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"Sacred Land, Sacred Sex"
by Delores LaChapelle

From Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, edited by Judith Plant, Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989

Background on the context in which this essay was written.

Date Reading Was Discussed: July 6, 1992
Present: Colleen M., Catherine C., Cathleen M., Bernadette C., Miranda H., and Cynthia L.

The women at this month's discussion were disappointed with Delores LaChapelle's essay examining the relationship between human sexuality and nature. We basically found her work male-identified and heterosexist.

Nonetheless, women responded enthusiastically to her rejection of a world view which reduces sex to physicality and/or procreation. We shared her belief that sexuality is a supreme spiritual force based on an undivided harmony with nature. One woman suggested that having sex on the earth—on beaches, in forests, in fields—directly contributes to deep planetary healing.

LaChapelle asserts (as do many ecofeminists) that prior to the rise of patriarchy 5,000-10,000 years ago, sexuality grounded humanity's belief systems, was sacred, non-monogamous, and served "as the major bonding mechanism for human tribes of gatherer-hunters."

Given that homo sapiens have existed for 300,000 years, a broader conception of human sexuality must be acknowledged. Several women pointed out that monogamy is not innate to our species. As LaChapelle observes, 10,000 years is only 400 human generations.

In harking back to pre-patriarchal eras for insights into a contemporary woman-empowering ethic, one woman wanted to know how ecofeminism would reconstruct sexuality today? Are we to abandon monogamy? Another woman responded that patriarchy devised monogamy for private property purposes. As a result, sexuality lost its original role as a oneness with nature and instead became a weapon against women.

We all agreed that whenever men rule, women can never be in true control of our own sexuality and of our reproductive powers. Clearly, sexual self-determination is a key component of an ecofeminist vision of sexuality.

This prompted a discussion of Madonna, her persona providing an opportunity to analyze the mass collective sexual psyche. Does she embody female sexual empowerment? Is she really a rebel against the patriarchy? The women present—bi, straight, and Lesbian—voiced a unanimous no, calling Madonna's high-tech sex nothing more than a sophisticated product of postmodern patriarchy.

One woman mentioned that Madonna purportedly calls her own shots and controls her own sexuality. Other women were quick to respond that her power is false. It is problematic, they said, to believe that any and all sexual power is positive without analyzing the underpinnings or content of that power. Another woman remarked that within the context of an advanced Helmsian age, Madonna appears to challenge Western society's puritanical mores.

Other women countered, however, that in the context of 300,000 years of female sexuality, Madonna's limitations are unmasked. Her sexual imagery lacks intimacy, love, sensuousness, spiritual erotica, sorority, or sharing. One woman said that her stage act is the culmination of 5,000 years of male-identified sexuality: project the bimbo look, doll up, be young, beautiful, cosmeticized, and thin, flaunt cleavage opportunistically, and commodify sex just like the big boys.

Women felt that these qualities are all disempowering corruptions of our original earth-based sexuality. Madonna's iconography situates her comfortably within patriarchy. How liberating is that?

Several women resented the fact that Madonna's theatrics replicate 42nd Street pornography, especially her glamorization of sado-masochism. One woman claimed pornography is the semiotic language of patriarchy and that S & M is dominant/subordinate ideology incarnate.

Other women concurred, stating that dominant/subordinate relations arose out of patriarchy, and it is precisely this dualistic, hierarchical world view that begat racism, capitalism, sexism, and other oppressions. Women concluded that were Madonna to wholly embrace ecofeminist principles, the powers that be would severely curtail her forum.

At this point women voiced their pain about the brutality of phallocentric sexuality. With its inherently unequal, dominant-subordinate world view, patriarchy strains the bond between sexuality and intimacy, be it intimacy with one partner, many partners, or even with nature itself.

Another woman recalled her teenage years when she viscerally felt that sex should be open, free, and communal. Long before reading Wilhelm Reich, she had also intuited the biophysical necessity of releasing sexual energy. She spoke of coming of age during the 60's, a time when "sexual liberation" was tapping into our cellular memory, i.e., our primordial sexual connection with nature.

She revealed, however, that acting upon her beliefs in a male supremacist society (that can't seem to accept when no means no) resulted in a painful succession of date rapes. Although sexually scarred, discovering ecofeminism has reaffirmed her original vision: sexuality is the spiritual life force of our species.

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