Sex, BDSM, magic, and the potential for abuse

I’m tackling this as a blog post because it needs to be said, someone needs to say it who does not identify as a male given the gendered nature of some of what has been said, and so it might as well be me. Given the subject matter I want to make a few disclaimers utterly crystal clear before I begin so that there is no misunderstanding:

  1. There is nothing wrong with sex in ritual, sex magic, or sexuality in magic and witchcraft–or sex, period.
  2. There is nothing wrong with BDSM providing all parties involved are consenting adults in ritual, magic, sex magic, or in general.
  3. I neither look down upon, judge, or condemn those who choose to do either #1 or #2, and it is utterly none of my business if you do or don’t.

A particular blog post has been making the rounds in the occult communities entitled Forging the body of a witch. While I agree with a number of points this post attempted to make, there are a few things in it which are decidedly problematic. I won’t get into the health points as they’ve been covered to death elsewhere, but I’d like to discuss one which was covered towards the end, namely that women need to submit in a ritual BDSM setting in order to have any power as a witch. To be fair Grey adds the disclaimer that “The kind of witchcraft (he) discuss(es) can be used as an excuse for abuse. For power over the aspirant rather than liberation. For sexual exploitation rather than liberation. That does not make the techniques anathema.”

No, it does not. But let me vehemently disagree on the following points:

  1. That women or people in general need to be sexual in order to be powerful beings, or in order to practice magic or witchcraft
  2. That women need to submit to anyone or be in “dungeons” in order to be initiated, be witches, and have any true magical power

The thing is this: you can add all of the disclaimers to the post that you want, but the implications are clear, and they are fairly disturbing. Of course sex can be abused. Of course BDSM can be done by people looking to abuse. Hells, I myself was raped by a “dom” and can speak volumes about that alone. But as always, I’m not saying that BDSM is abuse or that sex or sex magic is bad. What I am saying is that implying that they are expected, necessary, or required is bad, and does open the door wide open for abuse no matter what you may claim.

And do I really need to get into why a man suggesting a woman must submit, be sexual and submissive in order to fulfill his requirements of what he considers to be a witch is a serious problem? I’ll leave this comment here, no more need be said.

Then there’s the issue of sexuality. As someone who is on the asexual spectrum, I have no need nor desire to be sexual. Nor should anyone feel that it is required or a requirement of being a witch. Even if someone who identifies as pansexual was engaged in witchcraft or any sort of ritual or initiation, their consensual participation in such acts of sex or BDSM should not be assumed or required either. Having a ritual scourge, symbolic or otherwise is one thing, but what was described in this blog post was something else entirely. If people want to have such things in their rites, fine. Do we really need it? No. Can we do just fine without it? Yes. Am I still a witch if I don’t? Absolutely.

I had to deal recently within my own communities a few months back with a similar argument due to a very problematic situation which arose, and it became clear that there were people who felt that if you attended the ritual that you were open to being sexual and you were consenting to this. Had these ideas been clearly communicated and in advance, this would not have been a problem. The problem which arose was that no communication occurred, consent was just assumed. This presumptuous attitude which denies the opportunity to consent and consent knowingly needs to be discussed and at great length, and to ignore it is abuse.

Ultimately this is what makes Grey’s post problematic: the implication that we must all have sex magic and BDSM in our rites to be witches or otherwise have power. I don’t need to be beaten, tied up, or whipped in order to be a witch or have power. I don’t need to have sex or be sexual either, and I find it incredibly disturbing that this is even a subject for debate. It’s not just a matter of “safe spaces”; it’s a matter of not supporting what has been described elsewhere quite accurately as rape culture. Consent should never be required or assumed; it should be given freely, with perfect love and perfect trust.

Without that, your magic is in vain, and you have no right to call yourself a proper person let alone a witch.

How to magic: the programmer and linguist edition

As many of you know, I’m a student of Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery class, which I very, very highly recommend. Sometimes we do community blog hops where many of us write about the same topic. This month, I’m hosting and we’re writing about “Magical Links”. You can see a COMPLETE LIST of all the blogs and choose which to read, or travel through them in order. You’ll find a link to the next blog (Scarlet Grace’s) at the bottom of this post.

 

One of my magical teachers and longtime friends once said to me that magic is about making a connection, and he’s absolutely right. People who get into the “Nothing is at rest, everything vibrates” principle will also argue that it’s about vibrating at the same frequency of whatever you’re trying to attract or reach out to. Heck, sounds a lot like some of the Law of Attraction folk so I’ll stick that perspective in there too.

So what does that mean? What is creating a connection or a link all about in magic? My perspective of it is this: it’s about speaking the right language as to be understood, and programming your ritual in such a way that you’re able to communicate with whatever force or intelligence exists on the other end. Ceremonial magicians can go on for hours about correspondences; Crowley’s 777 is evidence of that alone and that’s one of a few texts purely on that subject. You pick what makes sense, and you leave out what doesn’t, and the end result is a coherent recipe upon which to lay your ritual foundations and even the timing of the ritual itself.

Which makes people’s objections in the pagan and polytheist communities about “plug and play” with deities of different cultural backgrounds into a ritual that had nothing to do with their culture make all that much more sense. I’m not going to use a Hellenic ritual to make an offering to Papa Legba, and it makes no sense to call on Apollo in an Irish Druidic rite–even more so if these were deities and daemons I’ve not had any or much contact with, and hence have no established personal connections to already. If I wanted to phone the French ambassador, I am not going to address him in Japanese or call him by names other than his preferred given name and titles. It’s not just a matter of being understood; it’s also a matter of respect.

The Chaldean Oracles warn not to “change the foreign words of evocation” for they contain within them a sacred power, and that those names are also sacred. While I’ve heard all sorts of reasoning ranging from respecting the original culture and maintaining purity to merely “words have power”, I’ll also argue the more practical “This is the best way to establish a connection or link to the entity or force you are calling upon”.

The ritual or magical act itself for me is part communication, part computer program, or perhaps more accurately “a program which allows me to communicate with whatever force or entity is involved in this operation”. On the whole, I think of magic as my ongoing connection and communication with an underlying part of reality which can talk back and respond to my ideas and desires. It’s a respectful, meaningful dialogue. In comparison with what I am communicating I am clearly on the level of a two year old, still struggling with basic sentence structures and not really getting a whole lot yet while trying to figure out this weird thing called “reality”. I may never get there, and my attempts at doing so may boil down to me poking at it with a stick, but if I find that certain types of pokes get certain results, then that’s progress I can repeat.

 

Read the previous blog hop on magical links here: http://www.inominandum.com/blog/missing-links-and-spell-failure/

Head to the next blog hop on magical links here: http://unseenseraph.com/strategic-sorcery-blog-hop-magickal-links