My mother's business card describes her as a shaman, but she introduces herself as a sex teacher. After a traumatic sexual history, my mother experimented with many modes of sexual reclamation and empowerment—kundalini, tantra, qigong. She blamed her erratic sexual history partly on the lack of information she received as a child. From this perceived injustice and her extensive experience, she sought to pioneer the field of spiritual sexploration. When I turned 18, my mother asked me to help with her work. I tentatively agreed; my formal sexual education had been limited to videos at school depicting fallopian tubes or the proper use of a condom. In these early attempts as a sex professor, she introduced me as her business partner, saying, "I teach sex with my son."
My mother learned the art of poi and took me to a show at the Santa Fe Brewing Co., where middle-aged women in tube tops gave lessons on the technique of swinging flaming balls around. She brought me to an ecstatic dance class at the Railyard, where we danced provocatively with more middle-New-Aged seekers. And when, in pursuit of social networking, she became a hostess at Harry's Roadhouse, people told me how lucky I was to have such a hip mom.
She was too hip, however, for Santa Fe. Disappointed by my trepidation and my lack of initiative in the sex-teaching field, my mother moved to the cesspool of pseudo-spiritual sexploration: Sedona, Ariz. There, she found shelter in a place called Phoenix Goddess Temple. She worked with other erotically inclined goddesses and changed her name to Wildfire, which I believe is the New Age equivalent of Peppermint. When I visited the temple, I met a goji berry beauty who religiously watched the eclipse of the moon and invited me to a cacao ceremony. I left hoping she'd find the community she craved.
Months later, she visited me unannounced. The Goddess Temple had been shut down. The temple's website describes services such as erotic massage, disclaiming, "No one dictates religious worship or private ritual between consenting adults." Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, however, saw it quite differently.
"This was no more a church than Cuba is Fantasy Island," Montgomery said at a press conference last September.
My mother had sold her car and bought a fully furnished border patrol vehicle, complete with blackened windows. Sitting on her faux-leopard-fur couch, I listened as she described her plan to move in with a dominatrix in Phoenix whose job description included "compassionate whipping."
Only then did I finally ask myself where the line between spiritual exploration and sexual degradation was. Is the world ready for religion that involves sexual practice? Whether or not it is, my mother is not discouraged.
She is still out there, kicking up dust on the forefront of her own personal sexual revolution.
This story was authored by an intern who asked us to remove their name.