Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category


“It was not only sinful but dangerous with a girl, because she might get pregnant. It was unnatural with a boy, because he wouldn’t get pregnant. That seemed to leave sheep; but no, that was abominable. There was your own right hand, but that led to blindness. I think they are lying to us, John thought.”

–The Earth Will Shake


For the last month I’ve been self-isolating, and have been working on a long-neglected project. Since 2014 or 2015, I’ve been intending to expand 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity (an 8,000-word pamphlet I wrote 20 years ago) to book length, and to increase the number of topics it covers. The purpose of 20 Reasons was to list all of the misery-producing traits of Christianity in one place, and I was pleased with the result when the pamphlet appeared in 2000, but over the years I gradually realized that the topic deserved much more extensive treatment.

With the election of Trump (with his evangelical true-believer base), the project took on more urgency, and now with the onset of the pandemic and consequent self-isolation, I finally have the time and motivation to finish the book.

At the moment I’ve written somewhere north of 30,000 words, and will likely write at least that many more by the time I finish the first draft in, I hope, late May or early June. The following is the first draft of Chapter 11, one of the new chapters. I’ll undoubtedly alter and expand it over the next month or two.

* * *

Christianity has an exceedingly narrow, legalistic view of morality

Everything which is not forbidden is allowed.” – the Lotus Principle (English common law)

Christians have certainly taken that principle to heart: they at least pretend to obey the dictates of the Bible (and their priests, popes, and preachers), while acting as if anything not specifically prohibited – no matter how sleazy, unethical, or outright monstrous – is perfectly fine, precisely because it is not prohibited by what they consider the only moral code: that expounded in the Bible.

They often pretend to keep the Bible’s commands punctiliously (keeping all of these commands would be utterly impossible), and to underline the sacredness of those commands will cite Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Of course, they only keep those biblical commands they choose to keep, especially those in vogue among their fellow Christians and those most open to public view.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18 sum up Christian morality: follow the law as prescribed in the Bible.

But what a law!

Here are the most prominent prohibitions in the Bible, the Ten Commandments. (This very common list is an abbreviated version of the commands in Exodus 20.)

  1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.
  2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

  3. Thou shalt not make any graven image

  4. Keep holy the Sabbath day.

  5. Honor thy father and mother.

  6. Thou shalt not kill.

  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

  8. Thou shalt not steal.

  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

This is a rather minimal set of moral precepts. The first three commandments, presumably considered the most important by their author, speak only to the pettiness of that author. The fourth seems reasonable except that it implies wasting time on religious rites. The fifth also seems reasonable, but does it really merit being a fundamental part of a brief moral code? The sixth is more than reasonable and should be a basic part of any code of morals – and it’s a pity that the Old Testament god repeatedly commanded its followers to violate it. The seventh commandment makes sense to some, but again, should it be a fundamental part of a moral code? Aren’t there other things a bit more important? The eighth is also reasonable and should be part of any code of morals, as should the ninth. And the tenth commandment is simply weird: stealing is already prohibited by the eighth commandment, so why include this thought crime unless part of the author’s purpose was to control the thoughts as well as the actions of believers.

Let’s see what else the Bible prohibits or condemns. (This is far from a complete list of biblical prohibitions/condemnations, and in most cases there are additional Bible verses prohibiting or condemning these things. Almost everything else the Bible condemns or prohibits is equally trivial or absurd as the list that follows.)

  • Working on the sabbath (death penalty). (Exodus 31:14-15, Exodus 35:1-2, Numbers 15:32-36)
  • Worshiping other gods or idols (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Deuteronomy 17:2-5, Colossians 3:5)
  • Cursing one’s parents (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 17:24)
  • Rebelliousness (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
  • Witchcraft (death penalty). (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:27)
  • Eating shellfish (an abomination). (Leviticus 11:10-12)
  • Blasphemy (death penalty). (Leviticus 24:14-16)
  • Wearing mixed fabrics. (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11)
  • And, of course, sacrificing a blemished ox. (Deuteronomy 17:1)

But where the authors of the Bible really get hot and bothered is in their condemnation of sex. The Bible explicitly prohibits or condemns the following:

  • Adultery (an abomination and a death penalty). (abomination: Ezekiel 23:36-37, Leviticus 18:20, 27; death penalty: Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, Ezekiel 23:45-47)

  • Fornication (death penalty). (Leviticus 21:9; death penalty: Ezekiel 16:35-40)

  • Cross dressing (abomination). (Deuteronomy 22:5)

  • Homosexuality (abomination and death penalty). (abomination: Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13; death penalty: Leviticus 20:13)

  • Sex with an “unclean” woman (abomination). (Leviticus 18:19, 27)

  • Being a rape victim but not crying out (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

  • Inability to prove (female) virginity (death penalty). (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

  • Sex with wife and mother-in-law (death penalty). (Leviticus 20:14)

  • Bestiality (death penalty and abomination). (death penalty: Exodus22:19, Leviticus 20:15; abomination: Leviticus 18: 23, 27)

  All of this begs the question, what doesn’t the Bible prohibit?

  • Slavery. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and in many places condones it, and even includes instructions on how to (mis)treat slaves. (See Chapter 16). And in one notable passage (Exodus 21:20-21) explicitly treats slaves as property.

  • Torture. The Bible not only doesn’t forbid torture anywhere in its nearly 800,000 words — it commands it: a number of passages order believers to not only kill, but to torture transgressors to death by burning or stoning (e.g., Leviticus 20:14, 20:27, 21:9). One might also mention that the Almighty is more than a bit of a sadist, as witnessed by, to choose but two among many examples, its horrific treatment of Job and its mental torture of Abraham

  • Rape. Not only doesn’t the Bible forbid rape, but in many instances God commands it, including child rape. Numbers 31:17-18 provides a “twofer”: in it, God not only orders child rape, but also mass murder.

  • Racism. There is not a single word in the Bible condemning it.

  • (Aggressive) Violence. Nowhere does the Bible condemn physical aggression. Rather, it commands it, over and over again.

  • Coercion. Again, the Bible nowhere condemns coercion. On the contrary, the relationship of God to its “chosen people” is coercive almost in its entirety, and what is slavery (which is implicitly condoned by the Bible) if not the ultimate form of coercion?

  • Cruelty. The Bible nowhere condemns it, and large parts of the Old Testament glory in it.

  • Mass Murder. God explicitly commands it (Hittites, Canaanites, and other victims of the “chosen people” in the “promised land”).

All of this helps to explain why so many Christians behave so abominably toward their fellow humans and other animals. They’ve learned from the example of their “moral” guide, and think that as long as they observe some of the injunctions in the Bible, especially those relating to sex, they’ll be “saved.” Beyond that, they believe they have complete carte blanche to do anything, no matter how cruel or vile. (Here, one can’t help but think of religiously observant mafia members, and of the Catholic Church which is only too happy to welcome them and take their money. One can’t also help but think of the torturers and torture implements employed by the church for centuries during the medieval and Renaissance periods.)

In response, Christian apologists would point out that there are many passages in the New Testament, especially those purporting to be the words of Jesus, prescribing kindness and tolerance. What they don’t point out is that in Matthew 5:18 Jesus specifically endorsed, as “the law,” all of the terrible things cited above, and that he never denounced the horrors of slavery or torture. That there are some good things in the Bible doesn’t excuse the many awful things in it, nor its many grave moral omissions.

It’s not hard to come up with a much better and much shorter list of “commandments.” In fact, The Satanic Temple (whose members have been aptly described as “atheism’s shock troops”) has done so with its Seven Fundamental Tenets:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

You decide, which seems a better moral guide, the Ten Commandments or the Seven Fundamental Tenets?


Here’s the latest from fundie fanatic Pat Robertson regarding the origins of Covid-19:

“Some of these younguns are doin’ all kinds of unnatural things with their sex organs. When people do that, they transfer all kinds of chemicals from ladies’ private parts and that’s where I think the virus came from. We never had this kind of thing when I was comin’ up. But no one was committing oral sex back then.” (700 Club a few days ago)

It’s good to see that The Rev hasn’t lost his touch. But as enjoyable as this one is, my favorite Robertson quote remains:

“If you wanted to get America destroyed, if you were a malevolent, evil force and you said, “How can I turn God against America? What can I do to get God mad at the people of America to cause this great land to vomit out the people?” Well, I’d pick five things. I’d begin to have incest. I’d begin to commit adultery wherever possible, all over the country, and sexuality. I’d begin to have them offering up and killing their babies. I’d get them having homosexual relations, and then I’d have them having sex with animals.” (San Francisco Examiner, September 7, 1986)

 


“The truth is, almost all end-of-the-world stories are at some level Adam-and-Eve stories. That may be why they enjoy such popularity. In the interests of total disclosure, I will admit that in fallow periods of my own sex life — and, alas, those periods have been more frequent than I’d care to admit — I’ve often found Adam-and-Eve fantasies strangely comforting. Being the only man alive significantly reduces the potential for rejection in my view. And it cuts performance anxiety to nothing.”

–Dale Brown in “The End of the World as We Know It” in The End Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse anthology edited by Robert Silverberg


Mickey Joseph

Two guys are talking, and one of them says to the other:

“My job is driving me nuts. All day long it’s nothing but piss and moan, piss and moan, piss and moan. I really hate working at the VD clinic.”

(thanks to Mick Berry for passing this one along)

(Mickey Joseph is performing tonight, July 22 at 8:30 pm at Angelica’s in Redwood City. )


J. Edgar Hoover

“I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in case of oral-genital intimacy unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.”

–attributed


 

Barbara Ehrenreich has a great new piece in The Guardian, “Let’s call the pro-lifers what they are: pro-death.”

It’s good to see someone else — Ehrenreich, one of the most astute observers of the contemporary American political and social scene — point this out.

Here’s the definition of “pro-life” that we first published in 1992 in the original edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary:

PRO-LIFE, adj. Pro-death (of political opponents, abortion providers, and women, through back-alley abortions); 2) Vitally concerned with the well-being of “babies” right up to the moment of their birth — at which time they become “welfare cases” undeserving of such luxuries as housing, health care, adequate nutrition, and a decent education. This has led some unsympathetic observers to conclude that the interest of “pro-lifers” in the welfare of “babies” is purely hypocritical, and that they are, in fact, motivated by misogyny and anti-sexual “moral” hysteria — that their true interest is in causing as much misery as possible to sexually active women by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

This, however, is not the case. If “pro-lifers” truly lacked concern about the welfare of the unwanted babies born as the result of “pro-life” policies, they wouldn’t be so willing — in fact, so eager — to have taxpayers shoulder the crushing costs of building the prisons necessary to house those “babies” later in their lives.

— from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised and expanded), with the illustration by our old friend and co-conspirator Jim Swanson

(Please use the above definition and/or the graphic by J.R. Swanson, from The American Heretic’s Dictionary, wherever, whenever, and however you’d want; all we’d ask is proper credit.)

 

 


A week or so ago I wrote to two friends (let’s call them Bob and Kathy, who have been married for 40 years) out in the Tucson Mountains foothills about hosting a star party, where I’d bring my 10″ ‘scope and others would bring their mostly smaller telescopes and whatever they’d want to drink.

They both said they’d be up for it.

Shortly after that, after throwing out my back and before sending out a general announcement, I wrote to them two nights ago around 2:00 am asking if it’d work to put off the star party until the 16th because I was in pain.

The next morning I checked my e-mail and found a message from Bob:

“Sure, no problem, the 16th works fine.”

Then I found an e-mail dated an hour later from Kathy:

“The 16th is our anniversary. We’ve already made plans to go out of town for the weekend.”

Need I say more about male/female differences?


Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are here in Arizona, up in Wickenburg at The Meadows, a very expensive ($58,000 for 45 days) 12-step treatment program.

This is ridiculous on more than one count, most importantly that Spacey and Weinstein are not afflicted with “sex addiction.” Rather, they’ afflicted with power-over-others “addiction,” and the abusive behavior that results from it. Give people power over others, and it’s a safe bet that a great many of them will abuse it.

Second, “sex addiction” is not a recognized disorder in the standard handbook on mental disorders, the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (5th ed.). It’s a pop culture term dating from the 1980s, whose roots seem to lie in the anti-sexual attitudes of conservative Christians and in the authoritarian, prudish feminism of figures such as Andrea Dworkin. It’s more of the “same old same old” pathologizing of sex that’s been such a dreary part of American life for centuries.

Third, the type of “treatment” Spacey and Weinstein are receiving for this trumped up malady is 12-step treatment, which is ineffective across the board. (See “Alcoholics Anonymous is Not Effective” for info on the granddaddy of and model for all subsequent 12-step programs; see also the authoritative Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches, by Reid Hester and William Miller.)

So, Spacey and Weinstein are receiving (insofar as it’s 12-step based) ineffective treatment for an imaginary addiction, while their real problem — their willingness to use their positions of power to exploit and abuse others — goes unaddressed.

In the end, it seems that all they’ve done is find a convenient way to remove themselves from the spotlight, while giving the appearance of doing something about their awful behavior. They’ll emerge from rehab in January, their PR flacks will proclaim them rehabilitated — and they’ll quite probably go back to business as usual, insofar as they can get away with it.

That’s a shame for both Spacey, Weinstein, and their victims, and for the rest of us, because sexual abuse by the powerful has wider than individual implications. It’s a symptom of the sickness at the heart of our current authoritarian, hierarchical political and economic organization that gives some vast power over others. This whole affair could have spurred much needed discussion about that sickness. But it hasn’t, and likely won’t, especially as it’s being addressed as a matter of individual failure rather than pervasive sociopolitical failure.


“Indiana appeals court rules sex offenders can attend church with children present. Guess there won’t be a priest shortage after all.”

–from the most entertaining site on the Interweb (a system of tubes), fark.com


Molly Ivins

I learned two things growing up in Texas. 1: God loves you, and you’re going to burn in hell forever.  2: Sex is the dirtiest and most dangerous thing you can possibly do, so save it for someone you love.”

—Molly Ivins, quoted by Marie Alena Castle in chapter 2, “The Theology of Sex,” in Culture Wars: The threat to your family and your freedom (revised & expanded) (scheduled for November 2017 release)


There’s a large sex shop a few blocks away from me on the nearest main drag, which features a garish electronic billboard with ever-changing ads and messages. The board’s contents are usually on the brain dead side, but every once in a while the management comes up with an ad that momentarily changes the board from an eyesore to a source of amusement.

They had such an ad last night:

“DRILLDO: It Gets The Job Done”

Fortunately, it was a text-only ad.


(Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow. Macmillan, 2017, 379 pp., $26.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

In Walkaway, Cory Doctorow takes on one of the most vexing matters of our time: Automation (more broadly, technological advances) is, at an accelerating rate, making human labor ever less necessary.

But what will it lead to?

A post-scarcity, egalitarian, “to each according to their wants” economy of abundance in which working is a matter of choice? Or to a version of the present artificial-scarcity economy in which there are an army of the poor and oppressed, and a few super-rich individuals who will resort to anything to retain their positions of power and privilege?

In Walkaway, the answer is both. In Doctorow’s medium-near future, there’s both a drastically more repressive version of current society — to alter the famous quotation from Lincoln Steffens, “I have seen the future, and it’s worse” — and a (small “l”) libertarian and egalitarian alternative built by those who “walk away” from the dominant “default” society, a “post-scarcity” alternative made possible by sweeping technological/productivity advances.

Therein lies the main virtue of Walkaway: Doctorow’s convincing, detailed, and attractive portrayal of that post-scarcity society and its workings.

To get a bit politically wonkish, what Doctorow describes, though he never uses the term, is an anarcho-communist society (in contrast to the other flavors of anarchism: individualist, mutualist, and syndicalist).

Other virtues include Doctorow’s insightful treatment of technological advances, notably in the liberatory and repressive possibilities they entail, and in the book’s humor, which mostly appears in its first 150 pages.

One of the main points Doctorow makes in support of a post-scarcity, egalitarian societal set-up is that meritocracy, in both authoritarian capitalist society and in libertarian alternatives, is a very bad idea, as the following dialogue between two of Doctorow’s characters, Gretyl and Iceweasel, illustrates:

“Your people are all fighting self-serving bullshit, the root of all evil. There’s no bullshit more self-serving than the idea that you’re a precious snowflake, irreplaceable and deserving . . .”

“I’ve heard all this. My dad used it to explain paying his workers as little as he could get away with, while taking as much pay as he could get away with. . . .”

“You’re assuming that because [the rich] talk about meritocracy, and because they’re full of shit, merit must be full of shit. It’s like astrology and astronomy: astrology talks about orbital mechanics and so does astronomy. But astronomers talk about orbital mechanics because they’ve systematically observed the sky, built falsifiable hypotheses from observations, and proceeded from there. Astrologers talk about orbital mechanics because it sounds sciencey and helps them kid the suckers.”

“You’re calling my dad an astrologer then?”

“That would be an insult to astrologers.”

Two other notable aspects of Walkaway are the full-spectrum sexual diversity of the characters, and that Doctorow includes two explicit, well written sex scenes. (This is in stark contrast to the usual, annoying avoidance of such scenes in the vast majority of science fiction novels, where disgustingly graphic depiction of violence is perfectly acceptable, but — horrors! — not graphic depiction of sex; the only other sci-fi authors I can think of who include explicit, fitting sex scenes in their work are Richard K. Morgan and Walter Mosley.)

As for the plot, it would give away too much to say more than that it revolves around the brutal repression of the walkaways, and their use of nonviolent resistance in response, after they develop a technology that the ultra-rich of “default” society find threatening.

The description of this conflict takes up more than two-thirds of the book, which is likely too much of it. In too many places, the latter portions of Walkaway drag. After reading the first 225 or so pages, I found myself wondering when it would ever end; I kept reading only because I wanted to see how Doctorow would resolve the conflict between the walkaways and “default.”

Anther problem with the book is that it seems disjointed at times. This is in part due to Doctorow’s using five p.o.v. characters. This isn’t necessarily a problem (see George Turner’s effective use of multiple [five] p.o.v.s in Drowning Towers), but it is here. Doctorow switches from one to another purely to advance the story, with the amount of time devoted to the different p.o.v.s varying considerably; and, as Walkaway progresses, it all but abandons the p.o.v. of what I originally thought was the primary p.o.v. character.

It doesn’t help that there’s little if any overlap — no differing views of the same things, a la Rashomon — in the events described from the different p.o.v.s, which aggravates the disjointedness problem.

Still, Walkaway‘s virtues — especially it’s detailed, attractive portrayal of a libertarian post-scarcity society — outweigh its faults.

Walkaway is quite probably the best fictional description of a post-scarcity society ever written.

Recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, and on an unrelated sci-fi novel, in his copious free time.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


MASTURBATION, n. An extremely disgusting act performed, on a regular basis, by everyone else.

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


I was talking with a friend recently, and she told me a story about an incident that happened a few years ago when she was still living in the godforsaken part of the country where they can’t pronounce the letter “r.”

Anyway, a middle-aged male friend of hers bought a brand new, shiny, expensive red sports car and invited her and several of his other friends over for a party where he would unveil his new toy.

Well, she got there, looked at it with, one presumes, a raised eyebrow, and then, with an audience of half-a-dozen other friends of the owner, said, “Jeez, Jim. Why don’t you just paint a couple of blue veins along the sides?”

He never forgave her.