Hawaiian Sacred Sex, Part 2
Implications for Modern Times
World history, as seen through the eyes of a sexologist, could be viewed as a massive, continuous stomping of sex-positive people and cultures by sex-negative ones. I am not a historian (though I dabble in the history of things that interest me) so I’d love to run this premise past a few who really know what they’re doing.
It also seems clear that one of the best ways to conquer individuals and peoples is to hamstring their physical sexuality and sensuality, wallop them with heavy doses of shame, and pummel them with prohibitions. The resulting demoralization makes it easier to grab their land, resources, and strategic advantages. Later, those of us who live comfortably on the colonized fat of the land can pick through the remains of vanishing traditions and study them, or, as often happens in the case of indigenous cultures, repackage them.
Last week I offered woe to those who might be tempted to offer Hawaiian sex workshops and certifications. In doing so, I could pat myself on the back and feel virtuous. However, I am also aware that my academic, sexologist gaze (which to me seems so innocent and well-intentioned) could be as complicit with colonization and as crudely avaricious as that of any entrepreneur. In fact, there are people who will assert just that, because Western academia is no stranger to greed. It craves knowledge and plunders the cultural wealth of other peoples just as commercial and political interests plunder the tangible goodies.
Therefore, offering up the topic of Hawaiian Sacred Sex is something I do not do lightly.
In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith PhD writes of "spiritual appropriation as sexual violence" and devotes a chapter (and more) to this. She turns her own razor sharp gaze on the "New Age movement and other forms of indigenous spiritual/cultural appropriation" which "constitute a form of sexual violence." On my trip back from Hawai’i last week, I read, with reservations, an airplane book that a friend tucked into my luggage. It was written by a Euro-American author who said she went through an initiation with some (rather impoverished) First Nation guides and wrote a bestseller about it. I looked at the author’s website when I got off the plane. She now sells what she learned to others for about $12,000, if you go through her entire program. At first glance I did not see an indication that she was giving back a percentage of that wealth, or anything else, to the community which allegedly gave her so much.
Similar examples are not hard to find.
Can this kind of spiritual appropriation and commodification really be a manifestation of sexual violence? Andrea Smith says that the interpersonal knowing that occurs in a sexual relationship is the result of loosened boundaries of “spiritual and psychic levels” of self, as well as the physical self. She says sexual and spiritual/psychic realms are entwined and thus sexual violence affects more than just the physical part of a person. (Anyone who has experienced sexual trauma, or who works with people who’ve been abused, can probably agree.) Thus, on a larger level, a colonizer’s appropriation of a culture’s spiritual traditions can be understood as having the effect of a collective rape.