A romantic walk with the beach: Ecosexual Club marries the Pacific Ocean

For how gloomy the month of May has shown itself to be, that Saturday morning was beautiful. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and a light breeze tickled the bare arms of those who made it out to the Pico Storm Drain beside Santa Monica Beach, where a wedding was planned for noon. Lead by UC Santa Cruz professor Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, the effective leaders of the ecosexual movement, a group of a little under 30 people huddled in a circle, complete with matrimonial props and ocean-themed attire, and vowed to commit themselves to the ocean.

Diego Marquez, SMC Ecosexual Club president was one of them.

“It was actually our second marriage so it was kind of like renewing my vows for me,” Marquez said. “Most of our focus was on the Ecosextravaganza this time — this was more like a little unwinding of the work that we've been putting into that."

The previous night's Ecosextravagazna was a collaboration between the Public Policy Institute of Santa Monica College, the Otis College of Art and Design’s Creative Action Program and the SMC Ecosexual Club, and was a profoundly wilder affair.

Held at the Women's Club in Santa Monica, an elegant space with delicate strings of lights and oriental lamps hanging above rows of folding chairs, there was scarcely a seat open when the show began, and there were at least 10 people standing in the back.

During the first act, a voice yelled out, “left, left, left right, left,” as a line of ecosexual students filed on stage. Stephens and Sprinkle announced that we were about to participate in “ecosexual bootcamp."

When the two asked how many “seasoned” ecosexuals were in attendance, one could see from the back of the packed room that only around five people raised their hands. Apparently, most of us were new to the game. As a result, they provided us with context.

The relationship that people have with the Earth has been subject to change, according to Stephens and Sprinkle. At first people looked at the Earth in terms of perpetual conflict, that it would always be man versus nature. Over time this evolved into the concept of Mother Earth. But apparently, Mother Earth is tired. "She might even be in menopause," Stephens said. As a result, we're supposed to have a paradigm shift and view Earth as a lover, rather than mother, and another being rather than a separate entity.

Following the opening act was a series of environmentally-themed speakers and performers, including an interpretive dance by students from UC Santa Cruz with a sea made from a sheet of plastic with plastic bags attached to it, a woman who sang a song about the earth and booty shaking, and a girl who stripped down to a thong over leggings, boots and nipple tassels, waving a white flag.

"It's kind of overwhelming and confusing, and kind of great," said Chandler Tipton, who attended the event.

This is a fairly accurate sentiment for most of us, particularly the confusing part. While the idea makes sense, one question lingers: How serious is this? Do people really believe in having a romantic relationship with the Earth?

One individual who goes by the eco-name "Serenity," a UCSC alumni who had taken Stephens' class, was one of the first to arrive Saturday morning, covered from the neck down in fishnet. Serenity sat on the concrete next to the storm drain with Bruce Chartier, who you may recognize as the guy who rides his bike around campus with what appears to be a log balancing on his head.

"I feel like it kind of depends," Serenity said. "Ecosexuality can be, but doesn't have to be, sexual, and is both an art practice and sexuality for some. There’s a level of seriousness to the unseriousness of it. We care about the environment and want to help make and facilitate a change, and get people interested. In the lens of ecosexuality, we can shift the treatment of the Earth to a symbiotic giving and receiving relationship."

Chartier echoed Serenity's sentiments about the "sexual" part of ecosexuality.

"It’s not sexual in the form of what you're thinking about in the physical nature. It's more about the love and respect of nature and the environment, and making love by showing care. Showing that you actually love," Chartier said. "We accept everybody, it doesn't matter who you are... The only form of judgment I would consider from this side is how you treat people. If you don't treat people with respect, we’re not going to have anything to do with you."

According to Serenity, they might also judge one's ability to obtain “eco-consent.”

“Back when I would hug trees in Santa Cruz, I would sort of ask the tree if it was okay if I hugged it and I would feel their spirit or energy or something give a response back, and then proceed accordingly," Serenity said. "Consent is definitely important. Do you think the Earth would consent to fracking and pollution? Probably not."

Back at the Pico Storm Drain, a guitarist and a violinist provided a simple, solemn melody for what Stephens, dressed in a striped shirt and a sailor hat, called a "traditional, western" wedding.

After calling on any objectors to come forward, SMC philosophy professor Amber Katherine, or Buddhajack, satirically said, "I just feel like maybe people should not be marrying the ocean."

Stephens and Sprinkle made it clear that, while everyone could stick around and attend the service, those in attendance were by no means required to marry the sea.

Around a dozen people came before the group and vowed their own personal commitments to the sea, including Ecosexual Club President Marquez.

"My vow would be to respect the ocean, to honor it, to love it, even if sometimes we don't get along," Marquez said to the group and the sea.

Following the vows, Sprinkle commenced the ceremony by saying, "With this ring, I thee wed, and bestow upon the sea, the treasures of my mind, heart and hands."

"As well as our body and soul," Stephens said.

"And with that, I now pronounce you one with the sea," Sprinkle said, as Stephens passed out plastic metallic rings.

The group walked down the wooden path through the sand to the water and some dipped their feet in.

Serenity, feeling that her relationship with the ocean was strong enough without the label, decided to not marry the sea.

Marquez, on the other hand, did.

"I know I say I don't like the ocean, but being there and feeling it so cold, it kind of takes your breath away," Marquez said. "It's a completely different sensation that you can't get unless you're present in the moment. That's kind of the whole thing that we want people to understand. Nature isn't some abstract thing that you read or hear about. It's something that's alive that changes with what we do, and to feel it moving under your feet is just amazing.”

This article has been edited to include the video segment.