But Nina Hartley seems to be really cool. PZ points out a pretty good interview with her, but I thought an earlier one she did with Brad Warner was much better. Too many good parts to excerpt. So if you like reading interviews about pornography and religion, among other topics, check ’em out.
In an excellent essay on the often-underappreciated value of friendship and the high estimation intellectuals have placed on it throughout the centuries, Daniel Akst works in references to Asimov, Aristotle, Emerson, Thoreau, Byron, Freud, Cicero, Goethe, Bacon, Montaigne, Wordsworth, the Beatles and Tony Soprano, just to name a baker’s dozen, but somehow manages to ignore Epicurus! As Ebonmuse once summarized it:
Epicureanism put the emphasis on pleasure, not as mindless hedonism but as reasonable indulgence in the good things available in life. Valuing intellectual pleasure more highly than sensual pleasure, it recommends the cultivation of friendship, an ethic of simplicity, and an attitude of tranquility in the face of life’s trials. Ironically, “epicure” in popular parlance has come to refer to a connoisseur of food and drink, which Epicurus arguably considered the least important of life’s pleasures.
It just starts feeling a little like overkill the 8 billionth time you see a story in a men’s magazine, written by a woman, declaring definitively that “skill beats size every time.” And it’s yet another opportunity to take the whole “it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean” thing to the extreme of putting down dudes who have a little more going on in the briefs-filling department. I may not have slept with everybody yet, but as far as I can tell, there’s no more correlation between being sexually “lazy” and penis size than there is between having big feet and penis size. Anybody who’s been around the block even a bit can acknowledge that penises, like snowflakes, are all different, and it follows that larger ones happen to feel different in the trenches. And the truth is that when women get together, they have been known to describe their partners in the universal language of holding their palms several inches apart and nodding appreciatively. Now you know.
While we can agree that the human penis is an organ of display, the display is intended not for women but for other men. Other facts confirm the role of a large penis as a threat or status display toward other men. Recall all the phallic art created by men for men, and the widespread obsession of men with their penis size. Evolution of the human penis was effectively limited by the length of the female vagina: a man’s penis would damage a woman if it were significantly larger. However, I can guess what the penis would look like if this practical constraint were removed and men could design themselves. It would resemble the penis sheaths (phallocarps) used as male attire in some areas of New Guinea where I do fieldwork. Phallocarps vary in length (up to two feet), diameter (up to four inches), shape (curved or straight), angle made with the wearer’s body, color (yellow or red) and decoration (e.g. a tuft of fur at the end). Each man has a wardrobe of several sizes and shapes from which to choose each day, depending on his mood that morning.
Things you never hear: “Please stop sucking my dick or I’ll call the police.”– George Carlin
“I think these pipe-smokers oughta just move to the next level and go ahead and suck a dick. There’s nothing wrong with suckin’ dicks. Men do it, women do it; can’t be all bad if everybody’s doin’ it. I say, Drop the pipe, and go to the dick! That’s my advice. I’m here to help.”
Plato’s theory of forms, after all, has it that beyond the material world — the all-too-human world that’s anatomized in icky detail in the vast majority of Craigs list postings — are ideal archetypes. These archetypes are the most real things in the universe. A platonic relationship is, therefore, a human relationship that inspires appreciation for the idealized human, the divine. The relationship must be chaste lest it become an end in itself and a distraction from spiritual matters.
Sigh. This is why I keep saying, while only barely joking, that Plato ruins everything. Nietzsche famously quipped that Christianity was just Plato’s philosophy for the masses, the same overly abstract world-denial. Concepts and ideas are real, of course, but in the same way that our neocortex developed out of, and on top of, our cerebellum and limbic system, concepts and ideas don’t exist by themselves, independent and superior to the earthly reality from which they came. Me, I don’t trust any idea that isn’t still speckled with a little bit of mud and a little bit of blood.
And while they stress their lofty indifferences, the members of the Strictly Platonic crowd are equally passionate about their desire: conversation, conversation, conversation. Live, e-mail, phone, text, chat — platonic people, it seems, want people to talk to. […] The forum is enlightening because it represents a collaborative effort to define “platonic” — and define it against nearly everything else on Craigslist. You would think the word would be debased by now. But it’s surprisingly intact. Maybe that’s why we still need some notion of platonism in everyday life. Once we’ve stipulated that commercial culture is that which debases everything, we need a popular concept that helps us resist debasement.
See, I could fit in with this crowd. But note the words “passionate” and “desire”, those are important. As nerdy as it sounds, I’m at a point in my life where the thought of reading, writing and discussing is more exciting to me than the thought of sexual or romantic adventures. As Henry Rollins once said, “I don’t want to know, I don’t want to be known, in that relationship kind of way.” There’s so many ways to know someone, so many angles to approach from. I just happen to not want those sort of entanglements anymore. But make no bones about it, I’m not claiming that I’m pursuing a “better” or “higher” activity; it’s just different, like any other question of taste. I wish we could envision a joyful pursuit of intellectual pleasures that doesn’t conjure up images of oddball malcontents of one stripe or another, wrinkling their noses in disgust at all the rutting pigs around them. Forget Plato. Listen to Epicurus instead.
With all these God-believers, it is striking that most students — nearly 60 percent — don’t think sexual intercourse before marriage is wrong, at all. If you look at the table below, you can see that very small proportions — even among the conservative Christians — think it is absolutely wrong. Eighteen percent of the Evangelical students think such sex is absolutely wrong. That’s less than the 25 percent of those students who took a virginity pledge.
[…] That Christian students tend to be more guilty about sex than Jews is not surprising. The history of Christianity is a long struggle against sex. The early Christian ideal was to be so infused with faith in Christ that one did not even experience sexual desire. A faithful Christian who was able to achieve self-mastery could free himself from this world. In this, they promoted the radical idea that women could be equal to men. The leaders of the Jesus movement urged those who could to cease all sexual intercourse in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. It was St. Augustine, writing in the fourth century — who described himself as being a slave to an “insatiable lust” — who put forward the position that our sexual desires are divine punishment for our original sin, an obstinate independence of will. That original sin, Augustine argued, was transmitted down through the ages through our semen. This not only made sex shameful, it made virgin birth essential.
There are sexual differences between different forms of Christianity. As you can see in the table above, it is the Protestants, not the Catholics, who are more likely to find sex outside marriage to be sinful. You might expect exactly the opposite. For Catholics, marriage is a sacrament, a visible sign of God’s grace; for Protestants it is not. The Protestants broke with the Catholic church in part over sex, that their priests and popes were having it anyway. The first thing their clergy did was to go out and get married. The difference between a Catholic and a Protestant is that the latter faces God alone, without the mediation of a priest who can confess and absolve sins. The Protestant carries his religious fate in his own hands; he or she must look to his own will as a mark of his salvation. Protestantism depends on a psychic structure of self-control in a way that Catholicism does not. Protestantism runs off a guilt that cannot be absolved.
This difference, I think, shows up in young people’s private lives. We asked students how their last sexual encounter had made them feel in relation to God. A third of the Protestant students felt distant from God after their last sexual act, compared to a quarter of the Catholics and less than one-seventh of the Jews. Protestants tend to be the guilty ones. But just because Protestant are more likely to think that sex is wrong doesn’t mean they are not having it.
The fear of death vs. the most primal expression of life. The irresistible force meets the immovable object. Well, religion had a good run of it, trying mightily to keep the lid tamped down on all those carnal urges, but it was always inevitable that people would rationalize a way to have their God and their sex lives too.
Slightly different context, but this reminded me of a line from an essay by Lee Siegel I read recently:
What all this means is that, finally … Americans are growing up about sex! For what these women really seem to be complaining about is that sex is no longer treated as though it were some momentous experience that is sacredly separate from the rest of life. Three cheers for that.
So convinced is Erich of the virtues of polyamory that he feels it will, one day, become the norm. “Fifty years ago pre-marital chastity was unquestioned,” he says. “Now it seems little more than a peculiarity. One day monogamous relationships may be seen in a similar light.”
“Orgies do happen,” he admits. “But they really are not the point of what we do. The point of polyamory is to enable people to have loving relationships with more than one person.”But why, I ask, for a final time, must a loving relationship include sex?Erich looks at me. “But why,” he rejoins “Must it not?”
Looking for something else in Andrew Solomon’s atlas of depression, The Noonday Demon, I saw this passage:
(Claudius) Galen also shared Rufus’ (of Ephesus) belief in the disastrous consequences of deficient sexual release. He treated one of his female patients, whose brain, he believed, was troubled by the noxious fumes of her rotting unreleased sexual fluids, “with a manual stimulation of the vagina and of the clitoris and the patient took much pleasure from this, much liquid came out, and she was cured.”
I don’t know what everyone else’s problem is, but I, for one, have never had the urge to conflate my sexual desires with my culinary preferences. Please, people, keep your bizarre projections to yourselves.
Straight male clients will refuse to walk into a brothel that has a male gigolo on the premises, for fear of being pegged as gay or because there might be gay customers there, he said.
And as various Republicans have made abundantly clear over the last few years, people who are that concerned with making sure everyone knows how manly, straight, and DEFINITELY NOT GAY they are, well…you know. I knew boys in first grade that weren’t this paranoid about cooties from girls, for fuck’s sake.
Switching gears a bit: One of my favorite amusements is listening to prank calls. I just love the surreal aspect of people being called out of the blue by someone they don’t know saying all sorts of crazy shit, and having to adjust on the fly. Anyway, as you might expect, once the victim has recovered their wits somewhat, they start returning the abuse, and when both parties are male, you can expect a lot of generic “yo mama” insults, and, more germane to our topic, the usual homophobic kind. The really gobsmacking thing is the number of times that a victim can seamlessly transition from calling their tormentor a faggot, cocksucker, etc. to threatening to, uh, shall we say, anally and orally violate them should they ever manage to find out who and where they are. It’s even funnier to note how often the people making those threats are your stereotypical rednecks, suburban gangstas and other meatheads obsessed with proving their machismo.
Dudes. I know there’s this whole thing about how only the guy playing the traditional female role is “gay”, but let’s clear this up if we can: basically, having sexual intercourse with other guys is what makes you gay. Doesn’t matter if you’re pitching or catching. Walking into a building where gay guys happen to be doesn’t do it. Talking to them, being friendly with them, even touching them — none of those things actually make you gay. It’s all about the sex. Conversely, if you do have sex with other dudes, no amount of troglodyte chest-thumping or violence will change that fact. Omar Little was more hardcore than any of you, and no one would deny that he was gay, least of all him. If only you all could just relax and accept it, we wouldn’t have this confused mixture of sexual and violent urges which, of course, reaches its unfortunate pinnacle in the various forms of ultimate fighting. (The best thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did was the scene in Brüno where he made out with a guy in the caged ring. The raw anguish on all those macho morons’ faces as they felt their worlds collapsing was such a beautiful sight.)
A friend and I, back in our late teens, used to delight in provoking our local rednecks with our extra-long hair, supplemented by things like long, dangly earrings (in both ears, too, back when that weird rule about a pierced right ear signifying homosexuality was still in effect). I’m beginning to think it was the most radical and socially subversive thing I’ve ever done.