Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Community Statement of Sexual Ethics

 . . . or, "what part of 'raping your initiates will get you an open can of whupass' can't we agree on?"

Hokay, I've been bitching for years about the overall PHA community's often haphazard handling of abusers, frauds, and criminals within it's ranks. One of the greatest strengths of PHA belief systems, the room for people to explore a range of faiths and develop a personalized spiritual or philosophical path, can also be the means for exploitation and abuse to take place. The trick is how to keep things open enough that we don't become Pagan Popes & Pharisees while still keeping an eye out for the train wrecks, and to stop screaming "judgementalism!", "intolerance!", and "witch war!" when someone makes a bona fide effort to speak against a documentable dirtbag.

Sex is a ginormously sensationalized, baggage-loaded, taboo-riddled subject with a lot of the general public, and the fact that many PHA practices don't follow Judeo-Christian rules and viewpoints regarding sex leaves wide open opportunities for misunderstanding and misinformation. It's a potentially messy issue in any format; the same means for people to develop healthier attitudes toward sex than have been popular for the last few centuries can also be perverted into the means for freaks to prey on people who don't have the knowledge and experience to protect themselves from abuse. 

I've recommended Isaac Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame to plenty of people; it can be used to examine an individual's MO as well as a group's, for sexual predators as much as any other abuser. That and other references to ethical practice are good for those within the community, but I also think we could use something(s) in place to give the non-PHA public some point of reference as to what we do and don't do. Pagans, Heathens, and other alternatives to mainstream belief systems ratchet religious diversity up to a whole nother level, and that kind of room to move and a lack of hierarchy and authoritarianism is what many of us value most about PHA beliefs. It's actually often easier to say what we don't have in common than what we do.

That in mind, there are some abusive and destructive behaviors we can pretty much all agree to call "unacceptable". A priest(ess), or anyone for that matter, who warps practice to manipulate newbies into sexual situations they aren't comfortable with and an out-and-out rapist aren't much removed from each other. We've had occurrences of both, from fakes who merely adopt the trappings of Heathenry or Paganism to people who've been in real positions of leadership.

The mainstream public can have some seriously FUBARed-up ideas about what PHA faiths and folkways are about, and anytime some fruitcake sex offender makes the news and some sort of Satanic Ritual Abuse card gets played, or the police find a pentacle or Thor's hammer, or a lot of herbal tea in someone's house, the urban myths add pages. I'd like to think we can develop some kind of ethical guideline statement that non-PHAs can be referred to for comparison. CAORANN - Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism and Heathens Against Hate went there awhile back, with statements and info to combat the rise of white supremacist hate groups who have been appropriating Heathen/Asatru symbols and material in a trashy attempt to gain some pretense of validity.

Now it looks like Wild Hunt is proposing to get a similar effort going, working on a broader ethical statement against sexual abuse that can be effective and relevant to a broad sample of PHA practice. There's an intent of making this something that can be a declaration of norms without sacrificing autonomy, which may require a lot of hashing out, but I believe would be well worth a lot of trouble in the long run. Brendan Myers has offered to facilitate the discussion on his website, so it's open to anyone who wants to input, hopefully without an overdose of trolling.

We're making dents in discrimination and prejudice against non-Abrahamic faiths. To keep that ball rolling, we're going to have to be more visible and more transparent. There are plenty of sources of anti-PHA propaganda and Satanic Panic bogeymen out there being used by people with varying agendas; a functional piece of educational material that can be endorsed across varied schools of non-mainstream thought could be a good tool for fighting them.

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