The Ins-and-Outs of Sex in Tarot

maj06What do most people ask about when they come for a reading? While many will want to know about their careers, the biggest question at my reading table is about love.

Surprisingly, sex will nudge its way into many readings about love and relationships but it is rarely discussed as a subject in itself.

One of the things which still amazes me, after twenty years of using tarot cards, is how the traditional tarot deck can still surprise. In a reading, many cards will effortlessly describe the finer details of our work and dreams, but you know, it can describe the ins-and-outs of our sex lives too. When you look at the tarot deck through this lens, we find that its loose pages are that bit steamier than we might first have thought.

Of course, The Lovers will always be the main indicator of a deep and full relationship in the tarot. As the years have passed, what was traditionally a card of choice has developed into one of relationship. In recent years, depictions of the card have become racier – you might wish to look up The Lovers in the Druidcraft or one of the two versions from Robert Place’s Alchemical Tarot (which has an obvious sexual leaning). As well as this, whole decks have been built around the sexual act – the Kama Sutra, The Tarot of Sexual Magic, The Decameron and the Manara could all be described as top-shelf tarot purchases (certainly not for the faint-hearted or prudish).

But what about the non-erotic decks? Does sex exist within them too?

5a60e6c2ebbe1f4f20ab2d4375039363Of course! But be careful –  once you’ve opened your mind to the more daring characters within the traditional tarot, you mightn’t be able to look at these cards in the same way again!

Within the standard tarot pack, linking some cards to sex is not difficult. Many modern depictions of The Devil are overtly sexual in style. Take Ciro Marchetti’s version in The Gilded as an example. Though he is primarily an object of seduction and temptation, there is little question as to what it is he is offering. Beautifully built and rocking a six-pack, Marchetti’s Devil eagerly describes a character within many of our fantasies. I mean, who wouldn’t chain them self to this guy voluntarily?

In the Rider Waite Smith, our Devil is strong and hairy, but no less enticing for being so. Symbolising our base desires and those fantasies we might prefer to keep to our self, this figure is one of power and represents the sexual urge within us all. Due to the traditional meanings associated with this card and the Christian perspective of the devil archetype, we might have been lead to believe that it is dangerous (or even dirty) to hang around with this guy but, thankfully, many modern tarots portray him as a symbol of relaxed sexuality and fun.

So, lets take a look at some of the other characters you might find within the deck.


cups02Friends with Benefits

In a reading, we often use The Lovers as our guide for intimacy. Besides, it is an obvious depiction of two people consumed by mutual love and passion. We are reminded that the 2 of Cups is a card of lesser romantic intensity and, sometimes, simply friendship.

When the 2 of Cups takes its place in a sexually-based reading, we may well be looking at friends with benefits. Because of the balance present in this union, the card suggests that this is an arrangement both partners benefit from. Neither wish to commit fully but are happy to have a casual relationship until Mr or Mrs Right comes along.

This kind of relationship may not be long-lasting – being a minor card, it doesn’t rely on deep emotions. However, in your readings, the feelings of one person could develop and result in them becoming hurt or feeling used. While the 2 of Cups could suggest an unwritten sexual contract with your best bud, it might well be difficult for you to return to a normal friendship when one of you becomes involved in a more serious relationship.

The keywords for this card could therefore consist of ‘scratching an itch’ and ‘bed buddy’.


maj03Mrs Robinson

We all remember The Graduate, right? The film, released in 1967, starred Dustin Hoffman as a 21-year-old young man who is seduced by an older woman.

Unlike the quiet and virginal High Priestess, the tarots Empress is at one with the physical energy of life. In most decks, she is shown as sensual and comfortable with her body. She is also often pregnant, which already connects her to sex and physical pleasures.

According to an article in Playboy by Justin Lehmiller, the more mature lady (and those other words used to describe her) is the third-most searched-for category in adult entertainment. So, why might this be? Lehmiller offers his opinion – ‘The appeal speaks to men’s desire for “real women” who are confident, knowledgeable, and practiced when it comes to sex, as well as the promise of a mutually satisfying sexual experience”.

I have always thought of The Empress as being more than just a baby-making-machine. She is a strong and powerful individual, who doesn’t think twice about defending her people. She knows what she wants and makes no excuse for it. This might be part of the attraction. In The Graduate, Mrs Robinson taught Hoffman the ropes but, in the end, it was her daughter he fell in love with.

In a sexually-based reading, The Empress might well suggest an experienced lover, fantasies about an older woman, or even the mother-in-law.


maj00The Sexual Adventurer

The Fool is regarded as a figure of beginnings and chance, but he is simply an adventurer at heart. He happily jumps into new situations and is known for thinking out of  the box.

This card can depict someone who doesn’t wish to conform and bucks tradition. When he has come up in love-life readings before I have asked my clients how their sex life is. Why? Because more often or not, The Fool suggests that their love life might need an injection of spontaneity and excitement.

For some, sex can become routine; a couple might always do it in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way. The Fool suggests that we change things up a bit. Why not try something new, unconventional, and maybe a little daring in the bedroom? If sex has become mundane, this card suggests that impromptu sex in a different part of your home or on the spur of the moment could spice things up again.

In a sexually-based reading, The Fool concerns a carefree approach to sex. However, when in a challenging position, this card reminds us to be safe. Spicing up our sex life is one thing; being unprotected or taking sexual risks is plain foolishness and irresponsible.


swords08Pain or Pleasure?

Whether you are flipping through the pages of a Marquis de Sade or the latest Love Honey catalogue, you’re likely to come face to face with the subject of bondage, sooner rather than later. In fact, the topic has become mainstream in recent years with the release of the 50 Shades trilogy by E. L. James. The tastes of Mr Grey have found their way into many suburban bedrooms and James’ readers can not get enough of their main man.

Within  the tarot, we can find many cards that allude to bondage: notably, most will arise within the suit of Swords. The 8 of Swords or The Hanged Man could describe an interest in being either blindfolded or restrained. If you add the reversed Queen of Wands to the mix, we might encounter an energetic dominatrix. With The Emperor, we could be looking at someone who enjoys a dominant role within their sexual fantasies. Of course, it is important to remember that these kind of activities are mentioned as a form of entertainment between consenting adults.


Looking out for sex within the tarot can be fun and there are endless possibilities in the seventy-eight cards. Might the 2 of Pentacles indicate a swinger or our familiar 3 of Cups suggest a ménage à trois?

While I have shared some of the more ‘out there’ and entertaining examples, the tarot deck will also display sexual situations that will require sensitivity if you are reading for someone else. Is the 4 of Pentacles describing a greedy lover who is more interested in his own satisfaction than the feelings of his partner? Could a reversed Ace of Wands speak of a female libido problem or erectile dysfunction? These might not be easy subjects to broach with a client so handle them with great care.

Whether you are the considerate and lovemaking Knight of Cups or enjoy talking dirty in the bedroom like the reversed Queen of Swords, its likely that the tarot deck will present a card and position that is just right for you.

If you want to liven up your sex life, why not pull a card and see what you get? You might just be surprised by what it either reveals or suggests!


Have fun and play safe!


If you have been inspired by this article, please feel free to comment below.

Cards from The Rider Waite Smith Tarot (U.S.Games) and The Gilded Tarot (Ciro Marchetti, Llewellyn)

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