Yoni touch and talk: Sacralizing the female sex through tantra

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This article examines women’s tantric retreats in Northwest Europe aimed at developing female sexual subjectivity. Based on ethnographic study and in-depth interviews, it argues that the retreats induced among participants critical distancing from socially dominant representations of (self-)objectified femininity and pornified female sexuality. It highlights how, through foregrounding a view of the female sex as sacred, the workshops fostered experiences of embodying the divine as grounds for female worthiness. It further illustrates how intimate touch among women and self-touch were encouraged as ways to establish an erotic connection with a vital flow beyond a narrow focus on sexual activity.

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Alternative health care and holistic spiritual practices have become increasingly popular in many Western countries, especially among women, who often claim them to be deeply transformative. This paper presents an ethnographic study of women’s tantric retreats in Northwest Europe that aimed to help women reconnect with their vital sexual energy, rediscover the sacredness of their female bodies, and possibly heal from damaging and even traumatic experiences regarding their femininity and sexuality. It draws on Turner’s influential view on ritual as a liminal space in order to account for the transformative potential of these workshops. Specifically, it applies Hinton and Kirmayer’s flexibility hypothesis, which suggests that healing rituals shift people’s mode of being-in-the-world, including their cognitive, emotional, and physical state or stance, towards openness to new ways of being. First, it highlights different ontological domains where shifts took place, notably somatic state, self-image and relationality. Subsequently, it identifies the main modalities that were used for enabling transformation: the embodiment of the metaphor of the goddess/the divine as present in each woman and the use of intimate, loving touch and meditative awareness. The process of transformation and healing elucidated in this way engaged the physical, emotional and cognitive levels as interacting dimensions, relying foremost on the activation of a vital energy that both gave participants a deep sense of self and connected beyond the self.
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This paper draws on the results of ethnographic research on ‘women’s circles’; women-only spaces that celebrate sisterhood and the ‘feminine’, including the increasingly globally popular ‘Red Tent’. Women’s circles are non-institutionalized, often monthly gatherings, for women to come together and relax, meditate, share stories, partake in rituals, heal, nourish, and empower themselves. Based on fieldwork and in-depth interviews with founders and organizer-practitioners of women’s circles in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, the study shows how they offer a growing number of women from diverse backgrounds a space that they find lacking in secular-liberal society, out of a desire to ‘re/connect’ with each other, their bodies, their inner selves, and sometimes with the sacred. Women’s circles are indicative of women’s heightened participation in the realm of subjective wellbeing culture, including both elements of spirituality and more secular ‘personal growth’. Against the presumption that circles would be merely expressive of neo-liberal individualist consumer culture or retrograde gender essentialism, the paper argues they can be viewed as sites of sisterhood, solidarity, and dissent, cultivating a new type of femininity grounded in both affirmative and more oppositional forms of emerging feminist consciousness. In response to the so-called ‘post-secular turn in feminism’ and the growing interest for religion and, more recently, spirituality in (secular) feminist theory, the paper pleads for a re-consideration of the rise of women’s spirituality/wellbeing culture in the West as a form of post-secular agency.
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Eros is often considered to be a desire or inclination for what is irreducibly other to the self. This view is particularly prominent among philosophers who reject a “fusion” model of erotic love in favor of one that foregrounds the difference between lovers. Drawing from this “difference” model, I argue in this essay that autoeroticism is a genuine form of Eros, even when Eros is understood to involve irreducible alterity. I claim that the autoerotic act is not adequately captured by traditional views of masturbation, where it is seen as distinct from the erotic encounter with another being. Instead, I employ Derrida and Irigaray to argue that the autoerotic act is auto-hetero-erotic, which depends on a view of the self as self-othering and heterogeneous.
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Sexuality and the occult arts have long been associated in the western imagination, but it was not until the nineteenth century that a large and sophisticated body of literature on sexual magic-the use of sex as a source of magical power-emerged. This book, the first history of western sexual magic as a modern spiritual tradition, places these practices in the context of the larger discourse surrounding sexuality in American and European society over the last 150 years to discover how sexual magic was transformed from a terrifying medieval nightmare of heresy and social subversion into a modern ideal of personal empowerment and social liberation. Focusing on a series of key figures including American spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Julius Evola, Gerald Gardner, and Anton LaVey, Hugh Urban traces the emergence of sexual magic out of older western esoteric traditions including Gnosticism and Kabbalah, which were progressively fused with recently-discovered eastern traditions such as Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. His study gives remarkable new insight into sexuality in the modern era, specifically on issues such as the politics of birth control, the classification of sexual "deviance," debates over homosexuality and feminism, and the role of sexuality in our own new world of post-modern spirituality, consumer capitalism, and the Internet.
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Chapter prepared for Attwood, F., Brunt,R & Cere,R (Eds) (2007) Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualization of Culture. I.B. Taurus 1 This title owes a debt to Morgan Spurlock's powerful critique of the fast food industry, Supersize Me. Introduction It might be Venice Beach in California, or any other similar boardwalk, with white sand, blue sky and the ocean in the background. A tall, slim, blonde young woman is pictured turning away from the viewer (figure 1). She is bending over to tie the laces on her rollerblades, and the tops of her tiny red shorts rise up to reveal the cheeks of her buttocks. The pose is familiar to anyone who has ever glanced at heterosexual pornography, and is known to scholars of animal behaviour as 'presenting'. The only thing stopping us from seeing the young woman's genitalia is a contrasting blue g-string, worn over the shorts. Either side of the image, runs the following text: 'Q: Why do you run? A: One word. Thong'. And then comes the brand: Puma 'Fancy a smack?' says another advert. It shows a tall, slim, PVC-clad, blonde dominatrix holding a man tethered on all fours, with a collar and leash around his neck, and his trousers pulled part way down. The woman holds a hard paddle/slipper in her right hand and her arm is raised: she is poised to beat his naked, exposed buttocks. A small box in the right-hand corner reveals that the image is advertising Gym Box, an exercise centre in central London. 'Home slave' reads a third advert -this time for an apartment block in Manchester. Here yet another tall, blonde young woman is shown, tightly tied up from head to toe, while an attractive, chisel-jawed businessman regards her coolly from behind his state-of-the-art laptop computer.
The role of women and ideas of gender are fundamental components of all religious traditions. Tantric traditions in particular offer a unique perspective on women's participation in religious traditions since they frequently incorporate worship of Goddesses, along with ordinary women as participants in religious rites. This book examines the representations of women within Tantra using a case study of a selection of Hindu Tantric texts from the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries in Northeast India. Arguing for a nuanced perspective of women in Tantra, this book presents evidence for women's enhanced status in some traditions of Tantra, with women in the roles of guru and initiate. This book also addresses images of women within the Tantric rite of sexual union, arguing for multiple versions and motivations for this notorious practice. Especially this book addresses issues of discourse and speech, women's speech and speech about women, suggesting the imbrication of women's bodies within ideas of women's speech. This book examines a number of Tantric texts that have so far not been translated into Western languages. One appendix delineates the historical context for fifteenth through eighteenth century in the Northeast region of India and also surveys images of women found across a wide range of Tantric texts. The second appendix gives a chapter by chapter synopsis of the primary text used for this study, the Bhannila Tantra, "The Great Blue Tantra," a long and so far untranslated Tantric text.
The language of psychology is all-pervasive in American culture-from The Sopranos to Oprah, from the abundance of self-help books to the private consulting room, and from the support group to the magazine advice column. Saving the Modern Soul examines the profound impact of therapeutic discourse on our lives and on our contemporary notions of identity. Eva Illouz plumbs today's particular cultural moment to understand how and why psychology has secured its place at the core of modern identity. She examines a wide range of sources to show how self-help culture has transformed contemporary emotional life and how therapy complicates individuals' lives even as it claims to dissect their emotional experiences and heal trauma.
New Age has developed rapidly in The Netherlands since the 1960s. During this period, its socio-cultural place has changed greatly. The phenomenon first appeared as a sort of counterculture on the margins of society, becoming increasingly integrated so that, today, the values sought in New Age differ less and less from general social opinions. The body is widely considered as a means of attaining a “spirituality of the self”. An important part of the programmes offered by New Age Centres focuses on “bodywork”. The author studies the importance of the do-it-yourself process predominating in the physical, psychic and esoteric therapies practised in the New Age Centres. Bodywork methods are part of a holism to which the Centres are committed. The author concludes by showing that the physical and psychic practices carried out in the New Age Centres meet a need for healing and so are well adjusted to the aspirations of our times.
This article argues that the notion of the `sexualization of culture' is too general to be a useful conceptual tool. The article has two main objectives. First, it seeks to interrogate the notion of `sexualization' as a way of understanding the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery within contemporary advertising. Rather than taking up a position `for' or `against' `sexualization' (in the familiar way), it seeks to open up the notion in order to explore the diverse practices that are commonly grouped together under this heading. Using advertising as an example, it argues that `sexualization' is far from being a singular or homogenous process, that different people are `sexualized' in different ways and with different meanings — and indeed that many remain excluded from what has been called the `democratization of desire' operating in visual culture. Secondly, the article develops a feminist intersectional analysis to critically read some of the different ways in which advertising might be said to be sexualized. It looks at three different and contrasting, but easily recognizable `figures' within contemporary advertising: the good-looking male `sixpack', the sexually agentic heterosexual `midriff' and the `hot lesbian', usually intertwined with her beautiful double or Other. The aim is to highlight the point that sexualization does not operate outside of processes of gendering, radicalization and classing, and works within a visual economy that remains profoundly ageist and heteronormative. The article argues that an attention to differences is crucial to understanding the phenomena, practices and scopic regimes that are often lumped together under the heading `equalization of culture'.
This article reviews and examines emerging academic approaches to the study of ‘sexualized culture’; an examination made necessary by contemporary preoccupations with sexual values, practices and identities, the emergence of new forms of sexual experience and the apparent breakdown of rules, categories and regulations designed to keep the obscene at bay. The article maps out some key themes and preoccupations in recent academic writing on sex and sexuality, especially those relating to the contemporary or emerging characteristics of sexual discourse. The key issues of pornographication and democratization, taste formations, postmodern sex and intimacy, and sexual citizenship are explored in detail.
This article discusses contemporary spiritualities, focusing in particular on the recent growth of practices attending to “mind, body, and sprit” and centered on the goal of “holistic well-being.” We argue that the growing popularity of such “holistic spirituality” since the 1980s can be greatly illuminated by reference to Charles Taylor's account of the expressive mode of modern selfhood. Taylor's account is limited, however, by its inability to explain why women are disproportionately active within the sphere of holistic spirituality. By paying closer attention to gender, we seek to refine Taylor's approach and to advance our understanding of contemporary spirituality. Drawing on findings from two qualitative studies of holistic spirituality and health carried out in the United Kingdom, this article offers an analysis of what the “subjective turn” may mean for women. We argue that holistic spiritualities align with traditional spheres and representations of femininity, while simultaneously supporting and encouraging a move away from selfless to expressive selfhood. By endorsing and sanctioning “living life for others” and “living life for oneself,” holistic spiritualities offer a way of negotiating dilemmas of selfhood that face many women — and some men—in late modern contexts.
A través de una discusión que visita las ideas de Friedrich Nietzsche y Michel Foucault, de Allan Bloom y Gail Sheeny, el filósofo canadiense Charles Taylor aborda las nociones de autenticidad y satisfacción que están en el corazón de la desazón ética de la modernidad. Titulada originalmente El malestar de la modernidad, la obra llama a sus lectores a enfrentar los retos de la crisis política y moral de fin de siglo. El autor reconoce los peligros asociados a una modernidad dirigida a la autosatisfacción, pero busca rebasar un pesimismo simplista y distinguir entre las consecuencias favorables y las perjudiciales de la búsqueda moderna del ser auténtico.
Análisis del imaginario sexual que esán construyendo actualmente los medios de comunicación -particularmente a través de la publicidad-, un imaginario caracterizado por una gran liberalidad sexual y una fuerte tendencia a la exhibición e incluso la pornografía. La obra explora la "sexualización" de la vida contemporánea y la relaciona con cambios más amplios que se están gestando en las sociedades de la posguerra.
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