Sexuality and Paganism

Q:Do your religious beliefs exalt or stigmatize sex (or both)? Is religion a useful tool for helping young people navigate … Continued

Q:Do your religious beliefs exalt or stigmatize sex (or both)? Is religion a useful tool for helping young people navigate the treacherous world of sex, love and relationships? Does religion present an alternative view of sex and sexual relationships to the culture at large? Should it?

Pagans have a multiplicity of opinions on almost any subject, but if there’s one thing we probably all agree upon, it’s sex. Sex, in Pagan “thealogy”, is a Good Thing, a gift of the Goddess, a way we connect deeply and intimately with one another and with the great creative forces of life. Sexuality is sacred. “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals,” says the Charge of the Goddess, one of our most beloved liturgies.

Our religious view of sexuality is an alternative to both sexual suppression and sexual exploitation. The prevailing culture sees sex either as an evil to be controlled or as a selling agent and profitable commodity. Neither view makes for healthy relationships or sacred connection.

We teach our young people to practice sexual responsibility–to be kind and respectful to one’s partners, to protect themselves and their partners from disease and from unwanted pregnancies, to listen if someone says ‘no’ and to respect each person’s boundaries and choices.

We affirm pleasure and sexuality, but we also recognize that that sexuality can be an area of deep wounds and great pain. Unfortunately, many people in our society have suffered from sexual abuse and trauma. We encourage Pagans to be strong allies for one another in seeking healing, in asking for and receiving support around issues of sexuality, and in confronting and stopping any hurtful or disrespectful behavior.

Our Reclaiming tradition of Wicca recognizes that sexual attraction and gender identity are among the Great Mysteries–those most common of human experiences like birth and death that nonetheless defy rational analysis and demolish attempts to create strict categories. We welcome gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender folks and all the shades and variations in between, for that diversity enriches our community, challenges us to come to deeper and more complex understandings of our Gods and our images of the sacred, and makes life much more interesting!

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  • YEAL9

    Pagans are no different when it comes to the following:Although most religions warn us about the dangers of pre/extra-marital sex, it is obvious we are not paying attention as pre/extra-marital intercourse and other pre/extra-marital sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. from the CDC-2006″Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”How in the world do we get this situation under control?A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. (Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes calls it an anti-desire pill – 4/18/2010). And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, condoms and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Sounds good to me!!!! Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???And the following data need to promulgated so everyone is aware that today’s contraceptives don’t always work to the degree advertised: (from the Guttmacher Institute)Percentage of women (men) experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)Method Typical No method 85.0(Abstinence) 0

  • YEAL9

    test

  • YEAL9

    Added pagan-talk by a pagan about pagan-sex:chrysalis1witchesjourney.wordpress.com/…/pagan-values-sacred-sexuality/

  • Athena4

    CCN-Yeal, Your cut-and-paste posting implies that Pagans treat sex just as the rest of society does. In fact, you are quite wrong. We treat it as something holy and sacred. One of our main writings, the “Charge of the Goddess”, states that “all acts of love and pleasure are our rituals.” We have two caveats to that – both parties are consenting and over the age of consent. We do not treat sex as something taboo, or for procreation only. It is a natural part of life, and we celebrate it. The upcoming festival of Beltane is a celebration of the Lord and Lady coming together to bring fertility to the land. When you treat something as holy, yet an acceptable part of life, you have less incidence of teenage pregnancy or STDs. While I’m not saying that we don’t have our creeps and perverts, we police them and kick them out without hesitation if there is a problem. Many Pagans are victims of sexual abuse or rape, and will not tolerate it in the community.You Christians could learn a lot about how Pagans handle issues of sexuality.

  • APaganplace

    Merry meet, btw, Mara. We seem to have crossed posts. 🙂 I think you’re right, too, about the element of where abuse comes in. Abuse thrives on shadows, shame, control, and self-deception. Just like with the food metaphor: when some will on the one hand try and sell us ‘tempting’ but ultimately empty gluttony on one hand, and ‘willpower’ and ‘diet pills’ and other shame and control (internalized or externalized,) People have really just forgotten there’s such a thing as wholesome food. And, given that, such a thing as ‘Enough, thanks, and blessed be.’ 🙂

  • Athena4

    You’re absolutely right. Pagans, because we are open and honest about sex, are *less* likely to have STDs and unintended pregnancies than the general population. Every multi-day event that I’ve been to has an ample supply of condoms, and people are encouraged to make use of them. There are also many in our community who are “poly” – either having open marriages, groups of individuals that have sex only with each other, or other arrangements. We recognize that one partner may not always be right for every individual. That’s not to say that we don’t have infidelity or divorce. We certainly have about the average number of divorces. But, divorce can be caused by any number of things – infidelity being one of them. We also teach our youth that their sexuality is a gift from the Gods, and thus they should be responsible with it, rather than some kind of “forbidden fruit”. We also, generally, teach sex education to our kids, so that if they choose to have sex, they have all of the tools necessary to protect themselves.

  • Athena4

    BTW, yes, I know Pagans that hunt. I know many more who don’t hunt, but will happily eat game. We’re not all vegetarians and vegans.

  • lepidopteryx

    Bottom line for this little Pagan: the only wrong sex is when one of the parties invovled is not a consenting adult, or when a trust is broken by the act.If you’re married, and both of you are in the mood – it’s right. If you’re married, and only one of you is in the mood, and that one pushes the issue and coerces the one who isn’t – it’s wrong. If you’re in an open marriage, and you’re with someone other than your spouse, and your spouse is okay with it – it’s right. If you’ve made a vow of monogamy and you’re with someone other than your spouse – it’s wrong.If you’re just hooking up for the night with someone else who is also only interested in hooking up for the night – it’s right. If one person is emotionally invested, and the other is not – it’s wrong.

  • Athena4

    Yeah, this is one person’s opinion. One thing about Pagans, we do not march in lockstep following a specific leader. Too bad her cure doesn’t work for obnoxious trolls, CCN-Yeal. Then she could turn you into a toad. But, then again, why be redundant?

  • YEAL9

    And pagans therefore have no regard to the potential problems of “permitted” multiple sex partners even those that feel right ?One more time:Although most religions warn us about the dangers of pre/extra-marital sex, it is obvious we are not paying attention as pre/extra-marital intercourse and other pre/extra-marital sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. from the CDC-2006″Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. (Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes calls it an anti-desire pill – 4/18/2010). And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, condoms and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???But then a bit of voodoo cures all ills??

  • Mara_Seaforest

    I am a Pagan. Or more precisely, a Neopagan. Starhawk really said it all, but I’d like to add that anything pleasurable and desired can be used, or withheld, by someone to gain control over others. That is abusive. If the “anything” in question is sex, the “someone” is a religion and “others” are that religion’s faithful, then that religion abusive.I believe this rationale explains a great deal about why the overwhelming majority of sex abuse cases we hear about inevitably have one of the world’s monotheistic religions at its core. These religions depend upon the submission of the faithful to an external hierarchy of power — almost always heterosexual and male — along with contempt for human sexual need as somehow bestial and unholy. This is a perfect setup for abuse to thrive.When sexuality is thought of as sacred, and the human beings sharing it consider themselves to be part of a divine circle of life, abuse becomes the sin, not the sex.

  • APaganplace

    Though, by the way Yeal, the question you quoted: basically, “There are Pagan hunters and Pagan vegetarians, is there a Pagan ethics on this?”Yes, there is. Good example, actually: That ethics is respect, reverence, attention, and connection. In the case of food, one may show that respect, reverence and attention by …Not eating animal products, or agribusiness animal products. One may show it by thanking and appreciating those animals we eat. One way or another, a Pagan values the relationship, values the other (Actually, quite often we’ll scuffle about Vegans coming off with just the same kind of ‘moralistic prohibition and control-based’ scorn for Pagans who revere the animals we eat, as some Christianists have for our reverence for sexuality, but that’s kind of a bandwagon thing that overlaps a lot.) Literalistic prohibitions, even if they could be enforced as you and others wish, do not bring about respect and relationship: they only *conflict* people, and through such both blind them to what they do, and leave them ever-hungry and ashamed and unfulfilled. As for the diseases you fear, I’d much rather trust my health to someone who’s careful and honest with a number of partners, than someone who struggles to be stridently-monogamist and ‘occasionally lapses’ and does *totally*-irresponsible things they think are ‘dirty’ with people they think are ‘dirty’ in ways they think are ‘dirty.’

  • YEAL9

    “Actually, I count the incidence of such things (STDs) *extremely low* compared to statistics cited as among ‘Christian society’ …especially ‘Abstinence-only’ ‘educated’ ones. Some people ‘struggle with sin’ all week, ‘fail’ on Friday night, and still consider them 6/7ths ‘virtuous,’ as opposed to those of us who treat sexuality as a sacred thing all the time.”And the supporting references from reputable sources like the CDC are?

  • APaganplace

    ‘Abstinence-only,’education” Yeal, is certainly shown to be at *best* not-as-effective in reducing STD and unwanted pregnancy rates as conventional science-based sex ed. The CDC doesn’t study Pagans as such, and you should know that. It’s your *own* spammy list of unattributed figures-from-nowhere, which neither support your conclusions nor your accusations, nor are really relevant to a Pagan view of sex and sexuality: your claim is that ‘people need controlling, with sex-drive killing pills if not just an anti-sex ideology,’..My experience of all manner of segments of my own community, even as one who has counselled lots of people on sex-related issues, is quite the contrary.We’re quite aware of what’s out there, and what to do about it, and the value of safety and respect *all the time.* You’ve essentially ignored everything said here in your hurry to just insist ‘Sex is bad and accusations of spreading disease are my weapon, and I’d like to try and ‘discredit’ Pagans for saying otherwise.’You see numbers about society. We see them, too. I also see how people behave. How their attitudes shape their behavior and attitudes. Trying to bottle up, or numb, the sex drive and human needs for intimacy with fear, shame, blindness, control, drugs, all the rest, that results in a repressed population that is in a constant state of internal conflict that never looks what it’s doing. Too afraid to look, think, enjoy, celebrate, *humanize* their experiences, they just get tanked or superstitiously-afraid/self-righteous and wonder why they’re ‘out of control.’ Ideally, a Pagan ‘out of control’ will be much the same as one ‘under control,’ in that one’s virtue, reverence, respect, and responsibility in these matters should not be based on mere *inhibition,* whether externally-imposed or internally-enforced. You don’t say, “Cars may crash, so paint the windshield and take away most of the steering wheel! Ban cars!” But that would seem to be your attitude toward sex.We learn to drive. And when not to. 🙂 From this, yes, we definitely seem to do quite *well,* despite your presumptions to the contrary. We wrote a good deal about our actual attitudes below, if you care to understand.

  • APaganplace

    So, speaking of our actual attitudes, isn’t it interesting how so many of the articles on this question, (not to mention of course, CCNL’s predictable and much-repeated responses) …Are in general, so negative, and control-based? Sex and sexuality are obviously parts of life which have been greatly-scorned and stigmatized in our world and civilization, (Even a lot of the more sex-positive sounding articles are kind of more like, “You’ll be happier if you obey! Obedience *is* happy, not like that *bad sex* we say is all around us.. And has nothing to do with both churches, politicians and advertisers saying, “This *is* sex! Dirty, sinful,and awful, mostly, but irresistible! Unless…” Well, I don’t hear much about how sex and sexuality, are not some bestial horribleness that must be passed out at best like unhealthy treats for the ‘good boys and girls,’ …But actually what can be a true *healing and connecting and worshipful, and celebratory force.*Not just ‘acts to be regulated,’ but… One of the things that actually makes us *whole,* in our many ways. That’s why abuse and stigmatizing and degrading sexuality both go hand in hand with abuses of power and religion, and why these things are so *damaging,* whether we’ve had bad experiences personally or not… Because these things literally *take away* from us something wonderful and sacred and healing, when *profaned.* Sex isn’t a ‘profane’ thing that can only be purified by authority and permission, not something that *defiles people,* but something that *is* people: is what’s between us and each other and the Gods, and the world, and thus, when treated as such, *is healing.* When it’s cheapened or scorned or degraded, it’s what sex itself *is* that is profaned, not ‘people who have been defiled from exposure to sex,’ as people so often treat even victims of rape. Sex and sexuality aren’t *everything,* but neither are they some ‘separate thing.’ They’re a big part of the ways in which people experience the world, entwined with everything, not some disembodied actions related to some alien impulse or something. To Pagans, ‘All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals,’ and that’s not a small thing. Sex is not merely some ‘thing’ we ‘handle:’ certainly not some losing defensive *battle* against our own instincts. For us, it’s a power on our side, something *shared with ourselves, each other, the Gods, and the world,* …not a commodity, not even if some ‘advertise’ it a lot as such. Part of our own healing, and this much it could be for anyone who approaches with reverence and respect and openness and caring and responsibility.

  • Athena4

    “And so the Yoruba based traditions that originate in West Africa have given the name “Oya” to the whirlwind, the hurricane to those great powers of sudden change and distruction. Santeria, candomble, lucui, voueoun, all include Oya in some form as a major orishha, a Great Power. Offerings are made to her, ceremonies done in her behalf, priestesses dance themselves into trance possession so that she can communicate direrctly with the human communitity.”And your point is? Starhawk does not claim that SHE was channeling Oya. She was only saying that some voudoun priests/priestesses do. As for Starhawk’s response to Hurricane Katrina, she was on the ground in New Orleans helping to bio-remediate ground in the Lower Ninth that had been contaminated by toxic spill from the flooding. She was walking around in a biohazard suit for weeks. What did you do?

  • lepidopteryx

    YEAL/CCNL: And pagans therefore have no regard to the potential problems of “permitted” multiple sex partners even those that feel right ?NO, that’s not what I said, and you know it, so stop playing ignorant.

  • APaganplace

    Well, Athena, while sometimes Yeal/CCNL’s useful to bounce off of, his constant attempts to divert any thread with his own set of very limited fixations do pretty much stray off topic again. He’s not reading the answers or communicating, here. Just repeating his accusations from a hundred times before and never even acknowledging what they mean. It’s willful misconstrual, defamation, and intellectual dishonesty. Some of Starhawk’s actions have drawn criticism from within the Pagan community, for being seen to cross lines into other people’s living traditions: most Pagans do in fact respect the Orisha, and recognize that they’re dealt with in different ways than our own many traditions usually do, but there’s commonality there as well as respect, like when you go into someone else’s house or neighborhood. These kinds of interfaith relationships are both varied, and complex, and sometimes controversial. We are certainly subject to much of the same bigotry as Native American practices and traditional Afro-Carribean ones. Such bigotries as CCNL here tries to mix us both up in to make it sound like both are incoherent when actually, it’s just his own thinking.One thing is, they also have nothing in particular to do with Pagans’ own views of *sex.* Which would be the topic, here. Of course, Pagans who *do* mischance to catch an STD will work for healing, (As well as awareness and constant attention of how not to harm anyone with it; ) that doesn’t mean there is this irresponsibility CCNL asserts. ‘must be there.’ Or such a big *prevalence* as he ‘reasons’ must be there. Actually, I count the incidence of such things *extremely low* compared to statistics cited as among ‘Christian society’ …especially ‘Abstinence-only’ ‘educated’ ones. Some people ‘struggle with sin’ all week, ‘fail’ on Friday night, and still consider them 6/7ths ‘virtuous,’ as opposed to those of us who treat sexuality as a sacred thing all the time. We’re not immune to disease or offering ‘magic cures,’ … but by my estimation, we do *exceptionally-well,* by our own ways.And that’s as someone who’s functioned as clergy people *do* talk to about things like that.

  • Athena4

    CCN-Yeal, go take your hangups about sex someplace else. The adults are having a conversation here.