Issue #51 of White Crane was devoted to the discussion of Pleasure and featured John Ballew’s piece on Orgasm.


By John Ballew

Because orgasm and ejaculation tend to happen simultaneously in men, we often think they are the same thing. Understanding that they are not is the key to exploring ecstatic states.

Orgasm is described, even by sexologists, as just the all-of-a-sudden release of the sexual pressure that happens during arousal, followed by an intense relaxation. Sounds like ejaculation. Missing from this medical explanation is any understanding of what happens elsewhere in our multidimensional beings--that is, in our hearts, our souls, our minds. Orgasm doesn't happen just in the pelvis. Studies show changes in brain waves, for instance. Muscles all over the body tense and relax, emotions arise.

Some orgasms are more powerful than others. Sometimes we are seeking a simple release--we are feeling sexual tension, and we want to get rid of it. The resulting orgasm may be a bit of a thrill, and it is certainly pleasurable, but it is a pelvic sneeze compared with full-tilt, openhearted orgasm.

The French phrase for orgasm, "le petit morte" means "the little death." When we are in an orgasmic state, time seems to stop. We experience something transcendent and powerful. We may feel a sense of clarity, losing our sense of self-consciousness, living only in this present moment.

In this ecstatic state we let go of the ego. Our day-to-day anxieties no longer seem so important and we let go of our obsession with the self. We let go of our sense that we are separate from those around us; that's one reason why this ecstatic state is especially powerful for those who are in love. In this orgasmic state we are simply present, alone or with a lover, fully alive and connected with everything that is. It is a powerful spiritual experience, a miracle in itself. Small wonder that so many religions seem to fear sexuality and do everything they can to control it!

To be able to let go during sex and to savor this sense of transcendence is one of life's great joys.

Let's talk about how it increase your body's capacity for pleasure and how to open yourself more fully to this experience.

Bodies which are full of life are more capable of ecstasy than those which are half-asleep. Exercise of at least a mild sort helps. Sex isn't a marathon, but if you spend your life stuck behind a desk and are a couch potato at home and have trouble climbing a flight of stairs without getting winded, you're not likely to feel fully awake and at home in your body.

When having sex either with a partner or solo, let go of any goal other than to feel your body, feel pleasure and connect deeply with yourself or your partner. If you find yourself getting distracted by concerns about erections, what your partner is thinking, how you are doing, etc., notice them and let these thoughts go; be in the moment.

Focus on pleasure rather than orgasm as a goal in itself. Let go of any goal whatsoever. Are you tightening your muscles and holding your body tense? Let go. Relax. Breathe. Savor sensations and delights for their own sake. There is no hurry. What else could be more important than what you are doing right now?

When you start to cum, stay relaxed and breathing. This allows the sensations and rhythms of your body to increase and reverberate inside of you, and it greatly prolongs the pleasure. Keep breathing! Some of us tend to hold our breaths or to breathe very shallowly as we approach climax. Doing so shuts down sensation. In fact, half the pleasure some men's orgasms comes from simply relaxing their too-tense bodies.

A friend recently shared with me that when he starts to ejaculate, he recites to himself the Buddhist prayer of compassion and loving kindness: "May all beings be happy. May all beings be free." In doing so, he shifts his consciousness and expands his vision.

Our culture enshrines the idea of simultaneous orgasm. That can be fun if it happens spontaneously, but working to that end can turn sex into, well, work. Consider instead what can happen when you cum at different times. You can be your partner's witness--seeing him in this moment of transcendence, truly being there for him. He can be there for you, free from his own need to do anything other than just be with you; that's magic enough.

The time following orgasm is sacred time, sometimes referred to as "afterglow." Enjoy it, whether you are by yourself or with someone else. Notice what thoughts, even visions, come to you. Notice what you are feeling. Don't be in a big hurry to clean up. Stay where you are. If you have been making love to yourself, this can be a useful time to simply enjoy the feelings of peace and openness. If you are with a partner, this gentle, open time can be a wonderful opportunity to affirm your love for one another.

The openness that many of us feel after orgasm may also bring up negative feelings. Perhaps you realize that the person you just shared this experience with was someone with whom this level of intimacy was more awkward than you expected, or perhaps old messages about sex-and-shame made an unwelcome visit. This may be an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself.

John R. Ballew, M.S., is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, and relationships, spirituality and career. He can be reached via the web at


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PAUL TILLICH, Prussian-American theologian, born (d: 1965); What? The world-renowned theologian? The one who preached that every Yes must have its corresponding No, and that no human truth is ultimate? Yes, and if you doubt it, read his wife’s autobiography, which, in its own beautifully-written way, is far racier than some contemporary fiction. It appears that Hannah Tillich liked it with Paulus, with other men, and with other women; Paulus liked it with Hannah, with Hannah and other women, with other women, and with Hannah and other men. In fact, the Harvard theologian liked it in almost every configuration. Given the limited number of human permutations and combinations, one would think it inevitable that snake eyes would have to be rolled. But not necessarily. Tillich called his homosexuality “latent.”


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From issue #48 of White Crane, The Shadow

Archetype of the Double

By Mark Thompson

Queer eros holds multiple purposes in our lives — pedagogic, religious, creative, even altruistic — beyond the near-meaningless context it’s been assigned. No matter how it’s dealt with, being Gay must certainly encompass more than whom we choose to have sex with. We’re not different because of what we do in bed. The difference comes from what’s happening under our skins, not the sheets. A psyche-based paradigm of Gay nature puts homosexuality in a new light. To be Gay, as currently defined, gives us a limited place to stand in the world and a lever with which to somewhat move it. But an understanding of our lives stemming from psychological mindfulness permits a much better view of society’s queer men as potential healers, soul guides, and culture makers for all people.

There is a wealth of archetypal forces residing within us; as many, one might say, as there are gods in the heavens. Some archetypes can be literally imagined, such as the Questing Hero or the Wise Old Man. (In Western culture, major archetypes are seen in the personae of ancient deities, on tarot cards, or in the image of certain pop icons.) But others are representational of more abstract images and ideas, like Self or Individuation, which are known as archetypes of transformation.

Some archetypes are widely experienced in Western culture (the Senex, or Judging Father, is one). But other archetypes are more acutely felt, for reasons of biological or social inheritance, within individual minds. Archetypes of the Same or Double, the Wounded Healer, Divine Chi ld, Lunar Phallos, and Trickster are especially ascendant and at work in the psyches of Gay men today. I believe the fundamental basis of being queer is an archetypal matrix, or inner constellation, characteristic of those who have been so labeled. This biologically determined psychic structure is further organized according to the vicissitudes of one’s personal and collective upbringing.

Because these archetypes contain energetic forces vital to challenge and change — necessary to the discovery of new ideas and modes of being, but revolutionary in that they upset the established order — individuals acting out the contents of these archetypes are shunned and suppressed. Recognizing this helps us to see how certain capacities of the soul could be assigned as “Gay” throughout time; their value, adaptation, and even survival contingent on the specific cultural milieu in which they’re perceived. Seen from this vantage, being Gay is more about what we do — our social role and function—than about what and how we’ve been sexually labeled. It is a subjective, multidimensional view of same-sex love, not a further justification. After al l the damage that’s been done, what recourse do we have but sublimity?

In way s both covert and blatant, a large percentage of us are soul-wounded early in life. We know this hurt better than any lover. And so we wonder: Are we damaged due to too much love from one parent and not enough from the other? Despite the rhetoric of Gay pride, may be there really is something “abnormal” about being homosexual. Then again, perhaps there’s nothing wrong at all except for society’s prejudice. Whatever the reason for rejection, is our wounding a curse or a spiritual occasion? Maybe it’s an opportunity to take the road less traveled. Because a false self and its sensibility of shame has been implanted in our souls, not many have been able to see clear enough to answer these questions. That is why striving to create an autonomous awareness is crucial. As someone who assiduously tended to the wounds of his own soul, some of Jung’s insights about same-sex love hold value for us today. For it was he who finally grasped the one truth essential to any Gay person: Our homosexuality has a meaning peculiar to us, and us alone. Taking the downward tumble into our own depths demands that we become conscious of that meaning.

Archetype of the Sames

The archetype of queer love itself is the Double. What inquisitive Gay boys seek is an unfailing mirror in which to see themselves. But what sensitive Gay men desire is the ideal companion with whom they may share that reflection. So we search for someone just like us, a twin or double self. As an archetype of sames, the Double is the source of democracy, justice, and equality in the world, transcending boundaries of age, class, and nationality. This is what Walt Whitman implied when he talked about “adhesive” love, one celebrating “the need of comrades.”

The Double is one of the most important and ascendant elements within a Gay male psyche. We feel its presence erotically, and project it — in ways both direct and subliminal — on the men we encounter and the work we do in the  world.

It is the wellspring of our creativity and endurance; it is the very root, in fact, of our modern Gay identity. Men who do not regard themselves as homosexual experience this archetype, too. For them the Double is not as prominently situated in the anatomy of the soul, or else its libidinal charge has been devalued and contained in hollow ritual, or even made taboo. For these reasons, the Double is one of the most thwarted archetypes in modern Western society, having been perverted from the enabling of loving comradeship to purposes of competition, envy , and war.

Mark Thompson was author of many books that have influenced the Gay cultural wisdom movement. Among these are Gay Body: A Journey through Shadow to Self, from which this is excerpted and Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning (White Crane Books). He was a regular contributor to White Crane and served on the White Crane Board. He is deeply missed.


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