Archive for December, 2009

Republicans Ask for Climategate Investigation

by Jason Stotts

In an unexpected move, House Republicans are asking the Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the Climategate scandal and how it is affecting American policy.

From the announcement:

WASHINGTON – Senior Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today asked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. to hold a hearing into the emails exchanged between global warming researchers that described their work with words like “hide the decline” and “travesty.”

“The e-mails from the University of East Anglia raise serious questions about the production of influential scientific information concerning climate change,” wrote U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Greg Walden, R-Ore. “They raise serious questions about the quality of the process that produces climate assessments that Congress is asked to rely upon when making its decisions. The e-mails appear to show a concerted effort among well-connected climate scientists to influence inappropriately the peer review process and destroy or obfuscate scientific data.

“We note that many of these scientists include U.S. scientists who serve at federal agencies or are federally funded through grants and contracts to collect their data and perform their work, and that some of the information they appear to have sought to suppress concerns the analyses used in United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” they added. “Given the federal connection, and the apparent connection to influential information relied upon by federal agencies and the U.S. Congress … we cannot stand idly by while mounting evidence suggests scientific malfeasance.”

The full text of the letter is available here [link].

Uganda Bans Female Genital Mutilation

by Jason Stotts

In a welcome move, Uganda has passed a new law to ban Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The World Health Organization estimates that over 3,000,000 women throughout the world are forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation every year, or roughly 342 women every hour of every day. For those who don’t know, FGM ranges from the removal of the clitoral hood, to the removal of the clitoris, to the removal of the outer and inner labia, to effectively sowing the vagina closed (infibulation). This is frequently done with whatever implements are at hand, including rusty pieces of metal, scissors, pieces of glass, etc, and rarely with the use of anesthesia. It is done for various reasons, depending on the locality, but the unifying element in the “inherent dirtiness” of the female body and to “help” women conform to cultural expectations of chastity.

The practice is primarily located in Africa and some Asian countries, although it has strong ties to Islam and is therefore not tied exclusively to any location.  FGM is a sobering reminder that our ideas about sex matter and that the consequences of bad ideas about sex are not limited to an unsatisfying sex life. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that bad ideas about sex can kill. It is for this reason that Sexual Ethics is vital.

I want to applaud Uganda for their move to ban FGM and I urge other countries who don’t have such laws in place to make passing them a priority.

I also want to point out an interesting paradox.  While all reasonable people agree that mutilating a woman’s vagina is unethical and should be banned, not many people seem to have a problem with mutilating penises.  They are the same in all respects and just because we are better at mutilating penises and men do not usually die from this, does not make it right.

Male Prostitution Now Legal in Nevada

by Jason Stotts

(Source: Wiki-Commons)

So apparently even though prostitution has been legal in certain Nevada counties since the 70’s, it has only been female prostitution up until this point.  However, this is about to change with the hiring of the first male prostitute at a brothel in Nevada.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that due to a change in the state law, men will now be eligible to be employed as prostitutes.

This, of course, is going to cause quite a controversy once it becomes well known and the implications are realized: men will be able to legally pay other men for sex!  This, of course, is a sign of the end of times and we should all prepare for the rapture (mercy!).  In all seriousness, though, do expect a large backlash by the christian reich over legal gay prostitution.

I, for one, think that it’s great that Nevada is expanding prostitution and that now both women and men will be able to hire a male prostitute if they so choose.

Sexual Etymology: Hymen and Orgasm

by Jason Stotts

In this week’s edition of Sexual Etymology, we’re going to be looking at “hymen” and “orgasm.

Hymen – 1615, from Fr. hymen (16c.), ult. from Gk. hymen “virginal membrane, thin skin.” Originally any membrane; present specific meaning begins with Vesalius, 1550. Hymeneal “wedding hymn” is 1717, from L. hymenaeus, from Gk. hymenaios “belonging to wedlock, wedding, wedding song,” from Hymen, Gk. god of marriage, represented as a youth carrying a torch and a veil. (hymen)

So, hymen is obviously very similar in meaning to its original definition.  One interesting thing to note, though, is the connection of hymen to marriage.  This connection is almost ubiquitous in ancient cultures (even in some modern cultures) as a sign of a girl’s virginity.  This, of course, is rather strange as they are easy to break and are more often broken by a non-sexual activity, than by a sexual one.

Orgasm – 1680s, from Fr. orgasme, from Gk. orgasmos “excitement, swelling,” from organ “be in heat, become ripe for,” lit. “to swell, be excited,” related to orge “impulse, excitement, anger,” from PIE base *wrog- “to burgeon, swell with strength” (cf. Skt. urja “a nourishment, sap, vigor,” O.Ir.ferc, ferg “anger”). The verb is attested from 1973, originally and usually in reference to a woman’s sexual climax. Orgasmic is attested from 1935. (orgasm)

Orgasm also has a very clear progression and a very similar meaning to its original meaning of excitement and swelling.  We’ll contrast this with ejaculation, which we shall take a look at next week.

Cyanide and Happiness

by Jason Stotts

In case you need a laugh, check out for their comic “Cyanide and Happiness.”  Their comics are hit and miss, but they have a lot of really funny ones.

1. Bar Mitzvah

2. Haircut

3. Lincoln

4. Furries

Religion Kills Over Sex Again

by Jason Stotts

Unequivocally, the greatest and most harmful result of the irrationality of religion is its hatred, absolute and unmitigated, of sex. There is nothing religion hates more than our human nature, especially our sexual nature.

Religion arises as an answer to fundamental psychological needs, among these needs are those for psychological continuity and an answer to death. However, it does so as a perversion. Instead of seeking real answers to these questions, it makes up the answers it wishes were true and then believes them to be true because it wishes them to be true (they call this epistemic perversion “faith”). The religious answer to our fear of death and attempt to understand it is this: death is an illusion, it’s not real. The “real” you is a magical, eternal, thing we call the “soul” and this soul thing cannot die (immortality of soul), so therefore you cannot die either (identification of self with soul). Unfortunately for you, though, your magical soul thing is trapped in your body (mind/body dualism) and therefore it can’t get to the magic realm of souls (heaven). However, you cannot just kill yourself! (Although it’d be reasonable if you actually believed this.) Because this would offend the maker of magical souls, who is himself a perfect uber-soul thing (god). The absurdity of it is apparent to everyone, except those blinded by faith – those who need it most.

Imagine that if you really believed that you were just your soul and that your body had trapped you here on Earth, you would justifiably hate your body and the needs it imposes on your soul. And we see that, indeed, this is the case. All religions that have a dualist doctrine hate the body and sexuality; perhaps more properly they feel it is shameful and therefore they hate it.

This hatred leads the religious to lash out at those who seem to be enjoying their bodies and so attacks them from the outside. Worse, though, is that the religious doctrine makes them ashamed of their enjoyment of their bodies and so shame and guilt attacks them from the inside. This dual attack on sexuality can be devastating to those who can’t see past the illusions of religion.

In March of this year, a young girl named Jessica Logan killed herself in Cincinnati Ohio after she sent nude pictures of herself to a boy she liked, he spread them around the school, and then the students harassed her until she killed herself. I said then that morality has real consequences: people are motivated by the ideas they hold. In this case the religious ideals motivated the students to attack Jessica for enjoying her body and her shame over her enjoyment led her to kill herself.

Now, religion has killed again: this time in Florida. Her name was Hope Witsell and she was only 13 years old. She sent nude pictures of herself to a boy she liked and according to the story, a rival girl found them and sent them to other people and the pictures went viral around the school. Of course, since sex is shameful to christians, the students viciously attacked her and made her life miserable. Worse, her internal shame led her to start cutting herself. What was her parents response? To send her to a christian counselor. Of course, this only exacerbated the problem, since christianity was the problem to begin with, and she killed herself.

The paper notes that she was only 13 and that her parents “took her to church every Sunday.” This is, of course, to assure us that she was a good christian girl (which was precisely the problem). Further, everyone acts surprised that a 13 year old could actually be sexual. This is patently absurd and only comes from the religious denial of sexuality and there refusal to want to think about it. Humans are naturally sexual beings and our bodies are sexual from the day we are born. In her case, it’s likely that Hope was already in puberty and her body was sexually maturing. I’m sure her parents were incapable of seeing her as a sexual being and probably never gave her any advice about her burgeoning sexuality.

What is most heart wrenching to me is that Hope considered herself to be be completely at fault, according to one of her friends. At fault for what? For being human in a society tainted by religion. She was too young to be able to see past all of the religious lies and propaganda and just assert her right to her own life and sexuality.

And so, Hope Wisell is dead; killed by religion. For those who think ideas do not matter in life, look here! Here is an example of ideas mattering!

Although I’d like to think that things will start to get better, I know they will only get worse because of this. In order to “help stop it from happening again,” legislatures and prosecutors will step up cases against the practice of sexting and start trying these kids for possessing nudes pictures of children. They will prosecute children for possessing pictures of other children, who took them consensually, and register them as “sex offenders.” Especially the poor young girls who actually take the pictures of themselves: these girls are not only distributing felonious images, but creating them! This, of course, will cause more girls to kill themselves instead of facing a court for their “crime.” All reason has gone out of the law on this. Thankfully the ACLU is starting to defend some of these cases, but they won’t be able to stem the tide of it until people stop thinking of children as asexual and start recognizing that they are sexual beings too.

We cannot hope to have reason in our culture until we can rid it of faith.

Remember Jesus

by Jason Stotts

I found this on tumblr and I just can’t resist putting it up.  It’s not that I consider myself a militant atheist, it’s more that I consider myself militantly for reason.

Without further ado, a poster for the holiday season.

The Health Care Bill Laid Bare

by Jason Stotts

In case you are wondering what the 1990 pages of the House healthcare bill actually say, but you don’t have time to read it yourself, head on over to Dr. John Lewis’ blog and take a look at his analysis of the bill (link).