By Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez
In light of recent issues, the Pagan community has finally begun discussing how predators have negatively affected us. So many people from numerous traditions have shared their own terrifying experiences in countless stories. As I’ve searched the internet and read articles and looked at comments pertaining to said articles I’m finding more and more people who don’t understand what defines a predator and even worse, those who believe that predatory behavior is in fact defensible. Today I am going to highlight a few items to more clearly outline what constitutes unacceptable behavior as I believe that members of our community deserve to be safe. Please note that in addressing these issues I am not referring to those who participate in BDSM relationships with terms and safety conditions decided upon by all involved parties of appropriate age.
You might be a predator if…
1) You think it’s alright to harass and oggle the people around you.
The world is full of attractive people. It’s hard not to notice when someone carries themselves in a way you find alluring or has a look about them that you appreciate. I think we’ve all found ourselves checking someone out a time or two. It is one thing to gaze in admiration. It is entirely different to undress someone with your eyes, follow them around, make comments at them or yell at them as they pass. You are not entitled to the attention of those you find attractive.
2) You don’t comprehend that “no” takes different forms.
Many people, women in particular are frequently subject to aggressive attention from others, particularly men. Some of us are practiced at saying “No, leave me alone” while others have developed different defense mechanisms. In certain cases a woman will not verbalize her “no” but will show it in body language. If she does not respond, does not make eye contact, does not stop to greet you or is obviously trying to leave, that means no. If in your world that doesn’t mean no, if you feel that means “try harder”, you are exhibiting predatory behavior and you need to stop. This person is obviously not interested. If you can’t take a hint, you’re being a creeper. Even worse, if you find yourself excited by their discomfort you are definitely a predator.
3) You feel that certain styles of dress or behaviors are an invitation.
I’ve gone to any number of Pagan events, most of which take place during warm weather, on beautiful days. There are drum circles and bellydancing and hoop dancing and all manner of joyous activities that many of us feel are celebratory and life-affirming. Many attendees wear less clothing or even none at all. Hey, it’s hot out. They’re really comfortable with their bodies. They enjoy the freedom of it. They are dancing in ways that people may find enticing or they share their art in a way that speaks to you. Many of us express sexual energy in our practice through dance and art. That having been said, you may not assume that you are entitled to partake of that sexuality. Nudity is not an invitation. Just because someone is not wearing clothes does not mean you get to stare as long as you want, follow them around or have sex with them. They didn’t attend for your enjoyment and they don’t owe you anything.
4) You use the unseen as a means to get people in to your bed.
I don’t know how each and every person practices. I’m not familiar with all methods of teaching. I am aware that some methods of study do include sexual elements. That’s fine as long as all parties involved are of age, totally aware of the decision they are making, are not coerced and that safety is considered. Coercion, I repeat, is not okay.
For example, a person goes to another for spiritual instruction and is informed that if they want to “get to the next level” they have to sleep with their teacher, or that the “Gods” have decided that the student must sleep with the teacher to open them to new experiences in “enlightenment” or some other such nonsense. If you impose such a thing on a student, you’re a predator. If you don’t have clearly defined agreements and try to push sex on someone, you’re a predator. Should you include sex as an element of your teachings and practice you are responsible for making certain that every person who comes to you for instruction knows the specifics right away and is capable of making an informed decision about their own path. If you would deny someone this, guess what? You’re a predator!
5) You threaten spiritual retribution if someone refuses your advances.
It sure does suck when someone you have a thing for doesn’t reciprocate. Everyone has been there. It hurts. It can be humiliating. But it’s also a part of life. Most of us are pretty well in touch with reality and know that it’s better for someone to be honest regardless of how we feel about it. If you’re the person that gets turned down and decides to threaten someone with a hex or a curse, you have found yourself in predator territory.
You’re not that powerful. Sorry to break it to you but your magick-fu is not mighty enough to destroy someone for not liking the cut of your jib. It’s also equally wrong to threaten the significant other of the person who turned you down.
6) You threaten character assassination.
This is a frequent tactic practiced by members of the Pagan community. I have seen this myself and frankly it is far more damaging than threats of hexes. People look to their community for support and encouragement. Threatening to destroy someone’s reputation because they aren’t interested in you or have broken up with you is sick, twisted and abusive. It is one thing to commiserate about a bad break-up with friends. It is a different story when you go out of your way to exaggerate or lie about someone because things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Of course it is imperative that you be honest if someone has harmed you or someone else. That’s what this entry is all about! But the act of cutting someone off from their support system because you’re hurt over rejection is predatory.
7) You would eliminate someone else’s right to say “no”.
The Pagan community tends to have some very liberal views in regard to sex and nudity. I know of events where nudity is allowed, where people practice sex magick, where swinging is common and any number of other practices. As long as these practices are safe, sane and consensual amongst adults, I take no issue. However if you would pressure someone to give up their right to say no, that is inexcusably predatory.
There are covens who choose to practice skyclad. In all instances there must be full disclosure that such a thing is required prior to anyone showing up for ritual. If a teacher ever runs a ritual or event and springs required nudity or sexual participation on someone last minute or utilizes peer pressure to convince someone to participate, that is coercion and said teacher should be considered a predator as well as anyone else who backs his or her play.
8) You have no respect for boundaries.
Boundaries are key to maintaining a safe environment for everyone. Each person is going to have different boundaries. Some people don’t like being touched. Some are not comfortable being nude in front of others. Other people don’t like speaking in public. These are examples of some personal limits people may set for themselves. They must be respected.
There are other considerations such as ethics. Ethical boundaries include things like not participating in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk to consent, or not engaging in sexual contact with children. These are boundaries that don’t have room for negotiation. You don’t do these things. They are not okay. If you would cross these boundaries you are without question a predator. If you would advocate for anyone who would, you are part of the problem.
Sadly it’s going to continue to happen until people stop yielding their will and free thought to self-appointed authorities and experts. It’s going to continue until victims speak out. It will still happen until every Pagan educates themselves about what is acceptable practice and what is not. It is up to us to create the community we want.
Don’t accept abuse. Do not stand idly by and watch as others are abused. Don’t allow people to destroy the message of the spirituality that you love by using it as a means to further their own goals and to support their disregard for others. Let predators know that their behavior will not be tolerated.