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Sex and Ritual

Carl Jung saw symbols and rituals as containers for numinous power. It’s a small step from our need for ritual to the idea of sex as ritual. It infiltrates our myths, it permeates our literature, and it fills our fantasies. Many of the earliest religious rites were fertility rites involving either the sacred prostitute or the sacred couple whose sexual union insured abundant crops, cattle and children for another season. Certainly it’s not hard to see the ritualistic aspect of sex in the natural world. We’ve all watched birds or badgers or elephants going at it on nature programs. There are often complex courtship rituals before actual copulation.

Jung’s definition of ritual as a container for power intrigues me. The power contained in sex is astounding. It’s the power to pass on life. It gives us the ‘little death’ and the out of body experience. It elevates us to the level of heaven while bringing us back to our most primitive animal nature.

Sex is the ultimate mystical experience. The closest we can get to a power beyond ourselves is the power within ourselves. I chose to write The Initiation of Ms Holly as a modern day retelling of the Psyche and Eros story with that in mind. In the Greek myth, Psyche must undergo ritualistic tasks before she is allowed to be with her lover Eros. In achieving these impossible tasks, Psyche so impresses the gods that they not only allow her to be with her lover, but grant her divinity as well.

In Greek mythology sex usually involves one of the gods, most often Zeus, coming down to earth and ‘seducing’ a mortal female, who then gives birth to a child destined to do great things. Sex as the representation of the creative force permeates the Greek myths. It’s there in the Christian myth as well, the child of divinity and humanity destined to save the world. Tragically the power of sex is omitted from the Christian myth.

More than a procreative force, sex is a creative force. Its ritual act allows us contact with the power, contact we can have no other way. But who controls the ritual? We’ve all seen lories transporting heavily reinforced tankers bearing CAUTION: HAZARDOUS MATERIALS signs in big red letters. We know a breech of containment would be disastrous. The purpose of ritual is to keep the power contained so we mortals can interact with it safely. Religions have always tried to control the rituals involving sex, to dictate with whom the act may occur, how, and even when it may take place. Property and inheritance rights depend on controlling women’s sexuality. Even the Facebook practice of unilaterally deleting sex positive pages is an effort to control sexuality.’

These days the ritual containers set in place by religious superstition and prejudice are being breeched. Those vessels can no longer contain and control sexuality in all its vibrant varied guises. The ritual is being taken out of the hands of institutions and reclaimed on a more individual, more personal level. That means the creative force of our sexuality is being freed in ways we could have hardly imagined a few years ago.

Yesterday was Coming Out Day. My Facebook page was full of well wishers and messages reassuring our young people that it gets better. Now more than ever there are safe places to learn about, understand and explore all aspects of our sexuality. And we are much less likely to settle for some ‘authority figure’ telling us what is sexually acceptable. Taking back the power is never easy. The journey is a long one, and we’re not there yet, but I’m delighted to say, I see reason to hope.

 

Female Sexual FUNctionality

On Tuesday I got a call from Jenny Stocks from the Daily Mail asking me about the use of erotic literature to enhance women’s sex lives. Her article, Give Your Libido a Boost, is in today’s edition. It is about natural alternatives to the new ‘female Viagra.’ I’ve been following the news about the big pharma-cure for the ever-nebulous female sexual dysfunction awhile now.

I think any discussion of female sexual dysfunction has to take into account the way the culture shapes how we women see ourselves sexually. One episode of Mad Men is enough to have us all cringing, thankful that we live in a more enlightened time.

And indeed, the news the past few days has been all about the big sex survey in the States. Everyone seems to be having more sex, being more adventurous in the sex they have, and having more orgasms. Yet, we’ve elevated female sexual dysfunction to the level of a disease, and the pharmaceutical companies have rushed in with the big drug cure.

Would that it were that simple, but we have a nasty tendency to base our expectations of ourselves and our sexuality on what magazine adverts, television commercials and films present to us as the ideal woman, airbrushed, deodorized, glamourized, and always ready for mad, passionate sex with her own personal version of Brad Pitt or Clive Owen. That would be clean, unmessy sex, in case you’re wondering. Our make-up would never be smudged, and our hair would never be mussed. We would be comfortable in suicide stilettos and under-wire bras that double as torture devices. Oh, and did I mention the glamourous career and the perfect 2.2 children? If we can’t manage all the above with grace and aplomb and still be horny on demand, then surely we must need a cure.

To add to the insanity, we have the religious right homophobically preaching sexual purity, and submission to husbands. What, no husband? Find one, and forever keep your hands out of your knickers. We have the feminist anti-porn brigade shouting the anti-women, turn-our-children-into-serial-killers evils of porn from a platform almost totally devoid of fact.

Do you feel crazy, yet? I know I do.

Jenny’s article covers the gamut of drug-free ways to boost female libido, from couples’ therapists to psychologists, from personal trainers to erotic boutique owners to sexy literature. All this brings us back to how we women see ourselves sexually.

As a young girl, I navigated my way through the minefield of female sexuality in the safe pages of books, Cosmo magazine and the odd copy of Playboy or Penthouse I found stuffed away in bedside tables I wasn’t supposed to be snooping in. I didn’t self-combust, I didn’t become a serial killer, my fingers didn’t fall off, and I didn’t go blind. What did happen is that I discovered what I like, what gives me pleasure. And I discovered that it was okay to own that part of me and to share it.

It’s difficult for any woman to see her way clear of all the rhetoric and propaganda, to be able to look openly and honestly at her own sexuality and understand it, be comfortable with it. Instead of the massive hand-out of drugs to treat female sexual dysfunction, maybe what we really need is just a safe place to explore our female sexual function instead. I have a sneaking suspicion that in a lot of cases, the function is still there, it just needs a little safe, playful coaxing.

 

The Initiation of Ms Holly now available on Kindle

The Initiation of Ms Holly is now available for download on Kindle at Amazon along with a really yummy free sample.

The Initiation of Ms Holly for UK Kindle users

The Initiation of Ms Holly for US Kindle users

An unseasonal heatwave just waiting to happen.

 

The Initiation of Ms Holly now available!

If you’re in the UK, you can now order The Initiation of Ms Holly in epub, pdf, and print formats! If you’re in the US (sigh!) you’ll have to wait a little longer for print.

However, if you are in the States and don’t want to wait for The Initiation of Ms Holly to come out in print, you can now order your epub or pdf copy at Xcite Books!

Order now and find out what really goes on at The Mount.

Amazon UK is also taking pre-orders for the print version.

 

Burlesque: Women in Control

Last night I participated in an introduction to burlesque class taught by the fabulous Tempest Rose, one of the famous Kitten Club kittens. A group of eight women gathered at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium off Hoxton Square. Most of us only really knew that Burlesque involves beautiful costumes, sometimes strip tease and stage performances, all done by very sexy women. We spent the evening learning to shimmy, and bump and grind, learning to use our bodies and faces to convey our emotions, and learning about the costumes and props of burlesque. (I’m pretty sure Sh! had a last-minute run on nipple tassels at the end of the evening.) The class culminated in our ‘graduation exercise’ — a glove strip-tease. The glove was the only item of clothing removed during the evening. (Unless you count a pair of VERY uncomfortable, nose-bleed stilettos that got tossed in the corner after a few attempts at bump and grind.)

I had no idea a simple glove could be such a sensual tool, nor that it could convey so much. Tempest told us that though strip tease is often apart of burlesque, a burlesque performer never takes off everything. In fact, a burlesque performer views the items of her costume as props rather than clothing. She said she begins a performance with some props, and by the end of the performance, she has less props.

The literal meaning of burlesque is to ‘send up,’ or to make a joke of. Its literary forms can be traced back to Chaucer’s bawdy Canterbury Tales. According to Wikipedia, Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration. Burlesque sometimes parodies the higher performance arts – ballet, opera, poetry. It often, parodies the male and female relationship, and usually at the expense of the blokes. The form is often associated with a variety show and striptease.

What makes burlesque unique, according to Tempest, is that female sensuality and the female form are always at the centre of burlesque. What I found most striking about the evening, as I did the first time I saw Tempest introducing an audience to burlesque at Sh! Portobello, was the sensual female power that is the driving force of burlesque. That power was the reason I wanted to learn more. Tempest told us that in burlesque, the woman is always in control. It is in her power to reveal or conceal what she chooses in her own time. When curves and female sensuality are emphasized, the result is not only beautiful, but also very powerful.

Tempest demonstrated to us how female control in burlesque is shown in the stances and the movements of the performer. She showed us how the angular, sensual stances emphasized in burlesque showcase the female form, emphasizing sensuality and curves. The result is an art form that is 100% female powered. And the sense of that power appeals to both men and women.

She contrasted that to what a stripper might do at a strip club, where the stances are open and straight on, emphasizing what is between the legs. The movements suggest the sex act itself, and emphasizing a man’s point of view.

It was a girl-powered evening, with each of us showcasing our own unique female sensuality. There was pink fizz, silky gloves, corsets, lace, and laughter, and at the centre of it all we were in control. As a woman writing erotica for women, I like that a lot.
 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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