Sex & Death: Why so Taboo?
Sex & Death: Why So Taboo?
On a recent hike through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I was shaken out of my sex-positive, sex-normalized bubble and reminded that sex and death are still considered taboo, unspeakable, outrageous and scandalous topics. I met several new friends who were intrigued to learn that I am a "Sex Therapist". The response I get when I add the descriptor "sex" in front of therapist, is wildly more reactive and interesting. When I simply say that I am a "Therapist, Psychotherapist, Couples Therapist, Marriage Therapist, Counselor, or even Head Shrinker", people nod and may inquire more but it is not the eye popping, panty twisting reaction when I dare say Sex Therapist! Dun Dun Dun
After the initial "sex therapy" shock dissipated, my new friends and I openly discussed topics of sex, death, parenting, love, adventure, work, travel, nature, and ego as we huffed and puffed up the vertical mountain.
How strange it is that two of the most natural topics in life are so difficult to discuss and left in the shadows.
Sigmund Freud based much of his work on his theory of "Drives" where he hypothesized that all instincts fall into one of two major categories, the life instincts and the death instincts.
"Life Instincts (Eros): Sometimes referred to as sexual instincts, are those that deal with basic survival, pleasure, and reproduction. These instincts are essential for sustaining the life of the individual as well as the continuation of the species. While they are often called sexual instincts, these drives also include such things as thirst, hunger, and pain avoidance. The energy created by the life instincts is known as libido. Behaviors commonly associated with the life instinct include love, cooperation and other prosocial actions.
Death Instincts (Thanatos)The concept of the death instincts was initially described in Freud's book Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in which he proposed that “the goal of all life is death” (1920). He noted that after people experience a traumatic event (such as war), they often reenact the experience. He concluded that people hold an unconscious desire to die, but that the life instincts largely temper this wish."
Quoted from VeryWell
Why are sex and death so taboo?
They symbolize two of the most transformative experiences humans undergo: the beginning of life/birth (a result of heterosexual intercourse), and the final exit/death. Sandwiched between these two enormous bookends is day-to-day life, where the majority of the western world's attention comfortably resides.
Sex: a wonderful, dangerous, connecting, painful, lovely, explosive, terrifying endeavor that can cause cosmic pleasure, induce traumatic pain, and result in new life.
Death: a confusing, painful, hard to comprehend, lonely, relief, take over of entropy, final goodbye (to our scientific knowledge, not taking spirituality, religion, or other post-death beliefs into account).
Why this long blog rant on two topics that make you squirm in your seat?
Because I'm a cruel and unusual, sex-crazed, death-obsessed, psychoanalytical sadist??? No not quite.
Because these topics weave through everyones life in some fashion and I truly believe (and the science backs me up) that we can navigate these issues more effectively and with higher quality of life if we can talk openly and comfortably about them.
Learning how to bring up hard topics in a calm and compassionate way is a invaluable skill. Soul-searching and examining one's own values and experiences around sex and death and considering new ways to put meaning to these topics are essential for leading a fulfilling and aware life. If you are reading this, you were clearly born, weather sex or science made you, you are here with us today and you will surely die. No one makes it out alive. What is on the other side? Perhaps we find out, perhaps we don't. What we do know, is that in this life we will experience death and quite likely, sex.
What would it be like to die in your own bed at home?
How would sex change if your told you partner what you liked and didn't like?
I want you to have a wonderful life, full of growth and self-discovery and the ability to talk comfortably about thorny topics so that you can experience pleasure and less anxiety. Give yourself a voice. Shed light on these amazing topics. How are they unique to you? How would you like your experience of these topics to be? How do you want to teach your children about these topics? Your lover? Your parents? Yourself?
Ask. Answer. Be honest. Be curious. Take a part in how you experience your life!
12/1/2016 09:38:34 pm
interesting perspective. both subjects are important and should be thought about. if i may critique you; weather is what is happening outside. whether is of something that could happen. a professional is held to a higher standard in grammar.. so it goes.
12/10/2016 12:36:09 pm
As one of the other parties in that conversation, I dug it. Like this post too. Definitely good to talk about these things. From my perspective the conversation about sex should be easier to get on top of than one about death, awkward phrasing intended. Death eludes me and I'm not sure how to get my head around it exactly.
It is a very interesting article that you have written, my spouse and I have been thinking about going in for a sex therapist. I think that you do a great job saying that sex and death are two are the most transformational experiences we undergo. I think that it would be helpful to be able to talk openly about sex and death.
12/8/2021 12:42:10 am
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Auburn R. Meisner is a LCSW, CST specializing in Sex & Relationship Therapy