Archive for April, 2010

Arizona Officially Honors the Second Amendment

by Jason Stotts

The state of Arizona has just passed a law that allows any citizen over the age of 21 to legally carry any weapon they own on their person, whether concealed or open.  I think this is great and I imagine that crime will be doing down pretty rapidly. (AP article on Yahoo!)

PHOENIX – Favoring the constitutional right to bear arms over others’ concerns about gun safety, Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill making Arizona the third state allowing people to carry a concealed weapon without requiring a permit.

The measure takes effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends, which likely puts the effective date in July or August.

“I believe this legislation not only protects the Second Amendment rights of Arizona citizens, but restores those rights as well,” Brewer, a Republican, said in a statement.

Buttholes

by Jason Stotts

Let’s be honest, when you read the title of this essay, it made you uneasy.  It’s okay.  The taboo against buttholes is so intense in our culture that it’s hard to even see the word without having a reaction to it.  But, you might wonder, why is there such a strong negative reaction to buttholes?

Your first response, and the standard argument, is that there is so much negativity associated with buttholes because they are dirty.  This is, of course, true.  Your butthole is where you expel used food from your body in the form of feces.  While the various bacteria you have in your intestines helps you to digest food, those same bacteria can be harmful if they get into other parts of your body (if, for example, you were to ingest some).  However, with the level of hygiene that modern life affords us, we have little to worry about form these microorganisms if some basic health standards are maintained (e.g. working plumbing, washing with soap, etc).

So, if the strong revulsion to buttholes can be averted by hygiene, it would seem that our aversion to buttholes will go away with time as we come to see that our buttholes are not necessarily dirty.  However, it could be the case that our concern with hygiene is not our real concern; if we practice good hygiene and still have an aversion to buttholes.

If it is not safety that is the concern, then what could it be?  With apologies to Suspense, the answer is concerns about anal sexual pleasure.

Our buttholes are tightly packed with nerve endings, the same kind of nerve endings as are in penises and vaginas.  This makes our buttholes extremely sensitive to the touch. Now, whether anal sensitivity is an evolutionary benefit to keep intruders out or a fortunate bit of luck, this makes our buttholes a potential source of intense pleasure. For men the butthole is the gateway to the prostate, the seat of a man’s orgasm, and one of the most pleasurable spots on his body.  If it weren’t for the negativity associated with our buttholes holding us back, we would get a lot of pleasure from touching them.  So why don’t we?

The negativity associated with buttholes, that is not a function of hygiene concerns, is a product of religion. The religious insistence on the idea of an eternal soul leads directly to the idea that the body is base and low.  Since the soul is “divine” and is our true self, but is trapped in this body that will die, has needs, and generally impinges on its more divine part, the body is a liability to the soul.  The body is the disgusting prison for the pristine soul.  The body is transient, while the soul is eternal.  Of course, on this understanding, deriving pleasure from your lowly body is base and animal like: the temporary host body should not be enjoyed as it is low and corrupting.

The objection is deeper than this though: sexual pleasure and sexual freedom are absolutely abhorrent to religion.  The proud, happy man or woman does not need religion.  It is the weak that need religion and thrive under its inversion of values: it’s slave revolt.  By attempting to reduce sexual pleasure, they attempt to shackle the strong to make them susceptible to the poison that is religion.

Now, that the answer to the origin of the prohibition on buttholes has been revealed, let us ask a new question.  Why do we feel shame at our own buttholes?  They are, after all, part of us.  They are part of who we are: a part of what it means to be human.  Not only that, everyone has a butthole.  That’s right, you’re not the only one.  Furthermore, it is pleasurable for everyone to touch his or her butthole.  We all have the same nerve endings and if it weren’t for the negativity associated with buttholes, then anal eroticism would be more prevalent.  If we deny the vicious religious mind/body dichotomy, then we can enjoy what it really is to be human.

The harm from the prohibition on buttholes is most pertinent to men.  While women can have different kinds of orgasms: clitoral, vaginal, or g-spot, men can only have one kind of orgasm.  Contrary to the common understanding of the male orgasm, the seat of the male orgasm is not the penis, but rather it is the prostate.  Indeed, a man can have an orgasm through prostate stimulation alone without any penile stimulation, while the reverse is not true as the nerves in the penis connect directly to the prostate.

The problem is that most men do not understand this, as there is such a strong prohibition against anal eroticism in our culture and this has been coupled with the idea that only a homosexual man could be into anal eroticism (it’s interesting that the prohibition against female anal eroticism is much lower and female anal eroticism is even sometimes actively encouraged).  Indeed, it is common in our culture for a man, even when being anally stimulated by a woman, to fear that this enjoyment of anal stimulation means that he is gay, even though he has no interest in men.  While this idea is obviously silly, as it has no basis besides fear and there is nothing wrong with homosexuality anyway, it means that most men will not experiment with anal eroticism and, consequently, will cut themselves off from one of the most intense pleasures a man can experience.  Worse, is that if he has no knowledge of his prostate, he will be unable to even understand the workings of his own orgasms!

What I am proposing is this: I want everyone to think about his or her butthole today.  Just think about it.  If you feel revulsion, try to discover why you feel it.  What, exactly, bothers you about your butthole?  Is this a rational problem you have with your butthole or an irrational hang-up?  What can you do to help yourself work through your issues?

For most people the way to work through your issues is to actually try touching your butthole.  If this causes immediate anxiety in you, then try this: take a shower and wash your butthole thoroughly.  After you’ve rinsed it, try touching it and see what it feels like.  As you grow more accustomed to your butthole, you’ll notice that your psychological hang-ups will begin to disappear.  By consciously thinking about your fears and slowly working yourself into anal eroticism, you can make the transition smoothly without undo stress.

Ultimately, reclaiming our buttholes will help us to reclaim our own sexuality.  If we are forever closed from a part of ourselves, then we can never experience the full range of our sexuality.  Further, dispelling our fear of our buttholes will help us to be more comfortable with our bodies: with who we are.  The fact is that you have a butthole and no matter how much you want to not think about it, you’ll have to think about it at least once a day.

Anyone who wants to learn more about anal eroticism, anal health issues, and psychological aversions to anal play should pick up Jack Morin’s book Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women (it’s hard to find a new copy of it, but it’s well worth the search).

—–Update!—–

There is apparently a new edition of Jack Morin’s book being released soon and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon already.  The new title is: Anal Pleasure and Health: A Guide for Men, Women, and Couples.  It appears that it will release in May, so pre-order it now.

(Note: if you click on the link and purchase the book, I will get some small amount of money.  So help me out!)

Happy Tax Day!

by Jason Stotts

Today, the government would like to remind you that they own 40-80% of you, depending on your income.

Same Sex Marriage and Epistemological Confusion: Revisited

by Jason Stotts

After looking over Qwertz’s original essay again, and in light of the clarifying comments I’ve received on my last post on this subject, I believe I owe Qwertz an apology.  When I originally read his post, I took him to be taking a much stronger, and indeed different,  position that it seems he is actually taking.

In light of this, let me revisit some of the philosophical problems in the post in a different way.

Both Qwertz and I would agree, I think, with the proposition that the terms “husband,” “wife,” and “spouse” are all relational concepts (much like friend, brother, mother, etc.).  Further, I don’t think we disagree about the point that in a relational concept, the essence of the concept is not be found in the people in the relationship, but in the relationship itself.  For example, friendship is not to be found in a person, but is how that person acts and behaves to their friend: the “friendship” itself is the relation of two people to each other.  Further, I think we both agree that the specific relationship that is dealt with here is the marital relationship.  None of these points are contentious.

The point of contention is in how do we define these words.  I agree with Qwertz that: “The simple definition of ‘husband’ is ‘a married man’.”  The problem is that I think he goes wrong when he says: “But the concept actually subsumes all the fundamental properties shared by its units.”  I think that in the case of relational concepts, the entire concept rests only on the relationship itself, and not in the units. Let’s take an example, a bad marriage is not one where the partners in the relationship are immoral, but one where the relationship itself is not working.  This is because the marriage is not just the same as the partners, the marriage (the relationship) is almost like a third thing to the partners.  Having two virtuous people in a marriage does not mean that it will be a good marriage: they may still not be right for each other.  This brings us to the issue of: is being a good X part of the concept of X?  I say no.  In order to even say “good X,” one must first understand what it is to be an X.  Only once it is understood what it is to be an X, can someone then say “…and this is what it would be to be a good X.”  This point is critical because Qwertz is asking whether things like dominance and submission need to be part of the concept of marriage.  Clearly not.  I can imagine a married couple where the man is not masculine and the wife is not feminine and perhaps they don’t even love each other–but they’re still married.  He’s actually asking whether or not certain things should be part of the concept of a good marriage, or a proper marriage (and these are legitimate questions).

The concepts we are dealing with here need to be defined by their essentials and only their essentials.  What is essential about being a bachelor is that he is an unmarried man.  What is essential about being a mother is that she has given rise to offspring.  What is essential to being an X in a relational concept is that X exists in a specific relationship.  To concretize it back to our case: the relationship itself we call “marriage” and men in these relationship are “husbands” and women in these relationships are “wives.”  To ask the further questions about “good marriages” et cetera are a different, and later, question.

Traditionally, of course, being a husband entailed having a wife, but only because marriage was defined as a “union before god of a man and a woman.”  If we go back only slightly further, marriage was an arrangement between two men to exchange property (specifically a woman).  Remember, it was not very long ago that women were property and to rape a woman was an offense against her father, who owned her, and not against her herself, since she had no legal or moral standing.  The thing is that the definition is evolving: it is certainly not before any gods for we Objectivists.  I think more interesting questions about marriage involve what the nature of marriage is: is it a union of two people before the state?  Just their declaration of their love?  A promise to act as a single unit henceforth?  A contract that is dependent only on the parties to it?  There are some really interesting and challenging questions about marriage.  However, I do not find the definitions of husband and wife to be among these, which is not to say that one cannot be interested in them.  If one is having a problem with the words, like Qwertz is, then he is doing the right thing by probing into the subject.

I think part of the problem fueling this is that the “official Objectivist position” on homosexuality is that it is immoral or, if not immoral, then at least a tragic mistake brought about by psychological errors and/or problems.  I certainly don’t have the space or inclination to take on this whole issue here, but I will be posting a revised version of a speech I gave to the Ohio Objectivist Society last year that details my position.  I’m changing some of my arguments based on refinements to the ideas I’ve had since I wrote it last year. Nevertheless, it is foolish to say that because you think the penis has metaphysical primacy, that homosexuality is immoral (if you don’t understand this, go and find all of Rand’s references to these issues and piece her argument together, otherwise I’ll explain in my forthcoming post).

Finally, I want to address Shea (Cogito) and his hysterics yesterday.

Shea: really?  Calm down, people make mistakes.  First of all, I told Qwertz that I published this on the day I did it (see the picture).

Then, the next day, you come along and tell him the same thing directly underneath my comment.  Did you think he wouldn’t see my comment, but would see yours?  And then your melodramatic blog post: “I posted a comment on Jason’s post, but since he moderates his comments and may not approve mine I wanted to post it here for posterity.”  I was at work and couldn’t approve your comment the very moment you wrote it.  I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience.  The way commenting works on Erosophia is that comments from a author need to be approved the first time, but not subsequent times.  As long as you use the same e-mail address to post your comments, you only have to be moderated once.  This prevents spam on the blog, but without making commenters fill out annoying captchas.  Perhaps instead of over-reacting next time, you could just leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail ([email protected]) and just say “hey, I think you may have misunderstood Qwertz’s position.”

Same-Sex Marriage and Epistemological Confusion

by Jason Stotts

I am a fan of the blog WoPSR run by “Qwertz.”  He generally has good analysis and frequently deals with interesting legal issues.  Unfortunately, this time, he strayed too far afield and right into my bailiwick.

In his essay “Rand’s Razor v. Gay Marriage” Qwertz takes the position that for a married homosexual to use the word “husband” or “wife” is inappropriate.  Why?  Because: “I have always found myself a bit nonplussed [d. surprised and confused] whenever I hear someone mention his husband, or her wife. […] This mental response of ‘there’s something not quite right about that usage’ is subtle, but consistent, which makes me think it is not inconsequential and deserves investigation. There are two possibilities: either I subconsciously do not accept a man in a same-sex marriage as a proper unit of the concept ‘husband’; or such a person is not properly a unit of the concept.”  Thus, his reason to think that it is inappropriate for a gay man to use the word “husband” to refer to his spouse is because it makes him feel uncomfortable.

I think he is right that there are two possibilities for this: 1. that he does not accept same-sex marriage or 2. that same-sex marriages should not use “husband” or “wife.”  I’m certainly going with 1 here, but just to be fair, let’s look to the concepts of husband and wife and see if there is something about them that prevents their use in same-sex marriages.

Husband and wife are what is considered a “relational concept,” much like friend, brother, daughter, etc.  In a relational concept, the essence of the concept is not be found in the people in the relationship, but in the relationship itself.  For example, friendship is not to be found in a person, but is how that person acts and behaves to their friend: the “friendship” itself is the relation of two people to each other.

So, we know that “husband” and “wife” are relational concepts, but to what do they relate?  Well, clearly they denote a marital relation: that is, that one is in a relationship that we call marriage.  To say that a woman is “a wife” is to say that she is married; to say that she is “my wife” is to use the possessive, to say that she is married to me.  The concept wife just denotes that a woman is in a marital relationship: but it does not specify with whom. In order to specify with whom, one must add additional information to the concept.  This is very important because the concept that Qwertz is using is “wife+heterosexual+married to a man.”  He’s attempting to load a concept with information that does not belong in it.  Let me draw an analogy with “bachelor,” which everyone who has ever had a philosophy class knows, is “an unmarried man.”  Bachelor is a negative relational concept, it denotes that a man is not in a marital relationship.  Now, imagine if we “Qwertz” the concept and make Bachelor “male+heterosexual+not married to a heterosexual female.”  He’s filling the concepts with information that is unnecessary.

All of this is ironic, as Qwertz asserts that he’s using Rand’s Razor (a coinage by Rand that is a reference to William of Ockham) to mean that: “concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity—the corollary of which is: nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.” (ITOE 72).  It’s ironic because his addition of unnecessary information would require that we create a whole host of concepts, like his “gay husbands.”

Thus, I think it’s safe to say that his option 2 falls flat: there is nothing in the nature of the concepts “husband” and “wife” that would prevent them from being applied to a same-sex marriage.  This, by process of elimination, leaves us with option 1: Qwertz does not accept same-sex marriage as legitimate.  Frankly, that’s a personal problem and, Qwertz, you need to just get over it.  Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable does not mean that you should attack same-sex marriage: that is the modus operandi of the christians.

How about this: let’s just all accept that some people are gay and they deserve to be happy.  They deserve to have relationships, to be in love, and to have their love recognized by others and the state.  There is no danger in this to heterosexual marriage or children or the nature of society.  The only danger it has is to our unchallenged beliefs that we will be forced to confront–and that’s the real fear isn’t it?  That we’ll all have to look inside ourselves and actually think about homosexuality.

Something that Annoys Me

by Jason Stotts

It drives me crazy when people misuse acronyms and initialisms,  especially ATM and PIN.

The other day at a store, I cringed when I heard someone say “just enter your ATM machine PIN number”.  It was all I could do to contain myself and not call them an idiot to their face.

In case you don’t understand why I’m frustrated, or you make this mistake yourself, let me explain it to you.  PIN is an acronym that stands for Personal Identification Number.  ATM is an acronym that stands for Automated Teller Machine.  To say “PIN number” is to say “Personal Identification Number number” and to say “ATM machine” is to say “Automated Teller Machine machine.”  See?  If you know what the acronyms mean, then it’s maddening.

If you say this yourself, STOP!  If you hear other people doing it, correct them.  To me, misuse of acronyms is indicative of sloppy thinking and when people use them around me, I think less of them.

Question From A Reader

by Jason Stotts

In September of last year, on the old Erosophia, I published an essay called “Objectivism, Masculinity, Femininity, and Homosexuality: Initial Thoughts.”  Recently, I was sent an e-mail, asking some very good questions about the essay and questioning my definitions of masculinity and femininity.  Below, I am going to reprint that letter anonymously, and with the author’s permission, and my response to the author.  I would advise, before you read this, to first read the essay on the old Erosophia, if you have not done so yet.

———-

Hi Jason,

I just read your essay on Objectivism, Masculinity, Femininity, and Homosexuality: Initial Thoughts.

Very well written. It is intelligent, rational, thought provoking and informative. I applaud you for your work. In fact, your explanation on feeling masculine via Adonis is the best explanation I have ever heard on emotion experience via gay sex.

I still have some questions after reading your article that I hope that you can help me understand your view.

You have defined masculinity as “being the experience of one’s embodied maleness” rather than the traditional definition of “dominance.” “Masculinity is no more than the recognition of one’s maleness and the experience of masculinity is the experience of being an embodied man.” As far as I can deduce it, you are saying that male is as male does. If you feel it, then that’s masculinity. The same goes for femininity. If you feel as a female, then that’s femininity.

Please correct me if I am wrong because that’s all I can deduce your explanation to. Now my problem with it is you are still NOT explaining what masculinity is. I’m not saying that “dominance” is a good definition, but I suspect it became generally accepted because it is easier to accept a definition with a synonym (rightly or wrongly).

Your explanation of male is as male does, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to give me anything to grab onto as an definition.

The second part of your definition of masculinity is the desire for penetration; femininity is the desire for reception. As you adequately pointed out, the bottom in a gay sex situation, he clearly likes to receive. This puts masculinity as a definition at odds with itself. The bottom comes out of his sexual encounter feeling more male, not more female; yet his masculinity is achieved via reception and not penetration.

To take this a step further, if I disregard the second half of your definition, “masculinity” and “femininity” really sound like the same thing describing respective gender. Am I understanding you correctly?

And this is where I run into trouble, if masculinity and femininity are both just words describing the same thing, then men and women are truly and intrinsically alike. That would be true if you can prove to me that you can take any child and mold them into exactly the stereotypical maleness or femaleness. Of course that poses a question bordering on absurdity.

In my anecdotal, personal and non-scientific method of deduction, I believe that there are in-born maleness and femaleness. Being a female, I naturally like certain things girly. Perhaps I’ve been completely influenced by my upbringing, or perhaps some of it is in my genes. Unless you can say for a fact that it is all in my upbringing, whatever that is in my genes that is driving my feminine penchants then is the de-facto “femininity” – my inborn femaleness.

This is what I am getting at, it seems to me that there are intrinsic maleness and femaleness. I can’t tell you what they are. I agree that they are not as broad stroke as “dominance” and “submissiveness.” I also don’t think I can accept the definition as general as they are what they are. I am hoping for a more precise answer: what exactly is masculinity and what exactly is femininity? Or, put it this way: what is it that makes the bottom gay guy and the top lesbian girl feel their respective gender correctness?

Can you help? If I am missing a logic link here, please help me see it. I really appreciate it. This is a subject I’ve pondered on and have never quite came up with a satisfying answer. Your thoughts are welcome.

Best Regards,
X.

———-

X.,

Thank you for writing.  I always enjoy corresponding with people about the essays I write, but very few people ever write.In terms of the issue of masculinity and femininity, let me confess first that I don’t think that I’ve completely answered the question myself.  The essay you read comes from a longer essay that served as the basis for a speech that I presented to the Ohio Objectivist Society last summer.

Now, in terms of the theory I’m developing, I’m not trying to say that masculinity is just what men do.  I think that being male is necessary, but not sufficient, for masculinity.  In fact, I think that a man could go his entire life without experiencing masculinity: simply being male is not enough.  It’s the experience of your body (being embodied) in a sexual context that is masculinity: blood flowing to your penis and it hardening, your blood pumping faster, your breathing becoming faster and deeper, your skin becoming more sensitive, adrenaline flowing and causing your muscles to tighten, etc.  In a sexual context, when you are aroused, not only do you experience your body in a different way that in any other context, but the partner you are with highlights this fact: a male/male pair would highlight it via what I’m calling “mirroring”, while a male/female pair would highlight it via “contrast.”  When I’m sexually aroused and in a sexual context with a female partner, my experience of my body is very different than any other – even auto-erotic experiences.  It is this unique experience of being male, sexually aroused, in a sexual context, and with a partner, in which I want to anchor masculinity.

Now, I acknowledge that attempting to put penetration and reception back into the definitions of masculinity and femininity causes problems and perhaps it is inappropriate to do so.  The idea was, much as you point out, to give masculinity and femininity something more substantial to be grounded in.  Unfortunately, it opens the definitions up to the same criticisms that I level at the definitions of dominance and submission.

However, I don’t think that it would mean that masculinity and femininity would be so fluid as to be able to be applied to a person of the opposite sex.  The true anchor that I want to develop for those concepts is in the bodies response and our experience of it.  If so anchored, it’s clear that you couldn’t apply masculinity to a female, as she would be incapable of experiencing her embodied maleness.

I certainly think that you’re right that there are differences between men and women.  Some of these are clearly genetic: men tend to gain muscle faster, tend to be taller, have narrower hips, don’t develop breast tissue, have a penis, etc, while women tend to gain muscle slowly, tend to be shorter, have wider hips, develop breast tissue, have a vagina, etc.  There are obviously a much wider difference between men and women in all cultures, but what this is can vary drastically between cultures.  It’s hard to say what sorts of psychological traits are strongly influenced by genetics (I would never say caused here), and which are cultural.  I don’t think that the the physical differences are the basis of masculinity and femininity, although they are clearly the basis of physical sex.  But, as I said above, I don’t think physical sex and sexual essence (masculinity and femininity) are the same.  Thus, I think you are right that there is an inborn “maleness” and “femaleness”, but I would deny this is the same as masculinity and femininity, unless we want to rob these concepts of all content and reduce them to the idea of “manliness” and “womanliness.”

In terms of your question about homosexuals and their experience of their sex, I think this is a very complicated question.  Part of the complication is that they often do not feel as though they are of the sex of their physical body.  From what I understand of the experience of being homosexual and experiencing your sexuality, and I don’t know that I understand it well enough to give a completely satisfying answer, there can be misalignments.  Indeed, many homosexual couples end up taking on the paradigm of the M/F couple: one is the “man” and the other is the “woman” (whether it is two gay men or two lesbians).  Obviously, current definitions of femininity as submission to the male and of masculinity as dominance over the feminine are incapable of handling this.  Perhaps, though, if I do as you suggest and drop the idea of penetration and reception, and stick to just the idea of embodiedness, that my theory would be able to cover this case.  For, surely, both lesbians feel female.

I think I still have some ways to go to completely understand the issues, but I want to think you for your questions. I think they have helped me to see the issue in a different light and perhaps I’ll be writing a new essay soon.  In the meantime, I welcome more questions.

~Jason

———-

I think that the issues involved in the ideas of masculinity and femininity are quite interested and it looks like I’ll be writing a new essay on the subject soon.  I think it is important that we remember that we are not looking for what it means to be “manly” or “womanly” in any particular culture, but for the universal concepts of masculinity and femininity, which are part of human nature and independent of culture.

I welcome other questions at this point as I head back to the metaphorical drawing board and begin my theorizing again.

Driving While Shaving…

by Jason Stotts

In one of the best headlines ever, ABC is reporting that “Woman Crashes Car While Shaving Her Privates.

According to a startled Florida Highway Patrol trooper, Barnes was shaving her bikini area [vagina] while driving south on the famed Overseas Highway when she crashed into the rear of an SUV March 2.

In the police report obtained by ABC News, the trim job was apparently essential because the arresting officer, trooper Gary Dunick, said the Indiana native told him she was heading to Key West visit her boyfriend.[…]

It gets weirder. In order to pay full attention to her sensitive regions, police say Barnes enlisted her ex-husband, Charles Judy, who was riding shotgun, to hold the wheel.[…]

Their tag-team driving went awry when an SUV driving in front of them slowed to turn. Barnes’ 1995 Thunderbird smashed into it. Two of the SUV’s passengers suffered minor injuries, police say. Barnes shouldn’t have been driving that Thunderbird, since she had been convicted the previous day for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. [Emphasis added]

You just can’t make this up.