"SACRED PLEASURE: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body -- New Paths to Power and Love" by Riane Eisler

"SACRED PLEASURE: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body -- New Paths to Power and Love"

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This rambling account of sacred pleasures from the beginning of time to the present is more intuitive than scholarly. Eisler (codirector of the Center for Partnership Studies, Pacific Grove, Calif.; The Chalice and the Blade, not reviewed, etc.), in an overdramatic and long-winded analysis of cultural organization, optimistically suggests that we are at a critical moment in which pleasure may replace violence as the primary force behind social relationships, specifically those between men and women. Eisler posits a cultural transformation theory that shows ""that many beliefs and practices we today recognize as dysfunctional and antihuman stem from a period of great disequilibrium in our prehistory when there was a fundamental shift from partnership to dominator model ascendancy."" She argues that partnership is at the core of many religious teachings, but that over the past 2,500 years these elements have been repressed by institutions -- by the Church, for example, in its attempt to control sexual relations -- resulting in dogma that has stifled the creativity of most men and women and justified a gender-based double standard. In the process, dominance and violence have become highly eroticized. Unfortunately, Eisler never makes clear what prompted the change from prehistory's organization around goddess worship and the wonder of sexual pleasure. And her lengthy history of how different cultures have organized sexuality around pleasure and pain tends to simplify complex social relations and relies too often on sketchy evidence, as when she argues that environmental conditions have been a driving force behind various societies' pleasure/pain orientation. Eisler makes more sense when she discusses human yearning for intimacy. According to her, the revolution to a partnership model of social organization has already begun, and change will happen in intimate relationships and the family when love is redefined as pleasure rather than pain. Eisler's dominator/partnership continuum makes some empirical sense, but its grandness may be overstated.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 492pp
Publisher: HarperSanFransisco