Sexology 2: ‘Sadomasochism and you. Yes I mean you.’

Have you ever sat around and thought, “Man, I don’t find the presence of strangers alarming enough. I really need to spice up my life.”

Well I recommend you take a half hour of your time and read ‘Sexual Sadism: Psychopathology and theory’, an article by Yates, Hucker, and Kingston. What follows is my reaction, so like usual, I’m no professional.

Well first off the bat, you might be thinking that Sadomasochism is that kinky stuff that happens in pornography with subtitles to help you understand the German.

Rosie and Dan

Well yes, it is, but there is a use for it in the psychology world as well. A Sadist (A term created out of the name of the Marquis de Sade, look it up), is a person who receives arousal from fantasies or acts that humiliate, hurt, wound, or destroy another person. To sum it up, hurt someone, get boner. Which seems all well and good, until you realize that ‘sexual sadism’ lines up with violent and sometimes deadly rape.

Sorry, I ruined the mood too fast. Let me roll back a little. Sadism is all over the place. Sometimes it is a major act, like sexual stabbing, necrophilia, or the awkwardly titled lust murder. Other times it is consenting bondage, humiliation, and minor flagellation (that is whipping). So as you might imagine, it isn’t the easiest paraphilia, or atypical source of arousal, to lock down.

The diagnosis for necrophilia doesn’t always line up with sadism. Erotophonophilia, or ‘lust murder’ to its friends, typically crops up in sadists who are overcontrolled, introverted, and sexually inexperienced. Except, most diagnosis considers lust murderers egotistical and vain. Sexual sadists don’t usually follow the diagnosis for a psychopath, except behavioral theory on why they become sexual sadists includes a lack of empathy for other human beings.

What I’m trying to say is, no one seems to know what the hell is going on with sadists. For an act that has been researched since the 1930s (if not earlier), we seem to have little data, and no direction on getting more data. I think I might know why too.

During studies on non-offending men, which is hopefully the sort of guys you go out for a brewski with, 30% said they had fantasized about tying up or raping a woman. Thirty percent, that is a little less than one in three. I know this was in 1980, but unless we recovered from some dystopic wasteland in the meantime, I doubt that number has gotten much better. Another study had 16-20% of men grow aroused at a sadomasochistic narrative. Others included narratives with causing pain to a victim, or fantasies about women bound and in distress. In one study on college aged men, many respondents said they would rape a woman if there was zero chance they would face repercussions.

I don’t want to alarm you world, but it sounds like every single guy ever isn’t so much not a rapist, but too camera shy to rape at the moment. I mean, I know that when I wake up in the morning I ask myself, maybe if I find just the right alleyway, with just the right person walking down it, today will be my day. But then my nerves come up, and I get performance anxiety, no rape for me that day.

And yet, some studies put sexual sadism at as low as 5% of all sexual offenses. While even that number is too high, I have to be thankful it is that low in spite of the numbers.

But I think the point is that sadism, wanting to see humiliation or pain, isn’t a cut and dry lead in to the horrific act that is rape. In 1953, 12% of women reported arousal to S&M, sadomasochist, narratives. As did 10-20% of men. 15% of men in a 1980 study fantasized about humiliating a woman, and 11% fantasized about assaulting one. S&M, this culture of pain giving and receiving, control and domination, humiliation and exposure, are a part of our culture. S&M is out of the closet even, all over normal porno sites, with their own magazines, their own subculture, and now mainstream books and movies with terrible representations of what S&M is all about.

To drive it home, sexual sadism is hard to diagnose, because doctors can’t tell who is a sadistic rapist and who just wants to get his rocks off with his partner. Studies have found that validity of tests are unacceptably low, and that testing cannot distinguish between sexual sadists (rapists) and non-offending controls. So until we know what divides the guy who would destroy someone’s life for his sexual thrill, and the guy who just wants to slap the shit out of his girlfriend with a paddle, research is stunted.

There are theories though, including the psychodynamic theory that sexual sadism is misplaced matricide. Freud (yes that Freud) thought sexual sadists were stuck in an oral-aggressive phase, and others after him thought that maternal behaviors of aggression, control, and dominance, along with sexualized behavior toward a child, could lead to sexual sadism. Combine it with lack of a father figure, rage, and feelings of inadequacy (being totally beta), and you get someone afraid to be engulfed by an adult woman. That sort of villain-origin melting pot leads to bad news.

On the behavioral theory side they go with violence and aggression being linked to sexual arousal at a young age. Like if someone punches you in the dick while you are masturbating (not an actual example, but please don’t do this to anyone). With arousal behavior linked with aggressive behavior, child abuse causes arousal, and then arousal causes aggression. These two grow in some sort of behavioral theory mind orgy, until masturbation and fantasy stop working. Then you end up with tragedy.

So what is the takeaway? Well, there is a real chance that the guy who thinks you are cute, also wants to do terrible things to you. Good news, you might want him to do terrible things to you. You can both pick up some leather, and a copy of Exit to Eden, and go to town. It also means that sexology research has a long road ahead of it to make sure that as few people as possible are hurt by one of the most terrifying paraphilias.

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Sexology 1: ‘One Bad Day and Boom, Pedophilia’; or ‘Dong Data’

Sexology 1: ‘One Bad Day and Boom, Pedophilia’; Or ‘Dong Data’

chris-hansen

I had some free time today and decided, ‘hey why not, I’ll go read some journal articles’.

Because, you know, everyone goes and grabs a science journal when they want to blow off some steam. I decided that I would choose a topic, and learn all I could without needing to put my butt in a classroom. Which turned out to be harder than I thought. Without first getting back into the online library of my university, most information was deep behind paywalls that made a vacation across the country look cheap.

But I got what I wanted. One article so far, ‘Biological factors in the development of sexual deviance and aggression in males’, written by Cantor, Robichaud, and Blanchard.

I’m a man who loves him some Law & Order. I don’t even consider the pleasure all that guilty. I love seeing cops chasing down bad guys, and figuring out the crime before some big twist makes the previous 50 minutes a moot point.

Except one part of Law & Order has always disturbed me, the criminology. I guess that is a big part, since it is central to everything they do. Whatever, the point is, whenever the cops start talking about the psychology of criminals, things get a little wonky.

Let me paint the scene for you. Gruff man-cop is told by sassy fem-cop that the perp already served time for child molestation. Gruff man-cop looks at his partner and says, over a steaming cup of coffee, ‘He was abused as a child, he’ll always be a sex offender’.

Then they go back to busting heads, and solving their personal issues by occasionally choking a criminal.

So when I pulled up this article, the title made me wonder what it could possibly say. Sex offenders were made, not born, right? I mean, if people are out there being born as child molesters, rapists, and pedophiles, why aren’t we doing something? Shouldn’t we be tracking down the genes that make someone a pedophile and watching those people like a Chris Hansen shaped hawk?

Well, turns out it isn’t that easy, and it never is. I mean, they have been researching ideas like this for a while, but as the researchers point out, most research doesn’t touch on the idea of it being genetic. Their hope was to see if there was a genetic link to paraphilia (that is when you get aroused by abnormal stimuli), and what further research could be developed from there. They wanted to look at pathogenics, but not at evolutionary adaptation.

First thing they looked at was a study that gauged the IQ of sex offenders. Turns out (bad news pedophiles), sex offenders have lower IQs. Usually low 90s compared to the 100 average.

They split it into three groups, pedophiles, hebephiles (those who are attracted to the pubescent), and teleiophiles (a word I never thought I would need, that means attracted to adults), and found the information still held true. Pedophiles were around 89 IQ, hebephiles 93, and teleiophiles 97.

But hey Marshall, you may be saying to yourself, couldn’t that just be one of them there correlations that ain’t in no ways related to them factoids and junk? Well internal caricature of anyone who would read this, that could be the case. Which is why they pulled out more data.

Seems pedophiles are also more often left-handed as well. So while it could just be ascertainment bias (aka, a bias of what data could be collected) that only the low IQ pedophiles get caught, there is no good reason why more left-handed pedophiles would get caught.

My favorite part at this point is how they start collecting data on pedophiles. I mean, you might imagine that calling a man a pedophile might cut down on how much information he would give you. Like, “Hey you, terrible child rapist, tell me about your childhood,” probably doesn’t go over well.

So they verify that someone is a pedophile using the best available to modern science. Phallometrics. Yeah, you read that right, dick data, manhood medians, boner books, phallometrics. You hook up junk to their junk, and then show them pictures, then measure the blood flow to the crotchal region. If they get a semi when you show them pedo trash, they are confirmed pedophile.

So while they were doing all of this research to see if regional brain damage might be directly related to becoming a pedophile (results were inconclusive), they were taking in dong digits for their erection equations.

In the end, pedophiles didn’t perfectly match up with other ideas for violent sex offenders. They had lower testosterone, and they didn’t always have damage to their frontal lobe. They had low IQs usually, but other sex offenders didn’t always have that. So, maybe pedophiles are a different brand of sex offender from the whole bunch.

One area that seemed to hit, where I didn’t expect it to, is physical brain injury. That is, those who were marked as pedophiles by phallometrics (wang worksheets) also had a high rate of having been knocked unconscious from head injuries when they were younger than 13. Over 13? Not so much. But seemingly, taking a hard enough blow to the head at a young developmental age could lead to a disturbance in your sexual development.

This makes me think about young boys playing sports like football. I was a young boy playing sports like football, that could have been me if I ever took a blow hard enough.

The researchers, Cantor and friends, didn’t get exactly what they wanted. The research is too thin, and there doesn’t seem to be a strong genetic link just yet. But even what they did find was intriguing, the idea that developmental perturbations could lead to such a terrifying change in your life patterns, and you wouldn’t even know your development is off until much later. One bad day, and you go from normal healthy man, to a scourge in your society.

But hey, this is just one article. Maybe I’ll find something to contradict this as I dig further. You never know with science. Plus this means that many more men will get strapped in tight for more dong data.

The Questions We Should Always Ask (But Can’t)

Like a lot of people on the internet, I can’t just ignore arguments on the internet. The older I get, the less I get mixed up in these things. Not for any lack of conviction, but because I see the same conversations recycled day after day.

From XKCD

Bet you’ve never seen someone link an XKCD comic before, have you?

Now I’ve taken to picking my conversations. When it comes to speaking to theist (Christians in particular), I have to make sure I know what brand of Christian I am speaking to before I even start stating points.

Why is that? Well, while my Christian brothers and sisters might think it is obvious to everyone what they believe, that is not the case. There is only one thing you know about a Christian from them stating they are a Christian, they are a follower of Jesus Christ. Everything else is up in the air.

This isn’t a crisis, but this ambiguity leads to the sort of arguments I would rather sit on a spike than have. I mean, nothing says ‘I’m really enjoying this talk, really’ like being yelled at for ‘not understanding the bible at all’ for the millionth time.

If I could have it my way, every Christian would answer a quiz before they entered conversations. Without the quiz present, they can’t make any theological statements. What sort of quiz? Well, I found it right here in my brainbox.

We should start at section 1, remember to write your name in the top right corner.

1 God

1.A: Do you believe in god?

Yes or No

1.B: Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ?

Yes or No

1.C: Do you believe in the trinity? (God the father, God the son, and God the holy ghost.)

Yes or No

1.D: Do you believe that god is Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent?

Yes or No

1.E: Do you believe god is Omnibenevolent (Always good)?

Yes or No

You would imagine these questions are obvious, but they are not. Some Christians are so liberal, that they just believe in the message of Jesus, but don’t believe in his divinity, so it is good to get that one out of the way. Some Christians don’t believe in the holy ghost, others think God and Jesus are two different dudes (instead of being the three in one). Not everyone agrees that God is omnibenevolent, which gives the big guy a pass on that whole justifying wars thing, or killing everyone in that flood. Plus, he promised not to do it again, so we should give him a break.

2 The Bible

2.A: Do you believe the bible is the word of god?

Yes, No, Some of it

2.B: Do you believe the bible is without errors?

Yes, No, Some of it

2.C: Do you believe the bible has ever been purposefully edited? (has had its meaning changed)

Yes or No

2.D: Do you believe in Revelation?

Yes or No

This section is simple, but it saves you a lot of grief. If you point out a contradiction in the bible (like god saying he will not do something, then immediately saying he will do something), you want to know if your Christian pal is going to bite you on the nose, or put their fingers in their ears (yes, these are the two choices. Sorry for all of those who don’t like the taste of noses).

3 The Universe

3.A: Do you believe in ghosts?

Yes or No

3.B: Do you believe in demons?

Yes or No

3.C: Do you believe in magic?

Yes, No, Only divine occurrences

3.D: Do you believe in miracles?

Yes or No

3. E: Do you believe there are other gods?

Yes, No, Maybe

3.F: Do you believe in karma?

Yes or No

3.G: Do you believe in reincarnation?

Yes or No

Some Christians are what we call, ‘open minded’, in that they allow for other spooky stuff to also exist. I’m pretty sure god was supposed to put a stop to magic at some point in the old testament, but I haven’t double checked that one recently. Also, if the Bible is true, there shouldn’t be any ghosts. That doesn’t stop many Christians from believing in them, but I’ve gone over that in the past. The point is, sometimes people (Christians or not) hang on to beliefs even older than the Bible. Demons fall into the same category, with the Bible almost having nothing to say about them (unless you get into non-canon texts), but it won’t stop your average Christian from believing in them.

4 Sin, Heaven, and Evil

4.A: Do you believe sinners can get to heaven?

Yes or No

4.B: Do you believe we are born sinners?

Yes or No

4.C: Does purgatory exist?

Yes, No, Maybe

4.D: Can you be forgiven of your sins?

Yes or No

4.E: Who is ultimately responsible for evil?

The Devil, God, or Man

4.F: Is god aware of your choices before you make them?

Yes or No

“I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7

But god still outsources some of the evil to the devil, sometimes, maybe. Also, no one ever seems able to agree what it takes to get into Heaven. Well, except no one seems willing to drop babies into hell, even if they believe we are born with sin. Babies always get a free pass (those crafty bastards).

5 The Rest

5.A: Do you believe there were dinosaurs?

Yes or No

5.B: How old do you think the Earth is?

Many billions of years old, Around 6000 years old, No idea.

5.C: Do you believe prayer works?

Yes or No

 Meh, this is the easy stuff. I won’t bore you with it.

So how did your Christian do? Sometimes you realize that you are barely talking to a ‘Christian’ at all. Instead of some conservative bible thumper, you’ve found a free-loving yoga spiritual who think Jesus was just another incarnation of the Buddha. Still, he thinks YHWH is the one true god, and f*** you for saying otherwise.

Other times you find out you’re talking to a hardcore Christian who thinks the bible is perfect, but also thinks that people are living their third lives, and people get bad grades because the devil spends his time oppressing Black youth in the ghetto.

Which is fine, believe your religion however you want. Just don’t get mad at me when I don’t realize that in YOUR version of Christianity, God has a 4th incarnation that is an impossibly fluffy teddy bear.

Doc McStuffins and Minority Representation (Also the new Ms. Marvel)

If that isn’t a title that excites you, I don’t know what to say. I can only bring so much razzle dazzle before you people have to do some of the work yourselves. Put some effort in, is all I’m saying.

As one of those ‘Urban’ people you sometimes hear about in music videos, or 1/5th of a sitcom cast, I’ve been lead to some rather interesting places when it comes to judging whether a character is ‘good’ or not. Note the air-quotes over good, because at the end of the day, we can only make our judgments based on so much information. 

So who is the (relatively) new topic running around? Marvel is creating a new Ms. Marvel. For those who don’t know the old Ms. Marvel (and that is a lot of you), she is one of the most powerful earthbound heroes in the Marvel universe (the one with Spider-man and Wolverine, not the one with Batman and Superman, for those who needed that). She flies, can shoot lasers, and for those who are into that sort of thing, has a bodacious booty.

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I’ve been a comics fan for a few years, and before that I mostly knew characters through video games and cartoons. Carol, wasn’t in cartoons. Though she still played an important role. While we never hear much about this, Rogue got her powers of flight and super strength after perma-stealing them from poor Carol (but she got better). 

Who cares though, that is old, blond bombshell Carol. We have a new Ms. Marvel, and she is… not blond.

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Also a muslim, for what it is worth. You would imagine, as some sort of angry atheist, I would hate that, but it doesn’t really blip on my radar. The folks of the internet though, they have mixed feelings whenever a hero suddenly gets a fresh, new, ethnic start. There is a lot of talk of pandering, and trying to pull in audiences (as if that one is a bad thing), and of being too political. I don’t know, I just think she has a lame set of powers. 

What is important though, is that there is a slight diversification. Some people disagree, and it is easy to see why. I’ll explain my view though.

See, if you are of a minority group (women, ethnic, sexuality), you get used to seeing people who don’t look anything like you in the media. The biggest names in DC are Superman, Wonderwoman, and Batman, and unless you happen to be an amazon or an alien, ethnic minorities don’t see themselves in those characters. Which is why teams usually have at least some diversification in their ranks. Cyborg is now an original Justice League member, Luke Cage has been a fixture of the Avengers for years now. The deeper you dig, the more you find, women like Storm, Wasp, Powergirl, ethnic folks like Jubilee, Forge, Falcon. If you want to see yourself in a hero based on a similar background, you are bound to find someone… but that doesn’t always solve the problem, because we don’t just pick our favorite heroes based on the color of their skin, or what is between their legs. I don’t care that Cyborg is Black, he is a lame hero. I don’t like Falcon, and I don’t really like Luke Cage. I think the biggest name Black hero I like is Jon Stewart of the Green Lanterns (and even he is a little lame). 

So what is the big deal? If people just choose their favorites, despite who/what they are, why bother making minority heroes at all? Because characters also work as role models to kids. So whether they register it or not, children see and absorb how people like them are shown in media. My nephew may like Spider-man as his favorite hero, but that doesn’t mean he won’t notice that Spider-man has to beat up more Black street thugs than White. So when the young Black girl looks at a comic or cartoon and has no one (Bumblebee? I guess), her mind will notice that. So when a young arab looks at a comic or cartoon and has… Dust from the new X-men? The pickings get slim, and could be missed completely if they aren’t into the right series.

White kids? Especially White males, heck son, just throw a dart and they have options of all sort. Want to be a doctor? Medical, psychologist, or what? You want to be a magical doctor? I think we have a few of those. 

So that brings me to Doc McStuffins, and I realize I’ve been typing a lot so I’ll be brief. If you don’t know Doc McStuffins, she is a disney character for a kids show, and she heals her little stuffed animals by investigating their problem, and taking advice from her mother (who is also a doctor). She is also a little Black girl, but that is inconsequential to the plot of things. Having spent a large amount of my time in toy stores lately, I can tell you that Doc Mcstuffins is hot stuff, she has a section of toys rivaling the disney princesses. She is such a cool little media icon, from being a doctor (no princess iconography here), to her practical adventures about investigating problems rationally, to of course being what the kids call a minority ‘two-fer’. Ten out of ten, would let my niece watch you again.

Sure, Doc McStuffins is inconsequentially a minority, as in the fact that she is Black has no effect on her in character, but that opens her up to being appreciated by a wider audience (plenty of non-Black kids buying her merch). It takes a good mix, I would say, of characters whose minority aspects mean a lot to them (Luke Cage got his powers in prison, after being arrested for gang activity), and characters whose aspects don’t do much at all (Did you know Kitty Pryde is Jewish?), so that we can both include those whose lives are heavily influenced by their ethnicity/gender/sexuality/religion, and uplift the public image of different ethnicities/genders/sexualities/religions to the public.

So how do I feel about the new Ms. Marvel? I think she will do fine, we could use a more liberal Muslim in the comics world, and her interactions will be interesting. How fast and loose does she play her faith? What hardships does she face between hero life and normal life? How will she interact with the Marvel worlds growing roster of teen heroes? I guess we will see, and hopefully someone out there is paying attention.

Have a Spoopy Day

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I saw a video today, and I thought the Friendly Atheist and Atheist Voice had perfect timing in releasing it shortly before the western world’s favorite spooky day.

I don’t know when last I believed in ghost. The whole idea seems silly in retrospect, something that is accepted based on legends, stories, and made for TV movies. I’ve never seen a ghost, the closest I’ve come is faulty intuition about what lurks in the shadows around me. 

When I was a kid, I remember my older sister and cousin playing Bloody Mary in a bathroom at our grandma’s house. In my memory, I can’t remember where the adults were, if they were around at all. I just remember everyone daring my cousin to do it, and him accepting the challenge. They went into the bathroom, and I stayed out in the living room. 

There was suddenly screaming from the bathroom, the door was flung open, and they came pouring out telling their story. I remember my cousin actually being hurt, holding his back, screaming bloody murder. 

That is the closest I’ve come to a ghost, a game of Bloody Mary that I wasn’t part of. At some point I discarded ghosts, maybe it was somewhere around the 3rd TV series where plucky young people took gear into old buildings and claimed ghosts were real when they heard echoes in the hallways.

Only recently did I start to consider ghosts critically, or rationally. When I was a Christian, I should have asked the question then. What would ghosts be? When people die, don’t their souls depart? Why would the Christian god let some ghosts hover around on Earth? 

In the bible, old and new testies, there seem to only be 6 mentions of the word. Some of them aren’t translated as ghost depending on version. In each, a ‘ghost’ is seen, but the bible quickly refutes the idea that ghosts should exist (Samuel 28. Matthew 14. Mark 6. Luke 24.). Except maybe in Isaiah, but whatever. The point is, any god fearing Christian should assume ghosts are not real, because they go against everything that they should believe about their holy text.

So why do so many people believe in ghosts? Why are they such a huge part of our culture, our legends? If you ask me, they were around before, and survived. 

If you imagine the Jews living in Rome, and suddenly the Christian church, you have to realize that the Roman tradition would have had real spirits in their legends, that rose up, returned, did deeds, and were probably then banished back to the underworld. Even before that, there were stories of ghosts. So the Christian legend was up against an insurmountable tradition, the idea that people’s spirits stuck around, got angry, or sad, and wanted to hang around abandoned amusement parks to mess with horny teenagers.

I know an atheist (maybe an agnostic) who believes in ghosts, to a degree. Which to me is amusing in its own way. To discard such lofty ideas as an all-loving god, but keep the terrifying idea of vengeful spirits. It isn’t that ridiculous though when we look at how our world works. We keep mementos of our lost friends hanging everywhere, we keep their presence fresh in our minds. Our media and entertainment is quick to teach us how to transform a welcoming face into that of a ghoul in the shadows. Is it any wonder that when something creaks, we are quick to put a face on it, try to understand it, personify it?

I have loved ones I’ve lost, and I don’t want to imagine them as wandering souls, that seems tragic and also selfish. Why, of the billions that have lived on this world, would people related to me stick around? Why would the dead contact me instead of someone else? If ghosts are created when people die without finished business, or when they want to stay close to loved ones, this world would be filled to bursting with passed spirits. Like any other supposedly hidden supernatural activity, the truth of ghosts would never be able to hide. They would be everywhere around us, not in the shadows, in the very air we breath. We live on the piled dead.

No, the truth of the matter is we are both afraid of humans truly passing, and at once afraid that they don’t. That is why we keep their smiling faces around us in pictures, and why we bury them deep and far away. 

Oh yeah, have a Happy Halloween everybody!

I Can Explain That: Sex Positive

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Oglaf.com

Every now and again I see a post on the internet that is definitely sex positive. No, I’m not trolling pornographic forums (as much).

Sex Positive, if you don’t know, is defined on wiki as “an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation.” To make it simple, I hear sex ain’t that bad.

So just hearing that you might say, “well I’m sex positive,” but is that true? Sex Positive is often seen as the opposite of Sex Negative, which our culture often is. When we look at the sexually charged world around us, it is still definitely a world that says ‘shun those having sex, and the less you see sex the better’.

Up until a few years ago, I would say I was a prude. I didn’t really talk about sex related content, I didn’t want to hear about sex stuff. Sure, I had the internet, I saw sex everywhere I looked, but it wasn’t conversation to have with other people. I lived in a world where the only venue to talk about sex was the piggish humor we expect of frat boys on a FOX network sitcom. If you aren’t talking about boning a girl because she is simply attractive, or insinuating that someone’s mother was sucking on your boy dong, what is there to talk about?

A lot, it turns out. Sex Positive is that gateway that says, ‘oh wait, people have sex all the time… like seriously, there are probably a bunch of people being boned within a mile of me at any moment.’ So what are we so afraid of? Why do we, and by we I usually mean moms (but that is unfair), shiver in fear at the idea of someone talking about sex?

Is it to protect the children? Screw children! No that isn’t an endorsement of Catholicism, I mean we can’t shut the world down because kids might see something. That isn’t protection, that is ignorance. All it leads to is a bunch of children so confused when they do find pornography that they can’t even understand their own bodies. We raise hordes of sexually repressed and shamed children, especially young women, and it isn’t healthy for anybody.

We know what being Sex Negative does, it leads to teen pregnancy from ignorance of how sex works, or fear of packing contraception. It leads to fear of human anatomy. It can lead to a boring and unsatisfying sex life. It can lead to rape.

Sex Positive is the chance to know that not only does your body have this awesome capacity for good feels, you are probably going to use it. So go ahead, put on some Barry White, take your good hand out on a date. Learn what quality sex is, find out what you enjoy, and then be open enough to find out that someone isn’t good for you before you’re 3 kids into the deal and realize that some people have this thing called an ‘orgasm’.

I’ve wanted to be more ‘Sex Positive’ in my life. That is, be more open when talking about sex, refuse to shame sexual acts simply because I wouldn’t do them, speak the facts about the human body. It isn’t easy, I mean, I was a total prude. The internet has definitely helped.

I get to read web comics that take a serious look at reviewing sex toys.

The local newspaper includes captain sex positive himself, Dan Savage of Savage Love.

It seems like the whole world has realized that we don’t have to hide our dicks in a box.

Well, not the whole world, but it is never that easy. I see the Sex Positive Movement as an ally to secularism, because religion is often at the forefront of Sex Negative activity. When you see the world as pure virgins who must keep themselves safe from the devilry that is sex, there is no room for an open conversation about safe sexual exploration. Some religions fear that maybe someone will have sex before they have had the chance to stamp it with their divine approval.

Why is that? Well science says it is ‘divine’ law meant to facilitate patrilineal societies. If we don’t let women know about sex until their husband ‘takes’ them on their wedding night, we have one more guarantee that she only has kids from one father. If she decides to experiment before her wedding day, we can stone her to death. Can’t get more Sex Negative than stoned to death (unless you start getting into female circumcision, but I’ll spare you).

Sex Positive, making life better for men, women, and everyone in between. What isn’t to like?

Putting the big B in Believe

Language sucks.

 

I love it, I love it as much as possible. As my linguistics teacher put it, what makes language amazing is that it has infinite creative capacity. That is to say, a new thing is being said every day, we are always creating new meaning just by running our big fat mouths.

 

That said, sometimes we use that infinite creative capacity to recycle the same trash over and over.

 

Recently I’ve had this feeling about the word “Believe.” If you’ve had enough conversations about humanism and religion, you may know the problem I’m talking about already.

 

When you speak with a ‘Believer’ (big B) about their Belief (big B), you find yourself confronted about your belief (little B) in science. Example:

 

“I truly think atheism is its own religion now, they just Believe in science.”

 

I could write a book about all the reasons that is ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins beat me to it.

 

For most people, that is non-crazy-internet-people, there is no confusion here. When I say, “I believe that works.” That doesn’t mean that I’ve built a church around it, and I want to have my child’s foreskin removed in reverence of its divine law. When I say, “I Believe in god.” That is a different statement, with unrelated baggage and weight.

 

See, ‘I believe’, as a package, has gained definitions that stand so far apart from each other, they can’t even call each other without an international calling package.

 

I believe (little B), is a tentative statement. It says, “I am pretty sure, but don’t hold me to that if I’m wrong. I mean, totally run with it for right now, but feel free to call me a dick if someone contradicts me immediately.”

 

I Believe (big B), is a definitive statement. It says, “I know this for a fact, to the point that I’m willing to waste a large amount of life resources on it, ostracize others socially over it, and if my holy book is any indication I’m even willing to kill children over it. But only if my god is totally pranking me.”

 

I believe in science, until a piece of science is proven wrong, then I’ll go with the new prevailing theory. It isn’t really that big of a deal, except those times where it is (like when someone dies a terrible death because a theory is wrong). But the wonderful thing about science, is that it admits it was wrong. Oops, turns out that gives you cancer, sorry about that, someone forgot a 1 in the equation.

 

It is easy to see how someone would consider the two similar, would imagine that humanists/scientists/skeptics are somehow worshipping science like some deity. The men in labcoats as infallible priests, with some vague equation god as the head. Personally, I don’t care about scientists, and if you ever see scientists go at each other in scientific journals, you would see that scientists don’t care about scientists. What is important is being right, and they wouldn’t miss the chance to rip a well known scientist to shreds if their theory turned out to be wrong, that’s how you make it on the mean streets of science.

 

That is something I can Believe in, humans motivated by being dicks.

 

Carl Sagan and Proving a Negative

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I’m in Canada today for Thanksgiving (the Canadian version), so I don’t have a lot of time to do my usual vomit of atheist thoughts. So instead, I wanted to link something that Jerry Coyne brought up a few days ago on his awesome blog, Carl Sagan’s Parable of The Dragon In My Garage. 

People who grew up with Sagan love the man, his wonder at the natural world around him, and his love for science, speaks to a lot of people whether they are atheist or not. He has a book that is often recommended to ex-theists, The Demon Haunted World (my reading plate gets full), and I still haven’t had a chance to give it a read. 

In that book he brings up the story of a man who says he has a dragon in his garage, but every time the skeptic asks for proof of this dragon, it turns out the dragon has some nature to it that makes it impossible to detect. 

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you.  Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself.  There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say.  I lead you to my garage.  You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely.  “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”  And so on.  I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

The rest of the story is available here, and was also linked on Coyne’s blog. The story is important, I think, because it speaks to a truth that we often forget to realize. Sure, if you are just talking about the general idea of an entity that we don’t know about, it is hard to say that it doesn’t exist, but when we are talking about a creature that should leave great heaps of evidence in its wake, it takes a lot of work (and back-pedaling) to justify saying that it exists without any proof of it.

This is why we have things like Russel’s Teapot, and the Flying Spaghetti monster, these are entities that show the ridiculousness of the ‘you can’t prove it doesn’t exist’ stance. My personal favorite is the Galactic Space Fish, which is so large that we can’t detect it, but it swims through space. Sure it could exist, but why posit for its existence? There are two easy answers, you were already told that Galactic Space Fishes exist, or you really want Galactic Space Fishes exist.

All we can do is leave out some Galactic bait and see what happens, but in the meantime, I think it is safe to say that fishy smell is coming from somewhere else.  

Popewatch 2013: Still don’t like him

Digging for nose gold

Digging for nose gold

Popewatch 2013: Still don’t like him

I get it people, the Pope hasn’t gone out of his way to call gay people horrible for a few months straight, that is pretty impressive. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to line up to give him a blowjob.

Here, Timothy Egan writes in the times how the Pope’s liberal theology may be what it takes to stymie the tide lapsing Catholics. As he notes, Christopher Hitchens informed him that ‘Nones’ were the fastest rising category of religion in the world. Hitchens is right, with 1 in 5 claiming no religion in the US, and 1 in 3 youths claiming the same, atheism is on the rise. The idea that the Pope would slow this terrifies me. Not because it would be less people joining my ‘team’, as it were, but because of the reason people just love Pope Francis.

The media has been paying attention to ‘millennials’ and their impressive atheist stats, blog posts aplenty seek to understand why so many young people are turning away from religion. For Egan here, who doesn’t touch on this issue directly, the push against the church comes from people not wanting to stand behind the Catholic Church’s archaic views on social issues. The Catholic Church, sometimes considered a home for scientific thought and consideration, also has a history of hiding behind old hierarchical stances on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and other social issues that are now at the center of people’s political identities. To put it another way, who the hell wants to identify as the gay-hating religion when they probably have gay friends at school? Even if you take a more liberal Catholic stance, as most Americans do, everyone knows you are Catholic, and until you explain your own personal view it will be assumed that you stand where your church stands.

So the Pope doesn’t hate gays, so everything is okay forever now, right?

Pope Francis has shown himself to be a free spirit and a free thinker. He loves the music of Mozart, the paintings of Chagall, the films of Fellini. He tweets. He talks to atheists. He stays out of politics. He calls for the faithful to “mess up the church.” He doesn’t moralize or sermonize, and famously said, when asked about gays, “Who am I to judge?” Is this pope Catholic?

No, screw you. We can see through this stuff, right vague personification of the Western world?

It’s long been known that most North American and European Catholics ignore church teachings on gays, contraception and abortion. These teachings range from absurd to unscientific to outright hateful. Without specifically changing the official line, Francis prompted millions of Catholics to give the church a second look when he criticized the hierarchy for being “obsessed” with those issues. Amen, said nearly 70 percent American Catholics who agreed with him in a Quinnipiac poll.

Well, ****.

No wait, this isn’t really people saying the Pope is awesome, just them agreeing that the church is obsessed. The problem is, since this is about all the access we get to the Pope, him saying things that people agree with, that makes them less ashamed to be related to organized religion, it does mean something. People may not jump back into their altar boy clothes, not until those sex scandals are resolved, but it does soften what is a general distrust among liberals of organized religion.

I should have seen this coming. In a world where Kony 2012 happened, I should have known that the Pope could get away with armchair equality.

In this article about a week earlier, Gutting looks at how the Pope is a lot of talk, but little difference. At the end of the day, the Pope has turned to the oldest trick in the theists ‘I want to be religious, but not lose my friends’ playbook.

“Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

Nevertheless the pope, unlike many Catholics, seems still to accept the hierarchy’s official views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality: “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” Presumably, then, he agrees with the official line that these actions are seriously immoral.

So great, the Pope isn’t going to judge homosexuals, or the divorced, or those who get an abortion, except he still thinks you are immoral. It is that pat on the head you get as a child when someone doesn’t want to say they think you’re a dumb ass, but only because Child Protection Services has been sniffing around lately.

Let me reiterate, the Pope is no friend to modern social issues, he has not done one thing to change the stances of his church of millions, his greatest achievements include tweeting (which my Justin Bieber obsessed sister can do, with just as much zeal), and telling people to worry about ‘immoral’ people less.

If this is what it takes to be Pope, I can elect myself for Super-Pope, and I’ll wear two hats.

Maybe I’m just in too many places at once, maybe I’m just hearing everyone’s first admittance of appreciating the Pope not being an asshat and it is starting to wear on me. I just don’t get it, is it this easy to impress people? “I hate everything about you, but I won’t condemn you to hell.” Is this what being religious truly feels like? Have I forgotten that fast?

Memetic Fitness, Faith, and Yorkshire Teacups

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I was watching some Dan Dennett the other night, he is sometimes called one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism along with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the now passed Christopher Hitchens. The video was about his book, now a few years old, called ‘Breaking the Spell’.

(I will link the video at a future date. Right now, my internet is on the fritz.)

The idea, and I’m sure philosophy lovers won’t consider it a new one, is that of memetic fitness. That is, the evolutionary history of ideas, how they go from a pure thought to something that is global, and what that means for religion. Considering religion is often called a virus of the mind, the implications are interesting. 

There are aspects of what he says that despite the strength of the whole theory, ring true. For instance, the birth of an idea often comes from a snap reaction. We see a shadow, something passes by us, we hear a noise, and our brain jumps to a conclusion. That conclusion, no matter how ridiculous, from it being a person to it being the end of existence as we know it, is a new life in our brain. That life may pass in seconds, we may forget we ever thought anything, or we could repeat the idea, reinforce it, that meme having generations of ‘life’ inside of our mind until new instances and thoughts help it mutate and grow into something new. 

As a writer, I am willing to run with that theory. Basic thoughts are born, and soon they mutate into grand ideas that merge with others in our minds, become complicated memetic lifeforms. They can spread to other minds through simple transfer, being told to someone else, being read in a book, seen on screen. It doesn’t take much more than that for an idea to spread.

So what about memetic fitness? That idea would be that just like the fitness of evolution, not every change in an idea helps it. Sometimes an idea doesn’t change enough, and it becomes boring, useless, and left behind. A meme is fit when it can occupy a mind, when a brain has enough use to keep it around. Do you call on it often? Does it amuse you? Does it make you want to smile or dance? Has it protected you? Relieved you? 

So when you first heard the macarena, it might not have struck you as useful. Another tune? The beat is ‘meh’, there are other catchy tunes like it. Then the dance was introduced to you, a new version, a stronger and more violent strain of that terrifying virus known as the Macarena. Now it has a purpose in your brain, now it occupies it, lives there and grows. Eeeh Macarena!

When writing, when creating art, memetic fitness could be useful. What story can you create that is powerful enough to take up space in someone’s mind? Will powerful characters do the trick? Maybe sayings and lines that are beautiful enough to be recalled and spread? Does already identifiable memes help the memetic fitness of a work? Is the Red Crosse Knight more memorable because of the Christian elements attached? King Arthur? I bet it is, but those elements allow it to tell a larger story with elements that require deep examination.

As for religion itself, if religion was ever a wild meme, that time was thousands upon thousands of years ago. Once they are born from the gremlins and demons of individuals, combined to form folktales and legends, they grow from there. Dan speaks about some of the possible uses religion could have had for a mind, even in this tribal state. My favorite is ‘super-duper coin flipper’. When you want to make a decision, or a choice is hard, who better to ask than imaginary figures? Rattle some bones, look into tea leaves, and if you see an answer there you have made your choice, and you have someone to blame if things go wrong. Why not just flip a coin? Who would flip a coin for a really important decision? That is just silly.

Now though, once a religion has matured (and many religions have matured and died off over time), they are no longer wild, but domesticated. Unlike the wild things of the past, mutating when a farmer sees a new demon, growing when a king has a new law to set down, a domesticated religion is being forced to breed like a modern cow. We breed for strength, for survivability, for usefulness. In this way you take the strong breeding stock of the Christian Labrador, and it will continue to work for society, protect those who need it, comfort children, and look beautiful. If you want, you could also try to force another breed, like the Mormon yorkshire teacup. They couldn’t survive long in the wild, but they don’t have to, society has good uses for them.

The important note is while useful, memetic fitness implies that the organism (in this case a thought) is in it for itself. Not to imply it is alive, but that only ideas that are built to spread themselves can compete in similar fields. If you’ve ever wondered why Christianity is so dominant, you don’t need to wonder. It breeds well, as does its cousin Islam. In comparison, faiths like Jainism or the tribal faiths of Australian Aboriginals, they cannot keep up. They haven’t had the time to adapt, they don’t have as many shepherds, as many fields, and they are not designed to spread like a rodent.