I’ve never done psychedelic drugs, but I grew up in a sort of odd little backwater of the counterculture, so I’ve always known plenty of people who did. My external impression has long been that these drugs “mess you up” in a fairly specific way — namely, nobody who has ever done a lot of them seems to be any damn good at fitting in, following the rules, or sticking to convention. Since I myself am something of an anarchist, I don’t regard that with any particular dismay. If LSD makes you unfit to be a cubicle rat, why, that’s a problem for corporate recruiters, but I’m not sure anybody else should give a damn.
Thus I was interested to read Annie Sprinkle’s article How Psychedelics Informed My Sex Life and Sex Work, in which she explains that she took to sex work in part because LSD had freed her from from convention:
At sixteen, I finally had my first real sexual experience. On that same night, I also had my first mescaline experience. My boyfriend Van was twenty-six. He owned a hippie coffee shop. He was kind, adoring, and wise. We rode his motorcycle to his beach house for the weekend. He offered me a hit of mescaline. We each took one. I half expected him to turn into a three-headed monster at any moment like with LSD, but the mescaline was more gentle and more sensuous than acid. We walked on the beach, hand in hand, and it was a magical experience. I’d never seen so many stars in the sky; the ocean waves and sand were filled with phosphorescent algae. The world was covered in multi-colored glitter. Van kissed me and I couldn’t tell where my body started or ended next to his. I felt big love.
After a romantic and transcendental evening on the beach, we went back to his place and he treated me to my first cunnilingus experience. Perhaps it was just timing, but the mescaline was definitely an aphrodisiac. I felt so open, aroused, and trusting. Each touch was amazing. It was the most ecstatic experience I had ever had. A few weeks later, when I turned seventeen, I happily got rid of my virginity with Van. I was expecting intercourse to feel as overwhelming and transcendental as a psychedelic experience. Nice as it was, it didn’t feel that way, although later in life it would. At eighteen, I was living a hippie lifestyle in Tucson, Arizona. I did more mescaline, more LSD, and became wildly sexually adventurous. In a famous Playboy magazine interview in 1966, Timothy Leary exclaimed that LSD was the most powerful aphrodisiac ever discovered. I don’t remember having much, if any, sex while tripping on acid. I did not find LSD conducive to wanting to be intimate or to be touched, although I’ve talked with plenty of people who have had mind-blowing sex on LSD. However in retrospect, I see that my drug experiences did free me up from following convention. When most of my schoolmates went on to college, I ended up working in a “massage parlor.” To everyone’s surprise, especially my own, I found my calling! I was already breaking laws by smoking pot and taking psychedelics (which I felt should be legal), so to do illegal prostitution was not that much of a stretch. I believed prostitution should be legal also, and became involved in the prostitutes’ rights movement. I enjoyed my “work” and it fit my needs at the time.
She also had this to say about MDMA/Ecstasy:
By the mid-’80s the Great Dying was well underway; AIDS had taken its huge toll on my community. I’d lost many friends and lovers, and was trying to cope. Being a very sexually active gal, I was desperately searching for new, satisfying forms of sexuality, which could be enjoyed without exchanging bodily fluids. I signed up for a three-day Sacred Sex workshop led by a Tantra teacher named Jwala. At the workshop, my workshop partner gave me my first hit of Ecstasy, and that’s exactly what I experienced–ecstasy. It’s no wonder “E” is extremely popular in the “sex community.” Before MDMA became illegal it had been used successfully during marriage/relationship counseling sessions. Therapists found that partners were better able to communicate with each other while on MDMA. It reduces performance anxiety to zero and creates a yummy, lovey-dovey feeling, and a nice shift in consciousness. Needless to say, I became a convert — to Tantra, and to Ecstasy.
I continued to take Ecstasy, once, twice, or three times a year. Jwala taught me about how to do ritual, about “preparing the space,” and stating one’s intention before making love. I used those same techniques when I would ingest a substance, which really helped make the experiences more satisfying. I mostly preferred taking Ecstasy alone. I used it as a tool for self-evaluation. Usually I would spend some time making love with myself and doing “sexual healing” on myself. The first time I did “E” alone, I fell deeply in love with myself for the first time, which was very good for me as I had a relatively low self-image. This helped me transition out of working in prostitution and appearing in mainstream porn films, and into doing more of the kind of work I wanted to do at that point. I also found myself desiring to connect with women, both sexually and in my work. I started making “feminist porn.” The second time I did Ecstasy, I heard a voice tell me to quit smoking tobacco, which I then did permanently, after 25 years of a heavy smoking habit. Another time, I sat naked in front of my mirror and looked at my repressed anger, and let it surface. I hissed like a snake for several hours, and witnessed my inner Medusa in a remarkably non-judgmental and fearless way. I realized how sexual energy and anger are connected. I realized that in order to go to the next level of my sexuality I needed to learn to better express my anger. I practiced, and sure enough, I learned to have long, extended orgasms. When I then produced and directed my own video, The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop (1992), I captured myself having an extremely intense five-minute-long orgasm. In retrospect I realize that I used a lot of psychedelic imagery in the video. The project was quite successful.
Although I did have some wonderful orgasms on Ecstasy, the experience of Ecstasy was not so much about orgasm or sex, as it was about looking deeply into my Self–heart, soul, and psyche. Each time I took Ecstasy I retained some key piece of information that I could utilize to grow as a person, and expand my (sexual) horizons. I found the lover I had been searching for so long–me! When I took it with lovers, I could feel a sense of empathy with my lover without doing anything. I experienced my body as a temple, and sex as prayer. Ecstasy took me into my heart the way that psychedelics took me into my mind and spirit. Also when on Ecstasy I would sometimes have wonderful, long “crygasms.” Ecstasy showed me a deeper kind of love, which I was inspired to create more of in my life, without the drug. And I did. A lover of mine who had studied Tantra in India for several years, told me that with Ecstasy “a person could get to similar ecstatic and spiritual places that took Tantra yogis a lifetime of strict disciplines to get to–if they were lucky enough to ever get to those states.” There is of course a down side to Ecstasy. I had some miserable hangovers. I slept with my best friend’s husband when I shouldn’t have. Oops. Some folks let down their guard and have risky, unsafe sex, and I’m told that a few people have had medical emergencies with extremely serious consequences.
I regard it as something of a pity that anecdotal, experiential writing about drugs isn’t more common. The social taboos against describing drug use in neutral or positive language seems to me to be far stronger than the social taboos against using the drugs in the first place. All of which tends to cede the literary field to the purveyors of hysterical reefer-madness morality plays — a development which does no good at all if you believe, like I do, that it’s best to provide people with good information and then leave them the hell alone to do what they will.
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