Tag Archives: Sex

OK, Everybody, Breathe.

You can read my new post about sexuality at Pagan events over at Pagan Square.

Coercive Sex Has No Place in Paganism

As the result of a Pagan musician being charged with possession of child pornography, some in the Pagan community are reconsidering how we deal with sexual predators and others who advocate sexual practices that are coercive. As most branches of Paganism are sex-positive religions, it can be particularly important for us to draw clear lines that allow sex to be the ritual of the Goddess that we know it can be.

One of the issues that has churned up to the fore as a result of the recent controversies involves Gavin and Yvonne Frost’s continued participation in Pagan festivals.

I wrote about the Frosts a number of years ago and I stand by what I said then. In particular, I still believe that:

One of the most important things that I ever read about Wicca, and I apologize for forgetting who wrote it, is “A Witch takes responsibility.” That sentence guides all of my practices within Wicca. Above all, I am responsible for what I do or do not do with my body, which is my only tool for being immanent in this reality. And I will never give that responsibility away to anyone, not even some v eminent witch, or High Priestess, or elder.

I’m glad to see Pagans having this discussion.

Go Buy Your Damn Craft (and craft) Supplies Somewhere Else


As we all know, today the Supreme Court heard oral argument on the Hobby Lobby case, which presents the issue of whether a corporation should get away with the claim that its religious beliefs (actually, the purported religious beliefs of the current owners because, pace Mitt Romney and Citizens United, corporations are not people, my friend, and they can’t have religions) are entitled to such deference that the corporation can refuse to provide its employees with health insurance that covers birth control. Or in other words, whether Hobby Lobby’s right to swing its “religious” fist ends where its employee’s vagina begins.

As I’ve noted before, the Supreme Court (in general) chooses, with absolute discretion, which cases it hears. This court didn’t select this case (“grant cert.,” in lawyer-speak) because it wants to defend women’s right to control their own bodies.

Sarah Posner has a good write-up of today’s argument. She observes that:

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing the government’s position, highlighted that if the Court ruled for Hobby Lobby, it would mark the first time a court granted an exemption that “extinguishe[d] the statutorily guaranteed benefits” of someone else: Hobby Lobby’s employees. As Kagan noted, “Congress has made a judgement to provide an entitlement,” in other words, the birth control coverage, “and that entitlement is to women” who are “harmed” if they are denied it. Justice Anthony Kennedy, thought to be the swing vote, asked Clement, “how would you suggest we think about the rights of employees?”, noting that their religious beliefs might not square with those of their employer. But Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether RFRA was even intended to take into account the interests of third parties at all.
It was hard not to sense that somehow, if the coverage had been for something other than contraceptives — say, as Sotomayor pressed several times, vaccinations or blood transfusions — the question of the impact on employees might have been treated differently.

NTodd has more.

And echidne, as usual, speaks truth to power. (She’s as pessimistic as I am.)

Mr. Pierce does grok that it’s always about women’s (at first he tries to make it broader, but then the truth outs) sexuality.

Atrios explains, in his usual succinct style, what it’s really all about.

Literata has a lovely prayer to Columbia and Justica.

We’ll have to wait until early Summer to find out, but I’m less than enthusiastic about our chances, especially given Justice (often the swing vote) Kennedy’s questions. And, Justice Roberts needs to re-ingratiate himself with the wingnuts; this case provides him with a perfect chance.

Picture found here.

This. All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess.

hat tip: DiL

All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess

I do love poetry, but there are poems and then there are POEMS.

And there are two Poems that I’ve written into my will to have read at my funeral.

One is Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes.

And the other is The Charge of the Goddess:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the Moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of All the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and, as a sign that you be free, you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of Nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

~ Attributed to Doreen Valiente

As Jason Pitzl-Waters notes over at the Wild Hunt, many Pagan religions actually support gay marriage. Of course we do. “All acts of love and pleasure” obviously includes gay sex, and “Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you,” clearly encompasses gay marriages. (Some of the strongest, most powerful, most compassionate, most honorable, and most reverent unions that I know are between gay friends of mine.) Pagans are (again, generally) polytheists. We worship diversity, difference, multiplicity, “all acts of love and pleasure.”

As a result, as Jason and his commenters explain, a statue or constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage actually discriminates against Pagan religions and causes the government to favor the tenants of one religion (Christianity) over the tenants of other religions (Paganism) — which is PRECISELY what the First Amendment prohibits. The First Amendment bans any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” And a statue that establishes Christian hatred of gay sex and gay marriage, and that prohibits Pagans from exercising their religious support of gay sex and gay marriage, trespasses against the Constitution.

Our Pagan religion is about being free and naked in our rites. Our religion is about making music and love in the Presence of our Goddess.

And our Goddess is all about ecstasy of the spirit AND about joy on Earth, both of which many of us find in sex, of whatever kind. Her law is love unto ALL beings, with no limitations or restrictions. She is with us from the beginning and She is that which we attain at the end of ALL desire. All desire. (One morning, this past week, G/Son and I had breakfast out on the screen porch. He had blueberries, apple slices, and cheddar cheese, along with some apple cider in his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine cup. Nonna had a poached egg on toast and coffee in her favorite mug, which says, “You pray. I dance naked in the forest.” G/Son, who is now reading EVERYTHING, read my mug and said, “Nonna, that’s funny. Do you dance naked in the forest?” I said, “Yes, sometimes I do. For me, that is a way of praying.” G/Son stopped for a few minutes and thought about that before he said, “Nonna, I think it’s time for me to beat you at Uno. Again.” Kid is a card shark.)

I’d like to see as many “official” Pagan religions as possible specifically adopt support for gay marriage as a part of their catechisms. That would help the ultimate legal argument that North Carolina’s recent constitutional amendment, for example, violates the First Amendment.

As I’ve noted before, I occasionally find that the arc of the moral universe benefits from some of my dulcet urgings for it to “BEND, MOTHERFUCKER, JUST FUCKING BEND, ALREADY.” Today, I believe that it bent a bit. I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’m a big believer in the bend. If I’d been sitting at Mamma Doreen’s shoulder, I’d have added:

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let the arc of the moral universe bend towards justice and may the bending sometimes not take too long.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

I’m more than willing to beat up on President Obama when he (all too frequently, for my progressive heart) fucks up. Today, I’d like to thank him for (finally, in a politically-calculated way, but I don’t care) doing the right thing.

All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess. The government of the United States shouldn’t ban any of them.

Picture found here.

Monday Night PotPourri

*Here, via @gleamchaser on the Twitterinator is a great article about a common sense worldview that embodies (did you see what I did there?) a bit of thealogy, to wit, “All Acts of Love & Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess.” The article contrasts Dutch and American experiences of teen sexuality.

So, why do you think the Americans and the Dutch responded so differently to the sexual revolution?

A couple of pieces are important. One is that [the birth-control pill was] quickly disseminated in the Netherlands, starting in the ’70s; teen pregnancy started to drop. There wasn’t this association between teen sex and danger and lives ruined that we have in this country.

There’s also a cultural piece. Coming out of the sexual revolution, the Dutch really decoupled sex from marriage, but they didn’t decouple sex from love. If the first piece is that there weren’t these immediate associations of teen sex with danger, the second is that it remained anchored in the concept of steady relationships and young people being in love.

There’s a strong belief in the Netherlands that youth can be in love — boys as well as girls — that makes sex in many ways seem safer and more contained because it’s embedded in a relationship.

It seems terribly sad to me that we view teenage love as being about “just hormones” and teen boys as incapable of being in love — but then we turn around and bemoan this culture of “hooking up,” when we’ve basically given adolescents no space to actually have loving relationships.

I do think this is something that resonates with a lot of people. Every culture has those aspects of human [nature] they celebrate. And the U.S. celebrates individual development and freedom, so there isn’t a good language for talking about social cohesion, whether between two teenagers or whether as society as a whole.

One of the things I really emphasize is the need for a better cultural narrative for talking about relationships and love that isn’t just, Marriage is best. That is not appropriate for teens and we need to validate their connections and give guidance around that.

Instead, we tend to pathologize teen relationships as obsession, co-dependence, addiction.

I agree. It’s become more popular to talk about teaching healthy relationships but a lot of that is about avoiding unhealthy relationships. Of course, that’s important. But there’s lots of attention to dating violence and very little talk about what it feels like to be in love. One of the things that always surprises people is that one of most popular Dutch sex education curricula is called ‘Long Live Love.’

For boys, our culture devalues their impulse to love. But research shows that in the U.S., boys are quite romantic. Other research finds that for girls, recognition of sexual desire and wishes is taboo, so they have fewer tools to assess what’s right for them. That makes things very difficult.

The cultural differences lead to different results. As the article notes:

Teen pregnancy rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are 20% higher. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch

Of course, maybe I just like the article because it confirms my own prejudices, not the least of which is:

Can you explain the idea of gezelligheid and how it plays into relationships between Dutch parents and teens?

It literally means ‘cozy togetherness.’ . . . There’s a lot of intergenerational gezelligheid. The Dutch celebrate every birthday, whether 8 or 80, and you are expected to show up and enjoy it.

I’m a big fan of celebrating birthdays. Everyone deserves one day a year (my dad used to claim that he got a birthday week; that’s not a bad idea, either) devoted just to celebrating the fact that they were born. To celebrating that they got a shot at what Mary Oliver calls “one wild and precious life.”

*This morning, Landscape Guy emailed me this article about plant communication.

[Plants] do react to injury, fight to survive, act purposefully, enslave giants (through the likes of coffee, tobacco, opium), and gab endlessly among themselves.

Strawberry, bracken, clover, reeds, bamboo, ground elder and lots more all grow their own social networks — delicate runners (really horizontal stems) linking a grove of individuals. If a caterpillar chews on a white clover leaf, the message races through the colony, which ramps up its chemical weaponry. Stress a walnut tree and it will brew its own caustic aspirin and warn its relatives to do the same.

. . .

Since they can’t run after a mate, they go to phenomenal lengths to con animals into performing sex for them, using a vaudeville trunk full of costumes. For instance, some orchids disguise themselves as the sex organs of female bees so that male bees will try to mate with them and leave wearing pollen pantaloons. Since they can’t run from danger, they devise a pharmacopeia of poisons and an arsenal of simple weapons: hideous killers like strychnine and atropine; ghoulish blisterers like poison ivy and poison sumac; slashers like holly and thistle waving scalpel-sharp spines. Blackberries and roses wield belts of curved thorns. Each hair of a stinging nettle brandishes a tiny syringe full of formic acid and histamine to make us itch or run.

Just in case you’re tempted to rush home and cuddle your passionflower — resist the urge. Passionflowers release cyanide if their cell walls are broken by a biting insect or a fumbling human. Of course, because nature is often an arms race, leaf-eating caterpillars have evolved an immunity to cyanide. Not us, alas. People die every year from accidentally ingesting passionflower, daffodils, yew, autumn crocuses, monkshood, foxglove, oleander and the like. And one controversial theory about the Salem witch trials is that the whole shameful drama owes its origin to an especially wet winter when the rye crop was infected with ergot, an LSD-like hallucinogen that caused girls to act bewitched.

Devious and dangerous as plants can be, they adorn every facet of our lives, from courtship to burial. They fill our rooms with piquant scents, dazzling tableaus and gravity-defying aerial ballets as they unfold petals and climb toward the sun. Think of them as the original Cirque du Soleil. And many an African violet has given a human shrinking violet a much needed inter-kingdom friendship. But they do demand looking after. And we love our social networks. So I expect texting will sweep the plant world, showering us with polite thank-you’s and rude complaints. What’s next, a wisteria sexting every time it’s probed by a hummingbird? A bed of zinnias ranting as they go to seed?

I admit that I’d love to get texts from some of the plants I love. But, for now, I’ll have to settle for running my own roots down among theirs every evening and having our regular “chat.”

*This morning, driving to work alongside Spout Run, I was marveling (thanks to a recent insight from Landscape Guy) at trees that spend all Spring and Summer growing leaves, all in preparation for a two- or three-day display when they turn red, or gold, or orange, or purple, or, sometimes, all four at once. And then I had to laugh at my own desire to anthropomorphize. Do they, indeed, celebrate their Autumn splendor or do they, as we too often do, bemoan the chartreuse buds of their youth, ignoring how unique and amazing they get to be when they blaze out near the end? And where’s the lesson for me in that?

*Brava to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra which is devoting a season to works around the theme of Revolutionary Women. Too often, we recognize men as revolutionaries, while calling women who perform the same function “mad, shrill, maniacal.” This weekend, they’ll be doing Joan of Arc at the Stake If I didn’t have to work, I’d be there.

They’re also celebrating Harriet Tubman and Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman. The other day, G/Son saw a bumper sticker in the bakery parking lot that said, “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” He sounded it out with his nascent reading skills and then said, “Nonna, why does it say that well-behaved women don’t make history?” “Well,” I said, “Do you want some hot chocolate? My explanation may take some time.”

I’d love to see major musical works based on Max Dashu’s Reclaimed Histories. On the lives of Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Dorathea Dix, Dorothy Day. Who would you include in a celebration of Revolutionary Women?

Also, I am so there:

Picture found here