I think the reason the movie struck a chord with many people is that it unveils the psychological inner workings of human beings, to explain why people who appear normal on the surface and look good and moral or upright in the eyes of society, would suddenly or unexpectedly resort to infidelity or violence.
According to wikipedia:
“The film implies two unfulfilled incestuous desires: Lester’s pursuit of Angela is a manifestation of his lust for his own daughter, while Col. Fitts’ repression is exhibited through the almost sexualized discipline with which he controls Ricky. Consequently, Ricky realizes that he can only hurt his father by falsely telling him he is homosexual.”
So, in the movie, the father of a daughter, due to unfulfilled sexual desires in his marriage, found himself having persistent sexual dreams about his daughter’s school friend. In another family, a retired army officer was sexually repressive (probably because of the strict regimented lifestyle in the military) and developed homosexual urges but hated himself for it, and later became violent and beat up his son when he thought his son was also a homosexual. So these are very real portrayals of how sexual repression can cause problems in life, such as hatred, low self-esteem and outbursts of anger. It has also been observed that repressed sexual energy can result in physical and mental illnesses, and metabolic and hormonal disorders.
What some spiritual teachers, such as Osho and Carlton Pearson, have observed in their writings, which I am going to share below, are so important and relevant to people, as they will set people free from such prudist mindsets and sexual repression established by certain societal and/or religious norms.
Question: What is the difference between great sexual suppression and freedom from sex? On the surface, both have no interest in sex. How does suppressed sex bubble up?
Osho: First, suppressed sex has more interest than expressed sex can ever have. The interest is not direct — it is indirect, it is vicarious, it is cunning; the interest is there, immensely there. If your sex life is normal, unrepressed, uninhibited, the interest cannot be so much, because you will have a kind of satisfaction, a contentment.
It is like when you have taken your food, you forget about food. But if you fast, then you continuously think about food. Fast one day and then go to the market, and you will see only hotels, restaurants, food stores, and you will smell only food smells coming from everywhere. And you had been to this place before many times. It had never happened like that.
Repression cannot free you from interest. The repressed person becomes more interested in sex than anybody else. Maybe he shows antagonism, that’s possible, but antagonism is interest. That’s why your so-called religious scriptures are full of antagonism towards sex, condemnation. Your so-called MAHATMAS go on cursing sex. That simply shows their interest, nothing else. They are still haunted by it. They may be sitting in their caves in the Himalayas, but they are condemning sex. Why?
It is deep inside them, in their very guts, they are fighting with it. Their condemnation is a way of their fighting with it: they condemn it so that they can remain on top of it. If you don’t condemn for even a single day, they start feeling afraid that the real thing from inside may surface, may throw away them and their control and their saintlihood and their holiness.
And the more you repress, the more it accumulates. It becomes more and more powerful.
The following excerpt is taken from the book “God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu…: God Dwells with Us, in Us, Around Us, as Us” by Carlton Pearson.
Thou shalt not be a hypocrite
The divine connection between flesh and spirit should not be demonized, as we tend to do today in public. In fact, it is the empty pronouncements of sexual purity and abstinence by religious leaders, followed by their perversions and illegal, immoral acts in private, that are sinful, not the sex or sexuality itself. “Thou shalt not be a moral hypocrite” could have been the Eleventh Commandment. It is this suppression that gives rise to the fantasies and excesses within much of the religious community with regard to sexuality and sensuality. As said earlier, what you fight, you ignite, and what you resist, tends to persist! Denying one’s sexuality or sensuality sometimes force it to become the focus of attention in ways that can cause the development of unhealthy and destructive habits.
I also like what is written here in the article “The Gift of Sex” by Pazzi Wan.
As you begin to realize that your attitude toward your sexuality is shrouded in shame, embarrassment and guilt, you will begin to see that this attitude stems from your view of God; and you will realize that your view of God must necessarily be clouded as well — clouded in fear. You will see that this fear of God has been imposed on you by the religious institutions that have implemented rules, restrictions and moral codes that have limited you in your sexual behavior and expression — and indeed, in your entire range of human experience.
But could an all-loving God have given you something so wonderful as sex and then restricted its expression through rules and laws that are virtually impossible to keep? And would It then punish you for violating those rules? Can God be both that loving and that cruel? Of course not. But there are, indeed, other outside influences, literally from other worlds, behind your religious institutions, that have distorted your concept of God for their purposes.
A correction of your thinking will come from nothing less than complete questioning of your old teachings and beliefs of God, and this will eventually lead to a complete paradigm shift — a shift from your old fearful view of God to a new and trusting one.
Last but not least, here is an excerpt taken from an insightful article “Why is something as good as sex, so bad?” by Reginald Martin which resonates with me, and is similar to Osho’s perspective on the spiritual nature of human sexuality.
“Sex is a wonderful experience. It has to be in context with what you are ok with. Your perception is the only one that is relevant to your experience. I think many times people get mixed up and believe the experience is in the physical as in with a variety of people, a new position, swinging off the chandeliers, or a new toy. All those things are temporary and fleeting. Experience it from the perspective of you the soul and you will then understand what connecting to The ALL is like. It is beautiful, it is powerful and it is inspiring.
Make no mistake about it, sex is a spiritual experience that should be enjoyed without the guilt and shame attached to it. Desire is the engine of our physical experience. Nothing manifest until you desire it first. It’s not more holy nor will you reach a higher spiritual plane when you deny your soul the experience of being human.
If a belief does not serve to uplift and empower you in the physical, it is detriment to your spiritual development. Denying your humanity does not put you on a higher physical or spiritual plane.
You came to the physical plane to experience and enjoy physical life. You are beautiful and all that implies.”
In conclusion, let us all be free from sexual repression wrought by society and religion, and experience healing and wholeness! Some suggestions on being free from sexual repression through finding safe and healthy outlets include:
- channelling sexual energy into spiritual enlightenment through meditation and deep breathing
- relaxation exercises such as dancing, yoga and pilates
- being in touch with balanced and edifying materials that portray nudity and human sexuality as healthy, natural and wholesome, and promote body acceptance, respect and dignity
- enjoying love-making and intimacy with one’s life partner, which builds spiritual connection and emotional bonding
- appreciating great works of art
- enjoying things of joy, beauty and healing
- stimulating our intellect with learning new things, such as contemplating and reflecting about life, through reading thought-provoking materials such as parables on enlightenment and being aware of the present moment and our oneness with God or Divine Love, etc.
In this way, we will be living out our wholeness and rising up above any form of sexual repression that were imposed on us in the past by organised religions and overly conservative cultures.
“The Human Sexual Experience” by Pazzi Wan
“Body Acceptance and the Spiritual Path” by Daniel D. Ziegler
“Our Healing” by Daniel D. Ziegler