I have been thinking for the past half hour about the blog posts I have skimmed through over the past few weeks related to first one (and then another) child pornography or assault news items.
At first, I thought that this might be an appropriate outlet for my second ever curse tablet ritual, but I took a step back to breathe, and I have something slightly different to share ... for the moment.
Consent Is Not a Four-Letter Word
I am going to paint a broad brush here and talk about sexual assault in general, not just child pornography or molestation, because the apologist rhetoric we have been seeing is the same rhetoric used all the time towards adult victims of sexual assault. Communities have a duty to advocate for the victims of all kinds of assault, be they minors or adults. I know this, and several blogs I read show a substantial amount of completely legitimate outrage about this frustrating situation.
I am a feminist. Consent is a huge topic in feminism [video], and one of the terms thrown around in the feminist blogosphere is the idea of something called “rape culture.” Rape culture means that instead of empathizing with the victims and advocating for legal reparations, most individuals in America who hear about a man committing sexual assault give him the benefit of the doubt. The blame often shifts to the victim. How could she say that about him. But she was a very mature eleven! But they were dating! If you put him away for something like that, you’ll have to incarcerate every drunken frat boy, and that will ruin their careers! (If the person committing sexual assault is female, the reaction is quite a bit different.)
People do this because very few people actually know about consent. At least in my high school, we spent 95% of the sexual education curriculum talking about the STDs we had a 100% chance of getting if we did not engage in married, monogamous sex. We spent 4% of the time talking about how the reproductive system works. We spent 1% of the time talking about protection. Consent is not a topic of discussion. Most individuals hear the C word and think it must be some kind of complicated Girl Thing, like romantic comedies and spontaneous crying fits.
Consent actually applies to both men and women, and it’s really simple: (1) Don’t have sex with people below the legal limit. (2) If you want to have sex with someone, ask, and if they say no, don’t do it. (3) If the other person is too incapacitated to say yes, don’t have sex with them. (4) If at any point the other person says “no,” stop. (5) Everyone in the pornographic media you are consuming must be consenting and of legal age, because if they’re not, you’re participating in a system that has violated their consent.
It’s really not that hard.
The Current Situation
It bothers me that I have read so many accounts of people in the greater American pagan and polytheistic community being outraged ... at the idea that others might want to punish people who violate the laws of consent.
We all know that pedophilia is a mental illness, and it’s one that has the potential to create broad harm across communities in which pedophiles predate. On the other hand, most pedophiles know that what they are doing is illegal. They hide it. In an ideal situation, all of them would visit a mental health professional immediately on realizing that they might become a danger to children. In practice, this doesn’t happen. Yes, mental illness is stigmatized. Yes, it’s a condition that might not be changeable. But it’s also still their fault for not seeking out help.
The problem with our community is not that people are consent-violator/rapist apologists. It’s that we expected ourselves to be somehow different from the rest of America, and we’re all products of this highly toxic culture.
Miasma and Law
First, we have the right to advocate that a rapist or child pornography viewer be held accountable to the law. We have the right to demand that (s)he follow post-incarceration laws applying to sexual offenders.
Second, we have the right to demand that the offender seek ritual purification before others even consider letting them back into the (adults-only/child-free) community. Ritual purification and civic accountability are not the same; the one provides an outlet for human grievances, but the other makes reparations to the gods of purification for the sin. Orestes, remember, needed both after he killed his mother: the purification from Apollon and the verdict from the court of law. It is not unreasonable to demand this, and even then, participation in the adults-only community must rely on others’ comfort.
Third, I have the right to comment that our community does not have a clear understanding of consent. This is not a character judgment. This is America. Let’s start by fixing this. What about clear behavior guidelines for all events? That would be a great start! Also, there’s a Polytheistic Leadership Conference (which is close to where I live, but I’m on the fence about attending because I am totally not a leader), but they might have a panel!
And that’s all I have to say about this issue right now.