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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Discussion on morality sex, nudity, and pagan festivals

Here's part of a conversation I had with Shawn Herles and others in the comments of Editorial: The Good News at The Wild Hunt.

Shawn Herles: Have you read the latest from Sarah Anne Lawless at Bane Folk? She talks about fakelore, amongst other issues. Worth a read if you're not easily offended, which I'm guessing you're not.

NeoWayland: Read it, added the UD definition of fakelore to my lexicon, and excerpted part of her piece to the lexicon's entry on neopaganism.

I don't agree with her on sex and nudity in paganism, but a while back I cited her earlier piece on abuse in the pagan community in the lexicon entry on pagan attitudes on sex and nudity. She wrote some things that should be discussed.

SH: I don't know who Dorson is.

NW: Checking on the web (which Lawless should have done), Dorson was a folklorist. Supposedly he coined urban legend and fakelore. I've updated my lexicon.

SH: "I don't agree with her on sex and nudity in paganism"

Just for clarification, you don't agree that it's happening as she says, or you don't agree with her opposition to it?

NW: I think she's reporting accurately, but I don't agree with her conclusions or her proposed solutions.

It reminds me of the arguments for gun control. Not everyone who owns a gun waves it around in people's faces and shoots them. Likewise, not everyone is a sex abuser, even if they do go around nude and are polyamorous.

We need to talk about it, but no one person has all the possible answers.

There's one retired Lutheran pastor who talks about nude swimming at the YMCA in the 50s and 60s. Many naturists think that obsession with pornography and sexual repression is because American culture says no nudity while having undergarments and swimwear designed to focus attention on the very body parts that are FORBIDDEN.

I agree with Oberon Zell on one thing, American attitudes on sex and nudity are seriously f…ed up and have caused more problems.

SH: I'm inclined to agree with her myself, in part from personal experience many years ago in a community that took the view that clothing was repressive and and all forms of human sexual intimacy were perfectly natural and should not be hidden. It didn't end well, with several community leaders ending up in prison. And while it was just a few individuals, I'm convinced the community's culture regarding sex and nudity played a role.

Between the extremes of Victorian morality and the 60's "free love, let it all hang out" view there needs to be some balance. All societies set boundaries around sex, for good reason. Ours set them far too tightly under the influence of Christianity, but the 60's counter-culture swung the pendulum too far in the other direction imo.

And Pagan festivals should be, up to a point, safe places for any and all people to attend, including families and sexual abuse survivors. Not everyone is comfortable around public nudity, or agrees with it, or wants their children subjected to it. As there is nothing to stop those who want to engage in public nudity from joining a nudist community, I don't see why it needs to be a feature at Pagan events. And Sarah is right that the "free love let it all hang out" nature of some of these events is inevitably going to attract creepers and abusers.

Parts of the Pagan community are stuck in the 60's. It's time to move on.

NW: I don't think there's an "all-in-one" solution.

I do think there should be family-friendly festivals and festivals where abuse survivors feel safe, but I don't think that should be all festivals. Just like I don't think that Wicca is THE only form of paganism.

Let people choose for themselves. I don't think that's too much to ask.

I think it's ironic that pagans think we should move on from the 60s considering how much we pride ourselves on bringing parts of the past into our current celebrations.

NW: I'm planning on publishing my part of this exchange at my pagan site on Monday morning. May I include yours as well?

SH: Sure.

"I think it's ironic that pagans think we should move on from the 60s considering how much we pride ourselves on bringing parts of the past into our current celebrations."

For me it's about Paganism growing into something more serious than just adolescent rebellion and Medieval LARPing, I like what I see in the Trad Craft and animist based movements, and with the Devotional Polytheists on that score.

NW: I agree that it does need to be something more. Magick is the essence of change and evolution. We shouldn't be comfortable with what we accept.

There are days I would dearly love to eliminate the SCAers and the RenFaire types from anything to do with paganism. It's not that I object to what they do, it's that other people see that and assume it's what I do.

Obviously the link isn't active yet, but it will be www DOT neowayland DOT com/files/PaganFestivals181119.html

NW: Interesting. I clipped to Evernote for future reference.

I've only read a few of Lawless's essays and only within the last few months. I admit that I took her at her word about "fakelore" and didn't research it myself. What that tells me is that I should take what she says with a grain of salt.

I also have to admit my bias here. I am a naturist with poly tendencies. But I have experiences with naturists and polyamorous people outside the pagan community. Hale is right when she identifies the ego problem in pagan leadership. That isn't necessarily present in poly relationships that don't involve pagans.

One disclaimer. I distinguish between polyamory and polygamy. I live in northern AZ not far from the Short Creek area. I've seen how devastating that can be.

NW: The neo-Puritanism worries me, and not just in paganism.

SH: What's the neo-Puritanism people are talking about?

NW: Condemning and punishing people for their "moral failings."

In these days of #MeToo, certain sex acts even if it's consenting on both sides can bring this.

In paganism, I've had some very upset with me because my beliefs do not put the Divine Feminine above all else.

Even with discussions of nudity and sex in paganism, We Must Protect The Children often takes a higher priority than what people have actually done.

Basically anything that seeks to control other's behavior on the off-chance that it might offend.

I do think that actions have consequences. If someone has actually harmed another's person or property, then steps should be taken. But if it means demanding that someone must change behavior because that behavior in excess might harm another, that doesn't make sense. Nor does preventing harm to someone's feelings.

Let me give you a personal example. I don't believe in global climate change alarmism. My dissent makes people upset, so upset that it's impossible to discuss what is actually happening. Mind you, I do think humans are creating environmental harm. America's subsidized water and power means we built cities in places cites shouldn't be. But for some, I'm not "allowed" to make that point unless I abase myself and acknowledge my sins against the Earth for not embracing what the anthropogenic climate change crowd says. I'm considered a heretic and not worthy to speak on ecological issues.

SH: "Condemning and punishing people for their "moral failings.""

Ah, now that I understand. That's a much better way of putting it. I agree, being morally judgemental is usually a bad thing, not to mention hypocritical.

I reserve the right to judge terrorists, rapists, murderers and child abusers however. Oh and bankers! :)

"I've had some very upset with me because my beliefs do not put the Divine Feminine above all else."

There is nothing in classical (pre-Christian) Paganism that says you have to. And I don't either. I'm a polytheist, and all of my gods, regardless of gender or no gender, are important to me. I don't consider "Goddess centred" to be a valid definition for all Pagans, and I've had some push back on that as well.

NW: Anyone who commits measurable harm to life, liberty, or property should be punished.

Sexual assault should be punished. Wolf whistles and leering, not so much. Polluters should be punished. But not someone who bought a brand that hadn't gone "green." A DUI who caused a fatal accident should be punished. But not the casual toker who is just unwinding after a hard day.

As for religion, that's between you and the Divine. No one else.

More and more I'm convinced that one of the greatest and most destructive evils humanity has produced is Meddling For Your Own Good.

SH: Read Hale's article, not overly impressed. She makes the odd reasonable comment, but I have two major criticisms. The first is, who cares about Dorson and the academic angle? I have been reading articles about fakelore in the Craft for a while now, long before Lawless wrote her blog post, so the issue is being discussed and the term 'fakelore' being used in this way by a lot of people. Whatever it's original provenance, it's taken on a life of it's own. Terms and words and ideas do this. So the fact that Lawless didn't mention Dorson or the original academic usage strikes me as a weak criticism.


The second was Hale's ridiculous 'Blood and Soil' claim. Crafting a bioregional and local practice, learning what you can from your own ancestors and culture, and not appropriating things from other cultures you have no connection to, are things many animists are trying to do, and it's not remotely reasonable or accurate to call that Blood and Soil. She did not quite come out and say "Lawless is a Nazi" but she might as well have. Still, she's an academic writing on Medium so it's pretty much a given that the "Nazis's under the bed!!!" hysteria is going to be trotted out.

NW: Valid points.

NW: I'm glad someone else noticed the pictures.

Lawless had some excellent things to say about neopaganism. An earlier essay had some important things to say about abuse.

But that doesn't mean she's right all the time.

I thought Hale made some good points, but she was so focused on rebutting Lawless that she didn't really make a general case.

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