There was a time when sex and the act of making love was something that was considered sacred. It was an act that was a gift of the Goddess and as such was honored and thought of as a part of life. Both men and women were often initiated into sacred rites by a specially trained man or woman. It was through these rites that a young man or young woman became a responsible adult, someone who was now ready to undertake contributing to the whole community.
As temples were built in honor of the Goddess the responsibility of initiation was given to the temple priestesses. Some women were trained to become Temple Prostitutes, whose main role was to restore men back to wholeness after war and help them to reconnect with their soul and heart. These women would dance the dance of Shakti and be a vessel for the Goddess to come through. The personal self having stepped out of the way, She became a vehicle for the energy of the Goddess to flow through her.
In the temple of love the sacred prostitute’s primary offering to the goddess was her welcoming of the stranger, thought to be the emissary of the gods or perhaps the god incarnate. If she were a maiden, he initiated her into the mysteries of her feminine sexuality under the aegis of the goddess. "Holy Whore" as "as a woman, who, through ritual or psychological development, has come to know the spiritual side of her sexuality, her true Eroticism, and lives this out according to her individual circumstances." (The Sacred Prostitute, Nancy Qualls-Corbett)
The Demise of Sacred Sex
Sex began to become profane with the onset of the Church's gradual annihilation of the role of the goddess and all that she represented. The sacred feminine went from holy to unholy, from sacred to profane and the sacred prostitute was drastically altered. There came a time when the goddess was no longer worshiped; the physical and spiritual aspects of the feminine were declared evil. From this point on women who represented sexuality and the goddess were also condemned by the Church Patriarchs as, “the embodiment of sensuous seduction, the reason for man’s downfall; she was tempted by evil forces and in turn tempted man.”(The Sacred Prostitute) So the act of sex was also condemned and taught that it could only be done for procreation of the species.
Sex then became profane and all natural bodily functions became gross, shameful, and not to be spoken of. As you may know, anything that is forbidden becomes a taboo, and all taboo’s are become desirable. Women are convinced over thousands of years, that having sexual desire is not a feminine quality so that any woman who desired sexual gratification must be unfeminine and out of control. The word "whore" actually comes from the Hebrew root word ‘hor’ meaning dark pit or hole. The Spanish word for "whore" puta, derives from the Latin term for a well, but the Latin term for grave, literally "a hole in the earth," is puticuli, meaning womb of rebirth. These terms for "whore" were not derogatory. The Latin term had its root in the Vedic, an early Sanskrit language, wherein the word puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the pit, the hole, and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess. (Diana Rose Hartmann)
Sex as Profane
In Kathleen Barry's book, The Prostitution of Sexuality, she says that "sexual exploitation objectifies women by reducing them to sex; sex that incites violence against women and that reduces women to commodities for market exchange. Sexual exploitation is the foundation of women's oppression socially normalized."
I have always considered myself to be a sex positive individual and a rather open-minded woman when it comes to sex practices and all the different ways in which we humans like to "get off" or find our pleasure. As a woman who has been a sex educator and a teacher of sacred sexuality as well as a sexual healer, I have personally experienced what it means to be classified as a "sex worker" by the culture at large.
Today we see the result of these beliefs that have become normalized in our culture. Sex for the most part has become a thriving industry that makes billions of dollars yearly. Who sells these products? Women. It is a woman's body that is the commodity once again, and women, even well-paid women in the sex industry, are unconsciously supporting the system that exploits them and sex. Some sex workers choose what they do for the love of it but these are the minority of women in the industry not the majority. The prostitution of sexuality is in full swing and because it is big business it is unlikely to change.
So what can we do, given that we are living in a world where sex is seen as entertainment rather than a sacred act of love. The following are a few things we can do to help shift sex from the profane back to sacred.
Open to a deeper sense of self and be willing to see the act of sex, whether it be for the sake of pleasure or love, as sacred.
Learn more about sacred sexuality, Tantra and other forms of 'high sex' which have made a comeback and continue to grow in popularity.
Educate your kids about the sacredness of love making and the sex act itself, as well as to encourage young girls to see themselves as valued for all of who they are, not just for their sexiness or beauty.
Take a stand and say 'no' to the sexploitation of teen girls and boys by the media. Join in partnership with other organizations that are in support of stopping this type of exploitation.
When you see something that you feel is portraying women as a sexual object and sex as a commodity don't be afraid to take action whether it be speaking out or writing the editor of the magazine.
These are just a few ideas and I welcome any that you may have. Feel free to send in your ideas and comments.