People take umbrage at the most ridiculous things these days. Last night I was weeding out the incomplete responses to my Neopagan Spectrosexual and God Spousery survey–since I need 100 surveys with all ten questions answered–when I stumbled across one person’s irate offering. [Data collection now closed.]
“I don’t consider myself neopagan” was the first sniffy salvo.
Okaaay…I’m thinking, sure not everyone can relate to the label, but it was the best umbrella term I could use. Otherwise I’d have had to put in a whole laundrylist of super-specific traditions: Wiccan with a twist, Heathen but also into crystals, hedge-witch-but-only-with-roses, corporate shamanism… and I would have left out a category and someone would have been offended. Umbrage, you know.
But I was prepared to be patient.
Then the respondent included their fairly specific list of magical lineages and explorations.
Cool. That’s the kind of information I’m seeking. So far so good. I can put up with a little attitude for the sake of data.
Then came the (inevitable) outburst in the comment box which I paraphrase as “god spousery is crap because you can only legitimately be a god spouse if you’re involved in: ________________, _______________, and _______________” (fill in the blanks with the most obscure religious tradition you can find during a five minute poke at a search engine). The respondent ends of course with a nasty little jab at “Tumblr Loki” (a jab which encompasses his god spouses, of which there are legion) and then disappears after question five.
I looked at the screen. I’ll admit, I felt something like dismay, at first, as I am always surprised when (1) people turn nasty for no reason at all and feel it is important to inflict that on others and (2) when people who pride themselves on their “intelligence” can’t read a clear statement about the intention and desired sample of the survey.
But my dismay evaporated quickly. “Is there any reason I should keep this response?” I wondered. “The…hostility is…interesting….though regrettable.”
But no, this isn’t a survey for people to weigh in on the topic of whether or not spectrosexuality and god spousery are real, important, delusional, silly, or only legit when practiced by a brand-name corporate shaman buggering the ghost of the company’s founder with the intention of boosting profits among the living. If it had been, hell yeah, I would have kept the response (assuming the rest of the questions were answered).
The point is, my modest inquiry is a survey of a specific sample: those people engaged in any sort of “neopagan” practices and traditions who feel they have or have had sexually intimate encounters or relationships with unseen beings.
Bottom line: the umbrage person did not fit the sample. I deleted the response. But now I wish I’d taken a screenshot. I was sort of interested in tracking down that corporate shamanism reference. (I’m joking.)
I am tempted to do a follow-up survey though–testing positive and negative opinions about spectrosexuality and god spousery among “neopagans.” People with umbrage would be welcome then. And I’d have time to armor my stomach against their vitriole.
Respect for human sexual (and asexual) behavior is a foundation of sexology.
The most important thing I gained through my sexology education was an immense awe and respect for the range of human sexual behavior and erotic response. As a result, I don’t rank anything that adult people do as “better” than what other adult people do. Whether it’s a Christian marriage between an asexual cis-het couple or a triad consisting of two human beings and a god (who has countless other partners, both spirit and human), my only criteria for “judgment” has to do with consensuality and age of consent.
Prejudice is ugly. And shame can kill.
I have always felt particularly concerned for outsiders, for people who are included in what is known as “sexual minority groups.” (Ditto for “gender minorities.”) Shame, scorn, ridicule, and shunning are profoundly aggressive methods wielded by people who set themselves above others, due to prejudice.
Spiritual shaming is a “kissing cousin” to sexual and gender shaming. There is no difference between a witchy pundit dissing an ardent “Tumblr Loki” god spouse and a right-wing minister calling down the wrath of god (and the congregation) on a gay teenager.
No difference at all.
Unconditional Positive Regard
That’s why I’m engaged in my modest inquiry. I suspect that god spousery and sex with spirits is the new “love that dare not speak its name” (and it won’t be the last). There’s plenty of ridicule and shame being heaped on the people who take my survey and I’m actually sick of that shit.
And I suspect that the phenomena of human-spirit intimacy is as old as humanity itself.
This is not a scientific or academic inquiry. I’m not an impartial researcher. I never was. My agenda is to discover “what people do and how they feel about it” and then to present those discoveries in a context of “unconditional positive regard” in whatever way I can.
And if my patron god chooses to shapeshift into “Tumblr Loki” now and then, who am I to denounce his pleasure? Or those of others? I have compersion–have at it, friends!
Notes on Quotes:
The “love that dare not speak its name” is a phrase from the poem, Two Loves, by Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s lover.
“Unconditional positive regard” is a phrase from the psychologist Carl Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy. Here’s an article which explains the concept.