Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens Help Writer Embrace “The Ecosexual Position”
Visiting Holly Park in San Francisco with Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens one day this fall wasn’t just an afternoon stroll; it was to fill the prescription for my first ecosexual experience.
Sprinkle, a well-known artist, performer, and sex therapist, and Stephens, filmmaker and art teacher at UC Santa Cruz, were stunned enlightening me on all the sultry ways I could engage with the environment. The couple, who married in Canada in 2007, are decked out in swirls of sequins, chiffon and velvet from the Piedmont boutique in Haight-Ashbury, looking like a cross between aquatic pixies and burlesque performers in the sunshine of the afternoon.
Sprinkle and Stephens encouraged me to let go of the tensions of civilization, then invited me to lie face down on the ground for my first eco-sexual act: “grassalingus”. (It’s just how it sounds: orally engaging with the turf.)
Sprinkle and Stephens dove face first into the green, tasting the grass and feeling the blades against their faces. I followed, letting the grass tickle my lips, although I didn’t have the courage to swallow.
“Can you feel the sun shining on you?” Sprinkle asked.
Stephens then asked me how I felt: I described the smell of dirt, the essence of plant life invading my nostrils and the breeze caressing my skin, what Stephens called “the game of the wind”. .
They encouraged me to press my body against the ground. Sprinkle then asked me if I was a “high or a low” in the experience, something that I had to contemplate. (maybe I got a switch?)
“Leaning your body against the Earth is really powerful to do it consciously,” Stephens said.
We went from grass to trees, where Stephens and Sprinkle pointed out that a number of them have branches that form branches that look like legs, giving trees a sort of “crotch”. A few times they kissed the trees.
Sprinkle also noted that for many, the term “tree hug” is a derogatory phrase used to describe environmentalists and activists. She and Stephens find this terminology to be both part of the rejection of the environment and the fear of sex that plagues Western culture. De-stigmatizing both is at the heart of the ecosexual movement.
Ecosexuality, sometimes referred to as “sexecology,” is a form of environmental activism that Sprinkle and Stephens have been practicing since 2008. The concept is to explore sensuality in nature and see Earth as a “lover” instead of personification. unavoidable. of Earth as a mother, or worse. Ecosexuality doesn’t have to be about sex per se, but rather be inspired and “turned on” by the natural world.
Sprinkle and Stephens use every artistic tool at their disposal as part of the movement: their tours, films and workshops involve visual art, performance, storytelling and other mediums, all frequently invoking earlier art movements like the absurd, Dada, Fluxus art and sex. positivity Sprinkle is known for her work as an adult film performer and sex worker.
In 2008, the couple “married” Earth at an artistic event amid the redwoods of Santa Cruz. Since then, they’ve formed eco-unions with the Sun, the Ocean, and Bernal Hill, among others.
“For me. It’s about fun activism, an extension of the job I started when I was 18,” said Sprinkle, now 67. “In this world full of violence, only fun be it and start with us.When we teach an eco-sex workshop, we are blown away by the kind of innocence, there is a lot of laughter and so much beauty and power.
“Fear can be motivating, but it can also be very exhausting, just like anger,” said Stephens, 61. “Our movement is to enter a place where you understand that there is beauty, it is this beautiful being that we want to make flourish.”
What ecosexuality is not, Stephens said, is humans as saviors of the Earth.
“We can’t do this. It’s often such a Christian idea that you can save something else, ”Stephens continued, but “being in touch with the Earth is really important to us.
This year, much of the couple’s eco-sex work has paid off. With Jennie Klein, Sprinkle and Stephens wrote “Assuming the Ecosexual Position: The Earth as Lover”, a manifesto combined with a manual to create a more intimate relationship with the planet. The pair received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for their work on their film project, “Playing With Fire,” a sequel to the 2017 eco-friendly documentary “Water Makes Us Wet”. And Harvard’s Schlesinger Library acquired the Sprinkle archives, including many of their documents on ecosexuality.
Perhaps most importantly, the two also founded EARTH Lab SF (Environmental Art Research Theory Happenings Lab San Francisco), an organization they plan to use to create art, run workshops, and disseminate eco-sexual philosophy. .
“We want to be of service to the world, that’s really why we started the EARTH Lab SF,” Stephens said. “We want to be at the service of young artists, people who need a safe place to be embodied, to play, to discover nature. We try to make room for different people in the environmental art movement.
My walk with Stephens and Sprinkle was the culmination of three days spent with the couple, starting with a birthday party and book party for Stephens at their “neighborhood seawall bar” Wildside West. Among the guests in the bar’s garden was burlesque and eco-sex artist Lady Monster, wearing a self-designed fabric autumn leaf set.
“My journey with Annie started as a sexual performance artist,” said Lady Monster, who participated in Sprinkle and Stephens’ weddings with Earth and Sea. “As an ecosexual we say Earth is our lover because it is a compromise. We ask you to look at your relationship with the Earth and where do you stand on the spectrum: are you ecocelibate? Are you eco-sensual? Are you ecosexual?
Tanya Augsburg, professor of liberal studies and humanities at San Francisco State University who teaches the Images of Eroticism course, is a longtime columnist on the work of Stephens and Sprinkles.
“They teach the audience about ecosexuality, love for the Earth, caring for each other and inclusiveness in a way that everyone can relate to,” Augsburg said. “They’ve been at the forefront, ahead of the curve in a lot of their work. Now the culture is finally catching up with them.
The next day, at a brunch hosted by Sprinkle and Stephens, I was assessed for my own “eco-sexual prescription,” with questions about my overall mental health, my current state of mind (anxious since March 2020), and what elements and activities in nature turned me on. Remembering a romantic night caught in a thunderstorm, I chose the game of water and rain.
My prescription: go to Holly Park and kiss the Earth, with a special note of wearing flowers in my hair.
After our walk, Sprinkle and Stephens asked me how I felt after experiencing the world “through the green eyes”. I said I was thirsty, which confirmed to them that water was one of my key eco-sex elements.
After telling them about things that I have noticed through my new eco-sexualized gaze over the past three days – the smell of damp earth in Wildside West, the feeling of tree leaves brushing against my hand, the heat from the sun on the back of my neck – they offered their clinical opinion: I might be a booming ecosexual.
I admitted that I had become, at the very least, eco-curious.