Starhawk and Sexual Ethics

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 29, 2007 — 7 Comments

Author, activist, and On Faith panelist Starhawk weighs in on the issue of political sex scandals. She starts off with explaining that most modern Pagans don’t have the same sexual restrictions and hang-ups as many monotheist traditions.

“To Pagans, sexuality is sacred, for it holds within it the possibility of deep, loving, ecstatic connection to the great creative life-force we call the Goddess. So, we start from the premise that sex itself is a good thing … Inside or out of marriage, sex is no sin. Our moral questions about sex or any other act would be, ‘Is it hurtful’? Is it something you have to lie about, something that breaks a trust or causes deeper wounds?”

We may not all call the creative life-force “the Goddess”, but that is a fairly decent summation of the sexual ethics often found within Pagan circles. But Starhawk runs into some trouble when it appears that she is inserting her personal opinions into an explanation of Pagan sexual ethics (without making that qualification).

“When a president has sex with an intern, or a senator with a page, there’s a huge imbalance in power. Exploiting those roles for sexual conquest is a misuse of that position – even when both parties are consenting adults, for the charisma of power warps judgment.”

So which is it? Are they consenting adults or not? Can you make a free and consenting decision if you are “warped” by the other’s power? Should people from different social and economic strata avoid sexual relationships lest the “charisma of power” propel them into an unhealthy situation, or does this only apply to those working within politics? I do think it is safe to say that this view isn’t universally held by Pagans, or by humanity itself. I wish Starhawk had made it clear that this was her view (as she does with later comments in the essay), and not an issue of broad consensus among modern Pagans.

What do you think?

ADDENDUM: I just want to be clear that I am not attacking Starhawk personally, in fact I agree with much of what she has to say about power dynamics. My point is that the essay made it seem that she was speaking for modern Paganism as whole, when if fact there are many different ideas on sexual ethics and power dynamics within our family of faiths.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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