Organized religion has rules. While we may not like or agree with these rules, they generally form because a society needs them. Lack of any rules leads to all kinds of problems, so at some point, a rule is made to put a stop to the problem. It's how human civilization evolves over time, theoretically improving with the standards being set.
Neo-paganism comes with the complication of being disrupted by foreign influences, so many of the original practices never forbid things that new faiths did. If we are to revive the faith in the modern world, we need to look at WHY a rule may or may not have existed, and if we need one in the current time and place we live in. that said, most people shy away from the topic altogether because it requires the use of logic rather than a tidy little bit of dogma.
Baby Making and Adulthood:
In any faith, including the current dominant organized religions, 'old enough to make a baby' was 'old enough to have sex'. This is because hunter-gatherer's had it hard. When you need to fight with everything in nature just to feed yourself and not get eaten you don't have time for sex for any other reason. Life expectancy was low, so you better get on the breading while you still can. While there may have been oddballs that took the same gender as a mate, they were a safety nature built in to care for orphans in case of biological parent death more than actual sex.
These days we have it comparatively easy when it comes to baby making, so we don't need to rush. This sets adulthood and parenthood back based on education and finance, and most nations have laws that enforce waiting much longer to marry than the hunter-gathers could wait. Unfortunately, there are some people who want to claim that because of 'freedom of religion' laws, early puberty is still an acceptable age for marriage and sex. Without stopping to consider why adulthood was marked at a certain age, it can sound plausible, but the original definition of adulthood had to be approved by the society, therefore the laws of the country you live in are the actual marker for the age of consent in today's world.
We also have birth control. There wasn't much in the way of effective birth control in the early human cultures, so the choice of sex without babies didn't really exist in heterosexual relationships until we learned more. So yes, originally, it was all about babies.
Gender Roles and Why They Even Existed:
“The miracle of childbirth” is actually quite horrific for women. The baby coming out can leave her so ripped apart she bleeds to death before labor is even over. Even if women survived, delivering a baby could still leave human waste constantly leaking from the loins, making them easy for carnivores to track and scaring off prey animals. Since this directly made getting food and surviving long enough to nurse a problem, women who had yet to birth or survived were kept clustered together and guarded closely.
The more children a woman can manage, the more her body is taxed, leaving her weaker and weaker with each birth. The tiny handful of women with strong enough genetics to not die, rip, or just plain break down to keep up with big strong men still had to deal with the menses blood giving away their position on the hunt.
Basically, most of what makes women not men was a handicap, and they needed protection to keep humanity from dying out. The stereotype of the women and children tending the fire and cooking wasn't a byproduct of male ego, it was survivalism.
The further civilization gets from just surviving, the more women participate in roles other than making babies because they can. As birth survival rates go up, not having a baby at all is less of a big deal.
Sex for pleasure:
The more farming develops, the more time people get to actually think about things other than not getting eaten and making a baby. Plumbing, architecture, medicine, and science gradually build up the freedoms for people to look at enjoyment over survivalism. This is when prostitution, gold digging, and homosexuality become relevant topics that a culture needs rules on. This is also where sexually transmitted infections start becoming an issue.
The more medicine advances, the higher pregnancy survival rates get. People live longer. More children survive to adulthood to reproduce, and the more the gender population looks even. Many of the things that killed people are under much better control, and there is more food to be had. This leads to specialized trade, including sexual services, but also spread of disease in ways that hadn't existed before.
This is the real reason many religions made sex a taboo. People could restrict sex to their own gender to prevent babies without support, but curing STDs was a whole different matter. Even now there are diseases we can't cure, but with the introduction of the condom, we can prevent them. Way back in Rome, that wasn't really an option.
We also see the formation of class systems. When people have more material stability, they will seek out luxuries that those with little can't have. At the same time, people with little will look for ways to increase what they have. As long as there are people willing to pay for a service, someone will provide it. Rome came with people willing to pay to watch animals rape people to death, pay for both males and females to have sex with, pay for owning humans for labor, and their laws reflect it. Rome also kind of collapsed under its own decadence, so long-term those laws didn't necessarily mean they were more civilized than people who only have sex to make babies.
In this more populated culture, sex and marriage for financial gain are an option. Freya beds several dwarfs to get crafts. The Morrigan can seduce men to start wars. Bride prices are a matter to be debated depending on what a wife can bring to the table. Pagans never outright forbid marriage and sex for financial gains, but breaking a promise was a big deal. This means there has been a long-standing rule against telling a lover they are your one and only true love when you were only in love with their wealth, regardless of the gender involved. A broken vow is a broken vow, period.
Yes, in most of the world it's against the law. Yes, it can also bring new and incurable disease into the human population. Yes, it's disturbing to talk about. But it wasn't actually forbidden by pagans. No, your freedom of religion laws doesn't magically protect you from animal abuse charges and viruses if you decide to practice that. Remember, pagans hadn't had time to figure out what sheep spread into the human population before Christianity moved in, so it hadn't occurred to them that they needed a rule against it.
Transgender and Gender Fluid:
This topic is relatively modern. That's because of a better understanding of nutrition and medicine as well as increases of technology have leveled out what women are physically capable of offering in society, and the technology to literally change the physical gender of a person has gotten to a point where we really can't see differences the way primitive peoples could.
Paganism never forbids changing genders or living between gender roles. It even comes with gods who shape-shift, cross-dress, and produce babies in ways the biological binary genders never allowed for. In times when women were in short supply, men taking on their duties to make up for it helped keep life as under control as it got. When men ran short, the most capable women stepped in because someone had to manage their role in the community.
This goes right back to nature worship. Animals that behave in a gender role different from their biology are there to provide for offspring that loses their parents, so it's natural that pagans would pick up on that as belonging in human culture too. Within the modern world, there is more to life than just raising babies and enough free time to rethink what benefit gender roles offer our civilization, and even disregard them completely in a way that was once reserved only for gods.
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