Archive for May, 2009

Homosexuality and the Moral Fabric of Society

by Jason Stotts

On my post yesterday “Natural Sexuality”, MadMax raised this question in a response to a question asked on Noodlefood:

Do you think that homosexual marriage and homosexual adoption could in any way “threaten” heterosexual marriage? The argument is that allowing open homosexuality will encourage more of it and this will undermine the traditional family structure which will in turn destroy society.

This sounds like religious conservative nonsense but the only thing that does make some sense to me is that a child should be exposed to both sexes as parental models as they grow up. I am curious as to your opinion.

Since I didn’t want my response to lie forever hidden in the comments of the last post, I’ll answer it here so that everyone can see it.

My answer, as most people could probably guess, is: NO! I don’t think that allowing homosexual marriage would in any way harm heterosexual relationships.

Homosexuality is not some sort of horrible disease or plague. The idea that homosexuality is evil is a religious idea. Homosexuality is offensive to the christian god because the christian god is all about reproduction and homosexuals cannot, qua homosexuals, reproduce. But so what? What difference does it make that homosexuals cannot reproduce? Does this mean that the christian god hates infertility? It must. Does the christian god see a barren woman as being equally noxious as a homosexual? Let’s hope he does if he is to be “all good” and consistent with himself.

Seriously though, in my research on sexuality I have found the opposite to be true. In the cases that I’ve read on homosexual parents raising children, the studies found no significant statistical difference between the likelihood that a child of heterosexual parents or homosexual parents will turn out to be gay (I’ll have to look up the source, I can’t recall it offhand). So, the argument quoted on Noodlefood seems to be just wrong. However, what difference does it make if homosexual parents are more likely than heterosexual parents to raise homosexual children? To point to this as a reason why homosexuals should not be allowed to marry or adopt is to say that homosexuality is evil and we don’t want it to be encouraged. What’s even more monstrous to me is that fact that if we don’t allow homosexuals to adopt children, then these children will be stuck in orphanages or foster homes which have been shown time and again to be sub-optimal places for a child to develop. So, the conclusion of barring gays from adopting is this: we would rather children grow up maladjusted or with psychological problems than gay!

I think the argument that children need both genders as parents to learn proper gender roles is silly as well. If it was truly the case that this was needed, we should bar single parents by law and remove their children to state orphanages. I know that I was raised solely by my mother and only very rarely had any input from my father (and I wish I hadn’t had that) and I don’t think that my masculinity suffered as a consequence. Realistically, I think that most kids learn about sex roles more from their peers and from the media around them (books, TV, movies, etc) than from their parents.

I have a hard time understanding any arguments about the evils of homosexuality except for the one that says “god hates it.” This argument is obviously wrong, as there is no magical old man in the sky, but at least it’s open and doesn’t try to hide behind other rationalizations. All other arguments against homosexuality are either rationalized, and couched, versions of the “god hates it” argument or simply just open hatred of homosexuality born of the fear of difference.

And it’s true – homosexuality is different! But so what? How does the fact that my male friend Z loves his boyfriend affect my relationship with my fiancee? My relationship with my fiance M. does not take into consideration any others; our relationship is between us only. Even if the rest of society forsook monogamy and started living in communes, the relationship between M. and I would not change.

Do I think that our society might change if homosexuality were openly accepted? Yes! I don’t know how exactly the change would look, but I know that there would be no danger to heterosexual couples. Let me conclude this slightly less than philosophically rigorous rant by agreeing with Madmax when he says:

I am starting to realize that an Objectivist society should there ever be one – ie a fully rational, secular, individualist society that rejects platonic conceptions of morality and *sexual morality* – would be a very different culture than ours. My guess is that it might even be sexually shocking to modern sensibilities, even to those of Objectivists.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even write a speculative essay soon on what it might look like.

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"Natural Sexuality"

by Jason Stotts

I came across a very clever essay by Jen over on her blog Blag Hag called “Natural Sexuality“. In the essay she makes the point that our conception of natural for sexuality is quite divergent from other animals. The point of the essay is to argue against monogamy, with which I do not agree, but it also serves to challenge some of our deeply ingrained conceptions of what is “right and natural” and I think that this is important. Her essay is definitely worth reading and after you do consider what you think is “natural” for human sexuality and why you think so. The answers might surprise you.

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The Nietzsche Family Circus

by Jason Stotts

For those of you who have never seen it, the website losanjealous has what they call “The Nietzsche Family Circus” – which is where they pair a random Family Circus comic with a random Nietzsche quote. The result is one of the best things ever. I highly recommend checking it out.
There cannot be a God because if there were one,
I could not believe that I was not He.
After the old god has been assassinated, I am ready to rule the world.

[Update! Leave the permalink for the best comics you find in the comments. Let’s see who can find the best one.]

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Chinese Sex Park

by Jason Stotts

I found out, just a couple of days ago, that someone is building a sex themed park in China and that the park was already well under construction and set to open this fall. I was planning on writing a post about this and talking about how this could be great for China: it would be a way for them to open up conversations about sex in a country that has historically been very repressed.

This morning, I sat down to write said essay and I see this headline on the BBC: “China Sex Theme Park Demolished“! The BBC had reported that the park was being built two days ago and they’re already tearing it down! This sort of throws a damper on my essay. However, I think it does serve to highlight the fact that China is still a repressive regime and that they definitely need to open up conversations about sex, sexual health, and the role of men and women in society.

Personally, I’d like to see this kind of thing here in the States. There’s nothing better than sex education, over-sized genitalia, and rides symbolizing intercourse…

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Atheists and Sex

by Jason Stotts

I was just directed to a really interesting article by Greta Christina called “Why Atheists have Great Sex.”  The article is overall a good one, even if the author does not have the best moral position (her position is not entirely clear form this article). The thesis, though, is good:

When you don’t believe in God or the soul or any sort of afterlife — when you believe that this short life is all that we have — then making the most of that short life, and taking advantage of the joyful experiences it has to offer, suddenly becomes a whole lot more important. It’s almost a moral obligation.[…] I don’t think we need to see sex as spiritual in order to see it as transcendent.

I think the point that sex has no necessary connection to any sort of metaphysically dubious entities is very important and needs to be stressed. Sex can be amazingly special and one of the best things in a human life, without being a gift from a god or communication with the divine. It is special because it is distinctly human and is a very special kind of connection with another person, as well as being one of the greatest sources of pleasure open to a person.

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Atlas Sales on Fire!

by Jason Stotts

The Ayn Rand Institute announced yesterday that sales of Atlas Shrugged have tripled over last year, which was itself a record year for sales. Perhaps we should thank Comrade Obama for this?

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Atlas Shrugged Triples in Sales

Irvine, CA, May 12, 2009–Reports from trade sources indicate that consumer purchases of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged have tripled in the first four months of 2009 compared to the first four months of 2008.

According to Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, “The tripling in sales ofAtlas Shrugged is remarkable, especially considering that in 2008 a new all-time record in annual sales of the novel was established with more than 200,000 copies sold in the United States.”

As Dr. Brook pointed out, “Annual sales of Atlas Shrugged have been increasing for decades to a level not seen in Ayn Rand’s lifetime. Sales of the U.S. paperback editions averaged 74,000 copies a year in the 1980s, 95,000 copies a year in the 1990s and 139,000 copies a year in the current decade. After reaching an all-time high during the novel’s 50th anniversary in 2007, another new high was reached in 2008 and an even higher mark is expected for 2009.”

More than 6,500,000 copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold to date.

“As America faces a devastating economic crisis fundamentally caused by government policies, it is a hopeful sign for the future that increasing numbers of concerned Americans are turning to Atlas Shrugged and discovering Ayn Rand’s original morality of rational egoism and her uncompromising defense of laissez faire capitalism.”

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Who is John Galt?

by Jason Stotts

With the recent popularity of the term “going Galt” and the misunderstanding that I am sure is happening, I thought that I’d take some time to look into this question and see if I can’t help shed some light on who is John Galt. In order to truly understand John Galt, you have to read and understand Atlas Shrugged, however, you can learn a lot about the man from the legends of him in Atlas.

Legend 1: Atlantis (AS, 153)

“Do you know the legend of Atlantis, Miss Taggart?”

“What?”

“Atlantis.”

“Why…vaguely.”

“The Isles of the Blessed. That is what the Greeks called it, thousands of years ago. They said Atlantis was a place where hero-spirits lived in happiness unknown to the rest of the earth. A place which only the spirits of heroes could enter, and they reached it without dying, because they carried the secret of life within them. Atlantis was lost to mankind, even then. But the Greeks knew it had existed. They tried to find it. Some of them said it was underground, hidden in the heart of the earth. But most of them said it was an island. A radiant island in the Western Ocean. Perhaps what they were thinking of was America. They never found it. For centuries afterward, men said it was only a legend. They did not believe it, but they never stopped looking for it, because they knew that that was what they had to find.”

“Well, what about John Galt?”

“He found it.”

Dagny’s interest was gone. “Who was he?”

“John Galt was a millionaire, a man of inestimable wealth. He was sailing his yacht one night, in mid-Atlantic, fighting the worst storm ever wreaked upon the world, when he found it. He saw it in the depth, where it had sunk to escape the reach of men. He saw the towers of Atlantis shining on the bottom of the ocean. It was a sight of such kind that when one had seen it, one could no longer wish to look at the rest of the earth. John Galt sank his ship and went down with his entire crew. They all chose to do it.”

Legend 2: The Fountain of Youth (AS, 178)

“I know who is John Galt,” said the tramp. “It’s a secret, but I know it.”

“Who?” [Dagny] asked without interest.

“An explorer,” said the tramp. “The greatest explorer that ever lived. The man who found the fountain of youth.”

“John Galt spent years looking for it. He crossed oceans, and he crossed deserts, and he went down into forgotten mines, miles under the earth. But he found it on top of a mountain. It took him ten years to climb that mountain. It broke every bone in his body, it tore the skin off his hands, it made him lose his home, his name, his love. But he climbed it. He found the fountain of youth, which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back.”

“Why didn’t he?” [Dagny] asked.

“Because he found that it couldn’t be brought back down.”

This is John Galt Speaking

What was the secret key to Atlantis that allowed the Greek heroes to enter, while barring all others, that John Galt found? What was this fountain of youth that John Galt found, but was unable to bring down to men?

The answer is really quite simple. John Galt was the man who discovered the nobility of man and the path to achieve it. In his own words:

Observe the persistence, in mankind’s mythologies, of the legend about a paradise that men had once possessed, the city of Atlantis or the Garden of Eden os some kingdom of perfection, always behind us. The root of that legend exists, not in the past of the race, but in the past of every man. You still retain a sense—not as firm as a memory, but diffused like the pain of hopeless longing—that somewhere in the starting years of your childhood, before you had learned to submit, to absorb the terror of unreason and to doubt the value of your mind, you had known the independence of a rational consciousness facing an open universe. That is the paradise which you have lost, which you seek—which is yours for the taking.”

“Some of you will never know who is John Galt. But those of you who have known a single moment of love for existence and of pride in being its worthy lover, a moment of looking as this earth and letting your glance be its sanction, have known the state of being a man, and I—I am only the man who knew that that state is not to be betrayed. I am the man who knew what made it possible and who chose consistently to practice and to be what you had practiced in that one moment.

The key John Galt found can be summed up in his oath:

I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

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On Bisexuality

by Jason Stotts

I think it’s strange how bisexuality has been demonized, marginalized, and even taken to be no more than an illusory state that one passes through as a position between the two legitimate categories of homosexual and heterosexual.

Frankly, I think that’s asinine.

I think that there are more bisexuals (Kinsey 1-5’s) than there are heterosexuals (Kinsey 0’s) or homosexuals (Kinsey 6’s). The problem is that people like to think in neat little (rationalistic) categories and bisexuality is a problem for this. I would imagine that there are very few heterosexuals who have never been attracted to someone of the same sex or been interested in a same sex experience. Likewise, I would imagine that there are very few homosexuals who have never been attracted to someone of the opposite sex of been interested in an opposite sex experience. The problem is that these desires are seen as “wrong” and in opposition to the person’s sexual identity, so are consciously self-corrected.

We won’t let ourselves have a desire that contradicts “who we are.” Yet, what if the problem is in our understanding of sexual identity and what it means to be homosexual or heterosexual.

Part of the problem lies in our current understanding of masculinity and femininity. Let us look to an example from Hellenistic Greece. In the time of Plato and Aristotle it was common for boys from good families to take an older male lover who would mentor them and show them the ways of the world. In return for knowledge, social status, and gifts, the young boy would reciprocate by allowing his mentor to penetrate him anally (oral sex was beyond taboo, equivalent to bestiality in our culture). This practice is known as pederasty (it was ephebophilic, not pedophilic). The interesting point of the story is that these boys were then expected to grow into productive members of society and to marry women and start families. Furthermore, they were expected, once they had achieved a good position for themselves, to become a mentor for a boy and help him into adulthood. The Greeks did not think that having sex with a man challenged their masculinity in any way. The only way they had a problem with a man having sex with men is if he did this to the exclusion of all else and became “like a woman” in that he would always desire to be penetrated and never to be the penetrator or fail to take up his role in society.

In an interesting aside, the Greeks had no conception of homosexuality or heterosexuality when applied to people. They understood that homosexual acts and heterosexual acts were different, but that didn’t have any bearing on a person’s identity. Men were expected to be sexually proficient with both men and women, and this was just part of what it meant to be a man. (Lesbianism was less frequent in Greece, but still happened. It just isn’t known to what extent, as women were not in the public spotlight and are absent from most historical accounts.)

What’s so interesting about the Greeks is that they didn’t need a special category of “bisexuality” as they considered all people to be bisexual, and for them it was natural to be aroused by beauty, whether it was in a man or woman. This brings us back to the topic of our discussion: those who think that bisexuality is a transitional state. If this is true, then it should have been true for all humans and we have already seen a notable counterexample. Indeed, the Greek system lasted for hundreds of years and is not the only society in history to not have rigid lines between homosexuality and heterosexuality.

The common explanation today, for the marginalization of bisexuality, is the “vampire theory.” The idea is that the bisexual is the most dangerous kind of person because they carry disease between the pure heterosexuals and the tainted homosexuals. Interestingly, though, safe sex is necessary no matter your orientation: AIDS does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

I think a more plausible explanation of the vilification of bisexuality is sexual insecurity. In Greece, a man was committed to his wife and family, while still able to have homosexual relationships with men outside. Since he was committed to his household, these relationships did not threaten his relationship with his wife (which was his primary relationship). In our society, however, the bisexual is dangerous because he or she has needs that just one partner cannot fulfill. They are destined to hurt their partner by having needs that they cannot fulfill and so the partner has to deal with either knowing that their partner is unfulfilled or allowing them to acquire another sexual partner.

However, with honesty and open communication, a relationship with a bisexual can be viable. To do so requires first that both people in the couple be committed to each other and completely honest and open about their needs and desires. They must consider their relationship to be their primary relationship that would take precedence in any case of conflict and their partner to be their primary partner so that they are not ignored. If both partners freely agree to this, then the bisexual partner would be able to have outside relationships of the opposite kind, thus fulfilling their needs, while still being able to maintain a healthy core relationship.

The problem is that most people are not honest enough with themselves or open enough with their partners to make it possible. However, this does not mean that it cannot be done. The first step is to move beyond the idea that just because your partner has needs that you cannot fulfill, that you are therefore not adequate. This is just sexual insecurity. There is no way that one person can fulfill every need that another person has. This is one reason why we have friends and not all of our friends are the same. The second is to establish open communication based on absolute honesty, to oneself and one’s partner. This is vital if the core relationship is to persevere. While a bisexual relationship is certainly not for everyone, it can be done and it is the best option for some people.

Bisexuality is not shameful!

In fact, it seems to be the most honest kind of sexuality with the least amount of repression and shame. We need to let go of our fear of not being a K0 or K6. In fact, we need to be open to the idea that our sexual orientation can change. Right now, I might be a K1, but in five years I could be a K3 or even move to a K5. If we’re open to change and we move beyond the rigid categories of homosexual and heterosexual, we might just find our some surprising things about ourselves.

In fact, we might find out that the reason we hate bisexuals is because we fear that we might be one and this challenges our very conception of ourselves.

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