• Sex, Sin, and Zen

  • A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between
  • By: Brad Warner
  • Narrated by: Brad Warner
  • Length: 9 hrs and 48 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (108 ratings)
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Sex, Sin, and Zen  By  cover art

Sex, Sin, and Zen

By: Brad Warner
Narrated by: Brad Warner
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Publisher's summary

With his one-of-a kind blend of autobiography, pop culture, and plainspoken Buddhism, Brad Warner explores an A-to-Z of sexual topics; from masturbation to dating, gender identity to pornography.

In addition to approaching sexuality from a Buddhist perspective, he looks at Buddhism - emptiness, compassion, karma - from a sexual vantage. Throughout, he stares down the tough questions: Can prostitution be "right livelihood"? Can a good spiritual master also be really, really bad? And ultimately, what's love got to do with any of it?

While no puritan when it comes to non-vanilla sexuality, Warner offers a conscious approach to sexual ethics and intimacy; real-world wisdom for our times.

©2010 Brad Warner (P)2017 Brad Warner

What listeners say about Sex, Sin, and Zen

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Perhaps a co-author would have helped?

I really like mostof Brad Warner's books. Been reading his stuff since Hardcore Zen, and usually give him 5 stars. (In fact, his latest, Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen, is brilliant!)

This one, though, was frustrating. And not because of the topic, cutesy cover art, or because of anything offensive. In fact, some of the chapters about Buddhist topics were (once again) brilliant!

In this book, Brad swings amongst giving the Buddhist view, saying there's no clear Buddhist view, giving his opinion, making a joke... The topics about sex are dealt with in this very repetitive, get-nowhere format. The vaguarities are fine for someone like me (Brad's age) but I'm not sure it would help someone younger and struggling with a sexual issue. He doesn't want to give out absolutes, of course; and he does give guidance, except that he often ends with "on the other hand..." and nearly dismisses what he just stated.

He simply doesn't seem to have enough experience and perspective on many of these topics. His opinions are from his own experience, or from his Buddhist education, but neither of those gives him much insight into other perspectives.

For example: Polyamory. He's correct that humans naturally pair-bond. What he doesn't say is that humans tend to pair-bond sequentially, and pair-bonds don't always last beyond 20 years (enough time to raise a child). With about a 50% divorce rate in the US, the "mate-for-life" experience is rare. Also, people can be pair-bonded, even truly in love, perhaps for life; and still play around. In the gay world, that's almost a given. In other words, there's emotional pair-bonding, and then there's f---ing. In many aging relationships, it's an open, healthy, and light-hearted agreement amongst adults. As Brad points out many times, sex is not a sin.

I do sorta wish he had more strongly emphasized the flip-side of that--vis-a-vis the 3rd Precept--a bit more, though: Doing harm to self and others through sex is not healthy. Hurting your spouse's feelings is bad. Messing around with someone else's partner, when you know that they haven't agreed to this, is bad.

It wouldn't have been that tough to use some simple examples and restated The Golden Rule. But...his book, not mine.

He could have talked to a woman, or a gay man, familiar with these topics, and likely provided better advice. His is mostly a limited straight white male perspective. He's not unfair to women, gay men, or transgendered folx. He's very fair, but not very insightful.

There are even one or two places where he says there are better books, written by more qualified writers, that you should go read. But he rarely references those books.

So, a great Buddhist writer, writing about a topic he really shouldn't have ventured into, alone. Brad, everything is better with a partner! ;-)

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

love the style of the author.

definitely gave me new perspective on some things. Lots of food for thoughts. I admire directness in his style.

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1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I liky long time

My favorite “Buddhist” writer 🤘, yes he is it’s true oh yes he really is that’s right

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    1 out of 5 stars

Not for recovering sex addicts.

I am a huge fan of Brad Warner. He was one of the major reasons I got into Zen. I just love his fresh, modern voice. I have always been apprehensive about listening to this book however based on his previous comments about sex. I got the sense that he was largely "sex positive," or at the very least, neutral about most sexual activities.

I was hoping that he was going to do one of his (and Zen in generals) bait and switches; that is to say something like, "It's all good, just consider X, Y, and Z." To a point, he does kind of do this, but it leans too neutral. Around the same time I got into Zen, I became sober from pornography addiction. An addiction that utterly destroyed my life, and was heading towards something I probably would not have been able to come back from.

Warner's main conclusion is that it is in fact, all good. As long as we remain thankful for how lucky we are to even experience sex, and obviously make sure no one is being harmed. Warner is very lucky to not have a sex addiction. I can tell because he able to live a productive life. He mentions that on occasion, he looks at some pictures of naked woman.

He claims that sometimes it's okay to watch porn in order to relieve sexual desire. I hate to jump on this train of reviews that say that Warner did not educate himself before writing this book, but you don't even have to spend too much time on Google to learn that watching porn makes you want to watch more porn. It is similar to gambling; winning makes you want to keep playing.

I am not saying that porn is evil and no one should ever watch it, I actually agree with Warner in that for most people (good studies haven't been published on this) can enjoy some porn every once in a while, and walk away without thinking much about it. But for an unaccounted amount of us who are prone to addiction, watching a bit a of porn can be like smoking some crack to relieve stress.

I am not really sure who Warner wrote this book for. Buddhists? People who are into polyamory? Definitely not gay people. In any of these cases, it is not a good book. In fact, I think it would be "best" for people who are into Zen and are wondering if their desire to watch porn 24/7 or spend all night scrolling through dating apps is ok or not.

I tend to agree with Thich Nhat Hanh (who Warner does mention) about the 3rd precept. You need to consider if anyone is being harmed in the process, this includes future events that can unfold. There are plenty of sexual activities that may not directly hurt anyone, but they do end up having negative consequences. Whether it's the person who is about to get fired from their job for taking extra long lunches to watch porn in their car, or the person who can't stop having affairs even though they are married.

I know Buddhism is pretty vague when it comes to the topic of sex, but I would strongly advise people who may think they have a sexual addiction to steer clear of this book. Listen to books written by researched professionals (Robert Weiss, Patrick Carnes, and George Collins to name a few). If you really want an addiction book that has a Zen perspective, I recommend The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash.

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

a lot of good ideas,but uninformed on non-monogamy

I liked a lot of what the author had to say on a number of subjects, my idiosyncratic philosophy based on Hegel and Zizek often mirrors Buddhist thought.

that said, nearly every statement he made about polyamory is incorrect. he claims that polyamory is about non-monogamous sex, when poly is generally referred to as multiple romantic interests.

the author then makes claims that humans have been monogamous through our hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, which is untrue. monogamy has only been the norm within the past 2k or so years. one merely has to look at Egypt, Anatolia, brothels, Babylonian practices (which he even acknowledges before his discussion on polyamory) harems, concubines, non+monogamous tribes that shared parental duties. the reality is we evolved non-monogamous, but adapted to monogamy with the introduction of more modern ideas.

his comments on Marxism are also incorrect, seemingly based on popular ideas of Marxist thought, or maybe he read the small pamphlet Marx wrote for the French Communist Party. I'd be curious what his thoughts on Engels' family and state writings would be.

his comments on these things makes me wonder if his ideas on the other subjects are authentic, or further misunderstanding.

that said, the book is good, just don't take his words as facts, and read the source material he discusses.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

instant Classic

A wonderful book,the author was funny and insightful,got me hooked from the start.It made it even better that he read it himself.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Audible purchase so far!

Absolutley fantastic. I'd even say revolutionary

The use of humor, history, personal ideas as well as the acknowledgment on the pros and cons of more institutionalized ideas made this book truly profound.

You may not agree with everything, nor does it encourage you to, but theres no way one could listen to this and not grow exponentially ♥

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