Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Line in the Sand

 

   It’s been quiet here on blog as of late, mostly because of I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the last few months and secondly because I’ve been busy with all the final planning for the Morrigan’s Call retreat coming up this June.  I’ve gone back and forth for days, thinking about whether or not to blog about the whole Kenny Klein situation.   There are dozens of blog posts out there right now, and ten times as many posts and reactions all over social media.  I asked myself if blogging about this was just beating a dead horse?  I only met Klein once very briefly at this past PantheaCon.  What can I possibly add that hasn’t been said already?  But ultimately I think simply talking about the issues Klein’s arrest has dredged up is important.  Even if I’m the hundredth or two hundredth voice to chime in.  I am deeply saddened that many who had bad experiences with him kept silent, and angered that those who did have the courage to speak up were not taken as seriously as they should have been.

   There is a general culture of trust at most Pagan events and festivals.  For many it’s a rare opportunity to fully be ourselves.  To partake in rituals, workshops, and conversations with other like minded individuals.  We forget to question things, we forget to use common sense and caution.  And we forget that not everyone is a good person.  Yes, even Pagans.  So what is to be learned from all this?  What can we take from this situation that will prevent another person like Klein from victimizing others?  I think as a community we need to draw a line in the sand.  We need to make it clear what is acceptable, and not acceptable, in a sex positive religion.  Will we tolerate a culture of silence?  Or will we stand up for ourselves and others in our community and say this is what is acceptable, and this is what is not?  How we handles issues such as these will define us as a community.   

   That brings me to the events of the past few days, with the new uproar about Gavin and Yvonne Gavin and Yvonne Frost teaching at several events this year.  I started receiving emails and messages, from those in the online community, and even from my own students, asking if I have ever come in contact with the Frosts, and what exactly they were promoting? What was all the "fuss" about?  If you are not sure what I am talking about I suggest you read T Thorn Coyle’s blog posts about the Frosts here: http://www.thorncoyle.com/know-thyself/  , she makes many excellent points.  I personally have never met them, all I can comment on is their writings, and the serious red flags they raise.  I will remind everyone that this issue isn’t new.  The Frosts being controversial is old news, that after Klein’s arrest we are looking at with new eyes.  And honestly I am proud of my community for taking a step back and saying, this is a problem, we’ve been silent about it before, no more.  There is nothing wrong with admitting we have been wrong in the past.  Paganism is “growing up” as a community in many ways.   As we grow we need to think about how we will, both now and in the future, handle situations where people are participating, as Klein did, in illegal activity, or as the Frosts have for the last thirty plus years, promoted abuse via the sexual initiation of minors within ritual.  Some of their own words from the Good Witch’s Bible:


 “It is hoped by Wicca that the first full sexual experience will take place in the pleasant surroundings of the coven and that the spiritual as well as the physical aspects of the experience will lead the child to a complete life.” 

“At the last sabbat… before the initiation, the female novice is given the sacred phallus and the instruction sheet in Table 5 so that she can learn to insert and remove the phallus quickly and comfortably.   She is also taught how she should lie and what she should do during the initiation ceremony.”


Table 5 (Instructions for Female Novice) begins thus:

"You have been entrusted with two phalli; these are in our care until your initiation. We would like you to be initiated at the next coven meeting, which will take place on ... This means that, excluding your menstruation time, you have three weeks to prepare your muscles for introitus. Your father or your sponsor will help you if you have any difficulties or pain. "
 
 

   Now take a moment to think about an initiation ceremony like this being promoted in a current title about Witchcraft, rather than something from the 70’s, and from someone who hasn’t been in the community for decades.  Would it still be ok?  In my mind there is a big difference between having a positive attitude towards sexuality and exploiting others by masking abuse as spirituality.  In the 1999 edition the introduction to this chapter had a disclaimer included stating that initiations should not be done in this way until the age of 18.  Yet still what they have written remains unsettling.  And as Coyle says in her article, words have power:


“Do I think the Frosts have sex with children? I doubt it. But as an author, who knows the power of the written word, I wish they would explain. I wish they would retract. The fact that they have not taints their work for me and makes me wonder why they are invited to festivals to teach… And I like the Frosts. Remember, they are gracious, kind, warm, funny, knowledgeable, and apparently dance a mean tango. I am not here to demonize them, but to voice concerns.” (http://www.thorncoyle.com/know-thyself/)
 

And like Coyle, I’m voicing my concern.  Do we serve the community by sweeping things under the rug again?  Again we must draw that line in the sand.  We need to reevaluate how we have responded to issues like this in the past.  And I think we are beginning to do that.   And as a result unfortunately  events where the Frosts are speaking have been coming under fire.  I am proud of my community for standing up, and making their voices heard.  Yet I also understand the precarious situation this puts event planners and organizers in, the mud slinging that goes along with this, and how a situation can quickly degrade into a shouting match between two sides that ends with both parties feeling attacked and unheard.  When things fall apart like that, nothing gets resolved.  No positive change can occur.  The dialog that NEEDS to happen, never does.  This is another growing pain within Paganism that we need to deal with.  We need, as my friend Ody pointed out to me today, Transparency in our community.   We need openness, communication, and most importantly accountability. 
   This issue is bigger than any one event.  It requires us to speak up about our concerns, and most importantly to come together as a community.  So I urge you to make your voices heard.  Respond to this blog, post on social media, talk to the leaders and organizer in your community.  Lets break the silence, and draw the line in the sand. Lets take an ugly truth, like Klein being exposed for what he is, and use it to create positive change.

  

 

 

 

5 comments:

  1. If I had thought about the way it was considered so ordinary to have the Frosts leading, well, anything, it would have told me so much more about the culture of FPG leadership. Sadly, I had to find that out on my own .

    You see, there was another predator there a few years ago. He was with me for awhile, until I got a warning from another young woman he 'knew.' His days past of threats and sexually aggressive behavior, which had gotten him banned only temporarily from festival, were not in the past after all. He was getting worse, not better, and he didn't care. It couldn't all be blamed on a change of meds or what have you. I heeded the warning and got him out of my life, posthaste and permanently.

    Or so I thought.

    With the woman's permission, I forwarded a screen cap of some of his text conversation, in which he bragged about a sexual violation. It wasn't enough to get him in trouble with the law, but it should have been enough to attract the attention of the FPG board member I sent it to. I added 'You cannot sweep this under the rug.'

    She ignored me and brought the predator as her very own guest. He drove a staff golf cart. He made violent threats toward a number of women. He threatened the fire tenders, which was still not enough to get him kicked off the premises but was enough to get him permanently banned at last.

    And yet, when I mentioned what a bad idea it was to bring him in the first place, I was banned from staff for a year.

    You should have told us privately, said another board member. 'We would have listened.' Well, I had already tried that, and the results were not spectacular.

    Here is my point: the current controversy over the Frosts being at FPG is really not a new issue. It's an old one. It's all about speaking out in favor of safety and being ignored or even punished. It's about people in positions of leadership who don't have a heart for the vulnerable.

    Noticing and commenting on this years-long trend doesn't make me a Debbie Downer. Calling out the Board's negligence is not 'drama.' Calling for changes doesn't mean I don't appreciate the staff and all they have done. It means I expect better from a group I used to call my community. I could call it that again, after a drastic change in leadership.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For anyone who wants to read the chapter I mentioned in full


    http://tuecaa.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/protecting-pedophiles-and-holding-wicca-accountable-quoted-text-post/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes. Starting a witch war generally causes things go fall apart and destroys the community for decades. And all over a book almost nobody has read in decades. Over the top rhetoric, false accusations, and libelous attacks do not create community.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If the issue hadn't been squashed repeatedly over the last decade then we wouldnt have to be dealing with it now. There will always be people who panic and take things to far, but I hope that people can be civil and respectful of one another and confront this issue and also take a hard look at how we can handle similar problems in the future, and still be civil with one another. For me this isnt just about the Frosts or Klein, its about our community growing up and realizing we need to think about how we deal with predators like Klein and handle situations like the issues raised with the Frosts that fall into a gray area.

    ReplyDelete