A Review of Ecosexuality: When Nature Inspires the Arts of Love
by Nicole Richter
Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, Wright State University, USA
As published in the journal Sexualities, 21, 3.
The merging of the field of sexuality studies with other disciplines has often borne fruitful results in opening up new horizons of meaning in the understanding of identity and intimacy. These interdisciplinary approaches to understanding sexuality have expanded the social and cultural meaning of sexual identity, but research about sexuality and gender almost exclusively focuses on the ways human beings relate to one another or themselves. While intersectional approaches to sexuality attend to the diverse ways people experience intimacy (variations in race, class, embodiment, etc.) one crucial category has been left out: the environment.
Ecosexuality: When Nature Inspires the Arts of Love calls for a radical shift in both our theories and experience of sexuality. The book brings together two disciplines that could not be more unexpected: ecology and sexuality. It is an expansive collection that puts forth a new category: the ecosexual. Beyond simply adding another identity to the study of sexuality, the book advances an a-priori concept that all other accounts of sexuality are dependent upon. Can sexuality be understood without taking into account the environment it occurs within?
Ecosexuals can be identified as having any number of orientations but they see their intimate connections with the environment to be a primary aspect of their identity. While openness and acceptance of various sexual identities is growing, increasing alienation and declining intimacy seem to define the modern era. Alongside these problems in relationships, human beings are increasingly alienated from nature, while numerous environmental crises plague the globe. Ecosexuality offers an approach to overcoming these ecological crises and to promoting intimacy and connection within communities. The goals of the book are multi-layered and expansive; ‘Ecosexuality encompasses a social movement, a philosophy, a lifestyle, a spiritual path, a mode of loving, and a form of artistic expression’ (p. 2). The book calls for us to see ourselves as existing in a larger ecosystem that we are both dependent on and depends on us, using the metaphor of an ecosystem to understand our own bodies, the connections we make with others and our surroundings. It makes a bold proclamation: Eros holds the hope for the future of humankind.
The book is divided into four parts. Indicative of the ecosexual approach of challenging binaries and categories, the book uses a diversity of approaches to understand the subject from theory, empirical experience, poetry, dialogues and manifestos. Part One: ‘When the Earth is our lover’ includes numerous essays that call for a shift away from the Mother Earth metaphor toward acknowledging our interdependent relationships with the environment as if it were an intimate partner. Gabriella Cordova explains in ‘Reclaiming our erotic nature’, ‘Lovers demand reciprocity, they take turns adoring each other and paying homage. This is the kind of relationship we must have with nature’ (p. 72). Her essay is indebted to the work of Annie Sprinkle and SerenaGaia Anderlini-D’Onofrio, who are at the forefront of this new movement. The section ends with Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle’s ‘Ecosex Manifesto 1.0’ which highlights the commitments of the movement and calls for ecosexuals to come out, educate others, and make a pledge to love and honor Earth.Book
Part Two: ‘Ecosexual weddings’ expands the concept of marriage beyond who one marries, to what one marries. Ecosexual weddings expand amorous practices beyond human-to-human, calling for a commitment to care for the environment as we would a partner, ‘these performances stir the imagination toward other ways that individuals might come together in ecosexual union—a union that includes, and extends beyond, the expression of love for one another’ (p. 83). Ecosexual weddings challenge both the monosexual and monogamous foundation of the institution of marriage, through the performance of a promise to care for and love the environment, allowing this expanded idea of love to guide amorous relationships. These weddings emphasize community and multiple connections with others, creating a foundation for a sustainable future. The potential of ecosexual weddings to queer the environmental movement as well as transform understandings of gender and embodiment are insightfully discussed. Deborah Anapol’s essay ‘Gender queering Mother Earth’ traces the history of understanding the Earth as female and advances a new transgender metaphor, profoundly changing our interpretation of the world we inhabit.
Part Three: ‘Ecosexual love as a resource of social change’ advances the activist and political implications of an ecosexual approach. Eros, understood as life force, is proposed as a renewable resource capable of addressing environmental destruction that provides a model for overcoming modern isolation. Practical strategies are outlined in chapters that highlight successful models of intentional ecosexual communities while other authors focus on the implications for critical theory. Mark Olson outlines the neuroscientific basis of ecosexuality, by demonstrating how the human brain is wired to build sustainable ecosystems founded in love. In ‘‘Talking with Gaia: What is ecosexual love?’’ Anderlini-D’Onofrio uses an innovative dialogic form to communicate with the self that belongs to nature and the self that wants to separate from it.
Part Four: ‘An orgasmic Earth’ explores the movement’s erotic possibilities through ‘Ecosex sutras’ and essays that emphasize the sexual healing possible through this approach.
The theoretical advancements of the book are broad and far reaching. The book has paradigm-shifting implications for queer theory, feminist theory, sexuality studies, environmental studies and polyamory studies. It pioneers a new type of
research collection that is at once scholarly, while also being community oriented and reflective of lived experience. It is a rare book that fundamentally changes the foundations of contemporary thinking; it is vital reading for anyone interested in a better future and challenges all of us to explore our personal relationship to the environment.