Sex and Magic and Sexual Human Rights

This blog is a follow-up to to the April 19th Love’s Outer Limits podcast, with its topic of “Sex and Magic.” Here I want to expand more on the idea of incorporating international statements on Sexual Human Rights into attempts to deal with issues of sexual harrassment and predation in neopagan circles and organizations.

Witches going to their Sabbath, by Luis Ricardo Falero
Witches going to their Sabbath (The departure of the witches) *oil on canvas *145.5 x 118.2 cm *signed b.r.: LFalero *date b.l.: 1878

History of Sex and Magic

Very briefly put: sexual energy and behaviors have been and are incorporated into many esoteric traditions, often as part of inner mysteries or circles and initiatory rites or as a vehicle for spiritual transformation. A very few examples include: some practices in the Eastern traditions of tantra and Taoism; Western traditions of old-fashioned witchcraft (e.g. reports of witches sabbats with the devil); modern Wicca and related groups of magical practitioners (e.g. “the Great Rite”); Thelema/OTO; alchemy; modern Satanism; and other Western sex magic practices.

Many practices are symbolic, not explicitly or physically sexual. These symbols are often dualistic (e.g. a dagger dipped into a chalice) and binary-gendered (e.g. rituals calling in a  “Lord and Lady” or named male and female deities in partnership).

Many people are reworking or creating rituals and traditions that are not focused on binary-genders and are more inclusive of other genders. (See Outside the Charmed Circle by Misha Magdalene.)

Sex also may appear in accounts of encounters with deities, spirits, angels, demons, etc. Depending on who you talk to, this might be known as spectrosexuality or spectrophilia (psychology term). Such encounters may be part of a sex magic ritual, or not. They may consist of a single occurance or form part of a long-term relationship.

Some people also have sex with “the deity within” other humans, or as deities together.

This is creepy: I also believe that the tortures inflicted on suspected witches (usually female) during the European witch hunts may have been a turn-on for some of those inflicting, ordering, or witnesses the tortures.

What is Sex Magic?

Simply put, sex magic is any form of magical ritual that uses sexual energy and/or explicit sexual behavior, including orgasm, to add power to the spell or ritual. The sexual aspect may be partnered or solo. Partners may be human or spirit beings.

Sexual fluids may also be used in ritual context, as containing special powers. Some spiritual beings like these as offerings, others don’t. (Best check ahead of time.)

Sex magic is not designed to draw a partner to you for romantic or erotic purposes–that would usually be called love magic.

Magicians and Witches Behaving Badly

It’s not just magicians and witches: incidents of sexual harrassment, abuse, and rape may be found in the neo-pagan community at large, and in many other spiritual and religious communities including yogic ashrams and the Catholic church. These things occur in pretty much any cluster of humans: families, government agencies, prisons, businesses, you name it. By noting the pervasiveness, I am NOT writing this off as “human nature” or excusing spiritual, religious, and magical communities by saying, “well, all small groups reflect what happens in the larger society.” No.

I just want readers to think about this, and about how such traumas happening in a spiritual, religious, or magical community may well compound traumas that have happened to an individual elsewhere. And to notice the cruelty in how even a last refuge may become a place of danger.

And notice how people in communities that use practices already charged with sexual energies and behaviors might be even more vulnerable to such incidents. Notice how predators within such communities (including leaders) might be even more emphatic about pressuring other people to engage in behaviors “for the magic” or for “initiation” or for “advancement” but really just for their own gratification.

In preparing for the April 19th podcast, which I knew would be a mere dip into the  sprawling topic of sex and magic–one which spans history, religion, spirituality, witchcraft, human sexual behavior, and so on–I knew I would include at least some discussion of sexual predation and abuse in neopagan/witchy circles.

Many people who trace the abuses found in neopagan groups point to the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960’s-70’s as something which made things easier for sexual predators, and which made it less likely that their creepy behavior would be questioned or understood as abuse.

I was twelve in 1967. Love-ins happened in the park across the street from my house. So I remember the 1960s-1970s Sexual Revolution very well. It was a time when “chicks” were just naturally expected to put out or risk being labeled as “uptight” and uncool. As a teenage girl, just discovering my own sexuality, I had a good time–mostly–but I also encountered predators, some of whom harmed me, or attempted to harm me. I eventually developed a fairly reliable radar for creepy older men. Back then, I also had relatives who up and joined a renegade (abusive) Thelemic commune in San Diego County. It took them many years to emerge from it. They never shared their experiences with the rest of my family. Now, as a sexologist, I also use that lens to understand the mixed impact the Sexual Revolution had on many people and communities, including neopagan and witchy ones.

Calls for Community Ethics

In the references you will find several excellent blogs and articles written by people in the neopagan/magic communities. These particular blogs and articles span 2015-2019 and encompass the “me too” movement. These are just a few of many written! Many of these blogs and articles recognize the need for sexual ethics and policies against harrassment and abuse, which would be enforced in their various communities. There’s a sense of frustration too, that such changes are often stalled or dismissed by an organization’s leadership as not generally necessary, since only a “rare” case might show up now and then.

Most people, including people in neopagan organizations, are not aware that the Sexual Revolution included discussions about sexual human rights. Early on, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco issued a statement of sexual human rights. Other organizations have done the some, either before or since. The discussion is international. Much work has been done to define sexual health and sexual human rights. The most powerful statement comes from the World Health Organization (WHO).

All a neopagan organization, coven, conference, what-have-you, needs to do is adopt this stance and this language, and perhaps add a sentence about spiritual and magical practice. Voila! You’ve got an ethics statement and policy based on the best contemporary thinking, created by a massive number of international experts.

Among other things, you can think of the WHO language as a popular element of spellwork that has the power to access the energy and intention of all who created it and use it! This reminds me a bit of  Declaration 127 against racism and discrimination, a declaration adopted by many Heathen and pagan groups, including The Troth, that worship Norse deities and who wish to practice Norse spirituality and culture free of the taint of white supremacy.

So Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Align With the World Health Organization’s Statements on Sexual Health and Sexual Human Rights as the Basis for Your Policies

Here is language from the above document:

According to the current working definition, sexual health is:

“…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a)

And here’s a screen shot of the sexual rights language from the same WHO document:


WHO Sexual Rights


I hope people will bring this idea to their leadership. I hope this helps.

References

Sarah Ann Lawless, September 2018: “So Long and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community,” and two other pieces which have since been taken down, due to intense harrassment and trolling. I remember reading them when they were still online. (Please consider visiting her herbal apothecary store, Bane Folk.)

Emma Kathryn, November 9, 2018: https://godsandradicals.org/2018/11/09/abuse-within-paganism-a-taboo-topic/


Sister Georgia, January 30, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/i-have-been-wronged-sex-power-oto/

Sister Georgia, March 11, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/a-response-to-respectthenoinoto/

Sister Georgia, April 6, 2018: https://thelemicunion.com/theosexuality-sex-and-magic/


Mark Green, January 10, 2018: https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/killing-the-sixties-abuse-consent-metoo-and-the-pagan-community/

“The takeaway for our particular community, however, is clear to me.

First of all, we need to root this shit out. It is simply unacceptable to have sexually predatorial behavior in our community. And that means clear policies at events and gatherings about affirmative consent, and firm consequences for anyone—ANYONE, no matter how revered or well known—who violates them.”

Mark Green, February 12, 2019: https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/abuse-the-pagan-community-and-our-commitments/

“To my mind, we need a community statement of sexual ethics which can serve as a sort of “seal of approval” for organizations and groups which sign onto it. People will then know where the safe environments are and where they aren’t, and can choose where they attend events accordingly. I know that one attempt was made a few years ago to develop such a statement, and it ran aground when resisted by advocates of sexual initiation.”


Misha Magdalene, January 13, 2018: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene/2018/01/long-cold-look-mirror/


Shauna Knight, June 1, 2015: https://paganactivist.com/2015/06/01/harrassment-bigotry-safety-policies-and-changing-culture/#more-1677


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Loki’s Sewn Lips-Personal Thoughts

UPG and a Trigger warning: author’s personal account of sexual abuse experienced as a minor. #Metoo story.

This is the blog I was preparing to write just as we Lokeans were hit by the “Loki in the White House”/Wild Hunt kerfuffle. I jumped in, as readers here know. It’s always been easy for me to set aside personal considerations in favor of larger causes. Tilting at windmills is a specialty of mine. I’ve been doing it ever since I was a teen: protesting dress codes at my junior high school, marching against the Vietnam War, and standing in front of supermarkets handing out flyers urging people to boycott grapes in support of farmworkers in the La Huelga strike of the 60s; as a new mom on the board of the Environmental Health Network of CA, desperately trying to get people to understand the plight of people with multiple chemical sensitivity; years spent as an ally/accomplice in solidarity with people working to restore the governance of the Hawaiian Kingdom and prevent the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on sacred Mauna Kea…and now this, throwing my lot in with the Lokeans.

This tendency of mine is pertinent to the story I want to tell you now, as you’ll see why being “silenced” is so painful and how that silencing happened for the first time.

In addition to personally relating to my patron god, Loki, as “a god of pleasure, poisoned,”  I also have a deep connection to the image of Loki as someone who was forced to “shut up!” by having his lips sewn together with a piece of leather. Yes, Loki’s ordeal was the result of a wager with dwarves and their retaliation for his fast talking. I know it has nothing to do with my story, but the end result, enforced silence, is what resonates with me.

So, picture a fourteen year old girl, intellectually precocious, socially somewhat behind the curve, shy unless speaking out on behalf of a cause or against a perceived injustice. That’s me. Also extremely naive with regard to sexual matters, even though I was attending hippie love-ins in La Jolla Cove Park from the age of twelve on. I’m just going to say it, I’m not exactly neurotypical. Certain things that were obvious to my peers just didn’t compute. And I was fabulously unsupervised and unprotected.

There was a horrible period, ninth grade, when my mother moved us all away from our beloved San Diego beach towns to the San Fernando…fucking…Valley. Inland. For a confirmed beach brat, “That way lies death!” (And here I am, inland now, but at least I live within a block of a giant lake). Torn away from all my friends, and from the sea, I was despondent that year.

But, there were love-ins (of a sort) in Griffith Park and the previously unencountered Hare Krishna folks would come and dance. So sometimes I’d hitchhike there with a girlfriend or sometimes my mom would drop us off and we’d hitchhike back (see what I mean about lack of supervision?).

One day a man named Steve, who said he worked at the Los Angeles Free Press bookstore, took an interest in me. He gave me and my girlfriend a ride home. I gave him my number because he said he’d be glad to take me to the beach (I hadn’t seen the ocean in months). Wow, cool!

Remember, this guy is in his early twenties and I’m fourteen.

A week later, he picks me up at the house. My mother waves bye-bye from the door. We drive. We “get lost” on the freeway and end up in a subdivision under construction somewhere near Thousand Oaks. Okay, since we’re “lost” and not going to get to the beach, Steve says he’ll teach me to drive. He has a huge, old 1930s-1940s car like something out of an R. Crumb comic (which I hadn’t read yet, otherwise I would have been more sophisticated). It has a huge backseat. He stops the car and just as I’m preparing to scoot over to the driver’s seat to get behind the wheel, he literally throws me in the back seat before I even know what’s happening.

Before I know it, his pants are unzipped and his “thing” is shoved down my throat. He holds my head in place, pretty hard, until he’s finished. Now, while this is going on, I’m baffled, “What is this?” (I’d never heard of such a thing.) “Do people even do this?” and even, strangely, “Did my mother ever do this?” These intellectual wonderments probably saved me from further harm, as it was a form of dissociation that allowed me to seem passive and not a threat after the fact.

In fact, this worked so well that he drove me home instead of burying me under a pile of construction debris. So yay, one point for me. And then, as I stumble into the house, still dazed, to take my place at the family dinner table, my mother says of my abuser, “he has such a good face!”

Yeah, Mom, you should have seen what he just did to mine. I could have said it, but I didn’t.  Instead I ate my iceberg lettuce salad with the Kraft Italian dressing sold as a powder in a pouch and you mix it “fresh” in a special Kraft bottle with a plastic lid. The salad tasted real funny for some reason. I didn’t tell her what happened for two years.

Now my mother had already had another child molested, one who was sent on unsupervised camping trips with a “nice man” who went around to all the schools and showed travel slide shows to kids. She should have known better than to let me go off in a car with a total stranger. And I was fourteen and as I said, naive as can be.

No, I didn’t tell her. Instead I started to go silent. That “thing” shoved into my mouth stayed with me for a long time as a gag. I couldn’t speak on my own behalf, or explain my truth or my feelings, for a long time. I started wearing a woolen, hand-embroidered pea coat in all weather, including the San Fernando heat, wrapping it around me for protection. (I was so glad when we left L.A. and moved back to San Diego!)

My body and spirit had received a message from the universe, a forcible “shut up,” and it took a long time to begin to work my way out of it. And over the next several years I did some really weird things to regain my agency, my soul, my own disrupted eroticism, and power of voice. Working as a pregnancy counselor at a free clinic (age 16-18), and as a stripper (age 18-21), and then later getting into punk rock were the most healing things I did.

As a pregnancy counselor, I learned to advocate for women in crisis (and to examine the systems that put them there and the predatory sexism that landed me in that back seat of a car).

As a stripper I learned that I was in charge of my own sexual and gender “performance” and could play with it and manipulate it at will. (This was a creepy venue for personal growth and transformation, but working at “the clubs” also allowed me to support my suicidal childhood sweetheart while trying to attend nursing school.)

After John killed himself, I left San Diego again, this time for San Francisco. I plunged straight into the glorious scene centered around the Mabuhay Gardens. My breakfast of champions was cathartic punk snark. I snacked on bizarre juxtapositions. I dined on creative mutations of anger. And I dreamt of a new world while I worked odd jobs and spent my spare time as a dystopian “wearble art” designer whose motto was “garbage worn as fashion because that’s all that’s left.” It was a wonderful time of creating a slightly scary, oddball gender persona, combining colored duct tape with hand-drawn ameobas, and orange 1950s capri pants with turquoise heels. (Back then, when the scene  was still new, punk girls didn’t get much street harassment. Joy! Bliss!).

Mabuhay Genetic Damage Flyer
My first fashion show.

However, the effects of trauma persist. The damage to my neck showed up in my early twenties as two deteriorating cervical vertebrae. I still live with that pain.

Men with mustaches and the name “Steve” are still triggering. (Ironically, I married a Steve and had children with him. I took me awhile to get past his first name, frankly.)

And like most people in marginalized categories, I have had frequent struggles with efforts to silence me.

I call this category of blog post “Bio Hazard” as a reference to my chemical sensitivity struggles as well as an acknowledgment of the many hazards of autobiographical writing. There will always be a few experiences I will never write or speak about. That I can now write about this one, fifty years later, startles me.

This is one of the unexpected joys of having survived this long. I no longer care very much what most people think. My career as a sexologist is winding down, due to not having clients in this area. My marriage officially ended in two years ago. So I care not, except for my children, some close friends, and the community of my new Lokean “kin.”

So perhaps you might see why Loki’s sewn lips have a special significance to me, because he knows what it’s like to be forcibly silenced–and to suffer thusly–and he knows what it’s like to have those bonds removed. I trust the Lokeans I’ve engaged with (online) because I think most of us know what it means to be silenced and shunned. I am pretty sure we’re not going to do that to each other. I hope that our god will take care that we don’t stray into that kind of hypocrisy.

So speak your truths. Hail Loki! Love to all.

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