Erotic intelligence is a phrase that was made popular in recent years and evokes an immediate reaction “Ooh, what’s that?”. We’ve all now heard of the phrase “emotional intelligence” and understand its concept, but this is something that takes a bigger leap into the world of relationships and our internal world in an intriguing way.
As a busy mother and business owner, I found myself in a position where I was seeing rather negative changes in my own relationship, particularly the relationship I was having with myself. I started to investigate its root causes and some of the advice and solutions offered. Dr Google brought me some interesting things, but also some ridiculous ones.
It was during my frequent visits to Tony Robbins podcasts that I stumbled across the work of a New York based Belgian psychotherapist, Esther Perel. Once I opened the door to her work, I was literally blown away. She was echoing all that I believe and have spoken about in my networks, the importance of developing a space in a relationship where the erotic can flourish. Not sex. Not positions. Not techniques. A safe space where imagination and emotions are nurtured, apart from the mundane every day. What Perel describes in her book “Mating in Captivity” is the connection between couples. Something beyond the therapising of relationships, where talking is not always helpful, rather creating opportunities for connection in a playful erotic space.
As a Midwife, I understand the importance of the role of hormones in creating the important connection between parents and their new-born baby, especially the mother. Without the role of hormones such as oxytocin, mothers would be unable to connect, lactate or even nurture their new-borns. The impact in the maternal-child relationship can be seen where traumatic birth experiences interrupt the role of those hormones that so perfectly orchestrate the transition into motherhood.
Fathers are not exempt from this. A father who has skin to skin with a new-born baby is also affected by oxytocin, a neuropeptide hormone that releases feelings of well-being, love and connection, especially in physical human encounters. This intimacy, so necessary for nurturing the new-born’s transition into the world is observed by all Midwives and Doulas in the world. We know how important it is to create an environment of calm, safety and love where we can enable the process of birth to occur. We know that anything that interrupts that environment is likely to delay or stall the natural birth process. We have always known this.
Once birth takes place, a mother and baby left uninterrupted to have skin to skin contact are likely to develop a strong bond and the process not only helps the mother to release milk for her new-born, but also creates powerful uterine contractions that allow the mother’s womb to recover from the birth itself. The more we know, the more amazing the process is…so Perel’s description of the erotic space needed for couples to nurture their intimate lives made perfect biological sense to me.
“Animals have sex; eroticism is exclusively human. It is sexuality socialized and transformed by the human imagination.”
And when a couple’s love life is suffering, Perel states “They don’t just miss sex, the act; they miss the feeling of connection, playfulness, and renewal that sex allows them.”
So, erotic intelligence is the art and science of creating a nurturing, special space for intimate human connection to take place.
For many of us in the Muslim community, we are wary of the western pornified culture. Our dress code, manners and traditions seem to have developed a hyper conservative view of sexuality. This is, at least my experience and observation during my 20 years of work with the Muslim community.
Upon observing the embarrassment of women hiding their pregnant bumps from their children, or people refusing to discuss sexuality, as if it were something “dirty or wrong” I often wonder what has brought us to this place? This is not the Islam I understood nearly 21 years ago when I embraced this beautiful spiritual life. I read in a hadith regarding a close and intimate relationship of sexual openness between the companions (male and female) and the Prophet (sas). Women would take sanitary towels to him to show the colour of the discharge to find out whether or not they could pray. Hardly a repressed or shameful act. He would sit and spend hours discussing his intimate relations with his wives, in detail, including acts of foreplay, kissing, bathing, the importance of female orgasm, and ensuring women were satisfied. They openly discussed sexual health, contraception, cleanliness, beauty, scents, make-up, intimate grooming. This in no way sounds like a sexually bashful society!
These were people able to discuss any topic in a safe and nurturing environment. Even their faux pas, such as one companion who was about to have sex with his cousin but was about to penetrate her and stopped himself. He ran to the Prophet to tell him what had happened…for fear of Allah’s punishment, and was told he would be rewarded from the act of stopping himself from penetrating her. They were not afraid to discuss all areas of sexuality.
So, how is it that we have arrived at a time where our marriages are failing, very often due to sexual dalliances, dissatisfaction and lack of emotional or physical intimacy? Is it Islam that is the problem, or is it the post-colonial hangover that has bled into our behaviour?
In his book “A Taste Of Honey, Sexuality and Erotology in Islam” Habeeh Akande describes that “Sexuality is a constant theme in Islam’s sacred sources, as it is essential for the perpetuation of life, physical health and personal fulfilment. Affirming human sexuality is a gift from Allah..” so how is it that in my experience, our communities are suffering from a terrible lack of erotic cultivation and understanding. Is it time, perhaps that we revive our erotic intelligence? A space where the spiritual and physical world connect in delight and rapture. A space where the body and soul are able to transcend and ring with the sweet notes of physical and spiritual love alike.
Exploring the concept of erotic intelligence give us a unique chance to revive this sensual and spiritual tradition, right from the lips of the Prophet himself. What a beautiful opportunity to learn and reconnect!
By Nabila Fowles – Gutierrez
Nabila is a Specialist Coach & Strategist, Business Owner, Midwife & Clinical Research Nurse. She is also a Divorce Coach & Director of Divorce Survival, an innovative approach managing high conflict divorce and family breakdown, helping clients find happiness and lasting solutions.
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.