Sex, Ritual, and Las Vegas

I’m headed to Las Vegas this weekend to continue the celebration of my 40th birthday, and to celebrate that milestone with a few friends as well. It’s going to be one of those “worlds collide” sort of weekends. My best friend from high school and his wife are coming with Ari* and I, and I have a few other old high school classmates who will be there too. I was mostly persona non grata in high school so it’s always odd when I hang out with those people. Another couple we know from my wife’s job will also be joining us, and a few people we know from our Michigan days. Lots of people, which is exciting, but who knows how all of those different personalities will co-exist.

Yes, “Pagan Porn” exists. I own this and it’s mostly horrible.

We planned this trip back in July and this weekend just happened to work for everyone (being a holiday weekend helped I’m sure), so it wasn’t planned around anything in particular. Of course something is happening in Vegas this weekend, the Adult Entertainment Expo. If that wasn’t enough, the Adult Video News Awards (otherwise known as “The Oscars of Porn”) are this Saturday. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’ll be attending at least one of those things. Some Pagans get to visit awesome religious ceremonies, I’m going to the porn awards.

Being a blogger generally results in very little pay, but there are a few perks along the way. There’s the occasional free book or CD, and this weekend there’s a press pass waiting for me at the Adult Entertainment Expo (you will find no links to these things here, as even though they are probably safe for work technically, there will be those who disagree). Had I not already been planning a weekend in Vegas I wouldn’t be going, but since I am going to be in Vegas my thought is “why the hell not?”

I don’t know if pornography is viewed favorably or unfavorably by the majority of the Pagan Community. Pagans are a diverse lot so I’m guessing that there are a plethora of views with many shades of grey in between them. One thing that I feel pretty comfortable saying is that the majority of Pagans are “sex positive” in their own lives, with less hang-ups about it than those in many monotheistic faiths.

To me, sex is all kinds of different things. It’s a pleasurable experience, it can be an expression of love, and there are times when it basically becomes a need. What it’s not is a cosmic report card. As long as I engage in it responsibly and ethically I can have as much of it as I can find partners to have it with. Sex is a physical thing, but it’s also an emotional one. It can bring people closer together, and I have truly made love with the woman I love.**

In addition to being physical and emotional it can also be profoundly sacred. While Ronald Hutton (author of Triumph of the Moon) calls Drawing Down the Moon the “central act of pagan witchcraft” I happen to disagree. Drawing Down the Moon might certainly the most awe-inspiring thing in the Modern Craft, but it’s the “Great Rite” that’s the central act in my personal practice. We don’t always Draw Down the Moon during ritual at my house, but we always include the Great Rite. Sure, it’s become largely symbolic, but it’s always there. (I for one am glad it’s generally symbolic, I’ve got bad knees and the wood floors of our ritual space would put me in so much pain . . . . but I completely digress.)

Like sex, the Great Rite can mean a variety of different things. It’s certainly a way to express the union of phallus and womb, but it’s always been deeper than just penis and vagina to me. In my view, the Great Rite has always been about the celebration of “joining.” When two different polarities come together there’s the potential for something wondrous to be created. Certainly that can be new life, but it can also be an idea, an understanding, or (of course) an orgasm. I have never had sex for the purpose of procreation, so to celebrate the Great Rite as just “the sexual union between a fertile woman and a fertile man” feels wrong to me. Pan’s pursuit of Syrinx was never consummated, but we got the pan-flute out of it none the less.

At Pagan Festivals and in our communities online there’s always a lot of talk about polyamory and other types of relationships. For a lot of people being polyamorous seems to be an important component of their spirituality. I know other Pagans who view monogamy as an essential part of their practice. What’s nice about the Pagan Community at large is that it’s so overwhelmingly sex-positive that we get to have these types of conversations, and accept one another regardless of our relationship choices.

I have no idea if the Adult Entertainment Expo is going to be a “sex positive” environment. It might be just like a comic book convention but with adult DVD’s and .0005% of the people there in very little clothing. There have been a few adult performers over the years who have come out of the Pagan broom closest (most notably Australian Monica Mayhem), I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to speak with a few of them. If I see anyone on the convention floor with a pentacle around their neck I’ll be flagging them down too. I’m curious as to what spiritual energies (if any) I might encounter while at the AEE.

There’s also a part of me that’s worried I’m going to offend a few readers just by being there. I expressed this to a friend of mine and he responded with: “I look forward to your photo with Ron Jeremy on Raise The Horns. If people think it’s totally inappropriate for a Pagan blog, they just don’t get you or your blog. What better symbol of a horny god is there than Ron?” I happen to agree, even though hedgehog’s don’t have horns.

So I’m expecting a very strange weekend. There will be some work, there will be some drinking, and there will be some renewals of old friendships. There will also possibly be a photo of me with Ron Jeremy, and hopefully a lot of stories by the time it’s all over with.

*Ari is my wife. I don’t think I refer to her by name very often on here, probably to save her the embarrassment.

**Let’s keep our fingers crossed that my father-in-law is not reading this.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “I don’t know if pornography is viewed favorably or unfavorably by the
    majority of the Pagan Community. Pagans are a diverse lot so I’m
    guessing that there are a plethora of views with many shades of grey in
    between them.”
    Did you really have to use ‘shades of grey’ in the context of porn, these days? I spent way too much time hearing about those books last year.

    As to the actual post…

    I enjoy porn. It ‘scratches an itch’.

    I am one of those people who does not connect religion and sexuality. I just don’t see such a thing as that important, quite honestly. Enjoyable, but inconsequential.

    • JasonMankey

      I couldn’t resist the the chance to make a “Fifty Shades” reference. I know it’s horrible.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I’m just glad it was deliberate.

  • Raven

    I think this is a great chance to, at the very least, promote the dialog of sex and magic. Whether there are those that practice the two together, separate, or symbolically. I would agree that the majority of Pagans are “sex positive,” so the idea of bringing up porn and the Great Rite is quite appropriate in my mind.

    I’m of the same vein as “I have never had sex for the purpose of procreation, so to celebrate the Great Rite as just “the sexual union between a fertile woman and a fertile man” feels wrong to me.” There is so much magic that involves fertility and to think of it only for procreation purposes feels weird to me. I think it’s quite appropriate to honor the Gods through sex and to ask for fertility of the mind, soul, heart, knowledge, judgement, etc. We do not have to stick with conventional and (in my opinion, prudent) views of sex because many of our Gods and Goddesses are all about bestowing fertility on us.

    Great post :)

    • JasonMankey

      What a beautiful reply. Thank you.

  • Nature Freak

    Jason, I enjoyed your blog.

    My take is that there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous( I myself lean towards polyamory). There is also nothing wrong with monogamy. In a sex positive culture, people at any particular time will tend to gravitate to one or the other. There are also some people who are basically asexual or prefer celibacy. Paganism to me is about accepting and blessing this human diversity.

    The real relationship killer is lying and deception. One needs to be honest to their partner(s) and also to themselves.

  • kenneth

    I have nothing against porn, except for the fact that most of it is predictable and one-dimensional and mostly scripted for guys who are 15 forever. The women all tend to be rail skinny with implants etc. (I like the plush cuddly natural women that the pagan community has to offer! :) Porn can be good foreplay material, and some of it is truly artistic, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be a spectator sport.

    That said, I think you’ll have a good time at that convention. I’ve been to a couple out this way. It’s like any trade show – lots of walking around, lots of overproduction and glitz, but most of the industry people are actually very cool down to earth folks. There’s a lot more depth to many of them than you would probably suspect. Ron Jeremy is well worth the photo op and any presentation he may be doing. If he’s on the program, go see Seymore Butts (Adam Glasser). He’ s a longtime producer but he gives a very good little seminar on sex and communication for real people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    My husband and I enjoyed the Erotic Heritage Museum in Vegas. They really need a scholar to come in, organize everything, and write better copy for them, but their collection of art, pop culture, films, and memorabilia is pretty amazing.


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