1. Reason has an interesting article up right now: “The War on Sex Workers.” Anyone who claims to be for the rights of women, but think that women who sell sex aren’t real people are simply deluding themselves. Whether selling sex is moral or not, it should still be legal and those who sell sex should enjoy equal protection under the law.
The Kindle edition of Sex at Dawn is now on sale for only $2.99! If you haven’t read it yet, you should absolutely get it while it’s on sale. It will at least get you thinking about all of your prior assumptions about sexuality that you take for granted.
Big Brother warning: if you purchase Sex at Dawn, please use the Amazon link so that I will make a small referral fee that goes to help keep Erosophia operational.
Leonard Peikoff published a good essay recently in the Huffington Post (of all places) called “Abortion Rights Are Pro-Life.” In it, he makes a number of good points:
1. “Abortion rights advocates should not cede the terms “pro-life” and “right to life” to the anti-abortionists.”
2.”Nor should abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase “a woman’s right to choose.” Does she have the right to choose murder? That’s what abortion would be, if the fetus were a person.”
3. “The status of the embryo in the first trimester is the basic issue that cannot be sidestepped. ”
4. “We must not confuse potentiality with actuality. An embryo is a potential human being.”
5. “If we are to accept the equation of the potential with the actual and call the embryo an “unborn child,” we could, with equal logic, call any adult an “undead corpse” and bury him alive or vivisect him for the instruction of medical students.”
I recommend going and reading the whole thing. I wouldn’t call the arguments original, except #5, but it’s well put together. If you want my take on abortion, see my somewhat older essay “Truly Pro-Life: Personhood and Abortion“. For those of you who are surprised I’m referencly Peikoff positively, you shouldn’t be. I treat the man justly, praising him when it is deserved and condemning him when it’s deserved (like when he advocated rape or called swingers immoralists). I do, however, appreciate the fact that he’s now openly mocked the “Checking Premises” idiots (Chip Joyce, Claudio Caballero, John Kagebein, Klaus Nordby, and their ilk) and their complete misunderstanding of both Objectivism and philosophy.
I think that some of the ideas that people hold about sex are quite interesting. Some people think that monogamy is natural (it isn’t, although it still might be an optimal form of relationship for some people). Some people think that the purpose of sex is reproduction (that’s only one possible end of sex, the number of live births per sex act is about 1 to 1,000). Some people think that only heterosexuality is natural (it’s not, a certain percentage of the population is homosexual in any culture).
Another interesting idea is that sex is private. Some people take this idea so far that they won’t discuss anything related to sex: not things related to reproduction, not things related to sexual health, not things related to relationships, not anything at all. This, however, is completely irrational.
Sex is an important part of a human life. Unfortunately, we’re not born knowing anything about sex. Not about how to do it, not about how to do it safely, and especially not how to do it well. We must learn all this information and we can either do that through trial and error or by learning about sex from others, in the way we learn about everything else. The problem with trial and error is that, while it works adequately for things like technique, it works terribly for things like sexual health and reproduction. Many STI’s are incurable and will harm a person’s life. Getting pregnant when you don’t intend to can be very traumatic and forces a person to choose between options they might not want: carrying a child to term or getting an abortion. Even with sexual technique, trial and error isn’t a great option. Most people know little to nothing about sexual anatomy or technique and their lives would be greatly improved by this knowledge.
Thus, a person’s life would be objectively improved by learning about sex and sexuality. Consequently, to not learn about sex, at least the basics, would be immoral.
Now, admittedly, there is some sense in which sex can, and perhaps should, be private. The things you do sexually with your partner, or partners, is no one’s business except your own. You can choose to share that information with others or not. While I don’t think you should just tell everyone you meet about your sexual exploits, I also think that it’s good to talk to at least some people about it. Many people, especially before the advent of internet forums and chat rooms, thought that their sexual practices were unique to them and abhorrent, because they went beyond the christian idea that sex is only for reproduction and not for pleasure.
If we more freely shared information about our sex lives, then we would see that others have the same desires, thoughts, fantasies, and feelings. Sharing information about our sexualities would help to normalize different kinds of behaviors and desires in our culture, behaviors and desires that are actually already common in practice. Part of what makes certain kinds of sexuality shameful for some people is thinking that their desires are “abnormal” and this troubles them. But, I doubt anyone has a truly unique sexual desire. In fact, the range of what’s (statistically) “normal” would probably surprise most people; like, for example, adultery (more than 50% of people in our culture have experienced infidelity).
So, the question is, what is the line that we should walk regarding sex and privacy? Certainly, we should not tell everything to everyone, but neither should we make the mistake of not even talking about sex with our partners. We should treat sex as a normal part of a healthy human life and as an important part of what it means to live a happy human life. We should always talk to our partner or partners about it and about our likes and dislikes, our desires, and our fantasies. We should seek out information about sexuality to improve our lives and make sure that we have adequate information about sexuality to live well. Ultimately, the exact amount of information that one shares with others, to whom they share it, and in what contexts, is a matter of personal preference and personality and must be decided by each individual. However, we must not let our personal preference lead us to live less well than we could otherwise.
Another question we should address is why people want to keep their entire sex lives private and feel shame whenever sex is discussed openly. This shame comes from accepting ideas that that sexuality is base and low, that it is not natural, and that it is unimportant or even detrimental to living a good life. In our culture, these ideas come from the christian hatred of the body and of this world. In christianity, copying Plato, the body is nothing but a corporeal prison of the soul that taints it with its desires, urges, and drives. These base bodily things cloud the purity of the soul and prevent it from reaching its highest possible state in the realm of the forms (heaven). People who believe these misanthropic things and internalize these beliefs experience shame about their bodies and about natural bodily processes. They also experience irrational expectations about what their bodies should be like and how they should behave.
Now, it can be perfectly rational to not disclose everything about one’s sexual practices and past to just anyone. However, if the reason that one doesn’t share any information is due to shame, then this is illegitimate and needs to be worked at to be overcome. There are lots of reasons why one might not want to disclose information about one’s sexuality, like fear of reprisal, loss of future job prospects, etc. However, it should be pointed out that the situation won’t ever improve for people with alternative sexualities until they start coming out in large numbers so that “normal” people realize that they actually know people who are gay, or who are polyamorous, or who are swingers, or who are into BDSM, etc. There is very clear historical evidence for this in the gay movement, where homosexuality was considered aberrant and unnatural, until gay people started coming out in large numbers and demanding recognition for who they were. Now, although our culture still has some hang-ups about homosexuality, the culture is moving inexorably towards treating gay people as real people who have rights and can participate in societal rituals like marriage. If other alternative sexual groups want to have the same kind of recognition and acceptance, they too must come out and be open about who they are.
Ultimately, there are good reasons to keep sex private, but there are also very good reasons to be open about sexuality and to share information about sexuality. The appropriate path for any particular person must be cut by them, but I hope that this essay will have given some useful things to think about when considering whether to share information about sexuality and how much information to share. I do think that if we are to err in our disclosures, it would be better for all of us to err on the side of too much disclosure rather than too little, because at least with too much disclosure we will see our society change for the better. Additionally, if we don’t discuss this oh so very important part of human life, this leads us to have a sub-optimal life and will impede our long-term happiness.
A woman gets raped during a robbery, accused of the theft, and then jailed. She filed suit against the police and eventually wins. Her case is alarming and worth reading if you aren’t familiar with it.
I discussed Todd Akin in my piece “Rape and the Magical Female Body,” but now someone is trying to explain his idiocy. Rep. Phil Gingrey is now coming out to defend Akin:
On Thursday [Gingrey told] a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast that Akin was “partially right” when he said last year that a woman can stop herself from getting pregnant.
“We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate,’” Gingrey said.
Is it a prequisite of being a Republican that you have to be completely ignorant of human biology and reproduction? It’s no wonder the Republicans were able to so decisively snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last election.
Doesn’t it seem like the Republicans and Democrats have been awkwardly pro-rape lately?
A couple of days ago a bunch of satirical posters appeared on Facebook purporting to be from the “Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence,” a principally democratic group that seeks to outlaw guns and remove them completely from American life. However, it seems to me that they’re taking a page from the Rape Caucus (you know, the Christian-Theocratic Party, or do they still call themselves Republicans?), and are now going after women. I think this poster sums up the problem most clearly:
While obviously the Brady Campaign would never come out so clearly against women, this is what their position amounts to: the use of deadly force is always immoral and a woman should prefer to be raped than to kill her attacker with a gun. This is monstrous and pure evil. To shoot someone in self-defense is so completely morally different than to rob or rape someone at gunpoint (initiate force) that the two cannot be said to even be in the same category. Only an idiot would lump these two things together because “they both involve guns.” This is true, but misleadingly true, obscuringly true, and even trivially true. To package-deal these two things is to destroy any meaning to morality and to give equal moral claim to the woman who doesn’t want to be raped and the man who wants to rape her. It is so vicious that it is hard to remain calm when I write this.
If we outlaw guns and prevent their concealed carry, then violent rapes will go up. Criminals are, by definition, people who violate the laws. Why does anyone think they’ll comply with laws against owning guns and carrying them? If legislating against a thing would really reduce it, then we should make rape illegal, we should make robbery illegal, etc. The euphemistic way that people talk about passing laws that “address gun violence” by banning guns is disingenuous, since “gun violence” is already illegal.
I personally think that the best way to reduce rape is for all women to learn how to use firearms and to carry them at all times. Imagine the difference in the likelihood of rape if a large percentage of women carried guns. I bet it would go down, one way or another (violent rape is often perpetrated by repeat offenders and if they’re getting shot…).
Even if the intention of people who are against guns is to prevent people getting killed by guns, it is simply a fact of reality that removing guns from the hands of good people is only an advantage to criminals and women are going to be disproportionately victimized. Thus, making it harder for women to get guns and to carry them will increase rape. Contra Kant, in reality good intentions don’t amount to much.
I am also against the government trying to restrict access to “assault rifles,” which is a misnomer to begin with. If an “assault rifle” is a military weapon that allows for fully automatic fire, then these rifles are already illegal to own without all sorts of governmental permits. The rifles that are sold to civilians, like the AR-15 rifles, are only superficially similar to the military M-16 and are actually no different from hunting rifles. The thing is that these rifles may be necessary for a person defend themselves against larger groups. For example, in the LA riots homeowners and store owners were forced to defend their lives and properties from roving bands of violent criminals and a rifle is much better suited to this than is a handgun.
None of this is to say that I think people should have unrestricted access to any kind of weapon they might want, like hybrid viruses designed to be weapons, nuclear bombs, or aircraft carriers. I think that there is a real question about the limit of what kinds of weapons a person should be permitted to own in society, but legislating against safe and conscientious gun owners based on the isolated actions of a small number of people who are psychopathic is a moronic way to legislate. In fact, the US has one of the lowest violent crime rates and fares much better against countries that have banned guns like England and Australia. Moreover, when we increase access to guns and make it easier for people to carry concealed, we see crime go down. This is a point of fact and has been shown to be true in lots of cases. Additionally, cities with highly restrictive gun laws have higher violent crime rates compared to cities without (for example: Chicago to Houston) and this is a matter of fact.
If we really want to reduce the incidence of guns used in the commission of violent crimes, then I think we need to make it easier for good people to own and carry guns. I think we need to be harsher on criminals who violate the rights of others (I don’t think drugs should be illegal in the first place and the idea of a “victimless crime” is nonsense). I think we should provide a way to get counseling for people who are showing psychopathic tendencies early in life and make access to information about these tendencies easier for parents to find and utilize. I also think we need to abolish the idea of “gun-free zones” (except in perhaps very limited circumstances), since criminals love places full of disarmed victims.
More broadly, I am against the growing movement of people who would trade freedom for “security.” I think that we need to stand for individual rights on principle and without exception, for example: the right to speech unrestricted by the government, the right to travel unrestricted by the government, the right to control our bodies (abortion, contraception, drugs, etc.) unrestricted by the government, and so many other individual rights. If we start trying to carve out exceptions, like it is okay to tax some to give it to others, we establish the principle that no one actually has rights. Once we’ve given ourselves up as children to the State, it is right that the government then seeks to control our actions as a parent should to its children. If we want to live free, then we must live as adults and be responsible for our actions. We also must carefully guard our rights as the necessary conditions to our happiness.
My friend Alex Epstein has put up a really good video about resolutions for the new year and better ways to think about this:
If you’ve never checked out Alex’s work before, head over to the Center for Industrial Progress and take a look at the good work he’s doing injecting reason back into the debates about energy and the environment.
2012 was another good year for Erosophia. Readership is up quite a bit and we’re still winning awards.
Also, I’m still having fun.
(Note: 2010 is only a partial year as that’s when we moved from Blogger to self-hosting.)
Notable Things in 2012:
– Erosophia was again one of the Top 100 Sex Blogs. I moved up quite a bit from #93 to #67! In 2013 I hope to make it into the top 50.
– In May I attended ATLOSCon again and this year I delivered both a lecture at the conference and a practical sexuality workshop after hours. (My paper from ATLOSCon 2011 “Sexual Ethics and Objectivism” is also available now here or here).
– I started a podcast and had fun doing it, but the amount of time I spent on audio editing and things made it prohibitive. I would like to start it back up this year and start doing it regularly, perhaps monthly. If someone wants to provide audio editing services, I’ll probably start it back up soon.
– Lastly, I’d like to invite you to support Erosophia. You can donate money via Paypal at the link on the Right or by sending it to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com. You can also send an Amazon or Chase payment to the same address. If you want to send a check or money order, write me there and I’ll tell you how. I would also happily accept Amazon GC’s. If you can’t support us monetarily, please spread the word about Erosophia. If my writings have helped you in any way, write me and tell me about it. Getting those emails is like spiritual and it helps me to keep going.
Without any further ado, here’s my top 10 essays from last year:
This set of two Aporias, complicated problems without clear answers, deal with sexual orientation and sexual identity and in them I seek to tease out the nature of each, including perhaps new ways to think about each.
If one needs any clearer idea of the ignorance and insanity that is religion, one needs only to look to the christian beliefs about the way reproduction works. If the Republicans ever want to get back in office, they need to stop attacking women.
Are you one of those people who think Valentine’s Day is merely a “Hallmark Holiday”? If so, you could be hurting your relationship. We should not forgo opportunities to remind our partners that they are a value to us and that we’re happy to have them in our lives.
In February Leonard Peikoff openly advocated rape. There was an ensuing brouhaha after I forcibly objected to this (I wasn’t the only one) and Peikoff eventually issued a partial retraction of his claims, although he ended up still maintaining that raping a woman can be moral in certain circumstances. This set of essays chronicles the problem, my response, Peikoff’s follow up, and my final statements.
I’ve been struggling for a while with the question of how to find a career about which you can be passionate. So, in this essay I attempt to look at the issue philosophical and I realize some surprising things.
What is pedophilia? Is it sex between adults and teenagers? Can it be between children? Is it moral or immoral? In this essay I provide an analysis of the nature of pedophilia (it’s more complicated than you might think) and an explanation of why it’s immoral.