Kristen Sollee is an educator, curator, and founder of the sex positive website, Slutlist. She teaches undergraduate gender studies at The New School and is the curator of the annual Legacy of the Witch music and burlesque festival in Brooklyn. Sollee is an outspoken advocate of sex positive feminism, particularly through the lense of the occult, where she draws on the historical context of the “witch” to depict a long line of brutality against women. Sollee is also a self-identified “witch” and author of bestselling book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive.
I got to ask Sollee about “witch feminism,” magic, and how the occult can be used as a tool to dismantle the patriarchy:
Can you talk about the difference between stereotypical perceptions of magic, especially what we see in movies or on television, and what you actually believe it is?
A lot of fictional depictions would have us believe that magic is all grinding on broomsticks high in the night sky or casting spells that make your mega crush fall in forever lust with you. Sure, there are some people who believe that stuff’s in the realm of possibility (and I’d be all for it if it was!), but magic is a lot more subtle in my experience. Starhawk’s definition has always resonated with me: “the art of sensing and shaping the subtle, unseen forces that flow through the world.” Following this, even those who are strict empiricists aren’t left out in the cold when it comes to magic. I believe crafting art that taps into the collective consciousness and creates change or shifts perceptions is as much an act of magic as engaging in a codified occult ritual is.
I saw an interview where you talked about how the terms “slut” and “witch” have similarly been used to police female sexuality. I’m wondering if there are other ways in which you think these terms relate?
They’re also terms for women who dare to take up space, for women who break through the boundaries dictated by a sexist society. They are words that have been weaponized to punish women, and words that have been reclaimed as liberating identities by women, too.
I also heard you talk about using the terms “witch” or “slut “ as a way of honoring a legacy of brutality that women deal with and still hold in our DNA. What about identifying as a witch is specifically empowering to you?
Identifying with the witch archetype connects me to a lineage of women and feminine folks who have been subjugated, tortured, murdered, assaulted, and/or ostracized because of Christian heteropatriarchy. This history is an empowering reminder that yes, we’ve made so much progress since then, but we have a long, long way to go to gain bodily autonomy and gender parity, and we have to keep on fighting.
Can you tell me a bit more about sex magic and how to use orgasm as a tool to cast spells and manifestations?
I find sex magic to be the easiest way to raise and harness a powerful burst of energy. It’s like a supercharged vision board…but the images are in your mind, and you’re getting off to them — if that makes any sense! There are a lot of other magical practices involving candles or crystals or herbs and incense that can aid in the act as well. I highly recommend using Chakrubs products as tools for any sex magic exploration, and it can also help to read up on the variety of sex magic practices that have historically been part of traditions around the world.
You’ve researched how female sexuality has been demonized in the past through today. Are there particular patterns you have seen repeated in society that still happen today?
Women have been demonized since before Eve took the forbidden bite that caused mankind’s downfall. Myths like that still hold water in our current cultural climate, in part because the scapegoating of women continues today, in the victim-blaming narratives that are a major part of rape culture, or the way female celebrities are put on blast for corrupting our youth if they fail to perform the right kind of de-sexualized femininity. Female sexuality, female power, female knowledge: it’s always been a threat, and it will continue to be denigrated and repressed until we do some major social overhauling.
What are the ways in which witchery can be used to dismantle the patriarchy?
Witchcraft practitioners of disparate backgrounds have found community in uniting to hex and heal both the agents and victims of white supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy. Collective spellcasting need not only be thought of in spiritual terms, however, as it can also function similarly to the way people collectively rally behind a hashtag to inspire media coverage, drive real world protest, influence representatives, and, hopefully, enact laws and national change.
I’m interested in the ways in which a seductress or a beautiful women can be seen as a witch who casts spells with her beauty. Have there ever been positive depictions of this type of witch throughout history? Is there a way to reclaim this type of witch as a feminist icon even though we are focused only on her looks?
Throughout history, most depictions of the witch-as-seductress have been created by men, and thus are often pretty pejorative — or at least one dimensional. But I think Anna Biller’s The Love Witch does a great job of humanizing the gorgeous spellcasting woman, and reveals the insecurities and motives that drive her to actively use beauty and charm and magic to survive within the existing sexist system. She’s working with what she’s got to find love and pleasure and acceptance in a world that sees her worth inextricably tied to her desirability. Some might call that a radical act of feminist subversion; others might call it a capitulation to heterosexual norms. It just depends on the kind of feminism you subscribe to!
*You can catch Kristen Sollee this Sunday at the BUST Holiday Craftacular where she will be giving a talk on the history of “Witch Feminism” and participating in a sex magick panel directly afterwards. The panelists, which include Sophie Saint Thomas and Dakota Bracciale, will discuss the ways to unleash your inner “sex witch,” drawing on the power of orgasmic manifestation and the belief that harnessing sexual energy can help you manifest your greatest desires.
first image via Bitch Magazine
More from BUST
Rachel Angel is a Brooklyn-based writer, singer, and bandleader. Her band has previously released an EP, Revelations, and is currently preparing their next release. Angel has played venues across the East and West coasts, and works regularly at the acclaimed venue National Sawdust. Her work has been described as "songs that tell a story with genuine heart and just enough edge to keep the listener on their toes. She moves effortlessly between alt-country and rock, mixing tender moments with a quick wit."