A Modern History of Female Desire For roughly five to eight thousand years, female sexuality has been defined, discussed, dismissed, maligned, and misrepresented in patriarchal societies. The term patriarchy refers to the prevailing male-dominated social and political structure that has been reinforced by legal systems and militant power. It does not in any way refer to all men. In fact, only the dominant males in high status positions truly benefited from the unequal distribution of wealth and access to resources. In these cultures, masculine traits were distorted by the idealized male image of violent and emotionally disconnected warrior heroes.
Under patriarchal law, the rare women who pursued and enjoyed sexual activity in their own way (neither concubine nor wife) were castigated, ostracized, and even killed for it. The word sex meant “intercourse,” and it was something men “got” and women “gave,” and the purpose of the whole business for women was simply to bear heirs (preferably male) for the legal passing-on of inheritances. And God help the woman who gave it under the wrong circumstances! When medical texts began to say anything about sexuality, the knowledge imparted about women was ludicrous at best. Early marriage manuals exhorted women to submit to what had been reduced to a wifely duty. Female physiology was grossly misunderstood. According to Elaine Morgan, author of The Descent of Woman, “Men with the highest medical qualifications pontificated that the very concept of female orgasm was a fantasy of depraved minds and beyond belief.” This was less than 100 years ago!
Until the 1970s, psychiatrists considered the clitoral orgasm to be “immature,” and assumed that intercourse was the only right way to experience sexual pleasure. Not more than 50 years ago, Kinsey had the groundbreaking notion of actually asking women what they experienced. Since the 1970s, some serious attempts have been made to define women’s sexual responses from more objective data. Masters and Johnson actually studied women responding sexually in a laboratory and proved that all women were capable of orgasms, originating in the clitoris. This ushered in the age of sexual pleasure for women. However, it did not suddenly free women of the internal bonds. In fact it merely added the previously male issue of performance anxiety to women’s sexual problems.
Knowledge of the physiology of female sexual functioning does not address the deeper mystery of female sexual desire. Most writing describes how to make orgasms happen, with detailed descriptions of oral and manual touching. These books and articles remind me of recipe cookbooks ignoring the big picture of thousands of years of cultural conditioning. Women’s desire all too often remains elusive, to the frustration of the women as well as their partners.
All the effort to “give” women orgasms (as if we did not own them for ourselves) is missing the point. The genital orgasm as the ultimate goal in sexual functioning is still defining sex by a model limited to an essentially male viewpoint. Unless a woman is engaged of her own free will and feeling the desire, unless she is in touch with the power of her feminine way, all the efforts of her partner are for naught.
Men are often the ones to bring their partners to sex therapy. They buy the books and try to persuade women to try this position or learn that technique. These techniques are all empty exercises without the full and active participation of the woman: her body, mind, and soul. Sadly, many men will settle for a sexual encounter that engages a woman’s body even if it is through manipulation, illusory promises, mental coercion, or even force. But once they have experienced even one encounter when a woman’s whole being is engaged, they seek this transcendent experience like the search for the Holy Grail.
“What is Goddess Sexuality?” Imagine living in a culture where sex was sacred and not a sin! The cultures that honored the divine feminine, existing for over 30,000 years, knew that women’s sexuality was a life-affirming expression of spirit. Women’s sexuality and especially their Yonis were sacred. Goddess sexuality reflects the ancient erotic paradigm integrating sexuality and spirituality. The ancient cultures understood that sexual pleasure honored the Goddess, connected us with spirit, and renewed the life force.
A central aspect of ancient celebrations at special times of the year was the enactment of the Great Marriage, which was a sexual union between the High Priestess, who was the earthly representative of the Goddess and her consort. The rite honored the deeper mysteries of sexuality. The Great Marriage ritual was performed in a beautiful private setting, yet the whole community participated in processions, singing, and prayer that supported the success of their magical connection. It was believed that the powerful energy they released ensured the prosperity of the community. What followed was a whole day and sometimes week of great joyous celebrating—feasting, drinking, dancing, singing and open enjoyment of eroticism. At Beltane (May 1st), fires were lit at sundown and after many hours of celebrating, couples would melt away to enjoy a night of erotic pleasure. In fact, making love in the fields was a way to honor the Goddess and ensure the health of the crops.
Today, when sexual energy is perceived as purely genital sensations, it can be misunderstood as a simple physical release. However, sexual energy moves from the base of the spine and radiates through the whole body-mind system. The spiral of energy travels up and down the body through all the energy centers in a continuous, pulsing current. In essence, we are plugged into a cosmic “electric outlet” through the energy centers.
At the heart center, sexual energy is healing, and connects partners in conscious loving. Keep in mind that our ability to tell the truth about ourselves deepens our capacity for intimacy and intensifies sexual desire. By practicing conscious loving we can develop the pathway to the next level of sexual expression, consciousness expansion. There is infinite potential for transcendental sexual experiences that produce a sense of merging with the source of energy and loss of physical boundaries at the moment of orgasm. These ecstatic moments are often described as “being in the moment of boundless bliss.” It is cosmic orgasm, the direct experience of the self as pure energy, in union with a divine source.
The uniting of sex and spirit is an ancient memory now emerging in our collective consciousness. Today, we can re-affirm our deep instinctual understanding that our sexuality is both a healing energy and a pathway to raising our consciousness. Whether practiced with a partner or solo, we can use the preparation of sacred space, breathing techniques and visualization to bathe our energetic fields and release our desires out into the Universe. Goddess sexuality is the acknowledgement that ecstatic union with the life force is our birthright. It offers us life-long permission to explore and enjoy sexual pleasure.