Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Albert Einstein and the Theory of (Sexual) Relativity

With a title like that, how could you not click to see what it's about? Ha, ha. Made ya look! Of course, now, you'll have to plough (not plow, Americans!) through thousands of words to find out what this idiot is blathering about.

I am very much a proponent of backing up what you say with facts. Independent scientists doing independent studies should be able to independently reproduce the results. Of course, when we're dealing with a topic based more on opinion like politics, society, or relationships, being able to state your case with something as unequivocal as two plus two equals four may not always be possible. Nevertheless, I want to see numbers confirmed by a university sanctioned analytic methodology of double blind testing with a statistically significant cross-section of the population.

"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
-misattributed to Albert Einstein

At first glance, this saying would seem to contradict the idea of backing up what you say with facts. However, Robert J. Anderton offers an explanation in his paper "Einstein’s redefinition of theory" whereby Einstein held onto his theories even if they weren't "testable." Of course, not being testable flies in the face of all that is scientific and would be, coming from the mouth of a less notable, justifiably ridiculed. How does anybody make sense of this? (Einstein's theories are still hotly debated today. Was he right or crazy?)

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) was an English polymath. - No need, I had to look it up myself. - A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. It seems that Babbage was a mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer. Nowadays, any one of those areas would keep any career going for a long time. Excuse me while I wipe my brow and say, "Whew."

Back in 1822, Babbage proposed the "Difference Engine", an automatic mechanical calculator. For a long time, it was said that engineering methods during the Victorian era were not sufficiently developed to enable the building of this machine. Modern opinion says it was a question of funding but whatever the case, for the 200th anniversary of Babbage's birth, a project at the Science Museum in London, England saw the construction of a working model of the Difference Engine proving that Babbage's original ideas were sound. The theory was correct but the facts at the time, lack of proper engineering, lack of funding for development, etc. did not support the theory. History has vindicated Babbage.

I promised in the title of this article to tie Einstein and sex together. - By the way, the expression "sexual relativity"? My copyright pending. - Remember what I warned you about: you'll have to plough through thousands of words to find out what this idiot is blathering about.

Robert Rimmer (1917-2001) was an American author who, in his writing, criticised monogamy and promoted polyamory. In his 1967 novel The Harrad Experiment (also a 1973 film), he presented a fictional school where male and female students share dormitory rooms and follow a curriculum where the required reading expounds on ideas and philosophies outside norms of regular society. Sexual activities are not just condoned, they are encouraged. The sixties were the era of free love and Mr. Rimmer's personal views fit in with this period, however he presented his ideas with compelling arguments. While anyone would say such arrangements would not work in regular society, then or even today, Mr. Rimmer convincingly argued that concepts like polyamory and compersion did make such arrangements not only workable but preferable. Monogamy was not the way to go.

polyamory = multiple intimate relationships at the same time

compersion = joy at another person's happiness including your lover's happiness with another person

I read The Harrad Experiment in 1969. I was 17 years old. While I had never personally experienced what was outlined in the book, I did feel the author 's ideas made sense. Nevertheless, I realised then, and I have confirmed it my entire life that "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

The Free Dictionary: you cannot make a good quality product using bad quality materials

We live in a puritanical society. Yes, a lot has changed in the past 100 years: women got the vote, feminism, equal rights, pay equity, but a lot remains the same. We like to think we have improved but once in a while our past rears its ugly head which makes one wonder if the improvements we are bragging about are more cosmetic than real.

In Ireland, pictures of a couple engaging in sexual activity at a rock concert go viral on the Internet. The girl is slut shamed from here to tomorrow while the guy is either never mentioned or is treated like a hero. (my blog: #Slanegirl: sex, (double) standards, and sluts)

Miley Cyrus twerks on national TV and this is interpreted as a sign of our impending collective doom. While this dance has turned into a fitness craze, others not in the know link these gyrations to various ills in our society. Never mind the men, women are slut shaming other women for doing this dance. (my blog: Miley Cyrus, Twerking, and Slut Shaming)

The Christian fundamentalist far right promotes abstinence only sex education, an anti-abortion agenda, and no access to birth control whatsoever. Hey, you're abstaining, right? Being gay is a disease and must be cured; sex outside of marriage is a no no; and for heaven's sake don't you dare touch yourself! (my blog: Planned Parenthood: addicting children to sex!!!)

Sandra Fluke testifies before House Democratic Members to argue in favour of requiring private insurance companies to cover the cost of the pill. She cites the problems of low income families and the health problems associated with hormonal imbalances. The talk radio host Rush Limbaugh calls Fluke a slut on air saying she wants the government to pay for her to have sex. (my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

Sexual Relativity
What do you want out of life? What do you want out of a relationship? Can any of us be what we want? Can any of us get what we want? Or are we collectively shackled by the society we live in, by our traditions, by our up-bringing, by our religion and its moral code, and by the laws enacted by the collective we, a collective we also under the influence of tradition and religion?

A man and woman get married. They will be monogamous for the rest of their lives. They have a home with a white picket fence in the suburbs. They have 2.5 children. Both of them will only ever be sexually excited by one another; anything else sexual no longer exists in the world. Sex will consist of intercourse in the missionary position. Oh yes, this should only be done in bed, under the covers with the lights out.

Ridiculous?

All or some or parts of this message has been inculcated in us. What about Ward Cleaver and June Cleaver as the archetypal couple from the television series Leave It To Beaver? What subliminal messages have we all had pounded into our heads? We all may think we have free wills but just what has influenced our thinking, our tastes, and our behaviour over the years without us actually realising it?

What is the one thing which brings a marriage to a dead halt? Cheating. But why is sex the ultimate betrayal? Because... well, just because. How many marriages have ended because of cheating? How many books have been written, articles published in magazines, and advice tips created by so-called experts to thwart the wayward spouse? How many columns have been written about keeping your love alive or keeping that spark in your relationship?

There has been a spate of studies recently published revealing that monogamy is not as desirable as tradition has taught us. There are studies showing women to be much more sexual than tradition has taught us. Some say that sex is just sex, a physical need much like eating. What's going on? Is the status quo as represented by Ward and June Cleaver some sort of myth? Does the prince not rescue the princess and they go off to his castle to live happily ever after?

Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

If women are seeking attention (and hot sex), then having more than one man paying attention to them may be just the answer they have been seeking.

Carrie, a 39-year-old polyamorous woman, believes that polyamory is the solution to getting the attention that she craves. She has been married to Craig for over nine years and also has had a boyfriend for the last year.

Carrie chose a polyamorous lifestyle because she didn't believe in cheating. She loves her husband and yet she doesn't want to give up sexual exploration and that 'new relationship energy' she once had with him. (Polyamory: The 50 Shades Solution by Dr. Petra Zebroff; Huffington, Sep 28/2012)

Wait. What? She doesn't believe in cheating. She chooses a polyamorous lifestyle... because she doesn't believe in cheating. Hold on a second, I'm having some difficulty in wrapping my head around that one. She's having intimate relations with men other than her husband but she's not cheating. So, back up. Cheating is supposed to be defined as being intimate with someone other than your spouse but this woman is doing precisely that but she's not cheating. Have I fallen down the rabbit hole? What the heck is cheating?

Anything Goes
Cole Porter summed it up quite nicely with this song title. Just what is it exactly that is against the rules? Just what is it exactly that you can't do? That depends completely on the company you keep. If those around you don't disapprove, the sky's the limit. If your partner, married or not, agrees with you, an open marriage is permissible. If your partner agrees to some specific sexual activity, you can do it. If your partner agrees to vacation in Puerto Vallarta this year, you won't have to go alone. Of course, if your partner disagrees, you will have to work out a compromise, but the point is that anything goes. But if, and only if, we can reject everything that may have been deliberately or inadvertently pounded into our heads. Killing is wrong. There is no doubt about that. Stealing is wrong. There is no doubt about that. But there are many things in our lives which we collectively may condemn with no good reason to condemn it.

Where's the problem? It's that trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. We start with some traditional fairy tale of Ward and June Cleaver and expect to end up with something modern and real. Heck, do Ward and June really talk? Are they truly happy? Or are Ward and June like so many other modern couples? Are they locked in a loveless or sexless marriage with no hope of redemption because tradition dictates that nobody, absolutely nobody is allowed to divorce? Are they locked in an untenable situation because they do not know how to change?

All of the so-called love, marriage, and sex counsellors tell us we all must be open and honest. Just how open and honest can any of us be in a world of sex shaming? And if you're a woman, you have to deal with the double standard and slut shaming.

In my posting "Whether I'm crazy or not depends on the company I keep", I talk about how any of us can be judged as crazy depending on whom we are with. Change your surroundings and you suddenly become normal. If you drink but are surrounded by the Women's Temperance Movement, you're an alcoholic. If you're gay amongst the Christian fundamentalist far right, you are sick and need to be cured. If you like to take a toke once in a while, well good luck to you. I remember the story of a guy who was caught with two joints in 1979 and sent to jail for twenty years. Sex? What does the Conservative far right push as their approach to anything sexual? Only between a married man and woman, abstinence only sex education, no birth control, anti-abortion, etc. As I wrote during the 2012 election, "Ladies, vote GOP and kiss your vagina good-bye." Don't forget how Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut.

What's normal? How do you measure what's good or bad?

Back in the early 90's, I'm watching one of the talk shows, not quite as elevated as Oprah but not as low as Jerry Springer. A couple is being interviewed but we're given to understand they have a secret. Commercial break. We return to see... two women. I look closer. Woman number two is the husband; he's dressed up in drag. The wife explains that her husband has always had a fetish for women's clothes and once a month he dresses up and the two of them go out together as two women. She goes on to say that her husband is a wonderful man, a great husband, a good lover and an excellent father; he just seems to have this one special quirk and it is the only oddity out of an otherwise exemplary human being.

What's normal? How do you measure what's good or bad?

Pamela Madsen is your normal suburban housewife, three kids, married to her high school sweetheart for thirty years. In her book "Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Still Got Home In Time To Cook Dinner", she describes how she is dissatisfied with her life and with sex. Unwilling to be like everybody else and have an affair, she goes out to seek help from sex experts. How far did she go? At one point, she has an erotic massage and the "therapist" gives her a happy ending. The outcome? She has a sexual awakening, a life awakening, and her marriage is stronger than ever. She has recreated herself with a new career to help women everywhere get in touch with their inner sexual goddess.

Ms. Quote, the author of the blog A Good Dirty Woman's Mind and creator of such notable Twitter initiatives as #AdultSexEdMonth, describes how both she and her beau, Parrot, (anonymously) write and publish erotica. Yes, they write about sex in all its lustful glory. Who is this couple? In her posting "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Sex", Ms. Quote writes,

We look like a delightfully pleasant and polite middle-aged couple … the kind you might have an interesting and intelligent conversation about politics, music or literature at a brunch or cocktail party. We don’t give off that “hot” vibe. I could easily be mistaken for the suburban housewife type that shops at Macy’s and prefers ballerina flats to fuck-me-pumps. He’s the guy who wears New England sensibility well … Oxford shirts, khakis and loafers.

And yet, she tells of a most exciting and intimate relationship between herself and her lover, a most extraordinary of relationships. Erotica? How to keep your love alive; how to keep that spark in your relationship: write "lust letters" to each other. (FYI: Ms. Quote is a divorced mother with children. An extraordinary ordinary person.)

Kendra Holliday describes herself as a 40-year-old bisexual mother and editor of the web site The Beautiful Kind, a sex-positive online community dedicated to sharing and exploring sexuality and relationships. (Ms. Holiday and Pamela Madsen share this bubbly personality, a friendly enthusiasm which is quite contagious.) Ms. Holliday is living an extraordinary life, an openness and honesty about sex that is the antithesis of the Christian fundamentalist far right of our puritanical society. In her blog "A Sex-Positive Gang Bang", Ms. Holliday writes of living out the fantasy of having sex with several men at the same time describing the logistics of arranging such a thing by taking into account health issues and safe sex plus finding safe, caring people as participants. There is absolutely nothing dirty or unsavory about this. It is a most extraordinary experience. (read Kendra Holliday's book review of Shameless by Pamela Madsen and find out how two sexually liberated women think.)

E = mc2
I've been toying with some funny way of re-interpreting Einstein's famous formula. I'm sure you can come up with your own ideas.

Eroticism = mutual compatibility2

Eroticism = more compersion2

Final Word
We live in a world very much defined by our traditions. We carry forward from the past many ideas that we don't just question, but are doing our darndest to get rid of: patriarchy, the double standard, slut shaming, etc. We may realise there are different ways of doing things but we are not always able to bring these ideas to fruition because we are trying build something new with old materials. Can we ever cast off the shackles of our past?

I am not saying here that the ideal is some sort of free-wheeling non-stop orgy with every person we meet. But I am saying there has to be more to life and our relationships that this Ward and June Cleaver fantasy life in suburbia with a white picket fence. And no matter how much any so-called expert says we all have to be open and honest, aren't we all scared about how others may react? Do we run the risk of being criticised? Humiliated? Ostracised? Oh heck, arrested and thrown in jail? You may say that the experts are talking about being open and honest in the context of a couple but I will propose the same fears of criticism in public carry over into bedroom whether we realise it or admit it. How else to explain the divorce rate, this sense of dissatisfaction that crops up in surveys? People want more. People want better. But how do we make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? It's relative. Your success is going to be based on what you start with. And maybe, just maybe, the only way to succeed is to clear the table, throw everything out, and start over again from scratch. A sow's ear is a sow's ear.


References

Cole Porter: Anything Goes: Video, lyrics, references
In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.


Based on my research, it would seem that the saying "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts." was not definitively said by Einstein. It doesn't not appear in his writings but somebody, at some point in time, attributed the saying to him and now it's all over the Internet.

Wikiquote: Albert Einstein
"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
The earliest published attribution of this quote to Einstein found on google books is the 1991 book The Art of Computer Systems Performance Analysis by Raj Jain (p. 507), but no source to Einstein's original writings is given and the quote itself is older; for example New Guard: Volume 5, Issue 3 from 1961 says on p. 312 "Someone once said that if the facts do not fit the theory, then the facts must be changed", while Product engineering: Volume 29, Issues 9-12 from 1958 gives the slight variant on p. 9 "There is an age-old adage, 'If the facts don't fit the theory, change the theory.' But too often it's easier to keep the theory and change the facts." These quotes are themselves probably variants of an even earlier saying which used the phrasing "so much the worse for the facts", many examples of which can be seen in this search; for example, the 1851 American Whig Review, Volumes 13-14 says on p. 488 "However, Mr. Newhall may possibly have been of that causist's opinion, who, when told that the facts of the matter did not bear out his hypothesis, said 'So much the worse for the facts.'" The German idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte circa 1800 did say "If theory conflicts with the facts, so much the worse for the facts." The Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukacs in his "Tactics and Ethics" (1923) echoed the same quotation.

Wikiquote: Talk:Albert Einstein
"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
* This seems one of the more highly dubious statements attributed to Einstein, but it has become widely attributed to him on the internet without any definite source; it seems that this might be a case of an unknown originator seeking to practice what is preached.
* Searching for "facts don't fit" and "change the facts" on google books turns up this 1958 book which apparently says on p. 9: 'There is an age-old adage, "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the theory." But too often it's easier to keep the theory and change the facts.' And this search shows that before that there was a popular variant, used for example by Charles Darwin's brother Erasmus, which goes something like "if the facts won't fit, then so much worse for the facts".

Wikipedia: Robert Rimmer
Robert Henry Rimmer (March 14, 1917 – Quincy, Massachusetts, August 1, 2001) was the author of several books, most notably The Harrad Experiment, which was made into a film in 1973.

The recurring theme in all or almost all of Rimmer's writing was a criticism of the assumption of monogamy as a societal norm. All the protagonists in his novels discover that they are happier in arrangements which would nowadays be called polyamorous or polyfidelitous. They explore various ways of organizing life, through laws or other means, to facilitate such relationships.

IMDb: The Harrad Experiment (1973)
At Harrad College, where controversial coed living situations are established, the students are forced to confront their sexuality in ways that society previously shunned. Part of the experiment is to pair incompatible members of the opposite sex as roommates in order to make them shun the traditional concept of monogamy. The film's primary two "couples" are the sex-crazed Stanley and ultra-timid Sheila, and insecure Harry and liberated Beth. In charge of the "experiment" are Prof. Philip Tenhausen and his wife, Margaret, who seem to enjoy the tension they instigate, as well as the graphic sexual episodes that unfold.

Amazon: Customer Reviews of the book The Harrad Experiment

HuffPost Live - July 30/2013
Why I'm Still Sleeping With My Ex-Husband (And Dating Other People Too)
Jenn Ford joins Caitlyn to talk about why she continues to sleep with her ex-husband while simultaneously dating other people.
[FYI: This is none of my business. She says that she clearly states right up front what her position is and the other man can either accept it and date her or not accept it and leave. Guess what? Sounds like polyamory to me.]

Huffington - Sep 28/2012
Polyamory: The 50 Shades Solution by Dr. Petra Zebroff
There may be a less obvious reason so many women are swooning over 50 Shades of Grey. A speaker at last week's adult toy show in Las Vegas described how women may not be so interested in the sex in 50 Shades of Grey, but instead in the titillating example of a man (Christian) giving a woman (Ana) such an unusual amount of attention.

my blog: Why Do We Repress Our Sexuality? - Aug 14/2013
Do you know what's going? I don't think I know what's going on. But I do "interpret" what I see around me. And what do I interpret? Sex is bad. Sex is scary. Sex is confusing. Sex is dangerous. Say "Mmmm" to a piece of chocolate but don't you ever express pleasure over anything sexual. You're going to hell. You could go to jail. Or, at least, be criticised, ostracised, fired, shot, killed, burned at the stake, then shot again for good measure. As Sheila Kelley said, "You're a naughty girl and you should be ashamed of yourself."

my blog: Sex: What are the neighbours doing? - Aug 5/2013
So, this leads me up to a couple of poolside lounge chairs shooting the breeze with Gary who is 59 years old. He's been divorced for 15 years. He's been with Karen for about 10 years and she moved in about 5 years ago. They are not married. I admit when I see these two, there is a bit of an undercurrent. It's controlled but I can't help feeling something is tense between them.

We chat about the usual innocuous stuff but I've got all the above stuff buzzing around in my head, so out of the blue, I turn to Gary and ask, "When was the last time you had sex?"

"We haven't had sex in three years."

Thank you for your patience. That was 3,000 words for the article and 4,100 with the References section. Geesh, couldn't that guy say it in under a thousand? Ya'd think he was being paid by the word!

2013-09-11

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1 comment:

Lanthie Ransom said...

What a brilliant article. And I couldn't agree with you more.