I’ve recently been very interested by points raised and issues brought up in articles posted by Shokti and Cunty (thank you both for your contributions). While I don’t want to reply directly to either, they have brought up and shone a new light on some thoughts of mine that I’d like to share.
Something that seems to be very much in the forefront of faerie consciousness is consent, and how it is affected and potentially invalidated in situations where there is a power inbalance – whether that be because of a difference in age, in sexual or romantic experience, in relative health/wellbeing, in social capital/etc. In a rather emotionally challenging circle I attended fairly recently, a discussion on how intimately/emotionally involved it was acceptable to be with those who have approached you for support descended into a faerie being aggressively accused of effectively using their position in the community to sexually take advantage. I really don’t want to make comment or take a side based on a very limited perspective on an obviously very deep and complex interpersonal conflict, but it certainly highlighted to me that this is an issue that it would be healthy for the community to start examining together, in a unified, careful and heart centred way. I was therefore very gladdened to see Cunty open up – in what I read as a very careful, vulnerable and relatively non-violent way – about the specific objectification and allure of (particularly male perceived) youth as he sees it within faerie gatherings. Personally, what he said definitely made connections with many of my observations and understandings of contemporary faerie culture. From my memories of the spotlighting and collective adoration of a select number of glamorous 20-something gay boys at the couple gatherings I’ve been to, to younger fae talking about navigating the myriad attentions and overtures of relatively older fae, to the multitude of over 40s gay men’s sharings in heart circles about feeling passed over, ignored and left out during the more festive and sexually charged modes of gatherings, my personal impression is that many faeries from all sides of the power dynamic would agree with Cunty about its existence. When I first encountered this dynamic at Featherstone, my first reaction I’m not proud to admit was envy, for the attention and adoration I perceived the young guys in their drag and glad rags as being granted. The root of this, given some time to reflect, was obvious: I have always struggled with needing validation and attention to feel accepted or appreciated socially, in earlier more male presenting times I would have flaunted and flirted my youth and form to gain the social attention and validation of other gays, and I was sore to find in this community my gender nonconformity meant I wasn’t able to misuse that dynamic as I was used to doing in queer spaces. While I have in the past definitely found select desire fulfilment by taking advantage of this sensual objectification dynamic, in hindsight it was disingenuous and caused much unhappiness: mainly because I had no intention or desire to engage sexually with the majority of the people I inticed, and interactions ended with neither party ultimately getting what they sought after.
I was interested to see the strongly differing perspectives between Cunty and Shokti on how objectification (or celebration of form etc.) fitted into Harry Hay’s binary of Subject-Subject vs. Subject-Object interactions. Obviously for Cunty, his experiences of how younger male-perceived faeries were sought after and his role in it was distressing and felt demeaning to the objectified faeries, whereas others (seemingly including Shokti) experience it as something much less inherently malign, and as compatible with empowering, loving faerie interaction. I can only stress that all I am doing and can do is lay out my own limited personal perspective, in the hope it might strike a positive chord with others, but I would like to suggest that its more complicated than that, and wrapped up in the use and misuse of a peculiarly faerie talentset, which I would like to call Glamour.
***Content Warning: contains liberal Woo, including Woo terminology and ideology***
So, lets talk about Glamour! In faerie space, I think it would be misguided to imagine that every interaction is an honest, profound and direct expression of self from one heart to others. On the contrary, we have extraordinary freedom to play with situations, to channel external energies and power, to adopt guises and personae, to perform as conduits of magick and ritual, to act out salacious and outrageous roles and desires. When we do so, consciously or not, our manifestation of Other (whatever external to ourselves we are creating the idea of) represents a channelling of our energy in order to bring about a physical change in how we are experienced by those who we interact with . This I’m going to denote with the old scots word for witchery and magick, Glamour – simply put, I’m using glamour as a blanket term for energy that is used to alter how you are perceived, whether that’s in faerie space or the concrete world.
How is this relevant to our discussions of power dynamics, of objectification and desire, you may ask? Because glamour is the tool and magic we use (wittingly or not) to work towards obtaining the reaction we desire from others: whether that is simply to enrapture, enrage, outrage, entertain, arouse, relax; or to achieve a more complex goal altogether. It is undoubtedly powerful, and does have the power to (temporarily or permanently) alter people’s perceptions of what is real and what is not, of their boundaries, of their internal senses of what is safe and unsafe, right and wrong. I see this as present in our drag and performance, in our engagement of those we are enamoured of or desire, in how we present our workshops and ideas, even in our stories, narratives and words of wisdom. Glamour undoubtedly has the power, sadly, of causing situations which can potentially lead to energetic and psychological damage to those who are more susceptible to losing themselves to it, when it is used without care and attention. Whether that is someone who has the protective seal on their inner trauma untimely broken, someone who finds themselves drawn into a cycle of indulgence that leads to a substance abuse relapse, or someone looking for paternal guidance and companionship who finds themselves in the midst of something more carnal, the reality is that faerie space – despite its beautiful, enriching empowering potential – can at times generate risks and the possibility of danger also. I don’t necessarily think this is something we should be ashamed of or feel guilt for communally, we aren’t ultimately responsible for or can control others feelings and reactions to faerie space. However, that isn’t to say that working towards making space more loving and nourishing for all isn’t an admirable undertaking for all of us who feel called to do so.
So how can we work to being responsible and loving wielders of this power, especially given the liminal nature of Glamour, and why should we? I think to the latter question, there may not be a simple right answer but my two cents is that at the foundation of faerie space is a core bedrock of being a community of love, and that by each individually doing work towards maintenance of that equanimous love we share as a community, we hold the community together and ensure its stable continuity. I think that especially those who exist towards the centre of the web of faerie energies particularly – whether that’s just for one gathering by being an organiser, social focus point or energetic catalyst say, or those who more generally are tied in to the core of continued community – tend to pool the energy to project glamour, potentially more so than they give themselves credit for. I’ve felt this myself at gatherings, when some people enter a room the energy completely changes in anticipation of them, when some people talk their words hold the listeners in rapture, and their expressed ideas naturally become the listeners reality. From what I have seen, often this is used by these faeries in a really generous and conscientious way already – easing the anxieties of unsettled newcomers, bolstering the guidance of gatherings energies towards mucking in and interacting respectfully, offering support to the disenfranchised, and helping make heard the quieter more fragile voices. To my mind though, they are unavoidably in the position of holding sway over hearts and minds, and I think recognising that power dynamic and creating a conscious and supportive collective awareness might help us harmoniously flow together around these issues.
How to wield Glamour in a safer way is something I can only offer my limited set of ideas towards, but I hope these might serve as a starter to thinking about approaching Glamour more mindfully and conscientiously. I think its important to examine our motives in how we interact with others, and try and match the Glamour we wear or project with our heart’s intentions – if our desires are sexual then wearing that on our sleeve and weaving seduction into our advances does honour to both the magick and the recipient. Further to that, checking-in in some manner and working responsively with the reactions our glamour elicits gives us the opportunity to ensure our energies have provoked what was intended and not something else unwanted, and gives us the opportunity to regather where our audience may have gone astray. As an example, I have heard of multiple instances where gender-bending manifestations have been mis-taken as looking to elicit sexual desire, which could lead to plenty discomfort for some of these manifesting fae if left unchecked. Moving towards a subject-empowering approach in our interactions can often help avoid situations where we impinge on others self-determination. This can involve ensuring we have their informed consent throughout interactions, we are being transparent about what we are doing, and self monitoring for mistakenly projecting your needs or traumas onto them, or false convictions of knowing what would be good for someone better then they themselves do. Upholding live consent doesn’t need to be something clunky and jarring that disturbs our energy flow in interaction, for one who is used to looking for it it can be achieved intuitively and as a beautiful enhancing element of their language of intimacy. Finally, being open-minded to our own limitations – as lovers, as healers, as magicians – and knowing when something has escalated beyond our control or comfort and it is safest to tap out is an important skill we should all bear in mind, and be open to the idea of. At the end of the day, it is the chaos in the nature of humans to make mistakes, to not always achieve what they set out to do, to be reliably unreliable – this isn’t something shameful or negative! It is how we respond to signs of failure, to accept it with grace and humility, and to learn from it which to me marks out the most enlightened amongst us.
I hope I have managed to set out my ideas on these power interplays that come into faerie space in a way that is constructive and has avoiding bringing up pain as much as possible. In faerie community one thing I particularly value is that with all the so many different faeries whom I have touched hearts with, I have not met anyone who does not in their own way have a loving relationship with the tribe as a whole, and isn’t seeking to have a more healthy and nourishing interrelationship with this community. I truly believe that we do all dynamically make our own uniquely positive contribution to the spaces we hold together, I hope that in understanding and respecting the complexities of our many differences we can all be enriched and grow together, to make ever more tolerant, loving and caring faerie space in the future.