Safer Sex Magic: Getting Down to Business, As It Were

Safer Sex Magic: Getting Down to Business, As It Were February 10, 2018

Hello, beautiful creatures… and here we are. We’ve talked about sex, and I shared the definition I use: “any generative erotic activity: solitary, coupled, or multi-partnered, involving any configuration of bodies who want to be in intimate contact with one another, generating pleasure, generating eros.” Likewise, we’ve discussed magic, and I defined it as “changing reality in a manner not constrained by causal proximity,” along with some unpacking of what I meant by “causal proximity1.” Now, at long last, we can talk about what sex magic is.

Rather than make you plow through a thousand words of my philosophizing and moralizing before getting to the definition, let’s just cut to the chase: I define sex magic as the use of power generated through sexual activity to change reality in a manner not constrained by causal proximity.

There are a lot of ways we could reword it, involving words like “empower” and “charge” and “fluid condenser,” but I think that actually does the job pretty well. Of course, it’d be pretty chintzy of me to just slap my previous two definitions together and call it a day, so we’re not stopping there. After all, if my definitions of “sex” or “magic” don’t work for you, then my definition of “sex magic” likely won’t, either… and that’s okay! We don’t all have to agree on things. It’s useful, though, to know where we disagree, and why. Counter to my previous approaches, in which I built the case for my definitions before finally getting to them, I wanted to make my usage explicit from the outset, so we can spend the rest of our time together talking about what that definition actually means… by which I mean, how do you actually do sex magic, and why?

Actually, let’s take that last question first. Why do sex magic at all?

Even in as ostensibly sex-positive an environment as the Pagan/polytheist/practitioner communities2, there are folks who wonder—sometimes, quite vocally—why anyone would sully their spiritual aspirations with something as tawdry, sleazy, and downright gross as sex magic3. I’d be tempted to simply write such folks off as repressed prudes, but honestly, some of the more vocal proponents of sex magic have been white, cisgender dudes who’ve done everything in their power to give sex magic a reputation for being tawdry, sleazy, and gross. (Here, let us pause to, once again, give Aleister Crowley some much-deserved side-eye.)

With that said, sex magic has an incredibly long and illustrious history, and it seems a shame to throw the magical baby out with the bathwater. After all, human beings have a marvelous facility for adapting anything we get our hands on (tee hee!) to fulfill any need or desire we might have, so it’s really not surprising that our ancestors all around the world came up with the idea of using sex as the bridge between the material and the spiritual, uniting the quotidian and the numinous. As I wrote before, sex is generative, whether what is being generated is intimacy, peace of mind, release of tension, an entirely new life, or “merely” pleasure and good feelings. Sex is literally an embodiment—a tangible manifestation—of the power of creation. It’s inherently magical on its own, without even the formality of casting a circle first, and it’s as close to us as our own skin.

Honestly, my question is, why aren’t we doing more sex magic?

Well, there are a few answers to that. One possible answer, and the one I’m going to offer as particularly relevant to our concerns today, is that Western culture is really, really messed up where sex and sexuality are concerned. I would haul out some citations to back up this claim, but honestly, that seems like trying to convince you that water is wet. Besides, this subject is a bottomless rabbit-hole of study, and one could literally get a degree in the field. [whistles innocently]

If you’d like some evidence that we’re screwed up about sex, though, I would first encourage you to visit a decent sex education website or three. Please note, most of those sites are targeting teenagers and young adults. Now, roll on over to Reddit’s r/sex and r/sexadvice forums and just scroll through the headers. (If you’re not feeling quite that masochistic, you can visit your local supermarket and leaf through an issue of Cosmopolitan, though the effect won’t be quite as pronounced.)

What you’re going to find is a seemingly-endless cavalcade of sad, lonely, hurting people. People who feel incredibly inadequate as sexual partners, people who are having deeply unsatisfying sex, people who are really scared and confused and disconnected from their own sexual lives. Because we’re really messed up where sex and sexuality are concerned, we end up having a lot of sex that’s uncomfortable, unsatisfying, and just plain bad. Nor is this simply a function of inexperience and ineptitude. The sheer number of people—especially women—who have sex they don’t want to have, or who tolerate sex they don’t enjoy, is heartbreaking, and crosses over into issues of consent. (As you may have noticed, those are kind of a central theme around here.)

I’m not going to point fingers about why we’re so screwed up about sex, other than to suggest—as I have before—that ideologies which suggest that people are objects don’t lead to good outcomes, and those ideologies pervade the entirety of mainstream Western culture. Hell, they practically define it4.

What I’m interested in is figuring out what we can do about this. How do we get to a place where we can engage in powerful, joyful, and ecstatic sex magic, especially when we’re so screwed up about sex in the first place?

I’m glad you asked. I have some thoughts on the subject, which I’ll be outlining next time. Until then, dear ones, be safe. ♥

(Photo by Miranda Wipperfurth on Unsplash.)

  1. Which, as my friend Tempest rightly pointed out, is totally different from “casual proximity.”
  2. This is actually a far more debatable point than many Pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners would like to believe, and is almost certainly going to be the subject of a future post in this series. Stay tuned, True Believers!
  3. Nota bene: I am not, repeat, NOT talking about asexual people here. On the whole, they’re quite lovely, and not prudish in the slightest, though some of them find non-ace people’s obsession with sexuality baffling. The subject of asexuals and sex magic is actually the subject of yet another future post.
  4. Those of you prepping up an anti-Christian rant need to stand down. While I do indeed blame many of the problems in Western culture on Christianity, it is far from being the only culprit. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

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  • kenofken

    I congratulate you for taking on this topic, as it’s long overdue here. I would humbly suggest trying to get into the meat of the topics with fewer words and lead-up. Definitions are important, but it feels like we burned half the fuel for a difficult flight taxiing in circles on the runway.

    Why aren’t we doing more sex magic? More than what? I don’t know that we can even roughly quantify how much is or isn’t happening in that regard. I can tell you that many of us have long been doing sex magic and continue to do so. I suspect perhaps we’re more squeamish and reticent to talk about it than we once were.

    In Wicca as I learned and practice it, sex magic is the central rite and mystery of the whole thing. That’s true whether we talk about the Great Rite in True or its symbolic re-enactment, which people wrongly assume to be a substitute for “real” sex. All of the most powerful rituals I’ve ever done were acts of sex magic, regardless of whether they were conceived as such or whether anyone’s clothes came off or any physical intimacy was exchanged. They were profoundly powerful acts of eros, between a priestess and myself, our overall male and female energies and subsets of that within ourselves and of Goddess and God channeled through us.

    For years, the most consistently powerful sex magic I ever practiced was in conjunction with a priestess. Mostly we worked 1:1 and mostly we did not engage in full physical intimacy. But it was still more sexual, and more intimate, than 99% of what most people could attain with “real” sex. Whether there is genital contact or not, sex magic – truly effective sex magic, requires absolute vulnerability and therefore absolute trust. We were not only in each other’s physical space. Our energies and souls were within each other, at each other’s mercies and at times surrendering all boundaries of the self. By comparison, the intimacy of just shagging a random stranger or even a regular friend with benefits, is akin not even to a handshake, but to a wave across a vast parking lot.

    I would suggest this is one reason not more sex magic is performed, especially at this level. Most Pagans today will tell you they have trouble finding a casual full moon working group, let alone this type of partnership. At its highest level, sex magic requires a partner you trust completely, hold some deep level of sexual compatibility with, and who has a second nature command of energy and magic working. When all of those things are in place, there is an incredible resonance and 1+1=9 kind of synergy. I have found exactly one such person who meets all of those, and I cannot venture to say whether I will ever find another. Partners for just sex vs sex magic are infinitely easier to find. Sex magic is of course still worthwhile and effective in lesser permutations. I have done it many times with partners who are not magically inclined or adept (no sense in letting that energy go to waste), and with another priestess in a group setting where we will frequently harness and direct the energy of an entire orgy (I live better than I deserve 🙂

    It’s also worth noting that sex magic, like any other magic, is damned hard work, to do well. In addition to tuning into your partner, you have to maintain a focus on intent and will, direction and timing of energy release.

    I don’t accept the arguments that abuse somehow throws sex magic into disrepute. The many instances of abuse have nothing to do with sex magic. They are about abuse of power and manipulation with Pagan religion and magic used as covers. They do argue for developing a consent culture, but they no more invalidate sex magic than Larry Nassar’s abuse of 13 year old girls invalidates the legitimacy of sports medicine or gymnastics.

    I take some exception to the idea that Aleister Crowley is somehow responsible for our community’s problems or even that he should be singled out as a poster boy for them. Crowley is, hands down, the most accomplished and prolific magical theorist and practitioner of the modern age. His influence on modern witchcraft and various Pagan traditions is significant, but one of just many threads. Was he also an ass? No question about it, and in his more candid moments he freely admitted that. He was racist, sexist and every other kind of -ism you can think of. But let’s back up a step. We’re talking about a white guy born of wealth and privilege in the height of Edwardian imperialist England. By what stretch of the imagination would he not fall way short of 2018 progressive ideals?

    I’m not an uncritical fan boy of Crowley, but I know enough about him and the tricky art of biography to say that the sum of who he was, as with all people, is complicated. He was an ass but also displayed a lot of courage, generosity (at times), deep scholarship and a passion for the subject any of us would do well to emulate. Before you judge him too harshly, consider that future generations will inevitably see our time as one of ignorance and savagery, and that judgment will fall even on those of us who fancy ourselves bleeding edge social justice progressives. The best that will be said of any of us will be that “they were relatively enlightened….for their time.” There is also, in my estimation, some linkage between what we think of as being an ass and having the sort of ego and “large personality” needed to stand out as a leader in any field. Essentially all of our movement’s most visible leaders over the last 60 years would be characterized by many people as asses. Few of them left a legacy of work even in the same galaxy as Crowley.

  • kenofken

    At the risk of what might be seen an an “anti-Christian” rant, I maintain that Christianity is at the core of our society’s problems surrounding sex, though I agree is not the only driver of them. It is the foundation of the problems because any religious/social regime which de-legitimizes most forms of human sexuality will inevitably result in those drives emerging in pathological forms. All of the worst abuse and rape cultures, without exception, are found in societies with puritanical and repressive social mores – conservative Christianity in the West, inflexible and harsh forms of Islam in South Asia and the Middle East, and within the more rigid traditional areas of India etc. All of these places de-legitimize sex while at the same time casting women’s sexuality in terms of male property rights and as vessels of male honor.

    We have, to a large degree, broken through Christianity’s toxic hold on this issue, but many of our problems today I would argue stem from what might be termed an incomplete revolution. We threw over the oppressors and their language of oppression, but failed to fully embrace the responsibilities of being a free people. It turns out breaking one’s shackles are a first step, not a completion to becoming a free person.

    Many of our problems with achieving real intimacy are also the result of the extreme social atomization and isolation produced by our materialist consumer culture, an isolation which has been greatly amplified by social media use which has almost entirely replaced real human interaction for many people. There are people who live so completely within their online personas and video games and porn that it seems they can’t be bothered to invest in actual sex or to know how to enjoy it.