Pagan Values: Sacred Sexuality?

Dear Pagani and Friends,

I am not the only one lately to be musing about sexuality and it’s consequences in our communities.

In editing a podcast episode from a panel she did at Florida Pagan Gathering, which included the infamous yet influential Witches Gavin and Yvonne Frost; T. Thorn Coyle has written a post that muses over some tough questions about the Frosts (here, here, and finally here) and that lays the foundations for some deep questions about modern Paganism’s relationship to sexuality and to the idea of Sacred Sexuality.

In the last few days over at the Wild Hunt there has developed an interesting and (mostly, so far,) politely impassioned discussion regarding the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and about the difficult topic of Abortion.  If we are going to examine the Sacredness of Sexuality, we should also acknowledge and embrace and discuss ALL its consequences.

So I have tried to write about Sacredness of Sexuality once before, and had mixed success.

Many Pagans talk about the immanence of the Divine in all of creation.  Many Pagan values systems speak either directly or indirectly about personal responsibility.  We always have the power to choose our actions, and our reactions, we are responsible for those choices, and their consequences.

Even if sex for pleasure isn’t inherently wrong, is it necessarily always the right thing to do?  If someone has looked at themselves and their relationship with their Gods and spirituality, their ethics and morals, and decided that they choose celibacy, how supportive is our community of that?  Or are they just chided for being “repressed” or ” narrow minded”?

Sex is holy and sacred, as is every blessed spinning atom and vibrating cell of creation; or so many of us say.  Even within those forms of Paganism and Heathenry that don’t believe in the immanence of the Divine, or who don’t say one way or another on the issue, there is the simple fact that since Paganism doesn’t believe in Sin, engaging in the sex act for pure pleasure is not a moral or ethical wrong in and of itself.  It does have the potential for consequences though… I ranted about a few of them in my own recent Beltaine post

I find myself wondering how many people in our community realize that one of the big reasons that a lot of open rituals will pass out dixie cups for sharing our wine or mead at the appropriate time in the ritual is because sharing a drinking vessel can spread oral herpes?

How many of you knew that oral herpes is present in 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population?

When I read that roughly 1 million people in the U.S. have HIV; and 1 out of every 5 of them has no idea that they are infected!  When I hear that someone in the United States is infected with HIV every 9 minutes and 30 seconds…

When was the last time you saw birth control/std prevention supplies available at a Beltane event or festival?  How about an STD screening tent and the local Heathen festival honoring Freya or Freyr?  If sex and sexuality hold no shame, and to some of us are sacred, then why don’t we address it more often in our religious lives and events?  What about Beltaine or Imbolc health faires with Safer Sex and unwanted pregnancy prevention workshops?

It’s not as if the information about effective birth control and disease prevention aren’t already out there and available!

Birth Control Information from Medicine.Net

CDC information on STD’s

CDC general STD information and curriculum tools

An STD information page from the University of Maryland

Coalition for Positive Sexuality ~ A free-online Sex education resource, including information on STD’s and Birth Control.

Planned Parenthood

A Safer Sex information website from William’s College

National HIV and STD Testing Resources (US)

Aren’t Trust, and Friendship, and Love just as sacred as Sex?  Then too there is the near universal attitude within Paganism that we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions and always capable of making an informed choice.  In that case, shouldn’t the number of STD cases and unplanned Pregnancies be almost nill in the Pagan community?

As much as the Pagan movement talks about sacred sexuality, it doesn’t seem like that talk has fundamentally changed our movement on a cultural level yet; we are still messily enmeshed within our over culture in this.

I don’t know.   I don’t really have any answers to Thorne’s questions, or the discussions at Wild Hunt.   The more I think about it the more questions I have myself.

What do you think?



7 thoughts on “Pagan Values: Sacred Sexuality?

  1. I’m glad to let you know that a large portion of the festivals and other such events I’ve been to in various parts of the nation did indeed have safer sex supplies available; in fact, my husband Taylor and I were presenting a couple of workshops on sex magic at Heartland weekend before last, and one of the organizers gave us a big bucket of condoms to make available when we did the bit about playing safe (since there’s no such thing as an anti-STD spell!)

    1. Pax

      Thanks for the Site!

      Good to know there are efforts abroad in our community to address the issue! Do you think that safe sex supplies are enough? Are we having the questioning discussions about Sex and Sexuality and Sacredness in our community do you think?

      1. I think there’s still the assumption that “we’re adults, we can make our own decisions, thanks”. I know that when Tay and I present, we tend to truncate our safety issues section because most people who, say, go to our Kink Magic workshop already know about the basics of BDSM safety, such as SSC/RACK (and we direct anyone who doesn’t have a basic background in that to pick up a few books and check out other resources to get caught up, as it were). It’s a tough balance, at least when it comes to adding in the safety/ethics/etc. talk in a workshop that isn’t solely about that. I do think, perhaps, that more dialogue about things like safer sex practices, respecting others’ boundaries (and one’s own boundaries, for that matter), etc. is a good idea, but I also think that there’s a fair chance that the people who would go to such a discussion would probably not be the ones who need to hear it the most.

        And that’s where we get into issues of control and regulation with regards to festivals and other events. You can’t make attendees attend to things like birth control and STD protection, and you can have event staff keeping an eye on things at drum circles and so forth to make sure things don’t get out of hand. But if we’re going to assume that we’re working with autonomous adult human beings here, as much as we may wish to be able to change the course of their actions, we have to deal with a certain amount of discord between what we want to happen, and what actually will happen. Which really sucks when it ends up negatively impacting someone (or several someones).

        I still think we should make information and other resources available, so that at least those who are willing to find out more can do so easily. If nothing else, having these things out makes it more likely that more people will use them, simply because they’re there.

  2. Hi Pax,
    I’ve never been to a festival that didn’t have condoms available for free in the first aid tents (at one PSG, my volunteer shift involved manning the condom bucket. Hm, phrased that way, it sounds more interesting than it actually was…) I’ve never been to a talk on sacred sexuality where safer sex wasn’t at least mentioned. I haven’t ever seen anything like STD screening going on at such events, but I really don’t know how feasible such a thing would be, from a medical or insurance perspective. As you say, it’s a matter of personal responsibility, and there is already plenty of information out there in the wider culture on the subject for anyone who wants to be informed. I just don’t see any huge information gap unique to Pagan culture – if anything, I think as a whole we’re much better informed than the rest of the population because generally we aren’t afraid of discussing such things openly.

    I’m not sure what your point is about oral herpes; it’s not always an STD so I don’t know why it belongs in this post. I know people get all squicky about the word “herpes” but it’s just one of many things (and not even the most serious) that can be passed around by sharing drinking cups and it’s just basic good sanitary sense not to share a cup among a large group of people.

    1. Pax

      Thank you! Your post has given me a lot to think upon, and I started a reply… that got longish so I started to update the Sacred Sexuality post… then that got longish, and convoluted as I realized I had a lot more to say… so I need to do some thinking on this.

      The STD screening bit came from my experience in the Queer community. Not only at Pride events, but frequently at Bars and other large events in the Gay community State, County, and City health departments will offer free or low-cost and confidential screenings for HIV and STD’s. I would think they would be happy to arrange for such during say a Beltane Ritual or Festival, or for a Pagan Community Health Fair during Beltane or Imbolc.

      Regarding herpes, you are right it isn’t classified as an STD (it can be transmitted non-sexually), I was wrong about that. However I feel it does stand alongside STD’s as it is frequently transmitted through intimate contact and shares much of the same issues of stigma and life-consequences as other more strictly sexually transmitted, diseases. So I think it does belong in a discussion of Sacred Sexuality and how are we living it…

      … and this is also threatening to get long and I have GOT to get some chores done today…

      Nettle thank you again for posting, you’ve made me think and inspired some more ideas and articulation on my part!

      Peace, and thanks,

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