Modern Culture, Practicality Lessen Nudity at Pagan festivals

Cara Schulz —  June 30, 2014 — 134 Comments

The 1960’s and early 70’s Pagan culture was born of ecofeminism, British Traditional Wicca, and the counter-culture hippie movement. The Goddess (or God) within was explored and nature in all its beauty was celebrated as more conservative ideology was abandoned. An outward manifestation of these new ideals was often expressed though nudity. Nudity was seen as a statement of freedom from conventional structures and a way to worship the divine in all its forms. The Charge of the Goddess specifically said, “And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in Her praise.“

Dancer pauses at a Pagan festival, photo credit Cara Schulz

Dancer pauses at a Pagan festival [Photo credit: Cara Schulz]

When Pagan festivals sprouted across the US in the late 70’s and early 80’s, nudity went from the living room to the campground. If you attended a festival it wasn’t uncommon to see nude Pagans dancing around a fire or listening to music. The Great Rite was celebrated literally and allegorically, and workshops on the Five Fold Kiss didn’t raise an eyebrow. Even into the early 2000’s nudity and Pagan gatherings seemed to go hand in hand, but is Pagan culture’s attitude toward nudity changing?

Changing Culture?
Those around in the the early days of Paganism say it is. “I recently watched a little video about Starwood that was filmed in the late 70’s or early 80’s. There was a LOT more nudity, body painting and primal expression,” says Shouting Mountain.

Shauna Aura Knight said she also noticed a trend towards less nudity at events, “I had the experience of going through all the archival photos from the Diana’s Grove retreat center, and I noticed that the pictures from the 90’s indicated that there had been a lot more nudity in the past.”

Pagan musician Arthur Hinds agrees. In a post on the Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) Facebook group, he asked:

Over the last 15 years or so, I have notice a profound shift in the body gestalt at pagan festivals in general, and PSG in particular. It used to be that by day two or three, the level of clothing had fallen considerably, and by the end, it was quite jarring to return to the “normal world” and see folks wearing it. We, as a population, don’t seem to be any different than we used to be. We have the same mix of really hot, really normal, and really comfortable bodies we always have had. It isn’t a matter of weather either. Now, I don’t often totally strip down, but I am of pale pale stock, and there are parts of my body that I don’t want to have burned or slathered in sun block. The fact that folks needed a special skyclad ritual says a whole story. Most rituals used to be a lot more skyclad. I am curious as to your thoughts. Do we have more body issues than we used to, and if so, are there things we can do to help each other? I think we are all beautiful-marks, scars, wrinkles, rolls, and all. Is it a bleed over from the larger society, and nudity concerns around children? Old and new folks (both age and experience) throw in your 4 cents.

While some commented they were uncomfortable due to “creepers,” those who attend festivals for voyeuristic reasons, others offered varied perspectives on the perceived decline of nudity at Pagan festivals.

The most often mentioned reason for why people choose to remain clothed at festivals dealt with the body image issues. These issues affected men as often as they affected women.

Body Image
”I don’t know how many guys will own up to it, but I know there is a penis issue for a lot of men. Women have beauty zines to make them feel bad. Guys have John Holmes,” said Rik Roberts.

Colleen said, “…the other thing that changed my approach was comments I overheard a few years back, and again this year to the effect that “you always see naked the ones you don’t want to, and never see the ones you do”. I would love it if our community operated outside of all the body politics of the regular world and was truly enlightened enough to have the attitude you express. Arthur, but it is not.

Much like the convos about garbage and recycling, we are all products of the ways of our larger society, and there seems to be less effort put forth in our community today to rise to and hold ourselves to a higher/different standard than the masses. We bring our ways in with us and those often now include body shape/size ideals that are unrealistic, and hand-in-hand with these come all our learned hangups about being unattractive.”

Advancing age, and the changes it brings to a person’s body, was also mentioned as a reason why they no longer wish to be seen by others nude.

Others talked about how the changing mainstream culture outside was affecting the culture inside of Paganism.

Mainstream Culture
“Seriously, I think it is due to culture change in the mundane world; back then we were closer to the culture of the 60’s, when we were more free & experimental. Now the mainstream culture is very certainly more conservative is some ways, if less so in others. If we want our culture to be otherwise, we will have to work at it consciously,” said Pangur Ban.

Tracie “Sage” Wood finds liberation in going nude at festivals. She says she’s gone from feeling overweight to feeling her body is is powerful. She hopes others are able to throw off the messages from modern media. “…let’s help each other get over the message that magazines and T.V. send to us. We love each other, and we need to love ourselves.”

“Having spent my formative years in the 60’s, I feel that society today is much more paranoid than it was then. Everyone is afraid of how society will react and the horrible consequences resulting from free expression. People are afraid of being judged, laughed at and ridiculed for being a free spirited human being. Everyone pretty much knows how I stand. I enjoy being mostly naked. I enjoy it a lot. If others enjoy being naked, I try to encourage them to do so. However if people want to wear burqkas, that is wonderful too. And you harm none, do as you will,” says Shouting Mountain. He noted that he’s seen an increase in nudity at Pagan festivals in the past few years.

Ĵames ßelmont thought mainstream culture was impacting nudity at Pagan festivals, but had a slightly different view of what, in modern culture, was driving the change, “I’m also wondering … that in this technological age and social media age, where the picture is worth so much, that people were hesitant to be nude to avoid ruining someone’s picture, or making sure they could be taken a picture of Goddess knows I had to delete quite a few of mine, and were strategic about some others. Maybe as our method of communication and memory preservation has changed, it has also changed out attire at festivals.”

Bugs, Sunburn, and Weather
Practical reasons were frequently mentioned. Rilla Foxdancer said that weather plays a crucial role in Pagans decision to go clothed or nude, “Wisteria and Zoe were brutally hot. Stonehouse, while it was still pretty hot and humid when it wasn’t raining, is nowhere near that bad. That plays a part.”

For Daisy Peterson being nude or clothed is something she plays by ear and might change at a moment’s notice, “For me being naked is just a matter of practicality and comfort. Sometimes clothing can protect from too much sun or give a nice feeling on your body. But when clothes are sticking, I will take them off. I got dressed and undressed outside my tent. I took a rain shower outside my tent. Sometimes I walked to the porta potties without clothes. When I tried on clothes at the vendors I just did it right there, naked. And when I was way too sticky to put on clothes I walked naked to the shower house. Being without clothes should be about feeling more comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable without clothes wear something that makes you feel comfortable. I definitely don’t do it for show!”

Shauna Aura Knight prefers to be clothed at rituals because she finds it physically  more comfortable, ”…in an ecstatic tradition, we’re dancing and moving, and things are flopping and bumping. Plus, closer to the fire equals bits burning. Similarly, sunburn, sweat, and chafing don’t really make nudity practical for me at an event like PSG.”

Legal Considerations
Others find discomfort in nudity for an entirely different reason – legal problems that could arise when adults are nude around children. As festivals become more family friendly, this concern is increasing. Some states still have laws on the books that bar adults, even parents, from being naked in front of children. In hotly contested child custody cases, even something as innocent as attending a Pagan festival where nudity is allowed is a concern.

A 31-year-old woman from Wisconsin, who asked not to be named, summed up the position of some parents, “My fiance’s son from his previous marriage is special needs, so I just can’t risk being labeled an exhibitionist. If either of us being nude gets blown out of proportion, we could lose visitation rights.”

Fashion and Diversity
Shahara Fay had a far less serious reason for choosing to wear clothes more often than going without, “I like to wear weird funky thrift shop clothes at PSG that I can’t always wear in public. I think some just like to play with fashion instead of the boring ‘nude’ we see ourselves in the mirror every day. Though it’s sure nice to strip and walk about if we want!”

Paganism, and Pagan festivals, have become far more diverse in the last two decades. Today’s Pagans are not finding the religion through traditional Wicca or eco-feminism, and hippie culture is one of nostalgia, not daily life. For them nudity, as stated in the Charge of the Goddess, plays no part in their religious practice, “As far as I’m concerned, I do not come from a tradition that observes skyclad rituals. I do not consider nudity to be any more or less sacred than ritual garb, and ritual garb will help reduce unnecessary distractions from religious observation compared to being exposed to the elements,” says Sara Barlow.

Attendees dance at Pagan Spirit Gathering, photo credit cara Schulz

Attendees dance at Pagan Spirit Gathering [Photo credit: Cara Schulz]

Arthur Hinds is supportive of what ever choices Pagans make regarding nudity. In examining the lessening numbers of Pagans choosing to go nude at festivals, he says:

My only concern was about the body image issue. I think the feminine form is a glory to behold. I love all of the shapes and hues. It always takes the average man a couple of days to settle down from, ‘OMG there are breasts everywhere’ to a subtle ‘that’s nice.’ Being naked does have etiquette that must be learned. I did not see anyone, anybody, that was not beautiful … One thing that wide spread nudity does, is that is lets you see that your body is really just like everyone else’ body. They have the same wrinkles and rolls and scars that you do. They are trying to hide the same stuff you are. You are just as gorgeous. This realization can be very freeing. 

Is Pagan culture changing its view of nudity and sensuality? Are we becoming more diverse, falling prey to mainstream culture, becoming more practical, or losing our freedom to legal sensitivities?

“While doing my ecstatic naked fire revelry, I would occasionally fall exhausted in to the sand. Once or twice while holding a man’s hand. I was immediately met with screams of “no great rite!” Of course I had no intention of having sex there. But it did make me wonder – What kind of witches have we become?” wonders Melanie Moore.

Only time will tell how these changes in culture affect the religious nature of Paganism itself.

 

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Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • http://fatpagan.blogspot.com/ Kitsune

    I wrote about this topic a while ago. An excerpt: I know people who do not undress unless for showers and cannot even begin to take off their clothes in front of a mirror, let alone other people. How many of us can undress in the locker room without going and hiding in the stalls to get dressed? I am comfortable in my own skin and still have trouble with that. I used to torture myself over imagined comments about how my body looked when I was in middle and high school. How are we [fat people] supposed to feel good in our bodies when we are told over and over and over again that we shouldn’t be viewed, that we are less than, that we even don’t deserve to live? And, do we bring this shame to our Gods?

    Can you stand in front of your Deity completely natural and feel absolutely no shame or embarrassment when They look at you? I personally felt embarrassment the first time I presented myself. It is a conditioned response. It is the same feeling one gets at undressing in front of a lover; timidity, shyness, and apprehensiveness. Almost like waiting for another shoe to drop, for him to say something that you “always knew someone would cruelly say.” Of course, it never happens, esp since the Gods don’t care out how your body looks. It is a vehicle in which your spirit resides.
    http://fatpagan.blogspot.com/2012/10/skyclad-body-issues-opinions.html?m=1

    • Argent

      You have some really good points, and I like them. Yet, not all deities or spirits will welcome you to come before them unclothed. In Vodou ritual (and most diaspora traditions for that matter), it is a grave insult to the lwa to come before them unclothed. Your ritual wear is a must, an etiquette for dealing with and honoring them.

  • Hth

    I like to hope we’re a little more sensitive than we once were about creating an atmosphere that pressures people about nudity or encourages them to believe that releasing control over who sees them naked is somehow empowering. *Retaining* control over who sees you naked is empowering. Choice and consent are empowering.

    It’s all very well to idealize how very happy we all were in the 60s and 70s — no, what am I saying, it *is not at all well* to idealize that. Especially not when we’re supposedly in the middle of a conversation about safety, boundaries, and sexual predation in the community. Ask Breen & Bradley’s victims how great the 60s were, when we were all free and naked and totally happy forever. Ask *a lot of people,* particularly women, why it is that they’re so hung-up now that they won’t take their clothes off whenever a stranger tells them it makes them more spiritual.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      > Ask Breen & Bradley’s victims how great the 60s were, when we were all
      > free and naked and totally happy forever.

      Hell, ask the victims of McCarthyism how unparanoid the 1960s were. When you spent your formative years in a decade, you know what that means? Your memories are that of a child, a child that it is likely was sheltered from many realities of life. Yes, I have mostly-happy memories of the 1980s, myself, but I’ve also educated myself about the social and political realities and do not believe that was a “fun and happy and carefree” time that a lot of people about my age seem to think; I maintain no illusions about the 1960s, whatsoever.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I like the idea of nudism but, quite honestly, I have a hair-trigger penis. Last thing anyone needs is for me to “salute” at an inappropriate moment. Can’t help it, I am just highly sexed. As such, the whole nudity thing would make me uncomfortable because I’d feel like a perv the entire time. For some reason, it is seldom seen as a compliment.

    Some say that it is something you get over in a few days of exposure but that will not work for everyone. Especially since a penis doesn’t ask for ID…

    Talking of the penile member, Rik Roberts says men have the penis comparison problem (thanks, John Holmes), but just as bad is the ass and stomach issue.

    • TadhgMor

      My friend, you are an absolute character.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Just saying how it is.

  • Gus diZerega

    “Back in the day” which in my case was the mid-80s, nudity at gatherings was not much of a deal. Some did, some didn’t. Some covens met sky clad, others did not. Speaking for myself, I was amazed at how, when surrounded by many naked people, the more sexual aspects of nudity quickly declined as an issue.

    Looking at the issue historically, neoPaganism has a very long historical relationship with nudity and naturism. One could make a good argument it would scarcely exist at all today had naturism and nudity not been a ‘counter cultural;’ aspect of what some of the English did in the 40s and 50s.

    Today our religion has expanded to include very large numbers of people who are ignorant of our history and know nothing much about the 60s and 70s beyond usually inaccurate and exaggerated depictions in the mainstream media. The abuses are talked about, the norm is not.

    So we are confronted with the same issue that in one form of another confronts every religion that sees itself as different from the dominant culture in which it exists. How much do we let that nonPagan culture influence who we are and what we do?

    • Hth

      Yeah, yeah, #notallpaganmen. Of course abuse isn’t the norm, but that doesn’t mean you just handwave “maybe the possibility of being unprotected from abuse factors into changing attitudes about nudity.”

      Here’s a quote from a young woman who grew up in festival culture in the 1980s and 90s. It was published in Green Egg in 1999 and reprinted in Green Egg Omelette Excuse me for quoting at some length, but it’s all relevant testimony.

      “Just because someone is beautiful, doesn’t mean that they’re being beautiful for public consumption; just because someone is sexy doesn’t mean they’re on the market. A very small percentage of people just do not seem to get this. It’s not like there aren’t predators in the office, but somehow the anything-goes vibe of Paganism makes them feel more justified, like just because Paganism is sex-positive, you should sleep with them. That’s wrong, in the very deepest sense. It isn’t respectful of humans, and it isn’t respectful of sex. ….

      “Being fabulous — wearing pretty clothes and makeup and just being out there — is most definitely something I wouldn’t do at a Pagan festival, the same way I wouldn’t feel comfortable being fabulous in a bar. It just doesn’t feel safe. ….

      “Then there’s the predator concept — the pervasive awareness that there are some really scary people out there. I think that young women especially are much more mindful of this, and from a much earlier age, than they were twenty years ago. Having someone old enough to be your parent making the moves on you is far more threatening than it is flattering. It’s probably correctable, but it says something that I have heard this complaint from every single one of my Pagan girlfriends and from a few of the boys. … I know that I’m slightly paranoid, but so are all my girlfriends. i know more than one person who says that they felt like everyone was waiting for them to turn eighteen. I see this as being a real problem…. I don’t know why everyone’s so fuzzy around boundaries. I think it’s getting better; years of objections seem to have finally made a dent.” (Aurelea River, emphasis mine)

      It’s wrong and unfair to blame solely “the larger culture” for changing how people feel about being nude around strangers in Pagan spaces. For many of us, “the larger culture” is what empowered us to defend our boundaries and insist on our safety in the face of a Pagan culture that to this very day is intent on framing the loss of access to naked bodies in public as a lamentable retrograde slide into prudishness.

      • mptp

        intent on framing the loss of access to naked bodies in public as a lamentable retrograde slide into prudishness

        Where is anyone taking about in public – they’re taking about festivals which are usually not held on public land, last I checked.

        When an organization I know changed their policy to require public beach appropriate attire for a majority of their private land (ignoring the male top freedom hypocrisy), one of the things they cited was an article about why we can’t be naked all the time … And they IGNORED the footnote where the author pointed out they don’t have the problem anymore now that they rent from/on a private Buddhist retreat that doesn’t have a no nudity policy.

        I get the abuse issues, but when people continue to conflate festivals on private property with public areas, they muddy the waters of the discussion.

        • Hth

          I don’t feel like festivals are “private” even if they are on privately held land — certainly not from the perspective of an individual attendee. All I know about the other people at the festival is that they bought a ticket to the festival; there may be a handful that I know personally, but 100-200 total strangers. It bears more resemblance to attending a concert than to hosting a party in a private home.

          • mptp

            Then there’s no agreement we can come to.

      • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

        The author quoted talks about being fabulous, wearing pretty clothes, and being out there–not about being nude. There’s no evidence that nudity (in a clothing-optional environment where nudity is accepted) correlates with increased predation or makes one more vulnerable to abuse. Women are abused on the subway all the time and nudity is frowned on there.

        I take the issue of abuse *very* seriously. Seriously enough to know wearing clothes offers ZERO protection.

        And again, women were equally concerned about predation 30 years ago when the festival movement was very nudist-oriented, so it doesn’t make sense to attribute a *decrease* in nudism over the years to this concern.

        Also, for a lot of us, it’s not about “access to naked bodies” but access to *our own* nudity and *our own* sense of body freedom. Framing nudity as object and not subject is a mistake.

        • kenofken

          If anyone thinks nudity by choice at festivals is primarily to blame for predation and that an enforced ethic of modesty is the solution, ask women in the Middle East and India how that’s working for them.

          The issues we have with predators and garden variety “creepers” (and we have issues), have to do with the struggles of a non-authoritarian movement articulating core bottom line values. They also have to do with the excuses we make for celebrities (which happens in all of society). To blame them on the choice some women exercise to be partly or totally unclothed is to buy into the core premise of rape culture, which is that the victims were “asking for it”.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            To blame them on the choice some women exercise to be partly or totally unclothed is to buy into the core premise of rape culture, which is that the victims were “asking for it”.

            While I generally agree with this statement, it’s still a woman’s choice to go nude or stay clothed, and if she’s already uncomfortable with the state of things while she’s still got clothing on, I can only imagine how she might expect nudity to change that –and i don’t imagine she’d think it favourable, and I’m only talking about the hypothetical woman in my imagination, right now.

            I can also understand if many women feel there is excess pressure that they go nude at clothing-optional events, even if that pressure is subtle, if they feel it exists, then it is their reality, and i have no reason to doubt them, if they should say that it’s a reason they choose to keep clothed.

          • kenofken

            It should completely be a woman’s choice (or man’s, for that matter) to go nude. There should be no pressure to make either choice, and if people are going around pushing folks to “show them a little something” or “For Pan’s sake cover that up!”, that should be grounds for getting booted from the festival.

            I get the point about non-cisgendered folks not finding the same comfort level with public nudity. Again that should be their choice, but they shouldn’t have to make it based on their concerns about how the rest of us might react. If they otherwise might want to join their nude brothers and sisters but won’t because of how the rest of us are, then shame on us. We need to work on that.

      • Gus diZerega

        I do not see your point relevant to my article- except perhaps as illustrating my final point. Yes Pagans have more than our share of sexual predators but we also have less inhibition about confronting it. Compare us to a certain church of long standing… They sweep it under the rug, we discuss it in the open and don’t need court trials and lawyers to get it started. And as Deborah Lipp points out, she was not talking about nudity, she was talking about how predators are attracted to a sex positive religion.

        So I would have to say your reaction – ignoring what is unique about us and paining with a very broad brush indeed – is exactly the influence of the broader culture undermining what is distinctive about us that has worried me on this as well as a number of other fronts.

        • mptp

          Yes Pagans have more than our share of sexual predators

          I’m sorry, but that’s begging the question, in its strictest meaning.

          Where has anyone shown actual evidence that sexual predators are more prevalent in the pagan community than they are in the general population?

          • Gus diZerega

            Fair enough. “Fair share” often does not mean it’s literal sense in most contexts where I speak English. Literally, ONE would be more than our FAIR share… I assumed, perhaps inaccurately, that because we have a more positive approach towards sexuality, we attract more who hope to take advantage of others through that avenue. I know that more than one person has been seduced by being told they would share privileged teachings if… I doubt that happens in most other religions.

            But whatever.

            One sexual predator is too many and we are more open about confronting the issue.

        • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

          “More than our share” is technically inaccurate. “Our share” would be more accurate, although, ANY is “more than” any of us want or deserve.

          • mptp

            ANY is “more than” any of us want or deserve.

            Agreed.

        • Alley Valkyrie

          How do you not see the point? The point the poster is making is very relevant to your argument. You seem to be taking the position that current attitudes around nudity have to do with ignorance of the ’60s and ’70s. The point being made, which I agree with completely, is that modern attitudes around nudity have much more to do with actual experience than they do the ignorance of the counterculture roots of Paganism, as you seem to think.

          I am extremely aware of the counterculture history. I am also extremely uncomfortable with being nude at a festival, and that has absolutely everything to do with the experiences I’ve had and absolutely nothing to do with what I may not understand about the ’60s. You say that “the abuses are talked about, the norm is not”, but my experiences in my early festival days of being constantly ogled by men three times my age were the NORM, unfortunately.

          • Gus diZerega

            Because every gathering I ever attended was mixed. Nudiity was a voluntary option, not a requirement. A majority of the people in the gatherings I attended were clothed in varying degrees. If you don’t want to be nude (and outside of coven rituals that includes me, BTW), don’t be.

            THAT’s why you did not address my point- unless you want to enforce your personal preferences on to others. In which case I would recommend starting a festival that does not allow nudity, going to those where there is none (Pantheacon, for example, because it is in a hotel), or not going.

            That is also why I sympathise strongly with young people feeling pressured by parents, That’s wrong. But if you are there on your own you should be able to choose whether or not you are skyclad. If you are skyclad, and you feel you made an error, put your clothes back on.

            Is that so very difficult?

          • Alley Valkyrie

            You’re missing my point while changing the subject at the exact same time. And in that, you’re completely sidestepping and/or ignoring the issues and experiences I bring up.

            My feelings around being nude at festivals have nothing to do with “personal preferences” and everything to do with a culture of predatory behavior in our community that you do not want to acknowledge. I thought I had made that pretty clear.

          • Gus diZerega

            Have you actually read me rather than looking for issues to argue over? I have acknowledged that predators exist and said, over and over, that they are the issue, not that some Pagans want to go sky clad and others do not for whatever reason. I approvingly gave the example of a coven (of long standing) that dissolved over the issue. Some here even jumped on me for saying the issue was probably greater with us than with many religions because a sex affirmative attitude would attract such people. How much more explicit do I have to be?

            “culture of predatory behavior within our community” sounds substantive, but is it? Not where I live in northern California. Does predatory behavior exist? Yep. Is it a “culture” in the Pagan community? Prove it. I claim it is not. In the coven example of which I have personal knowledge there was one predator, one defender, and about 8 who left because they would not circle with him. What more do you want?

            To the degree you are concerned about predators I am cheering you on. It’s a problem with us, whether we have “our share”or more than “our share” or whatever term people want to use. But the original piece was about more than that.

            Cara Schuilz raised the issue, and I agreed, that as our community grows long existing cultural; attitudes with roots on different mind sets enter in. Insofar as the issue of predators is conflated with long standing cultural biases against nudity you are, in my opinion, confusing these issues since the same cultural bias is deeply connected with a bias against the feminine. And not by accident.

            Focus on predators, not on whether some want to go sky clad and some don’t.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            THAT’s why you did not address my point- unless you want to enforce your personal preferences on to others. In which case I would recommend starting a festival that does not allow nudity, going to those where there is none (Pantheacon, for example, because it is in a hotel), or not going.

            Conventions are festivals, now? Talk about words losing all meaning….

          • Gus diZerega

            Please enlighten me as to the distinction and why it matters.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            con·ven·tion
            [ kən vénshən ]

            gathering: a gathering of people who have a common interest or profession

            fes·ti·val
            [ féstəv’l ]

            time of celebration: a day or period of celebration, often one of religious significance
            ——————-

            The difference matters because, unless it’s on a nudist camp, a convention would have no reason to be clothing-optional. Depending on the religion or holiday celebrated, a festival might have reason to be clothing-optional.

            You’re equating grapes to grapefruit to call Pantheacon a “festival”.

          • Gus diZerega

            You really seem to have no capacity to enter into a productive discussion with people who see the world differently from you.

            1, There is no common profession at P-Con

            2. As the theme of the gathering often explicitly states over the many years it has happened, it is to celebrate various aspect of the Pagan community.

            Here again is proof I am wasting my time.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You can’t read very well, can you?

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Well, see, you’re not talking about “the norm” as Gus-Gus experienced it: Being a het, white, cis man, Gus-Gus has the default experience of EVERYONE, and to doubt that is to doubt his reality as your own.

          • Deborah Bender

            No one is calling you by a deliberately disrespectful nickname. I request that you show the same courtesy to others as they consistently show to you.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Gus-Gus does not show respect to people.

            And anyway, that little mouse was the best part of Disney’s Cinderella.

        • Alley Valkyrie

          I also must strongly disagree that “we have less inhibition about confronting it.” I think there are huge cultural and psychological barriers in the Pagan community around confronting this behavior, especially subtle predation as opposed to outright abuse. I’ve seen more justifications and excuses come out of the Pagan community around the behavior of creepers than any other atmosphere I’ve ever been in. I remember complaining about the predatory behavior of others only to be told that I needed to “lighten up” because we’re all “sex-positive”. Don’t even get me started on how creepy Pagan men hide behind “goddess worship” and “sex-positivity” in order to get away with their behavior…

          • Gus diZerega

            Find a different group.

            I was in a coven that broke up over a guy abusing the closeness of the group. He was left with his girlfriend and no one else (she was so in love with him she was in denial). Just this week we’ve had a discussion of Marion Zimmer Bradley and now this thread. At P-Con there are people hired by the organizer that people can go to to report harassment. I’ve seen no equivalent openness in many other religions. Sexual misbehavior is common in this society but our community seems more than willing to discuss it in the open. And that is what leads to its diminishing.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            My experience was not limited to one group. Again, it was the norm, and I traveled in many different circles. And I’m not going to pat us on the back and pretend that we’re proactive because we discussed MZB over the past week, considering the culture of silence that protected her until this point. We’re more than willing RIGHT NOW to discuss it in the open because we realized after KK that these are huge issues in the community and that shock has not worn off yet. But it serves nobody to pretend that the Pagan community has historically been proactive around the predator issue. Again, my experience is not unique.

          • kenofken

            No human community has ever been truly proactive about any problem. It’s not what our species does, unfortunately. We tend to deal with problems when we run out of room and options for not dealing with them.

            We have about a half century of public neopagan culture in this country, and we have not done a lot of things well with the predation issue for most of that time. Some of our contemporary competitors in the religion field have been around many centuries longer and gone to far greater lengths to conceal and enable major crimes in these areas.

            Now, we’re taking some real steps. We can take the cynical view that these are just momentary anomalies that won’t amount to anything after the next social media buzz cycle. Alternatively, we could give ourselves some much-needed encouragement to follow through on a difficult long-term task to turn this conversation into real long lasting change.

            The issues confronting us have very little to do with what people choose to wear at festivals. They have to do with the boundaries of how people behave toward one another and the culture of safety and accountability we create (or fail to create) at our events.

            If you don’t want to go nude at festivals, don’t. You don’t owe anyone a “good enough” reason. It can be personal preference, harassment concerns. Nobody should ever put you on the spot to undress, and conversely, we should not be forcing others to cover up. That would be an unconditional surrender to the people causing the problem. We’re fools if we let the least common denominator creepers dictate the design of our social norms and festival rules. THEY are the ones who need to feel self conscious about themselves at festival, not those of us who disrobe for our own reasons and those of us who don’t.

          • Gus diZerega

            Thank you. An intelligent and caring analysis of the issue in my opinion.

          • Gus diZerega

            Guess what? MZB was not a Pagan. She worked with Pagans, but she was not a spokesperson for us. She did not claim to be and was not so regarded. Her book had nothing in it that would give a reader the sense that she practiced/approved of child abuse. I have already made my condemnation of her apparent behavior very clear.

            Your experience may not be unique but neither is it the norm. I gave quite concrete counter examples. You are very quick to condemn a great many people based on your personal experience and condemn those of us who have had different experiences. Talk about totalizing claims.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            > Guess what? MZB was not a Pagan.

            For a time, MZB was, indeed, a Neopagan, by her own definition:

            http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Marion_Zimmer_Bradley.html

            See quoted text from her NYT obituary that quotes her.

            She eventually returned to Christianity, yes, and maybe you think that might mean she was never “truly” a pagan in the first place, but if so, then you would be committing the “No True Scotsman” fallacy that many Christians do when they try to explain how others lose faith in that religion.

          • Gus diZerega

            Thanks for the link. I learned something. In my experience from roughly ’85, when I became a Pagan, through about 10 years later, in circles outside of MZB’s, (and I was outside) it was a matter of frequent speculation as to whether she was or was not a Pagan. She never was a spokesperson for Paganism and so far as I remember I never saw her at any Pagan public Sabbats in Berkeley, which attracted considerable numbers..

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            So, now that you’ve acknowledged that there was a fact that you didn’t know, because it fell outside your direct experience, can you still not see how @alleyvalkyrie:disqus is talking about her lived reality as a woman, and by brushing off her concerns as just a matter of “find another group”, you’re contributing to a big problem, to say the least?

            Clearly there are experiences of the pagan community that fall outside your own. Why can you not accept that it really isn’t as simple as you’re trying to make-believe it is?

          • Gus diZerega

            I wrote, repeatedly

            1. Sexual predators are a significant problem in our community.

            2. I never questioned people’s reports of their personal experiences, Alley’s or anyone else’s, I questioned their generalizing them to encompass “Pagan culture” and gave examples not to deny their experiences but to deny the legitimacy of painting with a broad brush. I stand by that.

            It is the broad brush attacks, like the similar simplistic broad brush attacks on ‘liberalism’ she and others indulged in not long ago, that I object to.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Pardon me, but I think assuming the experiences of a single cis, het, white male to be a fair “balance” the experiences of many women as the very definition of intellectual dishonesty.

          • Gus diZerega

            There comes a time in every conversation with certain people where ignoring them is the only appropriate response. I will make a few brief replies to your latest tirade and then find more productive things to do with my time.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            So, in other words, since you can’t actually counter anything I’ve said, you’re going to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend you can’t hear me? That’s adorable, Gus-Gus.

          • Deborah Bender

            I confirm everything Gus says just above.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            I’m going to ask you like I asked Gus-Gus back in, like, December or whatever: Who are you and why should I care?

          • Franklin_Evans

            The same question can be asked of you, Alley, me, anyone: who are you and why should I care (about your opinions, about the veracity of your cited evidence or facts, etc.)?

            I find Gus taking an uncivil tone at times. He has his own style of writing. I find you jumping into uncivil with both feet, that being my view of your style of writing.

            If you’re going to lambast Gus about derailing a discussion, be prepared for people, myself at this point, abandoning any interest in the tangent, motivated specifically by the constant in-kind, slings and arrows waste of space on your part.

            By the way, I can comment and have commented on Gus’ tone.

            I’m no paragon. I go off on people at least as intensely as you do. I am interested in discussion, debate, and the potential to learn something. Your contribution to derailment is quite on par with Gus’.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Citation needed.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Of what? This is no way close to the first time I’ve found your back-at-yous with Gus (and others) to be an equal contribution to incivility on a thread or tangent. I’m expressing my personal opinion. You are, as always under any context, free to consider it or reject it.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You just take an awful lot of time and space to say… well.. not much. It’s peculiar –and i know peculiar.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Allow me to be specific: You object to Gus taking a lecturing tone (a criticism I resemble very much, I must concede), but Deborah and I are blowing smoke when we object to your aggressive rudeness. It then follows as day follows night that you and Gus wax lyrical in trading barbs, insults and dismissals.

            For citation, I submit every post in which you use “Gus-Gus”, especially your sense of entitlement in posting with that tone and intent.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You just don’t understand the relationship Gus-Gus and i have.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Yeah, that’s a bit ironical. Judging from his writing and some prior acquaintance I have with him, I seriously doubt he would describe it as a “relationship”.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            And yet it exists.

            Remember, Mr Evans, there are many kinds of relationships. :-)

          • Franklin_Evans

            Truth.

            On my work computer, emoticons are displayed as the characters/text. Your smile is “broken” and appears like a cyclops smiley. -)

          • Alley Valkyrie

            You’re the one who mentioned MZB as an example of how we’re proactive in dealing with these issues. Stressing that she’s not a pagan just makes you look silly now, not me. You’re defeating your own argument.

            And yes, my experience IS the norm for young women in this community. If you’re denying that, you really know absolutely nothing of what you speak of.

          • Gus diZerega

            Keep up with the discussion Alley. Your point about MZB and her being
            Pagan was covered in a link provided by Ruadhan. I admitted I was wrong
            about thinking she was not a Pagan, but pointed out that outside her
            circle no one in the Pagan community knew that. My statement was
            confirmed by a prominent Pagan woman who is a long time member of the
            northern California Pagan community.

            I also pointed out that as
            our community has grown the ethical norms that were based on the
            counter culture during the time when Paganism first began growing here
            have been watered down by people coming from a different cultural and
            ethical place – and as you well know, American culture is quite predator
            friendly. At Pantheacon there are people appointed to be checks on
            predatory assholes- but the predators have to be reported. This was no
            secret.

            Report predators and many of us will deal with them.
            But I speak of northern California. And I suspect we are not alone. So
            stop making broadsides about ‘Pagan culture.’

            That Jason was
            praised by almost everyone who read the article he wrote says more about
            our culture than the fact that a woman practiced child abuse and most
            Pagans who lived in the same area she did didn’t know it. She was a
            recluse. Compare our response to what Catholics say and do even when
            the matter discovered. If there was a cover up it was by a few people
            close to her and not a description of our ‘culture.’ In fact I find it
            arrogant and extremely disrespectful for you to imply otherwise.

            I
            write about northern California Pagan culture, which I understand first
            hand, and would appreciate your showing similar restraint as to
            describing us in places where you obviously know little or nothing.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            My statement was confirmed by a prominent Pagan woman who is a long time member of the northern California Pagan community.

            Really? Cos i was reading the comment cesspool on the MZB post, and there are people from the Bay Area who circled with Bradley: http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/marion-zimmer-bradley-abuse-and-cautionary-tales.html

            Like i said, she defected back to the Episcopal church, eventually, but she was Neopagan, at one time.

            Report predators and many of us will deal with them. But I speak of northern California. And I suspect we are not alone. So stop making broadsides about ‘Pagan culture.’

            Really? Cos Bradley and Breen were based on No.Cal, and as best as i can tell, Paxson still defends them –she continues to ghost-write for Bradley, and if she holds to the Heathen ethics she claims to, I suspect her interest in doing so is not purely financial. See the Breendoggle timeline. Heck, there’s a Wiki dedicated to the scandal, and many cases were reported to authorities and community members, and I’ve seen you claim in the comments on the Bradley thread that “if the sci-fi community knew about this, why not tell the pagans?” (paraphrased) –well, apparently people knew the whole time! I’ve known about this for ten years! I’ve brought it up to people every time MZB is mentioned or crosses my mind in passing, but pagans LURVE!!!! Ms Bradley and Ms Paxson, so it gets swept under the rug, and you’ve reamined ignorant of this for DECADES apparently, cos protecting the “good name” of the community has been systematically more important to many than protecting the community’s most vulnerable members.

            You paint NoCal as this near-utopia where predators get what’s coming to them –and yet you somehow remained ignorant of Bradley for *decades*. This proves your implications about the non-culture of predation in your area to be demonstrably false. Yours is the view from a position of privilege, and therefore it is your privilege to think things are great, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

            I write about northern California Pagan culture, which I understand first hand,…

            …which you understand first hand from a position of privilege. You might as well be George Takei, an affluent married cis male who only “came out” when it would be a career boost to do so (remember, he’s only been out since 2008), talking about how everyone in the GBLT community is oh-so-supportive of everyone else in the GBLT community while hundreds of poor, trans, Black, Hispanic, DFAB (and so on) persons (some of whom were Stonewall and other rioters, who fought tooth-and-nail for people like him to have the career boost that coming out gave him), can attest to the fact that that isn’t necessarily true.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            “I write about northern California Pagan culture, which I understand first hand, and would appreciate your showing similar restraint as to describing us in places where you obviously know little or nothing.”

            I don’t see where or why you think you have the authority to determine what I do or do not know about Northern CA Pagan culture. I’m part of a tradition based in the Bay Area, and I know more about that culture than you might think. I’ve spent a lot of time in Northern CA with different Pagan groups. I have friends who run in the same social circles that you do. And I know several women in Northern CA whose views on these subjects are identical to my own, and who have had very similar experiences as part of the very Northern CA Pagan culture that you seem to think is immune from these issues.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You know, I’m tempted to make a scathingly sarcastic comment about how you just don’t understand the culture the “right way”,, like Gus-Gus does, and you just need not worry your pretty little head, you just sit back and let Gus-Gus school you about NoCal… But I have a sinking feeling that it really wouldn’t be that far off from how he actually believes, at this point. He’s really shown nothing *but* evidence, as much as one can without actually saying so explicitly, that he thinks that, as a woman (who is ostensibly younger than him), you couldn’t possibly know anything the way he does, being Mr Manly Man Gus-Gus diZ.

            He has been nothing short of appalling to you, and i wish that I had it in my power to apologise, on behalf of all truly decent men, for his BS.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            Thank you. Your words are much appreciated.

          • Gus diZerega

            How many times do I have to repeat that predation is a problem in the Pagan community before you can hear it? I gave examples of how the community in which I live tries to deal with it. It remains a problem, it is not utopia and I did not suggest otherwise. But setting up straw men seems to be a specialty among the folks making your argument.

            I said we do not have a CULTURE of predation. We don’t. We have a PROBLEM of predation.

            In my intellectual world when people make charges about a culture of predation they need to back it up with more than examples of predation, they have to show how predation is respected (many Republican politicians) or joked about or belittled (George Will and the right wing) or openly tolerated (fraternity culture, much college sports culture). (To prevent another barrage of straw men attacks, these examples do not claim to be exhaustive.)

            American culture as a whole has a long history of ignoring and condoning the mistreatment of women and feminine values. Within that culture NeoPaganism, and especially Wicca, is one of the forces that most directly challenges those values and has thereby influenced others well outside its circle, as I demonstrate in my book using Starhawk and her influence as an example.

            But you seem to have an agenda that refuses to make important distinctions or clearly define your terms, or even address direct requests that you do so.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            I don’t have an agenda. You’re ignoring evidence that has been put forth many times now. How is this culture openly tolerated? By constantly telling women to lighten up, that we’re a sex-positive culture, that if we’re uncomfortable we can always put clothes on (those suggestions appear right in this thread!)or we’re completely gaslighted and told that we’re misunderstood as to what really happened or that we’re interpreting it the wrong way. This has already been addressed. You just refuse to see it, as usual.

          • Gus diZerega

            Wiccans do have a sex positive culture, one seeking to define itself in a sex negative culture that also belittles women and feminine values that we all grew up within. All of us have wounds from the latter and are seeking ways to make the former more real and practical. So the issue is how to move the balance in a better direction and for the most part I do not see the issue of criticizing voluntary nudity at Pagan gatherings to be very helpful. And since we will obviously not agree and since in my mind the personal; attacks on this thread have become tiresome, that’s it.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            In my intellectual world when people make charges about a culture of predation they need to back it up with more than examples of predation, they have to show how predation is respected (many Republican politicians) or joked about or belittled (George Will and the right wing) or openly tolerated (fraternity culture, much college sports culture).

            How about the fact that you remained ignorant of MZB for literally decades, even ignorant of the fact that she was, at one time, a pagan, even though you were both in the same area, at the same time?

            How about the fact that it is not at all hard to find a post about the Klein scandal, where about 50% of the comments are from people either explicitly defending him, or all-but-shouting-from-the-rooftops that “we don’t actually know what happened other than his arrest” (in spite of the established fact that he was arrested with forty others in the NOLA area, during a sting of several months, and all public reports of the arrest state he had issued a confession)?

            How about the fact that there are still people who defend Gavin and Yvonne Frost’s ahirtoric nonsense about adults “initiating” pubescent children sexually into a coven by getting them drunk as “just their opinion” or (especially laughable for people as allegedly learned as Tim Zell and the late Bonewits) as “carefully researched”? How about the fact that it took not just public outcry, but an anonymous tip to the campgrounds about the Frosts to get the Florida festival to finally cancel their appearance?

            How about the fact that women, and even some men, have stated over, and over, and over, and over, and over again that from the 1960s through at least the ’90s, that every time they’d try to report predation as minors, it would just get swept under the rug, or they’ve be accused of starting drama, and how it seemed perfectly acceptable to other adults that there were lechers left and right “just waiting for people to turn 18″?

            How about the fact that the conversation about the alleged decline in pagan nudity referenced in the original post was from a man lamenting this, and quotes other men lamenting this alleged decline? It almost seems like that was one of the reasons that they got involved in paganism, to SEE TOTES TEE-TEES!! Like it’s their gods-given right to see naked women at festivals, when at least one of the men quoted even said he seldom goes totally naked.

            These examples are not evidence of a “mere problem”, but of a culture that is systematically designed to protect predators, coddle to them, and paint their transgressions as just some kind of misunderstanding, something they have a right to feel sad about being unable to do to the extent they once could.

            I’m not the first person to point this out, not even in this thread.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            ^^ This. Absolutely nailed it, much better than I did.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Dang, I actually think you put it better… :-)

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            And I found the PSG FB thread that was referenced in this post –some of these guys are creepier than I had imagined they would be. It’s a closed group, so I’m not going to quote people over here without asking them if I can, but it seems a pretty easy group to get approved for, and just copy the name “Arthur Hinds” and F3 for the thread, you’ll find it.

            Seriously, some of these men come off as if that was one of their top three reasons for going pagan — ALL THE TITTIES!! Maybe being trans male with a former case of macromastia and only incidentally sexually attracted to women, I don’t get the appeal of breasts. My mother also walked around naked all the time, at home, so I may also be *really* numb to semi-public nudity, but you know, I understand the magical traditions that have reasons for worship in the buff (and most of those reasons i’m aware of are at least logically consistent), and I understand that some people just like to strut around nude, but here’s the thing: At a festival, an ostensibly *religious* festival (and not a convention), leering at, and making unnecessary comments about naked bodies is kind of not the purpose of the celebration. You’re there to worship the gods and revel in their gifts, preferably in a safe and comfortable manner. There are more appropriate places to hit on people, and even then, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to do so.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Just this week we’ve had a discussion of Marion Zimmer Bradley and now this thread.

            And the “Breendoggle timeline” that I have literally been linking people to for the last ten years has been on-line since 1999, in its current form. The fact that discussion of her and Paxson’s cover-ups and enabling (and the curious lack of mention of Pyro’s involvements…) is FINALLY happening in a big, public, pagan space is kind of the anthithesis of “proactive” –indeed, it’s kind of stronger evidence for the culture of complacency to sexual abuse that the women have been speaking of.

            …but hey, you think that feminism made itself redundant in the ’80s, or something, which already says plenty enough for me about your character.

          • Gus diZerega

            No I did not say that, no competent reader would think I did. Again, I see beyond shadow of doubt I am wasting my time with you and you can pout, whine, distort, and insult as much as you want from now on I will not dignify you with a response.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You know, you’ve already proved yourself an incompetent writer, so please, don’t try and attack my reading skills, lest i draw comparisons to elastics and adhesives, Gus-Gus.

            So clasp your hands over your ears and stamp your feet and proclaim as loudly as you can that you’re “NOT LIIIIIISETEEENNIIIINNNGGG!!!!!” I’ll just sit back and know better.

        • Hth

          we also have less inhibition about confronting it. Compare us to a
          certain church of long standing… They sweep it under the rug, we
          discuss it in the open

          Which is why after Kenny Klein’s arrest, there were so many people in the New Orleans community coming forward to say that he’d been known for many years as the guy you’d warn young women never to be near.

          I find it appalling that we are *still denying and minimizing* the many women who have come forward in the past few years to say that they feel unsupported by pagan communities that put a higher value on never excluding harassers than they do on women’s right not to spend all their time dodging harassment. As far as I can tell, the self-congratulation on how well we deal with predatory behavior is entirely unearned. In this matter, my observation over 25 years has been that we are not very unique at all.

          • Gus diZerega

            In northern California the issue is by no means the same. We have had predators of course. Still do I am sure. But the culture is not supportive. By the Gods, Reclaiming is one of our strongest traditions. There is nasty politics as it seems to exist in an y group that lasts long and contains many people, but that is not a major issue based on what I have heard and experienced.

            One relevant bit of data that might shed some light here. When you are in a coven, you are part of a close knit group and at least out here in Northern CA, sexual predation is difficult in this context. It seems more an issue when someone is victimized by a teacher in a one on one relationship or when someone goes to a festival where they are surrounded by strangers. Solitaries might be more vulnerable than members of a close knot group. It seems as if many of the accounts given have happen ed at festivals where people are surrounded by strangers and cultural norms are harder to enforce.

          • Deborah Bender

            One thing the original post and most commentators have not mentioned is hedonism. Some people like to take their clothes off outdoors because it feels good.

            I’m a northern Californian. I started going nude when I had the opportunity (rarely) while I was in college in the mid-Sixties. The occasions on which I did this were safe and I was not treated disrespectfully.

            When I encountered the pagan community in 1973 and found out that some witchcraft traditions embrace ritual nudity, that was a plus for me. When I was invited to my first pagan country festival (small and held on private land), the opportunity to feel the breeze all over my body and to go to the swimming hole without a nasty swimsuit was pleasurable. I was no knockout but I thought I was better looking without clothes than with them on, so self image was not a problem.

            I joined two covens, one skyclad, the other meeting in street clothes, and started going to a larger pagan festival held at a clothing optional resort. This was in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The area where the festival took place was mostly off limits to outsiders; other facilities at the resort, also clothing optional, were open to paying members of the public. Several hundred people, mostly pagans, attended the festival and I knew about a third of them. I used to go around half naked most of the time and I suppose I got ogled, but I tend not to notice that. To the best of my recollection, no one ever tried to hustle or pressure me into sex, or interfered in my personal boundaries in any way. I felt like that festival was a safe place to be myself and the people I didn’t know were mostly friends I hadn’t met yet.

            I’ve always thought non-ritual nudity was a personal choice. I don’t think I tried to talk other people into trying it. If I did, I’m sure it wasn’t a hard sell.

            In general I am quite happy to have lasted long enough to have grey hair and wrinkles, but I don’t like what I see in the mirror naked as much as I did when I was twenty-eight, so I tend to keep my clothes on more at festivals, except when going into the water. I still hate bathing suits and I still enjoy the feeling of the breeze on my bare skin.

        • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          Yes Pagans have more than our share of sexual predators but we also have less inhibition about confronting it. Compare us to a certain church of long standing… They sweep it under the rug, we discuss it in the open and don’t need court trials and lawyers to get it started.

          Yeah, not at all comparable to how allegations against Kenny Klein were swept under the rug for about thirty years, untuil he got arrested for having hundreds of pics of kiddie-porn, including children as young as three, on his compy… Not at all comparable to how MZB and Dian Paxson defended Walter Breen. Not at all comparable to how Gavin and Yvonne Frost wrote a chapter detailing how to get pubescent children drunk to ritually rape them and then Zell and Bonewits defended them….

          …but hey, as the Rev. Dr. Ivan Stang once said, “pull the wool over your own eyes!” Stay classy, Gus-Gus. Stay classy.

          And as Deborah Lipp points out, she was not talking about nudity, she was talking about how predators are attracted to a sex positive religion.

          The fact that you want to present these two things as unrelated speaks volumes.

      • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

        Thank you for including this fiifteen-year-old statement from a woman who was there during the 1980s and ’90s. And your own words are beautifully stated. Thank you.

    • TadhgMor

      I think it’s a bit presumptuous to think that people are not getting nude at the same rates because they are “ignorant of our history”.

      • Gus diZerega

        Sigh. If you take the time to reread me you will see that this is not what I said. But if it fits your preferred narrative all the clarifications in the world will not matter.

        • TadhgMor

          Are you capable of a single comment without that arrogant passive-aggressiveness? I was intentionally as polite as possible, despite my intense personal dislike of you and your behavior. Shame to see you couldn’t bother to do the same.

          I reread your comment. That still seems to be your implication. Perhaps your words were unclear?

          I never said anything about sexual predators or abuse, nor about “bashing the 60s”. I responded to a simple assertion that seemed to suggest that anyone uncomfortable with a practice you seem to be invested in are “ignorant of our history”.

          Also, it’s your neo-pagan history far more than mine. The events of early Wiccans in the 1960s have very little bearing on me and mine. Other than the misunderstandings and “borrowings” that arose from that era.

          • Gus diZerega

            Take an assertion out of context and you can prove a lot of things. Some Christians do it all the time.

            My second to last paragraph, in context, says to me that many of our newest members are bringing more mainstream cultural attitudes to a community with its roots in the 60s “counter culture.” The counter culture has been bashed by the media and a lot of politicians for about 40-50 years. For example, many women do not like calling themselves feminists even as they appreciate the gains won by feminists. etc.

            I was not being passive aggressive and your “intense personal dislike” based on no personal encounters at all showed through, as in your unwillingness to look at a paragraph in the context of the paragraphs around it. Of course I could have written a longer post but I assumed a minimum of good will on the reader’s part, which you have just admitted is lacking.

          • TadhgMor

            Amazingly, you’ve proven my point in the last paragraph. Try not to contradict your assertions so openly next time.

            Also, fun professional note, viewing things “historically” when you were a participant is generally frowned upon in the field. For the very reason of the bias that others are criticizing you for.

          • Gus diZerega

            I guess you were too vague for me to follow your criticisms, because when I looked at the statement above that second to last paragraph was the closest I could come to finding anything I said to justify your interpretation. I guess you have given me a good reason to call this to an end because I haven’t any clear idea of what you are talking about other than a very confused idea of history.

          • TadhgMor

            A confused idea of history?

            Politely tell me when and where your history degree is from. Because I know for a fact you’ve relied on ahistorical and fringe sources to push your ideological ideas before (like monism being a norm in the ancient world, based on one heavily criticized book from an art historian).

            One of my professors in college, who is both far better of an intellectual and far nicer of a human being than you, was the first to remind us that anything in living memory is going to suffer from more bias, sometimes too much to make objective analysis possible. If you dispute that, you are rejecting basic methodology of the field.

          • Gus diZerega

            My last response to you buster. Your personal insults remove you from my interest in dialogue.

            don’t parade credentials around and will not get into a pissing match with you in case you want to, but since you ask, I will this once.

            Joint BA History and Political Science with far more hours in History. Ph.D. Political theory at UC Berkeley where my knowledge of history was praised by some of the top scholars in political science and sociology. Published refereed papers on the social sciences including some discussing where history fits into broader theoretical frameworks. Putting on international conferences and teaching internationally on the theory of the social sciences, including where history fits.

            Yes, living memory biases analysis. So also do the theoretical frameworks that people bring to analyzing what others report. That includes you as well as me. And what the ‘first reporters’ reported, that we then seek to integrate into a coherent analysis/report, depended on their biases of what they thought important enough to relate. Memoirs, letters, etc. are key documents not because they are always accurate, let alone unbiased, but they provide crucial information people then rework. later historians subject those reports to a second filter, based on our own understandings. Those understandings are shaped in part by their own experiences. The more deeply we are read in a field the less likely we are to make simple errors, but the risk never falls to zero.

            History is not and has never been an objective report of “what happened.” It is at best the best honest people can do with who they are, what they know, and the analytical tools available to them. It is not a critique of history that every generation sees the past a little differently.

            History from the most recent to that of ancient societies is filled with theoretical frameworks of interpretation and with the personal biases of historians. that is why the best history is found in a community of historians jointly writing and critiquing one another’s work, and gradually building up a field of agreed upon information. it starts with the recent past. Such as the history of the Pagan movement in the Bay area in the 60s and 70s. So nothing I said disputes what your professor said, but it denies that there is ever a pure starting point, that all data is filtered by whoever reports it, that the problem never ends, and that a commitment to being as truthful as possible is the best way to reduce inevitable errors.

            With that I wish to have nothing more to do with you until you can find it in yourself to apologize.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            If you think that @tadhgmor:disqus, in pointing out that there are nicer people who do better research than you do, is a “personal insult”, then you’re truly weaker than I had previously assumed.

          • TadhgMor

            Apologize?

            I owe you nothing you arrogant fool. The Gods did not place you above me. You are far too enamored of your own intellect, and far too blind to your own biases and theoretical framework. You are the kind of person that gives intellectuals and scholars a bad reputation.

            I will not apologize for combating your authoritarian behavior and attempts to erase the voices and opinions of others. If that is what you seek, I suggest you go find some more complaint people who share you nostalgia for the hippy years.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            One of my professors in college, who is both far better of an intellectual and far nicer of a human being than you, was the first to remind us that anything in living memory is going to suffer from more bias, sometimes too much to make objective analysis possible. If you dispute that, you are rejecting basic methodology of the field.

            Exactly. Hell, my mother had friends involved with the Weather Underground and Black Panthers (we even took in a dog for one of her Weatherman friends while he was in federal prison for 5-6years), and I can guarantee you that I probably have a better understanding of the New Left of 1966-1975 than she did, even though “she was there”, cos her knowledge of that period was limited to her own experiences, which are naturally biased. Yeah, she’s my mother so I’m certainly sympathetic, even agree with most of those ideologies, but going back to examine things over four decades after the fact gives me a naturally more-objective view than she’d have. My hypothetical children might even be more-objective, even if they retain sympathies, than my view currently is.

            Like you said, it’s a basic methodology. Experience is an excellent way to gain knowledge, but we simply cannot have a complete understanding of everything that affects our experiences because we cannot access it all, especially at the time we’re experiencing a thing.

        • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          You know, if not one but MULTIPLE people got that out of your comment, maybe it’s not *their* reading comprehension that’s at fault? Maybe you just didn’t state what you REALLY meant very well?

        • Alley Valkyrie

          How can you say that the issue of nudity and the issue of predatory behavior are separate when the only time I’ve experience predatory behavior was when I have been nude in the Pagan community?

          Stop trying to invalidate my experience, as well as the reality of countless other women in this community. You’re making it pretty evident that your own ideological agenda is more important than the actual experiences of folks in the Pagan community.

          • Gus diZerega

            I never “invalidated” your experience, whatever the Hell that means. I challenged your claim that your experience demonstrates that Pagans have a “culture” of predation and gave counter examples to prove it while explicitly acknowledging that predation was a significant problem. Comprehende?

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            OK, look, maybe if a man explains it to you, you might listen? Oh, who the hell am I kidding –I’m trans and a big ol’ fairy, you won’t actually listen to me any more than you’re listening to the women carefully explaining things to you (far more patiently than you deserve), but for the sake of others, let me break it down:

            I never “invalidated” your experience, whatever the Hell that means.

            Yes, actually, you have. Examples:
            http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/modern-culture-practicality-lessen-nudity-at-pagan-festivals.html#comment-1462704625

            http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/modern-culture-practicality-lessen-nudity-at-pagan-festivals.html#comment-1462986525

            and this was especially special, so I’m going to quote it, too: http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/modern-culture-practicality-lessen-nudity-at-pagan-festivals.html#comment-1462987249

            > Your experience may not be unique but neither
            > is it the norm. I gave quite concrete counter
            > examples. You are very quick to condemn a
            > great many people based on your personal
            > experience and condemn those of us who have
            > had different experiences. Talk about totalizing
            > claims.

            You *basically* said that her experiences don’t matter. That is an invalidation, for the purposes of this sort of discussion. You based this on your own experiences, failing to acknowledge the differencre of experience between yourself, a man, and her own, a woman, with regards to feeling preyed-upon.

            Are you trying to miss this point, or something? I really didn’t think you were stupid, before, just a total sphincter —now, I’m starting to wonder….

            And stop talking to people like they’re stupid –the only one in this conversation who’s failed to follow along and understand things has been yourself.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            Actually, you did try to invalidate your experience, and if you don’t know what the hell that means, its not my job to educate you. If you don’t think there is a culture of predation in the pagan community, you have obviously been completely tuning out the voices of young women in the community. Again, your insistence that nudity and predation are separate issues is completely wrong, and just because everything seemed to be wonderful in the 70s from your cis-normative, white male privileged perspective doesn’t mean that these issues didn’t exist then, nor does it mean that they don’t exist now.

            While its generally not in my interest to deconstruct and critique the debating style of others, I must say that in both my interactions with you as well as my observations with your interactions with others, a consistent and disingenuous pattern comes through: you posit a misinformed opinion as fact, others correct you on that misinformed opinion, you completely tune that correction out while going out of your way to distract others from that lack of ownership by jumping on and then attacking a related point, and then the circle continues. Its a very frustrating process that leaves me (and I’m sure many others) feeling like I’m talking for my health when I interact with you. You have a complete and utter inability to digest information that runs counter to your belief system and you also have a completely inability to admit when you were not correct or accurate about something. I say this with kind intent: cognitive dissonance and stubborn denial have never served anyone well, and you are no exception to this rule.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            [applause]

            Brava, good lady. :-)

          • Gus diZerega

            Lotta vague charges and no examples. A standard argumentative style in your case it seems, where personal attacks and broad generalizations substitute for reasoned discussion.

            There is no reason to pursue a pointless discussion unless you can tell us what a “culture of predation” means and how it differs from the fact, and fact it is, that sexual predators are a problem in the Pagan community. I gave examples where in N. CA the Pagan culture works to reduce and punish predators, from the level of a coven to that of Pantheacon. Maybe this is not the case in Oregon? If so attend to the problems where you live and leave the rest of us alone.

            And by the way, rewrite your first sentence.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Alley has lived in NoCal, and she has said plenty enough times that she knows other women from that area’s pagan community who share her experiences of that community.

            Ignoring the things she has said, and even your own words, does not make you right, you ethically bankrupt stooge.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            A culture of predation is best described in the letter from Green Egg and quotes posted much earlier in this thread.

            “Then there’s the predator concept — the pervasive awareness that there are some really scary people out there. I think that young women especially are much more mindful of this, and from a much earlier age, than they were twenty years ago. Having someone old enough to be your parent making the moves on you is far more threatening than it is flattering. It’s probably correctable, but it says something that I have heard this complaint from every single one of my Pagan girlfriends and from a few of the boys. … I know that I’m slightly paranoid, but so are all my girlfriends. i know more than one person who says that they felt like everyone was waiting for them to turn eighteen. I see this as being a real problem…. I don’t know why everyone’s so fuzzy around boundaries.”

            This girl’s experience mirrors my own, and she as well says that its the norm. “I have heard this complaint from EVERY SINGLE ONE of my Pagan girlfriends.” Can you read those words in plain language there?

          • Gus diZerega

            Good description of the fear and confusion and embarrassment coming from encountering people who neither respect nor observe others’ boundaries. Nothing I have written here or anywhere else defends it or denies it exists. There are too may of them. I do not see how what you just reported negates anything at all of what I have written and I do not see how anything you reported as a personal experience has been denied or belittled by me.

            A “culture” is a community concept. Does the community approve of such behavior? Does it belittle the victims of that behavior? Does it seek to prevent that behavior as best it reasonably can? I described a coven of long standing dissolving over such behavior by one new person. I described how Pantheacon seeks to discourage it and provide a means by which those victimized can find help. THAT is the issue.

            Pagan culture, or to be more focused, Wiccan culture, exists within, is influenced by, and is also changing the dominant culture. For the better in my opinion. And one of the areas where this change is most relevant is the relationship between masculine and feminine values and between men and women, especially in religion. When researching my recent book I was struck how almost every leading woman I read who was playing a role in increasing the importance of women in their faith reported they had been inspired by a workshop with Starhawk. Almost every one.

            Broad based statements about a Pagan “culture of predation” seem to me most unhelpful in understanding any of this.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            A “culture” is a community concept. Does the community approve of such
            behavior?

            By defending predators and casting the acusors as “drama queens with no proof”, yes, the culture implicitly approves of predators, in spite of all claims to the contrary.

            Does it belittle the victims of that behavior?

            See above.

            Does it seek
            to prevent that behavior as best it reasonably can?

            Not really. See the scandal with the Frosts earlier this year, and how it took an anonymous tip to have their appearance cancelled, and the organisers *still* refused to show disapproval of the Frosts’ controversial work, but instead cast those who objected and tattled to the rented campgrounds as drama queens who don’t believe in free speech. People apparently knew about Klein for DECADES, and many did nothing about it, not even blacklist him from events, and many still continued to endorse him. Diana Paxson is still, inexplicably, a big deal in Heathenry, and she was at least one of Breen’s enablers, and in light of the news about MZB, she probably enabled Bradley’s molestation career, as well.

            True, these are hardly examples of “everybody”, but they’re examples of predators who have been privileged by the community, and those who’d rather defend or enable a privileged predator than do the ethical thing. A culture is defined as much, if not more, by its privileged few than by its huddled masses.

          • Alley Valkyrie

            Yes, the victims are often belittled. The community has a long history of turning a blind eye and/or justifying the behavior. You keep mentioning Pantheacon and I don’t see how that’s really relevant. I’m glad they have good policies around this. None of my bad experiences happened there, and their policies are the exception, not the norm. The kind of behavior I’m talking about is a staple of festival culture, not so much conventions.

            How old were the leading women you talked to in your research for your book? Because you keep mentioning Starhawk’s influence, and while I’m not denying that she is influential overall, I think there’s a generation gap that you’re not recognizing in regards to her influence. And I also don’t see how her influence negates or serves as a counterargument to the issue we are talking about. Whether people are inspired by Starhawk or not has nothing to do with the experience that countless young female pagans share of being ogled by men in their sixties at pagan summer festivals.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            The kind of behavior I’m talking about is a staple of festival culture, not so much conventions.

            But didn’t you know? There’s virtually no difference to Gus-Gus between festivals and conventions, and even when you explain the difference to him very carefully, he’s still going to claim no difference exists.

          • ashborn

            The “culture of predation” being talked about is not formed only of the predators themselves. It’s also formed of others in the community, who may even mean well—but who enable or excuse predatory behavior.

            I’m in NorCal, Gus, and let me tell you this is a serious problem here. The Wiccan community is filled with enablers. Too many people are not willing to confront inappropriate behavior and THAT is a large part of the culture of predation. People in those communities DON’T stand up to predators. Maybe they don’t want to rock the boat, they’re scared, or they’re too lazy—I don’t know. I can tell you that no one stood up for me when I needed my community to support me.

          • Gus diZerega

            So sorry to hear it. Making the issue public is the best you can do so as to bring more attention. The coven I mentioned broke up because a new woman, who was a guest, reported deeply inappropriate circle behavior to me and asked whether it was normal. I said “No.” Reported it to others, and the rest was history.

            That is why Jason’s MZB story was so important in my mind. I haven’t seen the behavior you mention myself, and the younger women Wiccans I know have not mentioned it to me. Like everyone else, i have only my own experience and that of those I know to use as “baseline data.” But shedding light on bad behavior is important and the fact that Jason was mostly praised will make it easier for that light to be shed I think.

            But I do have a question, because it may shed light on why this experience is not part of my experience or that of the older Pagans with which I work. Were the enablers you mention people who grew up within the community by starting with already established groups and teachers, or were they people who arrived through reading books, the net, and so on? This is not a loaded question. I am very interested in how sudden growth changes the ethos and values of a movement or religion.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      > “Back in the day” which in my case was the mid-80s, nudity at gatherings
      > was not much of a deal. Some did, some didn’t.

      I wonder how many cis women and trans people from that same time would say the same thing as you?

      > Today our religion has expanded to include very large numbers of people
      > who are ignorant of our history and know nothing much about the 60s and
      > 70s beyond usually inaccurate and exaggerated depictions in the
      > mainstream media. The abuses are talked about, the norm is not.

      Can’t have anything to do with the fact that “the norm” included a culture of complacency? Yeah, I doubt it. It’s gotta be a conspiracy of some sort, Gus-Gus.

    • Northern_Light_27

      Non-pagan culture does influence who we are and what we do, it’s the worldview we’re born in and enculturated in. I don’t see the sense in pretending it doesn’t, or pretending that dropping all of our worldview-DNA is as easy as wishing it away. When people come together to create an alternative subculture, yes, it consciously works against some parts of that worldview, but for the most part the rest is left intact. That isn’t saying it’s hopeless or it cannot be changed, but it would take a lot of deliberate, conscious action and discussion. What does our dominant cultural worldview teach about bodies, about nudity, about sex and gender and what it means to be forced to be available property? What do we want ours to say? How do we get from there to here? You either dig and dig deep and unravel all of that, or the things changed by taking up a different religion are but a surface gloss on the worldview you started with.

      I’ve been to (and been naked at) clothing optional women-only festivals, clothing optional mixed gender Pagan festivals, and a clothing optional non-Pagan resort. The differences between each in terms of how safe I felt and whether I felt supported and empowered or sleazed on were notable. The resort was all sleaze all the time, I felt completely safe and empowered at the women’s festival, and at the Pagan ones– well, some people “got it” in terms of how they should act and some very much didn’t.

  • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

    I’ve been going to festivals since 1982 and nudity has definitely decreased. People were shy, pale, self-conscious then, weather was variable then, and from the very beginning, Pagans adorned their nudity with funky stuff (jewelry, scarves, etc). So none of the reasons that people offer account for the change.

    The changes I see are two-fold: With a decreased influence of the counter-culture movement, and massive growth in the Pagan movement, I see many more people who are conventional or mainstream other than their Paganism. While anyone raised in the West is likely to be body-conscious, people today are much less interested in overcoming Western anti-nudity values and body-consciousness as an inherent part of their Paganism.

    The second issue is ecological–I frankly started going to festivals before we were all worried about the ozone layer and therefore about skin cancer. While sunburn was always an issue, the effects of ozone layer damage and increased awareness of the dangers of sun exposure have impacted nudity for many.

  • Alix

    I can throw one other reason for some people to avoid going naked at festivals, and it’s my reason, too – some of us are not cisgendered, and do not feel comfortable displaying a body that does not feel like ours. I feel far more authentic to my real self wearing whatever clothes make me look closest to my gender of the moment than standing around nude. So that’s an issue too.

    Personally, I also tend to fall into the practicality camp as well, and, well, I’m not a Wiccan. I’m not from a tradition that requires ritual nudity – my tradition actually requires some ritual clothing. So I kind of feel awkward in these discussions for multiple reasons – there’s a pretty strong default assumption here that all us pagans will find nudity awesome, or at least be somewhat upset at its growing rarity, and, well, I find that once again we’re using a definition of “pagan” that rather excludes me. (Clarification: I don’t have a problem with other people being naked; I have a problem with the assumption that to be really pagan, we all must want to be naked in public, or from traditions that have that as a part.)

    I also do have to make a minor objection to the idea that sensuality only exists when there’s nudity. I think it’s perfectly possible to embrace sensuality and sexuality even without nudity – I don’t feel like nudity is some prerequisite for embracing either. It kind of annoys me when people suggest that it is, actually.

    Sorry for rambling on. XD This whole issue is one of my sore spots, so I couldn’t stop myself from commenting.

    • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

      I’m a Gardnerian, and I assure you that ritual nudity and being nude in public are ENTIRELY different things.

      • Alix

        Yeah, I rather inartfully conflated the two. I was sort of responding to a thing I hear a lot and saw shades of in the above article – that if your tradition has ritual nudity, you should have no real objections to festival nudity, with the implication that most “real” pagan traditions have ritual nudity. I get … a little annoyed at the idea that, since my tradition doesn’t involve nudity, me and mine are somehow not “real” Pagans. :/

        Though now that I think of it, the conflation there – ritual and public/festival – is problematic in its own right. Thanks for pointing that out.

        • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

          Oh, you’re welcome. I know plenty of Gardnerians who are uncomfortable with nudity outside of the privacy of a coven. And I know other Wiccan traditions that aren’t nude.

          And I totally get your reasons for not wanting to be nude publicly. As I am married to a genderqueer person, I know how weird it is for her and for other people that her naked body and her clothed body express two different genders.

    • Alix

      (Replying to myself, what) I guess what this article really makes me think about is the idea of Pagan culture – is there one, of which I am a part, or many? The nudity issue is probably the largest way I feel sort of disconnected from the broader Pagan culture, but it’s not the only way, and sometimes I feel like quite the outsider. I don’t know. I am not at all saying I think Pagan culture should change to suit me, but I guess I am saying that if I am supposed to identify with the broader culture, it needs to allow me, and sometimes I feel I am counted but not allowed.

      I guess that’s kind of off-topic, but I was trying to put my finger on the underlying thing that was unsettling me here, and that’s it, really. I am a Pagan by definition, but I don’t necessarily mesh well with the broader Pagan culture. And there’s often this kind of insinuation there that this means I and people like me are somehow doing paganism wrong – not so much here (though a little); it’s mostly something I’ve run into in my local groups – but to me part of the beauty of paganism is that we are not a homogenous group or a single tradition. And yet there are these little things, these cultural things, that trip me up – like the nudity thing, and some other things. And I have no idea where any of this is going so I will shut up now. XD

      • http://www.lippsisters.com/ Deborah Lipp

        To me, I’m not hearing that you don’t fit with Pagan culture. The thing that makes me all *sniffle sniffle in my day get off my lawn* about younger Pagans is not “I have specific reasons for not being comfortable with nudity,” but more like, “nude is icky unless it’s a hot chick.” — In other words, reflecting the larger culture, reflecting the WORST of the larger culture, and not allowing their Paganism to cause them to question the values of the larger culture.

        • Alix

          That makes sense.

  • Shauna Aura Knight

    Once upon a time I had far worse body issues than I have now. And to be honest–I’d be lying if I said body issues didn’t factor at all. But what I can say is that for me at a festival, it just isn’t practical. And in a ritual, it isn’t practical either. I remember the first time I was fully unclothed for a ritual. I remember the “Holy crap my nipples are burning!” sensation I had when I was up close to the bonfire where I usually am when facilitating. I remember how uncomfortable it was to have things jiggling and flopping while I was trying to dance to raise energy or facilitate another piece of the ritual.

    For me, there is a time and place for nudity in ritual; in the right sacred context it’s something I’d be absolutely comfortable doing.

    My primary issue with the conversations about nudity at festivals and nudity in rituals is that it starts to become a boundaries issue in several ways. The primary way is that those that have embraced nudity seem to feel compelled to pressure others to also be nude. In the conversation on the PSG group on Facebook a few of us brought up how nudity-embracing folks will try to talk others into being nude. Not as a creeper kind of a thing, but more like, “Oh, it’s so freeing,” “It’s so empowering,” “Clothing is like shackles,” “It’s just you being bound by body image issues, you’ll feel so much better when you don’t care about what others think,” or, for ritual, “You can raise so much more power without clothes, if you have clothes on you’re doing it wrong.”

    And here’s the thing. Maybe that person does have body image issues. Or maybe they burn easily. Maybe they were raped. Maybe they have allergies. Whatever their reasons for not going around nude, it’s their reasons, and pressuring them to take the plunge is not respecting their boundaries.

    It’s why I’m such a big fan of (and teach tools of) Nonviolent Communication techniques like I-referencing. There’s a huge difference between, “I love going nude, I find it freeing, and it resolved a lot of my body image issues,” and, “You should try nudity, it would be freeing for you.”

    Nobody likes proselytizing and peer pressuring. In my case, nudity isn’t a part of my spiritual tradition; there’s a place for it in some ritual work, but it’s not something that’s required for most of the ritual work I do. So telling me I’m “doing it wrong” doesn’t respect my own spiritual work.

    When a nudist Pagan goes into a “Why you should be a nudist” I try to rephrase it in my head as them just talking enthusiastically and I “delete” the comments where they are pressuring me. But, if I know that person well, I might also gently offer them the perspective that they are pressuring me and talk a bit about boundaries.

  • Friday

    I think it’s clear there are a lot of reasons there’s less skyclad about: I haven’t made it to big festivals lately, but clearly there’s a factor about being more mainstream and the times being one where the mainstream world equates nudity with ‘bad for children,’ etc… while I notice the factor people have mentioned: those omnipresent *cameras* all over seem to have closed a lot of people off just walking around the street. People used to mug for the camera all the time, now it seems like they’re clinging to the last of some sense of boundaries there. At least around this area. The fact the things are omnipresent seems to mean it’s actually become something for between onesself and friends. At least around here.

    Twenty, twenty five years ago, it seemed that the attitude toward skyclad was in general pretty indifferent: my friends largely thought making a big deal about it was a throwback to more-hung-up times to begin with. I’ve started to wonder if that state of affairs might be no longer the case.

    Still, events really are bigger and more public now, even where they may not have been before. And of course with the Religious Right coming unhinged, there are practical dangers to the fact that we’re much more on the radar now than we used to be.

  • ashborn

    I’m a second-generation pagan and I grew up going to Wiccan gatherings that were frequently clothing optional. It makes me sick to think of the way I was gawked at by men older than my father, and the way this behavior was excused within those communities because “we’re not puritanical like the christians!” If you still think nudity is inherently liberating, you should talk to more second-gens who were children and teenagers in that type of environment. You may find that the trappings of “free love” are not as rose-colored as you think they are.

    In my experience, there are still too many Wiccans (“elders”, even) who lack the self-discipline that it’s necessary to have when in a clothing-optional environment. As a young woman, I have zero incentive to go nude at gatherings: there’s a high likelihood that someone will behave inappropriately towards me, and when that does happen, it counteracts the positive aspects of going nude. It’s simply not worth it to me. How many people, over the years, have felt pressured into going nude? I hope what we’re seeing is that people are getting better at enforcing their boundaries.

    As a side note, nudity may be important in Wicca, but that is not necessarily the case with other paganisms.

    • Gus diZerega

      I think ashborn’s point is well taken, and I am of the group that sees no problem at all with voluntary nudity at festivals- which are private. But they should be voluntary and I would agree that those older than tiny tots and younger than adults should not go skyclad.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Private festivals? So not ones that have several hundred people (who do not all know each other) who gain entrance by buying a ticket?

        • Gus diZerega

          The term has an array of meanings based on context and is completely appropriate in the context I use it, as contrasted with public festivals, as with Sabbats in public parks which we have here in California. Don’t like it? Don’t buy a ticket.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            How very Libertarian: Simple, self-centred, and out of touch with reality.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            The context in which you used it was ambiguous.

          • Gus diZerega

            Not really, unless you want it to be in order to attack. You do and you did.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Again, Gus-Gus: If several people are allegedly “misunderstanding” the things you’re saying, maybe take that as a hint that, well, the only common denominator in these interactions is yourself? Surely that says something about something to you?

          • Jason Hatter

            I shared Mr. Steren’s confusion. See, to me, “private festival” is something more akin to a gathering of friends and allies, where people are specifically invited to participate. A public festival is one where anyone who wishes to participate just buys a ticket and shows up, regardless of whether they know someone present or not.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Yeah, that’s how most people use the terms. Did you know that just about every concert that anyone can buy a ticket to is held on private property? Gus would take that factoid and expect one to believe that this necessarily makes it a “private event”, and then call the person who objects stupid and accuse them of poor reading skills.

            The fact that he conducts himself in such a way and there are still hundreds of pagans who consider him a “respected elder” is shameful, absolutely shameful.

    • TPW

      My one and only PSG was nearly ten years ago; one of my campmates and I were the only two people who were consistently naked the entire time. I wore sunglasses a lot, and that accidentally help me observe things I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Like the three-year-old girl who stared and stared and then started to cry, or the 80-something-year-old woman who grew a grin larger than the Grinch’s as she passed me on the road.

      I felt a little bad about the girl crying, but more that her parents had put her in a position where seeing a naked man was possible, and not expecting that it might upset her. I suppose I could have felt perved upon by the elderly woman, but she didn’t feel like a threat to me. I get that had our positions been reversed she may have felt differently.

      It’s a damned shame that nudity is on the decline, if for no other reason than humans are starting to need to take vitamin D, the one key nutrient we should be producing ourselves. I understand the reasons, but I don’t have to like them.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    Sounds like we are getting stuck in either/or again. At 68 I a just as comfortable nude or dressed as I was at the Pagan festivals in the id 80s.

    May I point that not everyone went naked back then nor all the time. In fact most people stayed in their clothes or at most only went partially clothed. I would spend maybe a couple of hours a day naked depending on weather conditions or my mood. Also the event were rather secret and with only Pagan and Pagan friendly people around. Nudity did not affect kids at all. Now teenagers sometime had some problems with their body image so you saw few naked teenagers. Understood. But there was no pressure at all to get naked. Sexual predators yes I am sure we had some.

    Alcohol and drug use was common to those who used but drugs were mostly marijuana, magic mushrooms and sometimes LSD. Alcohol use was only restricted to not causing problems for the people around you. Sex usually in tents or further out in the woods. I would not say the majority went wild in any sense of the word. A great many might also not use any alcohol or drugs and don’t forget the vegetarians and health nuts back then. Again no one was pressured.

    One of the big changes is the public events where even non Pagans might wander through and smart phones. In the old days there was nearly no danger that photos of you were going to be spread far and wide not, many cameras at early events and no Internet. Public events also means you must not do anything that might upset the non Pagans least you get arrested, sued, or have somebody try to take away your children. Possible legal problems has made us gun shy about being too Pagan.

    One of the side effects has been ceremonies that seem to be more mainstream. I actually know a high priestess that does ceremony in a city Park who brags about how her ceremonies are so church like that no Christian would be the least upset about it. Now add the soon to be 3000 drones flying overhead and that will pressure even ceremonies out in the boondocks even in our own back yards. It is one of the reason i have ceremonial building with no windows at all, so I can still do Pagan ceremony without worry with well insulated walls so no one can hear what I do, including how unmusically I play the drums. [Grin]

  • kenofken

    My take on it is that nudity is not something that should be required or expected at pagan gatherings and rituals, but at the same time it is not incompatible with the views and practices of many of us. This was my second year at PSG, and I appreciate the idea that clothing is optional.

    I don’t feel the need to be naked all of the time, but when I’m having a swim, or walking back to camp after showering (in ultra-high humidity), I’m going to exercise that option of no clothing from time to time. It’s not exhibitionism, it’s not pride or shame. It just is what it is. Most of the time, I opted to wear at least shorts for the practical reason of having pockets. From what I could tell, people there had a healthy attitude toward the whole thing. Many remain clothed all of the time, as is their personal comfort and choice. Lots of women went topless part or all of the time. A few folks never had a stitch of fabric on, at least in the heat of the day. Bully for all of them.

    Nudity shouldn’t be pushed on anyone, and it damn sure shouldn’t be “restricted” to the young and nubile. One of the things I love about the pagan scene and serious nudism is that people take back that power. I see the older women and folks of all sizes, surgical scars, stretch marks, the whole bit. It is all beautiful as we are all the image of God and Goddess. Within the bounds of appropriate behavior and sensible restriction (ie not by the public roadway), it should be our choice whether to be clothed or not.

    I won’t push my choice on anyone, but I damn sure won’t be subtly pressured into not exercising my choice how I will. I sensed at times there was just a hint of scandal or disapproval in the air, at least on the main road. Too damn bad. If you don’t like it, quit staring at my business and engage me as a person. I’m the same person, for better or worse, than I was when I walked to the shower house in shorts and the same person I will be in full ritual regalia after dusk. I’m not there to be ogled or ogle, and I don’t think anything like full nudity ought to be a universal “norm” or the focus of pagan events.

    At the same time, I’m not going to forgo that freedom in order to make us all safe for mainstream public consumption. If our festivals start banning nudity, it’s time to move to greener (or flesh-toned) pastures. I’ll host ritual on private land or one of the clothing-optional resorts.

  • http://www.craftandconjure.com/ Priestess Najah

    You know its just not my thing. And I’m going to throw this into the mix, how many times has one seen throngs of Black people nude at an event? I’ve often wondered if this is cultural choice as well. I don’t mind if others are nude or half nude at Pagan events. Its their choice. I appreciate never being made to feel like I must be nude to participate. I understand where being “skyclad” comes from. I always appreciate it, when events specify “clothing optional” areas or rituals. I do feel we should do what we can to make people feel comfortable, especially if the event is open to the public.

  • TadhgMor

    As much as I’m pretty much anti-hippy because I find it to be a shallow non-ideology that has achieved very little, I’d be saddened if there wasn’t somewhere for people wanting skyclad rituals and experiences to go. Maybe it’s just a scheduling thing. Set aside an area for adults, somewhere secluded or behind a cloth wall?

    Nudity plays no part in my practice but I’d be sad to see it go entirely, though I find it to be silly.

  • Rory

    The “satanic panic” and “satanic ritual abuse” scares around 1990 were a huge part of this, making *many* within the mainstream culture much more uncomfortable with any sort of nudity anywhere near or associated with children. Following on the HIV epidemic, the broader culture became much more afraid of sexuality, and this extended to nudity. The trauma of those fears is still very much with us, I think, in addition to increasing insecurities around body image that modern media promotes.

    • Deborah Bender

      That may be true, but mainstream American culture’s issues with nudity are broader and deeper. American culture has always been prudish and puritanical; that’s its default setting. Any attempt to challenge this head on is always seen as antisocial and a threat.

      The organized opposition to allowing people to do things that make them feel good motivates some people to turn the right to be allowed pleasure into a political or religious principle. That’s one of the things the Sixties were about. And it’s one reason that the Dionysian upwelling of the Sixties was so strange to American culture, and so short-lived.

      Prudery about the body and sex is the most obvious manifestation of a broader outlook that I’m calling puritanism. H. L. Mencken called it “the fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.”

      Advertising on its surface seems to be saying that everyone else is having a good time and you will too, if you buy this product. What the ads are actually promising is social acceptance and prestige.

      In the United States, you can’t just enjoy something because you enjoy it. You are allowed to enjoy it because you earned it, or it makes you a better person, or it demonstrates that you are successful. Simply enjoying something requires justification, and if you don’t produce that justification, you are a weak, self-indulgent, immoral person. People from other cultures, such as most parts of Europe, think we are crazy, and they’re right.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy