Just a short and shocking blurb to spice up your day!
I’ll give you the punch line: Yes, Catholic women orgasm (and I suspect certain Protestants do too, but I’ll leave that to them to announce). But here’s the even better part: Female saints orgasm. What?!? #celibacygonewrong #saintlysexlives #uncomfortable
Nah, man! None of those hashtags are right, even though I know you were thinking them. I mentioned this in an earlier article, but the awesome thing about sex is that it’s one of the greatest physical pleasures we can experience here on earth. Therefore, experiencing an orgasm is almost as close to the divine as we can routinely get in the bodies we possess.
Let’s get real, I’m talking about one statue in particular: The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.
As I heard someone describe it once (sorry for the lack of citation) this statue portrays St. Teresa of Avila in the middle of a “toe-curling orgasm.” Let’s take a look at that face again:
Yup. Seems pretty clear. Uncomfortable yet? Just to flesh it out, St. Teresa is having an experience of the divine where an angel is about to pierce her heart with a feeling of God’s exquisite love. In her words:
“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.”
Physically, Bernini imagines this as an orgasm. Come on, didn’t you?
As a Catholic feminist, I struggle with this statue. On the one hand, what a way to represent women as sexual beings way back in the Renaissance! You know that Bernini had some idea of women’s desires in order to carve that face. You don’t just “accidently” carve that expression. Given that men still have trouble with this today, I have mad respect for Bernini that he had the skills to know what women’s pleasure looks like and the vagina to carve it (I was going to say balls, but vaginas are cooler).
On the other hand, the implication is perhaps slightly darker. What’s the only acceptable way for women to be sexual? Well, there isn’t one, unless you are having a religious vision. God forbid there be a man involved; it’s got to be an angel. Like, you can only get away with being sexual if you deny that it’s sexual and attribute it to God. I don’t know what I expected from the Renaissance, but still…Also, this statue wasn’t uncontroversial. The Church hasn’t always been the most open about sexuality, and many at the time thought that it was dirty and wrong to portray a saint experiencing an orgasm. It sullies the purity of virginity, and the Church likes to put a premium on virginity in a way that is distinctly unfeminist (because the only good women are the ones that are non-sexual beings except when men want them, right?)
Anyway, I just wanted to share some fun imagery with you! These things float around in my head and sometimes I like to double-check that I’m not crazy. And if I am crazy, then at least I’m not alone.