Sexuality and Paganism - Part 1: What Is Pagan Sexuality?
Most people who are new to Paganism or who have been raised outside the world of Paganism seem to think that wild orgies in the forests and drunken, drugged out sex parties are the norm for Pagans and Pagan Covens. People who come in to this world looking for that, are quickly disappointed! While Pagans do tend to be more sexually open minded than the average person it doesn't mean they lack sexual morals or that they can't or don't form long term relationships. Pagans are very tolerant of all forms of "alternative sexuality" but they are just as interested and as open to love as any other group...
One of the most common and most enduring myths surrounding Pagan women is the idea that they are all nymphomaniacs. While men are subjected to this myth as well, it tends to be less often than women, and are more often than not asked questions about how often they get to have sex with the "wild Pagan women" than they are faced with an equal stereotype.
Pagans do tend to be more open to sexual experimentation than non-Pagans, and Pagans are certainly more tolerant of "alternative sexualities" but wild Pagan orgies, just aren't a normal reality. And those joining covens or hunting our a Pagan lifestyle hoping for these types of activities are going to be sadly disappointed!
Most Pagans were raised by non-Pagans and grew up in a sexually restrictive society, so they have to deal with all the same issues as non-Pagans. They also have to deal with the same concerns about safe sex, consensual sex, and appropriate sexual activity as everyone else in modern society. While the beliefs of a Pagan as an individual may be different from the society around them, they are still held by the same basic rules of society and most definitely the same laws as anyone else.
This is not to say that Pagans don't enjoy sex. They most certianly do! But the point is that while some Pagan Holidays celebrate sexuality, Paganism as a religion is NOT about sex! Should you ever come across a group or coven which requires sexual initiation or seems to have been formed so the leader can have sex with nubile young women, RUN FAST & FAR! This is NOT a legitimate Pagan group or coven...
Pagan Sexual Mores
Most Pagans were raised with a mix of conflicting sexual messages due to centuries of sexual oppression and negative sexual attitudes as well as more recent exploitative representations in the media. Many grew up dealing with being told on one side that "Sex is Sinful" and on the other side that "Everyone is doing it." In more recent years this contradictory attitude has grown to include the teaching to "Respect everyone's sexual freedom" and to "Disprove of sexual activities outside the norm." It's no wonder so many people grow up with warped views of sex and sexuality as a whole...
For the average Pagan, changing their thinking from what they were taught to a more tolerant view of sexuality isn't something difficult. But for others it can be a real obstacle. Unfortunately it's one that each must face in their own way, and I can not provide a real "how too" on the subject of handling. But I do suggest for those who face this issue to find someone to talk to, explore how they feel and why and to educate themselves on these alternative sexualities. You will find in general that within the Pagan community you'll encounter much less judgment and criticism and much more respect and tolerance when it comes to sexuality as a whole.
Respecting Yourself & Others
For most Pagans the Goddess plays an important role religiously. Due to this most Pagans find it easy to be respectful towards women. It also helps that most Pagan men were either a part of the 1970's feminist movement, were raised by parents who at least respected it's goals or have grown up in the world since that movement's influence has taken hold.
Pagan Sexuality, as Pagan life, centers around respect. Respect for physical needs, physical health and the Gods who gave us that body. Masturbation has no negative associations, because Pagans understand that each person is a sexual being with their own sexual needs. Suppressing those needs because of outdated ideas about sin is not emotionally, mentally or physically healthy.
Sex CAN be a sacred act. It's important to understand the gods wish for you to enjoy your sexual nature, they don't want you to put yourself or others in danger by doing so. Nor do they want for you to do something you are not comfortable with simply because others are doing so. It's important to understand your own comfort levels and know and respect the risks involved with any sexual activity. If you respect your own limits and comfort levels, others will as well.
Monogamy, Homosexuality, Bisexuality, Asexuality, BDSM, and polyamory all have a place within Pagan society, as do Transgendered persons of all types. And as Paganism grows as an "alternative" religion, as will the numbers of believers who live "alternative" lifestyles or who have an "alternative" sexuality.
As a rule any activity which causes no harm, whether alternative or not, it tolerated (accepted without judgment). Pagans understand that just because you might not be drawn to a certain sexual activities doesn't mean you are wrong or immoral. At the same time, it's not expected that simply because you are Pagan that you have to experiment with you own sexuality. Again, it's about knowing and respecting you!
As with every other facet of Pagan life, you'll find that every type of lifestyle and belief is and can be included within the Pagan community about sexuality. At the base of the issue is the belief that sex is not something which is or was ever meant to be coveted or hidden... Sex is not dirty, it's not sinful, it's not dangerous. Instead sexuality is something which should be enjoyed and embraced in how ever manner YOU are comfortable with. IF you are open to alternative sexual experimentation, it's okay! If you're not, that's okay too! However as a Pagan you need to be prepared to encounter people from all sexual walks of life and understand that they not only expect, but deserve the same tolerance of their lifestyle as you do of yours.