Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Denying nature: Christians and sex

Yesterday I argued that “Godless immorality” regarding sexuality has been the dominant paradigm in human history and that the brief reign of the Puritanical was an aberration. I think history supports that. The more controversial statement, I suspect, was when I said that the “Christian paradigm of sexuality is one that is at war with reality. It is contrary to the evolution of the human species and human sexuality itself.” That is important.

It is important because the hardwiring of sexuality is something that evolved. If you don’t accept the fact of evolution you can’t rationally deal with human sexuality. If you don’t believe in the facts of reality you can’t cope with them well. The net result is that fundamentalists, in particular, spend an inordinate amount of time hoping to change reality. They attribute everything to sin, weakness, Satan, demons and liberals (who in their mind are something akin to demons). What they can’t accept is that this is just how human beings are hardwired. It’s built into the species.

Knowing that makes it much easier to deal with. What the fundamentalist resorts to is attempting to terrify people about sex. God will punish you, you will get pregnant, you will contract an STD, you will die of AIDS, and oh, yes, God will punish you again. The US federal government now wastes massive amounts of cash in abstinence programs in state indoctrination centers (they call them schools) where they attempt to scare teens about sex.

Here is the bad news for them. Teens are terrified about sex. They always have been and always will be. Sex is something new, overpowering, frightening, compelling, shocking, painful, pleasurable. It’s damn scary. It’s scary for adults and even more so for teens. If fear were the only factor the world would be populated with billions of 40 year old virgins.

But sex is more complicated than that. Sexuality is hardwired into the species. Teens and adults may be terrified by sex but they have an incredible drive to engage in it. It certainly is hormonal but it is more than that. it is tied to every aspect of being human. It is not just physical it is also psychological. So it connects our physical body with our mental faculties. Yet sexuality evolved in humans long before the rational mind evolved. I would think that alone should clue us in. If sexuality evolved before the rational mind don’t expect sexual expression to always be rational.

There is a huge amount about sexuality we don’t understand. We certainly understand the physical nature of it. Millions of years of practice made that inevitable. What we don’t understand well are the more complex aspects. We don’t know what it is that causes individuals to see themselves as men or as women thus leading to some individuals who are transgendered. We don’t know why some individuals are attracted to only the opposite sex, some to only the same sex and some to both. In reality we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to understanding sex.

But we know sexuality is something that dominates large aspects of human existence. We see it in art so frequently because we see it in life so frequently. And in the church they keep learning that capping the volcano doesn’t stop the eruption. The regular and constant flow of sexual scandals within the church gives proof to that. But they can’t deal with the reality of sexuality if they can’t deal with the reality of human evolution. It is through the hows and whys of evolution that one begins to comprehend the complexity and inevitability of sexuality.

The Bush administration prefers to push abstinence. That is what their Evangelical base wants. Does it work? Well, if you look at the states with the highest percentage of fundamentalists in the population you find the highest teen pregnancy rates. Of the ten states with the highest teen pregnancy rate eight of them are in the Bible Belt: Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana. Compare that to the “liberal” states. Where Texas has a teen pregnancy rate of 101 Massachusetts is almost half that: 60. North Carolina is 95 while Vermont is 44.

Fundamentalists have invented one program after another to mold human sexuality into what they believe to be the right kind of sexuality. None have worked but they do give them the false comfort that it “might” work. The latest venture they are trying has a very surreal quality to it.

They are called “Purity Balls”. Prepubescent girls dress up as if going to the prom. But instead of a prom they go to a dance with their fathers who are dressed up in tuxedos. It’s like a prom except the date is Daddy. Then the father and daughter exchange vows where the father promises to protect his daughter’s virginity and the girl promises not to have sex until she is married. Then Daddy slips a “purity ring” on the daughter’s finger as if they are going steady. One father told the press: “The ball is the culmination of the relationship we have with God and with each other.” Apparently no such “Purity Ball” is done with boys and their mothers. And the hope is to integrate these “Purity Balls” with other abstinence programs which receive over $200 million in federal funding.

The reality is that teens who pledge abstinence do delay sex slightly but not significantly. And they don’t tend to wait until marriage though they do wait a little longer. That’s the up side. The down side is that abstinence programs use fear as their motivation and so they don’t want to talk about condoms and birth control. Fundamentalists don’t like anything which removes the danger from sexuality. They want sex to be deadly or harmful in order to keep teens scared. So while this may delay sexual intercoursem when it does take place, and it usually does before marriage, it does so without the use of birth control or protection against STDs. The abstaining teens thus still end up having sex just riskier sex.

It strikes me that getting a 10-year-old to pledge abstinence is not particularly difficult. But how sincere can such a pledge be if the child is not flushed with hormones compelling them toward the very thing they are shunning? But is this for the child? Or is this for the parent to give them a false comfort that their child will remain virginal? And what will happen when the hormones do hit? Will these kids be honest and upfront with their parents? Or will they hide their sexuality as much as they can?

The fundamentalists I knew actually hid their sexuality. They still had affairs, cheated, had sex before marriage, masturbated, etc. They just lied about it until they were caught, begged for forgiveness and confessed they were evil and then hoped they could avoid “the traps of the devil” in the future. And certainly many conservative Christian parents have confessed that when it comes to the sex lives of their adolescents they don’t want to know what is happening. They prefer to live with an illusion than face the facts.

One Christian web site admits that fundamentalist teens “are engaging in other sexual activities, including oral sex, at high rates.” They say that the rates of actual intercourse are lower but that Christian teens admit to high levels of sexual activity. I suspect, given the pressure put on them, that with Christian teens there is a tendency to lie and cover up activity that may exist. There is no incentive to admit sexual activity that doesn’t exist, at least not to adults. So these numbers are probably the bare minimum. But they found 29% of Christian high school males had oral sex and 26% of females. Seventy percent have fondled the breasts and genitals of a partner and half have been nude with someone in a sexual situation. They were even shocked to discover that 89% of the males masturbated and 71% of the females did. And this was only high schoola ged students not older teens in university.

Studies of Christian teens who take abstinence pledges show that half of them abandon the pledge within a couple of years. And the couple of years wait is no surprise given the age of the kids who are pledging. One longitudinal study has asked teens about abstinence pledges and the data is not what the advocates of the pledges would like. Again remember these teens have an incentive to lie, especially if they are under pressure to cap their sexuality. This survey found that 52% of the teens taking the pledge “recanted them within a year”. And since they come back and survey the teens over a period of seven years they also find how teens change their stories. By the end of the survey almost three quarters of the teens, who had previously said they took a virginity pledge, were now denying they ever took the pledge. And one out of three teens who had been sexually active when younger later claimed they were virgins.

Follow up surveys showed that 88% of teens who take an abstinence pledge have premarital sex. That is not much different than the population in general. In fact abstinence programs have failed so badly that some Christian ministries have stared new programs to encourage “born-again virginity”. This is a pledge for teens who violated the previous pledge but who now say that they are going to stick to for real. One abstinence program says starting over is one “reason many students attend our program.”

The fact is that Christians don’t know how to deal with sexuality and are doing a poor job of it. Consider that the Right-wing Promise Keepers surveyed men who attended their religious cheer rallies. They found that half the men “in attendance were involved with pornography within one week of attending the event.” One week! What would the percentage be a year later? It is also claimed that 37% of fundamentalist ministers say they “struggle” with pornography and over half admitted to viewing it in the past year. And one out six women having an abortion describes herself as a born again Christian.

One evangelical minister admitted in Christianity Today “the statistics on premarital sex among evangelicals hardly distinguish us from all the other people on the face of the earth” and he says he got in trouble with his congregation when he said if Christians want to “uphold the ‘sanctity of marriage’” they should stay out of the courts and concentrate on their own homes. “I cited statistics on divorce rates among evangelical Christians that put us pretty much in a dead heat with society at large. I talked about the high incidence of spousal abuse within conservative churches. I spoke about the widespread estrangement that prevails among many church-going couples.” He says he was told to “stop meddling” and start “condemning what’s happening out there.”

Those of us who have practical experience in fundamentalist circles know that deception is ripe. It is a necessary strategy for survival. Very, very few fundamentalists actually manage to follow their own sexual moral codes, especially when young. (Abstinence gets easier the older you get as the number of willing partners decreases.) And it goes back to what one conservative Christian I know of said: “I don’t want to know what my kids do.”

It is not the substance that is important to them but the illusion. They want gays to go back in the closet more than anything else. If they do they can pretend they don’t exist. They want to return to the fake world they invented where a pregnant teen wasn’t really pregnant she just went away for the summer to visit a sick aunt. Affairs went on but no one talked about it or, at most, only whispered about it behind the backs of those involved. Volcanoes were erupting all over the place but you could pretend that it wasn't happening.

How can a fundamentalist grapple with the issues of human sexuality when sexuality is intimately connected to biology, and when biology is intrinsically involved with evolution, but the fundamentalist is theologically committed to denying evolution? You need to understand the hows and whys of the evolution of human sexuality in order to even begin understanding these issues. But if you deny the reality of evolution then you can’t. That is why I argue that the theological position is one that is fundamentally at war with reality.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Porn in 18th century England widespread.

Below is an interesting press release from the University of Leeds. A new Ph.D. thesis by Jenny Skipp “examined, catalogued and categorised every known erotic text in eighteenth-century Britain.” Ms. Skipp was rather surprised to discover how vast a quantity of pornography was circulating in England at that time.

Not only was there a huge amount of it but it was far more widely available and consumed than previously known. As the University press release notes, “much of this work was cheap and widely available.” It was not restricted to just the upper classes as was widely assumed in the past (an assumption I myself have held erroneously before as well).

I find this interesting because the more fields I study the more I am convinced that the the bulk of Westerners (Americans in particular but not exclusively) have been rather wrong about many assumptions regarding sexuality. It is a myth of a gigantic proportions to assume that past Western generations were generally chaste and somewhat puritanical. That has never been the case. Even in Puritanical Massachusetts, under the Pilgrim, there was widespread debauchery. Enough to make the local bishop blush especially when he wasn’t directly involved.

Fundamentalist Christians, who in reality are very guilt ridden about sex and very anti-sexual (despite protestations to the contrary), have claimed that their view of sexuality was the dominant one and that in the 1960s evil “liberals” came along with the “sexual revolution” and introduced “Godless immorality” to the West. Having grown up with those people, and attending their schools, one thing I quickly realized is that if you were to assume the opposite of everything they say you have a very high chance of being right. They bamboozle themselves and others.

That their views of sexuality gained political power in the mid to late 1800s is not doubted. And at that point they used state power in an attempt to mould humanity as they believed to be moral. For them morality seemed to be almost exclusively centered on one’s genitals. And with the use of state power they tried, unsuccessfully, to constrain human sexuality into expressions they found acceptable --- which wasn’t a lot actually. As they are known to put it: one man for one woman for life. And within that relationship they limited, again by law, the expression of sex only to vaginal intercourse with the possibility of pregnancy.

The sexual revolution that began in the1960s was hardly a revolution. It was more like an evolution toward the sexual morality that dominated mankind as far back as recorded history. The methods and forms of sexual expression and freedom may have changed with technology but the general way people act is hardly much different today than it has been in the past. There have been some changes that are good. I think most people today are aware of the necessity of treating women like individuals with all the rights of a man. That would be a major change from the past.

But nothing that upsets the fundamentalist today is new. Sure you can get porn on the internet. But every new communication technology brought about new forms of porn. But it has always been there. I suspect if the camera were invented on Monday that by Tuesday the first pornographic photos had been created. Before photography they had etchings, paintings and drawings. Pompeii has some rather graphic murals on the walls from thousands of years ago. There are Greek vases that would cause a Baptist to fall to their knees in horror (or lust, depending on the Baptist.)

Sexuality is so much a part of our hard wiring that we really ought to be careful about legislating it. There are, no doubt, legitimate areas for state involvement. And there are areas where social groups ought to work to help people get control of their lives. But what ought to be legislated is far smaller than what is legislated. Sexuality which involves individuals who are unwilling, or unable to consent, is a proper issue for legislation. But the sexual/romantic lives of consenting adults is no business of the state.

That is not to say that I approve of every expression of sexuality that humans have been able to invent. I don’t. Such actions may be amenable to private social pressure, or charitable assistance for people needing it. It is one thing to say that the state should not be involved and quite another to imply that means you approve of it.

But the Christian paradigm of sexuality is one that is at war with reality. It is contrary to the evolution of the human species and human sexuality itself. It is not historically valid. It has never fit the facts. In many ways it is destructive. At the same time that does not mean it is wrong in every detail, only in its general theory. Nor is it necessarily wrong regarding the benefits to certain sexual values. There are many “Christian” moral values which I would hope that individuals would voluntarily adopt. But they must be voluntarily adopted and not imposed by the state.

Here is what the University of Leeds press release has to say about erotica in the England of the 1700s.

Sex and the 1700s
Prostitutes, perversions and public scandals – the stuff of the 21st century tabloids was familiar to readers three centuries earlier, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

And just as gaggles of modern day adolescents might pass round their copy of the latest lads’ mag, the reading of erotic literature was already a social activity 300 years ago.

Jenny Skipp’s three-year PhD study examined, catalogued and categorised every known erotic text published in eighteenth-century Britain: "I tried to get a grip on just how many were published, detail the various types of sexual behaviour portrayed and find out who was doing what – and to whom.” It proved a surprisingly rich field: "Most people have heard of Fanny Hill, but there was a huge amount of erotic literature published in the 18th century."

And despite earlier work suggesting that these texts were only for solitary consumption – at home, alone, and behind closed doors – Skipp’s work throws up a surprising image of how these works were used. "They would be read in public – everywhere from London's rough-and-ready alehouses to the city’s thriving coffee houses, which weren't quite the focus of polite society in the way we sometimes think,” she explained. “Some texts even came as questions and answers and were clearly intended for groups of men to read together, with one asking the questions and the others answering them.”

Much of the work is derogatory in its references to women. They are subordinates, courtesans, prostitutes, carriers of venereal disease and bearers of deformed children. "When men write this way, or read these texts, it gives them a context for asserting their authority over women," Skipp added. Yet some texts portray women altogether differently, discussing the nature of female sexuality or describing lascivious aristocratic females.

One group predominant in this literature is the Libertines – whose all-in hedonistic, smoking, drinking, swearing, pleasure-seeking lifestyle was typified by their subjugation of women. Literature aimed at this group, encouraging men to assert their dominance, translated the repressive attitudes of Libertinism further down the class structure.

And Skipp's analysis of the pricing of these works revises earlier studies to show that rather than being solely targeted at the gentry, much of this work was cheap and widely available. Though many from the poorer sections of society are considered illiterate because they were unable to sign their name, they may still have been able to read: "Many more people could read than write," she said. "In London, for example, we believe about 70 per cent of men could read."

The works range from books, down to single-sheet pamphlets. "The price and content of this material suggests it was available to merchants, traders, skilled and semi-skilled men and even labourers," Skipp went on. Its accessibility allowed sexual attitudes to percolate down the social strata.

Dr Simon Burrows of the University’s school of history, one of Skipp’s PhD supervisors, described the study as “pioneering work.” He said: “Jenny has shown that erotic texts are about much more than sexual fantasy. They can give us genuine new insights into cultural attitudes, sexual norms and social customs.”

And Skipp describes a literary quality to the writing which you might struggle to find in modern erotic fiction or top-shelf pornography. "It is very different to today's erotica," she said. "It is more humorous, more literary and more engaged with the wider issues of the life and politics of the times." Its metaphors mirror the passions of the age: "At a time when military power was equated with virility, armed conquest is often used as a metaphor for sex – in phrases such as 'unsheathing the weapon', 'storming the fort' and 'releasing the cannon'."
By the 1770s, the transcripts of adultery trials became a new source of titillation. To secure a divorce, a man would first have to successfully sue a rival for 'violating his property', before petitioning Parliament to dissolve the marriage. "There is something rather voyeuristic about these trials," said Skipp. "Often servants would give evidence while innkeepers would testify about lovers taking rooms together."

“The appetite for this kind of material shows readers were interested in gossip about their social betters and fascinated by the sordid details of marital breakdown – just like modern-day readers scanning the tabloids for a juicy scandal.

”The production of erotica was frequently stimulated by intrigues in the lives of well-known public figures – the aristocracy, politicians, writers, playwrights and actresses and occasionally the monarchy. The wives and mistresses were both celebrated and derided in erotic texts – they were the WAGS of their day.”

As Skipp said: “Eighteenth century readers were just as fascinated with public figures as we are today – especially when they had skeletons in their closet!”

Monday, March 26, 2007

Recruiters slam gays and molest girls, welcome to the military.

The US military has a real rational policy. They will cover up for criminals, they will hide drug abuse, they will harass and lie to kids in an effort to strong arm them into joining the military -- especially if they can do this outside the prying eyes of parents (It’s that Bush pro-family policy you hear so much about). Morons, criminals and druggies are welcome just not gay people. One indication of the “quality” of these people is a military recruiter Sgt. Marcia Ramode.

Ramode trolls the internet looking for young people to snare, they have empty body bags in Iraq that need filling for the Decider in Charge. And she found a web page of one young man, Corey Andrew, she tried to recruit by sending him a personal email. He asked if he is “able to serve in the US military as an openly gay man.” Well faster than King George could mispronounce terrorist old Marcia told him, in all capital letters for emphasis: “WELL IF YOU ARE GAY WE DON’T TAKE YOU YOU ARE CONSIDERED UNQUALIFIED.” Have a drug problem they’ll help you cover it up that only puts the other guys in your combat troop at risk. Far worse if you think one of them is cute. As Ramode said: "YES YOU MIGHT TO TRY TO KISS A SOLDIER IN THE FOXHOLE SO THAT IS A NO NO." I love the priorities of the military.

Andrews, wrote her back noting that “the US government doesn’t mind taking my ‘gay’ dollars every tax season or out of my paycheck every two weeks.” He also noted that US military recruiters were hanging out “on my school campus and in the local shopping Mall like pedofilic predators, everyday, begging teenagers to join.” Well, true about that. In fact very true since they intentionally try to recruit the kids away from parental authority. That is military recruiting strategy. Andrews reminds Marcia that using all caps, as she did, in emails “represents shouting and hostility”.

Of course this woman, I would never call her a lady, went Postal. She sent a long tirade, all in caps to prove her rage, which to me at least, indicates she is not mentally in control of herself and the military might want to take away her gun before she climbs a water tower and starts picking off imaginary space aliens trying to eat her brains. Here are some excerpts from her email (so I don’t have to type this crap). I particularly like the part where this moron thinks that the military would have the right to grab people off the streets and send them to Iraq if they wanted. Of course as she goes into her tirade she invokes freedom as the justification. Every authoritarian does. I also enjoy her snotty remark about enjoying freedom while it lasts. She and her kind are quite willing to take it away.


Now she has really riled up this student. Of course you would think this woman should be doing her work instead of sending out insulting emails. Actually I’m glad she wasn’t doing her work. But I’m not sure the Pentagon will appreciate it. But a little verbal gay bashing, hey General Pace might approve. Corey tells her he doesn’t have to dress up in green and wear dog tags and army boots to prove his patriotism. He tells her he thinks it sad that she belongs to an organization that discriminates and he tells her she is “clearly not stable” in her thinking. What took him so long?

He tells this slightly deranged Rambo that he loves the United States -- personally I wouldn’t pander to the love it or leave it crowd. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. So just ignore it. Corey tells her there are plenty of countries where being gay is not an issue and then suggests she head off to the playground and find some new recruits. At this point Rambo Ramode completely loses what semblance to sanity she had. Read her reply below:

A few low points for this moron other than the obscenities of course. First, she tells this man she has more rights to be in America than he does. Rubbish. Next she tells him that if he doesn’t like the US military (and who could with hateful bigots like her doing the recruiting and with Bush running the outfit) that he should take his “GAY ASS” to some other country. And she claims, that rights are “given to you by the US military.” Odd the Founding Fathers said that they were inherent rights, part of human nature and the gift of no man or government. The idea that rights come from government, however, is a very Soviet concept. And this is the kind of “patriotic” American they send out to troll the internet to persuade kids to die in Bush’s war.

Corey responds and goes for the jugular. Obviously Ms. Ramode is not particularly literate. And he notes that right off the bat mentioning her “limited vocabulary and poor spelling” and says that maybe she had no other career option but the military. He acknowledges very intelligent people are in the military but informs Ramode that she is “not one of them.” He says that what he finds disgusting are “idiots with big mouths and little brains, spewing hatred under the guise of being ‘American’

Ramode, not happy with just insulting people for being gay then decides to throw some racism into the pot as well. She tells Corey “GO BACK TO AFRICA” because he is Black. Now, that’s real classy. Don’t they have any people with decent qualities to work as recruiters? Apparently not given scandal after scandal with this branch of the military. They obviously scrap the bottom of the barrel. But bamboozling teens so they go off and get killed isn’t exactly the sort of occupation that attracts quality is it?

What is incredible there is she started the communication. She also started any rudeness and name calling. She got aggressive and then tells him that she is blocking his emails as if this were his fault. She was the one out trolling the internet to convince teenagers that being a corpse is a really cool career option.

The military says Ramode is currently not working as a recruiter while they investigate her actions. By the way these are the people who are trying to recruit your kids behind your back.

So sit down with the kids. Warn them. Tell that there will be people who pretend to be their friends. They hang out outsides the schools, at the malls, anywhere where kids hang out. They lurk around the internet. They will even call at home if they know the parents aren’t around. Not only will they pretend to be a friend but they will promise rewards, opportunity, even cash if the kids just do what they want. And they really, really don’t want the parents to know about this. Remember if you don’t tell you kids about these people they will get your children.

And if you think the comparison between recruiters and molesters is strained then watch the following CNN report. Over 80 recruiters, in 2005, were caught for sexual misconduct with the young people they are trying to recruit. Over 100 victims have come forward. These people are given, without the knowledge of parents, full access to kids anytime they want at any school in the US under Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation. They are given private information on all children including unlisted phone numbers and you are not able to block their calls, they can bypass blocks on any phone. Since 1996 almost 800 military recruiters have faced these charges.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

They don't make Olympics like they used to.

While it is still a pleasure to watch somehow this strikes me as not quite right. But I guess it is all one can expect from the United States of Jesusland.

One reason to like the French.

I confess they seem to give us so many reasons to dislike them. There isn't a destructive economic theory on the planet that the French haven't fallen in love with. But keep producing videos and men like this and we can over look it.

A music video you'll enjoy

You don't have to speak French to enjoy this music video. A group of French young ladies from perhaps the early 1900s follow two lovely French men through the woods as the men go to skinny dip. The imagination of the women runs wild as you will see. Stick around for the end.

When does a swim suit become underwear?

This commecial helps tell you. Now I suspect this is not a US commecial. Several reasons actually. First the term "togs" is not a US term. But that swimsuit is pretty much the kind of swimsuit that men around the world (outside nations ruled by a Taliban mentality) wear. So it would be a rare thing to see a skimpy suit on men in the US. Used to be common before the Jesus freaks took over. Now a swim suit goes from waist to below the knees and has to be as baggy as possible. Leave the United States and there is none of this fear of the body.