Face to Face Sex

Brian Thomas Swimme

The other animals love the taste of food, just as we do. Mammals feel panic when looking into the eyes of their would-be killer. And they feel anger and thrill and peace, all the emotions we feel, and often at levels of intensity similar to or greater than our own.

Then why did humans adopt a sexual position that occurs in only two out of thirty million species of life?

Of the dozen scientific hypotheses concerning humanity's preference for face-to-face sex, I have two favorites:

The first theory asserts it was our special human consciousness that led to face-to-face sex.

The second theory asserts it was the other way around, that face-to-face sex ignited our special human consciousness. Though I can not determine which of these theories is correct, I do draw an obvious conclusion which might be important for understanding the origin of humanity. Face-to-face sex and human consciousness are profoundly entwined. If we want to understand one, we probably need to understand the other as well.

Let's break it down.

The rare feature of human sexuality is, as we've mentioned above, the face-to-face part. But what about the rarity of human consciousness? What aspect of our consciousness is distinct from that other forms of life?

Philosophers of consciousness generally agree that the distinguishing feature of human consciousness is its ability to fold back on itself. For example, we human beings can feel the wind on our cheeks; and then, suddenly, it can happen that we become aware of ourselves feeling the wind on our cheeks. The movement from "feeling the wind" to "suddenly and simultaneously becoming aware we are feeling the wind" is the transformation from mammalian to human consciousness.

Something similar can be said about sex. Here's how it might have happened. In the thrall of sexual thrill, a lover became aware that not only they, but their partner too, was feeling this same thrall. The joy of this realization was too much for one body to contain. The one who awoke had to see it happening in real time in their lover. In the eyes of their lover. They twisted their bodies into positions virtually unknown in two hundred million years of mammalian sex. And when they beheld it, the joy doubled back in an explosion of ecstatic knowing, for they could now feel it taking place in their lover just as it was in them. Each caused that light they saw in those shining eyes.

A unique power that flows from human consciousness is the capacity to feel the universe from the consciousness of another. We can feel the same anguish of a mother who watches helplessly as her child and her child's father are swept away to the their watery deaths. We can experience the choked thirst of an elephant dying on the banks of the scorched riverbed. What we ignited with face to face sex led to face to face lovemaking and will lead, in time, to a comprehensive compassion enveloping our planet.

When we come to understand its longterm evolutionary effects, we begin to speculate that face to face sex is a spiritual pathway as significant as Zen meditation or the Catholic Mass. All spiritual pathways transform a human being from self-centeredness into an exalted realm of respect, reverence, and love. How do we get there? The formula for success in face-to-face lovemaking is the same as it is for Zen meditation or the Catholic mass.

Practice practice practice.

Image by: Brian Sebastian Swimme

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