As many of you are likely aware, the pagan/ witch/ magickal community is generally a very open and accepting bunch, but sadly, all trees have occasional bad apples. While many (and often most) people will respect your personal boundaries and limitations, you may encounter some who do not, and as such, I am going to go through a few scenarios and solutions regarding respecting boundaries, both your own, and other peoples'.
The touchy feely stranger
You are almost guaranteed to encounter at least one of these people in your life, and unfortunately, in the pagan community there are more than a few. As someone who doesn't like to be touched by strangers, I know how uncomfortable it can be when someone immediately begins touching you at an event. Now sometimes it really is harmless, some people are just more hands on communicators (especially if they spend a lot of time with children), and often time these people notice your discomfort quickly, but it is always a good idea to state your boundaries personally. "I apologize, but I am not comfortable being touched by strangers" is an example of how one could politely approach this situation. This will almost always be taken without offense, and often open the floor for discussion of boundaries. It should also be noted that depending on where you live, you may experience "huggers", and again, it is generally non-malicious and can be easily resolved.
Sometimes, even after you've made your boundaries clear, some people continue to cross them. For many it is unintentional, a habit if you will, but it is never a bad idea to gently remind them. Some people, especially those who frequent pagan gatherings have become extremely comfortable around people, and forget that not everyone is at their level yet, so try not to get too upset, and again, politely restate boundaries.
The Boundary Pushers
Unfortunately, there may come a person (or people), who will intentionally push boundaries with you. Sometimes it's little things like standing very close but not touching, but other times it'll be more noticeable. If this person has already been made aware of your boundaries, give them a firm warning that they are pushing you and they need to stop. Sometimes this is enough, but if that doesn't work, you need to firmly ask them to let you be. While this may seem harsh, it is the safest option. If that still doesn't work, or if they make you uncomfortable at any point, GO FIND AN EVENT STAFF MEMBER! I cannot stress this enough, if someone is making you uncomfortable, you should immediately speak with a person in charge so that they can intervene.
The Straight up Boundary Breaker
Sadly, there are people in this world who are both entitled and disrespectful when it comes the bodily anatomy of others. Many times, this person will not only ignore your boundaries, but seek to break them intentionally, and for the sake of causing harm. this is NEVER OK! If someone purposely breaks your boundaries, and ESPECIALLY if you feel threatened by them, speak to a person in charge IMMEDIATELY! The person in charge should put your safety first and ask the offender to leave, or at the very least, make sure they stay away from you; if the situation calls for it they should be more than willing to call the police. Moreover, while you may not want to do it, if you are in any way assaulted or harmed, you should immediately call the authorities. Your safety is the most important thing!
The Nosey Nellie
Every community has its fair share of nosey neighbors, and the magickal community is no different. You will almost always encounter someone who "simply must must must!" know all about you, and while annoying, its generally harmless; share only what you feel comfortable with!
The "lineage" obsessed classist
In some pagan and witch communities, especially in the south, who trained you and your lineage is a "big deal". This is honestly nothing more than disguised classism. There are some, mostly older, practitioners who believe in magickal "purity" stemming from direct teaching from certain "acceptable" elders, (think the Malfoys from Harry Potter but training lines instead of bloodlines), who will often try to put down anyone who doesn't fit their mold. These people pull the old "well you're not really a witch..." line if you don't provide "proof" of your training, and to be clear they're just being snobs. If you practice witchcraft, you are a witch. Plain and simple. If you follow a Wiccan path, it doesn't matter how you got there, you are a Wiccan. And so on. These people are often argumentative, so to avoid a fuss, you can either not answer, or if you'd like you can say, "I'm sorry, but I took vows and cannot answer". This is generally the best way to avoid conflict.
The overly interested admirer
Every now and then, you'll come across a person who, while taken with you, you don't have feelings for/ interest in. This person can often be a very docile person, but also somewhat invasive. Now, this one is somewhat understandable, humans naturally want to know more about people we find alluring, but it can be overbearing for the other person. If you find yourself with an overly interested admirer, you should make it clear that you have no intentions of pursuing a relationship, and that a friendship will reveal much of their questions with time. If they won't accept this, it is best to simply distance yourself from them; getting the authorities involved should things escalate.
While uncommon, you may encounter someone who just comes off as predatory, pushing you for things like personal info, private history, and just generally being threatening. Seek help Immediately in this situation. Do not give this person any personal information and seek the help of a person in charge as soon as possible. If you ever feel threatened by another person at an event or gathering, seek help and if no help seems to come, you should find the safest possible way to get home. Obviously, if you feel this person poses a credible threat to yourself or others, call the police.
A common unwanted advance is one involving someone who’s just too friendly. An example of this; Sara is new, and Mary happens to be one of the first people Sara talks too. Mary takes a shine to Sara right off the bat, but Sara is still very hesitant and nervous about the situation. Mary keeps pushing Sara, "lets hang out!" and "add me on Facebook!", but Sara isn't comfortable with this, and Mary doesn't seem to understand. When you are the Sara in a situation, make sure to very clearly outline your boundaries, it's possible that the Mary misread your willingness to talk as an opening for a close friendship, it happens, and they won’t know until you say something.
It is not at all uncommon for a member of a certain group or coven to take an interest in a newbie. Sometimes it’s simply, "We have the same/similar path, would you be interested in meeting my coven?", or, "My group is a teaching coven, and we'd love to meet with you if you're interested". Other times it may be a bit more invasive, such as, "oh well, solitaries aren't really witches so you should join our coven right now", or "well, your coven is great but you should leave and join ours" (See my post about poaching). Regardless, if you are not interested, it is completely ok to say so, and you are not required to give a reason. "Thank you for the offer, but I am not seeking a coven/ am not interested" will suffice. If they continue to push, seek help from a person in charge.
The unsolicited sexual offer
I will not go into specifics on this topic as it is self-explanatory, however, I will give two vague situations and their solutions. Someone approaches you and makes a polite but unwanted sexual offer; politely decline and state that you're not interested. Someone approaches and makes an overbearing or lewd offer/comment; very firmly but calmly turn them down and ask them to leave. In this situation, it is best to simply ask a person to leave instead of trying to engage in a back and forth. Regardless, you should report this to a person in charge, and if necessary, contact police regarding a credible threat of harm.
Your boundaries are important, and while you should always make sure to make them clear, it is never OK for someone to disrespect them. Moreover, if you are at an event, then you need to respect other people's boundaries, and take care to not to be any of the aforementioned people. That being said, have fun! And of course, be Safe!
Lady Wynnie is the ArchPriestess and founder of Covenant of the Rose. She is also a talented writer who will be blogging about the coven and it's happenings!