"Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his "divine spiritual and intellectual development," has become the most vicious animal of all!" - Anton Szandor LaVey
In the year Anton LaVey decided to turn the culture upside down, heavy metal music hadn't even been invented yet. The words "Under God" had been in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance for just three years. Hardcore pornography was still only in the form of clandestine movie reels, carefully screened in darkened basements at special "stag" gatherings, or in crumpled, furtively bartered photos. On television in April of 1966, a person couldn't even say "Hell," unless he were preaching its existence as a threat.
Obviously, it was high time for someone to actually give 'em Hell. So this charismatic former burlesque-show organist, ex-carny animal trainer, and hypnotist found a new calling. He shaved his head according to occult tradition and publicly announced the formation of the Church of Satan. Thus was born the first aboveground order for individuals whose rational self-interest would lead them to that Dark Force in nature-the archetype the ancient Hebrews termed Satan, meaning "adversary," "opposite," or "accuser." A new Satanic Age had begun. In 1969, Dr. LaVey published The Satanic Bible, a witty tome crystallizing his powerful philosophy in an entertaining mix of Ragnar Redbeard (whose classic Might is Right provided much inspiration), Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Freud, Bierce, and W.C. Fields. Equal parts humanism and misanthropy, it attracted thousands of discerning readers to the new church of realists, the "ultimate conscious alternative to herd mentality and institutionalized thought." Later, his erotic handbook The Satanic Witch delineated the principles of seduction and manipulation for females and the educated consumers thereof.
The infamous Black House, LaVey's San Francisco mansion, had previously functioned as a bordello in the 1800s and as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Now the site of debauches, fertility rites, and other public psychodramas during regular Friday night services, it became the epicenter of an explosive new outlook. At the beginning, the rituals functioned as cathartic blasphemies against Christianity-with elements such as the nude woman-as-altar in the traditional Black Mass, and even a specially staged Topless Witches' review. Soon, though, he tired of simply mocking the feeble opposition, and LaVey's chapel hosted brand-new and positively diabolical magical workings.
Modern Satanism may have been born in the era of free love, but the Church of Satan's founder took a broader look at individual liberation, eschewing the bland compulsions he saw as oppressing many narrow followers of the sexual revolution. The new religion demanded that each person must determine what is most fulfilling to him or herself; this might be total asexuality, or, just as easily, voracious lust. A more important development by Satanic standards was the pursuit of personal fetishes. Fetishes were celebrated as the creative expression of a personal eros, and the "Black Pope" was years ahead of the masses in recognizing their influence: "The prevalence of deviant and/or fetishistic behavior," LaVey wrote, "would stagger the imagination of the sexually naive." In a time when millions were suddenly seeking sexual enlightenment, the CoS attracted many by its sheer audacity. Magister Peter Gilmore relates, "Satanism provided an avenue for folks who were beginning to explore their sexuality without guilt, and the Church's position of encouraging individual fetishes, which at that time was 'forbidden sex,' provided a draw. But once they came on-board and discovered that it was up to them to do the exploration-we weren't providing sexual partners for their intended explorations, and sex wasn't emphasized beyond being a natural function-then they left to join organizations that focused on sex as their primary reason for being."
Fear of the Devil has been used to sell the faith racket for centuries, and usually with some salaciously erotic component thrown in. Man's carnal nature is sinful from a Judeo-Christian perspective, notwithstanding comparatively recent attempts to "modernize" theism-due in no small part to the influence of Satanic thought on the culture at large. Are the followers of the Left-Hand Path a bunch of degenerate, slavering sex fiends, ritualizing dark and messy acts in sinister underground grottoes? Well, yes and no. "Satanists tend to view sexual activity as a normal function-like eating-and don't obsess on it like so many folk whose way of life limits sex to the modes sanctioned by their belief systems," says Gilmore. "So ritualizing of sex is generally not a part of Satanism. Since we are connoisseurs of our chosen indulgences, we prefer sex in its best settings, which, in my experience, are not likely to be found in a ritual chamber-just as we'd not 'ritualize' a gourmet meal."
Are all Satanists into SM? The fashion-conscious might guess so. After all, Sigils of Baphomet and similar occult symbols have invaded popular consciousness as prominent "bad boy" badges, a convenient visual shorthand right alongside leatherman and biker imagery. But the truth is not so simplistic. "Although I do believe sexual role-playing is important to many Satanists, I don't think they limit those roles to the typical SM-stereotyped situations," says Magistra Ruth Waytz.
Gilmore agrees. "Satanists are aware of the natural balance that includes dominance/submission in sexual roles. There's no pretense of some sort of PC "sexual democracy" wherein everyone shares the same status. Church of Satan members who have not been able to throw off the sexual guilt inculcated into them during their formative years are encouraged to use this guilt as a pleasurable stimulus in their sexual activities." Hedonism (in the sense of indulgence rather than compulsory pleasure-seeking) and the Romantic ideal are integrated in Satanic thought, much as the spirit and body are considered part of a whole-in direct contrast to the puritanism of the herd mentality. "The carnal/spiritual war which leads to this thinking is endemic in the folks we see as being Christian, whether they've embraced the Nazarene or not. Satanists are self-aware and honest about their needs," Gilmore states flatly. When asked if the two ideas are at odds with each other, Waytz declares, "Absolutely not. Sexual hedonism and romanticism are the same thing!" The materialism of Satanic philosophy dismisses any so-called spiritual life that's divorced from, or "higher than," physical existence.
Another point that Church writings emphasize is the issue of social stratification. LaVey was an elitist and Social Darwinist who, like Redbeard and others, railed against what he saw as the myth of "equality": "It only translates to mediocrity, and supports the weak at the expense of the strong. Water must be allowed to seek its own level, without interference from apologists for incompetence."
This view applies to sex as well. Gilmore puts it thus: "Maximum pleasure is realized through maximum self-awareness, and then finding the appropriate partners. Some people might find either staying within or crossing the boundaries of social stratification as a fetishistic sexual fillip." For those folks, social divisions are a turn-on in themselves. "Others would find such stratifications meaningless."
And yet, most Satanists find partners within their own social level to be their ideal. Magister Reuben Radding comments, "I think it's important to realize that stratification already exists around us, yet it can also be created at whim. In my experience, Satanists tend to crave further stratification. But that's something you can be creative with." One way is to create personal realms through the development of artificial human companions. LaVey was an enthusiastic proponent of such surrogates, seeing the advancing technology as the next step in man's ascendency to Godhood. And while sex is not necessarily the object of this craft, let's face it-it's the first thing you think of.
You're no doubt aware of the RealDoll, the lifelike sculptured sex doll which features, among other realistic attributes, a fully-jointed skeletal frame beneath its silicon skin. "The cathartic possibilities are limitless," enthuses Satanist Jim Mitchell. "Many taboo and possibly illegal areas of sexuality [can] be explored with one of these androids without fear of being exposed. Suppose a man has a mate who is otherwise perfect for him but absolutely won't engage in SM or golden showers or anal sex. Maybe he wants to experience the porn-stud splendor of delivering a facial "money shot" or has dark fantasies of of a necrophilic nature. The RealDoll offers a legal and harmless means of indulging in personal fetishes that might be unattainable with breathing partners." The design is definitely an improvement upon those deformed vinyl balloons sold in the past as sex dolls, but as Waytz says, "There is still a long way to go!" For one thing, there is pretty much one RealDoll with only slight variations, and her rather stiff posture makes her suited for little more than the aforementioned necrophile market. Also, this custom-created sculpture falls squarely in a standard "porn girl" fantasy. "With the continued perfection of computers, interactive companions will be capable of much more than is currently imagined," Gilmore notes. "If one looks at a rack of contemporary porn, there are now many fetishes being addressed, and that betokens an acceptance of such by manufacturers-people are now more willing to openly address their needs, which really are quite varied. Virtual reality, too, is a step in the right direction of creating fantasy fulfilling devices." And genetics research is a whole other kettle of DNA. These next few years should be very interesting indeed.
And the future's already here, as Magistra Peggy Nadramia points out. "Aside from latex inventions, I'd have to say the computer has become the foremost artificial human companion. You can look at pictures and video captures of other humans in real time, displaying their bodies and touching themselves according to your credit-card-endorsed requests. You can wander anonymously on the Internet and talk dirty with strangers. You can program your computer to analyze you, wake you up, put you to sleep, remember your likes and dislikes and generally make you the most special person in your own little universe."
Do neophytes join the CoS for sexual reasons? "These days, if there's a sexual lure, I think it's more commonly felt among females who are attracted to the image of a strong, dominant Satanic male, the 'dark man' of their pubescent fantasies," Nadramia states. "In a world of sensitive, New Age guys, the Satanic male is inexplicably irresistible to a generation of women who have never had a man hold a door open for them." Although Dr. LaVey died late last year, his CoS remains strong. "Satanism will be there for those who want to responsibly explore themselves, fully aware of all the consequences of that journey, regardless of the general attitude of the societal context currently prevailing," Peter Gilmore insists. As the social pendulum swings back and forth between permissiveness and repression, Satan will keep on doing his thing-a potent, throbbing counterpoint to those dry Medievalist religions whose soul-killing influences will continue to wane.