• Betty Ann McPherson

Sexuality, Death - the Sacredness of Life

I have been contemplating deeply about life and death as of late. As a practicing registered psychotherapist assisting clients in dealing with a myriad of issues, I am drawn to therapeutic work that includes sex, sexual identity, gender identity, sexual relations and (perhaps paradoxically) also the impact of death, mortality, existential issues, and grief. All of these areas of interest seem dissimilar and almost at odds with one another.


Sex and death are both “taboo” subjects. We are not equipped with the language to talk about either of these topics without feeling awkward, afraid, or embarrassed. These subjects are usually discussed by adults with hushed voices in the kitchen away from prying ears. And yet, these are two of the most important events that most (sex) or all (death) will experience.


There is a belief that is perpetuated by the media that “sexual relations” are only for the young (but not too young) and the beautiful. And that death is for the “old”, the infirmed, or for those that are no longer useful to our society. We know that both of these beliefs are myths. Sex is a right and a function for all people and death can happen to anyone at any age.


Myth: Sex is for those women between the ages of 20 and 40 (for women those are the fertile years) and for men it seems the age of sexuality is 16 to 60. On the contrary, the “beautiful” do not have an edge on sexuality nor are they the authorities on sexual relations. We come into this world as sexual beings and we will leave this world as sexual beings. Whether we choose to exercise our own right to a sexual relationship with ourselves or others is just that – OURS.


Sex is the “life” force for humans. Even when it is denied, it is still there. And often sexuality is controlled by society to such a degree that it undermines the freedom and dignity for women (e.g., patriarchal control of women’s sexuality through slut-shaming, rape and sexual assault; genital mutilation etc.).


Moreover, there is a conviction that sex throughout the lifespan remains constant – despite constantly changing bodies, differences in our body’s functioning abilities as we age, and our attitude about sex evolving throughout our life. Sex, when we are young, is a biological function of “need”. Perhaps this “need” is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring population growth. However, as we age and we eventually lose the capability to biologically conceive, sex can become a way of spiritually connecting with our partner(s). There is a huge shift in desire – from desire that is biological to desire that can be sacred (and fun!).



Myth: We can be forever young and thereby conquer death. We, in the West, are a death denying culture on a quest to outsmart death in a bid to live forever, and/or to stay forever young. Some “healthcare” practitioners make a “killing” (pun intended) off the desperate longing of individuals seeking to outsmart aging and dying. Regardless of the efforts of those seeking the fountain of youth and those seeking to provide said fountain, death still looms. Nobody gets out alive. We cannot beat that which is necessary for all life – the sanctity of life which is only realized because of the reality of death. We have goals, we desire connection to others, because we are acutely aware of the necessity of death.


Sex and death, therefore, are in theory can be the most sacred experiences of our life. While sex provides us the conduit to connect sacredly with others as a path to healing our own longing and connection, death provides us with a catalyst to connect us divinely to the meaning of life.



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