Archive for May, 2010

AAP Recants

by Jason Stotts

CNN is reporting that the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has finally recanted their what-the-hell-is-your-problem-FGM-is-not-only-unethical-but-also-illegal position on Female Genital Mutilation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement raising the idea that doctors in some communities should be able to substitute demands for female genital cutting with a harmless clitoral “pricking” procedure.

“We retracted the policy because it is important that the world health community understands the AAP is totally opposed to all forms of female genital cutting, both here in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world,” said AAP President Judith S. Palfrey.

They think it’s important that people understand that the AAP is totally opposed to FGM…now, after people got mad about their unethical and illegal recommendation.  They didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it only merely six weeks ago when they issued the policy.

Regardless, I’m happy to see that they’ve recanted their position and hopefully we can make FGM a thing of the past everywhere.  Then, we’ll start on Male Genital Mutilation (MGM), as it is unethical for the same reasons as FGM.

Formspring Question: Changing Sexual Orientation

Q: Is there any way for someone to change his or her sexual orientation (ex. gay to straight)?

A: This is another very difficult question.  The answer is yes and no.

First, in order to understand whether this is possible, we need to understand what a sexual orientation is.  It is, in fact, a rather weird concept and one that is fairly recent in history.  For example, the Greeks had categorical labels for actions, but not for people (with the exception of men who were only receptive homosexuals, but that’s not relevant here).  A man was expected to maintain a household, have a wife, and raise a family, as well as participate in the cultural pederasty that was practiced.  This man wasn’t considered to be “straight” sometimes and “gay” others, he simply sometimes did heterosexual acts and other times did homosexual acts.  The problem with labeling people heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual is that we have free will: although a man might identify as a “heterosexual,” he is still able to have sex with men.  As such, the categories of sexuality we use are descriptive for the kinds of actions or persons (male or female) we typically desire.  Just because you’re straight, doesn’t mean you can’t desire someone of the same sex and vice versa. The categories are useful to quickly communicate information about ourselves, but some people try to use them as a limiting part of their identity, and this seems inappropriate.  So, it’s not clear that “sexual orientations” even pick out something essential about who we are, besides our typical sexual preference.

To further complicate this issue, what we typically desire is very contextual.  It is well documented that men and women who identify as heterosexual  and who are put into a context where they only have access to people of the same sex (like a boarding school, prison, or the military), will frequently engage in homosexual acts while in that context.  When they leave the context and return to the “regular world,” then they go back to their “regular orientation.”  It turns out that women are far more malleable than men and their sexuality should perhaps even be called fluid as women are likely to experience many changes in their sexual preferences over their lifetimes.  For an interesting discussion of the female fluidity, see Lisa Diamond’s Sexual Fluidity.  The point of this is that the idea of a “fixed” orientation is just not true.  Our sexual preferences and desires are very much contextual and opportunistic: we tend to prefer what is available.  Nevertheless, I still think that the concept of sexual orientation is useful, even if it does’t pick out something that’s necessarily true about us.  It’s much easier to quickly identify oneself as straight or gay, than to recount the conditions under which one might choose one sex or the other.

I should point out, too, that some people will never experience attraction that is at odds with their expressed orientation.  Now, whether this is a self-imposed limitation based on the expressed identity or an actual case of someone only ever experiencing desire for one sex, is hard to say.  I certainly think that a “true heterosexual” or “true homosexual” is possible.  This is why I think the Kinsey scale is so useful, as it seems to get a more accurate picture of someone’s desires using it’s 7 points, than does the current orientation scale using it’s only 3 points.  In case that’s not clear, the Kinsey scale is a 0-6 scale with “0” being “true heterosexual” (only experiences desire for someone of the opposite sex), a “3” being a “true bisexual” (experiences equal desire for people of the opposite and same sex), a “6” being a “true homosexual” (only experiences desire for someone of the same sex), and the points between indicating comparative desire for those of the same sex and those of the opposite sex.

Now, although orientation only picks out what we typically prefer, it’s not clear that it would be easy to change this.  People rarely have wholesale changes to their preferences.  In order to change one’s sexual orientation, one would have to change one’s entire sexual desire structure, including countless choices and ideas.  While I think that it’s theoretically possible, I think it’s practically impossible and should not be attempted.  If one were to attempt it, one would need to do so freely and because one had a very compelling reason to do so.  The only reason that comes to mind as being strong enough to overcome one’s orientation is if you meet someone who is outside of your usual orientation, but about whom you feel so strongly that you couldn’t bear to not have them in your life.  I think for this person you could at least change your orientation enough to accommodate him or her, but your attraction would probably remain what it was before.

Now, having said that, I want to say that I wholeheartedly condemn the “ex-gay” movement.  This is nothing more than religious indoctrination and guilt that makes a person lie and say that they’ve changed their orientation to conform to the religious hatred of homosexuality.  There is nothing wrong with being homosexual or heterosexual.  People don’t usually even choose an orientation, but find that they have a preference in their desires for one sex or the other or even both sexes.  There certainly is no moment in a person’s life where he says: “henceforth, I only desire people of the same sex” and then magically he’s gay.  No one has that kind of control over his desires.  In fact, trying to directly influence a desire is generally futile.

So, can someone change their orientation?  Maybe, but it’d be really hard and you’d have to change your underlying desires.  I think that if a person really wanted to do it, it’d be possible, at least to some extent.  I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to carefully think about why they want to do so and to recognize that all three sexual orientations, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, are all equal moral – a heterosexual person is not necessarily better than a homosexual one.  It is our character that makes us good or evil, not what sex we sleep with.

Porn is Good for You

by Jason Stotts

I’m a little behind on this story, but new research shows what everyone, besides feminists, has known for years: porn is good for you.

On the Psychology Today blog Homo Consumericus, Dr. Gad Saad talks about some of the recent studies that support porn as being beneficial.  His article is “Pornography: Beneficial or Detrimental?  It turns out that Pornography is good for you.”  He starts out by saying:

For the past several decades, a debate has raged as to whether or not pornography yields deleterious effects at the individual and/or societal levels (e.g., increased negative views toward women; increased rate of sexual crimes against women). In many instances, those who have sought to link pornography to countless ills have been ideologically motivated, as the aggregate scientific evidence hardly supports such conclusions.

He then points to two major studies.  The first is “Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: a Review” by Milton Diamond in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.  The abstract of the article is:

A vocal segment of the population has serious concerns about the effect of pornography in society and challenges its public use and acceptance. This manuscript reviews the major issues associated with the availability of sexually explicit material. It has been found everywhere it was scientifically investigated that as pornography has increased in availability, sex crimes have either decreased or not increased. It is further been found that sexual erotica has not only wide spread personal acceptance and use but general tolerance for its availability to adults. This attitude is seen by both men and women and not only in urban communities but also in reputed conservative ones as well. Further this finding holds nationally in the United States and in widely different countries around the world. Indeed, no country where this matter has been scientifically studied has yet been found to think pornography ought be restricted from adults. The only consistent finding is that adults prefer to have the material restricted from children’s production or use.

The article concludes by saying:

Indeed, the data reported and reviewed suggests that the thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes. Further, considering the findings of studies of community standards and wide spread usage of SEM [sexually explicit material], it is obvious that in local communities as nationally and internationally, porn is available, widely used and felt appropriate for voluntary adult consumption. If there is a consensus against pornography it is in regard to any SEM that involves children or minors in its production or consumption. Lastly we see that objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence.

So, not only does not having access to porn not cause more sex crimes, availability of pornography will either cause a decrease in sex crimes or at worst no increase.  This has really got to piss off the feminists, as the entire basis of their argument just got shot down.  Science: 1, Feminism: 0.

The second study Dr. Saad talks about is “Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption” by Gert Martin Hald and Neil M. Malamuth from the Archives of Sexual Behavior.  Dr. Saad notes:

In their survey of 688 young Danish adults (men = 316; women = 372), Hald and Malamuth found that respondents construed the viewing of hardcore pornography as beneficial to their sex lives, their attitudes towards sex, their perceptions and attitudes towards members of the opposite sex, toward life in general, and over all. The obtained beneficial effects were statistically significant for all but one measure across both sexes. Now here is the kicker: A positive correlation was obtained between the amount of hardcore pornography that was viewed and the impact of the benefits reaped. This positive correlation was found for both sexes. In other words, the more that one watched porn, the stronger the benefits (for both sexes)!

Thus, not only is pornography good at the social level, as it decreases sex crimes, it is also good at the individual level.

Dr. Saad stops short of actually recommending porn to people, but I have no such reservations.  Look at porn! Science says that porn is good for you and who are we to argue with Science. Porn won’t make you into a sex monster and it may just even make your sex life better.

Personally, I think that the best part of porn is that ability to try out new sexual ideas and desires, without actually having to do them.  Porn can function as a way for us to see the things we might like to try so that we can see if we are actually aroused by them.  Further, porn can open our minds to sexual acts that we might never have thought of and which we might greatly enjoy.  Porn can function as a more real level of fantasy that can allow us to test our desires.  Of course, there are always fantasies that we might enjoy as fantasies, but which we would never actually want to do in real life.  For these kinds of fantasies, porn is indispensable.

If you’ve never looked at porn, and this is likely a null set, go check out most of the internet.  There are tons of free sites that give you access to a wide range of porn. Odds are, you’ll find something you like and probably lots of things you had no idea you’d ever like!

Sexual Perfection?

by Jason Stotts

I’ve recently been entertaining the thought of changing the title of the book I’m writing in order to make it easier for people to understand its subject without having to understand the entire book first.  Consequently, I’m seeking advice for titles from you, Erosophia’s dear readers.

In order to encourage you to do this, I’m going to be offering the password to a special protected post that I’ll be putting up soon (I haven’t chosen the topic yet).  Those who help out with title suggestions will have access to it, everyone else will just have to wonder what sort of amazing awesomeness it contains.

In case you don’t know what the book is about, but still want to help out, check out the Sexual Perfection tab above.  It has information on the book and its current outline.

If I get a lot of good suggestions, I might even create a poll so that people can vote on them so that I can see what most people like.

In order to participate, e-mail me at Jason@JasonStotts.com with your suggestions.  In a week or two, when the protected post goes up, I’ll e-mail everyone who participated the password to it.

The current title of the book is – Sexual Perfection: Foundations of a New Sexual Ethic.

Happy National Masturbation Month!

by Jason Stotts

I’ve been rather remiss in blogging about this, but May is National Masturbation Month! So, if you haven’t masturbated yet this month (ha!), then go ahead and celebrate today, before the month is over.

In case you’re wondering about the history of National Masturbation Month, see this article on EmpowHer.

Government, Citizenship, and Treason

by Jason Stotts

Recently, the B.O. administration gave the green light to the CIA to kill the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Typically, this wouldn’t have been any sort of interesting issue and something that the CIA could have decided for itself.  The problem with this case is that al-Awlaki was born in America and is a US citizen. For more information about this case, see the NY Times article “U.S. Approval of Cleric Causes Unease.”

I find this case very interesting and I want to look at the principles behind it.  That is, I want to discuss the philosophical problems related to the case and not the particular problems related to this case.

First, let’s start by noting that the function of government is to be a protector of the lives and rights of its citizens. This is both the purpose and justification of government.  Now, one interesting question you can ask is: how do you determine who is a citizen and who is not?  Typically, those people who reside inside the borders of a country are citizens and those people who do not, are not. However, clearly non-citizens can reside inside the borders of a country and so there must be some additional qualifications.  What these are is determined by each government, but typically include things like: being born to citizens of that country, being born inside the borders of that country, moving into that country and applying for official recognition from the government, etc.  While the process by which a person comes to be officially recognized by the government as a citizen can vary, it is the official recognition by that government that makes one a citizen.

Citizenship is not permanent.  One can move from one country to another and take on citizenship in the new country.  Sometimes a person can even maintain citizenship in multiple countries.  Otherwise, when a person becomes a citizen of a new country, he renounces citizenship in his old country.  Citizenship is not something about a person, but a relationship between a person and a government.  Since a government exists to secure the lives and rights of its citizenry, it is important that such a class be well delineated.  Obviously, in order to do this, the government must set specific criteria for citizenship and promulgate these conditions.

Now, the issue arises: can there be cases where the government ceases to recognize the citizenship of a person?  Yes, I think there are many such cases.  We’ve already seen that this happens when a person moves from one country to another and thereby stops being a citizen of the former country and becomes a citizen of the latter country.  I think it is also appropriate in cases where a citizen takes direct action to harm the nation itself.  Cases where one citizen attacks another, or even a group of citizens, are nothing more than simple criminal acts.  A citizen has broken a law and so must therefore be punished.  But when the object of attack is the very idea of Law, order, and the necessary conditions for the lives and happiness of every citizen, by directly attacking the government, then that citizen has committed the crime of treason.  Although it should be obvious, it is only treason when a citizen acts to bring down his own government.  When a non-citizen acts to bring down a foreign government, it is not treason.  When a foreign government acts to overthrow a government, then it is war.

Treason is much more than a simple criminal act: it is an act that harms every citizen of a country, if the country is good, as the country is protecting their lives and rights and so to attack the government, is to attack their lives and rights. This last point may not be obvious, but if the government is a necessary condition for rights, then without it there would be no rights and anarchy would reign supreme.  The idealistic optimism of anarchists notwithstanding, a government is necessary to protect our rights and therefore our lives.  Thus, in cases of treason, the government should revoke the citizenship of the treasonous person: it should not act to protect the rights and life of a person who is attacking the rights and lives of all of its citizens.

In addition to revoking all rights and privileges of citizenship, a government should move swiftly and decisively to end the threat to itself and its citizens.  It should ascertain the facts of the situation and act with unrestrained violence to deal with the former citizen: death is the appropriate penalty for treason to a good country.  To allow such a person to live is to allow its citizens to be in danger and it is the function of government to protect its citizens; so, to allow the treasonous person to live is against the function of the government.  The government should also not keep such a person in jail any longer than it takes to verify his guilt and the exact nature of his crime: to force the citizens to pay to feed and care for a person who intends to harm them all is an affront to the idea of Justice.  Once his guilt and crime is certain, then he should be publicly executed as a warning against future treason.  By acting swiftly and with focussed violence, the government is acting to ensure the future prosperity of its citizens and fulfilling its function.

So, to conclude, citizenship is the state of officially being recognized by a government as a person whose life and rights it must protect.  When a citizen acts to destroy his government, and thereby harm all of his fellow citizens, then the government is obligated to act swiftly and decisively to end the threat by killing the treasonous citizen.  This all, it is important to stress, is contingent upon a good government that is fulfilling its proper role.  In cases where the government is evil and is harming its own citizens, treason becomes impossible and acting to overthrow the government, and create a new government that does fulfill the proper function of government, is the duty of all citizens and the highest political virtue.

Birthday Carnival

by Jason Stotts

Welcome to the very-special-it’s-my-birthday edition of the Objectivist Round Up.

For those who may not know, Objectivism, in the words of Ayn Rand, is a “philosophy for living on Earth.”  In that spirit, we present essays weekly applying Objectivism to practical problems in order to improve our lives and, by extension, those of our readers.  When you go and read some of these very good posts on the various blogs, do the right thing and leave a comment on the posts you like: it’s just good form and it helps to encourage writers you like to keep writing.  Now, without further ado, our Carnival!

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Rachel Miner presents Father Memories posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, “As primary recorder of this delightful parenting experience, I share the one time I asked my husband to write, our birthing experience. I then ask readers to share their ideas for capturing non-primary-care-giver memories.”

C.W. presents A Prediction from Henry Hazlitt, Meaning for Us posted at Krazy Economy, saying, “This is definately a miss-hit for Mr. Hazlitt. But it has a lot of meaning for you and those who make economic predictions, like me. Keep your eye on the ball!”

Rituparna Basu presents On The Road to Ever-More Government Control posted atThe Undercurrent Blog, saying, “A California county recently banned fast-food restaurants from including toys in their kids’ meals. The goal of this new ban is to reduce rampant obesity in today’s youth by breaking “the link between unhealthy food and prizes.” On the face of it, the effects of this ban seem trivial: so what if there are no longer any toys with meals? But however petty this law may seem at first glance, its implications are anything but.”

Ari Armstrong presents Review: The Business of Being Born posted at Free Colorado, saying, “While most often birth works best with minimal medical intervention, sometimes modern medicine saves the lives of mothers and babies. Unfortunately, politically-manipulated health insurance often skews people’s incentives to get optimal care.”

David C Lewis, RFA presents Investing: Is It Worth Your Time?: Life insurance | Precious Metals | Retirement Plans | Financial Planning | Investing | Saving Moneyposted at A Revolution In Financial Planning.

Gideon Reich presents On the Failure of the Current US War Strategy posted atArmchair Intellectual, saying, “Middle East policy analyst Barry Rubin references two important essays that describe the inadequacy of current US war strategy.”

Roderick Fitts presents On “Being One’s Self”: a Review of James Valliant’s “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics” posted at Inductive Quest, saying, “We learn about the merits of PARC, some of the distortions of the Brandens, and the innocence, integrity, and honesty of Ayn Rand herself.”

Diana Hsieh presents Questions on Politics and Activism posted at NoodleFood, saying, “I answer three questions on politics and activism.”

Jeff Montgomery presents Shared Doctor Visits vs. Progress posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, “Contrary to the claim that group doctor visits constitute an innovative and positive health care strategy, I see it as an ominous sign of reduced wealth and overbearing government.”

Jeff Montgomery presents Green Mountain/Bear Canyon Run posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, “This is a post about some weekend fun in the hill country, with photos.”

Harsha Vardhan presents The Great Indian Railway Tragedy. posted at Harsha blogs!, saying, “This post is about the effects of nationalized trains in India and the need for allowing private players to enter into the market.”

Stella presents Dr. Stasi posted at ReasonPharm, saying, “Another scary attempt by the government to turn Americans (this time, doctors) into informants. Let’s help make sure it doesn’t work!”

Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore presents Podcast #4: Independence posted at Cultivating the Virtues, saying, “Our fourth podcast focuses on the virtue of Independence and how parents can foster independence of thought and action in their children.”

Amy Mossoff presents Montessori Summer School at Home posted at The Little Things, saying, “My 3-year-old daughter is enrolled in Montessori, and I’ve decided to continue her Montessori education at home for the summer. Here is my plan. (Bonus: great video of a Montessori classroom and how a Directress gives a demonstration to a preschool student.)”

Amy Mossoff presents Ayn Rand Books for Homeschoolers posted at The Little Things, saying, “ARI has announced in Impact that they have extended their Free Books for Teachers program to homeschoolers! If you read Impact, this blog post might not be news to you, but it also includes my thoughts about how and when to expose your children to Objectivism, or whether that is really such a big issue.”

Trey Givens presents Management Experience: My First Fail posted at Trey Givens, saying, “I was tempted to submit my brief rant about the Family Guy’s offensive treatment of transsexuals for this week’s carnival (It’d be good for this Erosophia hosted round-up!) but I think this topic has broader appeal.”

Adam Reed presents My Premise-Checking Habit posted at Born to Identify, saying, “I would rather doubt a hundred truths than believe one falsehood.”

Edward Cline presents “Civility” per Obama posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, “Some would say it hardly matters at which school President Barack Obama gave his commencement address on May 1st. I agree. Most if not all American universities are top-heavy with every variety of left-wing and collectivist faculty, concentrated in the humanities and dedicated to lobotomizing their students and weeding out the recalcitrant.”

Mike Zemack presents The Tea Party Movement – A Progress Report posted atPrincipled Perspectives, saying, “Well into its second year, the Tea Party Movement still looks pretty good.”

Earl Parson presents Work in Progress: Glider! posted at Creatures of Prometheus, saying, “A work-in-progress post from my workshop. I’m convinced that this glider will be one of the best things I’ve ever made.”

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of objectivist round up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Male Contraception on the Way?

by Jason Stotts

BBC News is reporting that University of North Carolina researchers are having some success using ultrasound to stop sperm production in the testicles for up to six months.

Lead researcher Dr James Tsuruta said: “We think this could provide men with up to six months of reliable, low-cost, non-hormonal contraception from a single round of treatment.

“Our long-term goal is to use ultrasound from therapeutic instruments that are commonly found in sports medicine or physical therapy clinics as an inexpensive, long-term, reversible male contraceptive suitable for use in developing to first world countries.”

This is very exciting news as male birth control is right now limited to condoms or invasive procedures.  This would be a good solution for many men who don’t want to use condoms or invasive surgery, but also don’t want their partner to get pregnant.  The only thing I’d like to see, is if this ends up going mainstream, is that people undergoing this procedure must also be given information that while the procedure will prevent pregnancy, that it will not prevent STI transmission.