In response to the Kenny Klein scandal, more than a few people have called for a new sexual ethos, a reform of the movement, sanctions on men especially, as though punishing all of them would make a difference one way or the other to the predators in our community we simply haven’t caught or identified as such yet.
I prefer a simple method. You might even call it a throwback. It works for men, women, people of all genders. You can apply it to adults or children equally. It’s easy to remember.
KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF.
That applies to ALL touch, not just sexual touch.
I’m not part of festival culture at all. So all I have is hearsay from friends that participate in it – and often what they tell me is in hopes that I will "get over myself" and participate. Most don’t realize how much of a turnoff what they describe to me is. Along with mosquito bites, bad smells and the constant work of camping I would have to tolerate both men and women touching any part of my body in at least non-sexual ways whether I am in hugger mode or not in the name of the "sacred?"
Fuck that. Sacred implies boundaries.
Actually sacred IS a boundary. So touching a person after that person refuses is a very literal, old-school definition of profane.
By invoking "keep your hands to yourself" you immediately give everyone an equal social boundary. If you wish to touch in even a non-sexual way, ask first. Exceptions should be obvious – medical emergencies that lead to unconsciousness, pulling someone out from the path of a speeding vehicle, after other methods of gaining a person’s notice have failed.
EVEN CHILDREN SHOULD BE ASKED FOR THEIR PERMISSION TO BE TOUCHED.
THIS APPLIES BOTH OUTSIDE OF CIRCLE AND INSIDE OF RITUAL. IF YOUR RITUAL INVOLVES PHYSICAL TOUCH IN ANY FORM, YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO INFORM PARTICIPANTS WELL BEFOREHAND. RITUAL – EVEN CHANNELING THE GODDESS – DOES NOT MEAN YOU GET AN EXCEPTION FROM THE "PERMISSION BEFORE TOUCH" RULE.
The God/dess may well be in you. That deity was party to the establishment of free will and should manage those obligations just as well.
Children need to learn boundaries but they also have boundaries of their own and that must be respected. This is a good opportunity to see it practiced.
This policy also makes it very easy – FAST – to see which people in your community aren’t willing to respect boundaries. These are the red flag people and they will make themselves known by bitching about such a simple concept as respecting the space of another person that doesn’t want to be touched.
Over the years I’ve learned to ask "May I hug you?" and had people ask me the same. It isn’t awkward and actually makes me feel closer to the people because they have taken that fraction of a second to learn and respect my boundaries.
If a person says no to being touched – even casually – then pressuring the person to give you permission, whether by direct pressure or acting out feelings of hurt, rejection and anger are manipulations and are a form of verbal and emotional abuse.
But what about flirting? I can hear this one echo.
Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be flirting with anyone under 18 unless YOU are under 18. Just. Don’t. Do it.
Second, by being forced to TALK to a person and using your words like "I find you attractive and I would enjoy lustful activity with you," rather than grabbing a part and seeing what might happen, you are able to make your feelings known while simultaneously reducing the assault rate by making sure everyone is willing with zero grey area at all. This will also actually improve the quality of the sex you have because – by talking first – you can also use that "not touch" time with what willing partners you find to discuss birth control, turn offs and turn ons and exactly what the nature of your relationship status is.
In other words, you get a chance to be responsible about your sexuality.
Note: this conversation thing really only works if everyone is sober. Drinks should not come out until after the "touch and not touch" has been established. If you think drunkenness will make those rules hard to honor, don’t drink.
This comes to the second issue, the one that is too often used as an excuse for the many horrors and violations of sacred sexuality that has happened over the years:
LAY OFF THE BOOZE.
The product of the vine and field is also sacred and we are not treating it as the holy substance that it is. Instead, we’re treating it like internal Vaseline to slide us out of our conscious, conscientious selves into "unrestrained" beings. Since too many of us use the drinks as a way to sedate the inner voices that disturb us, all consuming alcohol does is turn loose our shadow selves – our unworked, unincorporated shadow selves.
Let me make this clear:
BEING DRUNK DOES NOT EXCUSE YOU FOR WHAT YOU DO WHILE DRUNK.
I’ve seen way too many people try to excuse bad behavior as "he’s drunk, he’s not like that when he’s sober," or "she just had a little too much and that’s when she gets handsy."
If you have trouble controlling yourself when drinking you shouldn’t drink – especially not at a festival or conference. Often enough I’ve heard of nasty predatory incidents where the miscreant had bad intentions beforehand and then got drunk as an excuse/in order to act on them.
The drunkenness has also been used as an excuse to let people off the hook for really appalling actions. This is not OK, either. If you try to excuse someone’s violent action because of inebriation, YOU ARE ENABLING. Ultimately, if you make excuses for another person’s actions that right there is enabling and that means you are a predator by proxy.
The Recommended Universal Pagan Sex Ethos
Keep your hands to yourself.
Touch only after permission is given.
Talk, while sober, before engaging in actual sexual acts.
Use this talking time to fully establish consent and to discuss what the nature of those acts will be. (Trust me, this will not ruin the magic of spontaneity.)
Lay off the booze.
No means no. Badgering someone for saying no is also abusive behavior.
If someone does say no, the correct response is "OK, I will respect that," and then actually do respect that.
Seems simple enough to me.