In a previous article, I brought up a broad overview of Buddhist psychology and its implications for understanding sexuality. In this article, I want to expand on that a little bit more and talk about some more specific ideas that the Buddha taught. Specifically, I’ll be drilling down to focus on four key concepts (what the Buddha called the “four qualities of love”) which lay at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, and that also hold specific implications to modern sexuality.
Let’s begin. The first quality is called metta– translated as loving kindness. And by this we mean actions, not just thoughts and feelings. The thought that comes to my mind about acting towards others in a manner of loving kindness, specifically when it comes to sexuality, is the importance of consent. Indeed, as I’ve written about before, what often separates sexual “deviance” from just simply kinky non-normative sexuality is consent, or lack thereof. This is a very trick and thorny issue because consent is often quite complex. Unfortunately, in most relationships, the issue of consent is never adequately addressed or discussed in matters of sex, or otherwise. Great sex, however, requires the trust that comes from a direct discussion of defining what is consensual and what is not. Terrible sex, on the other hand, often involves no discussion, no negotiation, and just either carrying one’s desires in secrecy or acting out on them non-consensually.
The third quality is mudita– joy at well-being and happiness of others, Another word for this would be compersion, a word used in poly circles to mean experiencing pleasure due to one’s partner’s pleasure. This doesn’t mean that one should try having a go with some form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM). No, rather, approaching sexuality with the perspective of win-win, or your pleasure is also my pleasure, will lead to much more fulfilling and pleasurable sexual encounters. In contrast, I see folks in practice who are operating under a zero-sum game (I win, you lose) philosophy that is often borne from a scarcity mentality. When we are able to tap into a feeling of abundance (and I know that’s easier said than done), it allows us to more fully experience compersion and immerse ourselves fully in the sexual experience.
Now let’s put all this together using modern terminologies rather than old pali words (pali is the ancient language in which the canonical Buddhist texts were written). When we talk about the Buddha’s four qualities of love, what I believe we are really discussing is a combination of consent, compassion (self and other), compersion, and self-acceptance. And these are all of the things that I’ve been blogging about over the course of the last few years. And think about it, isn’t that what great sex is all about? Beginning from a starting point of self-acceptance, we negotiate the sex that we want (consent), within the framework of pleasure in fulfilling each other’s pleasure (compersion), and with the compassion to take difficulties that may come up in stride.
Mix in a little of all four. And what you get is great sex. And what makes it great? Not big, hard cocks. And tight firm buttocks. Not great technique. Or athlete level endurance. No. Just two people engaging in a deeply connective act. And treating each other like two decent human beings. So what it comes to down to is great sex is more about personal authenticity, non-judgment, transparency, consensuality, and again, compassion. In the end, great sex is simply about revealing and truly seeing each other’s humanity.