For too long, Western culture has ignored, sidelined, or maligned feminine energy: we have forgotten that this energy, like male energy, is sacred. It is not to be bought or sold, disrespected, abused, or tied up with a pretty bow and left on a shelf to slowly dissolve, like cotton candy or false dreams. It is not to be dressed up or dressed down for the purpose of enhancing male power. It is time for us—men as well as women—to reconnect to this energy, and heal. It is time for us to remember that a woman, by her very nature, combines the sexual and the maternal—there is no need for a Madonna/whore complex, because the Creator made a woman’s body for pleasure and for nourishment, for herself and for her children (if she has them).
While there are many manifestations of the sacred feminine, the one we need so that women may fully own their sexual power is Venus. That’s right, the goddess of beauty and love.
Some may say we already own Venus—women are clearly the “summit of beauty and love,” as the song “Venus” declares. I am most familiar with the 1986 version of this song by Bananarama—turn this song on at any dance party full of Gen X women, and you will see some serious shakin goin on. Cause Venus, she’s got it, yeah baby she’s got it. The song, however, is older than that—it was written in 1969 by a Dutch band called Shocking Blue. The lyrics in the two versions are essentially the same, and while I love the song, there are some lines in it that encapsulate the problem with the way we view Venus: “I’m your Venus/I’m your fire/At your desire.”
Your Venus; your fire; at your desire. Last time I checked, Mars’ sexuality and fertility didn’t belong to anyone else (including his children, who cannot exist without his seed). Add this idea to the rise of technology and media in Western culture, and you get Bananrama’s video: an amalgam of empowerment and disempowerment, a sexual game in which, to be powerful, Venus must control men with her sexuality. In other words, you get the beginning of the co-option of Venus.
Things have gone downhill from there: backlash ran with this idea, and now it is sometimes impossible to distinguish the line between true female sexual power and its shadow, which relies on the male gaze to believe in itself. The sacred feminine needs the sacred masculine; it does not need to chew itself up and spit itself out while chasing the masculine gaze.
This shadow-self is always in the sacred feminine—all sacred power has a flip side, an ability to feed on others rather than draw from itself. In the original mythology surrounding Venus, she could be a jealous goddess who didn’t trust in her own beauty and maligned or harmed other women to maintain her power. We’ve seen this version of Venus—she’s so famous she’s got her own reality TV show, an album on the pop charts, a movie deal and her pick of a thousand gods, including Adonis. If she’s too young to play with fire, she’s a Disneyfied princess surrounded in pink confection, awaiting her big break. No, this is not the Venus we are missing: we are missing the Venus within.
The good news is, women don’t need a Bratz doll, a TV show, or a song to find this Venus.
All we need to do is close our eyes and remember.
Remember the way your body felt when you were first becoming a woman. Remember the pain of menstruation—the cramps and the nausea and the shockwaves that extend into your thighs.
Remember the first time you realized an attraction was mutual. Remember falling in love.
Remember the first time you had sex; remember the best sexual experience of your life.
If you are a woman who loves other women, don’t let anyone tell you that Venus only loves Mars and Adonis. Tell them that Venus owns her sexuality, not the other way around.
If you are a victim of rape or sexual assault, remember that pain and release it—it does not belong to you, it belongs to abuse. The sacred part of you will not allow this abuse to define you.
If you are a woman who feels inadequate when bombarded with the cultural ideal of beauty, question culture instead of yourself. Do not allow anyone (not even the media) to tell you that you aren’t young enough, thin enough, white enough, sexy enough, available enough, perfect. Enough. Walk away from those who disrespect your womanhood.
If you are a mother, remember giving birth—remember the blood, flowing like a river for weeks. Remember holding your child and knowing you birthed more than you bargained for. Remember the way the milk feels when it comes in, the tight tingling sensation.
If you chose not to breastfeed your child or couldn’t breastfeed your child, don’t let anyone tell you that Venus isn’t a real mother if she doesn’t breastfeed. Walk away from those who disrespect your motherhood.
If you are a mother who didn’t birth her child, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t this child’s real mother. Walk away from those who disrespect your motherhood.
If you have chosen not to be a mother, don’t let anyone tell you (not even silently) that Venus has to be one. Tell them that Venus owns her fertility, not the other way around.
If you were pregnant but didn’t give birth, remember the children you didn’t have—either because your body said it wasn’t time or your mind said it wasn’t time, and you or creation made a decision. Honor that decision.
If you are a woman who wanted children and could not have them, or if you have lost a part of your body to illness or injury, do not allow anyone to tell you that you are less of a woman. Honor your strength and fragility; honor your body, and your experience. Walk away from those who disrespect your womanhood.
Now claim it.
All of it—every second of your female experience. If there is pain in this experience, release what does not belong to you; do not hold onto the bruises left by another person’s shadow.
If you are uncomfortable naming the power of this experience Venus, give her another name—her power is yours. Call on the women in your spiritual tradition; if you have no spiritual tradition, call on your energy alone.
When you are holding what you know is yours, the sacred sexual power of femininity, do not give it to MTV or Woman’s Day or Vogue or The Bachelor. Do not give it to the man who turns his head when you walk down the street, a politician, a religious figure, a parent or a child or a spouse. Never give it to an abuser. Share it with those you love and trust; do not give it away to another person for the purpose of enhancing his or her power so that you can avoid confronting your own.
This power is yours, and it is sacred.
Move through the world with this knowledge.
If you are a man, help the woman you love honor her sacred sexual self, and allow her to honor yours.
When both women and men begin, in large numbers, to honor the sacred feminine, we will feel its ascension in our culture—not to dominate the sacred masculine, but to join with it for the common good. To heal body, mind, and spirit.