RE/SEARCH: You’re a sexologist; can you discuss sex in a Pagan context–
CAROL QUEEN: Whether it’s in a Pagan, Wiccan or sex-positive “alternative” context, people are hungry to hear sex spoken about positively. People don’t want to be screwed up. People desire sexual comfort and joy; if their sex life is unsatisfactory, they aren’t happy.
I’m deeply grounded in Pagan beliefs about who we are as humans and who we can be; I believe in the notion of divinity as a part of each one of us. People really want the message that sex can be a spiritually powerful and connective force. In this day and age, most sex is not about procreation–it’s about connecting, and entering an altered state through sex. Even people who disdain anything “spiritual” desire that.
Women were always the ones who were supposed to say “No” to men; they were always supposed to be the upholders of the relationship. And now, a lot of people are looking to women leaders for better attitudes about sex. There has been a lot of discussion about male sexuality as problematic. I know that I was deeply entrenched in a feminism that didn’t respect or care much where men were coming from sexually. Then I came to Paganism, with its image of the Goddess and the God uniting in equality–each bringing something equally important to the union. That actually kicked a lot of the sex-negative and male-phobic struts out from under me.
When I was still a lesbian, Paganism was what allowed me to “come out” as bisexual. The big image of the Goddess and the God in union, sacred, to be respected and honored got me to the place where I could say, “You know what? I want balance in my life–I want erotic balance in my life.”
Not everybody is bisexual, but a lot of people might be open to this kind of erotic balance if it weren’t for social forces: homophobia and “heterophobia.” I always put quotation marks around heterophobia because it’s not the kind of virulent, hate-based condition that homophobia is–but it still affects people’s individual lives so they’re afraid to explore what they might do and who they might be. The ways that people are stopped from being Who They Might Be in this culture are legion. It’s not just about sex; it’s about assuming our full power.
That’s another appealing aspect of Paganism: it allows us to take our power seriously. If we’re all expressions of Goddess and God, then we have to take ourselves a little more seriously in the world! Discovering Paganism was like discovering sex-positivity: “Click!–this is how I want the world to be! This explains things, and it doesn’t explain them in a way that casts people as victims, with a negative, overarching understanding of who we are as people.”
R/S: When did you first encounter Paganism?
CQ: In 1968, when I was 11 years old. My best friend and I saw an ad in the back of a magazine for a book titled Potions and Spells of Witchcraft. We both managed to convince our mothers to write checks to some obscure post office box somewhere–neither of us told our mothers what we were ordering. The books showed up, and we read them. I’ve never seen a copy of this book since, and I don’t know who published it. In retrospect, the book didn’t give me any awareness that there was an existing Wiccan community or a larger set of spiritual beliefs to Wicca. It contained a purported history of witchcraft: “We have come upon these ancient spells that grandmothers have handed down to granddaughters . . .” It was the Craft without the Goddess, without the God, without any of the religio-spiritual context that so many of us take very seriously now. There was no cultural or community link.
I practiced my spells dutifully. I have to say that as a 12-year-old in a place where I felt pretty powerless about everything, there was something very healing about having something ritualistic to do that was supposed to give me more power in the world. I don’t remember whether anything I did had any effect. It was important to draw a circle and in a Crowley-ite way get in touch with my will–something little girls aren’t supposed to have! And this book allowed me to secretly, surreptitiously say, “I want this! I want that!” It was kind of about wanting things or wanting changes in my social circumstances. I don’t know if any love spells worked, but I think I made it snow once when I didn’t want to go somewhere!