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Author Topic: Sexuality and Paganism  (Read 9435 times)
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« Reply #15: February 16, 2008, 02:44:45 pm »

1. It was dishonest of that ritual leader to not give full disclosure on that ritual until everyone was there and nude. I would have walked out. Nudity and touch are comfort issues for many people, as are the use of drugs or alcohol in ritual. Waiting until everyone was ready to begin was a blindsided ambush.
of pleasure between consenting adults are fine and dandy.

I have no idea why she didn't walk out either- that's exactly what I would have done. Yet it almost seemed as if she was using the story as a shock factor (oh my gosh I can't believe that happened) so that you may not be inclined to delve into her article very deeply and pick holes in it. *shrug*
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« Reply #16: February 18, 2008, 02:07:13 pm »

After reading the article, what are your thoughts on the importance of sexual orientation in the Pagan religions?

Honestly? If a ritual I was involved with called for a pairing, I'd want it to be a male/female pair. I honestly don't think there is any reason not to have it that way, unless one of the people involved is uncomfortable with what may be asked of them. That is the way life is continued, even though I am completely okay with homosexual relationships, (I'm bi-sexual myself) two people of the same sex cannot naturally create life.

I'm in a monogamous relationship, but if a ritual I was to play a part in called for me to be paired off with a man, I'd do it. I wouldn't take it to any extreme, no fondling/kissing/intercourse, but I'd do the bare minimum, because that's the way the ritual is supposed to be. I don't see these pairings as being forced into a relationship with that person, it's like being put into groups for a project.

In the case of someone who is uncomfortable with the opposite sex, for any reason, then I can understand not wanting to be paired off. I don't think that these people should be forced to be paired off with someone else, but I don't think that other group members should be forced to change for them either. If only one person is upset with the situation, I don't think it would be right to force another person of the same sex to pair with that person, and upset the balance even further.

In this paticular case, I think she should have asked to sit out, or seen if there was another woman who would pair with her. Though I may be misunderstanding how this paticular ritual works, I'm not wiccan, nor do I participate in any group practice.
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« Reply #17: February 18, 2008, 03:24:05 pm »

Honestly? If a ritual I was involved with called for a pairing, I'd want it to be a male/female pair.


What if the religion involved isn't focused on gender/ fertility, and the ritual is not based around those either?  (ie, there is no obvious reason why the pairing must be x and y).
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« Reply #18: February 18, 2008, 03:50:41 pm »

In this paticular case, I think she should have asked to sit out, or seen if there was another woman who would pair with her. Though I may be misunderstanding how this paticular ritual works, I'm not wiccan, nor do I participate in any group practice.

As described, it's not a commonplace practice, even in Wiccan groups. (It's more common to have some light romantic/energetic interaction between priest and priestess, and the energy results of doing the Great Rite in symbol with someone can be very powerful. But in those cases, you're generally working with someone you know well, and are comfortable with.)

(I've been thinking about this one since it was posted, so some other thoughts here.)

I *am* fairly strongly gender identified female and heterosexual: my primary internal preference for creative friction is very comfortable within a heterosexual model. That said, I work in a Wiccan-influenced group where the primary reason for the 'influenced' is that we, as a group, take the gender thing differently. (That said: I've been kissed in circle by gay men, and lesbian women, and hugged everyone in a friendly hug sort of way.)

But: springing it on people is a really stupid idea, not just because of preference issues, but because of other factors.

1) Contagion of various kinds:

What happens if someone has a cold, or the beginnings of strep throat, or flu (i.e. they don't necessarily feel bad yet, but are contagious). My ritual circle has been generally healthy, but their partners include one person with a compromised immune system (and it used to be two), so it's necessary to be just as careful about things like colds as more talked-about STDs.

2) People have different comfort levels.

I adore my existing coven mates. I would happily do any number of challenging things with them (and, in fact, have.) But, y'know, I've known them all for 3+ years now, and we've had time to build a lot of trust and comfort and ideas of which things are likely to be issues or not.

If you throw someone in with people they don't know very well, you need to be *very* clear up front on what the parameters are. You don't need to share all the details of exactly what the setup is, but a "We're going to be focusing on giving and receiving pleasure; you'll be paired up male/female, and X, Y, and Z kinds of interaction are possible: if you don't want to participate, here's what to do. Here's how to set limits up front" - before you go into circle.

That said, people should also be willing to take responsibility for walking out if it's not the right place for them. (And doing so politely.)

3) There's a *huge* gap for many people between different behaviors.

With people I generally like? Hugs are great. A brief ritual kiss (including on the lips) is fine especially in a relevant context.

Anything that might be described as 'fondling', though? So not going there without far more significant conversation. Ditto more extensive kissing. Personally, I want to be clear on what the implications are long-term, and I want to talk about my background and history, because there are things that will lead me to not respect someone later (a problem in ongoing circle interactions). And I want to check on their standard approach to STD practices for anything with a potential exchange of fluids, which includes open-mouth kissing. 

More than that, though, I'm not wired to interact that way with most people, even people I love and trust: it's not a step I take casually, and it's not one I'd take ritually without prepwork and appropriate aftercare/discussion. (My past relationships have all been polyamorous: doesn't mean I'm wired to want to be sexual with everyone I love, though.)
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« Reply #19: February 18, 2008, 04:22:01 pm »

What if the religion involved isn't focused on gender/ fertility, and the ritual is not based around those either?  (ie, there is no obvious reason why the pairing must be x and y).

If the ritual isn't focused on gender/fertility then I also can see no reason why the 'pairing off' must be male and female only- in fact I don't even see why there has to be any pairing off in the first place, but then again I'm not knowledgable on the logistics of group work, having rarely taken part in any myself.
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« Reply #20: February 19, 2008, 09:38:57 pm »

What if the religion involved isn't focused on gender/ fertility, and the ritual is not based around those either?  (ie, there is no obvious reason why the pairing must be x and y).

I was thinking of a pairing that revolves around the masculine and feminine energies, if the ritual isn't focused on that I don't see why there shouldn't be the option to pair with someone of the same sex.

        ex. If the pairs were to help build relationships in the group, or maybe to help practice something.
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« Reply #21: June 28, 2008, 02:02:08 pm »

This post is inspired by the following article:

http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uswa&c=gay&id=12197

More than once when the term Paganism or Pagan has been mentioned in conversation with a non-Pagan they have given me a strange look and said something along the lines of: 'isn't that just a load of orgies..?' (the ones that come to mind are a friend from my history class, and also my step mother).

It can be said that Paganism can often draw such connotations. Sexual orientation is consquently not often thought of as 'a big deal' in Paganism as it is in say Christianity or Judaism. After reading the article, what are your thoughts on the importance of sexual orientation in the Pagan religions?

Here's the problem I have with gender polarity, and it is my own personal viewpoint.  Gender polarity assumes that spiritforms of any kind are "assigned" a gender, including gods and goddesses.  I tend to see the gods as spiritforms, and my belief is that spiritforms are genderless.  They may take the guise of a male or female in appearing to their worshippers possibly for simplicities sake, but they are neither in truth. 

That was one of my problems in Christianity which carried over from that.  A deity is spirit, spirit is genderless.  I know many males who feel more 'attuned' to their feminine side, and many females who feel this way to their masculine side.  And it doesn't necessarily have to do with sexuality either.  (I happen to be one of those females, and have never considered the idea of becoming a lesbian, or even bisexual.  I can see beauty in the female form, but am attracted to the male one.  My brother told me I'm a gay man in a womans body.)

I also don't really think that religion and sexuality are so much related, it's just that in paganism there is less of a restrictive idea about what constitues 'normal' or acceptable.  Most of the non-heteros I know are Christian, most Pagans I know are hetero.

Maybe the idea should be to inform the leaders of these groups as to your sexual orientation up front, and explain to them that certain things would be uncomfortable for you.  This helps them to decide the type of rituals to hold, and what necessary changes to structure need to be made.  If every leader of Pagan gathering had to make exceptions, changes and the like for every possible outcome, we would have none, because there would be no way to satisfy everyone.  That and if you make a rule specific to one type of person, and noone of that type comes, then you have wasted time, energy, and possibly money.  It should be up to those attending to tell the leaders of any special needs or dislikes, etc.  They have enough to do with the planning, to add in having to make numerous special cases 'just in case' is simply ridiculous.

For those who wouldn't feel comfortable discussing their sexuality with their leaders, my suggestion would be get new ones.  Your religious leaders are there as a help in your spiritual journey, and everything about you from your shoe size to your sexual orientation is a part of that.  If you are uncomfortable speaking of anything important with your religious leaders, then then you need to find a group where you do feel comfortable, not only being yourself, but speaking about it.

Sorry for the bit of a rant, but this always seems to hit a raw nerve with me.  My brother (the one I mentioned above) is gay, and he has had to deal with so much crap from people...  And as much as he wants me to stay out of it, I can't, I am his 'big' sister, and my duty is and always has been to defend him. 
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« Reply #22: June 28, 2008, 02:20:39 pm »

Here's the problem I have with gender polarity, and it is my own personal viewpoint.  Gender polarity assumes that spiritforms of any kind are "assigned" a gender, including gods and goddesses.  I tend to see the gods as spiritforms, and my belief is that spiritforms are genderless.  They may take the guise of a male or female in appearing to their worshippers possibly for simplicities sake, but they are neither in truth. 

That's something that I have always pondered; whether deities are truly genderless or not.

My deities appear as male and female to me, but I know that this is just my mind personifying them as it makes them much easier to relate and connect to. The feeling that I get from my female deity is very much a nurturing one- a quality that is associated with the female/feminine. Yet I don't necessarily see a link between the two. I don't enjoy the idea of categorising all qualities into the boxes of 'feminine' and 'masculine'. It's severely limiting. Not only to the deities, but to humans also.

I often here people talking of 'being in touch with their feminine side' or their 'masculine side'. It frustrates me, as when it comes down to it I have absolutely no idea what this means.
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« Reply #23: June 28, 2008, 02:32:46 pm »

They may take the guise of a male or female in appearing to their worshippers possibly for simplicities sake, but they are neither in truth.

My experience varies - I think deities are at all places along the gender spectrum, just like people are. Some are very heavily gendered into male and female - not just due to biological function (how do you deal with all of the deities who are heavily mother-centered, if gender is just a construct?) but also social function.

The deities I tend to work with tend to be strongly gendered, because, me, personally? Heterosexual, strongly attracted to male-female polarity, etc. Given that I do not have infinite time to explore all possible myths, deities, pantheons, or cultures equally, I spend more time where my own primary focus and overall interest is: I think we all do.

The group I trained with, however, was predominantly not hetero and not gender-polarity centered - some of them also had similar experiences with deities the group worked with, but we also had experiences with deities who were at other points on the gender spectrum. Or totally off the spectrum for that matter. Just like my group of friends is.

Part of it is also a function of relationship with deity: I'm M'Lady's handmaiden (and she is female): there are some specific gendered parts of that that affect not only what I do in her service, but how I approach it. Some of those are about societal gender views over time, but some of them are also about how I view my own gender: I don't think I'd be hers if I were male - or even if I self-ided as genderqueer. At the very least, it'd be a different relationship. Possibly quite good (the way I have with her consort), but different.

It's possible to argue it's all in the head - but I frankly don't find that very useful in terms of my actual practice and what works and what doesn't.
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« Reply #24: June 28, 2008, 03:34:08 pm »

For those who wouldn't feel comfortable discussing their sexuality with their leaders, my suggestion would be get new ones.  Your religious leaders are there as a help in your spiritual journey, and everything about you from your shoe size to your sexual orientation is a part of that.  If you are uncomfortable speaking of anything important with your religious leaders, then then you need to find a group where you do feel comfortable, not only being yourself, but speaking about it.

What if sexuality doesn't matter and the leader doesn't want to know?

I am, arguably, a spiritual leader.  And, quite frankly, I can't see where people's sexuality matters a damn unless they're running into problems.  I don't care if someone's gay, straight, transgender, etc.  I care that the person is comfortable with themselves and honest with themselves, but after that?  Not my problem!

Does it HAVE to matter?
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« Reply #25: June 28, 2008, 10:50:06 pm »

That's something that I have always pondered; whether deities are truly genderless or not.

My deities appear as male and female to me, but I know that this is just my mind personifying them as it makes them much easier to relate and connect to. The feeling that I get from my female deity is very much a nurturing one- a quality that is associated with the female/feminine. Yet I don't necessarily see a link between the two. I don't enjoy the idea of categorising all qualities into the boxes of 'feminine' and 'masculine'. It's severely limiting. Not only to the deities, but to humans also.

I often here people talking of 'being in touch with their feminine side' or their 'masculine side'. It frustrates me, as when it comes down to it I have absolutely no idea what this means.

Well, certain traits are seen by humanity to be more or less feminine, and the same with masculine.  I'm not sure I understand the criteria for judgement on that, because I think people are people, period.  And I tend to do the same with those deities I worship, as well, it just makes it easier for my own clarity to simply go with the images the mythologies gave me.  For example, I still see Athena as an armor clad woman, bearing a shield, and a spear.  That is simply the image I had as a child hearing the myths, and then reading them myself.  The same goes for the other deities, I guess it is just a matter of convenience for me to picture them as male/female, even though I don't really think of them that way.
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« Reply #26: June 29, 2008, 04:05:57 am »

I am, arguably, a spiritual leader.  And, quite frankly, I can't see where people's sexuality matters a damn unless they're running into problems.  I don't care if someone's gay, straight, transgender, etc.  I care that the person is comfortable with themselves and honest with themselves, but after that?  Not my problem!

Does it HAVE to matter?

Depends on structure, no?

If I'm in a small group setting with someone - which is where most of my leadership goes - they're someone I want to have as a friend. I don't need to know all the details of their romantic life, but one of the deals for friendship for me is knowing about other important people in someone's life. They'll be in and out of my home and life, and I'll be in and out of theirs.

I know how my groupmates feel about their families of origin. I know if they're seeing someone, at least once they've had a couple of dates and think it's going to continue. And yes, that means I usually have a general idea of the outward view of their orientation, though sometimes the internal one doesn't come up for a while (such as with a friend who is bi, but who has been very firmly in a monogamous relationship as long as I've known her.) If I didn't know *anything* about a friend's relationships or interests or whatever, they wouldn't be a friend: we simply wouldn't be close enough for 'friend' to make sense as a term.

In broader community, I mostly don't care. But I am also aware that if someone wants my advice, there's certain places I know I'm missing important context - for example, many of my social circle are GLBT, and I'm not (and more importantly, don't do my dating from within that community.) There are some places I know friends have had issues - like a woman who's always had female partners getting interested in a male partner - where there are particular community responses I don't have as good grasp on as others. (Friends in that position have hit some real nastiness.)

On the other hand, there's places I've got a far better handle on resources than many people I know (polyamory, for example), so it does balance out. Just, if someone asks for my help, I want to be sure I can actually help, which means focusing either on details I've got experience with, or looking at very general stuff that affects all relationships (communication, say.) And knowing *that* is, in my opinion, important for anyone who's doing religious leadership in a way that might get them asked questions about it: knowing where personal boundaries are, and where your strengths and weaknesses might be on various topics.
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« Reply #27: June 29, 2008, 06:38:44 am »

Depends on structure, no?

If I'm in a small group setting with someone - which is where most of my leadership goes - they're someone I want to have as a friend. I don't need to know all the details of their romantic life, but one of the deals for friendship for me is knowing about other important people in someone's life. They'll be in and out of my home and life, and I'll be in and out of theirs.

But I think you said it most clearly here: these are your FRIENDS.  And yes, people don't join your coven unless they're people you can be friends with, and I recognize that.

But that doesn't mean that it is required under all religious systems that you be friends with your leaders.  (so far, I'm friends with everyone I know is a FlameKeeper.  but,  y'know, that's .. two other people?  not hard there. Cheesy )  And I don't think it's *required* that religious leadership goes hand-in-hand with friendship.

Small group work is a different animal entirely.
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« Reply #28: June 29, 2008, 07:38:24 am »

But that doesn't mean that it is required under all religious systems that you be friends with your leaders.  (so far, I'm friends with everyone I know is a FlameKeeper.  but,  y'know, that's .. two other people?  not hard there. Cheesy )  And I don't think it's *required* that religious leadership goes hand-in-hand with friendship.

Which is why the second paragraph was about the other stuff.

I do, in fact, know at least the basics of the board members for our local Pagan Pride (which is where my larger community stuff is.) I don't necessarily know their self-identification, but I do know if they're in an ongoing relationship or not, and in all but one case have met their spouse/partner/whatever. These people aren't friends, though I like them perfectly well (we just don't socialise together.) but it's the kind of thing most people do share once you've worked with them for more than a few months, given scheduling issues, etc.

I think it also depends on what's involved in the religious leadership bits: if I am, for example, trying to put together meaningful programming for Pagan Pride (something I consider a religious leadership issue), I want to make sure I have rituals that don't feel exclusionary to people.

(We somewhat weirdly got accused of this one earlier this month, though I'm pretty sure it was someone confusing us with another group in town: the person didn't respond to my email going "Nope, very welcome here, perhaps you've gotten us confused with X?" so I can't tell for sure.)

If I'm doing ritual design for that situation (which I do), I need to strike a balance between rituals I'm comfortable leading, and those that the broadest range of people will find accessible in that situation. Do I need to know every person who is there's preferences or relationships? Nope. And I don't. But I do need to have some idea of the range, and who I might offend or alienate by which decisions.

If there are programming items dealing with relationships, I want to make sure that the people doing those have some kind of clue what they're talking about. (For example, for several years, we had a 'what if your partner isn't Pagan?' panel - which had a lot more reliability because the person who was running it wasn't, and his wife was. I'd view a panel on being GLBT and Pagan the same way.)

Heck, the sheer fact that our Pagan Pride has had a booth at Gay Pride (where I was yesterday, and will be again in a few hours) is a relationship-involving choice related to Pagan leadership roles.

In other words, there are a number of times it's still relevant, even if I'm not counseling someone directly, or having them in my home. I also think that healthy religion needs to talk about relationships with other people  - not just romantic or sexual relationships. I don't need to know all the details, but if I ignore people's relationships, or the possibilities of relationships or discussion about relationships entirely, we're going to hit trouble somewhere, because those things are *going* to come up, because people are human, and humans are social creatures, and that produces relationships of many kinds.
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« Reply #29: June 29, 2008, 09:28:27 am »


I'm not sure we're not either talking about different things - or at least past each other.

I'm not arguing that these things don't come up and that one shouldn't be CLOSETED with your religious leaders.  (if you're closeted with your religious leaders, there's almost certainly a problem.)

But I think there's a difference between being not-closeted and actively telling people these things.  If it comes up, it's relevant.  And yeah, I know the relationship status of, say, the staff of TC who I've known for a while, and the flamekeepers, and that sort of thing.  But that doesn't mean it needs to be DISCUSSED.  It's just something that's there until it comes up in a situation that matters.  (hell, I know the relationship status of all my D&D gamers, too, except one I'm  not sure where he is.)

I guess I'm saying that non-closeted is important, and ABILITY to talk about it is important if it's relevant.  But if I'm chatting with a religious leader about something else (or someone's chatting with me in that role), unless it's relevant, I don't think it needs to be discussed.

am I even making sense?
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