Friday night we celebrated the launch of The Initiation of Ms Holly in style at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, Hoxton. The traditional Sh! pink fizz and cupcakes were the grazing fare of the evening, along with a lovely, and appropriately pink and scrummy banana cake that my dear friend, Helen Calaghan, made just for the occasion.
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.
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 is now available for download on Kindle at Amazon along with a really yummy free sample.
An unseasonal heatwave just waiting to happen.