Politics of Sexuality

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Politics of Sexuality

In the name of the Mother of Heaven, Mother of Earth, Creator of Life, Queen of the Sky, Queen of the Night, the Great Womb, the Throbbing Vulva, the Yoni, Most Gracious, Star Goddess, the Great Breast from which flows the milk of kindness, Goddess of Grains and Grasses, Fruitful Mother...

These are some of the titles of the Goddess remembered through the witches from earlier times. I dedicate this piece of writing in those names. They have helped me to produce the most difficult essay I have ever written.

I have tried to sort out and put together my ideas on women's values about their sexuality. Freud is said to have asked: "What do women want?" Women know what they want. Their difficulty, which is mine, is to find words to describe, and to produce ideas acceptably. Not because we are "silly" but because words and ideas have grown over the last 5,000 years in a patriarchal setting, and describe what men want. Every word, sentence and set of ideas is painful to write, is open to misinterpretation, certainly by men. I write here to and for women, and ask them to hear and read what I am trying to say and link it with what they find echoing in their own beings.

I am going to try and write about our sexuality, its past, what happened to it in patriarchy, and what our future in a non-patriarchal world might be. In the section on the past, it is necessary to go over some ground that has been covered in our Group's earlier publications, Goddess Shrew and Menstrual Taboos, but I refer people to these and to the book list for more information. I also take for granted that readers will not expect me here to "prove" that matriarchies or that goddess cultures existed. Again, the book list will indicate sources. Since our earlier publications there has been a proliferation of material on the subject.

The Past: Women as initiators, sexually independent, and the concept of the whole

"Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is sweeter than honey;
In the bed-chamber, honey-filled
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty."

Part of a poem written for a sacred marriage in Mesopotamia about 2,000 BCE, well after the destruction of women-led cultures there, it could be thought that the woman is cajoling the man for her own purposes, or is hoaxing for his. But no: such a ritual bride inherits the powers and memories of goddess cultures, where the woman takes the initiative, where her active love-making is for her own pleasure and more -- for an integral understanding of wholeness. She has to be pleased and she is independent. In Lost Gods, John Allegro describes such a sacred marriage:

"A bridal bower was erected and decorated with foliage, there the union was consummated... it is the priestess who summons the king to her embrace, and who, representing the goddess, bestows on him through their intercourse, a divine but subservient status in the more creative process."

But even more: the divine union took place between the sacred pair; but this was the occasion of love feasts for the whole community: no doubt about all sorts of sexuality - no division between single sex and hetero-, and certainly hi-sexuality. Even late records such as the Old Testament and the Babylonian epics and temple documents make the situation clear. "The Goddess Asherah was worshipped in Israel from the days of the first settlement in Canaan, the Hebrews taking over the cult of this great mother goddess from the Canaanites" says Rafael Patai in The Hebrew Goddess.

An inscription dedicated to Ashratum (another form of this name) in the First Dynasty of Babylon (about 1,500 BCE) describes her as "mistress of sexual vigour and rejoicing". Becoming Ashtoreth and Astarte in the varying cultures of the Middle and Near East, and later the vengeful Anath, she is "everywhere the great female principle" and "the object of a sensual nature-worship, attended by many licentious rites and wild orgies". She was the queen of heaven as well as the mother, and the opener of the womb. Upon her sexuality rested the renewing of the harvest. She is spouse and mother to the vegetation god, called many names of which Tammuz is possibly the most familiar; he becomes the Divine King who must die, as do the green plants, and must be recalled through this communion with the earth, the womb, from which he will be reborn.

The seasonal festivals celebrating the cycle of these events were times of sexual rejoicing as well as of sacred mystery. Still remembered as "Quarter Days" in the British Establishment calendar and in the countryside and through the earlier religions, and taken over by the Christians into religious festivals, they provide a link with women's earliest past and powers. Love, sexuality, death and rebirth reflecting the seasonal rhythms of nature were seen as an entity, and predicated always on the sexual powers of women.

John Allegro suggests that the double axe, so potent a symbol throughout the ancient world, and symbol of royal power in Crete, is "a clear fertility symbol with sexual associations. The lower edges represent the woman's opened thighs, the central shaft her vagina, and the shaft itself the penis" He suggests that there is independent philological evidence for this in all ancient languages. However women may reflect that the reading of the penis is a male one: we can see the depths of the vagina and the cervix: we know, as Freud did not, that the opening is not a hole on its own: that it leads somewhere. Shuttle and Redgrove in The Wise Wound give numerous examples of the whole female reproductive system being used as a sacred symbol throughout the ancient world. Perhaps the most striking suggestion is that the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life are shown as the Fallopian tubes; the cervix is a vessel, the womb itself a chalice - perhaps the Holy Grail.

"I have drunk from the cymbal, I have borne the sacred vessel, I have entered the bridal chamber"

Recited by initiates into the worship of Cybele, Moon Goddess, these lines make the Mystery clear.

But, from The Bacchae of Euripides, Pentheus declaims:

"I hear
Of strange and evil doings in the city,
Of women who have left their homes to join
Fabled mysteries.. each stealing forth
This way and that, creeps to a lawless bed;
In pretext, holy sacrificing maenads,
But serving Aphrodite more than Bacchus..
Threatening the women, he includes his mother,
"Ino, Agave, who to Echion bore me
Her too, Antonoe, Antaeus mother,
And fettering them all in iron bonds,
I'll put an end to their mad wickedness."

Pentheus was destroyed by those women, but his work was taken over in full and lives on. Western literature is full of descriptions of women's "orgies"

They are the apologia for the holocaust of nine million women, labelled witches by European Christianity. [When this article was written, in 1979, this figure was generally accepted. Modern research indicates that the true figure is much less; two hundred thousand has been suggested by some scholars, with many putting it at significantly less.]

There are two other directions I want to take before leaving the past: some thoughts about menstruation and about what has been called "virginity".

Menstruation: the blessing and the curse

Women's acceptance of their period as "the curse" has been one of patriarchy's most successful tortures. In Menstrual Taboos this Group recorded how menstruation was a sacred source of power, and the origin of the Sabbath: since then, Shuttle and Redgrove have documented the extraordinary relationship women's cycles have with science, religion and art, but always underground, and always denigrated. I want to mention here its direct linkage with our sexuality. Most of us experience increased sexual power just before the time of the flow, and most of us are entirely put down about it.

This links also with the concept, proposed by Esther Harding, that during menstruation and pre-menstrually we may find our inner life, and withdraw from a patriarchal world. The conflicts and "bitchiness" so well documented by Dr Katerina Dalton are likely because of the inability of our inner selves to have any possibility of recognition; while experimenting for ecstasy just at the time of the flow has not apparently been on anybody's agenda (although perhaps lesbians could have something to say about this). There is immense potential in coming to terms with our cycle; certainly some of the Eastern religions have taken it over, and have subverted Kundalini and serpent power to male use. It is time that we take it back to ourselves, where it belongs.

There is another aspect: I believe that our monthly cycles, related time-wise as they always were to the moon's movements, were the foundation of mathematical calculation. I believe that the counting up of menstrual rhythms led to the building of giant megalithic science observatories, and provide us with truly not concrete, but stone, examples of the relationship of the sexual with the intellectual, and are in themselves the expression of the totality of women's sexual life. The possible relationship of menstruation to such gigantic intellectual and mechanical advance is only now becoming a matter of study. It is no coincidence that male power which took over the intellect found it so necessary to degrade an aspect of it so closely connected with women's sexuality.

Virgins and Prostitutes

Patriarchal writers speak contemptuously of "temple harlots" throughout the early records. At the same time, the Mother of Jesus was and is revered as 'virgin". They have also insisted that virginity meant without knowledge of or experience of sexual intercourse. Virgins were pure, even holy. Virgins were also the "sacred vessel", "uncontaminated", which men could violate for their own purposes, and proceed to own and enslave totally for life.

There is ample evidence that temple harlots are also temple virgins. That is, they are the wives of the sacred kings, and priestesses of the Goddess, putting their sexuality at the service of the community for its benefit. The meaning of "virgin", says Esther Harding (and others) was "one in herself", "not married", "sexually independent". Harding says: "The male worshipper sought for union with the Goddess... the woman pledged to a religious life would not enter into secular marriage... even women not so pledged were required to give themselves once in their lifetime in the temple". Herodotus called it "the worst Babylonian custom". But he commented: "after intercourse she made herself holy". Children born of these unions were children of the temple and of the community: often they were called "the sons of God". All children conceived by the temple virgins were the offspring of the sacred king, the divine son/lover of the Goddess.

Rafael Patai refers to the quedeshim, male sacred prostitutes, and suggests their function "in rites of imitative magic, was to ensure fruitfulness in nature, the coming of the autumn rains, the growth of the crops.."

One more look at our past, to lead us into the present - and one very much based on our "cultural heritage".

The Song of Solomon, written about 200 BCE and included in the Old Testament, is an overt description of sexuality and as such an embarrassment to the establishment. It need not be. In fact, it is one of our first and most easily available records of our put-down sexually.

Woman is cast as a sex object, and her natural feelings of love are disdained:

My beloved put his hand by the hole ('of the door', added by the translator and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open up to my beloved...I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself and was gone... I sought him but could not find him. I called him but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me. They smote me, they wounded me, the keepers of the wall took away my veil from me [euphemism for rape].

But the man is just not with her: we sense the difference in his love talk:

"How fair is my sister, my spouse... thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes... how much better is thy love than wine, and the smell of thine ointment than all spices... a garden enclosed is my sister, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed."

This brings us up through 2,000 years to:

The Present

For all that time, we have been a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. How this horror happened cannot be chronicled here. A lamentation written after the destruction of the Moon City of Ur of the Chaldees is addressed to the Goddess - and describes our situation to this very day.

"Oh Queen, how can you stay alive
After your city has been destroyed, how can you exist
Your righteous house which has been given over to the pickaxe and you no longer inhabit it,
Your people have been led to the slaughter and you are no longer their Queen."

Did we stay alive? Have we been mutated by oppression? Or have we fought an underground resistance, hidden even from ourselves and our sisters. For all of us who have gone down to the grave in grief and silence as well as in the utmost horror of rape and violence, there has, has there not, been a memory of inner integrity, of our sexuality - always disappointed - that we know is right. And linked with this our natural rhythm and its consequences.

Patriarchy and Women's Sexuality

But, talking about natural rhythms gets us nowhere without getting down to our lives under patriarchy and its relationship to our sexuality.

Patriarchy, however and whenever it happened, took women out of the community and put them to slave labour for a particular man who in return kept them alive in order to serve his needs and those of "his" children. This had an immediate economic effect: the reversal of women's power and independence in their own right, to become the creatures of particular men. It must always be remembered that in the ancient world, women and children formed part of the economic set-up; they supported themselves and each other through their labour; whether the male contribution was equal or not is a matter for investigation. It has been shown that as far back as the hunter-gatherers, women's labour brought in up to 80% of the food supplies on a regular basis. The Mabinogion chronicles the times of the ancient Celts before marriage subdued women showing them as strong and independent; from the Mabinogion, quoted in Island of the Mighty by Evangeline Walton:

In my youth, men and women desired each other and were joined, and parted when desire was over-past. Nor was there argument or curiosity or lewd speculation regarding the origins of children, for these were the gifts with which the high gods blessed women, we had no disrespect for women in those days. Now all in Gwyned know that Math and Don were born of the same mother, and the women still live who saw Don give birth to Gwydion. Our royal house is above a doubt. When you have seen them with your eyes, you know.

Jean Markale in Women of the Celts shows they were economically independent and equal; they were even able to take back their marriage dowries in the event of divorce, they owned property, and carried prominent social prestige.

With the coming of patriarchal power, women's economic situation plummeted. The economics are nut difficult. For several thousand years men have owned women's bodies, their labour power, and claimed access to their sexuality on a twenty-four hour a day lifelong basis, from a slave master standpoint and with the women expected to comply, with nor rights whatever. Men's first economic power has been over women; they live on the labour of the woman, and cannot take their own part in economic society without the base structure of women's slavery. Added to this, their role as money-earner has given them sexual power. What woman has not had to "coax" sexually; what woman knows nothing about the fear of rejection or disapproval of the "master"; what woman has not put her own needs down in bed? What woman has not felt that she has no real rights at all to her sexuality, that she is abnormal, that there is no point in even trying? What woman has not been left sexually aroused, and given no care? Even today, in so-called "liberated" circles, if women have not come to orgasm by the time the man is 'tired", she can be expected to masturbate, or to use a vibrator. What woman has not often faked an orgasm just to get the whole thing over, or to please the master, or to get some sleep before the children wake?

More: what woman has not become terrified if her period is late, if she is pregnant. Where are her hard won rights under patriarchy? Where is her career, her scholarship, her job, her interests, her independence? All in the control of a single man, to whom she has to yield her soul's light as well as her body's.

It seems silly to write about this, because we all know it, and how for the last hundred years or so women have won some few social and economic rights in the Western world soon abrogated with pregnancy. Men have come to expect women's dependence as a normal state of affairs and usually resent any divergence, although they grumble about their roles as "breadwinner" etc. But a woman, when pregnant, has the choice of violating her body or accepting long term imprisonment with hard labour and no parole. Where are our natural rhythms now? Gone underground.

A recent survey called "Social Origins of Depression" by two sociologists found women's depression is brought about by "severe life events". Women most vulnerable to depression were those who had three or more children under 14 living at home; said the researchers: "Lack of an outside job lowers resistance to depression." The risk is practically halved when a woman has a job (even doing the treble work of the job, of home, and the husband).

The researchers suggest that common to all the depress depression factors in women is a "lack of self esteem". Wife- and Motherhood are the cause of this: a "job", however trivial, gives a woman a sense of worth in society - as well as a wage for herself making her into an object of "value".

When we become mothers, it looks for a short time as if we can find some inner independence, but our work is always not just under-valued, but non-valued. Eventually our sons grow up to call us an old boot; and our daughters to revile us. Motherhood is the means whereby we are divested of any kind of independence and made totally subject; but expected to continue to make our major contribution to society, with no help, no support, no recognition.

Society underpins our guilt always; everything is always our fault. If we escape from the man and become "single parents" usually our situation is execrable; privatisation of our predicament induces guilt of the worst sort - quite irrelevant, but there none the less; often giving our children powers of tyranny that distort their lives as well as ours; and where men are concerned, puts us in the unenviable position of having to try to "conform" to their ideas of sexuality, keeping the children out of the way. There is nothing for us there at all. Even in modern "alternative" frameworks, there is little or no acceptance of children as being of the community; always when the crunch comes, it is a case of "It's your child, deal with it yourself".

Dorothy Dinnerstein in her monumental The Rocking of the Cradle and the Ruling of the World post-dates the Freudian position on the mother. She links equality of child care between women and men as the means of freeing ourselves sexually from the misconceptions brought about by women's necessity in patriarchy to be the single source of power in children's lives. The mother becomes the ogre and the "witch" if she withholds anything; the son grows up with a drive to get the magical provider under his control; the daughter is torn between her need for male-style independence and her association with her mother; and further, she looks for "mothering" in the man he is the one, surely, to nurture her, support her, care for her what pain, what disappointment. Distorted sexual needs are born, suggests Dinnerstein, of this patriarchal relationship. Only when the "first parent" is equally female and male can a truer appreciation of our sexuality become open to us, she believes.

Patriarchy and Sexuality

The position that patriarchy has achieved for women's sexuality today can adequately be summed up by a look at a recent issue of Women's International Network News (WIN) published in the USA. Starting with female circumcision still taking place in 26 countries, WIN quotes from an "International Year of the Child" report:

Besides the psychological aspects, the effects of this genital excision results in severe health hazard both at the time of the operation and during the child-bearing years.

WIN quotes also from Nairobi magazine Viva:

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's speech inaugurating International Women's Year 1975 singled out the customs of dowry and polygamy as incompatible with Africa's cardinal struggle for the attainment and maintenance of human dignity.

Female circumcision, correctly known as clitoridectomy, is the removal of the clitoris - the female sex organ. Another form of oppression which women are subjected to and perhaps the cruellest is infibulation. This is the closing up of the labia of a girl to ensure her virginity. The labia (lips of the vagina) are sewn shut at puberty and opened forcibly at marriage... this custom reduces woman to a mere tool for the man's pleasure, with no rights over her own body.

Another quotation by WIN, this from Middle East, March 1978:

It is a common belief among the old women - a belief usually encouraged by midwives who make their living from these antiquated practices - that unless the introitus is tightened as much as possible by circumcision, the girl cannot be pleasing to a man.

That the other women encourage this practice is of course one of the saddest aspects of patriarchal conditioning.

Other sections of WIN deal with Women and Violence, listing family violence, wife battering and rape. Oppressions of women in the environment, in the media, in the home, divorce in the Moslem world are all chronicled. Who of us does not know of the indignity of walking in a street, sitting in a train, sitting on a park bench? We are unable to claim the basic human right of breathing fresh air or walking in the city. This is everywhere, in every so-called "civilised" place in the world. All of us know the sexual put-downs; all of us have had our sexual organs referred to as degraded parts of the human system; all of us know the fear of rape. All the put-down is something to do with our sexuality: and man's fear of it. We have been made into sex objects, made "dirty", we "appeal to the lower side of man's nature". We are a nothing, a no-one.

In the name of the Mother, the Despised, the Disdained, the Derided, the Raped, the Scorned, the Unenvied, the Neglected, the One of No Account.

I am attacked by a woman, now pregnant, who has been a strong activist in politics and resents the current heaviness and restriction of her life and fears for what is to come. She says she envies me my freedom (I am past child bearing now) and she hates the "wallowing in so-called femininity" that she believes the Goddess followers and matriarchal women advocate. She says: "You are so ambivalent, you praise matriarchy, but you know what motherhood's like. It's like death." She talks about her cruel need to depend on the child's father, and she adds: "Anyhow, you are not a true feminist because you go with men."

What she says raises crucial questions for me.

The Matriarchy Study Group in its Manifesto elsewhere in this publication suggests different types of support for mothers and children in a communal and co-operative setting. In such circumstances, motherhood need not be like death, it may come into its own, as a pleasure and a delight.

I want to talk about her cry: you are not a true feminist because you go with men.

Patriarchy at the Immediate Present

Beatrix Campbell recently presented a history of women's sexuality since 1968, in a dynamic lecture (so far unpublished) launching Feminist Review. She showed how the 1968 liberation movement was liberation for men; exploitation of a new sort of women. Free sex on men's terms became pressure for unlimited sexual availability on women; news about women's possibility of multiple orgasm provided the need for this to be obtained at every meeting: if the man was unable to bring the woman to this (or to orgasm at all) it then became her duty to comfort him, to reassure him, and to assume the mother role. Her needs were seen as entirely complementary to his; she became an honorary man - except in "revolutionary" terms. There, he was still the boss (and remains so). Men were disinclined to view women's oppression as other than their own. Sexual oppression was seen in traditional class terms. They were not willing to see it as the primal oppression which it is. Here I want, personally, to state what I call "Pauline's Law".

This is: Women and Men are Everywhere Oppressed, but wherever the man is oppressed, the woman is doubly or trebly oppressed. Her basic oppression starts, continues and never ends in bed.

Back to Bea Campbell: men's behaviour and women's disappointment at the failure of the freedom revolution led them, she suggests, to the political Lesbian alternative.

Now women found they were able to throw off male oppression completely, and to relate solely to each other, and felt strong enough to come out and do so. But, in spite of the close and loving relationships, where, she asked, were the supportive frameworks, the houses, the creches, the financial networks for mothers and children? So far everything was seen in privatised terms - though part of the essential framework of women's politics. But the loudest silence, she claimed, had been from the heterosexual women. Where were they, what had they to say, were women to be defeated again?

So this is where I want to make my own statement and to talk about

The Future

Changing consciousness is immensely painful and difficult. We women have to get out of our patriarchal thinking and responding; we have to sick up the poison we have ingested since birth. Researching our past puts confidence and strength into us, and particularly into our sexuality, which at the same time extends even to spiritual as well as to physical liberation. But there is more than that.

Anger and Justice

We have to get in touch with our anger.

Recalling the past leads us to a new vision of the future. But this future is held back by men. Reflecting in their sexual life with us their depersonalisation, their alienation from life, their emotional shiftlessness and irresponsibility, their lack of care and selfishness which so often leads us to madness and suicide. No longer.

In the name of Kali the Destroyer, the Avenger, the Cleanser, in the name of Maeve and the Morrigan, in the Name of the Holder of the Scales of Justice.

We women have to call upon our anger. We have to reach for it and let it loose. Until our anger boils over, we will not be free people. So often we bury it, we "forgive", we turn it into pain, acceptably weep, wash up and smile again. No longer. There can be no future for us until we uncover the spring which is now a volcano, and let it go where it has to. We have to seek justice.

Revolution? Puny men have not started: all they achieve is an ecstasy of violence followed by punitive power. When we reach our anger and when they stand and face it and accept it, understanding that whatever comes they have deserved, then there might just be a future for our heterosexuality, even for the human race.

Their patriarchal control of nature has run it on to a destruction course, there is almost no time left to reverse this. Their oppression of us has created a depersonalised world, they rape nature as they rape us, they demand continual replenishment of their own resources from ours. No longer.

Without our anger, nothing will change. We have no longer to be patient, to cope, to be sympathetic, to uphold their sky.

Men are less whole than we are, less able to heal themselves, unable to avoid venting their toxic distortions on us. I don't know if they will ever become whole people or even want to do so. Certainly they will not, until they face their oppressive power and its consequences, and our anger and its consequences.

I see men today, aware of something of the past, now trying to learn caring mechanisms and taking responsibility for children. I see gay men learning and helping other men to learn about and nourish their emotions. I see men going into brotherhood groups to seek to understand their feelings better.

Very well. But I see no men coming to grips with their oppression of women. They back away continually, and will not come to judgement.

I see no future for our heterosexuality unless they can take this step forward. There is a historic necessity being forced on them. The wretched whom they have trodden into the earth for so long are rising up and calling for accounts to be taken.

If men are not able to understand this and adapt to the changes needed, then they will have run themselves into an evolutionary blind alley and eventually become extinct. If men ask themselves why they should bother to change themselves and confront women's anger; why even, they should become "persons" rather than patriarchs, why they should give up their privileged life on slave labour, they might reflect on this: already patriarchal ways of living in the Western world have shortened their life-span significantly compared with women's; soon, if they persist in their dinosaur- tyrannosaur-like behaviour, there will be no use for them whatever in the world, and they will go to the scrap heap.


But I don't think this is a necessary or a welcome path. A recent article by Andrea Dworkin in Peace News said:

There are two emerging feminist erotic models - Lesbianism and Androgyny. Lesbianism is the celebration of womanhood, the core erotic act in an emerging woman's culture. Androgyny has to do with the obliteration of gender distinctions and sex roles and ultimately of gender itself.

Yes. But I am going to call androgyny something else, and hope it will be something else. This is gynandry.

Gynandry is more than androgyny. It is not a case of the obliteration of gender distinctions based on patriarchal conditioning. It might encourage personal distinctiveness and bring gender differences to ecstasy. It may even create new genders. Implicit in it is personhood for every person: each person will take part in communal care of all, and of each other.

While women need not forego the pleasures of femaleness and mothering, they will allow motherhood to other sexes too. There will be new technology which will bring the choice of having children in or out of the body.

We have to face this future with great care: in a person-run world, with women in command of what happens to them, such technology can relieve them of the slavery and drudgery associated with children and release the total joy that is so often stifled. Women who do not want to use their bodies for this purpose need not: those who do will have the choice of doing so without penalty. But in a patriarchal context, such technology is a vicious threat: more control of women's bodies by men, and even genetic engineering to create supermonsters in their own image. Our matriarchal values are needed more urgently here than at any other point: caring and nurturing, freedom and loving have to be the core of such technology, otherwise it is true death to us all.

At the heart of such caring is communal support for those who need it, freedom to pursue our whole lives, and a complete destruction of patriarchy. I look at Marge Piercy's Woman at the Edge of Time and Naomi Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman for ideal pictures of what this situation could be like.

And now for some points about our sexuality now and in the future.

Clitoral and Vaginal Orgasm

I'm doubtful about the significance of the physical gap between the clitoris and the vagina. I wonder (with Elaine Morgan) whether there is a Natural Selection factor. Why should penetration of the penis into the vagina not give similar satisfaction to the woman as to the man? Some believe this can be achieved through sexual dexterity and through learning in children's early play how to please oneself and others. But I go further.

Have women been physically neglected for so long that our body geography has changed? Statuettes of Cretan women in the Heraklion Museum show them with clitoris much more enlarged than is usual today. Our capacity for multi-orgasm is much under-used. Can our clitorises have shrunk through lack of use? If so, how long and how much activity will it take to get them right again?

Another suggestion: Is our bodily make-up such that we need not one, but several partners? Sherfey in her Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality thought that we did, and that society put us down in order to create and retain "law and order". Suppose we are made so that when one partner gets tired, another takes over; or should we in fact enjoy our sexuality in common, single sex, bisexually, always, sometimes, not at all, or only at seasonal festivals?

More or Less Sex?

Paula Tree, in her Liberating Sexuality, a book of real love and care, suggests that in a future where people are more tender and caring of each other the needs of our sexuality would be lessened. In fact, instead of having sex without love, we might have love without sex. This could be a releasing thought, but I don't go the whole way with it. With the message of the past before us I think we could get back to integrating our sexuality with spirituality. Sexuality will not just yield a pleasant pastime, but become a matter of sacred reverence and put us in touch with our wholeness. It will become more, not less important.

Kundalini and Serpent Power

As our sexual slavery disappears, we might relearn some of the older knowledge. It is not possible to deal here with the concept of Serpent Power, now taken over by male devotees. The serpent, symbol always of women's wisdom, immortality and totality, stretches from our womb to our nipples, coiled round the tree of life inside us. Control of it must come back to us, and we may, if we choose, only then share it with male partners.


I find it necessary to repeat an all-important point made in this article. For gynandry to be more than a pious hope, it must have a social and economic framework. We have to conjecture a new kind of matriarchal situation on the basis of community responsibility. If anyone reading this, thinks such matters have nothing to do with her sexuality, let her imagine, when next fucking, how she would feel if that world were already in being.

Gynandry assumes the adulthood of humankind. Gender may become irrelevant and whether it does so also becomes irrelevant. The more important questions of who has the power, who is the community, are touched upon (as far as we are able) in our Manifesto. (There is more work to be done here.) I believe that person-hood is connected with nurturing, but that no longer do we women have to nurture men. I repeat: we have nurtured so much that we now must have retribution, and we must have restitution. We cry out for justice, and we will obtain justice.

Am I not a true feminist because I go with men? This accusation caused me a lot of heart-searching and I have come to the conclusion that I can't answer it. But I want to say something important for me. For all the life-long disappointments (and they never stop), and the agony, I do not want to deny the joy that has happened to me. This joy has always been bound up with the natural world, the sea, the dark flowing river with flocks of birds overhead. This has been with a man. This joy has led to the knowledge of the concept of the Goddess and to my re-entering and understanding my magic powers and possibilities, to a knowledge of death and of re-birth.

To women who want to love men, to women who bear sons, women who are now sitting crying, disappointed, agonised, despairing: with you I weep constantly, with you I reach for my anger, with you I fight on, with you I dedicated myself again -In the Name of the Mother.

Politics of Matriarchy, Matriarchy Study Group ,1979


I would never have made it without the support and encouragement of the Group but there are some very special thank yous I need to say.
The first is to Lynn who posed the questions.
The next to Pauline, who when I cried out in desperation, I can't go forward, or back, she said "Well, get into it, then". In this she reminded me of the midwife during the birth of my second child. I said then, "I'm stuck, I can't go on". And she said: "What is your alternative?"Greetings and thanks to her, too.
To Helen, who said you don't have always to know the answers, it's OK to say you are confused.
To Dot, who as always, helped me find strength.


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PATAI, Raphael, Hebrew Goddesses, Avon Books, K.T.A.V., 1967.

ALLEGRO, John, Lost Gods, Abacus.

HARDING, Esther, Women's Mysteries, Rider: The Way of All Women, Rider.

SHUTTLE & REDGROVE, The Wise Wound, Gollancz, 1978.

WEIDEGER, Paula, Female Cycle, The Women's Press, 1978.

WALTON, Evangeline, Island of the Mighty (based on the Mabinogion).

MATRIARCHY STUDY GROUP, Goddess Shrew, 1977, Menstrual Taboos, 1978.

WOMEN'S GROUP, Marriage Shrew, 1972.

WOMEN'S GROUP, Radical Feminist Shrew, 1971.

KOLLANTAI, Alexandra, Sexual Relations and the Class Struggle:Love and the New Morality. Translated by Holt. Falling Wall Press.

MARSHAK, Roots of Civilisation, McGraw Hill, 1972.

MARKALE, I., Women of the Celts, Gordon Cremonesi, 1975.

DINNERSTEIN, Dorothy, The Rocking of the Cradle and the Ruling of the World, Souvenir Press.

WIN International News Network, New York, Spring 1978.

CAMPBELL, Beatrix, Women's Sexuality. Lecture (unpublished), October 1978.

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DWORKIN, Andrea, Feminism and the Radical Left', Peace News,1.12.78.

AVALON, Arthur, Serpent Power, Dover Publications Inc.

SHERFEY, Mary Jane, Nature and Evolution of Women's Sexuality. Vintage Books.

MASTERS & JOHNSTON, An Analysis of human Sexual Response, edited by R. & E. Brecher. Andre Deutsch, 1978.

MORGAN, Elaine, Descent of Woman, Corgi.

RIDLEY, Michael, Megalithic Art of the Maltese Islands, Dolphin Press, 1976.

NEWMAN, Anthea, The Cage, Penguin.

REICH, W., Invasion of Compulsory Sex Morality, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Inc., 1971.

TREE, Paula, Liberating Sexuality.(Politics of Matriarchy 1979)


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