Since I decided to write about the Kenny Klein scandal and sexual violence in the Pagan community, I figured I might as well write about all of it. This particular topic does not have a direct relationship to the KK scandal or the revival of the Frost/Drew scandal. But gay misogyny both in and out of the Pagan community need discussion now. Until we understand that sexual violence has no relationship to the sexual orientation/preference of the perpetrator we will not be able to address these problems and create social adjustments to resolve them because of the collective loophole in our shared cultural consciousness. I decided to write this before publishing my next essay, Keep Your Hands to Yourself, because it needs to be understood that this policy is recommended for everyone.
A recent article spells out the core problem of misogyny certain gay men have adopted with mostly each other and straight women as their targets. In this story, one gay man overtly sexually harasses a woman at a party. When he is called on his behavior, he has a tantrum. He felt entitled to engage in this harassment because he was gay; her feeling unsafe – like she was being verbally attacked, which she was – did not matter to him.
1)This reaction is a huge warning sign of narcissism.
2)No one is entitled to touch anyone else’s body. Your sexual orientation/not being attracted to that person makes no difference whatsoever in that.
3)This is just a low-level, much too socially accepted example that sexual violence – from harassment on up to outright rape – requires little or no attraction on the part of the perpetrator.
Paganism itself only really came to accept and welcome homosexuality in the 70s after the Church of All Worlds took its inclusive stance. Wiccans didn’t really catch on until the late 90s that polarity magic isn’t negated because of someone enjoying congress with the same gender. There may be some geological/psycho-social requirements in some situations – for example, Beltane-as-fertility rite needs partners that can fertilize and be fertilized – but for other types of magic it really doesn’t matter. There is no denying that those with same-sex attractions have suffered and still suffer a great deal of oppression.
Being a member of an oppressed population does not grant permission to oppress others in turn – nor does it end the cycle of violence that led to that oppression.
Yet, in the efforts of Pagans and others to accept and welcome people of all orientation and genders, we have often veered too far into allowing oppressions in the guise of humor or because, in an effort to be more accepting we took our tolerance too far. In turn we have also done some crappy and oppressive things. There’s a whole lot of objectification passing back and forth in gay-straight friendships inside and outside the community and none of it is healthy. I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past and I am choosing to change it now.
Objectification, by the way, means only allowing for specific reactions from other people and exacting pressure on those that do not give the desired response. In social situations, it often slides right by unremarked because that’s how these courtesies – and tolerances for violence – including social violence – are formed. So no, it’s not a feminist buzzword. It’s a very good explanation of how abusers – both verbal and physical – function.
Problematic behaviors by some gay men:
- The "fag hag" has long been a bit of casual misogyny disguised as friendly joke. As awesome as "hag" is in a Pagan context, in a social context it both objectifies the woman – making her nothing more than an accessory to a gay man, and an odd status symbol at that – and suggests that she is so unattractive her only options are gay men. Thus her value as a human being is rated against her attractiveness. It’s the 21st century version of “spinster” and bears equal insult.
- Taking liberties "because I’m gay so it doesn’t count." For instance, Isaac Mizrahi should have had charges pressed for what he did to Scarlet Johannson. Being gay doesn’t give you rights to another person’s body parts. It doesn’t matter if you’re attracted to them or not – you do not touch without asking first. Sexual assault involves violating a person’s sovereignty of body. Those aren’t just boundaries, those are borders. Inappropriate touch counts as assault whether or not you enjoyed it in a sexual manner. There’s a significant ethical discussion of this on the Good Men Project.
- There are gay people of all genders that have sexually assaulted people outside of their attraction orientation. While we think of sexual violence as only a physical act, it is really a combined attack using both physical and psychological weapons. It starts with verbal abuse. A very recent case of wholly verbal sexual violence perpetrated by a gay man against a woman circulated the Pagan community when a podcaster decided to run an entire program about Star Foster’s "prolapsed vagina" as a punishment for disagreeing with him. Saying “I see something differently” does not justify an entire program in which a woman’s body is discussed – it isn’t a matter of political correctness and usually “the PC is nonsense” police invoke that phrase just before they launch an especially violent attack. At the time it was largely laughed off/ignored/defended by community members despite his actions being overtly violent and indefensible, especially since they did cross the line of what the US Supreme Court defines as “fighting words.” It also speaks poorly of the community that because so many of her opinions are unpopular that we collectively ignored what amounted to a public verbal sexual assault. It doesn’t matter if the victim is likable to us or not. No person deserves to be attacked in that matter and if we really do have the values we say we do, we apply them to people we dislike, too. We have free speech because words are our first weapons of defense – and abusers are just as expert at the misuse of words as they are the misuse of touch.
Sexual assault can include any, solo or combined:
- intimidating behavior
- inappropriate talk
- inappropriate touch
Being gay and having the target be straight does not make any of the above OK.
You being straight and your friend being gay does not make these behaviors OK:
- So I have myself engaged in the "gay boyfriend" trope. I’m not going to do that anymore – it’s a form of objectification and has homophobic overtones. A companion is a companion, gay, straight or lateral.
- "Best gay" is a Gen Y addition to gay/straight objectification. Why on earth should the person’s sexual orientation be a factor in friendship or be a specific slot in an entourage? A good chunk of this is simply that Americans especially need to take friendship more seriously and make more effort to understand it. But since we don’t, we come up with labels like this that are almost as socially violent as "second best friend, third best friend," and so on.
- Do not assume homosexuality automatically confers virtue just because it doesn’t automatically confer the status of hedonistic reprobate. Gay people are just as good or as bad as anyone else. They, like women, have over the past hundreds of years been held more accountable and suffered greater consequences than their societal peers. The consequences they experience should be the same as what any straight person would. So when festivals enact child protection precautions, gay people should have the same amount of accountability partners as straight people – not less, not more – and so on.
To fully understand this situation and how it got that way, examine how Oscar Wilde treated his wife.