This piece was prompted by a news item in which a 55 year old headmistress, who has won awards for turning schools around, was sent to jail for 8 years for having had sex with 2 teenage boys, both under 16, while she was in her twenties. 30 years ago. One of the complainants said he enjoyed it at the time, but now he sees that it was wrong. So clearly the woman needs to be publicly shamed, have her career destroyed and - probably the least of it - be sent to jail.
We are in the last days of Saturn in Scorpio; he will soon turn direct and leave the sign for another 25 years. So I expect him to be quite visible over the next 2-3 months.
The accountability (Saturn) of older people (Saturn) for their past (Saturn) sexual behaviour (Scorpio): this has been a major theme in the UK over the last few years, as celebrity after celebrity has been dragged into the courtroom to answer for who they’d had sex with many decades ago.
And quite rightly so, in many cases. It began with the appalling legacy of the late Jimmy Savile: people who had been afraid to speak out in his lifetime began coming forward, and the floodgates opened to a widespread and hidden culture of sexual abuse (Scorpio) by powerful people (Scorpio). It has been mainly in show-business.
There are long-standing allegations of paedophile rings amongst that other form of show-business – the one for ugly people – and these have had something of an airing: but it is proving far harder to bring accountability. Which shows, I guess, that politics is the more powerful form of show business.
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The collective being what it is, issues become black-and-white and the bad guys get turned into monsters. Like the above headmistress. There she was, this woman we admired, while underneath, all the time, she was a monster and we didn’t know it. (This, incidentally, is a perennial theme in the US, from the Salem witch trials of the 1690s to the current TV series Homeland.) The reality is she’s not a monster, she did things many of us could have done if we weren’t afraid of getting caught, and the fact that we turn these people into monsters so readily, proves the point: we demonise others to shield us from ourselves.
It’s classic shadow stuff, and again this is Scorpio territory. Saturn brings accountability and order to different parts of collective life and society, depending on what sign he is in. And in Scorpio, the collective shadow is likely to be revealed through the issues he highlights.
Sex and power is a perennial issue. It has always gone on and always will go on and it is good that it is being addressed. But is a power imbalance always unequivocally a bad thing? The inevitable black-and-white way that the collective mind works says yes. But what about bosses having relationships with their secretaries, doctors with nurses, rich old women with young men: should they too be brought before the courts, or allowed to marry, as they often do? My point is that though lines need to be drawn, they are not always going to be clear cut, and that power imbalances - perceived or real - can be the grist of relationships.
The background to Saturn in Scorpio has been the new puritanism, which began some decades ago and which has resulted, for example, in grandparents being afraid to have their grandchildren on their laps because of how it may be seen.
This will probably cost me a few readers, but what I call the dinosaur feminism of the 80s and 90s demonised men and their sexuality (remember 'all men are rapists'?) It happened while Pluto was in Scorpio – (3 cheers to Camille Paglia for speaking out against it) – and for a while it was hard to feel good about being a man. That has changed, and I feel there is more respect now between men and women. And it was probably the only way it was going to happen, after so many centuries of imbalance between the sexes. But I think we are left with the new puritanism – which could also be seen as a backlash against the permissiveness of the 60s.
So we are messed up about sex. We have been for centuries in one way or another. 500 years ago children in their early teens got married. Henry III's wife Eleanor was 13 when they married in 1236. Nowadays you are a pervert and a paedophile if you have sex with someone under 16, and if you get caught your whole life will be destroyed and you will be publically shamed. I’m not advocating any answers here, because as they say, it’s complicated.
The reason I have been able to say anything at all is because a woman got caught having had sex 30 years ago with 2 boys under 16. If it had been the other way round, I would have had to keep quiet. I’m not defending these things. What I’m arguing for is the cultural space not to be mindlessly damning.
I think the man who said he enjoyed sex with his teacher at the time, but now sees it as wrong, has been brainwashed by our culture of damnation. I agree with him, it was wrong – but to have someone destroyed 30 years later for something you admit to having enjoyed at the time? Would I regret it if it had happened to me? How many people are being persuaded by the new puritanism that what happened to them was far worse than it actually was, and how damaging is that? And that is not to take away from the awful things that have actually happened: but can they be properly understood if all we do is damn and destroy the perpetrators? Is it any different in essence to saying that the perpetrators are possessed by the devil and leaving it at that?
Saturn in Scorpio has brought a measure of accountability to the issue of sex and power. But I don’t think it has brought understanding. It will bring improvement for a while, but in a climate of fear.
And while we’re on the subject of Saturn in Scorpio, a news item today is entitled The taboo of sex in care homes for older people. It says “There may be a kind of all-pervading silence surrounding sex in later life, but that is not because it isn't happening.” The idea of older people having sex being OK - now that would be a good outcome of Saturn in Scorpio.
Personally, I have always found the idea of people who are more than about 15 years older than myself having sex a bit distasteful. I still do a bit of a double-take at the idea of gay marriage. And I recoil when I see people with disfigurements. This is all visceral, Scorpio stuff which Saturn asks us to think about. The one thing not to do is to pretend it’s not there.