Oh, well done, Anne!
Over the years, though, I have gone from shrugging my shoulders and thinking "not my thing," to being genuinely concerned about what goes on in the name of some "sex-positive" and "sacred sexuality" work. I know many people who have been hit on, manipulated, and used by workshop leaders. Some Pagans who do this work seem to claim "sex-positive" as an excuse for having really bad boundaries—ironically, while supposedly helping others create healthy boundaries. And such an edgy field naturally attracts narcissists, who are more interested in pushing limits than encouraging authentic sexual expression—and yes, there is a difference.I recommend reading her entire guest post titled Sex & Revolution over at the Wild Hunt blog.
.....Had the Pagan sex-positive movement devolved into a freedom of speech test for exhibitionists? In that case, what we were doing was not revolutionary at all; it was reality television.
Paganism, for all its easy entry and near-universal acceptance of difference, is riddled with minefields if you scratch below the surface. For instance, we value self-empowerment and individualism, yet we loathe leadership, which is a natural outcome of being empowered. Diversity itself becomes a trap when, in upholding the principles of relativism, we are unable to set basic standards of accountability.
Yet in order to progress as a New Religious Movement or whatever the heck we are, we must resolve these questions in some way. If everybody's mileage varies, how are we to determine whether Workshop Leader A is a power-hungry predator or a brilliant, unorthodox teacher? If Pagans as a rule don't trust leaders, are we fated then to end up with leaders who are fundamentally untrustworthy?
This is one reason why I don't attend (and won't recommend newcomers go to) certain festivals in California which are really nothing more then grope fests. And while we're on the subject, the letchy behavior of some of our West Coast "Elders" (1) towards good looking young men and women at Cons is off putting and quite frankly, disgusting.
Her point on leadership is also well made. Sensible Pagans often talk about this amongst themselves. I would love to see more groups deal with this issue openly, so the rest of us can know how they do it. I do know several circles engaged in useful community or charity work. In order to be effective, they use team leaders and they have standards, goals and requirements they hold to.
So here's my question for today:
When did Pagans forget how bardic training and guilds actually work?
It wasn't through wishing thinking. It was by using a system that allowed the less skilled and less experienced to learn from those who had the hard won skills, experience, maturity, stability and wisdom necessary to teach, organize and lead. Ineffectual leaders were not respected, they were not sought out by students for training, and they did not hold high office or run their own workshops. Paganism, which proposes on it's face to be a meritocracy (but which, in actual practice, often can't address merit because so many of us shudder at the idea of judging someone else's performance no matter how necessary or prudent that might be) could well learn much from such arrangements.
The Cult of Personality
Those who fear and distrust any kind of power can never find their own empowerment and they do not empower others. There are many such mystical gurus among us; people who simply need to rebel forever against Mom and Dad and who can't bear to be responsible, stable authority figures themselves. They obtain influence among certain Pagans by using their personal charisma, which in some cases is considerable. You can tell who they are because they have followers and acolytes who admire and revere them, not students who learn and grow and eventually leave their side to do their own, unique work. Gurus do not train up responsible, trustworthy leaders or help create healthy, well functioning groups. They are mired in chaos, complexity and confusion, and do not welcome order, clear communication or the simplicity and ease that comes with knowing a thing and doing it well. After watching them work, one wonders what it is that they truly hope to accomplish, overall.
For more on this, read Deborah Oaks excellent post, I Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty.
When It's Done Right
I'm not surprised that Anne Hill is comfortable with mentoring and leadership but then she has studied the martial arts where such training is considered a sacred duty. (Plus, she's a damn good Mom who has raised three empowered, creative children who are - as far as this fond observer can tell - spiritually, emotionally and sexually healthy beings.) (2)
I live with a partner who has degrees in several martial arts forms and I know that good teachers take their responsibility very seriously from ethical, spiritual and real world standpoints. If not, someone can get badly hurt or, worse yet, harm someone else through poor judgment.
Maybe we need more of that sort of training and awareness in our circles? It couldn't hurt.
Nudity At Festivals
(1) If you are active in this community, you know who they are. Given the stories I hear, this isn't just a problem on the Left Coast.
(2) One of my favorite memories from PantheaCon comes from watching Anne and her teenage daughter both shop for corsets at the Xcentricities booth. Let me tell you, they both rocked their wardrobes. Anne and I have talked many times over the years about what it takes to raise healthy kids in this culture - I don't know how she did it, but she has.