A few years back, MysteriousUniverse.org argued that the extreme way in which most of society classifies porn is relatively on par with the views bestowed upon Aleister Crowley regarding his approach to Sex Magick—that is, the rituals using sex and sexuality to achieve a predetermined goal. Though it’s viewed by practicing Thelemites and Occultists to be some of the most pleasurable magick one can do, it was considered nothing more than hedonistic babble by the majority of society in the early 1900s. Crowley’s esoteric theories challenged the repressive Christian social mores of the time and are still viewed as doing such today. They have generated the same disdain for their vulgarity from today’s culture that the porn industry continues to face.
It’s not surprising that those involved in the adult industry gravitate towards a religion founded by the practicing occultist. Crowley’s views offer them solidarity and comfort knowing that his sexual theories and practices were as frowned upon as their own. There’s also a sense of hope gained from knowing there are others practicing a religion that allows and even encourages members to overcome the sex-negative programming that’s been ingrained in us from an early age. In fact, some within the adult industry have found Thelema, Occultism or similar esoteric practices so positive and fulfilling that they’re taking after Crowley, becoming as outspoken about their beliefs in his philosophies as he was.
Conner Habib is one star that’s coming out of the shadows, no longer hiding his religion, beliefs, or his profession. In an article from Motherboard titled “Sex, the Occult, and the Witches Who do Porn,” he told author Jason Louv that he and fellow porn actors got into the occult because they “choose desire where desire is forbidden.”
“We do this thing that we’re told not to do,” Habib said. “We’ve already gone against what seems to be a law. So why not break other rules? Why not defy right down to the laws of physics?”
Louv stated that with Habib’s following in both the gay porn world and with the alt-spirituality and psychedelics crowd, he’s helping to lead the revolt against traditional religion and sexual morality. “Habib portrays himself as a rebel against reality, embodying an almost Luciferian drive to break through the walls of repression, a self-appointed spokesman for the fusion of sex and radical spirituality.”
Habib continues to preach about the importance of a sex-positive view and the benefits of his occult beliefs when giving interviews or speeches. In December he posted a video of himself to his Twitter account doing just that while on the talk show Talk Gnosis.
The male stars aren’t the only ones attracted to the Occult teachings. One woman in particular who’s continued to make strides in combining the adult industry with Crowley’s theories of sex magick and Thelema is Ellen F. Steinberg, or as she’s more commonly known, Annie Sprinkle. Sprinkle has deep roots in the sex industry. She worked as prostitute in the 1960s and 1970s, then later as a porn star, creating over 200 pornographic films while active. In 1992, she earned a doctorate in human sexuality from the the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and from there jumped into her current career as a sex-positive author, educator, and performance artist.
According to PublicEye.org, some of her performances parody everything from masturbation to a gynecological exam, but other shows go beyond humor. For example, in her live performance titled The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute she demonstrates a sex magick masturbation ritual. In another, titled Public Cervix Announcement, Sprinkle showed the audience her cervix using a speculum and flashlight as a way to celebrate the form of the female human body. Unfortunately, such salacious performances were deemed obscene by right-wing patriarch Jesse Helms, who condemned her sex magick performance piece Post-Porn Modernist while on the floor of the Senate.
Sprinkle has even advocated for sex-positive adult films that represented her beliefs, specifically those from like-minded colleague and film director Petra Joy. Her endorsement of Joy’s Female Fantasies on AdamEve.com stated, “Petra Joy lives up to her name, creating joyous, uninhibited erotica for women…and men!”
There are several other adult stars who are well-known for taking part in magick practices, some even going as far as using them throughout their films. Ada Mae Johnson, better known as her former stage name Violet Blue, is noted from MadeMan.com as being initiated into the Thelemic religious organization Ordo Templi Orientis in the late 1990s. Then in 2010, adult star Monica Mayhem explained her involvement in Wicca and occultist practices in her autobiography, Absolute Mayhem: Secret Confessions of a Porn Star.
Mayhem in particular didn’t just incorporate her beliefs into roles, she helped create an entire adult movie around them. In 2003, she achieved her first writing credit for the Jim Holliday-directed Witch Coven College. Designed to be a comedy, the movie lovingly pokes fun at some Wiccan and Occult beliefs, with fictionalized spells and “magic dust” that makes people have sex automatically. In her book, Mayhem says of the film, “It was basically a spoof about witches teaching college girls a few tricks, although it was pure fantasy and nothing truly of a Wiccan nature.”
It’s inspiring to see that she’s able to find a unique way to spread the message of a sex-positive attitude to the audience available to her. For those who don’t appreciate her gently poking fun at her own religion, however, rest assured that she takes magick seriously. She admitted in her book to being hesitant about engaging in sex magick because she’s fearful of its power. Still, she expressed just how thankful she is to have found a religion that’s so welcoming to her lifestyle and reflective of her beliefs.
“That’s the great thing about Wicca,” she said. “It tells us there’s nothing wrong with being who you are and that no one is judging you. How this applies to me is that if I can make a living using my body for other people’s pleasure, then there’s nothing wrong with that in the eyes of Wiccans. As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I may do as I will. That’s the crux of our creed.”
The energy transference that occurs during sex is probably one of the most powerful forms possible. It’s not surprising that someone who engages in sexual acts for a living could benefit from learning how to utilize sex magick in an opportunist way, but it’s encouraging to see that many are choosing to use the connection for good.
Author of this post, Tara Notley is a writer and photographer from Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. For the last three years she’s enjoyed exploring different cultural studies including sex, religion, and spirituality.
Editor’s note: This is a joint piece by Lupa and Taylor Ellwood. Links to other material by Taylor may be found at the bottom of this page.
One issue that occurs with both Western and Eastern sex magic is the polarization of the sexes. This kind of thinking about the sexes can be found in nineteenth century occultism (and even further back). “One calls the forces positive and negative, and one rediscovers them in good and bad, emission and reception, life and death, idea and action, man and woman (positive and negative magnetic poles) in the material plane and, conversely the woman (active pole) and man (negative pole) in the mental plane.1” The division into polarity is often used as a way of explaining the unity found in sex magic. In other words, it is the union of opposites. Intriguingly, “enough love” is often cited as a necessary ingredient of sex magic, in order to make it particularly effective. We are inclined to agree that love, in sex magic, can be very important as an energizer. Whether the polarity is necessary is another case, as the union of opposites is by it’s nature a negation of polarity and the need for it. We feel polarity is an unnecessary approach to sex in general, that has caused far more harm and misunderstanding precisely because it is cultural, as opposed to biological.
And yet incorporation of polarity occurs all too often even in modern texts. In Shaping Formless Fire: Distilling the Quintessence of Magick, Stephen Mace states that “The difference between men and women — in both anatomy and quality of energy — is conspicuous. Men eject the quickening jolt, the surge of power, that animates the enterprise. Women provide the form that can thus be stirred to life.2” Unfortunately for Mace, this statement reveals his ignorance of female anatomy. The majority of men are ignorant of the fact that women can actually ejaculate fluid as well, and as such, by his criteria, are capable of that same quickening jolt.
Beyond that, it’s not unknown for a woman to be the active magical worker. A female magician may also use her vagina to draw in a male magician’s energy and work the necessary magic with it, rather than simply being a vessel for the magic he works. In this way, the man could simply be a generator of energy, while the woman is the one who shapes it and creates the magic. In one case, a woman has actively vamped sexual energy from men, without them knowing it, and then directed that energy toward her own purposes.3 While we don’t condone her ethical values (as we think using a person’s energy without hir permission is harmful to the person) it does illustrate that a woman can be the active principle.
Polarity automatically buys into an attitude common in both Western and Eastern sex magic texts: the idea that having a vagina makes a person automatically passive/receptive, whereas the penis endows one with active/projective energy. The stereotypical polarity not only thrusts people into limiting roles, but it also oftentimes relegates the biological woman to being a convenience rather than a participant in magic, a mere cauldron in which the male magician stirs the elixir of life. But in sex magic, polarity is not a biological fact. “Our physical gender does not determine the type or amount of energy we have access to, and does not determine the roles we must play in sex magic workings.4” It’s important to remember that we are not defined by our sex when it comes to magic. Instead, if sex is something which must be defined, let it be defined in a way that is helpful, as opposed to harmful.
Western sex magic generally involves heterosexual intercourse, with the focus being primarily on coitus. It is assumed that the climax of the magic will occur when the man ejaculates, regardless of whether the woman has an orgasm or not. (And we don’t care how good your magic is — there’s no way to guarantee simultaneous orgasm!) The magic is not considered complete until there’s sperm floating around in the mix. In addition, on an energetic level, the focus is on the energy raised when the man orgasms, while the woman is the container for this energy. In short, the woman serves no purpose that could not also be filled by another man, a blowup doll, or the male magician’s own hand.
Part of the problem is misunderstanding or downplay of the female orgasm. In Lupa’s experience, at least, a clitoral orgasm is much stronger than a vaginal orgasm. This is a common trait among biological females, though not universal. The difficulty for many women to have a clitoral orgasm during coitus can be seen as a distraction not worth bothering with until the real ritual is over — if even then. We wonder how many women have never had a chance to discover the clitoral orgasm exists simply because they end up with partners who can’t give decent face or hand (or who are too focused on their own pleasure to try).
The vaginal/uterine emphasis bolsters an unhealthy attitude — the idea that the highest function of a woman is to give birth, whether figuratively or literally. This strengthens the idea that effective sex magic can only come about through coitus, and that anything else is less effective because only coitus involves reproduction. While symbolic reproduction can be useful in creating effective magic, it is not the be-all and end-all of sex magic. Otherwise why would so many magicians of all sexes use masturbation to cast sigils? Yet from Cerridwen’s Cauldron to the Holy Grail to the ceremonial Cup, women are limited in symbolism only to their uteri. The clitoris is left out in the cold.
This emphasis also puts lots of pressure on men. The need to perform, to be hard in an instant, and ready to have sex (whether you want to or not) is something that men experience, but which is also frequently unnoted, because of the supposed male privilege. And yet even as not all men are ripped and buff (an image which is portrayed as the ideal man), nor do all men have a high sex drive, or for that matter an overwhelming need to have sex all the time. Nor is sex the only thing that is on a man’s mind. And yet inevitably men will be accused of “thinking with their dicks,” or be portrayed as sex crazy idiots. This stereotype is very harmful to men, putting pressure on them to conform to these images and yet also shaming them for having a perfectly natural desire for sex.
The secret to breaking this dichotomy starts at the very source of our genitalia. Every human fetus starts out as female. It is only after three months that some fetuses change over to being male. This means that everyone’s genitals start out from the same basic little buds of developing flesh. The penis and the clitoris are analogous to each other anatomically speaking, as are the testes and ovaries.5
There is no biological truth to polarity, because polarity is a cultural concept, with meanings associated with it that are used to define it. It’s true that the bio-males and bio-females have different physiological functions. The man can produce sperm and the woman can produce an ovum, but these functions still are focused on the same end goal and are rather similar in terms of what occurs, i.e. the sperm is produced by the man’s body as part of the procreation function, just as the ovum is produced by the woman’s body for procreation. The difference is that a woman can actually carry a baby to term in her body, and a man cannot…but the woman still needs a man in order to produce the baby. Even with that difference noted there is no definitive polarity about it. The reason is because that difference is related to a biological function as opposed to something more meaningful.
Also if we associate polarity with biology we leave out (in just the human race) the intersex people, the androgynous, the gay and lesbian community, the transgendered community, and the people who don’t have the full biological capacity to produce sperm or ovum — needless to say polarity becomes a confining system that tries to ignore the inconvenient truth that biology is capable of more diversity than just the dualistic male and female ends of the spectrum. Other species can also be pointed to as an example of the fact that polarity is not a biological constant. That people associate it with biology is a result of cultural beliefs about biology. It’s also a rather limited human-centric perspective on biology, one which tends to focus only on the human experience as opposed to trying to understand the variety of biological diversity that exists.
Polarity is a cultural concept precisely because it is an attempt to define biology outside of its functions and in ignorance of what those functions are. So we define certain “values” with polarity. Men are the active principle and women are the passive principle in sex for instance…but is that a biological reality? It is not. It is a cultural definition and a shoddy one at that. It focuses on assigning attributes to biological roles without providing any biological basis for these attributes. Unfortunately this assignation of roles is cultural and has ultimately been harmful to women precisely because it has tried to minimize them and control their capacity to enjoy sex. It harms men because it’s helped to create a stereotype where men are sex hungry creatures that only think about having sex. It’s also harmed any person who’s gender falls outside the traditional heterosexual sex roles. We’ve noted with some dismay that the majority of books on sex magic don’t, for instance, offer much to the gay and lesbian community on sex magic for them.
Now some people might point to energy work as part of biology and say that is where this concept of polarity and men being active and women being passive comes from. And yet while energy is an intrinsic part of the human organism and part of the biology of a person,6 any associations/meanings made about it are cultural. We need to examine those cultural assumptions and ask why they have been emphasized and who it benefits to emphasize those assumptions about sex, energy work, and polarity.
In our own work with energy, we’ve yet to find it true that women are passive and men active. We think it’s a case of associating the biological functions of the body with energy work. But can we prove that the biological functions make a man active and a women passive? Just because a penis thrusts into a vagina does not make it active. If anything we’ve found that such “polarities” are switchable in sex magic and that women can be the active principle while men are passive. Indeed, at least in Taylor’s case, he prefers for the woman to be the active principle, directing the energy and focusing it as she sees fit. That preference is both a personal turn-on, and a recognition that a woman is just as able to do magic the way he does it (regardless of the difference in biology). In other words, there is no difference (beyond the biological level) unless people make a distinction of difference. Any difference on the biological level is a difference of function, but not a difference of polarity.
It would ultimately be better to do away with polarity and the duality it inspires. Sex can be active for both participants or passive, but as long as it’s good sex does it really matter who is active or passive? By overthrowing the reliance on polarity we undo the cultural harm it can cause to people of any gender. That harm is manifold as is witnessed by the murder of transgendered people, people who refuse to fit into the sex role of their genitals, and instead choose their own gender. They are murdered for simply making that choice and this is because the cultural memeage of polarity only allows two genders, as opposed to any others. As magicians, we owe it to ourselves and to other people to not use this kind of cultural meme in our magical workings as we only reinforce the kind of hatred that can destroy so many people. And of course, limiting yourself to polarity leaves out a lot of potential fun to be had with other people!
With that recognition about the cultural values that have infiltrated our notions of sex and sex magic, we can free ourselves of them and recognize that polarity is entirely a cultural meme, infecting us with values that are oppressive, restricted, and ultimately useless to the process of sex magic. Indeed we can then accept as well that whether it’s hetero, homo, or pan sexuality being explored what meanings we make of what occurs is entirely our own responsibility and a way of making the sex act more meaningful and intimate…more a celebration and less a reinforcement of stale cultural norms.
- Randolph, Pascal Beverly. (1988). Sexual Magic. Trans. Robert North. New York: Magic Childe Publishing, Inc. Page 10.
- Mace, Stephen. (2005). Shaping Formless Fire: Distilling the Quintessence of Magick. Tempe: New Falcon Press.
- WitchWitch. (2006). Witch does vampire sex magick. P. 6. Widdershins, 12.1.
- Williams, Brandy. (1990). Ecstatic Ritual: Practical Sex Magic. London: Prism Press.
- Lipton, Bruce. (2005). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles. Santa Rosa: Mountain of Love/Elite books.
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.