Why Are People Into Witchy Eroticism?

modified from flickr / Harem Malik

The Establishment is the proud home of sex, gender, love, kink, and what-the-hell-is-that-all-about podcast “Why Are People Into That?!” hosted by educator, activist, and media maven Tina Horn. (Listen to previous episodes on the kink of cold hard cash, the sneaky power of shame, and femme dominance.

Being a Dionysian creature capable of bending reality to your intentions clearly has its appeal.

From the moment I met Kristen Sollee, I knew she had a book in her. On an unseasonably sunny January day in 2016, Kristen interviewed me for her transcendent website the Slutist, which combines feminist politics with fashion, the occult, sex work, rock ’n’ roll, and performance art (I suggested we grab lunch on an outdoor patio, after which Kristen was sunburned lobster-red; we became friends despite my near-unforgivable Goth transgression).

At the time, I was creative director for a small press called Threel Media, and I was in a unique position to midwife ideas into flesh. When I learned that Kristen taught a class called Legacy of the Witch at the New School, and that she curated a yearly celebration of mystical artists at a Brooklyn metal bar, I suspected that she would have the discipline and creativity to make a book about magical female sexuality that would change the world.

Two years later I’m looking at a yellow and black bookWitches Sluts Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. Shining out from the cover is a mouth modeled after Kristen’s: dark lipstick overlaid with gold sparkles and a glossy hint of wetness. Lips that are confrontational and alluring, lips parted in anticipation of incantation or orgasm.

Kristen is very much a witch of the American West, in cowgirl snakeskin and oversized reflective Hollywood shades. She is always wearing some kind of flowing over-layer obscuring an extremely skimpy base beneath: Barbie pink robes over fishnet bodysuits, leather jackets over lamé leotards. I think of her as a walking sigil, covered in dense arm tattoos and heavy pendants symbolizing hedonistic rebellion. And like many people who embrace sartorial darkness, she is extraordinarily kind (she once told me that her intuitive mother raised her never to say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to their face).

I’ve always been curious about the occult, although a lifelong distaste for organized religion has kept me from being an unabashed believer in much of anything. What I love about Kristen’s take on magic—and the way she documents all of the intellectuals, activists, and artists who have influenced her—is that it operates in the corporeal world: the influence of a hashtag on public discourse, the glamour of a haircut altering perception, the powerful intention of demonstrating dissent.

The project of Witches Sluts Feminists is to draw historical connections between witch hunts and slut shaming. This is not just a book about the forms that the witch can take (although she cites a wide variety of mothers, maidens, crones, and those simply accused of witchcraft, from Maleficent to Tituba to, yes, Hillary Clinton), or a grimoire of beginners’ spells (although there are more than a few tips and tricks).

Kristen is interested in female sexual power, and why that power is so threatening to so many throughout history and across cultures. A glance at the table of contents reveals her ability to correlate the ancient practices of independent women with the contemporary politics of liberation: midwifery as a reproductive right, the sex worker as the sacred whore, the coven as community.

When we sat down to podcast just before she headed out on a national Sex Witch book tour, I asked Kristen why witches are sexy and why it’s sexy to be a witch.

She describes the desire for the witch as “wanting to know and be known by a deep dark power.” This made me think about a witch’s lust as all-consuming, a potion mixing pleasure and pain. And as for the erotics of being a witch, clearly being a Dionysian creature capable of bending reality to your intentions has its appeal.

I also wanted to ask her about sex magic. Many years ago, I traveled in Europe with an occultist who introduced me to the idea of masturbation as a spell-casting ritual. Kristen agrees with this approach: “You can’t think during orgasm,” she laughs. In her book, she explains the belief that the “energy raised during arousal and release is tantamount to spellcasting, and a specific goal can be achieved in the throes of ecstasy.” She recommends the crystal dildos made by Chakrubs, and reveals that she used orgasm magic to manifest this book deal. Even if masturbation merely promotes “self-esteem, sexual health, and positive body image for women,” that seems reason enough to use it to fight the patriarchy.

“Magic is about shifting perception and consciousness,” Kristen explains. “That happens during sex whether you like it or not.”

The best part about working in publishing is conjuring the books you want to read, and I’ve learned so much from Kristen’s work. I admire the body autonomy activism of the Satanic Temple. I love the symbolism of the Tarot deck, the way it gives me material to tell someone a story about themselves, assuring them they’re following the correct path.

As I discussed in my recent Interrobang interview with Ev’Yan Whitney, I also just think crystals are really pretty. As a slut, and a whore, and a queer, and a pervert, I know how it feels to be a small town pariah. I have seen the hate in the eyes of those who would like to watch me burn. If witchcraft is defined by female sexual rebellion, then I’m greasing up my broomstick and taking to the skies: See ya there, sisters!

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