Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy
Edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow
Most Pagans consider human sexuality and the body to be sacred. Accordingly, many Pagan communities welcome gender and sexual minorities: LGBT, queer, trans*, polyamorous, and kinky people come to Pagan traditions because they need a religion that affirms their families, their values, and their contributions as participants and leaders. This celebration of erotic diversity is one of our strengths.
Contemporary Paganism remains immersed in mainstream culture, however, and Pagans are not exempt from its uglier realities. Just as in Western culture as a whole, sexual abuse and exploitation are endemic in our communities. Despite many Pagans’ desire to embody a healthy, liberated sexuality as part of our religious practice, there are predators among us. We recognize that our communities need to develop explicit policies and practices that embody the values of consent, autonomy, and empathy, as well as strategies that effectively help survivors of sexual abuse.
Yet in order to truly build Pagan consent culture, we need to a use a broader frame than “sexuality.” Consent culture begins with recognizing our right to control our own bodies in all areas of life. If the body is sacred, then every opportunity to make contact with another person is an opportunity to practice empathy, to honor one another’s boundaries, and to come to know one another more deeply. A community that focuses on consent, autonomy, and empathy in all its dealings can help to create a space that feels safe, not just for those with alternative sexualities, but for everyone: children, adolescents, and adults; people of all genders; people who love sex and people who are asexual; people in chronic pain or suffering from PTSD, who may need to set strict boundaries around touch; people who are desperate for more touch in their lives but don’t know how to ask for it.
This collection will define Pagan consent culture; articulate widely-held Pagan theologies of the body; examine theological resources in various Pagan traditions for building consent culture; explore strategies for making seeking consent to touch a normal community practice; give recommendations for safeguarding policies at events for children and adults; provide procedures for communities to use when responding to accusations of sexual abuse; consider the role of unequal power dynamics in relationships in Pagan communities; and examine the ethics of sexual initiation, erotic healing, and other Pagan religious practices involving the ritual use of touch.
Anticipated Publication Date: 2016