As a queer person, I thought for a long time that the sex I had wasn’t “real sex.” The ways I had sex were not accepted by the culture I was raised in—or by myself—so I felt they were somehow invalid. Attraction and shame became flip sides of the same coin.
I have usually had sex with guilt, often with pleasure, and, every now and then, with a sense of mystery and awe. In the last case, the wonder came from putting my queer body in, around, or against another queer body to experience and affirm each other’s very real desire. Those instances created, or uncovered, something deep and powerful, personal and mutual. Something real. Something magic.
I have often looked to magic to help me find relief from the damage surrounding my queerness inflicted by both sex and culture. I talked to five queer witches about how to use sex magic to heal. What I found is that, in magic as in medicine, what seems like the poison is often the cure: The queer sex that made me feel shame can be transformed into something that helps me heal from that shame.
The purpose of sex magic is to harness the energy created during sexual exchanges and focusing it toward a desired result or intention. Those can be whatever you like: Some witches I spoke with used sex magic to alter their appearances, get jobs, and cut cords with negative people. “There is an amplified intensity to sexual interaction that is sacred and primal,” says AJ Durand, a New Orleans–based esoterica teacher. “Ritual sex magic can be an open forum of intention and a tool of enlightenment.”
You don’t need a partner to work toward these kind of results—nor do you need to have intercourse. “Some people [practice sex magic] when they masturbate,” says Ruby Wolfe, who runs the witchcraft school NOLA Esoteric and Sabbath Wolfe. “I find it a lot easier when there’s another person—I like to play off of their energy,” she says, “But it can be as simple as touching.”
Durand adds that you don’t even need to touch yourself or another person to do sex magic. One practice he suggests comes from the Tantric tradition of breath exchange. “Breath is a primary connection to vital life force,” he says, and can be the sole practice that defines queer sex magic if you want.
If sex magic can be done alone or without having queer sex, what’s so queer about queer sex magic? Astrologer Chani Nicholas explains, “As queers, gender non-conforming people, and anyone outside of the hetero, white supremacist, normative paradigm of sexuality: Anything outside that that we allow ourselves to explore is totally fucking magical, especially when our shame is honored, held, or even drops away.”
Queer sex magic is personal, social, and political, Nicholas says. “When we have those experiences, radical healing occurs, and we’re able to see the possibility of our presences,” she continues. ”Heteronormativity, cis-normativity, and white supremacy are so incredibly damaging to the soul. Our souls are partly expressed through our sexuality, so all of that systemic oppression finds its way into sexual encounters. When we can use our sex lives to heal the damage that those systems have done on us, that is radical. That is what queer sex, if done with consciousness, is capable of.”
As Nicole Garneau, author of Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism, puts it, “Queers are healing the world. You’re welcome.”
So: How can you utilize this energy? “The first step is establishing trust with ourselves,” says Lizxnne Cobalt Chrome, writer and swamp witch. She suggests building an altar that honors your divinity. It could be as simple as a handkerchief, a candle, and items that represent sacred parts of yourself, like a toy that represents your sense of wonder or a stone that symbolizes your connection to the earth.
I combined the witches’ suggestions to design my own queer sex magic practice: I built an altar using Chrome’s advice and designed the practice using the witches’ ritual suggestions. I decided to make the intention of my practice self-acceptance, as it pertains to queer sex and my past.
I built a ritual space by laying out an ornate black, gold, and purple piece of fabric that my father brought me from Hawaii, to represent the ground of my family—I wanted to invite and honor them. The fabric was a rectangle big enough for me to lay my full body upon. On the long edge, I placed objects representing the four elements: a bowl of water, a white candle (fire), a bowl of satsuma oranges (earth), and copal incense (air). To represent my queer community, I placed fresh basil in water that a friend had given me the night before. I decided that I didn’t need an object to represent myself. My body would do that.
I poured amber and copal oil into a bowl. This oil was made by a friend on the new moon and I had left it on my everyday altar for a full moon cycle. As I poured the oil, I thought of the ways this friend has held me and invoked her healing presence.
I took off my clothes and lit dragon’s blood–soaked sage and walked around the altar three times, pausing at each—where I know the cardinal directions to be—and said to myself, “I create this sacred space for my work. Please bless this sacred space.”
Sitting on the center of the cloth, I meditated, focusing on my breath and asking for the words to use for this ritual: I am sacred and I move through this world with divine intelligence appeared in my mind. I took a deep breath, dipped my fingers in the oil, and placed them in between my brows at the third-eye chakra, asking for divine vision.
All of the witches I spoke with mentioned ritual self-massage, and Durand’s explanation of “ritualizing self-regard” felt necessary. I massaged my face, repeating to myself, “I am sacred and I move through the world with divine intelligence.” I noticed that I was breaking out around my hairline and on my chin. I brought myself back to my mantra and acknowledged my flawed skin by massaging my head with my fingertips. This was so joyful! I really felt, as I massaged my crown and pulled the oil through my hair, that I was sacred and divinely intelligent.
I moved my hands to my throat. It was tense, tight, sore. I started to cry. I choked on my words. They were stuck in my throat. I stroked the tendons and muscles there and repeated the mantra. I am sacred. I cried harder. When my hands came to my breasts, I realized that my eyes were closed. I didn’t want to see myself. I opened my eyes as I massaged my chest and repeated my mantra. I made slow circles around my belly, feeling the loose flabby skin that I am always trying to wish it away. I am sacred.
When I came to my vagina, I paused in the thatch of my pubic hair. Was I going to masturbate? It was going to be a total cop-out if I didn’t. I thought of AJ’s words: “Refraining from sexual activity can be a powerful and important choice.” I thought of all the times I have performed my sexuality for the entertainment of others and decided to take this power for myself. Maybe if I can make that choice in ritual, I thought, I can keep making the choice to maintain power over my own sexuality outside of ritual.
I massaged my labia, anus, and thighs, saying, “I am sacred. I move through the world with divine intelligence.” My hands slid around my ankles. When I got to my feet, I felt a rush of gratitude. Thank you, I thought to my body, for moving me through the world. I folded my torso over my legs and hugged myself. I cried into my shins. Thank you.
When I sat up, I felt depleted, but safe. I think I felt sacred, but I know I felt deeply okay—that may not seem like that big a deal, but it’s been a while. I felt like I might be able to move through the world sometimes remembering my divine intelligence. I ate an orange.
I bowed to my altar and left it to my cat, Rainbow Dash, who promptly spilled the water across the floor and batted at the incense. I took a shower. I ate breakfast. It is important to reground after ritual, to put yourself back into the world renewed.
So, am I healed? A little. I am a little healed. That’s enough for now. It’s more than I have often had the courage to ask for. This ritual of self acceptance, of seeing myself as sacred, is a process. This is a beginning. Queer sex magic is a step towards healing—maybe the world, as Garneau said, but certainly myself.