But even the Western mainstream religions don’t ignore sex altogether. When the German composer Carl Orff published the beautiful ‘Carmina Burana’ in 1937, it was based on very old text – poems about women and love, which had been found in the Benedictine Monastery of Beuren. It appears that those medieval monks were extremely talented writing about virginity, and “burning all over for love of a maiden”. The beautiful medieval Arabic collection of One Thousand and One Nights has also served a great deal as a source for ancient stories with sexual context. The Jewish rebellious Shabbetaianism movement in the 18th century was partly obsessed with free sex and seeking redemption through orgies.
For all that, in the Bible itself, sex is quite commonly used. Many times to simply describe sexual events, in other places – as an allegory. The author of chapter 16 in Ezekiel, wrote about Jerusalem and the people of Judea, but undoubtedly had some specific pictures in his mind. We’ll perform a nasty exercise here, and abuse the original text by stripping it of all non-sexual stuff. Here is what we’re left with (feel free to skip to the end of this short masterpiece, whenever you think you have had enough):
“… And thou didst increase and grow up, and thou camest to excellent beauty: thy breasts were fashioned, and thy hair was grown; yet thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, and, behold, thy time was the time of love, I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness … and I anointed thee with oil … But thou didst trust in thy beauty and play the harlot because of thy renown, and didst pour out thy harlotries on every one that passed by; his it was. And thou didst take of thy garments, and didst make for thee high places decked with divers colors, and didst play the harlot upon them … and didst play the harlot with them … And in all thine abominations and thy harlotries thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare … Thou hast built thy lofty place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty an abomination, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy harlotries … thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet thou wast not satisfied … and yet thou didst not have enough herewith … the work of a wanton harlot … but thou hast given thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hast bribed them to come unto thee from every side in thy harlotries … thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness uncovered through thy harlotries with thy lovers … I will gather all thy lovers … and will uncover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness … I will also give thee into their hand … and they shall strip thee of thy clothes … and they shall leave thee naked and bare … and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women … Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters …“
Fortunately, there is little chance for an original Biblical text to be censored, or else this book would probably be one page shorter. The original text in Hebrew, by the way, sounds less mild than the English translation used above. ‘Opened thy feet’, for example, is written as ‘spread your legs’ and ‘uncover thy nakedness’ sounds more like ‘reveal your genitals’.
At this point, you probably say “enough obscenity!” and the good news is that there’s also some pretty nice erotic poetry in the Bible, most notably the Song of Songs (go ahead and have a look). Alas, many Orthodox Jews learn in school that the text in this case is merely a metaphor for the love between God and Israel.
Religion and sex form a strange couple. Sometimes they live happily together. Most of the time they need a marriage counselor.