The deadline for CatalystCon West speaker submissions is coming up soon and I’m planning on attending after hearing so many good things about the prior Catalystcons. However, I need some feedback on my proposal. I feel like it’s just a little off and needs some fine-tuning. Take a look at it and if you have any suggestions, let me know!
Speakers should prepare for sessions that run an hour and ten minutes, including at least 20 minutes of open discussion. Panel submissions should consist of no more than four speakers (including a moderator, if applicable) and all speakers for panel sessions must be confirmed prior to submission.
Speaker submissions should be sent in plain text in the body of your email. Email all submissions to: CatalystConSubmissions@gmail.com.
– Conference of the Atlanta Objectivist Society (ATLOSCon): 2012, 2011
– Chicago Objectivist Society Conference (COSCon): 2011
– University of Northern Florida Philosophy Conference: 2006
AV requirements: None.
Title of Session: Reclaiming the Sexual Moral Narrative
The war against sex rages on with fundamentalist christians on the offensive and us on the defensive, against the ropes. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. The weapon they are using against us, against which we have no defense is morality: they have claimed the moral high-ground and we are defenseless without it. Consequently, in the field of sexual ethics, we see nothing but a bleak landscape: prohibitions against this and condemnations about that. But, isn’t there more? Couldn’t sexual ethics actually tell us how to incorporate sex into our lives in a healthy way that serves to improve our lives? It can and it should. Moreover, it was our ceding of the moral high ground to the anti-sex side that weakened our position and forced us to always argue on the defensive. By reclaiming the moral narrative, we can not only have better sex lives, but we can help to reclaim sexual ethics from those who hate the body and our enjoyment of it. We can, in one fell swoop, improve our lives and put the arguments about sex back on fundamental principles.
In this talk I’m going to lay out what a philanthropic (pro-human) sexual ethic looks like and show how this foundation can restructure the field. I will also show how restructuring the arguments in different fields of sexual ethics can take us from being on the defensive to making real headway in the culture. We may not be able to “win” against pundits who would never change their minds anyway, but if we can change the culture, it doesn’t matter. We will have won what we really wanted: a world where sex is a real value in human life.
My very first blog post was nearly 8 years ago on May 8th, 2005, meaning that Erosophia is about to turn eight. My own birthday is in exactly two weeks and I’ll be turning 30. As far as birthdays go, 30 is an interesting one: you’re definitely an adult and have been for a while. You can’t imagine yourself as still a “20-something” anymore, college ended more than 5 years ago, and so on. It’s real, my life is here and I’m living it. Not that I didn’t think I was before, but much of your life when you’re younger is about getting ready to “live your life” in some amorphous future. Well, when you turn 30, your future is here and you can’t pretend it isn’t anymore.
Blogging is interesting. I never set out to be a blogger. In fact, I only started writing a blog on a lark. Then, I just sort of kept writing and at some point things got interesting. Somewhere along the line people started reading and now some 15,000 unique people visit Erosophia every month, in addition to the hundreds who subscribe via RSS. As Erosophia has gotten more popular, I find that I need to keep increasing hosting and bandwidth to keep up with traffic. It’s obviously a good problem to have, but it also requires money to solve.
Not only that, but in order to keep writing, a person needs spiritual fuel: he needs to know his work is good and that it is having a positive impact in people’s lives.There’s no reason for me to write and share it with the world if it’s not helping people, so if you want me to keep writing, let me know it’s making a difference.
The point of this post, then is to ask you to help support Erosophia. It is also, though, to ask you to help support me. I’m asking you, in essence, to trade values with me. Erosophia and my writing is a value to you if you’re reading this (if it’s not, what are you doing here?). So, I’m asking that you take a minute and help support my work and me. Ideally, you should donate $829, one for each of Erosophia’s posts. If that’s a little much for you, then donate $30 for my thirtieth birthday. If not that, then at least $8 for Erosophia’s birthday. If you can’t donate monetarily, I ask that you at least take the time to leave a comment here or write me if my work has helped you in your life. You can also, if you want something a little different, buy me a birthday present from my list on Amazon.
If you don’t have the money, please at least write to me or help support Erosophia in some way.
I saw Darrel speak a couple of years ago when his book The God Virus had just come out. It’s a pretty good book and definitely a good metaphor, even if I think the metaphor is a little stretched in places. Either way, Darrel is a good speaker and it should be a really interesting talk!
When I first started studying philosophy, I was surprised at how committed I was to beliefs that I had never really considered. In fact, I seemed to be trapped in a web of ideas that I had obtained through the culture through a kind of mental osmosis. I was committed to this and that, but had never considered the issues and whether I was right to be so committed. Now, some of the beliefs I stayed committed to after reflection, like my beliefs in the sovereignty of the individual, the value of capitalism, and the ethics of egoism. With these views, I came to understand them at a much better level and in a clearer way. I no longer believed them merely because I had believed them at one time, I had reasons for my beliefs and arguments to support them.
Other beliefs, I shed completely. I was never a religious person: I had always questioned the existence of any sort of god, but I still thought that there was a possibility that there might be one. Moreover, I thought of religion as a benevolent force and as something that, while I didn’t participate in it, was a force for good in the world. This, obviously, I have seen past to the true nature of misanthropic nature of religion (especially the Abrahamic religions).
Another belief that I used to hold, and which may surprise some of my readers, is that there was something wrong with “the homosexuals.” I didn’t know many gay people growing up and had this vague idea that they were somehow “broken” in some way. Of course, how could I not think this, since they were living in a violation of nature and flatly flaunting the biological functions of their bodies? Yet, once I learned even just a little about human anatomy and psychology, I quickly realized how silly and ignorant homophobia really is.
Unfortunately, few people ever question their beliefs and I think one reason is that they are afraid to see how little justification they really had for them to begin with and how ignorantly they had actually been living their lives. However, ignorance (lacking knowledge) is not necessarily a moral failure. While there are some things that a person can reasonably be expected to know, and evasion of things that one should know is a moral failure, one cannot be expected to know everything. The moral obligation a person does have is to be constantly learning and growing as a person and to not evade looking into issues that will impact their lives.
I preamble like this to set the context for this: one of my major realizations as I started to study sex in a serious way was how little I actually knew about it. The more I learn about sex, the more I realize I didn’t know and how much of what I did “know” was actually just wrong. Not only that, but my thinking about sex was locked into our cultural assumptions and a very definite conception about what sex is and should be.
I think the ignorance that surrounds sex is absolutely astounding. People tend to think that the way we think about and view sex here in our culture and time is the way it’s always been and the way it has to be. That’s just silly. For example, did you know that:
– In ancient Greece, males were the symbols of beauty and females were not?
– There are cultures where the family name passes through the female line, because any child of the woman is definitely in the genetic family whereas a child of a man may or may not be (this solves the problem of lineage).
– Biologically our bodies evolved to be polysexual (non-monogamous) and the evidence for this is overwhelming (cf: the coronal ridge of the human penis, the size of the human testicles, the different functions of sperm, the cervical crypts in the vagina, the signaling function of breasts, etc).
– Men who do not orgasm frequently enough are much more likely to die of prostate cancer?
– Men have not always been the more sexually aggressive sex? In some cultures (including our own), women were the more sexually active sex and the sexual aggressors.
– That in ancient Greece, a man who only had sex with women or only had attractions to women would have been a cultural outcast?
I think that people who don’t consider sex from a broader perspective are simply being ridiculous. How can you claim any sort of legitimacy about a sexual position when all you understand is your own culture in your own time and place?
In the 1600s, a man named James Mattock was expelled from the First Church of Boston. His crime? It wasn’t using lewd language or smiling on the sabbath or anything else that we might think the Puritans had disapproved of. Rather, James Mattock had refused to have sex with his wife for two years. Though Mattock’s community clearly saw his self-deprivation as improper, it is quite possible that they had his wife’s suffering in mind when they decided to shun him. The Puritans believed that sexual desire was a normal and natural part of human life for both men and women (as long as it was heterosexual and confined to marriage), but that women wanted and needed sex more than men. A man could choose to give up sex with relatively little trouble, but for a woman to be so deprived would be much more difficult for her.
It’s a short overview of some of the ways in which our Western views about the nature of sexuality have changed in the last couple of hundred years. There are lots of books about this kind of thing like Sex at Dawn. There are also lots of books about changes in human physiology and cultures like Sperm Wars, Dover’s Greek Homosexuality, etc.
The problem, though, is that people who are woefully ignorant of sex, nonetheless feel entitled to talk at great length about it as though they were experts. These people often can’t name the parts of the body involved in sex and don’t even understand basic bodily functions like reproduction (like those idiot christians who think that a woman who is raped can’t get pregnant, because their god would never go down into that tainted uterus to deliver a soul). Nevertheless, these ignorant people feel entitled to opine about the morality of sex.
Morality does not come from an imaginary sky-friend. Morality is about helping people live the best kinds of life open to them and this involves understanding human nature and the facts surrounding it. Unless someone understands the physiology of sex, the psychology of sex, the history of sex, and even the philosophical implications of sex, then they shouldn’t be trying to construct a system of sexual ethics. Yet, this is precisely what is going on. These…”experts” can’t even understand their own urges and bodies and yet, try to tell us how to live our lives. They can’t understand that sex has changed throughout the ages and think it has always been the same. Their ignorance leads them to have a particularly pernicious kind of myopia where they can’t see that their simple-minded views are not necessarily true.
The point I’m trying to get at is that ignorance, not knowing things, leads you to not see the broader picture as you often cannot see what you don’t understand. In sex, this is particularly problematic as people try to reason from the way things are right now to human nature and try to posit immutable laws on little to no evidence. This is just completely intolerable.
So, ward yourself against the myopia from ignorance by trying to learn as much as you can and challenging your beliefs and making sure you understand the reasons why you believe things. Especially with regards to sex. Just because things are a certain way in our culture right now does not mean they have always been this way or that this is the best way to live. You need to look at sex throughout time and different places and then decide what works best in your life.
Can scar tissue create extreme sexual sensitivity?
If you want to ask a question, contact us at Podcast@JasonStotts.com, on twitter via @ErosPod, on this page here on Erosophia, or via our Facebook page.
Tonight’s Topic: The Limits of Sex-Positivity
Sex positivity, while benevolent, goes astray by being too permissive and failing to have any real standards. The solution is to set a rational standard and apply it to ascertain whether any particular sex act or situation is moral or immoral. This standard has to be a person’s life and long-term happiness.
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We’ve seen the statistics and read the stories. If you’re a parent, you live with it every day. Public education is broken. And no one seems to know how to fix it. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The American education system was once the envy of the world. Once. No more.
The School That Never Was documentary will show how education got this way and what we can do to fix it.
I recently listened to Diana Hsieh’s interview of Stephen Bailey on Limiting Government by Constitutional Amendment, which I recommend you listen to. The topic of the show was Bailey’s idea to amend the constitution to allow challenges of any law on constitutional grounds to come from any citizen, obviating the onerous conditions under which a person can prove “standing.”
I reached out to Stephen and he’s graciously permitted me to republish the full text of the amendment:
The right of the people to annul unconstitutional law shall not be infringed.
Any person may bring suit challenging the constitutionality of any legislation, regulation, or rule enacted or promulgated by any government within the State of Colorado, except items consisting solely of appropriations.
Any person subject to the challenged legislation shall have standing to bring such a suit in a court within the governing jurisdiction of the law and that court shall have jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Such suits shall be heard by a jury composed of twelve jurors, randomly selected from the eligible electors residing in the judicial district in which the suit is brought. Jurors shall be disqualified and may only be disqualified due to demonstrated conflict of interest.
Unless two-thirds of a jury shall find the law a necessary and proper exercise of power delegated by this Constitution, and not infringing unalienable individual rights protected by this Constitution or the Constitution of the United States, the law shall be annulled.
Any appeal of a jury annulment shall comply with the requirements specified herein.
All convictions under a nullified law shall be immediately voided.
The jury may separately find, through a simple majority vote, that the public officials who enacted an annulled law wantonly violated their oath to protect and defend this constitution and, therefore, are ineligible to hold elective or appointed public office in the State of Colorado. This disability shall be effective upon completion of the term of a currently held elected public office, or immediately if not currently holding an elected public office. No public official shall be held accountable for approving or enacting a law, regulation or rule prior to the ratification of this amendment.
Obviously this was written as a state amendment, but I think this kind of thing is absolutely vital to have at every level of government.
No matter your political orientation, we all agree that there are lots of terrible laws on the books. Lots of old laws, lots of pernicious laws, lots of laws whose only function was to oppress a group or deny rights to a group. These kinds of laws need to go. The problem is, though that once they make it onto the books, they’re nearly impossible to get rid of. No legislator wants to do it. But often these laws still affect people and hurt their lives; for example, that it is illegal even today to sell “sex toys” in Texas.
Consider that this could be used to repeal laws like:
– prohibition on victimless crimes (like marijuana, prostution, gambling, etc)
– prohibitions on abortion
– prohibitions on stem cell research
– unfair “progressive” taxes
– prohibitions on lawful carry of firearms
– political corporate cronyism and special interest warfare
– “blue laws” against the sale of alcohol
There are at least two problems I see and they both relate to the scope of the amendment.
First, the amendment doesn’t go far enough in that it would still leave the people powerless before misuse of the power of the executive branch and all of the regulatory mess that is the “ABC organizations.” Now, it may just be that those things should be dealt with by a different amendment, but they seem at least somewhat similar.
Second, the amendment goes too far. Some laws are right and necessary: we don’t want anarchy. Government is necessary to secure rights. Obviously, the amendment has some protection here for good laws, but I wonder if there shouldn’t be some class of law that was beyond the ability of a challenge? Of course, if there was, then that law could then be made to do exactly the kind of thing this amendment is trying to prevent. I guess my worry here is whether the people can really be trusted. I guess if they can’t then we have more serious problems than a simple bad law.
Overall, though, I think this amendment is a wonderful idea and I’m interested to see how Bailey further develops it. I’d love for it to become a force in politics and make its way into law.