From Het Polarity to Queer Eros:

The Development of Ritual Sex in the Twentieth-century Novel

God & Sexuality Conference on Religion and Issues of Sexuality and Gender

New York City, April 2006

Christine Hoff Kraemer, Boston University


Sexual and erotic ritual has been an area of interest for both American and British authors -- particularly those participating in new religious movements, but also within the works of canonical authors such as Hawthorne, Yeats, and Lawrence. In this paper, I will examine the development and use of ritual sex in twentieth century novels, concentrating on fiction written by advocates of alternative religions. An arc of development can be traced through this fiction, showing that an early twentieth-century emphasis on heterosexual polarity (the interaction of masculine and feminine opposites) develops in the late twentieth century into an acceptance of queer sexuality and the willingness to consider women's sexuality outside of the context of heterosexual sex. Authors considered include Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, D.H. Lawrence, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Starhawk, and Anita Diamant.