Archive for December, 2011

Merry Xmas!

by Jason Stotts

Merry Xmas to all of my readers and listeners!

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Erosophia Podcast #1

by Jason Stotts

Welcome to the very first episode of the Erosophia Podcast!  Although it’s been a while in the making, I’m happy to announce that the very first episode is finished and available for your aural pleasure.  In it, I talk about Erosophia, what I want to do with the podcast, and about myself.  I’m very interested in your feedback on the podcast. You can write to me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com or leave a comment here.

I need your questions!  Everything from advice on relationships, information about sex and how it works, thoughts on the ethical import of different sexual acts, or whatever you’re dying to know.

I’d also like to encourage people to take a minute and donate some money to the podcast.  You can use the donate button on Erosophia or send an Amazon or Paypal payment to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com.  You can also feel free to send me Amazon gift cards or checks in the mail.  I also accept books (newer or used) that you think I might like.  I’m not that picky.

I hope you enjoy the first episode!

Podcast Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/jasonstotts/podcast/

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-erosophia-podcast/id491628521

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Letters

by Jason Stotts

Sometimes I get a little depressed about my work here on Erosophia and on my book-in-progress Eros and Ethos. It’s not that I’m not proud of what I’m doing, because I am. But sometimes it seems like I’m not getting anywhere. My progress on Eros and Ethos is moving at a snail’s pace and I haven’t been able to write as many essays for Erosophia either recently. However, sometimes I hear from people and their stories help make it worth it, even when the going gets tough.

This is one of those stories. The writer, B., was at a crossroads with his marriage and wasn’t sure what to do. He contacted me via Facebook and asked if I would talk to him about his issue. I agreed and below is our exchange, which started on November 2nd and just concluded.

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Hi Jason,

I’m a big fan of your blog and think the work you’re doing on sexual ethics is sorely needed. Your post today [The Right to Sexual Satisfaction], in particular, spoke to me very pointedly because of my own personal situation regarding my marriage.

I wondered if you might be willing to help me think through my situation, as a philosophical exercise (with important practical implications for me, obviously, but when is that not the case?).

I realize that this may seem an odd request, given that I’m a perfect stranger, but I’m very curious to talk to someone who’s well versed in rational thinking with regard to sex. And I’m interested in having a discussion, rather than just posing a boiled down snippet to, say, Peikoff or Hsieh for podcast treatment.

If you wouldn’t be comfortable with that, I understand completely.

In any case, thank you for sharing the value of your thinking and writing.

B.

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B.,

Thank you for your kind words.

I’m not sure if I can be of help, but I’m willing to try.

Email me at [Jason(at)JasonStotts.com] with what’s going on and I’ll write back when I can.

~Jason

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Hi Jason,

First off, thanks in advance for agreeing to discuss this with me, and my apologies in advance for the length of my email. It has truly been an effort to condense the story even this much.

I’ve been married for nearly four years to an intelligent, vivacious, and mostly rational woman who was raised in a strict religious household (Orthodox Presbyterian, to be exact) but who has long since avowedly rejected the religious dogma of her family and now purports to rely solely on evidence and reason to draw conclusions. Our early relationship was marred by aggressive opposition to our marriage from her parents, immediate and extended family, and all of her close friends. She at one point received an actual letter of excommunication from her former church, although I maintain that her letter breaking with the church was postmarked first ;-).

I fell in love with her based on our uncanny personal affinity as well what I saw as her courageous and enthusiastic sense of life, especially in rejecting the hypocrisy and cowardice amidst which she had been raised. She was steadfastly sheltered from any this-worldly ways of thinking while living with her parents, and although the spark of curiosity and passion for reason were certainly already there, I believe I have been very influential in her shifting her beliefs away from religion and toward a pro-life, reason-based philosophy. To give her her due, she has come a long way toward embracing ideas that properly accompany her sense of life, especially considering that it followed almost two decades of ceaseless pressure to accept the beliefs of her parents.

It’s been a long and arduous journey, with a lot of positives. But the principal (and enormous, looming) cause of conflict in our marriage is that my wife persists in holding the view that it is moral to engage in sexual activity only with someone you plan to marry, or to put it her way, that the standard for deciding who to have sex with (taking “sex” to denote anything from foreplay on up) should be the same standard used to decide who to marry. As exposition, she was a virgin until we were well into a committed relationship; about eight months before we were married. She vehemently objects to any suggestion that her view is a religious one, citing the fact that she didn’t wait until marriage, as if it unequivocally distinguishes her view from her parents’ advocacy of abstinence until marriage. When pressed to substantiate her view, her rationale is varied as she gropes to defend the irrational, but typically centers around “sex is too special to waste on just anyone,” “having sex outside a serious relationship is too risky,” or that your first time is something should be saved to share with someone you truly love (what it “is” I have yet to discover).

I said before that I’m a fan of your writing, so it should be obvious that this is a view I reject out of hand. I find it nauseating, frankly. My view is that sex is moral when it is an affirmation or achievement of rational values. My history is that I had a variety of sexual experiences with a handful of girls/women growing up, some of which I now believe were self-destructive mistakes, and some of which I defend as life-affirming pursuit of a pleasure and intimacy.

The real conflict is that for the past three years or so (i.e. most of our marriage) she has been fraught with intermittent severe emotional distress, centered around her obsession with, and disapproval of, my pre-marital sexual experiences.

The initial catalyst, which she says concretized the fact that I’d been with other women, was that several months into our marriage she began exhibiting symptoms of HPV, which we deduced I must have contracted prior to our relationship (I’ve never cheated on her), but that I didn’t exhibit symptoms of, which is typical for males. It was shortly after this point that her curiosity grew from whether I was a virgin when we first had sex (which she had long known I wasn’t), to the particulars such as how many women I’d slept with, who they were, how I met them, how I felt about them, etc. I was honest with her, thinking I had nothing to hide and that, although there were certainly indiscretions in my past, the growth of my character and the upstanding man she knew me now to be would be her focus.

I saw the STI as an unfortunate, inconvenient, and somewhat scary (due to cervical/penile cancer risk) medical problem, that we sought treatment for and eventually resolved.

She saw it as a repulsive, cruel, and disturbing moral problem; evidence of my blatant disregard for my well-being and hers (she maintains that I should have been concerned for a hypothetical “her,” that is, my “one true love” that I’d eventually want to marry), a glaring flaw in my moral character, and an impeachment of myself as the perfect husband she had considered me to be (I’m being intentionally hyperbolic, so as to be true to the extremity of her reaction and persisting attitude).

I should note that she has no hangups as to what sexual practices are appropriate for a married couple, so in such cases as we do have sex, it’s everything I want it to be (even if I do think the budget line for toys should be bigger). But our marriage for the past few years has oscillated dramatically from being wonderful, lively, and intimate, to being cold and distant as she visits her, for lack of a better word, wrath upon me.

While I do my best not to sanction her spite, and maintain that mistakes I made were indeed mistakes that I’ve learned from and made amends for, but that my moral sexual relationships were just that, she continues to launch routinely into hysterics where she plays the victim, blames me for her emotional turmoil, and is indignant that I won’t apologize for ever having slept with anyone else.

I have done my best to stay even-keeled through her tirades, but on numerous occasions I’ll admit to having responded poorly, with an outburst of my own, during which I’ve pointed out the contradictions and life-damning nature of her view. But at this point, after a couple years, my response is usually just to express my sympathy that she is feeling so upset (I am sympathetic to her suffering, however irrational and self-inflicted it is), but doing my best not to engage her in argument.

We’ve seen several different therapists, none of which has seemed to help much. I think this is because of her refusal to admit the second-handedness of her view, and her clinging to her anger at me for having giving her something she “never deserved,” i.e. an STI and an unfit husband.

As much as it pains me to admit, I’m starting to consider ending the relationship. As much love as I feel for her, I feel as though she is impeding my happiness by constantly reminding me how unworthy she seems to think I am, how tainted she thinks our relationship is, and how debased she thinks my view of sex is.

But I’m conflicted over giving up a relationship that has meant so much to me. I’m trepidatious about calling it quits on a marriage to a woman who otherwise has contributed to so much happiness and fulfillment to my life.

What do you think? Obviously your perspective is limited, however long-winded my description, but I’m interested in hearing the evaluation of someone who sees so clearly the vital nature of sex to a full and happy life, and the devastation wrought by christian ethics (subconsciously inherited or otherwise).

Am I being unrealistic in thinking that if my wife is deeply troubled over what she sees as a flaw in my moral character, that she’s not the one for me?

Am I being cowardly in hesitating to break from her when I have no reason to believe that her view will change, and that my potential to achieve and maintain sexual fulfillment may be perpetually compromised as long as we’re together?

Any thoughts you can share would be hugely appreciated! I’m not deferring to you, of course, and not asking you to validate my thinking, but I guess seeking what Edwin Locke termed “visibility,” as I currently feel like I’m in a vast reason-desert, with no like-minded individuals to be found. And as you are such a skilled thinker, I would certainly appreciate your criticism of any flaws or fallacies you see in my analysis.

My most sincere thanks for any comment you care to make,

B.

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B.,

It’s hard to give advice here with so little information, but hopefully you will find some of this helpful.

There are a lot of issues here, so let’s take them one at a time.

First, I don’t think it’s time to end the relationship yet, given what you’ve said.  But, there is definitely a problem that you guys need to resolve.  I think you should commit yourself fully to trying to fix it now and if it doesn’t work, then consider ending the relationship.  I also don’t think it’s inappropriate to tell your wife that you think there are some serious issues that need to be worked out and that if they’re not resolved, then you are considering ending the marriage.

Second,  I think it may surprise you to realize that you and your wife have a lot of common ground in your beliefs about when it is appropriate to have sex.  Consider how similar your views are as opposed to someone with a really different view, like that sex is simply for pleasure and it doesn’t matter at all who you have it with.  You both think that it’s important that the person be a value in your lives and that you care about them.  The difference between your views is the degree to which one must be committed to another before it is morally permissible to have sex with them.  Of course, your wife’s position is clearly the religious position, but it is also not a completely irrational position.  The degree to which she thinks that you must be committed to someone is unjustified, but her general idea is right, just taken too far.

Third, the past cannot be changed.  It is over, done, fait accompli. No matter how much we might wish we could change it, we cannot.  Thus, we must simply accept the past as past.  Now, this does not mean that we should not be aware of the past and how the past influence the future, especially with regards to people and their characters.  If someone has broken our trust in the past, then we would be wise not to trust them.  On the other hand, sometimes making mistakes in the past can be beneficial to the future because we can learn from them.  Your wife has to accept you for who you are, including your past, and recognize that making mistakes can make us better people, it’s all in how we deal with them.  By the same token, you must be careful to try to see your wife’s reasons for things and not simply attribute things to her religious past.  Even if much of her action is the result of deeply held beliefs, that still does not mean that she doesn’t currently have reasons for her beliefs and actions and that by trying to come to understand these deeper reasons together, you can rebuild your relationship.

Fourth, sexually transmitted infections are just infections like any other issue.  They are medical issues, not moral issues.  Statistically, either you or your wife have oral herpes (cold sores).  Does she consider this a moral failing?  What if the exact same virus was on one of your genitals?  Would it magically become a moral failing because it changed locations?  STI’s are medical issues and no more.  Now, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy to come to think of them that way, since they are so vilified in our culture and taken as a sign of displeasure that someone has violated their god’s will.  Nevertheless, we have to shed those beliefs and see these infections for what they are: simply infections that need to be dealt with medically.

Furthermore, HPV is not a big deal. It’s really not.   You get over it quickly and there is no lasting damage.  HPV is amazingly common; it causes all warts in human and you can get it even by walking around outside on the ground barefoot (although probably not on your genitals).  The CDC says that among healthy adults who get HPV, 90% will clear it on their own in less than 2 years.  For most people, there will be no signs or symptoms.  Since your wife knows she has it, she either has visible warts or had an abnormal pap test.  If she has warts, they can simply be removed.  If she had an abnormal test, then she simply needs to be retested in 6 months or a year to make sure that there are no abnormal growths developing.  Most women will test negative on their next test and will not develop further signs.  The worst case scenario is that a future pap will show pre-cancerous cells, in which case she’ll simply have to have them removed.  It’s not dangerous or painful.  You said this has been resolved, but it’s good to remember to keep it in perspective that nothing that bad could have come from it and it was never a serious threat to either of your healths.

Lastly, I don’t think you’re being unrealistic in your concern about your wife and her judgment of you.  The judgment stems from an unjustified position and so it should concern you.  However, if you can change her mind about the issue, then her judgment will change and all will be well. Also, you’re not cowardly to not break from her right away.  You said yourself that there is a lot of value in your relationship and you need to be sure whether it is overall improving your life or not and whether you have better options.  Of course, if you just can’t convince her and things don’t change, then you need to take an objective look at your relationship and see if it’s still improving your life or not.

I hope that at least some of this is helpful.  Feel free to write me back.

~Jason

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Jason,

THANK YOU for your very focused and thoughtful response. I’m impressed by your insight given the relative brevity of what I wrote, and really appreciative of reading the lucid interpretation of someone outside the situation. Also, I found that going through the process of writing down everything I sent you helped my thinking a great deal. I had been journaling quite a lot about everything (well, blogging on a private blog, to be more accurate), but having to take the approach of explaining things to a stranger made a big difference. It helped me regain some much needed objectivity, I think.

After I wrote you, and continued to be brutally honest with myself, and I told my wife about ten days ago that I wanted to split up. It was an incredibly trying and emotional day, but given what had constituted “normal” for our relationship for the past couple years, I decided that it was not the relationship that I want for myself. I am not into playing games with people, and when I told her that, I was fully committed and willing to face the consequences of emotional turmoil and life disruption to free myself from a relationship that had become a sacrifice for me to be a part of.

I do want to add here that as the sex issues wreaked havoc on our marriage, we developed a very regretful dynamic where certain things were just off limits, under threat of a hysterical breakdown on my wife’s part. Over time, the threat of these outbursts made me compromise more and more of who I am as a person, to a point where I was sacrificing myself for her. And the really sick part is (and this is no surprise to an Objectivist) that of course it didn’t make her any more happy. So I was giving up my happiness for her to be a little less miserable. It was really bad. This is an issue that I admit to having been evading. It was hard to face because once I really identified the fact that I was sacrificing, it spelled doom for our relationship. I could write a book about the things I compromised and capitulated about, and there was a broad range, but there was a critical one that should have been enough in itself.

My passion in life is music (I’m a singer/songwriter, hopefully one day to be a profession) and I had worked insanely hard over the past years to hone my craft and start to build the infrastructure to develop it into a profession. In early 2010, my wife told me that she experienced a unique misery whenever she heard any song I’d written with anything to do with romance that wasn’t about her. We’re talking pop music (broadly defined) here, so needless to say, many, if not most, of my songs fit this category. I was devastated, because she was saying that I had a choice between playing/promoting/sharing my art while knowingly making my wife desperately miserable, or striking those songs from my catalog (and, I came to find out, dooming myself to desperate misery). I don’t know quite what I think I should have done, but what I did was sacrifice a part of myself. It should be no surprise that this choice drained the steam from my drive to create. As hard as I’ve worked for so long to be an egoist, I failed to recognize the true nature of one of the biggest choices I’ve ever had to make.

I rationalized that perhaps it would just be for a while, then she would turn around and I could be myself again. I told myself that she was worth more to me, blocking out the blaring truth that my music IS me, and I was renouncing myself. To write this now, I’m ashamed of the path I chose and the sacrifice I made.

But since we separated, I’ve removed all the mental shields that were shoddily and loathsomely protecting me from this realization. It has been a complete reawakening, and I’m so damn proud that I had the courage to do it. I feel liberated as I identify and reject all instances of guilt I felt, as I revisit songs I’m so proud of and love but that I haven’t played in over a year. I feel alive again.

Like I said, I made the decision to leave my wife with a clear mind and full admission and acceptance of the consequences. When I told her that, we went on a bit of an emotional roller coaster together. It was the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. But once we’d resolved to separate and were a bit removed in time from the heat of the initial bomb dropping, my wife told me a lot about how she was working to change, how she was trying to identify and reject irrational premises in her thinking that were leading her to condemn me, that the therapist she recently started with is a good match and she felt like she was finally making progress, and that my decision was up to me, but that she wanted to keep fighting for us and wasn’t ready to give up on our relationship.

I told her that I was done with our relationship as it had become, that that marriage was over, that I wanted to separate while she continued to work on her issues, and while I take up the task of reclaiming myself and striving for a new level of consistent egoism. So for about ten days now we’ve separated our lives, declared that we are not living as man and wife, shared this fact with those who it has been appropriate to share it with, and each gone about our own psychological work. I told her that it wouldn’t be truthful of me to say that I was completely dead set on divorce, that I thought any hope for us having a healthy relationship was destroyed, but that I was done with our marriage as it was, and it we ever were to reconcile, it would be a matter of redefining our relationship from the ground up… essentially deciding to marry over again (of course, not legally since Virginia marriage law is hopelessly archaic and oppressive).

I have undergone a staggering amount of self-examination as I’ve been considering not what to do to save our marriage, but what I want in a marriage. Reading your blog has been ENORMOUSLY helpful, although not always comfortable, in mercilessly confronting the essence of my desires, rejecting the guilt the predominant morality of our culture would assign to them, and having the courage to tell myself that I am going to seek out the relationship that I truly want. I confronted the feeling of repression I had in our sex life, where any mention of sexual exploration would have been met with vitriol. Some of these admissions are that I am interested in being part of a couple that is open to including others in their sex life (referring here to, for example, a threesome with carefully selected third [I had a threesome a few years ago, and, well, I know I like it]), that in Kinsey terms I’m definitely not a zero, and I want to explore that part of myself and find out what I enjoy (I feel like I’m probably close to 2-2.5 [I have had sexual experiences with another guy, and, well, I liked it]), and I want a partner that is open to exploring the sexual possibilities as a couple. I want to share the journey of celebrating our physical selves. For me, I think having sex with another partner or couple, as a couple, could powerfully enhance our sense of intimacy, trust, connection, commitment, etc.

The other big admission to myself was that I want to be true to my passion, and strive for a career in music. I can’t magically jump into professional singing/songwriting, but that’s what I want to by my primary goal, regardless of what job I have to take to make ends meet as I’m working toward it (Rand as costume girl, Roark as quarry worker, B. as [current job]… Stotts as cell phone sales rep, eh?). But it’s the courageous and prideful assertion that it’s what I want that has to be the first step. I’ve been terrified of it for a long time, irrationally evading and I think telling myself that “I can’t fail if I don’t try,” but I’ve done that long enough, and realize now that I’m guaranteeing failure in my one chance at life if I don’t admit what I truly desire and pursue it unwaveringly.

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks… I’ve studied Objectivism for ten years, I thought I got it… but I never have had the clarity I have now.

And here’s the crazy part.

Last night, my wife and I had time set aside to discuss the financial specifics of our separation. Before we did, I wanted to be honest with her and tell her that the more I considered things, the less I thought we’d ever be able to reconcile. She was upset as I voiced my commitment to being true to what I want out of life (to create music) and that I was willing to take the full weight of that decision: that I may never afford a big comfy house, that I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel like I’m ready to have kids and significantly shift my focus… and that based on so much of what I knew of her, that I thought that meant we couldn’t be together. She argued vehemently that it was up to her to decide whether she wanted to be with me, once she knew these things about what I truly wanted, and that what I assumed she wanted was not indeed the case.

So we talked about everything we each wanted, and ended up delving into everything I’ve written here to you, including my longing for sexual exploration and for a partner that embraces that journey with me.

And she was enthusiastic and excited about all of it. She was vibrant and passionate, describing her own sexual awakening since we separated, talking about how she has started to embrace her sexual self, masturbating, exploring porn… all of this for the first time. She said that she had always felt like a sexual person (from the age of 5, she says she recalls) but that the severe judgement that she was steeped in, surrounded by her parents, friends, the culture, etc, clouded her ability to embrace her sexual self.

I was taken aback. It’s barely believable how much she’s changed. If someone told me this, I’d dismiss it out of hand, but this is a person that I’ve spent the majority of my time with for the last five years and I know she was being genuine and sincere. And I could tell because she was blithely happy as we talked about all of this. She listened eagerly as I told her about having a threesome (which I thought she’d deplore so much that I’d never told her), and she said it sounded hot and that she’d be curious to explore that if we end up back together. When I told her that I’d done stuff with another guy, she said “that doesn’t surprise me”, and there wasn’t an ounce of judgement or criticism in it. It was like a confession that she knows me better than I ever thought she did, maybe better than I knew myself (or would admit) in that particular way.

I think last night was the first time I have truly bared my soul to her. I laid it all out there, because I thought I’d already lost everything. And rather than judge me for it and be disgusted, she embraced it, and loved hearing about it, and visibly gained more respect and esteem for me as I told her these things.

I think it was probably one of the most powerful experiences I’ll ever had. It’s like she was suddenly everything I ever dreamed she could be, and even things I was afraid to admit I wanted. I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful it felt. It was like seeing my soul in someone else.

I told her I wanted to have sex. She said “so do I, but we shouldn’t”. I asked her why shouldn’t we? I said there’s no question except whether we each choose that it’s what we want. We’re not bound by any obligation to anyone or anything else. This was like the final moment of a light bulb going off in her head. We leaped into each other’s arms, I lifted her up and raced up to the bed, and we had the best sex either of us has ever experience, hands down.

But we didn’t declare our separation renounced. Afterward we parted and said goodnight. We both agreed that we each still have work to do on ourselves before we begin the work of rebuilding our relationship. And she said one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard. She said, as we lay there nude in each other’s arms, “This was not about our marriage, and it wasn’t about our separation. This was about us having sex together and celebrating our bodies and selves.” I could have cried right that moment. It’s hard to believe since it has all happened so fast, but I think she has finally unchained herself from the guilt and shame that was beaten into her for two decades and that she didn’t have the mental tools to dispute and reject.

I think she might be what I knew so surely she was when I asked her to marry me: my dream woman standing right in front of me, a courageous and prideful woman I admire and respect, and a partner to join hands with end open ourselves up to the adventure of life.

Jason, your blog has changed my life. I don’t know if I ever would have found the courage to voice my true desires if it weren’t for reading your articles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Your fellow seeker of eudaimonia,

B.

PS: Last night I told her what your writing has meant to me, and she asked for the URL. She emailed me this afternoon with a huge thank you, saying that she’s been reading and it’s great. 🙂

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B.,

I’m glad to hear that things are going better.  Hopefully, since it’s been a couple of weeks since you wrote, things have progressed even further.

I appreciate your kind words, but I think you deserve the most credit for what you’ve done.  It is not easy to take control of your life and assert yourself in the way you did and you should be proud of yourself.  Living with integrity can be incredibly difficult.   I think it’s made moreso because people often think that integrity is only about the big decisions in life and they don’t realize that it’s the smallest of decisions that add up in life.  Sure, the big ones matter, but we know they matter.  Many of us don’t realize how important the small ones are and end up in a position they never expected, much like you did.  However, unlike you, most people don’t recognize what’s happened or act to fix it.  It really is quite the accomplishment.

If you and your wife do end up getting back together and you do decide to start exploring new sexual things, bisexuality, threesomes, etc, I would recommend that you go slow and make sure you talk about it before you do it.  Even if you’re sure that you’re okay with seeing your partner having sex with someone else and even if you’re sure you’d find it arousing, I hear it can still be jarring the first time you see it and so I don’t recommend that people jump straight to full intercourse the first time they explore outside their relationship.  Go slowly and enjoy the journey of discovering new things.

Please do keep me updated with what happens.

Also, if you’d be okay with it, I’d like to publish our conversation to Erosophia, anonymously of course.  I think that your story could really help other people understand what’s going on in their own lives.  You did an excellent job presenting your dilemma and you’re very articulate and clear about what was going on and what you did.  I don’t want you to feel obligated to do this, though.  I can understand that you might not want it on Erosophia, even with it beings anonymous, since your wife now reads the blog. But, if you are open to it, I’d love to have it.

Again, congratulations.  I hope your life continues to get better and that you do well with your music.

~Jason

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Jason,

Thanks for the encouragement. Things are getting better and better. I will take your advice about going slow. I actually don’t envision any of those new experiences happening for a while. But the big hurdle was shifting our sex life from being something finite and restricted to being a journey of discovery that we can embark on together. And this is something that my wife has really embraced, and  she’s been making up for lost time, mostly in getting to know herself and her body in ways she never has done before. So it starts there, and will progress as we explore things between the two of us, and as we feel ready, we’ll continue to broaden the scope of what we try over time. But the big paradigm shift seems to have been made: our sexual lives are no longer static and fated, but dynamic, vibrant, and open to continuous evolution.

We both love the idea of our exchange being featured on Erosophia. While I can readily call out my mistakes and shortcomings, I’m not equivocal about how proud I am of what I’ve done, and how of much integrity we both have in our commitment to reality and reason. The courage that my wife has displayed in ruthlessly examining her own beliefs has been inspiring, and I’m already reaping some benefits of asserting and embracing my central purpose, in that my engagement and enthusiasm for my life has been hugely rejuvenated. So I’d take pride in having our story on the blog, and of course would be honored, considering the esteem I have for your work. And I’m especially hopeful that the story might help some other reader who’s going through something similar, or benefit folks in general by giving a concrete example of how adopting rational principles enhances one’s life – the moral is the practical!

Thanks a lot for your help,

B.

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I am very thankful that B. chose to write and that things are turning out well for him and his wife. As his story shows, the importance of sex in a good life can’t be understated and our sexual ethics impact every aspect of our lives. It reminds me of Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged, who said: “If some man like Hugh Akston had told me, that by accepting the mystic’s theory of sex I was accepting the looter’s theory of economics, I would have laughed in his face. I would not laugh at him now.” It’s funny how all too few people realize that our beliefs about sex and love have far reaching implications for the rest of our ideas.

I want to congratulate B. and his wife, who through integrity and brutal honesty were able to take their relationship, which had all but failed, and to turn it into something that is much better for both of them and in which they can be theirselves and find happiness. I wish them the best and hope they continue to keep improving their lives.

If my work has impacted your life, I’d love to hear from you. It makes a big difference to me to know that my work is having an impact and if it’s made a difference in your life, please let me know by leaving a comment here or by emailing me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com.

Also, if you want to have your questions answered, please send them my way. I need questions for my new podcast that will be launching soon.

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Objectivist Blog Carnival

Welcome to the December 15, 2011 edition of the Objectivist Round Up.

Today’s quote is Ayn Rand’s response to whether an atheist should celebrate christmas:

Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle. (Link)

I hope everyone is ready for a very commercial christmas!

Burgess Laughlin presents Mysticism in the Christian New Testament posted at The Main Event, saying, “Christianity has two billion followers around the world. Christians control the governments of most purportedly “Western” nations. Their worldview matters. This post summarizes notes from a preliminary study of the New Testament. In any religious worldview, mysticism links the supernatural to ethics. What is the Christian view of mysticism, as shown in its holy scripture?”

Darius Cooper presents TARP posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, “Too many people criticize TARP for the wrong reasons. TARP was the right thing to do, in many ways.”

Joseph Kellard presents Why I’m an Early Bird posted at The American Individualist, saying, “The motivation behind why I wake up and start my day (usually with reading and writing) so early has its roots in the Olympics.”

Edward Cline presents Washington’s Rocket Bombs posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, “I have always enjoyed reading George Orwell’s prose, whether or not I agreed with him on any specific topic. Orwell is one of the very, very few writers of the liberal/left who actually respected his readers’ minds and adopted an appropriate policy of writing clearly and stated his intentions and meanings without obfuscation or equivocation.”

Jared Rhoads presents Newt Gingrich: 3 hits and 3 misses on transforming healthcare posted at The Center for Objective Health Policy, saying, “Newt Gingrich has rocketed to the top of the polls. Here are 3 good things and 3 bad things we found in his 2003 book on healthcare.”

Diana Hsieh presents NoodleCast #109: Live Philosophy in Action Webcast posted at NoodleFood, saying, “In Sunday’s webcast, I took a look at four GOP presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson.”

John Drake presents Creating an environment for classroom success, Part 2 posted at Try Reason!, saying, “Objectivism’s ethics are extremely useful in conceptualizing how to structure a classroom environment. In this post, I describe my initial thoughts.”

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.

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SoCal Objectivists Shooting Range Trip

by Jason Stotts

The SoCal Objectivists are heading to the shooting range on Sunday night.  We’re meeting at the LA Gun Club at 7:30 where we’ll be getting a couple of lanes and killing some paper zombies.  We’ll be there until around 9 or so, when we’ll retire to a nearby bar or restaurant for a drink and socializing.  Anyone is welcome to come to one or both of the events.  Please RSVP to Earl via email (earl-at-socalobjectivists.com) and specify if you’re coming to just the range or also to socializing.  It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’d love to see some new people, so if you’re in the LA area, come join us!

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ARI Internships

by Jason Stotts

The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) announced their 2012 summer internships today:

The Ayn Rand Institute is now accepting applications for its 2012 summer internship program! This unique three-week program is aimed at college undergraduates new to Ayn Rand’s novels, philosophy and the debate surrounding them, and combines an educational curriculum on these topics with a traditional internship in a professional workplace. This year, up to 30 college students and recent graduates from a range of disciplines, backgrounds and viewpoints will be invited to take to part in the program at ARI’s main office in beautiful Southern California. On top of this incredible educational experience, all of our interns receive a $1200 scholarship and $500 travel stipend to assist with living and travel arrangements. Visit our internship page for more details and to apply.

If you are a college student or recent graduate and you’re looking to learn more about Ayn Rand from the leading scholars in the country who work in Objectivism, then this is the opportunity for you.  The ARI is a great place to learn and you’ll meet a lot of interesting and intelligent people there.

I interned at the ARI back in 2004 and, while the program was very different back then, it had a lot of value for me and I would highly recommend it to anyone who was interested.

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Assorted News

by Jason Stotts

1. Sex by Numbers – an interesting look into the growing polyamory movement. The article is well written and seems well researched.  It’s worth a read if you’re interested in learning a little more about polyamory.

Over the past decade, polyamory has gone from being a fringe trend to a bona fide scene to a relationship model that’s widespread enough to almost be socially acceptable. The scene has its own canon, which includes texts like The Ethical Slut and Christopher Ryan’s Sex at Dawn (co-authored with his partner, Cacilda Jetha). Plus it’s got celebrities like alt-weekly sex columnist Dan Savage, who coined the word “monogamish” and turned open relationships into a cause célèbre.

2. Yes, Chick-fil-A Says, We Explicitly Do Not Like Same-Sex Couples – apparently Chic-fil-A hates the gays.  I’m not totally surprised to find this out about a restaurant that isn’t open on Sundays because of their religious text.

3. Siri Failures, Illustrated – Siri just might be a sexist and hate abortion.

4. The Horror of South Africa’s ‘Corrective Rape’ – Apparently South Africa has a problem where lesbians are being raped in order to help correct their aberrant sexuality.  The premise being, of course, that one you give a lesbian a taste of dick, then she could never go back to women.  I’m sure this works about as well as “praying away the gay”.

5. Erotic Goods Find Their Way into Shopping Centres – in the Czech Republic some regular shopping centers are now carrying adult toys and products.  I wholly support this.  Making sex toys something normal, instead of something shameful that you have to go to a seedy part of town to buy, would go a long way to reducing people’s shame around them.  Let’s hope that this trend reaches the States soon.

6. The Psychology of Nakedness – this study is just swimming in philosophical problems, but the underlying finding is interesting nonetheless.  Apparently, we view and treat people differently depending on the way they’re dressed and how much skin is showing.

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