The only thing more taboo to question than the destructive consequences of money and modern healthcare is the ecological sustainability of modern sex. Moneyless sex seems like an odd conversation to have – few of us would like to think that our sexual practices were monetised, as it evokes thoughts of prostitution and the like.
Whether sex is truly moneyless, or sustainable, though depends on what products you use. I’m not talking vibrators and lube here, though they are relevant questions needing answers in themselves. I’m talking contraception. In a world without the industrialised large-scale factories that ecologists and environmentalist claim are destroying life on Earth, where would we get the sex products that we’ve become dependent on: the condoms, the coils, the pill (both morning after and contraceptive)? The vast majority of sex today involves industrialised processes which are not sustainable. Yet populating the world full of babies and spreading STDs is hardly ideal either. Thankfully, there are a few moneyless solutions out there. How willing you are to use them is another question!
Once you rule out celibacy – which I am going out on a limb to assume most of us are – you descend a slippery slope of degrees. There is no 100% contraceptive. Out of all the options I have studied for birth control, I choose a vasectomy (the female equivalent is hysterectomy). Using current methods of surgery it is not moneyless or sustainable in its first instance, but it is a one-off act that then allows you and your partner (if you both are free from all STDs and are in a monogamous relationship) to enjoy condom-and pill-free sex, both of which when applied en masse are responsible for a lot of ecological issues.(271) Word of warning – unlike a condom, you cannot leave a vasectomy in a foil wrapper if you change your mind and do want to have a child. Vasectomies have some small risks too that you need to find out about, and though it can be possible to reverse a vasectomy, it should be treated as if it is not.
If that is all a bit too high technology for you, then you could look to the medieval times for some ideas. Back then animal’s bladders and intestines were used to make condoms, tied up with a bit of twine. Such was the difficulty and time taken in making them that they used to get reused, regularly. They didn’t know this back then, but plants of the genus Sapindus (also good for washing your hair, as we have seen) can make a decent spermicide. Scientific tests have shown that this isn’t quite as effective at killing sperm as its chemical alternatives, but apparently it is less of an irritant. Instead, women sometimes used (or more accurately, were probably made to use) a pessary that was applied within the vagina – one such one was a substance made of honey, acacia bark and ground dates, all mixed together into a gooey paste that was then applied to a piece of cloth – usually linen – and put into the vagina. It is just a guess, but I would imagine this was a man’s idea!
But please, don’t all rush out the door looking for roadkill to dissect for their intestines (whether you choose deer or squirrel could be a little too revealing), or to plant seeds of the Sapindus family just yet – having never personally tried these, and with a distinct lack of previous research having been done on the subject, I cannot give you any advice on how reliable these methods were. My gut instinct: making a wish upon a star probably has a similar reliability rating.
Since those days a wide range of options have been developed. The Rhythm-, Knaus-Ogino-, Standard Days-, Cervical Mucus- and Basal Body-methods are other tools in the moneyless birth control toolbox, all reported to have varying degrees of success (and failure). None of these should even be considered without a complete understanding of how they work, and they will also require the woman to have a good understanding of her own cycles and body. Like any contraceptive, these are certainly not 100%, but they can be successful if combined with other methods (especially if the man practices non-ejaculation) at the same time. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – none of these protect against STDs.
If you want to find out more about herbal methods for controlling fertility and aborting unwanted pregnancies, then three books are recommended: John M. Riddle’s Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West, James DeMeo’s Herbal Contraception and Abortion in Sex-Positive Cultures and Rina Nissim’s Natural Healing in Gynaecology: A Manual for Women. Anthropologists in the past, who have studied small subsistence societies, believed that no contraception existed for a long time. Why? Because for cultural, and possibly sexist, reasons they only ever asked the men. It turns out that if they had bothered to ask the women, they would have had an entire history of answers. The men in these times were clueless about it all, whilst the women knew exactly what they needed to do. Such knowledge was understood and applied widely until the Roman Catholic Church became powerful and decided it knew best for all the world’s peoples, and forbade such preparations. They even tried women who used them as witches, such was the threat they posed to a male dominated institution. God forbid, quite literally, that women could have control over something as crucial as life.
This is that one area of moneylessness which is very complex. Like many aspects of the way we live, we’ve got ourselves into a right muddle. STDs are rampant, we’ve created a culture that is highly sexualised and population levels are already out of control. To stop using contraceptives now would be disastrous for the human species, yet to continue with the industrial economy will be disastrous for our home, Earth. One way or another, something will have to give at some point in the future, we simply cannot continue as we are.
Such extravagances as vaginal lubricant are a little less crucial than contraception in the exploration of moneyless sex solutions. But far be it from me to deprive moneyless folk of any pleasure they can sustainably have. Wild sex guru (self-proclaimed that is) and friend of mine Fergus Drennan has come up with a solution that is very close to my heart: Chondrus Crispus, otherwise known as carrageenan or Irish moss, a seaweed that is found on the west coast of Donegal, where I grew up in Ireland. Its scent still reminds me of home.
Making it is easy. Ideally, you would gather it in summer, wash it in fresh water before putting it out to dry on a blanket in the sun. Once dry, rehydrate it the following the day and put it out to dry again – repeat this drying process two or three times, until the colour goes from purple to lilac and onto the white creamy stage you are looking for (purple lube is probably not a major turn-on). Once this is done boil it, remembering to stir it regularly so it doesn’t burn, before straining it off using a cloth such as muslin. What you will be left with is E407, a vege-lube. This must be used fresh to prevent getting any infections.
A tip for those of you who like sex to be a little more spontaneous than a four day build-up: if you reduce it on the saucepan a lot further, you can get it to set afterwards once it cools, meaning that you can cube it and stick in it the fridge (or a moneyless cool area) for a couple of days. Reheat as needed, but use within a few days. If your partner hates waste, reminding her (or him) that it is about to go off is a powerful argument for getting an extra bit of nookie!
Alternatively, a simpler method is to dry the carrageenan out as above, and when foreplay is beginning to stick it in some boiling water. This should take at least twenty minutes to be ready. If you’ve moved on from foreplay into sex before the lube is ready, you’ve been a very selfish lover and you should go and take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.
Studies at the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology, of the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland, suggest that carrageenans might function as a topical microbicide, protecting you against sexual diseases, so this could be a good two-in-one product, a bit like shampoo and conditioner all in one bottle.
The best moneyless Viagra I know of is a plant called horny goat weed. Apparently its name is credited to a goat herder who once noticed a large increase in sexual activity amongst his flock after his goats had been munching on this weed. Whether this is true or not, who knows, but I prefer the story that I just made up involving a goat herder who ate the weed himself and then took a liking to Billy.
The good news is that this weed has the same effect on humans – it increases libido in both men and women.
OK, I’m well informed by my female friends that the entire point of this ecological catastrophe that we call industrialisation was to produce the ultimate dildo – the vibrator. Apparently the entire cosmos has been unfolding in this way just for this product. So as a man I wouldn’t dare suggest that its very existence is the spawn of Satan Himself and that using one is to be complicit in the rape of our Mother. The vibrator is, it appears, the fundamental flaw in my entire worldview.
But think again. There are many examples of dildos that existed long before the notion of money. The ancient Chinese used handcrafted wooden ones, and a dildo made out of carved antler bone was recently discovered at a Mesolithic site in Sweden.
These are by no means the most interesting examples. According to author Michael Pollan,(272) “witches and sorcerers cultivated plants with the power to ‘cast spells’ – in our vocabulary, ‘psychoactive’ plants. Their potion recipes called for such things as datura, opium poppies, belladona, hashish, fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria), and the skin of toads (which can contain DMT, a powerful hallucinogen). These ingredients would be combined in a hempseed-oil-based ‘flying ointment’ that the witches would then administer vaginally using a special dildo. This was the ‘broomstick’ by which these women were said to travel.” Various accounts suggest that the broomstick that witches have been depicted riding came into legend because of their use of it as a pre-industrialisation dildo. So guys, if your special lady tells you not to come into the bedroom because she is ‘sweeping it’, you know what is really going on in there.
SPEAKING OF SEX
As Charles Eisenstein suggests in an essay titled Rituals for Lover Earth,(273) we might do well to move away from referring to our planet as Mother Earth, and instead term Her Lover Earth, remembering that the language we use is key to how we interpret the world.
Because our relationships with our own mothers, at least in infancy, are based on taking without concern for their needs (as is appropriate for an infant, where the Mother takes full responsibility for the setting of any limits), using the term Mother Earth can perpetuate the story that we can take and take from Her without ever giving back. Our relationships with our lovers are different, however. Here our ideal is to give as well as to receive, in a respectful, loving and ecstatic partnership. Eisenstein believes, and I agree, that simply referring to our planet as Lover Earth could be one little way of helping to bring about the urgently needed change in perspective necessary for the creation of a reciprocal relationship with our planet.
Culturally, the last two hundred years might be said to have been about ‘having’ sex, not making love, and the difference is crucial. As a species, we need to start making love to the Earth again, and to stop ‘fucking’ Her. If we do, our union could birth a new era of creativity, fulfilment and healthy ecosystems, so different from the one we see in front of us today.
A SIMPLE CHOICE
Our choice is this: either we change our ways and get real about becoming sustainable in all we do, including our healthcare and methods of having safe sex, or Nature will sort out the problem for us. We simply cannot have globalised and industrialised healthcare and a healthy, thriving planet with fresh air, clean water and fertile soil. The choice is ours.