Archive for May, 2012

ATLOSCon 2012 Recap

by Jason Stotts

As you probably know, I’ve been on vacation for roughly the last week in Atlanta for ATLOSCon 2012.  It was a great experience like last year and I had a really good time reconnecting with old friends and getting to know some new people.

Thursday night was the opening banquet and I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a year and meet lots of new people.  It’s funny that people tend to assume, because I’m a blogger and I write about sex, that I’m very extroverted.  That is, however, just not true.  I wouldn’t say that I’m shy per se, but I’m certainly not extroverted and if I didn’t come up and say hi, it wasn’t you, it was me.  If you want to meet me and we don’t have mutual friends, you’re going to have to just come up to me and introduce yourself.  I’m very friendly, though, so don’t fear for your life or anything.

I took several interesting classes while at ATLOSCon, one of which was Jenn Casey’s and Kelly Elmore’s class on temperament that I took friday morning.  I  learned some really interesting things and also learned that temperament is one issue that I will be looking more closely into in the future as I think that it may have a bigger role in relationships and even ethics in general than it is generally believed now.  If anyone has a good book recommendation about general temperament or personality theory, I would appreciate it.

I also took Miranda and her dad Antonio’s class about what it was like growing up as an objectivist.  I personally can’t imagine having grown up an objectivist and it was interesting to hear them talk more about it (I also saw this last year).  I think my biggest take away from their class was that if you want your children to be objectivists when they grow up, you shouldn’t force ideology onto them, but rather model the virtues and teach them how to think independently.  I think this is an important point for all parents.

Friday night I went shooting with the Objectivists, which was a lot of fun and I took my mom shooting for the first time in quite a while.

Saturday morning I took Jenn and Kelly’s positive discipline class for parenting and the more I learn about positive discipline, the more it seems like the best way to raise a child.  I may not be about to have kids yet, but it’s never to early to start learning things about it.

Saturday afternoon I gave my talk “Sexual Attraction and Fantasy: a Philosophical Exploration” and it was well received.  I think that people really liked the talk and there were some really good questions.

Saturday evening was the big ATLOSCon party at the Casey house and I had a good time hanging out with everyone.  I talked about a lot of things, but somehow sex kept coming up.  I just want to point out that it’s not always me bringing it up, people seek me out to talk about sex.  Which I like.  But I think that some people think it’s all I talk about, when it isn’t.

Sunday morning I was back at the Casey house to see Diana Hsieh do her Philosophy in Action webcast live, which was very interesting.

Sunday afternoon I saw Rachel Miner give a talk on Romantic Extras, or things that one can and should do in order to maintain love and intimacy in relationships.  There was a lot of good concrete advice and she did a good job with the presentation.  I followed that by the OHomos panel, where several gay Objectivists talked about their experiences growing up gay, becoming Objectivists, and fielded questions from the audience.  Nothing surprising here for me, but it was interesting to hear their stories.

After, I saw Stephen Bourque’s “Exploring Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts” and it was the only talk at ATLOSCon that I didn’t like.  Perhaps I simply know too much about epistemology, but I thought the class was poorly executed.

Afterwords, we went out to a rushed dinner and then to my Practical Sexuality Workshop.  We were a couple of minutes late, which I was pretty annoyed about (it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I hate being late), but the workshop went really well.  There was a running trivia challenge throughout the presentation and there were three teams competing.  We started with sexual anatomy, then moved to different orgasm techniques, and finally to anal.  People seemed to have a really good time competing in the trivia contest and I think everyone learned something new.  Although there was quite a bit of hype leading up to “the orgy” (which, incidentally, I appreciated all that free advertising), there was no nudity or even anyone injured.  I had a lot of fun putting on the workshop and I definitely would like to start doing more workshops and helping to spread sexual knowledge and good technique to people.  Sex is, after all, a skill that can be learned and mastering that skill will make your sex more pleasurable and help your relationship with your partner.

Overall, I thought ATLOSCon went really well and I had a great time attending.  There is a great sense of belonging being in a group of people who share your fundamental ideas and who are working to help bring them into reality with you.  It is that same sense of “being in the valley” that one gets at OCON, but with a warmer Southern hospitality element.

Some administrative comments, with the understanding that I thought everything went really well this year, are:

1. Less time between sessions.  Having 45 minutes between morning and afternoon sessions was just too much.  In the evenings it also made it nearly impossible to have dinner before the evening activity.

2. Starting at 10am was much better than starting at 9am, since inevitably, we’d stay up way too late having fun.

3. Can we get a little ribbon on name tags or a special speaker badge so that we are more easily identifiable?

4. I realize that the Cherokee recreation center is well suited to the conference and I’m sure it’s not expensive given where it is, but it’s hard to have so many of the other events 30-45 minutes from the conference site.  This may not be feasible, but it would be helpful if everything were closer together.

So, that’s just a couple of little things.  I thought the conference went really well and that things were very organized. I want to thank Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore and the rest of ATLOS for inviting me out and having such a nice conference.

Finally, if you want to help support Erosophia, buy a copy of the lecture I presented on Sexual Attraction and Fantasy or my Practical Sexuality Workshop.  I’ve decided, just to make it a little cheaper, to sell each for $10, which is less than I was initially going to price them at.  Additionally, if you attended either of my events, you can purchase either for half-price!  I prefer Amazon or Paypal payments to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com, but I’m open to other avenues. The descriptions of the talks are below.

Sexual Attraction and Fantasy: A Philosophical Exploration

What causes sexual attraction? Is it simply a physical response to a person’s body or is there something more going on? In this talk, I will delve into the deeper nature of sexual attractions and examine the cognitive element of sexual attraction and how it can enhance or destroy attractions. Further, we will look at the role of fantasy both by itself and its role in sexual attraction. Through this, we shall come to see that sexual attraction is more than merely a physical response and is, in fact, a robust phenomenon that ties together much more of ourselves than is commonly thought.

and

Practical Sexuality Workshop

Join your fellow conference attendees in a workshop on practical sexual skills hosted by Jason Stotts, author of Erosophia (one of the top 100 sex blogs of 2011). The workshop will be in three parts. The first part is an in-depth inquiry into anal eroticism, including anal sex and prostate play. The second part is all about orgasms, both male and female, including orgasmic edge play (also called extended orgasms or massive orgasms) and orgasm denial. The third part will be open Q&A where the floor will be opened to questions from attendees who can either ask questions there or submit them in advance if they’re not comfortable asking in front of the group. The workshop will be interactive and participation is encouraged. Price: $10 per person.

The workshop is obviously adult oriented in nature and no one under 18 will be permitted to attend. The workshop is open to singles, couples, poly-groups, and everyone of any orientation.

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ATLOSCon 2012

by Jason Stotts

The Atlanta Objectivist Society’s Mini-Conference ATLSOCon is coming up in just a couple of days and I’m really excited to be going again and presenting not only a class during ATLSOCon proper, but also a special workshop on practical sexual techniques (no, it’s not an orgy).  If you haven’t already registered, you should get on it as a lot of classes are already full!

This year I’m again going to offer copies of my lectures for sale as papers after the conference to help pay for my travel expenses.  I know that I ask for money a lot, but if it weren’t for one donor, Erosophia would run in the red and doing all this fun stuff that adds value to your life isn’t free.  This year I’m offering pdf copies of my Sexual Attraction and Fantasy class for $10 before the conference ends and $12 after and copies of my Practical Sexuality workshop for $13 before and $17 after.  Of course, you can also donate more and that’ll make me really happy and help keep Erosophia going.  You can send a PayPal payment to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com, send me an Amazon gift card to the same address, donate via the donate button on the right sidebar on Erosophia, or contact me for more options.  If you want to donate some money but think that I’m asking for too much, let me know and maybe we can work out something.

In case you don’t recall what classes I’m giving, here are their descriptions:

Sexual Attraction and Fantasy: A Philosophical Exploration

What causes sexual attraction? Is it simply a physical response to a person’s body or is there something more going on? In this talk, I will delve into the deeper nature of sexual attractions and examine the cognitive element of sexual attraction and how it can enhance or destroy attractions. Further, we will look at the role of fantasy both by itself and its role in sexual attraction. Through this, we shall come to see that sexual attraction is more than merely a physical response and is, in fact, a robust phenomenon that ties together much more of ourselves than is commonly thought.

and

Practical Sexuality Workshop

Join your fellow conference attendees in a workshop on practical sexual skills hosted by Jason Stotts, author of Erosophia (one of the top 100 sex blogs of 2011). The workshop will be in three parts. The first part is an in-depth inquiry into anal eroticism, including anal sex and prostate play. The second part is all about orgasms, both male and female, including orgasmic edge play (also called extended orgasms or massive orgasms) and orgasm denial. The third part will be open Q&A where the floor will be opened to questions from attendees who can either ask questions there or submit them in advance if they’re not comfortable asking in front of the group. The workshop will be interactive and participation is encouraged. Price: $10 per person.

The workshop is obviously adult oriented in nature and no one under 18 will be permitted to attend. The workshop is open to singles, couples, poly-groups, and everyone of any orientation.

If you’re a regular reader and you’re going to be in Atlanta, introduce yourself and let me know.  I love meeting new people and I’m always open to talking about sex.

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Review: Living Proof

by Jason Stotts

As a writer myself trying to get my first book published, I know how hard it is to get a book in front of a publisher, let alone get them to read it.  To actually take it all the way to publication is quite the achievement today, when publishers would much rather go with established writers, even if their work is trite, than to try something new.  So, my cynical side thought that this was going to be one of those books that was crap, but that got published anyway because Leonard Peikoff is Kira’s father and the publisher thought they could leverage that fact.

I was, thankfully, very wrong.

Living Proof is an excellent book and an amazing book for a first time author.  The writing is tight, the plot is motivated, and the story is gripping.  Living Proof is one of those books that you don’t want to put down until you’re finished.

The story is set in a dystopian future (is it dystopian if it’s nearly real now?) where the christian religion has taken control of much of government and has declared all fertilized eggs to be full legal persons and their death to be murder.  This complicates everything from miscarriage to in vitro fertilization.  The heroine, of course, is not happy with that state of affairs and has a very selfish reason to motivate her to want to work against the laws.  I dare not say too much more lest I give away interesting plot points, but if you’re looking for a good book and you want to support a great up and coming Objectivist author, go buy Living Proof!

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PSA: Cleanliness

by Jason Stotts

I really feel like I shouldn’t have to write this post, but I fear that all too many people don’t understand basic hygiene well enough that it’s warranted.

One of my readers pointed out that in a Savage Love podcast sometime back (Episode 188 at the 5:30 mark) a man had a question about his girlfriend who’s “lady parts” smelled bad.  He said that even after she got out of the shower, she still smelled bad and he thought that she didn’t even rinse her parts.  He thought that it should be okay to wash her “vagina,” but said he had heard that it was bad and so was calling Dan to find out the truth. Dan completely missed what the caller was actually asking, told him it definitely wasn’t a good idea to get soap into her “vagina,” and encouraged the reader to send his girlfriend to the gynecologist.  The problem is that these people were all talking at cross purposes because they were using language in a fuzzy way.

In terms of a woman’s lower genitalia, the outer part that you can see is the vulva and it includes the mons (pubic mound), the clitoris, the labia (inner and outer), and the perenium.  In the vulva there is an opening to the vagina, which is the canal through which babies pass and into which you put a penis.  The entire area is not the vagina, that’s as stupid as calling the entire front of the head the “nose,” since that part sticks out.

Do you see the problem yet? It’s true that you shouldn’t get soap inside the vaginal canal, but it’s not true that you shouldn’t wash your vulva.  In fact, you very much should be washing your vulva as otherwise dried urine, sweat, oil, and dead skin will accumulate and cause a bad smell, the same as it does with the male penis, especially on unmutilated men.  Failing to use the correct terms for the body can result in failing to understand proper medical advice.

I find it truly sad that people don’t even know the name for their body parts because of the christian fear of sexuality and hatred of the body prevents us from having proper sex education in schools and real discussions around these issues.

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

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Aporia: Is Physical Beauty Itself a Value?

by Jason Stotts

I often get asked, because I advocate that sexual attraction is a response to values, whether physical beauty is a value.  The intention of the question is, of course, to see if I think that physical beauty is a sufficient value to justify sexual activity.  I’ve always thought this was an interesting question and I think it’s time we analyzed it in depth—although I’m not sure I have an answer to this yet.  So, as with my other aporia, consider this an open question.

Let us start by looking at the question of whether physical beauty is a value.  I think it is generally agreed that physical beauty is at least some kind of value.  In Attic Greek culture, for example, the human form was held up as one of the ideals of beauty: as one of the most beautiful objects in existence and I think this is right.  Unfortunately, here as in many places, the mystic nonsense of the christians corrupted this pure idea and held that the body was shameful and base, that it was a platonic prison of the soul which had to be ignored as much as possible in order for the soul to reach some special place after death.  This hatred of the physical body has manifested in strange ways, such as the idea that natural functions such as breast-feeding are sexual (since in breast-feeding a breast is used and breasts are always sexual?).  The Greeks did not think that beautiful bodies were always being sexual.  Indeed, the early Olympic games were played in the nude and one of the great values that the spectators derived was from the sight of the beautiful and strong bodies moving well and exerting themselves.

For a rational person, physical beauty is at least some kind of value.  Furthermore, it seems to be a value in a similar way that art is a value.  While art is a metaphysical recreation of reality according to the artist’s value judgments, that is the artist portrays the world according to how he sees it and what he thinks is important, a physically beautiful person can resonate with a person’s sense of life and value judgments as well.  That is, if a person values human life, living well, and human virtue, then he will respond positively to a beautiful person.  Now whether or not this is justified is a different question, but it is the case that we see beautiful people as instances of what humans could look like, of humans that are living well in the sense of maintaining their bodies well and presenting themselves well, and who are living well in the moral sense and succeeding at life.  It is psychologically true that we see beautiful people as good and think of ugly people as evil.  This idea was well known in Greek culture and they thought that the face was a window to the soul: that one’s moral character reflected out and either made one more or less beautiful.  As an interesting aside, this idea also plays a prominent role in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, where Dorian’s evil actions are reflected only on the painting of him and since his face and body remain beautiful and youthful, people think that he is therefore good.  Whether or not we are justified in inducing a person’s moral character from their physical appearance, and likely we are usually not justified in this, it remains a fact that we naturally do this.

An interesting line of inquiry might be whether beauty is naturally pleasant and whether we project our moral framework onto it in order to see it as even more attractive and pleasant, since we are attracted to what we think is good and find it pleasant.  I imagine this is the case, as I have argued elsewhere that our moral judgments can override the value of physical beauty and that if we know a physically beautiful person who is a moral monster, that we cannot help but to see their beauty as tainted and them as less beautiful than they would be if their character were better.  Furthermore, that is we know them to be immoral, that we cannot see them as sexually attractive (except for, perhaps, in some abstract way, but that we cannot respond to them sexually).

When we meet a person who is a cognitive blank to us, where we know nothing of them or their character, we can still judge them aesthetically as beautiful or not.  However, I think in order to do this, I think we have to project our moral framework onto them and project a good character.  I think we naturally want to think of beauty as good and since we already respond to it at a primitive level, we want to have a fuller response, so we flesh out their persona with our own judgments in order to have a full response to them.  We want them to be the kind of person that we would be very attracted to and want to know and so we project our framework onto them so that we see them as robustly good.  On the other hand, it could be simply that we see beauty as a natural good and therefore as embodying our values (which we think are good), and therefore we think that since beauty is a good that it must be conjoined by moral good, since we think that the beauty is caused from within.

I want to return to an earlier point and ask whether beauty is some sort of natural good.  I want to say that yet, it is.  Much in the same way seeing the beauty of a sunset or an artwork is a great value, I think human beauty is also a value.  We need, as a psychological fact, to see beauty in life.  It is a reaffirmation of the beauty of existence and of the good in the world.  It is an encouragement to keep fighting against evil and of the black blanket of destruction it brings.  Beauty brings us joy and motivation: it is like spiritual fuel.  Human beauty is, to me at least, one of the highest kinds of beauty as I value humanity.

Several obvious questions arise: what is the connection between aesthetic judgments of beauty and moral judgments of beauty?  Is there such a thing as a moral judgment of beauty or can moral judgements only augment or detract from beauty?  I think it is the latter.  There are some people who are so ugly that even an exemplary soul would not make me think they were attractive: I might respect them for their character, but they would not become attractive if they were physically ugly enough.  So, it’s not the case that there is a moral judgment of beauty.  There is an aesthetic judgment of beauty and a moral judgment overlay that greatly influences our response to the physical characteristics.  I actually don’t think that one can maintain a judgement of aesthetic beauty in the face of knowledge of a bad immorality and a bad character.

Beauty is, then, a value, but only when combined with a good character: beauty is not a self-justifying value.  However, beauty is an important value and it should not be minimized.

I think it’s also important to consider that sexual attraction is not the same as physical beauty: you might judge someone as physically beautiful, but not sexually attractive.  If we are happily partnered and monogamous, and therefore not looking for new partners, we’re much more likely to experience a person’s physical beauty without having a sexual response to it.  This, though, raises another question: does our judgment of beauty necessarily contain a sexual judgment?  Is saying that you think a person is beautiful connected to you saying you would have sex with a person?  Is it the same thing?  I’m not sure.  I think that they can be different, that one can make an aesthetic judgment of beauty without necessarily implying the further sexual step.

One final, and very important, question that we still need to address: what ultimately justifies sexual activity?  Is beauty a sufficient reason to have sex with a person?  I think, given the foregoing, that the answer is a very qualified yes.  If the beautiful person is also a good person, if you’re not treating sex lightly, and if it’s not harming other values in your life, then I think it’s perfectly moral to have sex with a person because they are beautiful.  On the other hand, if you ignore and evade a person’s bad character in order to justify having sex with them, then it is immoral.

This is all I have to say on the topic right now.  I welcome feedback on this aporia and I will write another essay at some point in the future with my more considered opinion.  I hope that this has at least raised some interesting questions for you.

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Dan Savage Versus the Christians

by Jason Stotts

One of the things I hate most about christianity, and there is oh so much I hate about it, is the christian propensity to find offense in everything they don’t like and to feel indignation when they are rebuffed: their feeling that they are always right and everyone else is always wrong. This is exemplified by the case of Dan Savage a week or so ago who rightly criticized christians for attacking gays and gay rights, because of the supposed biblical basis for this, while ignoring the rest of the craziness in the bible.  In short, for the complete lack of any integrity that christians demonstrate when they pick and choose from among their god’s completely true and without error book of revelations.

Savage’s speech, at a 3,000-student gathering of young journalists in Seattle, linked bullying of gay kids with biblical denunciations of homosexuality. Savage, noting the Bible also banned masturbation and the eating of shellfish, said, “We ignore the bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.”

In the speech, Savage, citing Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation,” said the Bible gave instructions about how to treat slaves. If the Bible erred “on the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced … What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? 100 percent,” said Savage. (LINK)

If there really was a god and I actually believed it, you can be damned sure I wouldn’t violate a single sentence of a book of his revelation.  Of course, it’s just a fantasy, so I don’t have to worry about it.  But you think that people who did believe in it would be more serious about reading such an important book and living by it every moment of every day.

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Happy Birthday Erosophia!

by Jason Stotts

It’s strange, but I don’t remember starting Erosophia.  There was no big debut, no fireworks, no momentous decision.  I think I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about blogging (it was newish back then) and wanted a place to put my thoughts down “on paper”.  That was seven years ago.

Seven years.  I’ve been blogging for seven years now that it’s May.  In some ways it doesn’t feel real.  I’ve put up hundreds of posts, amassed thousands of readers, saved a couple of marriages, become one of the world’s top 100 sex bloggers, and worked to figure out this whole sexuality thing.  Since I started blogging I graduated college, started writing a book, got married, moved to California, started lecturing, and have become something of an expert in sexuality.

I honestly didn’t see any of this coming.  I didn’t set out to create a blog that people would actually read.  I started out just wanting a place to share my ideas.  It’s funny that now I have readers, donors, and even some (volunteer) support staff.  I’ve made a lot of friends through Erosophia and, from the letters I get, I know that my work on sexuality is having an impact around the world.

If you like what I’m doing here, help support Erosophia!  You can donate money directly by using the donate button in the Erosophia sidebar on the right, send a PayPal or Amazon payment to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com, or even mail me a check. On the other hand, your donation doesn’t have to be through monetary contributions (although please do feel free to donate!), but could be no more than simply sending me an email (Jason(at)JasonStotts.com) telling me how my work has impacted your life.  These letters are like spiritual fuel to me and they help to keep me motivated to keep pursuing my work on sex.  You can also support Erosophia monetarily without having to spend a dime.  How?  By buying through Amazon.  If you use my referral link and purchase things on Amazon that you would purchase elsewhere, you’ll save yourself some money and I’ll get a small referral fee for everything you buy. Buying books for a class?  Buying a new laptop?  Buying sex toys, condoms, or lube?  Use my Amazon referral link and anything you spend on Amazon will help support Erosophia, without costing you a dime and probably saving you money.

So, what’s in Erosophia’s future?  I have no idea!  I’m certainly going to keep writing and challenging people’s preconceived ideas about sexuality.  I’m also still working on getting the podcast underway, but I could really use some technical help with audio editing and making the audio sound better.  I’m going to be lecturing around the country again this year and I hope to come to some new conferences and meet new people.  I’m also considering doing some (paid) live advice over the phone or skype.  If you’re interested in that, email me and we’ll go from there.

I want to thank all of you, Erosophia’s readers, supporters, donors, and friends.  It’s been a great 7 years so far and I’m sure it will be even better in the year to come.

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