Beyond Roses Red and Roses White (Possibly NSFW)

Writing can become a bad habit, and a simple question can set loose a torrent of words. So when Niki Whiting asked me what I thought of Peter Grey’s The Red Goddess last night, I gave a long and complex answer when a simple one would do. Now that all the words are just sitting there, I feel I should form them into a post of some sort. I should warn that there’s some frank talk about sexuality in this post, and it is heteronormative. I’m not qualified to speak to any other kind of sexuality, but if someone else wants to take up the topic I’ll be happy to link, tweet and all that happy jazz.

I really like Grey’s fierce book of Babalon, and I think he’s a marvelous writer. It’s fearless, ballsy, and honestly doesn’t give a damn what you think of it. It is sacred sex and lust as he sees it, and he makes no compromise in his vision to make you more comfortable. My favorite sections aren’t the how-to’s or the vocabularies, but Grey’s fierce, passionate essays describing Babalon and the powers she wields. I skip the section on BDSM simply because it doesn’t interest me, and it frankly annoys me when someone who isn’t a doctor gives advice on taking narcotics, so I skip that section as well. But the book is a jewel. Make no mistake about that. It’s a needed counter-balance to the airy, bland-as-milk paeans to Goddesses, and the title is a deliberate jab at Graves’ The White Goddess.

Something does bother me about the book though, and to it’s credit, it is it’s knack for disturbing that brings me back to flip through it so often. What bothers me about the book isn’t something I’m certain I can criticize Grey for, because what he’s written seems to speak so well to male sexuality as I have heard it expressed by men I know. Yet, as a woman, I feel it doesn’t represent female sexuality well. And in a way it shouldn’t. This is Grey’s very personal offering to Babalon, and it should speak in his masculine, heterosexual voice. Yet as I read it I wonder what a woman would write on the same topic. I’ve at times considered writing a counterpoint myself, perhaps call it The Red God.

The difference between male and female sexuality is something I on occasion argue with a gay friend over. He argues that women base their sexuality on emotion, and would do better to learn how to have sex for fun, without emotional hangups. I’m not going to deny that emotion is important in sexuality for either men or women, but it’s not quite the reason women are less likely to engage in casual sex. It’s because women are more likely to have bad sex than men.

Men have an orgasm in 90%+ of their sexual encounters. Even in not-fantastic sex it’s likely they will achieve a basic level of sexual satisfaction. This doesn’t hold true for women, and we are less likely to expend the effort if we have low expectations of sexual satisfaction. I think that if women had a 90% or higher rate of either having an orgasm or receiving sexual satisfaction (not always the same thing) in a casual encounter we would be far more promiscuous as a whole. I know I most certainly would.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had fantastic sex in a casual encounter, but I’ve more often had bad sex. The best sexual experiences of my life were in a long-term relationship that resulted in marriage. It took some time for that to develop, but eventually we built a sex life that was satisfying for both of us. So when Grey speaks of prostitutes and sex with strangers, it just doesn’t sound attractive to me.

To put this in geek terms, sex with a stranger can feel like building a new D&D character every time you want to play. There may be a bit of novelty, but building a character from scratch is a pain. Getting to know the character and how to play it for just a one-off campaign is a lot of work, and often unsatisfactory. Playing a character through a long, ongoing campaign is far more satisfying because you can jump right into the fun, and you know how to play your character well.

I’m not advocating strict monogamy. What I am saying is that female sexuality is different and that every woman is different. The way we deal with this is being selective about who we have sex with, and that doesn’t make us prudes. While I once would have found the idea of sex with a stranger or prostitute somewhat exciting in my less experienced days, it’s not something I find alluring today. Finding a compatible sexual partner is something worth hanging onto, and perhaps women use emotion to justify that, or as a practical consideration regarding someone you plan to keep a part of your life for awhile.

What I find fascinating about sitting here writing this today is that a woman I worked with tried to explain this to me when I was a virgin. She said that for women it’s about “the same piece of ass” and my teenage self found that unbearably crude. Today I understand exactly what she means. Finding a sexually compatible partner can be like winning the jackpot, and a woman wants to hold onto that. I wonder how much of stereotypical female wiles and ploys aren’t because we are more emotional, but because we realize that it’s more important to our sexual well-being to have “the same piece of ass.” I also wonder sometimes if the origin of marriage wasn’t so much a socio-economic invention as much as a way for women to maintain access to a satisfying and compatible sexual partner.

I love Grey’s book. I think it’s marvelous, but like the writings of Crowley, it leaves me questioning what these same subjects would look like tackled by a woman. Is Babalon a good representative of female sexuality? If the answer is no, then who is?

Last year in a leopard-print tent I had a fascinating talk with Cara Schulz over cocktails. I don’t remember why the subject came up, but we were talking about Aphrodite and Hera. She explained that Aphrodite was about passion and sex, but also war and strife. When you invite the Cyprian who takes Ares as a lover into your life, you can expect the kind of romance that ends up on Jerry Springer. Yet Hera is just as beautiful and attractive. She is the Goddess of marriage and fidelity, but she’s not dowdy, cold or frigid. Hera is hot. If you want a good relationship and a satisfying sex life, then Hera is your Goddess. I found this a revelation. So last night I wrote this as part of my response to Niki Whiting’s question:

When you consider that Zeus has a strong libido, and Hera’s is whose bed he comes to, and in, every night, it changes your image of her. You never hear of Hera becoming angry at Zeus for having extra-marital sex, only for procreating outside of marriage. Hera doesn’t even like her own children very much, so it’s no wonder she dislikes her step-children who are demi-Gods who could threaten Zeus’ throne.

Hera is lovely and desirable. Other Gods than Zeus try to woo her. She is one of the most beautiful Goddesses in Olympus, rivaling Aphrodite. Yet she is cold to Ares, her own son, while Aphrodite consorts with him. Hera represents fidelity, not only in the monogamous sense, but in the sense of being stable. She is constant. To be coarse, she is the Goddess who opens her legs to the Thunderer night after night, not the wild, dramatic Aphrodite.

How many women have Zeus return to their beds? What satisfaction will the drama of war-loving and strife-causing Aphrodite really give you? And if sex is important to you, are you not more likely to worship often at Lust’s altar with a willing, committed and present partner by your side?

I see the value of Grey’s Red Goddess, and I share his frustration over Graves’ White Goddess. I recall reading Vicki Noble’s recollection of explaining heatedly to her husband she was not the mild, nurturing Goddess he held as the feminine ideal. Babalon may be a good representation of male sexuality, where barring a physical or mental ailment sexual release is easily come by, but I think she’s a bad representation for female sexuality.

We need to break the virgin/whore dichotomy that is far too prevalent in our mythos, and admittedly some modern Pagan representations of sexual Goddesses seem too tame and wholesome. Their sex lacks spice and spark. I think we need a new icon for straight female sexuality. Beyond the red rose of Babalon, and the white rose of chastity. We need a model for the wild Dionysian ecstasy of a committed couple on a Wednesday night on plaid flannel sheets that spontaneously arises, born of hungry familiarity and building on the deep knowledge and trust only time can bring.

Maybe Hera points the way to that. A sexual icon for women that speaks to their needs without losing it’s teeth. A heady sexuality that has hope for the future, rather than visions of apocalypse.

Quick Note: On re-reading this I realize it may seem as if I’m saying men are bad at sex. Not at all. Rather, I’m saying each woman has different sexual needs, and that is difficult for any lover to fulfill on a casual basis without a detailed conversation ahead of time, which can kind of take the fun out of what is meant to be spontaneous and uninhibited.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X