Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries; many pagans do not like boundaries. There’s a spectrum of pagans: at one end there’s the very very very anal prudish types; they are judgmental, it’s their way or the highway, and they are not open to any weirdness. Well, they’re pagan, so maybe they’re open to a little bit of weirdness! Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, and these people are OUT THERE. Lemme tell ya. They are crass, they are raunchy, they have sex with anything that’s willing and able, they take advantage, they are rude, they have basically just… NO boundaries whatsoever. A lot of us pagans fall somewhere in the middle.
Now this spectrum I’m speaking of applies to many different arenas of life: sex of course comes immediately to mind for some reason, how much we appreciate or accept other people, accepting of differences in belief systems, and even applies to how anal you are about being on time.
We often hear the following phrase in the pagan community: “Pagan Standard Time.” This is used all the time as an excuse to start something HOURS later than we ever meant to start something. Now this makes sense for small groups of people where ‘We absolutely cannot start until Josephina Blosephina shows up,’ but if it’s a larger crowd (in my opinion, more than five or so), it can get pretty ridiculous. PST is suffused into the very pores of the community so much so that the hosts of an event will even show up a half hour to an hour late sometimes, or people will set a time for an event far earlier than they ever truly plan to start, knowing that the attendees will all arrive late.
Can you tell that this kind of thing drives me crazy? It does! I was a teacher for 13 years, and people should be reasonably on time to events, at least try to be! It isn’t fair to the host who really sticks by their word and actually plans to start at or close to the time they say they will start, to have the attendees arrive a half hour or hour or more late. Especially if it happens all the time. This is not to say that I am always on time, all the time; I oftentimes arrive to events 15 minutes late or less, usually less. If it’s an open event (“Oh we’ll be there between 9 am to 8 pm, come anytime between then”) well then there’s no problem!
Now to talk about the TABOO. The sex. Yup the sex. It must be talked about. In many pagan traditions, probably all, sex is sacred. People translate this to mean different things. People on the prudish end of the spectrum would say that sex should only happen between people who love each other, and it should be monogamous. It should be safe, it should be “vanilla,” (i.e. missionary style and boring). I honestly don’t know any pagans that far at that end of the spectrum, including myself! People on the opposite end will say sex should happen with anyone you are attracted to, the more the merrier, come on in, the sex is fine! People on the umpteenth degree of that spectrum will be into S&M, are poly, have usually had sex with at least half of their friends, and everything out of their mouths is raunchy trash. There are variances (refreshing ones) among all of these extremes, of course. Guess where I am on the spectrum! I’m pretty close to the prudish side, but not completely prudish, in my own opinion. To me, sex is sacred, and therefore it should be between people who care about each other, ideally, love each other; it should be an expression of love, and because of this, it should be entered into gently and carefully. I’m also a double Cancerian so that may explain some things. I’m monogamous, which is seen as prudish by some people. It’s all relative.
Some of my Christian friends and family probably think my stance on sex is too loose; I’m totally O.K. with non-marital sex, I’m O.K. with quote unquote casual sex (but to me, it must be between people who care about each other even if it’s just for one night). But, in comparison to many of my pagan friends, I’m the Prude. I very rarely strip down naked while dancing around a fire (and if I do it’s usually just showing my belly!); I must be completely comfortable with the people there and it has to have no ‘meat market’ feel around the fire for me to do it. However, I’ve been totally naked at a nudist hot springs-camping place, and been totally fine with it. The vibe was different; it was not ‘look at my body I am so sexy you want to have sex with me don’t you?;’ it was ‘yup I’m naked and so are you and we are all fine with it and let’s just talk and be friends.’ As I said, I’m monogamous, I don’t talk about ‘swingers’ and my speech isn’t crass; I do joke occasionally about sex, but that’s not always on my mind. I’m much more interested in other things.
I was at a recent event- a pagan gathering in a park, which was quite relaxed and nice. There was a variety of pagans there, most of them being on the poly end of the spectrum. At least twice, people asked me if I was offended by what they were talking about (if they only knew what I have seen and heard in the past, this was nothing close!). This was probably because I was relatively quiet. I said no, I wasn’t offended, not to worry; I’m just being quiet. I don’t tend to open up to people I just met about just in what way(s) I like to have sex. I’d much rather get to know them as people before jumping right to the nitty gritty intimate details. That was alright, but I could see that I was “The Prude at the picnic.” No biggie though, it didn’t really bother me.
To me, while I’m trying not to judge others for what they do sexually, it sullies the sacredness of the sex to have no boundaries about it. It makes your soul dirty and now I sound like Janet from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. “I (don’t) wanna be diiiiirty!” Anyway I’m not as prudish, nor am I as innocent, as Janet. Sex isn’t dirty. But the attitude you have about it is what can make it dirty. If you think of the other person as just an object that will satisfy your needs, that is gross and turns my stomach. This is why sex jokes that are raunchy and tend to infer the people (or animals) in them as objects also turn my stomach. So in that respect, I suppose it ‘offends’ me, but not because I’m a prude or innocent; it’s because the attitude is a low attitude. (As in the low in ‘low men in yellow coats’ in Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King. Yes, it’s that creepy to me. It’s a rapist attitude and I want to be nowhere near that attitude.) On the other hand, even if you have lots of partners, if you can love every single one of them and see the divine within them (as in “Namaste, the divine in me greets and loves the divine in you”) then that would be beautiful. I believe it is VERY rare to find a circumstance of any group of people who can love several people in that way, rather than just one. I know that personally I am not that evolved.
So I guess I’m trying to say that it doesn’t shock me, but I find that attitude very disgusting and, there is no other way to put it; low.
I suppose all of this outpouring I’m doing about boundaries or lack of them is stemming from a recent experience where I felt like I lost control over myself a little bit, and I had to re-draw the boundaries for myself again. It wasn’t sexual, it really was no biggie, but it made me feel very floaty and unbalanced and ungrounded. I was thinking “what am I doing?” and didn’t feel like I was being myself. I’m coming back into myself now (phew) and I’m good.
Anyway, I believe boundaries are good, but they must be flexible. You must be in control of yourself, but also let yourself do things. Don’t be so in control that you are uptight; if you want to dance, dance. If you want to drum, drum. If you want to skip and hop up and down, do it. But don’t dance, drum or skip so that you are degrading yourself or someone else; don’t do it because you feel like others want you to do it; don’t do it if you feel uncomfortable and too prudish (so that you feel you have to do it so as to not be so prudish).
But everyone’s boundaries are different, and everyone’s definition of what is sacred is different, and we (including myself) can’t judge – much. But we can also know what we like and don’t like, and I definitely don’t like hanging out with crass gross people who view other people as objects. Thankfully, I am only acquainted with possibly one person who is like that (and I don’t think she is completely that way; I think it’s mostly for show). Even so, I wish there were a little more boundary drawing within the pagan community. Not a lot, just a little more. Enough to respect themselves and other people. Not to the extreme second or slightest touch; with some leeway, but not to make people wait to do something for hours on end just because of PST, or not to have a lack of respect for the divine within them (and a lack of respect for the divine within themselves). I think people overall, not just pagans, would do good to respect and love themselves and others more. ::Gets off of soap box.::
“There’s a spectrum of pagans: at one end there’s the very very very anal prudish types; they are judgmental, it’s their way or the highway, and they are not open to any weirdness. Well, they’re pagan, so maybe they’re open to a little bit of weirdness! Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, and these people are OUT THERE. Lemme tell ya. They are crass, they are raunchy, they have sex with anything that’s willing and able, they take advantage, they are rude, they have basically just… NO boundaries whatsoever. A lot of us pagans fall somewhere in the middle.”
I think you are referring to the whole of humankind here, it doesn’t really matter what you label yourself with, pagan, atheist, catholic, Jew, Islam, there are snobs and weirdos in every city, country, culture, religion, and in each sex.
Yes, that is so true. And it makes me think – why did I say specifically pagans? Thinking back to when I wrote this yesterday, I was probably silently responding to those at the picnic who seemed to think I was ‘The Prude’ and who thought I was shocked at what they were saying. It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that some pagans may think that everyone, at least all pagans, should be like them. So perhaps that’s why I started off with ‘there is a spectrum of pagans’ as if I was, in my own way, writing a response to them, out of a perceived need to stand up for myself. Anyway, I totally agree with you. Everyone is on a spectrum when it comes to boundaries. Thank you for your thoughtful response.