In a recent post I suggested that masturbation was a good way to get to know how your body ticks and what you enjoy sexually. I do believe that (and practice what I preach) but I am aware that even in the twenty first century there are people in society for whom sex is still pretty much a taboo subject. I was pleased however that the comments I received for that post were positive.
People sometimes ask me if there are any pagan rules or regulations about sex. Or sometimes people assume all sorts of things about my sex life because I am pagan. So I thought I’d write this post to answer some of those questions and lay some suppositions to rest.
Firstly there are no generally applicable rules about sex in paganism. In fact paganism is an umbrella term for many different religious and spiritual paths, some of which might have particular things to say about sex, but none are applicable to all pagans. My own path is an eclectic mix of Wicca and other things and the main rule that filters down to me from those various influences is to live responsibly and try not to harm anybody else.
Pagans do tend to have a reputation for being more liberal about sex than some, and I think that is probably because we are not Christian. Christianity and many other religions do have particular theological and cultural rules about sex which pagans do not have. This is a simple point but it needs to be underlined because western society is dominated by Christian culture and pagans do not share some of those cultural norms. We do not believe in some of the key doctrines often associated with sex. For example we do not believe in original sin. We do not believe there is anything intrinsically bad or sordid about sex or that sex can only be legitimised within religious law, tradition or ritual. Rather, pagans revere nature and we see sex as a perfectly natural part of life.
Does that mean we don’t have any moral values when it comes to sex? Absolutely not! Indeed that is a strange question; but it is an assumption that a lot of people seem to jump to. While not all Pagans believe the same, I would guess that most of us regard sex as good, normal, healthy and special. Moreover most pagan paths have a strong emphasis on personal responsibility and on trying to do the best for ourselves and our environment. Various moral imperatives concerning sex flow from that.
For me sex is both special and sacred. I prefer to have sex within a relationship and I am always loyal to the person I am with. That does not mean that I don’t sometimes have sex outside of a relationship; I think there is value and pleasure to be had in the raw sex that is sometimes had between people who don’t know each other well or who are not regularly lovers. However this is the exception rather than the rule. I think most people with any sexual experience would agree that there is something much more profound when you are making love to somebody you know, and who knows you inside out. And when you are with a real lover, the union you share is emotional and spiritual as well as physical.
Because I think sex is special, I want to be good at it! I want to be able to please myself and my lover and to guide my lover in pleasing me. There are no particular rules in paganism which impel me to this but neither are there the restrictions that some other religions place on exploring your sexuality. So pagans generally have a positive attitude to sex moderated mainly by a strong sense of personal responsibility.
Ritual and general nudity is an element of some (but certainly not all) pagan paths. Personally I don’t like to always equate nudity with sex, but rather with a positive attitude to the human body as being a vital and beautiful part of nature (whatever shape that body might happen to be).
Pagans are not all the same. Perhaps some pagans are more open about discussing sexuality than other people, but not all are. Some Pagans are shy. Some pagans are less inclined to be as open about sex as I am.
My rules are based on my personal morality which is informed rather than dictated by my beliefs. This comes down mainly to the concept of personal responsibility.First and foremost I am honest with my partners and once the boundaries of our relationship are established, I keep to them. Secondly I take care of my health which means practicing safe sex and using condoms when I am with somebody I don’t know so well.
Let’s lay some ghosts to rest, although I guess this will be a disappointment for some. Most pagans (including me) do not indulge in orgies. Most Pagans find the idea of sex with children utterly abhorrent. Don’t get me started on what I’d like to do to child molesters! Most Pagans would find the idea of sex with animals as obscene as anybody else (hopefully) would.
I guess a general Pagan view would be that sex between consenting adults is fine and healthy but really nobody else’s business. I’d like to think that pagans are generally less bigoted about types of sexuality and are less inclined to be prejudiced against people in the GLTB spectrum. I don’t think that is always the case but I think it is fair to say that pagans are more liberal than the norm. I am bisexual myself and this has never been a negative issue with any of my pagan friends. I am not polyamorous myself but I have probably met more people in polyamorous relationships in the pagan community than elsewhere. And generally because pagans have a positive and permissive attitude to sex you might find them more likely to be open about their particular sexual experiences, tastes and fetishes. Overall though, while sex is seen as a positive and pleasurable aspect of pagan lifestyle it is generally not the cornerstone of it.
While I want to put down some of the more sensationalist ideas that float around about pagans and sex, I don’t want to minimise the importance of sex in paganism. There is a lot of sexual imagery and symbolism in the rites and rituals of many pagan paths. Again, we see sex as part of nature and therefore good and wholesome. The magic of creation which comes about from the sexual union of man and woman is a powerful force, metaphor and image that permeates many pagan beliefs and traditions. There are rituals I am familiar with in which people do have ritual sex believing that through the woman they are joining with the Goddess or through the man, they are joining with the God. Such things do happen, but it is important to note that this only takes place with the full consent of the people involved and most often they are already partners. These days overtly sexual rituals are often performed symbolically rather than actually. And if all of this still sounds strange and debauched to some; how much stranger is it to symbolically eat the body and drink the blood of your God?