Once Upon a Time in the Eighties

A memory, for May Day/Beltane…

It wasn’t really a fabled time. There was a lot wrong with it.

That said, there were things about it that were golden.

It was a moment in Northern California, in the Pagan community. It mostly took place in wild places, in woods and deep forests.

We danced naked under the full moon. We celebrated our rituals around a blazing fire. We made love in meadows. We took drugs: psilocybin mushrooms, San Pedro cactus. MDMA.

And in that golden, loving space, alive with the joy of living, the world singing around us, we grew. We evolved. We healed.

Again, to be fair: there were those among us who were unbalanced, and remain so.

But then, there were the rest of us.

We got better.  We became healthier, more alive, more connected to the deep truth of ourselves.

The moment passed. Paganism in NorCal became more urban, less pastoral.

And let us be honest: we got older. More sedentary. Less apt to show our now-pasty bodies Continue reading

Protip for Straight Pagan Men

There’s a thing straight Pagan men do. As I’ve observed it, they kind of do it a lot. Recently, I’ve had a couple of conversations that have brought this issue into high relief.

They do it mostly to signal to women they don’t know very well—but are attracted to—that they are hip and cool and sex-positive.

It’s this: they make sexual jokes. Double entendres, puns. “That’s what she said.”

Guys, please stop this. It’s creepy. It makes people uncomfortable.

Not to put too fine a point on it, when it’s unwelcome, it’s sexual harassment. By definition, unwelcome sexual overtures, jokes, suggestions are all sexual harassment.

And here’s the thing, gentlemen: with people who you don’t know very well, you can’t tell if it’s welcome or not. People might laugh along, while inwardly dying.

So please, don’t do it. With your friends, fine; you know them, you know what they find funny and acceptable. If the person you’re talking with starts in on that vein, then also fine: they started it, and you’re welcome to play along. But when you’re attracted to someone new and you’re trying to make an impression, don’t be creepy. Lay off the sexual “humor”.

Being sex positive is not the same thing as being sexually enthusiastic. It means being respectful of the sexual agency of others, as well as yourself. It means embracing the principle that consent is ultimate, and that if someone isn’t interested, it’s time to knock it off.

The conflation of male lustiness with sex positivity is a legacy holdover in the Pagan community from the male-dominated “do what feels good” unconsciousness of the Sixties. It’s been 50 years, and it is long past time we made a definitive effort in the Pagan community to put that to rest. It’s sexist as hell and it excuses what is, to be frank, rape culture.

Obsessive focus on sex is really the same thing as being sexually repressed: an unbalanced approach to sexuality.

Don’t be a sniggering teenager. Don’t be a marauding creep.

Just be a respectful, healthy man.

 

(I have not been able to confirm this, but I suspect the illustration is a cartoon from xkcd.com)

In the Season of Sex

These days, I find it’s difficult just to navigate the world without getting sex all over me.

The flowering trees and plants are airing their perfumes. When I get in my car in the morning, the windshield is covered with a fine dusting of yellow pollen. Fortunately, I am not subject to allergies, so it’s amusing, rather than oppressive.

Meanwhile, there is all the usual hypersexualized nonsense in our media, of course: the objectifying inside-out world of a repressed people.

And then, there is the disgusting story of Kenny Klein.

It’s a steamroller, sex is. Grabs a person right by the lizard brain. So much sickness I see in our world is rooted in it.

As I’ve reflected before, it’s a sticky, steamy mess…that nearly all of us want to be in, right up to our necks.

I see the prudish nature of our culture here in the United States as a major driver of abuse. The conflation of “forbidden” with “arousing” is an intoxicating brew: one which can distill to obsessive and soul-eating shame, or consensual and mutually respectful BDSM…or far darker imaginings. Imaginings that should never become real.

Here in the spring, when sex is everywhere, sometimes I find myself shrinking away from it; away from the part of me that is a sexual being. Not because I think it’s wrong—I don’t—but rather because of the suffering, the harm I see in the sexual realm in our world.

It is like a haze clearing, like waking from a drug-infused dream. And when I do this, the tragic absurdity of sex becomes so clear: the pursuers and pursued, the conflicted and tormented. The joyous…and the lost.

In the wake of the Klein arrest, we’ve been having a conversation in the Pagan community about consent and the accountability of “leaders”–a term which tends to mean “anyone with a recognizable name” in our subculture.

Those conversations are important, and I’m glad we’re having them. I hope we are evolving into a culture that embraces not only an affirmation of sexuality as a healthy element of life, but of affirmative consent as the principle through which sexual encounters are negotiated. The unconscious, male-dominated free-for-all of the Sixties, whether or not that is a significant aspect of where modern Paganism began, must be dispensed with.

We must learn protocols to protect ourselves from one another. From ourselves.

I ask myself, what does it all mean? We’re saddled with it: it is baked into us as meiotic beings. We are neurochemically predisposed towards sexual impulse and behavior; exceptions are rare.

Sex is a sacrament. I know it. And I know, too, that it can just be recreation, and that’s okay, given consenting adults. It is and can be many things.

But however it manifests, being a sexual being is like carrying around a bomb.

Like a trembling vial of nitroglycerine that each of us must carry across the tightrope of desire.