In my last three columns, I’ve examined many of the contentious issues around sacred sexuality and the teaching of sex magick. I’ve dealt with ethics, protection, confrontation of lifestyles and a lot of very serious matters. You can read them here, here, and here. This week I conclude the series with a look at the practicalities.
Getting Jiggy with the Gods
Many of us choose to worship our gods and goddesses in a sexual way. Some of us engage in Great Rite to unify with our deities sexually. Some of us are called to become sacred prostitutes and heal with sacred sex. Some of us are godspouses; we are bonded with a particular deity, whom we may or may not unite with sexually on a regular basis, and that deity asks a great deal of us but also looks after us. And some of us are Vestal Virgins or just not interested.
Just as there are infinite variations in human sexuality, there are infinite variations in ways to relate to the Divine through sex. As long as no one is getting hurt, none of them are wrong. Great Rite can be done in an almost infinite variety of ways, in pairs or in groups or through solitary masturbation, through whatever gender(s) or cultures as desired. I have personally drawn down the moon to lie with the Lord in the form of a priest, drawn down the sun to lie with the Lady in the form of a priestess, served as a cheval for Erzulie, called to gods and goddesses to couple with me in the wilderness and in my bedroom, sometimes one at a time and sometimes in groups, and Herne and I have a . . . thing. Storm Faerywolf has some marvelous work on his website on queer sex magick that I referenced in my book. I think there’s room for all of this, and I think people who don’t like that should get over themselves.
So what if you feel called to engage in sacred sex with a deity and you don’t know where to start or who to ask about it?
First of all, determine if the entity you are dealing with really is a deity. Logically, if gods and goddesses can exist in forms that you can engage with sexually, other entities probably exist like that too. Ever heard of a succubus or an incubus? They’re out there. So how do you know the difference? Well, the answer is, does it make you feel good, or not? Do you feel tired and drained after interacting with this spirit-being? Do you feel ashamed and guilty and unable to help yourself? Chances are, this is not a creature with your best interests in mind and you should banish it, cast it out, and ward against it.
Coupling with the gods should be invigorating, empowering, and liberating. Your soul should feel rejuvenated and enlivened, even if your body is tired (Erzulie can sure wear out the mortal flesh!) It should be a transcendent, powerful and holy experience. Just like in human relationships, it’s not a relationship unless it’s good for you.
So what happens, one might ask, if, say, one of the Greek deities chooses you and, just like in the myths, doesn’t give you much of a choice? I would argue that rape is rape is rape, whether it’s the gods who do it or mortals, so drive them out anyway. Maybe seek out another deity to protect you.
You think I’m kidding? You think this is hubris? Maybe it is hubris. But I believe that we are co-creators with the gods and we have the right to free will. If a god is not benefitting your life and your soul, then that being is no better than a demon.
What if you feel called to “Aphrodite work?” Well, be practical about it. I subscribe to a blog called The Honest Courtesan; Maggie McNeil has some great practical advice. Always practice safe sex. And always be up front with your lovers or your partners about your calling. Also, be sure it’s a calling, and not you trying to deal with a guilt complex, past traumas, or addictive behavior.
Finding People to Practice With
Finding others to work with can be challenging. First of all, how do you ask? Secondly, what if you are not interested in engaging in sex with another person in the group? What if you’re in a tradition that initiates traditionally and you’re ready to take your Third Degree and you think the priest smells funny? We all have our personal sexual interests and quirks. What if most of the group is straight and you’re gay? What if you just don’t like big breasts and one of the women in the group has triple Es? What if you don’t like another person in the group? Also, how do you avoid groups that are unethical or possibly threatening?
Ideally, in the spirit of “perfect love and perfect trust” we should be able to find the Divine in anyone. But in reality it just doesn’t work that way. Much of the time we’re not even consciously aware of why we are attracted to one person but not another (it might be smell, by the way; apparently studies indicate that much of our sex drive is connected to smell). Again, I think the key is complete transparency. Just be honest. And try not to take rejection personally. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, remember? I like curvy women myself so I’ll probably be perfectly delighted to work with the lady with the triple E brassiere if you don’t want to!
Also, I think we can take instruction from the various swinger and kink communities. First, clarify everything that is going to happen in advance. Second, ask if everyone is okay with that. In couples work, clarify with each other at each step of the way that everything is still okay. In groups, there should be a referee who is organizing and communicating that. Remember that anyone can change his or her mind at any time and only yes means yes; an absence of a “no” is not permission! Establish conditions and safe words, and never continue when someone has asked that things stop. Don’t ask why and don’t try to persuade them to continue; just stop.Seeking others is probably best grown out of natural circumstances. Perhaps you may meet a group of like-minded people at the Sabbat or the Gnostic Mass. Maybe you might meet a bunch of Pagans at the local fetish club (I’d be surprised if you didn’t, actually.) If you allow anyone else into the group, screen your candidates carefully first. Make sure they’re a good fit before you start playing together. And yes, that includes physical elements as well as personality elements; you don’t want to pair the skinny chick with a guy who prefers BBWs, and you don’t want to pair the Sasquatch’s cousin with the man who prefers his men to be smooth. There’s nothing wrong with preferring one thing to another, any more than it’s wrong to prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla; but there’s no need to deride the vanilla ice cream because it isn’t chocolate either.
As to finding ethical groups; interview group members. Interview other people who have had experiences with that group. Do not trust to hearsay but be aware of a negative reputation and proceed cautiously. Bonewitz’s Cult Evaluation Guide serves especially well in this regard; don’t be afraid to use it. And if at any time you are unhappy, feel free to express your concerns and if you feel you ought to, leave. Trust your gut and never do anything about which you are uncertain.
And what if you’re just not interested in this sex business at all? You know what? That’s cool too. Don’t feel you have some obligation to get involved just because others around you do! I’ll defend your right to stay out of the pool. I’ll even make sure to come and hang out with you on the dock for a while.
Honesty is a Pagan Ethic
I have run into situations in which people in monogamous relationships feel a genuine calling to engage in a spiritual sexual practice that they feel trumps the situation in their relationship. I personally believe that the only ethical thing to do in that situation is to end the relationship.  If you are the person who is so conflicted, you have the obligation to inform the people you intend to practice with of the conditions of your relationship and let them make their own decisions. I have heard of this occurring more than once and have been placed in the awkward position myself of having been misled in this regard. Not cool. Do not ever do that to another person.
Also, be transparent as to expectations. If you’re going to call upon Pan or drum up Erzulie, people should know that things might get . . . interesting. Please warn them. If you’re doing a fertility spell, it’s only fair to alert the man you’re spending the night with, since he might have to pay you child support for eighteen years. Non-consensual magick is a violation of free will and that’s not cool; remember? And for the love of the gods, don’t be casting lust spells or frigidity spells on people!
Some festivals are sexual. Some aren’t. Some have specific places dedicated to sexual themes. Here’s my advice; don’t cross the line. Don’t take your orgy out of the Pan’s Lair if that’s where such things are designated; don’t bring your kids to the adult Beltane. Respect each other’s boundaries.
Don’t cross the line in regards to limits and boundaries either. The woman you had a casual fling with at Beltane might not want a relationship; don’t take it personally and don’t act like you’re in one. Don’t go touching people without permission; even the hugging that people often do freely at festivals is a violation of personal space if you haven’t asked and might be very triggering for someone.
Don’t pressure people. Some people just aren’t interested. Some people just aren’t sexual at all. There’s nothing wrong with that; they’re just not interested. Leave them alone.
One idea that I have picked up from a sexually-themed event I have attended in my area: because of our cultural biases, it is a good idea to put the right and responsibility of proposition in the hands of women at large, mixed-gender gatherings. Rightfully or wrongfully, men are often perceived as being pushy about sex. When women have the power and the responsibility to broach the question, there’s less chance that anyone will feel coerced. It helps to create a safe space.
Safe Sex Magick
I thought this issue was resolved back in the nineties, but I have recently run into situations that tell me that it bears revisiting. In the sixties and seventies, when Witchcraft was sexy, people were engaging in unprotected sex all the time with multiple partners in all kinds of different situations. In the age of AIDS, I believe this is no longer realistic and we are obligated to practice safe sex.
There are certain practices involved in sex magick that you therefore can’t do; not without a great deal of preparation and planning, and also, the full, transparent consent of everyone involved. For instance there are different magickal properties associated with comingled bodily fluids, which sometimes are used to bless talismans and sometimes consumed. I believe the only ethical way to handle that is complete honesty, STD testing, or even limiting things to couples or groups who are already “fluid bonded.”
In group activities, there needs to be special care taken with this. I would even suggest that one person be appointed as an officer to look out for such things (is the condom on properly? Did the fluids of one couple get cleaned up before they broke off to engage with others? Where was her tongue before she moved it to that spot?) Gloves and dental dams, safes and lube need to be applied to all toys as well as body-parts. Safe sex aids can be blessed and consecrated just like any other magickal tool (though I’d advise you skip the salt water.)
I hope that if nothing else, I have sparked some thought and discussion. Be safe, be ethical, and celebrate the Divine according to your own free will – an it harm none.
Next column: Divination vs. Free Will
 I recommend Shauna Aura Knight’s great blog post on this subject.