A Reflection on Predators in Pagan Community

It Has Been a While Since the Conviction of Kenny Klein

Some of you may have read my article on the conviction of Kenny Klein, estranged Blue Star Wiccan High Priest, for possessing child pornography with intent to distribute.  If you haven’t, you can read it here.  This conviction was very distressing to the global Pagan Community, the smaller American Pagan Community, and to those of us who are members of the Tradition in which Mr. Klein held the third degree (like myself).

The reason I’m writing this now, and will write more articles on the subject in the future, is that the only thing more distressing than Mr. Klein’s conviction and the subsequent wave of survivors coming forward to tell their stories, some of whom tried to warn early on of Mr. Klein’s inappropriate, and even abusive, behaviors is the idea that it took so long for this to come out, and the question of how we, the Pagan Community and we, Blue Star Wicca, managed to nurture and protect a predator of this magnitude.  The idea that there can be more just like Mr. Klein isn’t a pretty one.  The idea that we, collectively, and I mean the BIG “we” of Pagan Community, not just the little we of the Tradition, let this person in, allowed him to harm our loved ones, and in some cases, outright silenced his victims is not an attractive one.  This is why we need to KEEP TALKING ABOUT THIS FOREVER.  This story must be analyzed, retold, and acted on as part of a permanent change in how we, the Pagan Community, do things.

A Recap, for Those Who Are New

So why am I talking not just about the Tradition that raised the predator, but about the larger Pagan Community anyway?  Glad you asked.  The reason is that this man used “rockstar status” to move very freely about the cabin of Pagan Community and receive preferential treatment by fest organizers, club owners, and the like.  This man used celebrity and played many of us like one of his fiddles.  He traveled not as “Blue Star High Priest,” but as “Kenny Klein, Fiddler,” and had some really awesome music, awesome stage presence, and “star quality personality,” which people tend to eat up like Trad cakes at Samhain.  This man was traveling among us for years, and had free access to our kids.  At religious fests.  Where we Pagans feel the safest.  He traveled all over the US, playing at all the Pagan festivals, large and small.  And because we were naive, we “felt safe” with him.  After all, we Pagans aren’t like those Christians, who let their priests do horrible things to little kids, right?  Riiiiight.

How Did It Happen?

OK, so for those of you who don’t know, I’m a sexual abuse survivor.  And I now work in social services, and I have been involved in this field for about 16 years now.  Let me tell you why predators can get by on people.  They get by on family, co-workers, friends, teachers, and law enforcement.  This part has nothing to do with Paganism.  This is just how predators do their thing.

  • Predators are smooth.  They often cultivate very dynamic personalities that mimic everything we want to see in someone.  They are bright, articulate, act in kind ways to people in public, fascinate us with their wit and charm, and know their role very well.  They premeditate on what makes people feel at ease and want to like them, and they become masters at giving us exactly what we want to see.  This is why police officers ended up joking and laughing with my abuser while I was bleeding in the corner from being beaten fiercely.  The human brain thinks it knows what an abuser looks like, but it doesn’t.  This charming, good looking, kind, charismatic person CANNOT POSSIBLY BE what the victim says he/she/they is/are.  The cognitive dissonance is too much for us.  We can’t.  So we decide that the victim is the crazy party or they have an ax to grind, or they’re wrong, or whatever.  This is why we silence victims.  Predators are superbly talented at painting their victims as incompetent, or crazy, or unethical, or whatever.  And sometimes, victims may even BE incompetent, or crazy, or unethical.  But they’re still victims.  Remember, you don’t have to like someone for them to be a victim.  Victims can be real pieces of shit, but that doesn’t make abusing them right.  Not liking someone or even thinking that person isn’t right in the head tends to make us discount their victimhood. And that, my friends, needs to stop.
  • Predators seek powerful stations. There are more predators in positions of power in this world than we care to realize.  Predators are often megalomaniacs.  They see themselves as “special,” and they convince us that they ARE special.  They seek positions of influence.  They are more likely to be in the public eye than your average, non-abusive person.  That does NOT MEAN that all of our celebrities are abusers.  It DOES mean that the current and past tendency in Pagan Community to idolize our authors, high priests/priestesses, entertainers, Tradition leaders, etc. adds to our blindness to red flags with regard to those individuals.  The star student who sails through all the degree levels with PhD level papers might seem like they’re destined for greatness, but that doesn’t mean that we should discount their bad behavior just because they’re a tremendous ceremonial priest or priestess, or they are amazingly talented with (insert cool thing here).  Kenny Klein was one of these people.  He was brilliant.  He wrote amazing music, and he was funny as Hades (I’ve met Hades.  He’s fucking funny.).  He was an amazing and powerful ritual priest and vessel for invocation and he had an elfin grin that would disarm a bansidhe.  He took his religion very seriously.  He also twisted the shit out of it to fit his warped sexual desires.
  • Predators are masterful apologists. Everybody remember the Frosts from the 70’s who made it seem perfectly loving and fine to sexually initiate your own children?  No?  Well, you have some reading to do.  Kenny Klein could make anything seem rational.  And you, who brought up that something he did wasn’t OK to do, just don’t understand the Craft, you see.  He could explain anything and make it seem rational.  Especially if you had a mead or two at fest.  These people can twist shit like real pros, and they will.  My first husband, the depraved torturer, could quote Christian scripture to support sodomizing me with a hot curling iron.  These people are brilliantly eloquent, and they rehearse the shit out of their justifications.  Do not let them baffle you with their witty knowledge of arcane mysteries.

Our Concept of “Sex Positivity” and “Consent Culture” has GOT TO CHANGE

The only way that we can expose and filter out predators is to grow the eff up about our pipe dreams surrounding sex positivity.  I know, I know…it’s rough.  We grew out of a counter-culture aversion to sexual shaming and we deserve to be sex positive.  But here’s the thing with that…We have GOT to stop insinuating that people who don’t want to do this, that, or the other thing are “hung up and need to heal from their sexual shaming.”  You know what?  I don’t want to have an orgy right now, and it’s fine if you people do, but don’t fucking shame me for not having the same taste as you have.  Maybe I just don’t like you, dude.  Me (or anyone) saying “no,” or “not now,” or whatever, doesn’t mean that there is a hang up.  It means NO.  Further, the idea that we would consent to this or that if we were really free in our Craft or were really (insert thing here) makes students and others alike consent to look mature, or look enlightened, or be liked.  Its a form of emotional coersion and it’s not OK.  Stop with that crap right now.

We MUST talk about consent culture and sex positivity ad nauseum.  We must talk in our covens, at our fests, and in our homes.  We must learn that sex positivity can look like anything from complete voluntary abstinence to nightly baby oil and rubber sheet parties in the living room.  More willing does NOT equal more sex positive.  And you know what else?  I’d like to see teachers in the Craft not sleep with their students.  Radical, huh?

Beware of Unhealed Survivor Syndrome

OK, I made that term up.  But I think it’s a real thing.  It looks like this.  You ready?  Here it is:

  • Person speaks up about a concern regarding sexual exploitation, predatory practices, rape, etc.
  • Person points finger at particular group/person.
  • Person is listened to, but in the telling of their story, they become unwilling to do any of the following: verify facts, name names, show willingness to learn when something they said is proven to be not factual.
  • People call Person out on unwillingness to substantiate their claims.
  • Person claims being bullied, ganged up on, silenced, or otherwise being treated unfairly.
  • Shitstorm ensues.

Why does this happen?  It happens when a survivor is triggered and is either in a very early stage of healing or has not taken personal responsibility for their healing, and so they do desperate things to create factions in community and feed off of the ensuing chaotic energy.  It also works super spiffy to derail any investigation into their own behaviors.  Oh, you mean you think I stole the BoS of that Trad I just left?  WELL SO AND SO IS A PREDATOR!  EVERYBODY LOOK AT SO AND SO AND HOW I’M BEING VICTIMIZED FOR SPEAKING MY TRUUUUUUUTH!  I ONLY WANNA PROTECT THE COMMUNITEEEEEEE! ( I know that I misspelled community.  It’s called “poetic license.”)

The thing is, we do want to listen to concerns.  We do want to listen to survivors.  We do want to stand with you, help you heal, and fix problems.  But the BS about wanting to point fingers and then back pedaling when it comes time to talk real facts is not cool.  That shit needs to be shut down.  Don’t feed it.  Real victims deserve our energy.  Those who want drama for personal satisfaction do not.  You know how you tell if someone is willing to heal?  They are actually willing to engage therapy and look in the mirror.  Unless and until a survivor looks at their own poop in whatever way they need to do that, they are not healed, and if they drum up drama everywhere they go, what’s the common denominator in that?  Oh, right.  It’s them.

What Needs to Happen Right Now?

What needs to happen right now is that everyone needs to start talking.  This has happened to some degree already.  At Paganicon last year, I attended a panel on sexual predation in our communities, and one of our very own High Priestesses sat on the panel.  It was awesome and great beginnings were founded. More of that.

What can we do this year, this week, tonight, today?

  • Coven and moot leaders can create classes on Consent Culture and Sex Positivity (Google Consent Culture)
  • Individuals and groups can develop vocabulary that supports consent culture (the Kink Community has been doing this for years)
  • We can talk in our own groups about what standards we expect for initiation and High Priesthood, including mental health management standards and behavioral standards
  • We can write behavioral expectations and fitness for service codicils into our by-laws
  • We can learn how to talk to victims productively and hold them in loving accountability
  • We can learn how to access help for people who show abusive tendencies, and insist that help be accessed for continued membership in our groups
  • We can have solid rules for banning people from our groups, and have on-going conversations about what those are
  • We can have panels on this and related subjects at all fests
  • We can talk with children at fests as a “welcome to fest” class (Here’s a treat, and by the way, who can tell me what “bad touch” is?  Whom do you tell about “bad touch?”  “Does everyone know they can say “no” to an adult if it is about your own body?”)

Take the Pledge

I personally pledge that I will have conversations about predatory sexual behavior in my own coven and Tradition.  I pledge that I will attend panels, classes, and discussions about this subject at fests and cons.  I pledge that I will lend my personal energy to making certain these things happen at the fests and cons that I attend.  I personally pledge to listen to concerns, to never shame people for having different sexual boundaries than I have, and to speak up when appropriate.  What will you do?  The future is now.

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