an unfair rap. For thousands of years, clerics of various religious denominations have been encouraging us all to run from the darkness to the light. But darkness is associated with evil and the absence of goodness only by those who insist that they must see G-d, as opposed to
experiencing Him. The Jewish mystics taught that the most powerful light is specifically the light which comes out of the darkness, representing the illumination of the spirit. When couples embrace each other in the dark, they end up creating their own friction and light.
Lovemaking in the light is a two-dimensional experience that grabs only our external features. But sex in the dark is a three-dimensional experience which lifts the spirit above the body and sews to personalities together as one, indivisible flesh.