A Review of Brad Warner’s “Sex, Sin and Zen”

2010 September 11

I can’t really write just one post to sum up my take on Brad Warner’s latest book “Sex, Sin and Zen- A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between so I’m going to sporadically blog about this book and the topics within it on occasion. I’ve never really covered sex on this blog, so If you are a Buddhablogger and wish to explore this on your blog, try it out. Let’s all ‘disrobe’ together. Rawr.

Sexuality isn’t something that’s covered that much in Buddhism. When I tell people I’m a Buddhist and should sex come up, the reaction has ranged from asking I’m into that freaky tantra stuff like Sting or whether I’m celibate. No really middle way when it comes to this road.

It’s also a topic that hasn’t really come up for me that often in the sanghas I’ve been a part of or the Buddhist media that I’ve consumed. I’ve heard stories of sexual misconduct of teachers but never really could understand that grey area of what actually sexual misconduct means.

When I heard that Brad Warner’s latest book would touch upon the topic of sex and Buddhism, I was intrigued. I’d always felt a mix of emotions towards Brad’s writing- very much love and hate. I loved what he was saying, but I was challenged by the fact that he was posting his work on the softcore website- Suicide Girls (NSFW). It was difficult for me to resolve that the messages of no self were tangled up in nubile, naked flesh.   Rather than celebrate the beauty of these ladies, I was only feeling less desirable myself.

But I digress…

Brad’s latest book is really good… It covers so much terrain – from masturbation, abortion, monogamy, polygamy, orgasm, pornography and more. The tone is very lighthearted and doesn’t stray from the humourous style that is to be expected with his writing. Rather than sounding high and mighty, the book is a friendly examination of the topics that few Buddhist authors have dared to cover. I could say its quite tongue in cheek – but with this book, it could really extend itself beyond the usual sense of this phrase.

I admire the honesty that Brad displays within this book. He isn’t afraid to admit his failings or shortcomings and hearing this come from a Buddhist teacher makes me feel like less of a fuck up. Authenticity is sexy.

In many areas, I was surprised by Brad’s straight-laced attitude towards certain sexual practices. My mistaken perception of him showed me that I assigned him a persona that didn’t necessarily mesh with his reality. So all this time, I’d been so crotchety over the Suicide Girls thing, when I was much more progressive than I thought (and perhaps freakier than the “porno-monk” Brad Warner). Yikes.

But I digress…

Brad gives a very middle way approach – he doesn’t openly condemn certain practices, but rather speaks of how they might not necessarily be that healthy to oneself or others. He does cite historical treatises on sexuality (see the chapters on “Sexual Angles on Buddhism”), so there is a background to the positions held by many elders.

He’s unorthodox. The book is the same. He takes traditional chants and changes them so that “piece of ass” replaces “food”, but he does these kinds of things to make a point. This book is what I’d expect if I was to find the diary of Hefner, Buddha, Bart Simpson, and Kinsey all rolled into one.

The book is worth checking out if you have an interest in the topic of sexuality and Buddhism or if you enjoyed Brad’s previous books and want to complete your collection. It’s a long read, but once you start, it does suck you in and you’re curious to discover what else will present itself within its pages.

I’m inspired to blog about this topic more and I have this book and Brad to thank. By his bravery in opening the kimono, I hope that Buddhists will also share their experiences as openly as they have on other areas of the paths. Sex is no different than eating, sleeping, sitting in the meditation hall…

One Response
  1. outcast spice permalink
    September 11, 2010

    hI! So, yes, i also really liked this book! i think you summed it up very well.

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