Rites of Pleasure – Jennifer Hunter

Rites of Pleasure: Sexuality in Wicca and NeoPaganism
Jennifer Hunter
Citadel, 2004
248 pages

I really, really, really liked this book. I’ve pretty much been reading anything I can get my hands on as far as BDSM and sex magic goes in the process of cowriting Kink Magic, and so the chapter in this book on that topic was what first attracted me. I’m not surprised I like it, though–I think that her 21st Century Wicca is one of the best (and most underappreciated) Wicca 101 texts out there (and you know it has to be good to impress me 😉

This is definitely a unique book in the existing corpus of knowledge regarding paganism and sexuality in general. Rather than a how-to guide for sex magic, it’s an excellent discussion of ethics and the role of sex and sexuality in the pagan community. You want your paganism 201 material? Here it is, with intelligent, mature discussion of what can sometimes be sticky (literally and figuratively) subject matter. Hunter punctuates her writing with quotes from a wide selection of interviewees ranging from Annie Sprinkle and Dossie Easton to Donald Michael Kraig and Raven Kaldera.

The topics covered include various sexualities (hetero, homo, bi, etc), polyamory, transgendered people and gender fluidity in the pagan community, BDSM and even sex work, among others. Hunter does an excellent job of treating every topic fairly and evenly. There’s also a good chapter on sex magic and preparations thereof, making this a really good guide overall. And, I am absolutely pleased to say that she makes good use of endnote citations and has a wonderful bibliography. (Those of you who have been reading my reviews a while, or my journal, or talking to me in person, or…well…you get the idea, know that the lack of internal citations in pagan nonfic is one of my major pet peeves.)

Overall, I highly recommend this book to any pagan. Hunter offers a lot of food for thought that I think the pagan community really needs to be paying attention to, especially in light of recent social shifts towards the mainstream. As paganism gets more exposure from outside the community, other people will be asking about our views on sex and sexuality. This book addresses a lot of the controversial issues about sex and sexuality in paganism in a manner that not only can help the individual pagan get a better handle on hir own thoughts on the matter, but could even be offered as a text for non-pagans to read.

Five pawprints out of five.

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