Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"The orgasm may seem ostentatious because, for the first time in history, it can be discussed openly. The ability and right for women as well as men to enjoy sexual expression and satisfaction is as important and relevant a subject today as any other physical ability or civil right."

--Jill Scharf, "The Ostentatious Orgasm" 1969

If the High Priestess is the mindful authority that can arouse and rephrase the truths of the body, then The Empress is the physical authority-the body front and center-that can describe and declare the truth of the mind. She is a medium between the imaginary and the actual, the hope and the event, the question and its many answers. She sparkles with an irresistible charisma that fills old spaces with new things.

The Counter Culture Empress who addressed androcentric values with her sexuality had to come to terms with a long and daunting history of sexual misogyny. Certainly young women of the New Left were angered by leader Stokely Carmichael's infamous comment in 1964 that "the place of women in the movement is prone." Or when male jeers greeted a 1965 effort to introduce women's issues onto an SDS conference agenda. But it was in bed that they addressed the most problematic and pervasive questions. The prevailing male model for sexual pleasure, women realized, made no room for their own satisfaction. Nor had it ever.

Why, after centuries of silence, did a generation of Western women finally confront this oppressive paradigm of "normal" sexuality? It was perhaps because they could. These Counter Culture Empresses entered puberty just as the birth control pill became available, so they weren't as vulnerable to the binding consequences of sexual activity that delimited their mother's lives. Women have always been the gatekeepers of reproduction because eggs are dear and sperm is cheap. But they haven't always been able to guard the gate themselves. Now they could. They did. And this, in turn, bought important time as they explored their own bodies, developed a feminine culture, reframed gender history, and began to visualize what a world would look like under the beneficent influence of the Empress.