Sex, Ethics, and Paganism

4487248_xl–By Shauna Aura Knight

I believe in being sex positive. Not just in the Pagan community–I’d like to see more positive, healthy behaviors across the world. I hear Pagans talking about wanting that too, but there’s a few elephants in the room. And until we acknowledge some of them, we aren’t going to have a healthy sex dynamic in our community.

First, what does “Sex positive” mean? Wikipedia says:  “The sex-positive movement is a social movement which promotes and embraces open sexuality with few limits beyond an emphasis on safe sex and the importance of informed consent.” The idea is that sex is healthy, and that there’s nothing wrong with being sexual and seeking pleasure, assuming the sex is safe/consensual. This article’s a good overview too.

It’s sometimes easier to understand a concept via its opposite. Sexually negative culture sees sex as evil ,unless for procreation. Seeking sexual pleasure is “bad” and typically sees homosexuality, polyamory, BDSM, or any alternate sexual expression as “bad.”

I write a lot about shadow work…and this is a huge cultural shadow. Any time there’s a basic human need, and our culture deems that need as “bad,” we end up with this need that’s shoved it into our mental/psychic dungeon. We need it but are ashamed by that need.

So the pendulum swings to the sex positive movement/sexual liberalism which was adopted early on by the Pagan community/subculture. (I refer to Pagan community as a subculture, since Paganism isn’t any one religion with no single ethical dogma). However, then you have Pagans trying to shrug off the the overculture, and there becomes almost an over-emphasis on sexual freedom.

Here’s the sad truth; Pagans who are trying to be sex positive are usually stuck with the same cultural baggage because they grew up in the dominant culture. Worse, some Pagans try to shrug that baggage off and instead end up actually engaging in sexual harassment and unethical sexual behavior.

Here’s some things that aren’t sex positive:

  • Sex positive does not mean you must fuck everybody in your group.
  • Sex positive does not mean it’s ok for people to pressure you into getting naked.
  • Sex positive does not mean you have to be ok with having sex in front of other people
  • Sex positive does not mean it’s ok to aggressively flirt with or physically touch anyone just because you think they’re hot.
  • Sex positive does not mean it’s ok to use your position as a group leader or teacher to get people to have sex with you.
  • Sex positive does not mean that you have to dress sexually all the time or have lots of sex.
  • Having lots of (consensual) sex does not mean that you are less deserving of respect.

Why Aren’t We Sex Positive? How can we actually embrace sex as healthy and positive without it going into the dark side? Pagans try to embrace healthy sexuality but we’re still stuck with a lot of the same cultural shadows. I chose to write about the topic of sex activism for two reasons.

  1. Recently I’ve traveled all over the country teaching, and the same thing has come up a lot; people ask me how to deal with a group leader who are sexually harassing people, or I hear about group leaders and teachers who have seduced group members, including minors.
  2. I just published my first romance novel, and I realize that when I tell Pagans about this, I’m actually a little embarrassed. When I have my book out on my table for sale with the half-naked guy on the cover, I realize that I’m hesitant to say, “Yeah, I wrote that.” I consider myself to be a pretty sex positive person, and I was surprised by how awkward I feel telling people I write romance.

Sex and Cultural Shaming
The latter example exemplifies how Pagans want to be sex positive, but we still have cultural baggage; I found to my surprise that I still do, too. I’ve seen people who know me as a teacher of Pagan leadership, ethics, and ritual arts. When I tell them I have one romance novel out and more being published soon–I can literally see their little respect-meter dropping. I feel like I’m going to be taken less seriously as a Pagan leader.

I made the choice to not use a separate pen name intentionally because I thought that would say, “I’m embarrassed to be writing romance,” but the truth is that—much to my chagrin—I am.

Sexuality and Lack of Respect
Taking this a step further, I find I walk a tightrope when it comes to sexual ethics. I work hard to promote a sex positive environment in groups and events that I organize. Whatever your preferences, genders…as long as it’s safe and consensual, that’s cool. However, at the same time, as a leader I feel an intense pressure to not be oversexualized myself. When I’m choosing what to wear at a class or a festival, I feel the pressure that if I dress too sexy, then I will be seen as promiscuous and thusly, not respected as a Pagan leader and teacher.

I’m essentially playing into the dominant cultural expectations of sex = not professional.

Actually, I face the same challenge with weight. I am an activist against fat shaming, but at the same time, I recognize that to be taken seriously as a facilitator, I need to be as fit as possible. I won’t go into that as I’ve posted on weight before, however, it’s worth pointing out that there is a double stigma against people who are overweight that are also blatantly sexual.

Overall, I still face the same judgments within the Pagan community that I do in the dominant culture. I have to be careful about what I wear, what I say, what I write. I have seen (ethically) overtly sexual folks who teach good stuff who’ve been dismissed within the community because they have been deemed a hussy/slut/man-whore, or other shaming words. When folks come out as being polyamorous, into BDSM, or who aren’t shy about sleeping around, I have seen other Pagans judge them and dismiss their wisdom.

Slut Shaming
There are many Facebook memes detailing (tongue in cheek) how to prevent rape, offering advice like, “When you see a woman dressed in a sexy skirt, don’t rape her.” They’re a response to the institutionalized idea that women who dress sexy are “asking for it.” That to prevent rape, women should dress conservatively and not distract men. What makes the slut shaming concept tricky is that it’s linked into the pressure the dominant culture puts on women to dress in a sexy way, to oversexualize women.

The whole “debate” about Mylie whats-her-name’s performance is rife with this issue. On one side, the idea that dressing like a slut denigrates women and she should be a better role model, ie, should dress more conservatively. On the other side, the idea that she’s dressing like that to cater to what’s expected of her as a successful star, and she can’t be a star without oversexualizing herself.

It’s a twisted mess of spaghetti, isn’t it? Chicken or egg?

Abortion Shaming
There’s kind of this subtle cultural assumption that, if you’ve had an abortion, you acted irresponsibly. Unless you were raped, then abortion’s ok. I hear pro-choice folks make this judgment. You might notice that almost nobody, even in the so-called sex positive Pagan community, talks about having abortions. There’s too much of a stigma. It’s only in the past years that I’ve seen women even talking about miscarriages.

Shaming of Alternative Sexualities
I won’t belabor this, but I’ve taught in a number of Pagan groups all over where I was surprised to hear Pagans referring to homosexuality in a derogatory way, calling Transgender people freaks, or having other similar judgments about people who are Polyamorous or into BDSM.

So here we have these issues where Pagans, and the Pagan community subculture, really isn’t as embracing of sex positive attributes as we’d like.

Pagan Leaders and Sexual Ethics: What Behavior is Acceptable?
Let’s go to the other side of the pendulum, because there’s a lot of unethical behavior out there that exacerbates the non-sex-positive judgmentalism. I see a lot of Pagans pressuring Pagans to be more sexualized than they’re comfortable with, Pagan leaders  preying on folks in their group to get them to have sex.

“You’ll get used to it, once you ease up.”
I’ve had community leaders say that to me. The context was, I was indicating that I didn’t really want to have sex by the fire in front of everyone, or be naked dancing around the fire, that I preferred privacy for such things. And, that I really didn’t want to watch such things.

I was told that I’d get over being such a prude.

Sex positive does not mean I should be pressured to engage in experiences that I’m not comfortable with. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, that’s peer pressure and shaming. Being sex positive means, I support someone’s choice to not dress in a way that is sexy, not get naked, not have lots of sex.

Sexual Harassment
This is a multifold problem. There’s the leader engaging in the harassment…but then there’s the community that sweeps it under the rug. At a recent workshop, a Pagan woman said that she was experiencing unwelcome sexual advances from a noted leader in her local community, and she wanted to find ways to try and change that behavior without causing an interstellar war between herself and this man.

Sadly, I know several group leaders in her area who fit that profile, one of whom has a consistent reputation of being “a lech.” “He’ll hit on any young, pretty woman,” men and women will say with a fond smile.

That’s a problem.

If you’ve never been sexually harassed, or don’t understand why it’s a problem, I invite you to read this blog post about a former editor of Scientific American, Bora Zivkovic. It turns out that Zivkovik was sexually harassing women—using his position of power to flirt inappropriately with people trying to engage professionally with him. This is a blog by the whistle-blower, and there are a number of comments and other posts that offer examples.

This could come right out of some Pagan communities I’ve heard of. I’ve had older group leaders who were touchy-feely, trying to hug me, touch my hand, flirting with me in a way that made me very uncomfortable, and they don’t stop when you give the “I’m uncomfortable” signals. I do the same thing many of these women describe—shrinking away, hoping it’ll end, and then ignoring/marginalizing the behavior after.

How do I call out a well-known teacher/leader on their behavior without turning myself into the unpopular whistle-blower/drama llama? Without breaking up a group?

It’s important to understand the concept of cognitive dissonance. We (humans) have a hard time believing that a beloved leader could be “bad” because they’re nice, they’ve have done so much for community. Zivkovic was beloved by coworkers. They couldn’t believe that he was doing this….Except, he was. It goes back to cultural shadow. We want sex, but it’s “bad.” We learn maladaptive strategies to try and meet our needs. Those fail, so we do it again and again.

To eliminate sexual harassment, there’s the tactical phase of actually standing up and confronting the harasser so that they can be removed of a position of power or at least given oversight, and hopefully getting them help. The larger issue is, if we had a sex positive culture, we wouldn’t be ashamed of wanting sex in the first place and engaging in maladaptive strategies to try and get sex.

That’s the work of generations, but it is the world I want to live in.

Predatory Teachers and Coven/Group Leaders
Generally they target younger/newbie/more vulnerable attendees. Sometimes they’re the creepy folks cruising events hitting on people. Often, they are the nice, shiny leader that you want to be around. They are group leaders and teachers who intentionally use their position of power to pressure impressionable members to have sex. These are the coven leaders that tell group members that they’ll need to have sex in order to get anywhere in the coven. They use the grooming strategies that abusers do. I’ve written an article on my regular blog to explore this topic. If you think that this doesn’t happen, think again. I hear about with disturbing frequency. Here’s an excellent overview of cult behavior in Pagan groups.

When I travel and teach I can’t even tell you how many people have told me they’ve been in an abusive, sexual dynamic with a coven leader/teacher, or that they’d been pressured for sex. I’ve heard of coven leaders raping coven members. Just this past trip I heard about a coven HP and HPS who had minors in their coven. They informed these minors (13-15) that they had to have sex with the HP or HPS in order to be initiated. It’s sad, hurtful, and disgusting to hear about how many Pagans have had this experience.

This is not sex positive. Pressuring people to have sex is not being sex positive.

Leadership Ethics
Here’s my take: If you’re a group leader, coven leader, teacher–if you’re in a position of power–it’s unethical for you to have sex with people you’re teaching and leading. Period. One exception would be a sex temple; if the group bills itself as a sex temple, that’s a little different. I’m honestly on the fence about groups that require sexual initiation; I want to respect individual traditions, but this gets abused. It also ruffles my transgender-homosexual-ally feathers, because most do the “HPS initiates men, HP initiates women” gender-binary. (That’s a tangent worthy of a separate post.)

Back to power dynamics, I believe it’s possible to grow a healthy peer relationship vs. a power-over dynamic, but this takes time and intention. It’s not easy. I’ve worked hard with people who met me as a teacher to shift to a peer dynamic as friends/colleagues.

Though, even when people within a coven or group are dating, there are group dynamics. Romantically-involved covenmates is actually the primary conflict in one of my romance novellas; I chose that theme because it’s so commonly the cause of coven breakups and “witchwars.”

Dating Within the Community
I have a policy that I don’t date people I met as students or ritual participants. Imagine…I’ve just facilitated a deep, transformative, ecstatic ritual. We’ve gone to the underworld, faced our shadows. Participants have big cathartic moments. After the ritual, a participant comes up to me. I find him attractive. He asks me out. Though he is hitting on me, is it ethical for me to date him?

Absolutely not.

Ritual participants are in a vulnerable headspace, and with students there’s a power dynamic. Using your position as a teacher, priest/ess, or leader is slimy, unethical, and I believe it’s an abuse of power.

I’ll date someone I’ve met as a peer–for instance, another teacher, a group leader. It’s possible one day I might meet someone while teaching where we share a mutual attraction, and then we work to establish a peer dynamic, but that takes years and it’s walking an ethical tightrope. I lean toward making sure I’m not taking advantage of someone. I need to be off what’s called the “Priest/ess Pedestal” for anyone I want to have a meaningful friendship with, much less something romantic.

Handling Sexual Misconduct
To address my elephant in the room, my former teaching partner/romantic partner used his position as a Pagan leader to date/sleep with students, ritual participants, and women he met in context of teaching at festivals. He cheated on me, and on other partners before me and after me. He lied and stole money, too. Lots of people felt used and abused by his behavior. There isn’t a good way within our community to handle this sort of thing. Those who have been stuck in an abusive situation where no laws were broken have the choice:

  1. Speak out and risk your own reputation by people yelling at you for being a drama llama/starting a witch war.
  2. Or, be silent and complicit in continuing, and then hear about others that person hurts.

I opted to speak out. Some thought less of me for a while until it came out that he’d done it again, and again. Women came forward to tell me they’d stopped coming to Chicago events because he was hitting on them and they felt uncomfortable. The pattern became clear, as it did for the editor at Scientific American. People using any excuse to have sex/be sexual is not healthy sexuality.

If one party pressures or manipulates the other into sex, it’s not sex positive. There’s also the mistaken idea that if we don’t talk about this stuff, that it won’t happen. It couldn’t possibly happen in our groups, could it?

So What is Sex Positive?
How do we get there? How do we build a culture of people that see sex as a healthy expression of humanity, or, that can choose to not have sex and not be judged for it? How do we build a culture of people who are free to have sex with people of any gender, any relationship shape, without judgment? Yet, a culture of people that isn’t obsessed with sexuality and trying to pressure others into being oversexualized? It’s a tall order. And I think it starts with talking about sex, talking about pleasure, talking about our shadows.

Talking Frankly About Sex, Pleasure, and Health
People tell me I’m a prude because I don’t like sexually-themed jokes, but when I talk frankly about sex, they blush and try to change the topic. I often speak frankly about sex, bodily fluids, and topics that many people tend to shy away from. I don’t do this to gross people out, nor do I do it to oversexualize a situation.

I do it because I believe if we actually talk about this stuff, we can take away its shadow power. If we want pleasure to not be a sin, then we have to talk actually talk about pleasure. Similarly, there are so many basic sexual health issues that are not openly discussed because there’s a stigma. Periods, miscarriages, abortions, difficulty with orgasm, erectile dysfunction, difficulty with lubrication, cysts, endometriosis, pain during sex, hymens, birth control …the list is tremendous. There’s things that we don’t talk about and that aren’t taught in sex ed.

Being sex positive means talking about sexual health, but we’re usually too ashamed to do this. Every time I talk to people about sex very frankly, I am amazed at the things I learn. Or when I go through something and then a nurse says, “Oh, yeah. That happens.” So many things I wish that I knew.

Confronting our Assumptions, and Standing for Ethics
Sex positive is when we work to confront our assumptions. Just because someone is Polyamorous doesn’t mean they’re the creepy person trying to get laid unethically. But, it also doesn’t mean they aren’t. It’s not about someone’s sexual label, it’s about their actions and their integrity. We have to look at who we are, at what is ok and what isn’t in our community.

What do we expect of our leaders, of each other? What behavior is acceptable, and what isn’t? What do we do when a Pagan leader acts in a reprehensible way? How do we hold them accountable?

How do we discern from gossip and power-mongering and actual whistleblowing? I don’t have answers to these questions, but these are at some of the core of what it takes to be truly sex positive.

To talk about the difficult things, the shadows in our community that we wish weren’t there but yet are, because we’re human.



Shauna Aura Knight writes on the topics of community leadership, spiritual transformation, and activism. She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path, and Spiritual Scents, as well as a contributor to many magazines and anthologies, as well as a fiction author and fantasy artist. Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, facilitation, leadership, and personal growth.

Check out her blog on Pagan leadership and community building or her web site for more information.

28 thoughts on “Sex, Ethics, and Paganism

  1. Nivasi

    Another point to be made, there are a lot of mentally disabled individuals in & out of the community. Those that pressure or encourage them should also need to be reprimanded. I have personally seen this behavior very recently. Predators come in different forms, not only as ‘teachers’ but at times as your confidant. I feel it is important that everyone walks around with their shields up and protected at all times. If you’re unable to disagree with a behavior or suggestion, I think you should go back to your own teachings. The pagan community at large does not teach morals and ethics at least none that I’m aware of.. If you are not comfortable, then leave!

  2. BlackSphinx

    Oh man, I identify with this post so hard. As a sex-repulsed asexual person (meaning I do not experience sexual attraction to any gender, and I find the thought of my personal body in a sexual situation to be repulsive), sometimes the over-culture of the Pagan communities is not a safe space for me to be in. The very first book relating to Paganism I picked up told me that if I could not see (heterosexual) (PiV) sex as “the most sacred thing in the universe” I needed to GTFO. So I did. At every turn in those first few months I was dehumanized by being told over and over again that to be human is to desire sex and romantic-sexual relationships. That my sexuality is a disease, that I am broken. I know now that is not true.

    But still, there’s a reason I bristle every time I encounter someone who calls themself sex-positive – too many times they erase me or tell me that my existence is inherently slut-shaming and homophobic. (Yeah because since I don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone, it CLEARLY means I’m secretly gay but won’t admit it! *huge eyeroll*)

    So basically, this is a long “I agree!” with some of my own personal experiences thrown in.

  3. Elle Hull

    Thank you, Shauna, for clearly pointing out some of the problems in this regard amongst Pagan communities. I’ve seen and experienced so much of these problems within Pagan communities I’ve been involved in. There is obviously much work to be done both individually and collectively in this regard. And thank you for mentioning your books. I look forward to reading them!

  4. Terence Clark

    Magnificent article. The sex positive movement is probably the healthiest approach to human sexuality this species has ever had. I love this perspective on things. Also, as your blog isn’t specifically a sex positive blog, I figured I’d note that there is an excellent YouTuber out there, Laci Green, who does a few vlogs, but her first and ongoing project, Sex+, is a great deep dive into sex positivity and human sexuality in general for anyone looking for more information on the topic. I don’t want to take away from this article, which is a refreshingly in-depth look at the subject and at the same time a great primer. Just wanted to highlight another resource out there.

  5. Greenflame

    Oh, so good on so many levels.

    as a body worker, my education included lots of instruction about boundaries, touch, ethics, and dual relationships. I wish we routinely included such instruction in our subculture. I have observed the most egregious boundary violations in paganism, and a total lack of awareness for the complexities of dual or even triple relationships and the problems they cause.

    I also think that BlackSphinx makes a good point. Sexuality validly includes being asexual, or low levels of sexuality, or moderate sexual appetites as well as contented monogamists;
    and some are devout pagans without wanting to be naked or see others naked, and that does not mean they are ashamed or their bodies or prudish.

  6. Wytchfawn

    Thank you so very much for posting this! I have seen over the past 20 years in the Pagan community at large embracing every walk of life…and it is one of the reasons I love our community so much! But I find there to be a lack of sexual integrity becoming more and more visible. I’ve had issues with polyamorous leaders going on and on about their relationships in conversation. Or folks in BDSM wear at public events… and really, I just don’t care. I am THAT secure in my heterosexual, monogamous boring marriage and have one daughter I am trying to raise in a sex positive way with confusing her little 5 year old brain. Yes, I know….I am the rarer species of the Pagan community and respect the lifestyles and religious ideologies of all… but always feel like I am an ‘outsider’ in my community BECAUSE I don’t have multiple partners or don’t drag my daughter to public rituals, or because I never have and never will date/marry/have sex with another Pagan/Witch/Druid for the simple reason that I prefer no competition. Maybe someday we can just all focus on the spirituality and not lifestyle of Paganism.

    On another note, I think the subject of ABORTION is something no one talks about either in this community… there is much more emphasis on the creation of life and Pro-Choice, but where is the metaphysical side of this subject being discussed? I wrote about it in my blog once and I hoe it’s okay that I share this here. It was quite popular and a topic I feel really needs to get more attention.

    Again, thank you. This has been one of the more thoughtful, intelligent and rational blogs I have read in QUITE a long time from the Pagan blogosphere.

  7. Del

    Reblogged this on Sex, Gods, and Rock Stars and commented:
    An amazing and very timely essay about the fraught nature of sex and sex positivity within Paganism. As a group I belong to looks at whether or not to eliminate sex-positive and kink-positive programming, I hope they read this and take a deep look at their impressions and stereotypes.

    I have been the Pagan leader who was shunned ffrom an event I was volunteering for because one person (only one!) Was overly concerned that my reputation as an ordeal master and kink educator would somehow tarnish the whole events reputation. Even though I had worked the event the year before to high acclaim. If we really believe that ALL acts of love and pleasure are holy, we need to accept that acts of love and pleasure we don’t understand or personally practice are equally holy.

  8. cernowain greenman

    Thank you Shauna. I do not think I have ever heard the idea of “sex positive” explained so well. I agree that when people come into Paganism from a repressed sexual background and find out that we believe sex is not dirty or evil, well, they just go overboard and think anything goes.

    However, acts of “love and pleasure” must include respect and boundaries, otherwise they are acts of loveless pleasure, which is not part of our path.

  9. elnigma

    Very good article. With lots that need to be said.
    MM – Stirred these thoughts – wonder what you think of them, not set in stone.
    I thankfully don’t know any covens that initiate teens. That’s an immediate “no”.
    I find disturbing dynamics of coven groups where the uninitiated or less initiated adults in the coven are given a sense they need to step down into servants of those of higher rank. Rather than believing in their own peer-dom, they’re led to believe their HP/S is “above” them and had done the same. Maybe they even had, but it’s unlikely, and if they had, that probably encouraged enjoyment at returning the favor on someone else any humiliation they’d endured. Some may feel/ have felt that this service was their way of paying dues into later initiation, or their servility is serving the God/dess/es.
    I don’t know what Gods they’re talking about if this is how they’re expected to behave, but it isn’t a Witch God. A person can be expected to bother to learn the etiquette and rules, but if that’s all how to be subservient to another fellow being, well.. that
    wasn’t from that G0d.
    Ever seen a lineage where the top guys were empowered, but the rest didn’t feel so – that’s never good. They aren’t passing on tradition, they’re passing on jack. Growing older, the Crones/Elders and being in the Craft longest doesn’t mean wisest, and even if it did, not necessarily wisest about how another human adult should live their lives. Person who knows that best will be themselves, at least eventually..
    There’s a weakness some have to a kind of co-dependancy, and also some only know of sex as their one way to feel powerful. Predators find them so easily, sadly. Then some people don’t want to be making their own decisions and like trying to nurse, excuse, or cover up the harm of a generally NPD individual. These can easily grab and manipulate them, (again, it doesn’t have to be sexual to be harmful). You see how in Harry Potter, the bad guys, who have basically no great social traits at making others happy still always have a couple servile types beside them as flank? Covens have that sometimes, too – it’s like they’re shaping up people to be the next . And NPDs love Witch Wars, stalking, enemizing people if that’s a word. Predators, NPD, and guru-wannabees have a thing for claiming to be oppressed, when they’re the aggressor.
    There’s the cult detection sites, I’d add looking to see if somebody is close with their children, their family, has long-term close friends, exes, and former friends with whom they have had disagreements whom isn’t now the enemy, seems to handle their life themselves, knows how to do the laundry, complains all the time about other groups of people, etc. Someone ought to try to know before trusting them too far whether they ever love people who don’t flatter their egos. Obvs if someone’s coercive sexually, they’re wrong. There’s likely other indications they’d be wrong..
    I think even if no sexual contact is even made, if some of those in it are no longer Master of their own ship and instead swabbies for their HP/S – and that’s encouraged by it’s leadership taking said benefits – the coven’s destructive. Having it sexual after that is redundant, almost, the harm happened before, and even if there’s no more sex, still exists. I don’t think sex among a group is automatically wrong or it’s right/wrongness should be based on group score, rank, degree. If there’s an actual global problem with attitude of rank/degree, and power dynamic, then yes. But then, maybe that group isn’t right, anyway.
    Each person is there to learn, they are all students, and really good teachers and group have admirable properties, but don’t exploit their skill/degree/talents to make others in the group feel like less than someone who could do that Work, too, I’d hope if there was a group where there was sex or not going on, that consent that could take place as amongst brethren and equals, and not coercive. Peers, adults,consensual, honest, ethical.
    BB, Elnigma

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  13. Gordon Cooper

    Some day the community might move beyond “Sex Positive” to “Sex Irrelevant”. Does every conversation at a US festival have to start with a listing of the person’s sexual interests? I”m quiet, monogamous and not active if not in a long term relationship, and have been told more than once that I don’t belong in Paganism if I’m not willing to play. One of the founders of the term polyfidelity explained to me that the rituals, jewelry, etc. are all just psychodrama trappings to set up sexual situations where the “female energy” can be openly experienced. The pressure to be randomly sexually active in the 1980’s was damned near overwhelming, and I thank the Gods and my HP and HPs for running interference for me. One person’s “Sex Positive” attitude may make some of us feel less than safe and less than welcome.

  14. thistlespinner

    I enjoyed what you had to say, I must admit I’ve heard it before, in the 70s. We didn’t have the same name for it but the ideals and the difficulties were exactly the same. In 30 years you will read an article, explaining a new sexual revolution, but it will have a different name & you can wish them luck, as I do you now but by then I’ll have passed on.

  15. Dr. Taverner

    I really appreciate the inclusion of the shadow in this article. Knowing Thyself includes examining your own motivations as well as those of the groups in which one finds themselves. The “Free Love” movement of the 60’s tends to overlap and it appears to manifest as predation over positiveness. Certainly we should be open and accepting of ourselves, and others, as sexual beings, but we must also examine ourselves and see whether or not we are doing harm in the process. The shadow tends to lie, and what we think might be helping someone overcome their shyness, or become more open to their sexuality may have nothing to do with sex at all, but be feeding our own desire for power.

    I think it is natural for people to be attracted to individuals they respect. Teachers, leaders, Priests and Priestesses, etc… but we have to consider what relationship we really have with those people. Are they coming to us because they like us, respect us, and want to share with us, or are we in an actual position of power over them which is affecting their judgement? When you pour all of that power and emotion into a ritual leader, it can linger, and can be misinterpreted, and can be poorly acted upon. The “Golden Shadow” is just as insidious as the “Dark Shadow.”

    I think the worst part of turning down a student’s advances is the hurt it causes. All of my students over the years have been precious to me in some way, regardless of sex, location, or where they are now. There was always a point where I deeply cared for their well being. Although it hurts us as much as it hurts them, we must embrace the maturity to say “No” and that can be a lot harder than it sounds. In the end, it is up to those who teach, who lead, to make those choices of “least harm.” I think this is why many Pagan movements consider their group leaders like parents. They’re trusting us to make good decisions on their behalf, even if they don’t like them.

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  17. nick wozniak

    Individuals who pressure other members of their group to have sex, are one of three things, 1 A poser who only see’s the group as a happy hunting ground. 2 an ego maniac who seeks to control the others by the use of his/her body and theirs, Or finally someone who feels that what they have joined or formed is gang and they wish to dominate the corpus of the group in order to enlarge it by recruiting gullable members from other groups in order to increase the prestige of theirs. In a group that has chosen to be more freely uninhibated there cannot be sexual tension , it should be as free flowing and natural as a bunch of old friends going camping together who have at one time or another dated or slept everyone else of the appropriate gender over the years and are comfortable with that level of bonding….

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  22. mewgirl723

    Rape is NOT okay. It is not in any remote way okay, whether this consists of the traditional definition of “intrusion” such as poking someone in the back without their consent, or whether it consists of the modern definition of actually sticking your penis into someone else’s vagina or other hole without their consent. Rape is NOT, EVER okay IN THE SLIGHTEST. And, because it is so extremely heinous, that means it is also NOT, EVER okay IN THE SLIGHTEST to accuse someone of “rape” who has not raped anyone, such as when a 16-year-old who is not, say, Amish, or some other type of raising where they literally do not know what sex is, voluntarily has sex with absolutely anyone, or such as when someone voluntarily has sex with someone else and then claims then it is “rape” just because they were drunk. Um, notice… YOU CAN’T CONSENT TO RAPE. Because it’s rape. Which means it was not consented to. Obviously. And, because rape is so extremely heinous, that means it is (obviously) NOT, EVER okay IN THE SLIGHTEST to enjoy rape, fantasize about rape, pretend to rape people, etc. This is basic common sense but I wonder… since when exactly is rape supposed to “positive”? A “positive” sex would be when the sex is had, is good, is not bad, and does not involve rape. Therefore, something that is ACTUALLY positive would not include BDSM. People do not “shun” or “shame” people because they “enjoy something different then other people,” in this case. What they are instead doing is NOT BEING WILLING TO ASSOCIATE, OR TO NOT TORTURE, PEOPLE WHO ENJOY RAPE.
    Although trying to have sex with someone by asking and harassing them to have sex with you is obviously not rape, it is also obviously NOT, EVER, okay. So, if someone is asking you to have sex with them without, you know, having ever met you before, by asking and harassing you to have sex with them, then why would you want to “not cause a scene” or “not break up a group”? If a “scene” happens, it was the HARASSING PERSON who caused it, not you! And if a “group breaks up” because of you noting that their leader is disgusting and heinous and trying to have sex with people, how is this not a GOOD thing, when the leader of the group is harassing people about having sex and should therefore not be interacting with anybody at all, let alone being in charge of a Pagan group, wouldn’t breaking up the group or replacing the group’s leader be something any sane human would be VERY HAPPY ABOUT?

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