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The "Pornification" of Sacred Sexuality

Friday, May 27 2011 @ 11:23 PM CDT

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by Modern Love Muse

Can we resurrect Goddess authority without stripping her bare of her hallowed curves, or finding ourselves fixated on her hollowed spaces?

Recently, a friend forwarded an article about the ‘pornification’ of Goddess culture with a note expressing her frustration. Written by Max Dashu, a spiritual feminist and founder of the Suppressed Histories Guide — an iconic archeological and art archive about the role of women and Goddesses from prehistoric times and across international borders – the essay was terse and to the point.

Goddess imagery has been hijacked. Sacred sexuality with its reverence for the feminine and messages of female strength is no longer free from our culture’s obsessions with youth, age, beauty and excessive thinness. The realm of the Goddess that once held space for all women — even those with no interest in the topic — had been supplanted by “glamour girls of the same body size and (often impossible) proportions. Virtually none represent old or middle-aged women, few are muscular, none are fat or even husky,” Dashu lamented.

Not just Goddesses are being redrawn to these scales, she noted. Crones, witches, shamanesses and medicine women have become contaminated, as evidenced in her photo galleries. Dashu’s conclusion regarding the ‘toxic femininity scripts’ creeping into depictions of the female faces of divinity: “This is not empowerment; it is monoculture, limiting, plastic, soul-less, and lacking in the relaxed boldness of real power.”

Relaxed Boldness of Real Power?

I read those words and felt stirrings of something archival and ancient. My understanding of Goddess culture comes mostly intuitively, aided and abetted by a lot of recent reading. Though my inner radar had subconsciously noted for some time that something was amiss, like my friend Shelly Lyon — herself a writer and advocate for female empowerment, who pointed me to Dashu’s work — a part of me hadn’t seen this coming.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks that this had passed my notice,” Shelly explained. “The new divine feminine archetype is not fertile and womanly but illustrated as, we are not thin enough, we don't smell right, our natural body processes are things to be ashamed of, we need the latest fashion.”

Perhaps it just took Dashu’s bold lashing to encourage a deeper examination of where this development is taking us.

Soulful Wantonness

Sexuality and spirituality are pillars from the same divine source. One of my most popular postings suggested that we kick labels to the curb and accept our soulful wantonness. Pornography’s been getting a girly makeover as well, something I explored in the intersection of sex-positive erotica for the spiritual masses. Nothing is taboo or off limits on these ravishing pages, but separating the thorny bits from the sweetly scented blooms with regards to our libidinous gardens is difficult, simply because what one person considers a weed is another lover’s favorite flower.

Even so, many insist that the co-opting of Goddess energy permeates and finds fuel in a culture dominated by patriarchal narratives. In an effort to rebalance the specious separation of spirit and sex at the hands of historical enslavement and prosecution, have we gone too far, replacing one set of shackles — limited female sexual freedom — for another - a culture of unfettered raunch?

Can we resurrect Goddess authority without stripping her bare of her hallowed curves, or finding ourselves fixated on her hollowed spaces?

Diana Daffner, long-time tantric educator, founder of “Tantra Tai Chi” and author of Tantric Sex for Busy Couples: How to Deepen Your Passion in Just Ten Minutes a Day (Hunter House Inc., 2009) thinks so.

Emerging Consciousness

“Over ten years ago, my husband Richard and I adapted our Tai Chi practice to create a simple exercise program that helps couples awaken intimate connection.” She was reluctant at first to include the word ‘Tantra’ in her website because their work was not affiliated with a specific tradition. Her concern grew when she discovered that “a web search of ‘Tantra’ would result in a list of offerings that had little to do with the spiritual consciousness that is at the heart of Tantra.”

In her quintessentially gentle manner, Daffner acknowledges that one of the world’s oldest professions (writing or sex, take your pick and make a case accordingly), to this day “continues to use the allure of ‘sacred sex’ to attract customers. But a newer awareness of how professional sexual healers help individuals and couples experience the divinity of their bodies, using a hands-on approach, is gaining acceptance along with the mainstreaming of sexologists, sexological bodyworkers, and ecstatic sexuality educators.

When my friend Shelly bristled against the divine feminine being reduced to yet one "more unattainable ideal, a fantasy with no link to humanity," my thoughts switched to the work of Wrenna Robertson, editor of I’ll Show You Mine (Show Off Books, 2011). Robertson published the collection of 120 photographs of 60 vulvas with accompanying stories to address a burgeoning cruelty against womankind, one not mentioned in Dashu’s article, linked nonetheless: designer vaginas. Hear me out, there’s a connection.

Show and Tell

“Society appears to be on a trajectory away from sacred sexuality, and toward a form of false sexual idolatry,” says Wrenna. “The preoccupation with achieving a specific aesthetic removes us from being fully present, fully honest in our intimacy. It is when we allow our fixation with unrealistic aesthetic ideals to fall away that we can be fully embodied in our sexuality, fully present, and truly communing with our partner in sacred sexuality.”

Like everyone I spoke with, Robertson attributes these trends to the misogynistic face of the porn industry, just one, albeit the dominant. “Like it or not, today nearly 100 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls have viewed pornography by age 18. With an absence of educational materials, pornography sets the standard for what female genitalia looks like; as a result, genital cosmetic surgery is rapidly increasing.” Show accurately and objectively displays the beautiful diversity of the female genitalia.

It is not all bad news for yonis and the women who lovingly shelter them, she insists.

“I recently had the experience of meeting with numerous women who work in the sex industry as strippers, tantric practitioners, and escorts - it was an empowered group of women who had not altered their bodies to fit into some unrealistic ideal created by the media - and each one revealed how they gained a level of self confidence with the realization that men find their ‘imperfect’ bodies beautiful.”

Full Circle

Have we come full circle, I wonder? From within the industry that has subverted Goddess imagery comes a message of female self-love and self-acceptance? Alternatively, is this only in reference to an antiquated benchmark?

“We are only okay because of the misguided sense that we are nothing without a man,” wrote one woman, remaining anonymous. “In that context, women slut themselves up in order to get male attention, thereby, of course, betraying themselves, although they think they're being liberated.”

Though I took issue with the slut-shaming, I held space for her truth. Because my truth is, I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor do I imagine there’s a consensus.

Questions notwithstanding, what I do believe is this: Sacred sexuality is still the place where femininity is revered and respected, adored for the power in a woman’s life-giving breasts and womb, the wisdom of heart-centered intuition, the resistance to structures of domination and weaving of doctrines that invalidate oppressive stereotypes.

How am I so sure? Because we’ve awakened the relaxed boldness of real Goddess power, and she’s not going to slumber until her sisterhood is safely housed under a very massive Red Tent.


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