Sex, Sin and Zen: A review

Posted: 09/05/2010 in Book review

When I started exploring Buddhism, Brad Warner was one of the first authors I read. The reason being is that he is a musician and played in hardcore punk bands, so I was drawn to him right away.  Being a metalhead, I was able to relate with that hardcore attitude, yet innate and practical discussions of Buddhism. I’ve enjoyed Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up, so when I was contacted by the publisher to review Warner’s new book, Sex, Sin and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between, I jumped at the chance.

Sex, Sin and Zen is much of the same attitude and humor that he displays in his other books, and although I’m sure many readers may feel that the puns and sex jokes got old after the first chapter, I didn’t. I have a weird sense of humor, so I thought it was hella punny, and he had me chuckling out loud more than once.

Warner breaks down sex, celibacy, masturbation, porn, BDSM, etc., subjects which – even though there is a precept dedicated to misuse of sex – seem to be a very taboo subject in Buddhism. Warner attempts to define “misuse of sex” but then really, who can define that? What is misuse to one person is just fun for another. The issues of attachment, desire, karma and mindfulness came up of course. What good Buddhist book wouldn’t have those in the discussion?

I did enjoy his rant about the overuse of the word “mindfulness” as it seems to have become a pop culture buzzword. But in discussing being mindful about sex, my favorite quote was “When you’re fucking, just fuck. When you’re not, just don’t.” He also included a chapter-long interview with Nina Hartley, who is a porn star, but also grew up Buddhist. She had some very insightful things to say in this interview and it was really cool to read that and learn from her. And yeah, I think she’s still hot. I’d hit it.

One theme that runs throughout Warner’s books is the stressing of the fact that doing zazen is the best way to answer a lot of these questions for yourself. Toward the end of the book, he gets more serious and discusses AIDS and STD’s, dating and relationships, and relationships between zen masters and students. There’s not a whole lot of footnote jokes in the last 1/3 of the book, but this is where he busts out the Dharma teaching.

Overall, I enjoyed Sex, Sin and Zen. I didn’t want to get too specific because I think it would be good for you to read it for yourself. This is a topic that isn’t really covered much, even though there is a precept devoted to the subject, so it’s worth a read just to get a different perspective on sex and everything that comes* along with it.

*Yes, I said comes.

  1. Drew says:

    I have read “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate” and loved it. I am waiting to get it when I get my Greg Graffin book in October. Love Brad Earners work. Great review.

  2. Tanya says:

    Well dang it this review missed my radar. I’m so behind on my blog reading.

    Glad to hear your take on the book… and on Nina!!!

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