With the emergence and convergence of Post-Stonewall possibilities for being gay, 2nd-wave feminist possibilities for being lesbian, and Queer Nation possibilities for being queer, pansexual and metasexual, it seems to me that we have created new intersections and opportunities for sacred sex, with a wholly new range of powers and meanings. Moreover, we have made pathways through which this realm of sacred sex opens to all people, however they conceive of their sexual orientation. In an effort to describe what queer culture particularly brings to the intersection of sex and spirit, I came up with seven “Queer Sacred Sex Principles.”
1. The erotic is a source of power and information, of personal destiny and collective identity.
2. Sex is not an act we do; it is an energy we share through an experience of body, mind and spirit.
3. Self-pleasuring is foundational to the development of a deep and healing sexual practice.
4. Gender is a sex toy we can try on, play with or discard.
5. The clitoris is much more complex, extensive, sensitive and powerful than patriarchal culture has allowed. The penis is not a phallus; it is blood and skin.
6. Erotic energy invites dialogue with both monsters and angels.
7. Erotic exchange with people of our own gender is a revolutionary choice that invites social and spiritual transformation.
We have made queer desire into a personal identity and a global community. Our sexual choices shape our lives and our souls. One of the pioneers and ongoing inspirations for this culture is Audre Lorde, whose essay on “The Erotic as Power” is foundational. She writes:
“This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”
Wheras conventional culture can be described as erotophobic. queer culture celebrates sex. Moreover, we celebrate sex not as any prescribed act, but as energy that can leap tall buildings and ignite the space between us – especially in gay men’s cruising, tricking, and public sex cultures.
Judy Grahn has explored the spiritual dimensions of tricking, positing its origins in sacred and tribal acts of worship on the part of strangers who were erotically tricked into giving their sexual energy to the temple prostitutes (p. 208, Another Mother Tongue).
By the early 1980’s gay men needed to find ways to preserve an exuberant eroticism in the face of this devastating STD. The incredible losses, the omnipresence of death, the need to care for each other and stay safe in every single sexual interaction, all invited the invention of a new sexual culture.
Joseph Kramer is the erotic pioneer who drew on ancient Tantric and Taoist wisdom about sacred sexuality and sexual energy to develop the practice of Taoist Erotic Massage as a completely safe, satisfyingly sexual, profoundly sacred experience of erotic energy.
Taoist Erotic Massage has three basic components:
1. sustained and creative genital stimulation,
2. deep, conscious breathing,
3. full body clenches.
Prolonged erotic stimulation, breath and touch are used to spread erotic energy to all parts of the body. Many people choose to “climax” the experience with a full-body clench, held as long as possible, and then released. Taoist Erotic Massage is not concerned with erection, ejaculation, orgasm or sex in the conventional sense.
Creative strokes are used to stimulate all of the pelvic and genital tissues, where many of us have only been touched in the most perfunctory and habitual ways.
Lesbian sex activist Annie Sprinkle worked with Joseph Kramer to develop Taoist Erotic Massage practices for women. She says “Giving each part of the body loving, sensual attention creates an ecstatic reverberation in each cell of the body. You will radiate from your core and be open to connect with [the universe] in ways that are deep, electric and unforgettable.”
This sacred sex principle comes out of women’s culture and feminist culture.
Betty Dobson is known as “the orgasm doctor.” Her book “Liberating Masturbation” (now Published as “The Art of Self-Loving” transformed women’s relationship with sex and orgasm.
Barbara Carrellas , Queer Tantrika and author of Urban Tantra, notes: “Your most reliable, faithful, and understanding partner will always be yourself. (p. 121)
Selfloving, we become sexually autonomous. If we do choose to engage in partner sex, we never use the other person to get off – another key principle in the practice of sacred sex.
The assumption of gender involves impersonating an ideal that no one really inhabits, Judith Butler says.
Playing with gender has been an element of queer sexual and social culture from its earliest beginnings, and this playfulness has been explored and enhanced by diverse groups including Radical Faeries, lesbian-feminists, butches and femmes, bisexuals, transsexuals and genderqueers.
Lesbian-feminists played with gender by arguing that big, strong, empowered women were the most womenly women, or by arguing, with Monique Wittig, that lesbians are not women because “woman,” like “slave,” is a concept that cannot be rehabilitated. It has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems.
Joan Nestle described femmes and butches as “gender pioneers with a knack for alchemy.” While men and women are impaled on opposite poles of sexual difference, butch-femme is “a lesbian-specific way of deconstructing gender that radically reclaims women’s erotic energy.” Gender is posed as a space of seduction, play and invention. Butch Jan Brown comments, “We become male, but under our own rules. We define the maleness. We invent the men we become.”
Genderqueer is a catchall term for gender identities other than man and woman. People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary.
Fucking with and without gender has profound implications for sacred sex – making it more open, less sexist, less stuck in conventional social forms that are particular to patriarchal culture, and simply more playful and fun. Sacred sex that doesn’t play with gender gets stuck in advocating the worshipful communion of an opposite-sex couple, whereas queer sacred sex is more honouring of solo sex, group rituals, and the exploration of gender within erotic exchanges between two people.
In addition, queer erotic explorers invite us to bring mindful attention and creative play to the fact that our genitals are not so different after all. In early fetal development our genitals are undifferentiated, and we can touch ourselves and each other in ways that invite a swim in this undifferentiated consciousness.
Feminist explorations of the clitoris – showed women the vast range of shapes and sizes we come in, and brought honor and value to a part of women’s bodies that had been both metaphorically and literally amputated and excised. This work by lesbian feminists is an essential background to the Taoist Erotic Massage.
The corresponding insight is that the penis is not a phallus – not – or not only – a symbol of power and privilege but a sensitive, sweet, soft compilation of tissue, blood and skin. Queer sex doesn’t focus on penetration, or posit intercourse as the ultimate aim. The whole body can be construed as an erogenous zone. Men can be penetrable, receptive, flexible and soft. Many lesbians enjoy playing with – or becoming – men like this. The soft man is a symbol that speaks of allowing the unfolding world, rather than attempting to dominate others. In psychic terms, it speaks of allowing the unconscious, unintentional contents of mind and culture.
Erotic energy invites dialogue with both monsters and angels.
Most of us are engaging life with a mere fraction of our capability. Every aspect of our natures that we have nurtured developed has an opposite. These are the qualities we bury in our shadow, believing them to be “not good enough” or “too much”. As a result, our lives narrow. We lose touch with our deeper nature, our passion and our potential. Attending to the erotic, we often meet these unacknowledged shadows – and this can be shocking, disturbing, and full of shame. But if we agree to take tea with our monsters, to speak with them and open their gifts, we come home to an expanded self, integral and fully alive.
This is particularly a gift to the sacred arts from queer culture, because we have been the shadow, the fearful and secret sexuality that could only be found in the shadowy, secret spaces inside and outside ordinary life. Homosexuality is the sexuality that was – or still is – disowned, repressed, forgotten, denied – and visited surreptitiously after dark. Heterosexuality is posed as the benign norm, the majority choice – a sexuality of bright-lit rooms and conscious knowing. When men and women clutch each other, they understand their passions as normal, natural and inevitable. Perverts are other people – anyone who looks outside the limits. Heterosexuality is an identity that consigns the nightmare and the Beast to an other, or to an inner darkness harboured with dread and yearning.
And then the angels. The impact of AIDS on us as individuals, and on sexual culture, can scarcely be overstated.
Queer people of my generation faced enormous losses – beloved friends sickening and dying, gifted artists and activists gone when they had just begun. The path of sacred sexuality is rooted in this awful initiation, and it involves us in a dialogue with angels.
Though queer people are people virtually without a history, deprived of human ancestors, we have graveyards full of guardian spirits. In a society that would turn its back on death, we remember. We mourn. We accept the presence of the dead inside our call to love, to sex and to community.
Homosexuality calls us to a world where women are powerful and men are wounded. Queer points the way to a radical revisioning of the sex-gender system; we can embrace gender fluidity and fight for gender equity. We can advocate for peace and make wild, mad revolutionary love.
Queer activists and erotic explorers have made space for people to be all of who they are, however they conceive and reconceive their sexual orientation.
And we are spiritual beings –
as Carolyn Myss says, “We want to have the Divine in our bones and blood and our mental and spiritual makeup.”