My husband and I have been in the SCA for many years and have been re-thinking our membership lately for a number of reasons. You are absolutely correct, the SCA is a cult, but it is a very subtle one.
First, I must point out (and this isn’t meant as a blanket defense of the SCA) there are plenty of conservative folks in the organization, like my husband and myself. I read your post about the SCA after seeing a near-hysterical rant about it on FB from a lady who, to my knowledge, is not a swinger; there are a lot of people in the SCA who aren’t. It’s entirely possible they are unaware of a lot. There are many women in the SCA who enjoy hand sewing, costuming, and cooking — and that’s all (although it’s hilarious listening to them sit around, hand sewing in their laps, pots aboil on the stove, raging on about feminism and the patriarchy. I’m not kidding.) My husband has enjoyed the “heavy weapons” fighting; it’s good exercise, and just as with the women, there are plenty of fairly conservative men in the SCA. For many years politics was simply not mentioned, although one was expected to be a good sport and be “tolerant.” Also, when my husband and I first joined we weren’t Catholic or even practicing Christians. We live in a small city with a smaller group so we’ve probably missed some of the worst but we’ve heard about it.
The real harm of the SCA is more subtle than simply sexual abuse. It lures people in, as you say, who feel lonely and nerdy, who love books and history. One is encouraged to work and work for “the Dream,” whatever that is (“the dream” means living full-time in SCA character/camp. -AB), to work one’s fingers to the bone in the faint hope that one of the “Peers,” that is, fake nobility, will take notice and invite you to join their household. Most of these households are not led by sexual predators, but some are what are called “polyamorous,” that is, swingers. We were never invited to join the second group because we made it clear we weren’t interested, but one finally notices that the Christian members are never the “inner circle,” and seldom win the top awards. The real leaders and people in the know are very secretive, so we usually only hear about things second and third hand.
You realize that only people with no real family to speak of are in the inner circle; that seems to be a requirement, even more that being a swinger. Nobody who is in the elite group, and believe me, that is how they think of themselves, has any ties to family. Many people in the SCA report (this I have heard personally many times) that they were sexually abused as children, and they are the ones who will tell anyone who will listen that the SCA is their “real family.” That right there ought to be a red flag for a cult, but the SCA avoids that by not barring anyone from leaving. It is a clever cult, which operates by carrot dangling. I suppose most of us who join are high-IQ geeks who never fit in, so this works really well for a very long time for both progressive sorts and more conservative.
Things have been going downhill, though, and fast. This last summer, an orgy was advertised on a public Facebook page for an SCA event. Several conservative people I know expressed shock but nobody publicly complained about it. The orgy-givers got away with it by organizing as a loose confederation of SCA members giving themselves some pagan name and pretending to be outside the SCA, and then having the orgy on an adjacent area not technically within the SCA event. I believe they did this at several events during 2018 and probably 2019 too.
No one should ever allow their teenager to attend an SCA event. Bear in mind that one of the main activities of SCA local groups is having “demos,” or public demonstrations of SCA activities at elementary schools, universities, and festivals, in the hopes of getting new members.
Of course, all members, even the most obtuse, surely have heard by now about child abuse in the SCA , about pedophiles trying to get into children’s activities, that sort of thing, but on the other hand, nobody ever mentions it to new members, so maybe they don’t. (The SCA as a whole had to pay out millions in Pennsylvania over a convicted child abuser who took charge of “children’s activities.” )The sad thing is that it is the conservative members who would be most likely to bring children and family into the SCA, not realizing what they are getting into. Most members, even members for years, know very little about all this. I myself had no idea that Walter Breen (the husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley, who founded the SCA) was a convicted pedophile who spent years in prison until I read their daughter’s harrowing account.
The final straw has been the increased politicizing and policing of even local groups. I’ve seen monitoring of member’s FB pages for conservative political comments, and attempts made to get conservative members ostracized; and kingdoms and the SCA as a whole adopting progressive statements on inclusivity and sexual harassment. The organization is becoming “converged,” as they say. Even the most head-in-the-sand members, like my husband and myself, must now be aware that conservative Christians are not welcome anymore, if we ever were.
I wish we hadn’t gotten so deeply enmeshed with the SCA. All of our social life revolves around the SCA. We seldom go to events anymore, but all our friends are ex-SCA. It is a cult and gets its claws in deep.
Please do not use my real name.
Gettin’ Outta Dodge
More info about the SCA founders, who were pedophiles:
One of the founders of SCA, and the acknowledged orginator of the name, Marion Zimmer Bradley, was recently exposed as a lifelong degenerate and child abuser, by her own daughter. Bradley achieved great success as a fantasy author, is still lauded in feminist circles as an early icon of “woke” fiction.
Bradley’s husband of convenience and partner in crime, Walter Breen, was a serial pedophile who haunted the sci-fi convention scene, and whose victim count probably ranges in the many hundreds. The story is chilling, and textbook DN behavior. They used their own children as objects for their gratification from the earliest ages.
The daughter, Moira Greyland, emerged from more than a decade and a half of horrific abuse, and ended up finding Christ, who she credits as helping her endure and saving her from those depths. In 2017 she wrote a harrowing memoir about the period, “The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon”
Ann, thank you for all you have done and continue to due shining light on this crucial topic.
Video from the editor and publisher: