I know I’m just pissing in the wind for all the effect this will have, but can we please stop playing hard-ass make-believe and just say “tan”? Interior decorators have already come up with a dozen names for this color, calling it “coyote brown” doesn’t make it any more ninja at the end of the day than calling it “taupe” or “latte.” In fact, I encourage all three of you reading this to switch to using interior design color names exclusively in place of these tactical-fluffer color names.
Archive for the ‘the internet is serious business’ Category
Another post subject stolen from someone else, this time Tam, this bit of abstract machine-generated poetry got caught in the spam filter:
Lights from the aircraft dexter missouri banks would seem unusually bright and appear
orange because of the daily limits that have been put in place in some of the slacks taking
place. Please note that even though I didn’t do my shopping early like I normally do. Court documents say Creagh, who is an amazing guy.
Better poetry than some of the crap I had to read in high school, at least. Maybe I’ll keep a copy in this pretty, intricate little box I found…
Ok, don’t get your hopes up that we’re coming back full time. I’m going to try to post more frequently, but those of you who still stop by have probably noticed that hasn’t been going so well. But tonight, tonight I wound up with a special snowflake I just had to share with everybody. As the title implies, I may have gained some inspiration from everybody’s favorite Texas cop LawDog (or he’s your second favorite and you prefer someone else, there’s room for differences of opinion).
Partway through this afternoon, my very own little close-enough-to-prepaid cell phone, FUT*, alerts me to an incoming text message.
Fine. It’s a wrong number, I will just ignore it. An hour or two later,
Amor I got a new number
Terrific, skippy. I guess you didn’t import your old phone’s settings. More ignoring. Finally, many hours later, as it grew late and I grew weary of a world of idiots,
Amor I got a new #
This was around 11pm. Thank you, but that’s enough. I engaged, and replied
Sorry, Mario. Your amor is at a different number.
Things did not improve from here.
Who is this
I’m the wrong number you keep calling amor. I know love is blind but this is pushing it.
But who r u
It’s a little early in the relationship to get that metaphysical.
What…I’m just asking who u r
At this point, it was late and I was bored. I popped the number into google, and came up with the president of a small tax business in Santa Fe. In the grand tradition of TV psychics, a theme that will come up again later, I ran with it.
I’m a thought experiment, Andrew. I’m the answer to the question “What if the wrong number is bored?”
What do u do
What r u doing
I have a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for people slow on the uptake. But I do my own taxes, so I’m good there if you’re looking for business.
What do u mean a nightmare for people slow on the uptake
I dug a little further on the info I’d found.
Well you’d think by 54 years old one would have learned a) what a wrong number is, and b) that Andres and Ray might appreciate a bit more technological savvy from a partner.
Andres and Ray were listed as the vice president and treasurer of the company.
Ooooo so what r u dedicated to
Wheeled performance analysis delivery. Everybody needs a hobby. Y’know, besides this.
What? I love derby reffing.
See what I mean about “slow”? Crystal says good night. Take care, amor. I grow bored again.
I threw the net a little wider and found another probable hit on facebook, so I figured there’s nothing really for me to lose in this, let’s see if Crystal gets a hit.
Wait I don’t think we r done talking…What do u mean slow…and who’s crystal
Swing and a miss. Oh well.
You ever see those tv shows where psychics talk to people’s dead relatives, Andy? Do I really have to draw a map here?
Yea u do…I’m slow
Admitting it is the first step. You with me that we don’t know each other, that I’m not amor? Follow up, do you know what a “wrong number” is?
Those of you in NM hearing a sudden thunderclap with clear skies, that would have been the sound of my facepalm.
To which question? Specificity is the soul of good communication.
The second question
What is it?
Apparently an anachronism. It is a term which means you have (historically) dialed, or more currently, texted, a number that is not correct to contact the person you desire. It puts you in contact with an arbitrary stranger, who may just be bored enough to mess with you if “wrong number” is too complicated. Good night, Andrew, now go away.
At which point I put the number on ignore. Fifty bucks says this idiot votes, too.
*Fucking Useless Toy. It never works when I need it to, so functionally it is a toy.
So there’s this internet kerfuffle going down, as they do. A Gawker writer decided to publicize the identity of a long-time Reddit mod whose range of activities have historically been mostly dominated to creating and maintaining all that is most awful about Reddit*: he was most famous for creating and maintaining r/jailbait, a subforum for trading sexualized pictures of minors taken from more or less wherever (which Reddit eventually shut down- after six years and with all evident regret), but also in a long highlight reel of subreddits devoted to enthusiasms for various racist and sexist subjects, including r/creepshots, a sub for sexualized candid photos of women taken on the sly**. The fellow has subsequently lost his job and is generally very sad about having been outed against his will.
Ken at Popehat has said about all I would have wanted to say about the subject, better than I would have, typically. So if you feel I’m missing a point, it’s probably because Ken has already covered it.
However, from what I’ve observed in discussions about the subject, there are a couple of points *I* want to hit.
1) As a principle, “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us” actually has its intended effect generally more rarely than people seem to think. But when, in the process of “protecting the worst of us”, you do so actively at the expense of innocent others (like, say, the children and women who had their pictures posted against their will specifically for creeps to fap to), you’re not “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us”, you’re just protecting the worst of us, period full stop.
2) Being offensive isn’t virtuous. Neither, for that matter, is being inoffensive, but making an internet career out of making as many people angry as possible isn’t some form of activism, it’s just being an asshole. Being an asshole isn’t and shouldn’t be against the law, but neither does it grant you any sort of moral standing of its own distinction for the act of being willing to offend people. Being willing to offend people to the ends of some moral goal is noble; going out of your way to offend people because that’s just funny to you is being an asshole. Being an asshole as your primary hobby will open you to a lot of purely social consequences, including an employer in an at-will state deciding that they wish to disassociate themselves from a notorious asshole. Do people deserve to lose their jobs for being an asshole in one area of their lives that has little or nothing to do with their jobs? Probably not. Do children deserve to have their pictures yanked off their Facebook for a coalition of creepazoids to make their masturbation fodder for the day, just because “the internet is public”? Also probably not. Pick a moral standing- “public is public”, both pictures and personal information, or “posting with a baseline expectation of privacy should be private”, but trying for both at the same time as favors you most will impress no one.
*Also training and helping new moderators. The fact that this has been brought up as an argument for “he’s not all bad!” rather than a warning bell tells you everything you need to know about Reddit culture.
**Because apparently it’s a painfully important distinction, he only moderated Creepshots, he didn’t create it and evidently didn’t contribute. So, y’know, he only moderated it. For the public good and all.
…Which I will hopefully have time later to expand upon.
Reading the discussion at Popehat about comment moderation approaches, and the way upvoting and downvoting comments seems to be more about popularity of opinion or agree/disagree than about the quality of civility of the comment, I find myself musing on the distinction between “unpopular opinion” and “asshole comment”. Especially because of the frequency with which I see the acronym “PC” for “politically correct”.
Although I’ve encountered cases which I genuinely regarded as “political correctness gone wild”- mostly cases in which someone tried to completely do away with an unpleasant reality by altering language until it was sufficiently sugarcoated- in the last five years or so I’ve vastly more often run into cases in which someone was claiming that their own abominable behavior or belligerent/dismissive/openly hateful assertion was getting negative social reaction because it was “un-PC”.
….Yes, I will expand upon this, which I should have time to do soon. Perhaps. I hope.
….Or, well, it is, in the sense of being a thing that happens to you from the age of 5 or so to 18, it just in no way will resemble the rest of your life.
Backing up a bit, last week I ran across this post at Jennifer’s place, featuring a video by Felicia Day and the Guild crew. They seem to do one big music video release per season, and they are always awesome, and this one is no exception. As is a common theme with geeks and other people who spent middle and high school on the part of the social totem pole which is buried in the ground, and go on to wind up as perfectly respectable and likable people who are awesome in their own right, the theme is celebrating going from the bottom to the top.
I tapped my foot along with it and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Then I got to thinking, successfully transcending the social realities of high school isn’t that much of a thing to celebrate so much as getting over with as quickly as possible, just because life immediately ceases to be like school the second you leave it. Lots of people continue going through the motions as though it were, but it’s because the only patterns they know and no one bothered to tell them that contrary to preparing them with rigorous accuracy for adult life, school gave them a highly artificial reality that must be adjusted away from. There should really be some sort of an exit briefing at or after graduation, just so you are warned, whether or not you choose to listen to any of it.
1. Never again will the norm of your life involve moving through a highly regimented schedule you did not choose with a peer group that all closely resemble each other, monitored by authorities who take an interest in everything you do.
Unless you go to prison or join the military, which are the only two adult-life environments that have any close resemblance to school. Even in the military you volunteered to be there and the end goal is for you to either leave after having performed adequately, or become the authorities. Only in prison are you treated as an incompetent population to be managed as closely as possible for a time-based sentence.
After school, you are free- and expected- to manage your own time, which you may do as well or poorly as you choose to, though if you consistently do it badly you will find yourself with a shortage of people willing to give you money in exchange for your time and efforts. Authorities largely do not care about your life beyond your performance, though strong leaders may take an interest in helping you manage those areas of your time that relate strictly to your job. If no one is paying you for your time currently, you can do whatever the hell with it you wish so long as it’s not actually illegal, and no one but you will care. This is the point in your life where you find out for yourself that staying up all night all the time and eating ice cream for dinner actually make you feel like crap with no input from your parents or any other authority at all.
This is one of the areas of transition from the school system to universities that is easiest for students to miss completely. College looks like school, and feels like school, but now you have a lot more freedom, including the freedom to look at a scheduled class you don’t really want to go to and then not go. However, instead of being warehoused by an educational system, now you are actually paying to be taught things at specific institutions; using your freedom to blow off “authorities” is actually a shot downrange at your own feet. This phenomenon is one of the major disconnects between adult students and students transitioning in from high school.
2. Your social life isn’t a zero-sum game anymore.
You are no longer bound to a particular age and location-based peer group who can only be escaped via a major life upheaval that can only be ordered by some other authority. Never again will you be with any people other than your family who care what you did when you were thirteen, unless that something was the sort of thing that will get the justice system to try you as an adult. If they find out anything about your life when you were in school, it will be a mildly interesting background note in contrast to who you are now, rather than finding out Who You Really Are.
If there’s a clique and they don’t like you and exclude you? You can just leave, and find some people who enjoy your company. They need have no relevance to you at all. At the absolute worst, they could be your co-workers, but at least then you can be making an evaluation of how much your job is worth to you in money, time, and aggravation factor to remain there even though the working environment is chilly and hostile- and you can go get a different social life outside of work.
However, you aren’t restricted to a single pool of people who all know each other and have all known YOU since the third grade, you aren’t in a hierarchy in which every person who gains in popularity must do so at the expense of someone else, and the people you think are really cool may not think this of themselves and probably don’t really think of themselves as being in any way above you or others. (If they DO, this is generally because they are a narcissist. People behaving the way high school students do normally as adults are behaving pathologically.)
If absolutely no one wants to spend time with you and you are regularly expelled from the company of others, it may be time to do some serious self-examination (especially if you have the vague inkling you may have been raised by wolves and do not know any of the social rules others seem to take for granted), but for the most part even obnoxious trolls can find other trolls to share under-bridge space and trollish camaraderie with.
3. Your hobbies are just your hobbies, not your identity.
Adolescents are in a weird psychological space where they’re transitioning from having their identities mainly defined by their parents to being self-generated, and being adolescents in a social species, they tend to accomplish this first by letting anyone OTHER than their parents start providing some of the definition. Our culture has a lot of easy tropes for kids to fall into and build a self-image around, so that art mirrors life and life mirrors art pretty much Because. This is how a kid can believe whole-heartedly by the time he’s twelve that if he excels at math he must shun athletics, or if he excels at athletics as part of the conditions for membership in his tribe he can never reveal he really likes Star Wars.
In the adult world, your hobbies are what you do or work on because you enjoy them, not defining aspects of your identity. At your job you’re just another person in a business suit or uniform, and no one gives a shit if you were a geek or a nerd or a jock or a stoner or a metal kid or what have you. You can be a powerlifter and also have a serious investment in your D&D group and no one will care. Your gym buddies will probably not want to talk about your campaign and your DM will probably not want to know about your squat PR, but who knows, especially if members of both groups are actually friends rather than just friendly.
Speaking of, nothing of what you internalized in school about what you can and can’t learn or do, for fun or otherwise, is true. Even if you were fat and slow and uncoordinated in school, you can be a powerlifter or rock-climber or be a speed skater or whatever the hell you want to, as long as you’re willing to put in the work and practice at it. Even if you sucked at math, you can learn it later, and better yet you can shop around for a teacher who can show it to you in ways you can grasp. If you really want to you can put all your focus into developing your strength to mass ratio and join the damn circus, though it will be a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice for not much unless you REALLY want to be an acrobat.
The bad news is that seriously doing anything takes work, practice, and tolerance for frustration and failure, and due to the limited number of hours in the day and weeks in the year, you have to pick only a handful of them to be really good at any of them. But you aren’t restricted from any of them because of what little tribes in the artificial world of school you belonged to.
4. You can never count on everyone having closely shared experiences again unless you work at it.
In school, everyone is your age, most other people are probably your ethnicity, if they aren’t the standard norms of gender/sexuality they probably won’t have admitted it yet, you’re probably from about the same socioeconomic background, and everyone is, obviously, in school together. If nothing else they have a shared experience called Mrs. Johnson’s Math Period.
As an adult, any given other person you meet may be from a radically different background from yours, may be from an entirely other country or culture, may have had formative experiences so different than yours you may as well be from different countries. You may have nothing whatsoever to relate to each other over other than whatever experience you are currently sharing.
If you work hard enough at it, you can avoid this as much as possible, and some people do spend their adult lives making as sure as they can that everyone they are likely to encounter is going to be extremely similar to them. This does come with the downside of having the same narrow perspective, and the same constant experience of everyone constantly comparing each other to everyone else, forever. It can be very refreshing to be dealing with a group where nobody thinks to make very many comparisons because there are very few meaningful ones to be made.
5. In the real world, people’s tolerance for bullshit is directly proportional to the rewards of putting up with it.
The most common incentive to put up with inefficiency, byzantine and bizarre rule sets and authority structures, bureaucracy that exists for its own sake, and other soul-suckers familiar to anyone who’s been through a school system, is called a paycheck and it can make up for quite a lot. In school you do it because the alternative is not-school, which is generally a much harder row to hoe, in real life you are much freer to put it down and walk away, and people will. This is particularly true if whatever activity you’re engaged in is a for-fun hobby group where the paycheck incentive is absent.
In an extra-curricular group in school, you do it because you signed up to do it and because it will nebulously look good on your college transcript. You learn a handful of things about how people behave in small groups and if you are very lucky one or two other things.
In a local sports league, gaming group, book club, cooking circle, or any other collection of enthusiastic amateurs who get no rewards other than those intrinsic to the group or the activity, either someone or several someones have excellent skill at managing people with no reason to be there other than those rewards, or you find out what it looks like when a group of people collectively realizes they do not have to put up with bullshit and the only authorities are self-appointed.
If you were wondering, I went to a good school (private), and while I definitely wasn’t climbing the social ladder, I wasn’t the fat kid in the cafeteria getting milk poured on her either. You can make things better or worse with different school systems and approaches, or you can sign up for an entirely different set of problems via homeschooling, but a lot of things that make school a weird and artificial world stem entirely from the fact that the people inhabiting them are children, and as such are not yet mentally or emotionally mature. Everything that happens in school is of devastating emotional import even when the people involved are worthless jerks because the world of a schoolchild is very small, because they ARE still a child.
We shouldn’t celebrate becoming better and stronger and cooler people than we were in school, though broadly speaking being better and stronger is always nice. We should celebrate having left the world where any of it matters more than an footnote.
I swear I sometimes post about things that aren’t reactions to Peter. He’s just good at getting reactions out of me that don’t fit in a blogger comment box character limit and/or arguably ought to be posts of their own anyway.
Today’s- or really, yesterday’s, I wanted to do this then but there was no time- is the problem of pedophilia, a discussion of both the issues in general and specifically of a group whose mission is to re-examine the DSMV with respect to pedophilia- with input from pedophiles themselves. I’ll quote from the group’s description of their immediate goals:
This day-long symposium will facilitate the exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, mental health practitioners, and minor-attracted persons who have an interest in critical issues surrounding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The symposium will address critical issues in the following areas:
Scientific and philosophical issues related to the DSM entry on pedophilia and/or hebephilia
Effects of the DSM entry on stigma, availability of mental health services, and research
Ways in which minor-attracted persons can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process
I’d recommend reading Peter’s whole post, as I usually do with these things as well as sampling at least some of the other linked articles and reactions, because most of mine are based in the context therein and I’d like to get through this without having to recap all of it. I’ll try to provide what I can, though.
Point one I wanted to address has already been made in the comments, which is that pedophiles and child molesters aren’t necessarily the same thing. Peter says:
My huge problem with the way B4U-ACT talks about this problem is that they appear to deliberately adopt a neutral, non-judgmental approach to those with pedophilic tendencies. For example, their second principle states:
2. INDIVIDUALITY. We realize that other than their sexual and emotional feelings toward minors, minor-attracted people do not have any particular characteristics in common. They vary as do all people, and it is inaccurate to claim that all or most minor-attracted people have certain beliefs or personalities, exhibit psychopathology or specific personality disorders, or engage in particular behaviors. We do not assume that they abuse children, that they are prone to deception or violence, or that their sexual feelings are more compulsive or uncontrollable than other people’s. We see clients as individuals, not as a category.
If someone has never committed an offense against children, that’s not an inappropriate attitude. If such individuals can be helped to control their wrong attractions, that’s a good and healthy thing for society. My problem is that I don’t see B4U-ACT actually coming out and saying, bluntly, that such attractions are wrong.
And while my visceral response is to entirely agree with him, I can’t really nod my head and agree that the state of being attracted to children is, without action, either inherently wrong or morally the same as acting on the attraction. Most of my principles- the ones that have been actively examined, anyway- are based around the idea that what makes your actions right or wrong is what you DO, not what you think. We may commit murder in our minds a thousand times in a day, but until you actually raise your hand to your fellow man, you haven’t done anything wrong- something maybe for you to be concerned about with regards to your mental health, or serve as a warning sign that problems are going unaddressed, maybe, but nothing that would even remotely give, say, the state the right to restrain you.
Part of the problem as I see it with this is we really have no clue at the moment how many people who are attracted to children actually molest children, if that number is “all of them”, “almost all”, “some”, or “a minority”. We know what the recidivism rates are for people who go to prison for child molestation, but if you presented me with any other psychological issue, or even a generic unnamed issue, and told me that our sole source of data on people with the issue was collected from prisoners, I’d say we had a massive sampling problem and truly understood very little on whatever the issue was.
Realistically speaking, we’re not going to get a lot of data or understanding either if we insist that part of the mandated protocol for a patient admitting attraction to children is to immediately get to work reinforcing that they are worthless evil people. Call me a liberal, but I think the “child molestors are the worst kind of monster there is” meme is well-established in our culture, to the point that the easiest way for a prosecutor to get just about every kind of judicial protection for suspects overlooked is for a child to be involved and the allegations to be sexual. I think it speaks to the degree of our cultural hatred for people who molest children that I’m seriously worried typing this paragraph that someone is going to derail the discussion by either accusing me of being a pedophile myself or that I think we’re too hard on actual child molestors.
One very troubling trend I’ve noticed in the people speaking out against this group is comparing them and their goals to earlier movements to destigmatize other things that used to be viewed as sexual deviancy disorders- like homosexuality. The argument seems to be that first the psychiatrists were willing to reconsider the idea that being gay wasn’t a horrible disease, and then the next thing you know we have gay marriage and now we’re going to have accepted pedophiles too!
For a given value of “correct”, they’re right; actual child molestors would very much like this outcome and have done a fair bit of comparing their own plight to that of homosexuals, which I would link you to if I wanted to open that particular portal to Hell. The process from electroshock therapy for having bad thoughts about the same sex to two old women getting married in New York did indeed begin with depathologizing first, and then to a process of greater acceptance through exposure. Pedophiles who want to be free to act on their desires and people who fear that very scenario can easily see the parallels.
The problem with basing any kind of argument on that is that it’s a self-weakening one; if you argue that it’s bad for us to not react with total hatred and revulsion and immediate criminalization to pedophilia because we stopped reacting with total hatred and revulsion and criminalization to homosexuality and then homosexuality became OK, that immediately begs the question of why that’s such a terrible thing if the only obstacle is our collective energy to maintain visceral disgust.
The difference between molesting children and homosexual sex isn’t “we only still disapprove of one of them”, it’s that one of them is sexual activity that one party is incapable of consenting to, and one is almost always completely consensual sexual activity between two adults. (And when it’s not, it’s rape, which amazingly enough is still illegal and disapproved of.) Sex with a child and sex with an adult of your own gender isn’t just two flavors of “deviant sex”, it’s one flavor of sex versus rape. This is not a distinction that should be left between the lines or taken as given. Actual child molestors would love it if we did that more often, because it leaves them all the more room to paint themselves as merely misunderstood people facing visceral and unfair societal revulsion.
I agree with Peter that some things are wrong-just-wrong and moral relativism is a hazard, but I think it’s extremely important to retain our moral compasses to be capable at all points of articulating WHY something is wrong. And if all you CAN articulate for why both homosexuality and pedophilia are wrong and we should never have stopped violently hating the former is “because God thinks so”- you are welcome to your opinion and may even be right, but this is a secular society when it comes to policy, as well as psychiatry, and the argument will quickly wither.
All that said, Peter is entirely right to see the danger in pedophiles who want to freely act out their desires using the same social structure to advance that goal, because they absolutely will and if you know where on the internet to look*, you’ll find them doing just that. He’s right to use the Catholic church as an example of an institution that lost sight of the scope of the wrong done by people who molest children, and who acted to shelter them and thus opened thousands more children to predation. Those are real threats; we as a society, and maybe as a species, have a huge problem separating understanding from empathy from sympathy, and psychologists are not immune.
I don’t know whether B4U-ACT is going to be a group that opens inroads into a corner of psychology where we have very little- I would say dangerously little- understanding or not. In order to do that successfully a group that wanted to try would have to have and maintain perfect credibility, and reading some of the linked articles I’m not at all sure that’s going to be them. If not the only thing they’ll achieve is making people more vigilant to the threat of being lulled by predatory pedophiles.
One more point I wanted to make, though it doesn’t flow all that cleanly with the rest: working to maintain the attitude that pedophiles are HORRIFIC MONSTERS may not actually protect children as much as we think it will. It may serve as a clumsy bulwark against moral relativism, but one of the most commonly cited reasons given by victims of abuse, perhaps especially sexual abuse, for why they didn’t report earlier (or at all) was because they didn’t recognize it as abuse, because their abuser was someone known to them and maybe loved and they couldn’t be an abuser because they weren’t a monster. This is also how real predators manage to get actual protection from their neighbors and friends even after their victim reports- good old so-and-so couldn’t have diddled that little girl, he’s our friend and neighbor and he’s not a monster, we’d know if he was a monster. She’s probably lying, maybe someone encouraged her to lie, someone bad. We don’t want to believe we could have harbored, related to, bonded with a monster, and the lengths of psychological protection we’ll go to in order to avoid facing that can sometimes only be shattered by staggering evidence.
I don’t think I can see a way where we will cleanly thread the needle going forward- there are too many hazards, both in ourselves and in the way our society works- but I don’t think the position we’re in now is a healthy or harmless one either.
*I have a very bad habit of turning over digital rocks.
There is no good goddamn reason for every single article/how-to/hey-look-at-this link on the internet these days to include an embedded video. 99 times out of 100, the information or joke would’ve been just as good, if not better, as text only, if only for the simple fact that the last time I had to wait for text to buffer, I was able to whistle the connection string to the modem on the far end of the line and leave it confused when I didn’t continue the conversation. If there’s an ad in front of the text, I can look below it and start reading without having to sit through 30 seconds of What’s Gonna Suck At The Theater Next, or some damn middle aged fuck’s idea of what is hip and edgy in graphics and styling assaulting my eyes to sell shoes or phones.
And speaking of phones, let me just throw this out into the wild: I don’t give two flying shits at a rolling donut how you got your message to my eyeballs. I think it really is nifty as all get-out that you can use your idroidberry to communicate with more power than they fucking had on Star Trek TNG in a smaller form factor. I get that the tech is cool. But again, I don’t fucking care that you posted using shovepress for your ipeen (omg there’s a new one that has VERY SLIGHT CHANGES coming out soon, and it’ll only be $500!). Great. That really added to what you were trying to communicate to me. Unfortunately it added the exclamation point that you’re either too dumb to turn off the default advertising, or you just HAVE to make sure everybody knows JUST HOW COOL your communicator is, or you just get down with giving free advertising to whoever makes the damn thing. Stoppit. Odds are if you’re reading this you’re a grown adult, now stop waving your little silicone chubby at me every time you want to communicate.
Paper based books are not dead. Kindle is not evil and without the soul of paper. If you’re reading, good. Full stop. If you just want to jihad on about how you just can’t stand ebooks because you don’t physically turn a page and can’t flip to just the right spot, stop it. Either go read something, or join in fighting with the people who argue that chili must/must never have beans in it. If you’re going on about how archaic paper is and it’s stupid to have 1000lbs of books when you can fit the same amount in one device, you get to go play with the glock vs. 1911 crowd. And yes, I’m sending you off to separate arguments for a reason. Think hard, you’ll get it.
(Update: Go watch this one too. Poor lady must not be very popular if she’s digging for links here. )
So today I stumble across this post about sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, which was… interesting. I advise you to read the whole thing, especially if you want to comment, because it’s long, fairly nuanced, and I really don’t entirely disagree with its author. (Me making big things out of posts that I mostly agree with seems to be a trend.)
Post author Benjamin Dueholm and I seem to have in common that we’ve both been Savage readers for years, and in an important sense grew up with him in reading his stuff during times when we were still forming ideas of what sexual ethics, as well as ethics in general, should be. We also have pretty much the same problems with him; while I still agree with Savage more often than I don’t, I also think he’s grown a hell of an ego over the years, and his points of failure tend to be pretty consistent- he seems to think that asshole things you do to people whose politics you find repugnant aren’t really asshole things, that people with low sex drives are defective, and he’s developed a REALLY obnoxious tendency to propose opening the relationship as the universal solvent of problems within monogamous relationships. Dueholm also mentions Dan’s devotion to the Sex at Dawn people and their theories, although perhaps ironically he goes easier on that than I did.
Where Dueholm and I depart- and it’s not that far a departure- is in our estimation of how much, or if, sexual satisfaction has been placed unreasonably above and apart from other satisfactions and forms of happiness. In this, I don’t think he’s being quite fair to Savage, for once*. I also have a slightly different outlook on both the culture that produced him and what its future looks like.
Silly Sex-At-Dawn stuff aside, Dan has never promised that hewing to his ethics- which rely on the twin pillars of honesty and autonomy- would produce complete happiness. What he’s essentially always asserted isn’t that “it gets better” will end up at best, but that it’s better than the alternative- the alternative being, from his view and mine, deceit, self-hatred, and frustration and depression. People in relationships that don’t adhere to traditional sexual and relationship norms are still people, and whether you call it sinner’s nature or human nature they’re still going to screw up and still going to hurt themselves and each other and still going to miss out on opportunities they’ll regret, because they’re still people. That’s one of the reasons, when chewing out his supplicants that are doing something harmful to themselves and others, Dan tends to put disclosure above chewing them out for the bad behavior itself; nobody generally needs to be told something they’re doing is bad for themselves and others to know it is. They make seek affirmation for it (which Savage almost always refuses to give), but they’re still doing it because it’s satisfying to them in some way. Better behavior aside, the next step in damage control for Dan is telling them to own it and give their partner the option to figure out if this is behavior they can live with or a reason to terminate the relationship.
Among those reasons Savage finds acceptable grounds for termination of the relationship is lack of sexual compatibility, or at least lack that can’t be negotiated around with an open clause. Dueholm finds this cold, and a waste of the other happiness potentials in a relationship. To a point, I agree- having sex with someone else won’t always bring happiness outside the short-term sexual satisfactions, and monogamy isn’t such an unreasonable expecation that dropping it should be near the top of the list of solutions for sexual-compatibility issues. Sex isn’t the be-all and end-all of a relationship, no.
However, and this is the point in which I think cultural outlook comes in, in a really monogamous relationship based on love it’s also important enough to be a very serious consideration in terms of how partners treat one another. People talk about sexual norms and marriage as though they’ve always been as we’ve understood in the last fifty or sixty years, but that simply isn’t. The love-marriage based on mutual romantic affection and undying love is a modern construct; for the bulk of history it was more of an economic and legal relationship than a romantic one. In a lot of times and places, romance and passion were understood at things that explicitly occurred outside of marriage**. Twentieth century Americans may have gotten exercised about adultery, but in many cultures for many periods of history, seeking sexual and emotional satisfaction outside the relationship was more or less taken as given if not savory, with the only real problems arising from bastard children.
This is Dan’s point coming from another direction: if you’re really going to have a relationship with someone you love, you need to deal with their needs and desires, and if you’re the only one in a place to fulfill them and you want this situation to continue, then you do in fact have a responsibility to them in that sense. We may have been able to societally cope with not having such frank conversations about it before- but we were also taking the idea of having relationships for the sake of love and mutual fulfillment less seriously than we were taking them for the sake of economic and social alliance and a clear path of inheritance.
Yes, sex is not the be-all and end-all in a relationship, but it’s also not unimportant. Sex is a powerful enough drive that people chase it no matter what kind of norms and mores are in place, and one of the benefits of a loving long-term relationship is that it’s a context in which you can show and be more of yourself than you can in society-at-large- in large part that’s the very definition of intimacy. If sexuality is effectively taken off that table, that leaves a gap in intimacy that’s a lot larger than merely the absence of mutually satisfying orgasms and stretches well into the emotional realm. Religious/philosophical compatibility isn’t the be-all and end-all of a relationship either, but that doesn’t make its potential in its absence to damage or even ultimately destroy a relationship any less real- and the compulsion to satisfy sexual needs is a lot stronger and more deeply rooted than the compulsion to understand one’s place in the universe at large.
Challenging norms isn’t inherently a bad thing, since norms aren’t inherently beneficial or even inherently harmless; we’ve collectively rejected a lot of harmful norms over the course of our history, like “people of high birth are just better than other people”, or “children are the property of their parents and may be dealt with as they choose even if it’s bad treatment”. Over the course of examining which taboos are malum in se and which are malum prohibitum, there comes the question of what it is we actually want out of a relationship- and when requiring a long-term apparently-monogamous relationship is no longer necessary for general societal acceptance, the answers may sometimes end up surprising.
What people think they want and what would actually work for them aren’t always the same, and Dan Savage isn’t that great an ethicist… but both beat sweeping large sectors of the human experience off the table for discussion, expectation, and negotiation. Intimate relationships are tough enough as it is.
*I tried to find a quote to hang this off of but really the whole thing is needs to be read in its entirety to be understood. Sign of good writing, really.
**Here using “marriage” as an interchangeable concept with indefinite monogamous relationships, which I don’t think should be too controversial.