Revisiting the Third Grave Precept

Honor the body. Do not misuse sexuality.

This is such a sticky-feeling precept for me. As a person who has experienced sexual abuse my emotional response to the Third Grave Precept is pretty intense. Just this week I’ve found myself trying to respond calmly to some comments online where someone was suggesting that a celebrity had only now revealed sexual abuse because it was timed with a book being released. That no one would just keep stuff like that a secret.

But sexuality misused is all about secrecy, shame, and hidden things. I was livid at reading someone suggesting that hiding abuse was about attention-seeking and that gathering together the courage to speak about the abuse nothing more than a cheap ploy to generate book sales. I find it incomprehensible that someone could still suggest such a thing. That it was a man writing these awful things led me down the path of judging the majority of men for being abusers and doubters.

Loving, consensual sexuality is an act of sacredness. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the divinity that is arises from the sharing of vulnerability in sexual intimacy. When that honor, that trust is broken it can be so profoundly devastating at so many levels that it considerably easier to hide it in the silent abyss of shame.

My marriages were both, in their own way a misuse of sexuality. A way of staying “safe” and not exploring painful, difficult questions about myself. There just finally came a point where honoring myself, my essential self, meant recognizing that pretending I was something I was not. Pretending that I’m not a lesbian in order to not hurt someone is another way of misusing sexuality.

Even when I try to look at just the affirmation to “Honor the body.” my mind jumps away from any connotation of sexuality. It is more comfortable to think about a healthful diet, weight loss, and exercise than it is to think about how this relates to sexuality. I immediately seek to distract myself from that discomfort by attempting to interpret the statement in a way I feel more confident speaking to.

But I am trying to see it as a way of learning to accept that our bodies have sexual feelings. Feeling desire for another person isn’t a weakness nor is it something to be ashamed of, particularly not in the context of a loving relationship between adults. The sharing of intimacy should be an act of honoring the body.

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