Our sexual energy is commonly also called erotic energy. The word erotic derives from the Greek god Eros. Eros was the god of love but it is the love of life that he celebrates. The word erotic has come to be reduced to meaning sexual but its true meaning is far broader. Since the term “erotic” has too many modern cultural limitations I prefer to call it Eros energy.
To the ancient Greeks, Eros energy was wild, passionate, fiery and fierce. Eros It was the raw power of life force itself. That power may express itself in many ways, of which sexuality is only one aspect. When we allow our bodies to dance without limitation, when we roar with joy at a sporting victory, when we throw ourselves into any physical activity with our totality, this is Eros energy. When we are total in our lovemaking, this is Eros energy. Eros energy gives rise to pleasure.
When we feel pleasure we feel it in our bodies. It is this Eros energy that we are feeling, whether it is sexual pleasure or simply the pleasure of some delicious food or the pleasure of having done some really good exercise. These pleasures are of the body, felt and experienced in the senses, which we may feel as sensual or sexual, depending on the nature of the experience.
However, pleasure and the accompanying Eros energy can feel dangerous. They may feel uncontrolled or unpredictable. Eros, for the ancient Greeks, was something to be embraced cautiously, mindful that it could get out of control. The raw potency of uncontained Eros energy could be disruptive and destructive. It became important then to contain and control this energy, to ensure that stability and order are maintained in society. Too much Eros energy and too much pleasure could mean that people do not go to work, they do not honour their relationships, they become focused selfishly on their personal hedonistic pleasure without thought of others and their boundaries. So the pleasure principle and this Eros energy were suppressed.
This is one of the primary functions of civilisation as it has developed – to cut us off from our primal instinctual behaviours. If we surrendered to our Eros energy, we would no longer be useful, functional members of society. We would become self-indulgent and too raw and uncontrolled in our emotions. These twin energies of sex and anger that have been outsourced in our culture. Sex (desire) is projected onto objects. Our yearning for the latest gadget, this season’s handbag or top, all sold so often with sexual imagery, is the displaced projection of our sexual longing. The “stuff” of modern life that we all accumulate becomes in effect a set of fetishistic objects onto which we project our desire. “If only I had this handbag/watch/new iphone, I’d be happy.”
Anger is projected out onto “the dangerous other” – until 25 years ago that was the Soviet Union (although now Russia is taking up that role once more, so far as the West is concerned). More recently is has been Al Qaeda, or ISIS and the Islamic State and so on. So our primal urges are displaced and made “safe” within our culture.
This displacement comes at enormous cost. We become disconnected from our bodies and unconsciously disown our sexual drives, allowing ourselves to be satisfied with the scraps of desire that we feel are permitted to us.
It is even more so in sex. Too often we tell ourselves that we couldn’t express that desire, because it wouldn’t be understood, it wouldn’t be acceptable, we would be rejected – and we would feel shame for having the desire in the first place. Our culture so deeply suppresses free sexual expression that we so naturally internalise this that by the time we are adults we barely need anyone to judge us, we simply do it ourselves.