Consent & Boundaries in the Godspouse Community

Over the last few years in discussions with individuals and smaller groups of godspouses, I’ve noticed the repetition of the more experienced and public godspouses* stepping away from larger groups or backing away from being public about the nature of their relationships.  If you talk to the people stepping back, a lot of times that is due to the fact that they tend to deal with a lot of overshare from others.  I am perhaps lucky, because I’m over here working with a completely different type of situation and for the most part the larger Apollonian community in the past has been very, very good about leaving out the more private details of marital relations.  There was a generally agreed-upon rule that it wasn’t a topic to be discussed in forums or groups, and it was a close knit community specifically because that trust was there.  We weren’t going to talk about sex, and that is because we cared as much about the feelings of those we consider dear friends as we do our Spouses.

I am bringing this up, because I feel like someone needs to.  I’ve seen far too many godspouses express regret going public about their experiences due to overshare.  And it’s not something we should be ignoring.  When we don’t respect the boundaries of those who are willing to be open and share their experiences with us, especially those who may be newer to spousal situations, we run the risk of causing those who actually have a lot to teach us about religious and spiritual practice to stop sharing.

I haven’t been public that long, and yet every once in a while an email shows up with a long explanation from a complete stranger about what is happening in their beds at night almost immediately after “Dear Ms Laurentine.”

Y’all, that’s not okay.  In a population stressing consent culture, in a population that regularly has a higher number of people comfortable with polyamory, we should know better than to be launching into intimate and personal stories without asking if it’s okay to talk about it with a person first.  Even if they’re your friend, especially if they’re your friend, you should be asking, “Hey, can I talk to you about this?” or “I have a question about how to (XYZ).  Would you mind talking to me about it?”

And if they say no then leave them the Hel alone.

You should ask every time if it’s okay, even if you’ve talked about it a million times before with the person.  Why?

Because public godspouses are allowed to be human, which means they’re allowed to have bad days.  They’re allowed to be jealous.  They’re allowed to not like another spouse of their Spouse.  They don’t owe you anything for free, and while what they’re writing may help you, they may not be blogging with the express purpose of helping you figure out your own relationship with the Powers.  That may just be a perk that comes with writing about their personal experiences, which they may be doing for completely different reasons than helping others out.  I love helping people, but I also gain a lot of insight into my own experiences by writing.  A lot of what I write is never seen by anyone, but I post things that I hope may help others in some way when it comes to what I post about being a godspouse.  I was one for many years before I was ever asked to come out about it, and it was actually kind of terrifying to do so.  Not just because I was worried about what others would think and say, but because I didn’t want to be driven to burn-out by people demanding more information that I was comfortable sharing.

I’d seen it happen to others before I ever went public.

We need to remember that not everyone in our community is polyamorous, which if you think about it has to be really, really hard on those who are monogamous when they run into another spouse of their Spouse (or worse, get an email asking how to start a romantic relationship with Them).  It isn’t our job to try to make the monogamous person accept the situation.  It isn’t anyone’s job to try to force someone to work through their jealousy.  In fact, as a willingly monogamous poly person, I would say that it’s our job to approach the situation with empathy, since hopefully we realize how hard it can be to confront our own jealousy.  Some people aren’t ready to.  Some people will never do it or won’t be able  to turn that off.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  Really.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s absolutely none of our business.

Just because they’re married to your Spouse that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly best friends who can tell each other everything in graphic detail.  Even if you are best friends, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask before launching into intimate discussions if the person is up to it first.

Always. Ask.  First.

Not just “How do I sex God X up?”  Especially if you’ve never actually talked to the person before.  Not just “(insert paragraph on sexy times with God X),” because that is literally the godspouse equivalent of an unsolicited dick pic.

Consent.  We talk about its importance in rituals and relationships, and yet we don’t stop to practice it in day-to-day encounters with our fellow coreligionists.

You may know a ton about the life of someone due to reading their blog.  You may feel like you know them almost as well as you know yourself.  You may share a Spouse.  Stop and think before you write that long, steamy email that borders on erotica.  Just because you feel like you know this complete stranger doesn’t mean you aren’t a complete stranger to them.

Always ask if they’re willing to talk first.  If you have sex questions, state that you have sex questions instead of just generic questions.  And accept without any hard feelings if people don’t want to talk to you about it… Truth be told, we all have lives and every email we answer may eat up a lot of time with absolutely nothing in return but good feelings. (This sounds horrible, but there have been points where if I’d answered all my emails I would have lost my entire day.)

And if you’re in a group situation like forums or a Facebook group?  This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway…  This is one of those places where content warning goes a long, long way.  Sex positivity only works when it’s also consenting and respectful of boundaries.

Let’s work on that together, shall we?  I probably have some area where I need to work on it, too.  Respect of boundaries and consent are the building blocks to making the environment a place where we can all grow and learn from each other.  They are the only way we will be able to learn from the experiences of those who have come before us, and it’s our responsibility as a part of this community to do whatever we can to make sure we don’t make the space an unhealthy one by ignoring the boundaries of others.

*I use the term godspouse, but this goes for any group or individual that involves a deeper intimate relationship with the Gods and Powers.

Let’s Talk About How Others Talk about Godspouses!

(If you subscribe to my blog for disability stuff, you may want to cover your eyes and continue on or unfollow the blog.  My woo may be more than you can handle, and I’m okay with that.)

I started to write a whole essay on the sexuality and respectability policing that happens in others’ publicly stated views about godspouses and the sexual component that some have (either much like the sexual nature of other religion’s mystics’ written experiences or actual sexual acts), but in the end I just keep thinking Meh about justifying my personal experiences that I willingly share with others. So I’ve shortened it to a few statements…

1. If you don’t believe that the Gods exist as individuals, that’s really all you have to say. In fact, please, leave it at that. We’re talking about 2 very different belief systems, so you don’t need to carry on to explain that you don’t believe in godspouses… Because, let me be really clear here, whether you believe in my religious, spiritual, and magical practices or not doesn’t invalidate that I exist and self-identify as a godspouse, nor does it invalidate my religious and spiritual path of 20+ years.  People tend to go on to attack the people and not the practice, because let’s be honest, they don’t actually know anything about the practice.
2. Commentary on godspouses being mentally ill needs to stop. You are being ableist, and while I, myself, have a few mental illnesses lurking in my shadows, it has very little to do with my personal relationship with the Gods. In fact, the God who I’m married to has been an integral part of the path towards mental equilibrium. Belief in the Gods and their ability to be in your life isn’t a sign of mental illness. It’s a sign of religiosity, or, at the very least, faith in the Gods to be an active, participating part of the cosmos. Unless you are a licensed professional and have studied mystical experiences heavily, I’m going to say you have absolutely no right to deem what is and isn’t mental illness in another person when it comes to religious experience.
3. Commentary on godspouses being lonely (typically women) or lacking something in their lives needs to stop. I have a mortal spouse. I have a child. I have family. I have friends. The only thing I’m lacking is the peace of existing in a world where people on the internet don’t give their opinions of things they aren’t educated on… Which is 99.9% of the time godspousery, and 80% of the time psychology that isn’t of the pop variety or 101 levels.
4. Since rarely are male godspouses ever attacked on the internet and usually it involves sex toys being invoked, I’m going to calmly assume that those bringing it up have some Puritanical mores looming around that they may not be aware of at best and at worst may be misogynists who are offended by the idea of people having sex without a mortal penis involved. If godspouses are masturbating and invoking the Spirits and Gods, then so the fuck what? For a group of people who regularly deal with fertility cults, phallus worship, and myths that talk about all kinds of sex (including but not limited to bestiality and incest), Pagans seem to really get caught up in the worry that we’re all masturbating with or without a God present.
5. The most impious thing I can think of is a mortal trying to tell me what the Gods do and do not want from me, sex included. Stop railing against the perceived threat of godspouses wanting authority over your experiences by announcing that you are the authority of all things Gods-related. Not only is it impious, but it’s hypocritical.

Sex happens. Sex with Gods sometimes happens for those that believe that the Gods are real and not just archetypes* and sometimes even for those that don’t. Whether that aligns with your personal beliefs is neither here nor there, and as offensive as you may find it to be, I assure you that my private personal practice has absolutely nothing to do with you.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it has no effect on you as well.

*Oh my Gods, I never thought I’d actually say that, and I’m so annoyed that I am having to say it. But there it is. My Polytheism is getting hard just thinking about it.  You’re welcome for that mental image.