By Vexen Crabtree 2002
Note how things have got better in more modern religions:
The high child abuse and sexual abuse rates within the Christian priesthood highlight a problem that many religions face: We should not attempt to mould human sexuality around otherworldly religious ideals. Sexual dysfunction always results. Psychologists and sociologists have noted the association between extreme religious fervour and psycho-sexual problems (the former causing the latter), and the highly negative stance that many monotheistic religions take towards sexuality in general have contributed to a general malaise amongst their lay adherents, and a serious pandemic of abuse amongst professional religionists. The religious attitude towards religion is to behave like an ostrich and stick its head in the sand, hoping that theology can override biological truth, but merely making its victims unable to cope with adult sexuality. Witness the hateful and confusing statements that Christians and Muslims make about homosexuals, the anti-contraception stance that the Catholic church has in an over-crowded world ridden with disease, the harmful and simplistic rejection of abortion and the patriarchal dominance over women that has gone hand-in-hand with traditional religion on every continent.
Many religious practices are somewhat more positive towards sexuality than Christianity. The scholar Veronique Mottier gives the example of Judaism, which disapproves of abstinence1. Karen Armstrong reminds us that "Certain sects in Buddhism and Hinduism have used sex as a mystical activity. Everybody has heard of the Karma Sutra but not everybody is aware that this is not just a sex manual, but a method of achieving transcendence and spiritual enlightenment. Christianity is unique in having hated and outlawed sex and in making people feel guilty because they are sexual beings"2. But it is not just the subject of sex which is important to a discussion on sexuality - it still must be remembered that all traditional religions have normalized the dominance of men over women, and often obsessed over matters such as female dress.
In the modern world, many modern popular movements provide an alternative to traditional religions, and have enshrined normal sexuality. The secular world merely lets sexuality remain natural, and the New Age movement amongst many others, actively engage sexuality. The results have been much more positive and healthy than those of the classical monotheistic religions. This is one reason why countries that have liberal laws on abortion also have much lower rates of abortion than highly religious countries that restrict abortion heavily. An atmosphere of taboo and restriction serves limits responsible sexual behaviour. Rather than an ostrich, be a peacock!”
Anti-woman doctrines have thankfully been forgotten by secular (non-religious) society and by many new religions movements:
New religions have tended to practice and enshrine gender equality. The Bahá'í Faith (1844CE+) is a liberal Abrahamic NRM. Most Bahá'í doctrine suggests greater equality for women3 but the ruling body of its largest two denominations (the Universal House of Justice, based in Haifa, Israel and the Orthodox Bahai Faith) is strictly limited to male delegates4,5. Despite that limitation, it is overall a vastly more equal religion than its Abrahamic predecessors.
Pagan and Earth-centered religions not only to treat women fairly, but are sometimes dominated by women. Neopaganism and Wicca formed strong associations with early feminists. Feminists joining Dianic witchcraft in the 1980s (influenced by authors such as Zsuzsanna Budapest and Starhawk) outnumbered all other kinds of convert in that decade6, and Paganism in general attracts those who are interested in feminist spirituality and goddess worship7.
Feminism has always been a significant feature of Paganism and Wicca8. As the decades wore on, feminism and gender equality became an increasingly pronounced stance rather than an implied one9. The presence of feminism in Pagan groups is one of the six reasons that American Pagans gave for having become involved in Paganism, according to a study published in 198610.”
The 1960s also saw the rise of organized Satanism. You might assume it to be no place to look for good examples but although in the 1960s Anton LaVey, its founder, sounded misogynistic in his more personal writings, The Satanic Witch (1970) was a highly progressive and liberal volume for its time. Since then, the Church of Satan has thoroughly shed any gender bias, and a female high priestess followed on from LaVey.”
“The true Satanist is not mastered by sex any more than he is mastered by any of his other desires.”
Satanism is pro-sexuality. We should all shed the weird and stifling sexual inhibitions preached by the world's traditional religions; Sexuality is a pure form of pleasure, something that satisfies our deepest purpose in life. Modern life allows us to enjoy sex without the risks of unplanned pregnancies and sexual diseases assuming that sense is taken. Satanism supports any fetish, kink or flavor of sexual encounter as long as all parties involved are consenting. We are informed by modern and learned psychological, medical and scientific opinions on sex; there are no dogmatic principles or religious intolerance of sexualities within Satanism. It is very optimistic, positive and healthy: This can only be expected of such a carnal religion of the flesh such as Satanism! Some people like quality, some people like quantity: Just be responsible, take emotions and consequences into account, and above all, enjoy your life!
A number of essays and texts by LaVey concentrate on the use and expression of sexual energy, but as social tools and energy within ritual. Boyd Rice says 'LaVey understood that wasn't one cookie-cutter for everyone [...] Sexual freedom doesn't mean having as much sex as possible, it means having the kind of sex you want.' Our strongest emotions and desires are sexual, we are sexual beings, it drives and motivates us more than any other factor.
Our sexuality is fluid: It cannot be oppressed. Denying our sexuality simply causes its waters to flow into other areas, sometimes in very unhealthy ways, honestly and expression fare much better than repression.
“...the Satanist would not intentionally hurt others by violating their sexual rights. If you attempt to impose your sexual desires upon others who do not welcome your advances, you are infringing upon their sexual freedom. ... If all parties involved are mature adults who willingly take full responsibility for their actions and voluntarily engage in a given form of sexual expression - even if it is generally considered taboo - then there is no reason for them to suppress their sexual inclination.”
“LaVey understood that there wasn't one cookie-cutter for everybody. What makes one person happy might well make someone else miserable. In terms of sex, for example, some people are happy living a totally monastic lifestyle, others are happy being total libertines. Sexual freedom doesn't mean having as much sex as possible, it means having the kind of sex you want.”
“Satanists are self-aware and honest about their needs," Gilmore states flatly. When asked if the two ideas are at odds with each other, Waytz declares, "Absolutely not. Sexual hedonism and romanticism are the same thing!" The materialism of Satanic philosophy dismisses any so-called spiritual life that's divorced from, or "higher than," physical existence.”
"Sex & the Devil: Satan Really Wants You" by Rick Hall
"Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal" is the fifth Satanic Rule of the Earth and on the page linked I discuss this (a little) more.
The gay scene is likely to be aggressively anti-Satanism in the same way that the New Age movement is. In the relentless attempts to be seen as all-good and non-harmful, the instinct is to be seen to repel all evil. As most people do not understand Satanism, this means that those who wish to be seen as good (especially when oppressed by Christians who also want to be seen as good) the psychology of it all results in a class of people who are pressured into being anti-Satanism as long as society considers Satanism insidious... which is precisely what homosexuals and new agers do not want to be seen as.
As a result, nearly all the Satanists I know of (and goths, punks and other alternatives) who are also gay are not part of the gay scene and rarely mix with the pubs, clubs and events organized by the popular homosexual communities. Satanists who are homosexual are very much free to be public about it, and the founding members and High Priest of one Satanic denomination are openly gay. Satanism is pro-homosexuality because Satanism is out and out pro-sexuality of any (consenting) kind.
“Satanists generally agree on certain political points relating to the advancement of individual liberty. It is an intrinsic part of our philosophy as expressed in The Satanic Bible to accept a broad range of human sexual practice - so long as it is between consenting adults. The Church of Satan is the first organized religious group to fully accept members regardless of sexual orientation and thus our members advocate that any existing laws discriminating against homosexuality should be revoked. [...]
Allowing same-sex marriages does not mean that Christians and others who oppose such a practice will be forced into such unions. They may find it distasteful, but then, when a nation encourages the individual pursuit of happiness, there is no guarantee that everyone is going to like what everyone else is doing. That is a part of freedom - the tolerance of diversity.
Over time, the resolution of this issue will serve as a barometer for gauging the tenor of a nation's basic character. It will reveal whether a government can be truly pluralistic, offering equal freedom to its diverse citizens or if it will instead allow its people to be shackled by antiquated values fostered by religious dogma.”
Abrahamic religions have contributed to the most negative and destructive attitudes towards sexual issues, especially homosexuality. Christian and Islamic communities and organisations are the most vocal assailants on any legal or societal moves towards tolerance and equality. The liberal wings of some of these religions have adapted to the wide (European) acceptance of homosexuality. Many traditional religions reject the scientific, medical and psychological knowledge that we have gained about sexuality and regard homosexuality as "unnatural", a "choice" or a "moral evil". These religions are themselves immoral and evil in their attitude, causing hatred, bigotry, violence and oppression in the name of God. Homosexual communities have become accustomed to the ranting of religious fundamentalists and traditionalists, and this causes a strong anti-religious resentment amongst them.”
Although nowadays Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, is criticized for having an overly objectifying view on women, at the time of writing his ideas were groundbreaking and empowering. I may disagree with his views but is more a matter of an aesthetic disagreement than a literary one. Plenty of Witches in the Church of Satan have disagreed with me and supported his writings wholeheartedly. My final comments are that LaVey's writings on womankind are personal, unlike the doctrinal statements that he makes about Satanism itself, which are authoritive.
Included in LaVey's works are personal opinions, jokes, fun, entertainment and then more personal opinions. He found it hard to write long without involving his own interests, past or bias. And these show through in his approach and writings about women. Anton LaVey's upbringing in the 40s and 50s lent themselves to an older, more traditional view of women. Although a freethinker who shattered convention and lived far beyond the cumbersome social taboos and limitations of his time, Anton appears to have shed little of the 50s slightly misogynistic attitude.
He broke through in some areas, such as women pro-power and beliefs that Women should be no less cunning or manipulative than any man. But he couldn't seem to separate his tastes from his work. So some of his writing on women makes me cringe a little. The Satanic Witch contains radical and unheard-of advice, which was 20 years ahead of its time, but some of the underlying assumptions have become dated. I think he wasn't entirely "in touch" with women.
No offence to those that actually agree with his many wise words... if we all agreed with each other we wouldn't be Satanists!”
The Church of Satan and the beliefs of Satanism do not lend themselves to considering that a person can ever be perfect or infallible. All knowledge and wisdom is taken with a pinch of salt and doubt. Anton LaVey was nothing other than an excellent freethinker, a top-class carnival psychologist/sociologist and perhaps even the best anti-religious philosopher since Nietzsche! But he did tend to share a slightly misogynistic attitude towards women with Nietzsche, although not as bitter or scathing, LaVey was instead more stuck on power games and some personal fetish.
“Predictably LaVey was labelled a misogynist - a mantle he willingly accepted, going so far as to publish an essay entitled "Confessions of a closet misogynist" in his 1992 collection The Devil's Notebook. As ever with this ingeniously provocative thinker, there was a twist in the tail: LaVey didn't hate women but was in awe of their power, treating them with the blend of suspicion, fear and respect afforded to a worthy foe!”
I personally feel the best way to look at this is this: If you do not agree with Anton LaVey's views on women, then just accept that that's the way it was in his time. He was ahead of his time, but didn't quite hit the nail on the head in the way I feel that the nineties' view of women has. Anton LaVey, like everyone, has opinions. Feel free to disagree, as long as you at least think about it! Of the three most respected female Satanists I know, who I have met in person, all of them have fully supported LaVey's texts on women and supported, in particular, The Satanic Witch, so my dislike of LaVey's comments on women are probably as much to do with personal taste as anything.
Taking LaVey's views on women and projecting them on to Satanism as a whole would be mistaken, and therefore criticism of "Satanism's view of women" in general is also mistaken. Individual Satanists decide on such matters, it is not of theological or philosophical concern to the beliefs of Satanism. What is of concern is individual thought, and an individual striving for self-attained rights.
Current edition: 2002 Dec 06
Last Modified: 2010 Nov 02
Parent page: Laws, Sins and Rules of Satanism: A Lack of Legalism
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
(1986) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers, and other Pagans in America Today. Originally published 1979. Current version published by Beacon Press, Boston, USA. In "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) Chapter 4, p137.
(1986) The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West. Hardback book. Subtitled: "Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West". Published by Elm Tree Books/Hamish Hamilton Ltd, London, UK.
Baddeley, Gavin. An (ir)Reverend in the Church of Satan.
(1999) Lucifer Rising. Paperback book. Published by Plexus Publishing Limited.
(2000) Dissecting Marilyn Manson. Published by Plexus Publishing Ltd.
Gilmore, Peter. High Priest of the Church of Satan (as of 2001+).
(2007) The Satanic Scriptures. Hardback book. Published by Scapegoat Publishing, USA. Compendium of texts. Many essays are new editions of older texts by Gilmore.
Harvey, Graham & Hardman, Charlotte
(1995) Pagan Pathways. Paperback book. 2000 edition. Originally published 1995. Current version published by Thorsons.
(1999) The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Paperback book. 2001 edition. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
LaVey, Anton. (1930-1997) Founder of the Church of Satan.
(1969) The Satanic Bible. Paperback book. Published by Avon Books Inc, New York, USA. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966..
(1970) The Satanic Witch. Paperback book. 1989 edition, 18th print. Published by Feral House, Los Angeles, USA. Introduction by Zeena LaVey.
(2002, Ed.) Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age. Paperback book. Published by Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, UK, in association with The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.