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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Sexual Ecstasy and the Divine – Yasmine Galenorn

Sexual Ecstasy and the Divine: The Passions and Pain of Our Bodies
Yasmine Galenorn
Crossing Press, 2003
274 pages

I first picked this book up because I’d heard the author talked about BDSM and sacred sexuality; plus I liked what she’d done with Totem Magic. Once again I found myself really enjoying this unique work.

The main theme is learning to be comfortable with your sexuality. Galenorn writes frankly and openly about sex; if you find yourself blushing, you’re probably not very sexually comfortable. On the other hand, her anecdotes and examples don’t plunge into erotica. She’s got a good balanced way of explaining things, and I found this to be a definite plus.

Her magical theory is mixed in with some really well-crafted rituals. I normally don’t really care for books that have a lot of pre-crafted magic in them, but in this case we’re offered a number of pathworking exercises that get us in touch with our bodies and our sexuality, as wlel as our partners. They’re well-written, and have good variety to them.

She doesn’t shy away from controversy, either. There’s a chapter on rape (and what to do if you’ve survived one), and as mentioned earlier she’s not afriad to talk about kink, either. She’s also poly and non-hetero friendly for the most part, though I strongly disagree with her assertion on p. 99 that “the strongest connection is made through the pairing of male and female”. Masculine and feminine energies can be very strong in people of any sex, and this also doesn’t take into account transgendered people, genderqueer folk, intersexed, spiritual androgyne, etc.

Still, one hetero-biased comment in a sea of excellent material doesn’t ruin the book; it’s merely her perspective. Overall, it’s a really good offering for anyone who wants sex-positive magic that isn’t afraid of the fringes.

Five pawprints out of five.

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Philosophy in the Dungeon – Jack Rinella

Philosophy in the Dungeon: The Magic of Sex and Spirit
Jack Rinella
Rinella Editorial Services, 2006
234 pages

The combination of BDSM and spirituality is nothing new; people in the kink community have acknowledged the altered states of consciousness that are part of the territory for years, and pagans and magicians of all types have worked their kink into their beliefs and practices numerous times. This book, however, fills a particular niche in the small but growing library of BDSM spirituality/magic. Rather than going into the How and What, Rinella gives us insight into the Why.

The author has a varied religious background, ranging from training to become a Catholic priest to joining a Pentecostal congregation to being neopagan. All of these spiritual influences have been worked into his approach to BDSM, and this is where he gets into the contemplation of that relationship. As the title suggests, it is quite a philosophical look at the practice of BDSM, the thought processes and the reasons for why we like what we do.

The first few chapters set the stage for the rest of the book. Rinella discusses everything from viewing the world holistically to the differences between ancient cultures and ours today. The rest of the book builds on these ideas, and we are led to think about the idea of initiation, challenging expectations, and the nature of faith. The last two chapters address both practical spirituality and magic in conjunction with BDSM, though these are brief introductions that give an example of incorproating the previous material rather than in-depth studies.

What I really liked about this book is that it sparked a lot of thought processes in my mind about the Why of kink. Being able to understand our desires is incredibly important when it comes to both accepting and growing in our sexuality. Rinella presents us with a spiritual and philosophical explanation of kink, and addresses many of the supposed conflicts between sex and spirit.

It may be just me, but I found his writing style a little hard to follow. It’s not bad writing, mind you, but not every reader perfectly meshes with every writing style. I found myself skimming quite a bit, not as engaged as I’d liek to have been. But I was still able to ingest what he was saying. Additionally, the layout could have used a little tweaking; the right margin was ragged instead of justified, and the indentations looked like they were the standard Word 4-5 space indents, rather than the three-space indents which turn out a lot better in book format. Both contributed to a bit less professional appearance.

Still, overall I’d definitely recommend this book to any kinky person out there who’s looking for a different angle to the topic. This one is definitely staying in our collection!

Four pawprints out of five.

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