With the debacle in January regarding Isaac Bonewits, the topic of consent became “The Hot Topic” in ADF and its important role in leadership. ADF leadership was granted discounted access to the Cherry Hill Seminary Consent Course, and CedarLight was gracious enough to pay for mine.
I passed this course 🙂
As I promised one member of ADF, I will be keeping well-documented track of elective leadership training courses here on my study program blog, so below you will find the details of my month long consent discussion with Cherry Hill Seminary.
Week 1: Defining Consent and Consent Culture
Students will choose two of the below to read and one to write on:
- Selections from Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without
Rape (2008), edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valent
What does Consent mean to me?
Consent is the willing agreement that all following actions are wanted and permissible by all parties and that all parties are eligible to grant consent without impairment.
- Reclaiming Touch
- This essay brought up something I’ve been exposed to and have struggled to remember, but it has allowed me to put more consideration towards it. Essentially, I’m a big hugger, but there are people out there who aren’t. I’m sure at some point in time I’ve hugged someone who was not comfortable being hugged, and I was not aware at the time about the relationship between hugging and consent. Now that I do, though, I’m making steps towards issuing my own mental discipline on all forms of consent relating to physical contact that I was not aware of before.
- I was not really following the discussion about mapping, though. Maps of consent is not something I’ve heard of before or have ever seen, so it’s hard to visualize the explanation or point here.
- Hooking Up with Healthy Sexuality
- I chose this essay, having grown up in a majority male family and almost all male cousins whom I would compete with all the time for attention or respect. I wanted to better understand their viewpoint. I felt bad for the author’s initial story about his 13 year old encounter, because it was clear that his ignorance was not really a fault of his own, but a multitude of failures in his surroundings.
- The main point I see boiled down in the essay is the mentality brought up with young men that sex and consent are part of a game, and they are mentally conditioned to compete in it, which can often lead to non-consensual activity. However, he highlights how we can combat this mentality through sexual health promotion and sexual violence prevention, which I whole-heartedly agree with.
- If we didn’t constantly put a taboo on anything sexual related (and by we, I mean society), then we wouldn’t have so many people ignorant to the inner workings of healthy sexual relationships.
Week 2: Pagan Approaches to Consent Culture Students will choose two of the below and write on both:
Students will choose two of the below and write on both. Summarize the main points of the essays you read, then respond with your personal reactions.
- Martinez, “Consent within Heathenry”
- In my Kindred’s tradition of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, we view Frigga and Freya from Norse Traditions as the same Goddess. I’ve always appreciated that about A/S heathenry because a lot of times I felt as if the “homemaker” and the “bold sexual female” being separate was not something I personally related to, as I always appreciated the idea of women being both.
- The main stories highlighted in this essay outline the importance of consent due to all the chaos that ensues when it is not given or it is manipulated. We all know how chaotic Heathen Lore stories can be 😛
- In Heathenry, there is a huge emphasis on honor and deeds. Your reputation is a solid foundation for not only yourself, but those in your tribe, and whatever you do can also affect your tribe. We had an individual in our Kindred at the beginning that was a poster-boy for all that this course is trying to prevent. We make short work of his behavior because it reflect poorly on our Kindred and our individual reputations of our innergard. This is why it is important to understand that our actions are not just our own, but are representatives of our people as well, and we cannot enable poor behavior in our communities because of this.
- Beckett, “Culture of Consent, Culture of Sovereignty: A Recipe from a Druid’s Perspective”
- I absolutely love Beckett’s point at the beginning of his essay that we (as I assume he means Pagans) have the opportunity to show mainstream culture what healthy sexual relationships are like, and I think that is a prudent point that I want to also highlight in my workings and community.
- The main points he raises surround our ability to acknowledge, accept, and support individual sovereignty. He makes a fair point that sexual freedom doesn’t mean having more sex, but instead actually may mean the opposite (from how I view this point). It is, instead, the ability to choose all aspects of your personal sexual relationships. You choose when you are comfortable and feel safe for your involvement in any sexual activity. It’s the act of putting limitations on what you will accept and feel comfortable with.
- In order to build a culture of consent we have to place value on sexual relationships. Say as a metaphor, you are getting married and you are researching affordable options for a wedding photographer. If you are not willing to pay a reasonable fee, are you really putting value on the photographs of your wedding? You know they are the most valuable part of your wedding, but you to put value on it by trying to get someone to do it for cheap or free. We recently had a similar discussion about ADF memberships when we moved our social media groups to members-only rather than public. People who are willing to pay for their membership in ADF, put a value in what they receive. Those who are unwilling to pay and complain about the switch, did not put a value in what they received.
How this relates to consent is if we value our own power, our own sexuality, and our own ability to say no, then we have to also value others ability to do the same.
Week 3: Responding to Sexual Assault and Abuse
Students will choose two of the below and write on both. Summarize the main points of the essays you read, then respond with your personal reactions.
- Chapin-Bishop, “Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community”
- This essay was important to me because my community has dealt with it from various angles (from local to international). Reactions to these types of allegations and/or guilt vary in such a way that as a leader, we will create anger, happiness, and discourse Every. Single. Time. There simply isn’t an easy answer to how to respond the right away from a leadership standpoint. However, it is also universally agreed that it cannot be tolerated, and it must be reported.
- One thing I am so glad was pointed out here, as it is relevant to ADF is that ADF Priests, within the spectrum of ADF, are NOT TRAINED to council abuse victims, and we should not automatically be assumed to always know what to say or do beyond the fact that we need to report abuse and support victims. However, Priests are very capable of making resources available to victims through knowing local counselors and how to contact them, having phone numbers handy at all time for referral, and highlighting policies within their groups or organizations and enforcing those policies to their fullest extent.
- Actions we can take as leaders in ADF, which I’m taking from this article, are taking reports of abuse seriously and act on it, showing empathy, fighting victim-blaming, being supportive and structure our activities around safety.
- Rajchel, “The Rite and Right of Refusal: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in Communities and at Festivals”
- One particular piece about boundary violation that stuck out to me here, as a business owner is the “Don’t take no for an answer” segment. As a business owner, I have to try to sell my services, and for some that can get pushy. It doesn’t usually for me, cause honestly I suck at sales, but the more I read on how to sell, the more the language tries to convince me to be more pushy. I don’t want to violate any boundaries with this, so I have to find a suitable middle-ground.
- A lot of what is discussed here is the ability to ask, and the ability to enforce and respect boundaries. Again, that is a generalized overview of consent as a whole.
- What is also discussed in the essay is the different types of predatory behavior that we will have to deal with regularly in any organization that has such a vast array of people. Topics such as Gaslighting, Passive Aggressive Behavior, Secrecy and Triangulation. I’ve seen the majority of that list in my 15 years in ADF and 3 years on the Mother Grove. I appreciate that they emphasize understanding the behavior so you can recognize predatory behavior, but it’s not always that easy, and we don’t have easy modes of addressing this, especially from a membership standpoint to leadership. This is part of our issues with our Complaint policy that a group of individuals is trying to address.
- As someone who also runs a major festival in ADF, I’ll be working with my colleagues on the organizational committee to create a policy on what to do when assault occurs. Perhaps we can make a global policy that works for all ADF festivals.
Week 4: Building Consent Culture
Draft a code of conduct and/or safeguarding policy for your organization or for an event in
which you are involved. Include the following:
- A description of the community
- An assessment of what that community already knows/understands about consent culture
- A description of how new policies and procedures are implemented for the organization or event
- Anticipated challenges in implementing such a policy
- The policy draft (some example policies here: http://www.paganconsentculture.com/p/modelpolicies.html)
Great Valley Kindred – An Anglo-Saxon Kindred in Southern Pennsylvania and Maryland
Great Valley Kindred is an independent Anglo-Saxon Kindred that is committed to building a peaceful, non-racialist and non-political version of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry. We are rooted in scholarship and historical reality, but mindful of the needs of the modern world and contemporary culture.
Great Valley Kindred, having several ADF members involved in it with an understanding of Consent Culture, and other members enforcing Anti-Harassment policies in their own individual groups, we are pretty well-versed in what consent is and how important it is to provide safe environments and policies to protect people who attend or are involved in our group. We’ve handled issues with consent in the past with open dialogue and no-tolerance policy, and have established what is acceptable or appropriate within our inner-yard.
I don’t anticipate any challenges in implementing a policy of consent within the Kindred. We are a close knit tribe and family and we all look out for our best interests and safety, especially those of our children. The difference between our private Kindred and other events that would be related to pagans is that we are a no-tolerance group. Since we do not fall under any organization and create our own environment of Heathenry, our policy cannot be disputed or argued without 100% Elder vote.
We are committed to providing a positive and trouble-free Heathen experience for all, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race*, ethnicity, age, theological perspective, or relationship status (polyamory, monogamy, singleness). We do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour in any form. Anyone violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the group or event as appropriate, possibly without a refund, at the discretion of the Witan Elders.
This document can updated without warning when appropriate.
This document covers unacceptable behaviour whether within or outside the law.
Unacceptable behaviour includes:
- Verbal harassment, especially when it reinforces social structures of domination related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, theological perspective, relationship status (polyamory, monogamy, singleness).
- Deliberate intimidation, bullying and or stalking, and any other behaviour which is likely to cause alarm or distress to a reasonable person.
- Photography or recording that can reasonably be interpreted as harassment. Additional photography and recording policies may apply particularly to events held in private spaces.
- Sustained disruption of talks or other events (including through intoxication of alcohol and/or drugs).
- Inappropriate or unwanted physical contact – this includes hugging and kissing if a person has indicated they are uncomfortable with it – we advise that you always seek consent when offering hugs or kisses.
- Unwelcome sexual or other personal attention.
- Theft or extortion including by deception.
- Any other act that contravenes the law.
- Unauthorized oaths forced upon our members and guests during ritual
- Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviour.
If anyone is asked to cease unacceptable behaviour it is expected that they will comply immediately.
If this occurs during an event, the Elders will take any actions reasonably necessary to keep the event a welcoming environment for all participants. This may include warning the person who is acting in breach of this policy and, in appropriate cases, requiring them to leave immediately and banned permanently.
We expect participants to follow these rules at all event venues and event-related activities, including any other informal social activities.
Activities, Talks And Workshops
Any activities, talks or workshops which discuss subjects or engage in activities which the Elders believe some people may find uncomfortable will have adequate disclosure as to their content, so that potential attendees can make an informed decision whether to attend. It will also be made clear that people can leave activities, talks or workshops which make them uncomfortable at any time. No one should ever feel pressured into participating, attending or staying.
Great Valley Kindred views oaths as a binding agreement that involves those present when the oath is given. We seek consent from our members before oaths are allowed to be given so they are negatively impacted by unfulfillment of said oath. Anyone involved in our events will be required to be given permission by the Wéofodþygen before any oaths will be allowed.
If you are being subjected to unacceptable behaviour or notice that someone else is being subjected to unacceptable behaviour or have any other concerns, please first consider informing the person or persons responsible that you would like them to stop and you may also wish to notify the Elders, specifically the Reeve Often the offending behaviour is unintentional and those involved will resolve the incident amicably.
If you believe that bringing up the incident with the person involved may have negative consequences for you or others or could lead to further breaches then please inform the Reeve, or if unavailable, the Wéofodþygen about the incident.
Violations of this code reduce the value of our celebrations for everyone. We want your experience of events to be positive. If unacceptable behaviour persists even after the person involved has been asked to stop, their behaviour should be reported promptly to the Elders, who will act immediately. The report should be made by the recipient of the unacceptable behaviour and/or a direct witness.
When taking a personal report, the Reeve will ensure safety and discretion. We may also seek permission to involve other relevant Elders from the event to ensure the report is managed properly. We handle reports as respectfully and discreetly as possible but may, under some circumstances, be required by law to disclose.
If requested, the Elders will help the person reporting the incident to contact security staff, the Police or local support services where appropriate.
We will endeavour to provide escorts where appropriate to people who are concerned about their safety.
We value participation in our events and appreciate all efforts to provide a safe and friendly space for all.
Choose ONE essay/resource to summarize and respond to in the Forum. What surprised, provoked, or troubled you? Were there points with which you strongly agreed or disagreed? Were there ideas that were new to you? Do you participate in groups that might benefit from some of the suggested practices or policies? How might you begin conversations in your group or among practitioners you know about consent culture education?
- Whedon, “Paganism, Children, and Consent Culture: An Interview with Sierra Black”
- Kaldera, “Asperger’s Syndrome and Consent Culture”
- Whedon touches on some important aspects of sexual development imbued in societal standards. Modern society teaches us to save sex for marriage, so when we’re fully developed and now in a committed relationship, we have no idea about our sexual abilities and proper behavior aside from what we’re told by the public school system or from our friends. This causes us to not know how to react to sexual pressures as a teenager or child, especially at festivals.
- She also touches on a problem that most people grow up with, but my Kindred has been advocating against, is that “What an adult says, goes”. Children shouldn’t have to “give him a hug” or being forced to be tickled or picked up and held. We want the kids in our groups to have autonomy of their own bodies, even at a young age. They can still learn discipline from adults without being treated less than human regarding their bodies.
- There’s really not anything I disagree with in this particular essay. I think it’s important to teach our children to be confident that saying no to unwanted touch is okay, and while it does not disclude them from discipline, they should always be treated in a fair and humanistic way.