Sunday 21 July 2013

The Sex, The Whole Sex, and Nothing But The Sex

The Earth is flat. No, it's not. The sun circles the Earth. No, it doesn't. The moon is made out of green cheese. Ah, come on. Everybody knows it's not made out of green cheese; it's made out of cream cheese. (So says Wikipedia)

The English physician, Richard Mead (1673-1754), a then well-respected scholar of medicine, was apparently one of the first experts to recommend tobacco smoke enemas to resuscitate victims of drowning. ... The tobacco enema became commonplace in the medical profession in the late 1700's and the early 1800's and a report of 1835 even claimed it successfully treated cholera.
my blog: The Tobacco Smoke Enema: Blowing smoke up my... what? Really?

[19th century: Female hysteria:] Once upon a time the medical profession determined that a wide variety of symptoms such as faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and "a tendency to cause trouble" were representative of this supposed illness. Defining exactly what this malady was remained elusive but the cure said it all. The proscribed remedy was for a woman to undergo "pelvic massage", the manual stimulation of the genitals, by a doctor until the patient had a hysterical paroxysm (orgasm).
my blog: Movie Review: Hysteria (plus my ramblings about the female paroxysm, er, orgasm)

The bunch of us will sit around, nursing a nice cold one, and sharing a few chuckles over what our forefathers held for the truth. Quite funny, eh?

But answer me this. What are future generations going to be laughing about? Two hundred years from now when a group sits around with a beer shooting the breeze, what beliefs of today are they going to howling about?

Today, at this very moment, we have pundits, politicians, and people of faith all telling us what supposedly is the truth. How do we know if they're right? How do we know they aren't trying to give us a tobacco smoke enema?

The Free Dictionary: superstition
A belief, practice, or rite irrationally maintained by ignorance of the laws of nature or by faith in magic or chance.

Okay, the two of us are sitting in Starbucks mulling over the state of humanity while sipping our Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, extra hot, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with light whip and extra syrup. We can unequivocally prove that two plus two equals four by picking up some sugar packets and laying them out on the table in front of us and demonstrating our proof. There's no room for doubt. We are both in agreement that our original premise of two plus two is in fact equal to four.

How do we know the Earth is not flat? Well, I guess we've seen enough people sail off on a three hour cruise (Am I the only one who remembers Gilligan's Island?), disappear over the horizon, then come back safe and sound. (Oddly enough, there still is the Flat Earth Society that seeks to further the idea that the Earth is flat instead of an oblate spheroid. I have no idea if this is tongue-in-cheek or if they're serious.)

How do we know the sun doesn't circle the Earth? Pictures in science textbooks in school? YouTube videos from NASA? The special effects in the Michael Bay film Armageddon? In any case, it seems pretty much common knowledge and as a consequence, we all pretty much agree that this is true. Well... *I point to the back of the room* except for that guy wearing a tin foil hat.

So, coming back to that group of people two hundred years from now laughing about what we currently believe, just what issues are on the table that we may have completely gotten wrong? Before I get to talking about the dirty stuff, sex, bear with me as I go through a real world issue taken from my following of American politics in the past couple of years.

The Issue
Conservative talking point: "Abstinence only sex education is the best and most effective means of eliminating unwanted pregnancies and STDs."

The Truth
At first glance, I can't argue with the idea that if I don't stick my penis in a vagina, I am going to avoid all sorts of problems. It's so obvious, why are we even talking? There is just one teensy weensy hitch with this. I hate to bring this up considering how self-evident the Conservative talking point is, but... it doesn't work.

What? *looks startled* Get outa here! This is so friggin' obvious. Don't stick your penis in a vagina. Don't set your house on fire and you won't need a fire extinguisher. Drive safely and you won't need to wear a safety belt. Don't drive over a nail and you won't need a spare tire in the truck of your car. Geesh, how dumb can you get?

But... it doesn't work.

Studies prove that abstinence doesn't work. The number of unwanted pregnancies goes up. The number of STDs go up. But why?

People are not going to stop having sex. I don't care how much you say it. I don't care how much you condemn it. I don't care how many pledges people take or how many (purity/chastity) rings they put on their fingers, people are not going to stop having sex. Period. End of story.

But on top of it, when researchers began to look at the reasons why the numbers went up, they found that people, especially teenagers, who had little or no sex education did not appreciate the dangers of unprotected sex. They had been taught that abstinence was the only line of defense against pregnancy and STDs and when the moment of truth came; they ofttimes would stupidly say that they could "get away with it." Guess what? They couldn't. (Our level of horniness and our capacity for rational thought are inversely proportional.)

As I've pointed out over and over again, if I drove safely I won't need to wear a safety belt. Right? Right!?! I would be out of my friggin' mind to drive around without wearing a safety belt.

If I didn't set my house on fire, I wouldn't need a fire extinguisher. Right? Right!?! Don't just think of yourself; stand back at look at everybody, the entire country, the entire world as a whole. Are you going to tell people to not have a fire extinguisher? Accidents happen. We all do stupid things once in a while. Should any of us pay by watching our house burn to the ground?

"Everybody does stupid things; it shouldn't cost them everything they want in life."
-Gregory House, fictional character from the TV medical drama House

Abstinence? No one, absolutely no one is going to stop biology. When hormones kick in, no force on the planet is going to stop Mother Nature. And that's the key to this whole issue. For some reason, the moralists in the crowd, the Bible thumpers, have got it in their heads that this is a question of good and bad, of weakness and strength, of loving Jesus or somehow dishonouring him. Geesh. Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving.

"Christian Fundamentalism: The doctrine that there is an absolutely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, universe-spanning entity that is deeply and personally concerned about your sex life." -Andrew Lias

Our Sexuality is part of us. It is a natural part of every human being. Instead of fighting it (abstinence), it is better to swim with the current (sex education). No one is going to stop sex but we can control it. We can direct it. We can educate it. We can make it better than it is. But remember, no one is going to stop it.

See below in the section References for links proving everything I've said is true. As David Letterman would say, I'm not pulling this stuff out of my ass.

What's my point?
If there is one thing I have rallied against in this blog in the past couple of years, it is people making statements with nothing to back up what they say. Go ahead and say that two plus two equals four. All I ask is that you prove it. And when I say prove it, I don't mean that you tell me a story about your second cousin removed, or "I heard of a guy...", or "I read it somewhere." 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. Yes, yes, yes, you've got a terrific theory but if independent scientists doing independent studies can't independently reproduce your results, your theory is, well, just smoke up my derriere.

Facts are not decided by how many people believe them. Truth is not determined by how loudly it is shouted.
- sign at the Rally to Restore Sanity, October 30, 2010, Washington DC

Okay, now I'm going to talk about sex
If you look at something, do you know what you're looking at? Do you understand what you're looking at; how it works; what it signifies; and what are the implications in the big picture and in the long-run? Bad things happen in the world. There is no doubt of that, but...

We cannot properly address an issue if misinformation prevents us from properly assessing the issue.

If I follow the talking points of Conservatives or the far right or the religious fundamentalists or the self-proclaimed pundits who know with absolute certainty the state of the world, we are all going to hell in a handcart. We are morally bankrupt; we have one foot in the abyss; it is our zombie apocalypse.

Rev. Daniel R. Jennings
This evangelical fundamentalist takes 129 dead porn stars, adds up their ages at their time of death and divides by 129. He then pegs the average life expectancy of a porn star at 37 years in comparison to 78 years for the average American and attributes their short life to their immoral life style.

For an experiment, I go to Wikipedia and find the names of 1,178 porn stars who are very much alive. I put the 129 prematurely dead people with the alive people and work out an average based on 78 years for the average American. I discover an average of 73 years.

Rev. Jennings deliberately chooses a specific subset of porn stars who died prematurely, as many people do, then tries to link their death to their profession. This is specious argumentation. (see my blog: The Average Life Expectancy Of A Porn Star by Rev. Daniel R. Jennings)

This is the type of hyperbolic rhetoric used by many so-called pundits who are out to save our soul. They start with a specific point then backup to find ideas which support their assertion.

Out of the 129 porn stars, some died from AIDS. According to UNAIDS.Org, there are 33 million on the planet currently living with HIV (2009). The same report estimates that in 2009, 1.8 million died from AIDS. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 18,000 people die each year from AIDS.

Out of the 129 porn stars, some committed suicide. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there were 34,598 suicides in the United States in 2007.

Shelley Lubben
This former porn star is out to save us from the sins of adult entertainment. She uses the same technique as the good reverend above in selecting specific numbers to come up with statistics designed to scare us into believing the situation is dire. "36 porn stars died that we know of from HIV, suicide, homicide and drugs between 2007 and 2010." According to the CDC, 82 people are killed each year by lightning. For the three years Ms. Lubben mentions, 246 were zapped to death. By my calculation, my chances of living are 583% better by starring in a porn film than by playing a round of golf. (see my blog: Roxy aka Shelley Lubben vs. the (porn) world)

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Correlation does not imply causation.

What do you see? What do I see?
In a previous posting, "Erotica vs. Pornography: What's the difference?", I tried to define both words. I discovered a variety of interpretations, emphasis on the word interpretation, but there seemed to be a tendency to think of erotica as being good as in artistic and pornography as being bad as in sensationalistic. Joseph W. Slade in the article "The Definition of Pornography", part of a PBS documentary called "American Porn", summed up the personal nature of our attitude towards sexually explicit materials with a quote from Al Goldstein, "Eroticism is what turns me on. Pornography is what turns you on."

The feminist Gloria Steinem does not mince her words. (Wikipedia) She hates pornography and equates it with everything that is bad about sex. However, she condones erotica. In my attempt to find the distinction between the two words erotica and pornography, I noted that as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sex as a bad thing is also in the eye of the beholder. I discovered that 50 Shades of Grey, a trilogy of novels spanning all sorts of sexual activities which are anything but pedestrian, has been lauded as bringing the spark back into many a marital bedroom. Is it erotica or pornography? Is it good or bad? It's labelled as an erotic romance but how many people try to give it a negative connotation by calling it Mommy Porn?

What do you see and what do I see? Is there some truth to what Al Goldstein said? "Eroticism is what turns me on. Pornography is what turns you on." Is one person's turn-on the next person's signal that society is facing the apocalypse? Even something as innocuous as Harry Potter has come under fire. Christian groups have tried to censor the books of J. K. Rowlings (Christian Censorship of Harry Potter) taking exception to the depictions of witchcraft and morality. We're all going to hell.

Look at the attached erotic image I found on Pinterest. What do you see? Two lovers who deeply care for each other are physically expressing their love. A man has gotten a woman inebriated to the point she can't fend off his advances and his persistence is going to lead to copulation despite her protestations. Two newlyweds are still very much in the throes of passion and can't keep their hands off one another. A more experienced woman has used her charms to seduce a young man and has lured him into her clutches. What do you see? If I provide a backstory to the image I can completely change the tone of the picture. If I provide no backstory, it is up to you to imagine what's going on and how you interpret the image says more about you and your thoughts on sex than the actual image itself.

I come back to the words erotica and pornography. I come back to Gloria Steinem's no holds barred attack on porn. What do you see?

Gail Dines
From Wikipedia: Gail Dines is an English–American feminist anti-pornography activist, author, professor, and lecturer. An academic, she has also been described as "The world's leading anti-pornography campaigner".

The same article goes on to describe Gail Dines' view of the world.

Dines' view is that pornography distorts the user's view of sexuality and makes more difficult the establishment of real-life intimate relationships with women. Dines maintains that modern pornography is cruel and violent, unlike earlier forms of pornography with which the general public may be familiar, and has the effect of tending to generally degrade the position of women in society. She also advances the position that the prevalence of hardcore pornography is a contributing factor in increasing "demand" for sex trafficking.

Is this true? Dines puts forward points but is what she saying true? Does the theory accurately reflect reality? Publishers Weekly in reviewing Dines' book "Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality"

As pornography has become both more extreme and more commercial, antiporn activist Dines argues, it has dehumanized our sexual relationships. The radical objectification and often brutal denigration of women in porn, she holds, “leaks” into other aspects of our lives. Dines's argument rests on a compelling, close reading of the imagery and narrative content of magazines, videos, and marketing materials; what is missing, however, is a similarly compelling body of research on how these images are used by viewers, aside from Dines's own anecdotal evidence.

Notice what they say: "a compelling, close reading of the imagery." Also note that they state Dines does not have the scientific research to back up what she's saying. Is the theory correct? Let's not forget that in science, a theory must be reproducible. Independent scientists doing independent tests should be able to independently arrive at the same conclusions.

I recently watched an episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit!, a documentary series running on Showtime from 2003 to 2010. In the "War On Porn", the comedic magicians give us an analytic look at society, its mores, and what supposed is actually going on. Their conclusion is that the sky is not falling and a bunch of do-gooders are distorting the truth in order to promote their own world view. There is an interview on camera with Gail Dines in which the author states her case then admits she does not have the scientific research to back up what she's saying. It is a strange moment. I want you to believe the Earth is flat but I can't prove it.

Diana E. H. Russell
From Wikipedia: Diana E. H. Russell (born 6 November 1938) is a feminist writer and activist. ... For the past 25 years she has been engaged in research on sexual violence against women and girls. She has written numerous books and articles on rape (including marital rape), femicide, incest, misogynist murders of women, and pornography.

In the above Penn & Teller Bullshit! episode, Dr. Russell says on camera, "Men can become predisposed to rape by viewing pornography. That's my theory." From the above Wikipedia article about her: Her 1994 book, Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm which includes 100 pornographic photos, was a study establishing how pornography encourages men to rape and leads to increased incidents of rape.

What do you see? What do I see?
True? False? If somebody sails off into the sunset and they disappear, have they fallen off the Earth? Am I correctly interpreting what I'm seeing?

"I do not believe that this research [The Meese Report] demonstrates that pornography causes rape. ... In general the scientific evidence clearly indicates that if one is concerned with the effects of media on rape, the problem lies in the prevalence of violence in the media, not on sex in the media."
-Murray Strauss, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director, Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire
(Quoted in The Meese Report, 1986, a comprehensive investigation into pornography ordered by President Ronald Reagan)

If convicted mass murderer Ted Bundy had said that watching Bill Cosby reruns motivated his awful crimes, he would have been dismissed as a deranged sociopath. Instead, Bundy has said his pornography addiction made him do it--which many people treated as the conclusion of a thoughtful social scientist. Why?
-Dr. Marty Klein, Why “Sexual Addiction” Is Not A Useful Diagnosis — And Why It Matters

To properly evaluate the role of porn in criminal or abusive behavior, we would have to look at the porn behavior of non-criminals and non-abusers. Groups that drive anti-porn hysteria have never done that. They don't want to know about the porn habits of law-abiding, loving, productive citizens.
People who feel victimized by porn: Let's give them sympathy, not a Congressional hearing
by Marty Klein, Ph.D. - August 8, 2005

Porn is violent and degrading to women
In my posting, "Erotica vs. Pornography: What's the difference?", I talk about the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, whose sex is not at all commonplace, and Gloria Steinem's pro-erotica and anti-pornography stance. I keep reading assessments of sexual materials qualifying them as violent or degrading to women. My question is this: Just what the heck are you people looking at?

According to [Gail] Dines, a 2010 analysis of the top 50 pornography websites and DVDs found that 90% of all content included physical or verbal abuse against women.
Debate Around Academic Porn Journal Is Exactly Why We Need It by Callie Veusman (Jezebel - June 17/2013)

90%? Really? 90%!?! I am going to have to make the assumption that if I am going to randomly look anywhere, I am going have a 90% chance of finding something bad.

I call up two of the top porn sites, (Alexa = 45) and (Alexa = 59), and from the front page of each web site which offers a random selection of the latest video submissions, I select ten videos. (Yes, I know: I'm looking at porn. It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it.) With Gail Dines saying that 90% of all content contains physical or verbal abuse against women, you would think that nine out of ten videos would make a woman or even me cringe.

What do I find?

Hot people having hot sex. Okay, it's a video clip without a back story; I have to fill in the blanks. It's the car chase from Fast and Furious taken out of the movie. But is what Gail Dines saying true? I am sure that if I dig around I could come up with some video clips which may have questionable content but I am not finding the quantity Gail Dines suggests. Now I come back to interpretation. What does Gail Dines see when she looks at a video clip and what does anybody else see?

Gail Dines and Diana Russell are promoting the idea that violence in porn is causing men to be violent against women. (My random sampling above didn't show any violence whatsoever.) Murray Strauss, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, states in The Meese Report, society is overlooking the influence of violence in the media. Marty Klein, PhD. says the same thing.

In my blog Carnography: Vegetarians need not apply, I discuss violence in our society. Norman Herr, Professor of Science Education at the California State University states using data from A. C. Neilson:

The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders.

Dr. Brandon Centerwall does a comparative study of television between the United States and other countries and concludes:

[If], hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.

Mull that one over. Gail Dines says that pornography is causing violence towards women. The Meese Report, Dr. Marty Klein, and Dr. Brandon Centerwell all say it's violence in the media.

But check this point out: As reported by the University of Southern California, a study of children raised by gay parents showed differences in their behaviour from those raised by heterosexual parents. "For example, boys raised by lesbians appear to be less aggressive and more nurturing than boys raised in heterosexual families." While the aggressiveness of males may be attributed in part to the genes of the species, is aggressiveness also a learned behaviour? A study showing that lesbian parents have less aggressive boys would seem to point out that if Junior's a tough guy, he may have gotten that way from imitating dear old Dad.

The Effects of Pornography: an international perspective
Author: Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
Published in: Porn 101: Eroticism, Pornography, and the First Amendment
Editors: James Elias, Veronica Diehl Elias, Vern L. Bullough, Gwen Brewer, Jeffrey J. Douglas & Will Jarvis
Promethius Press

The concern that countries allowing pornography and liberal anti-obscenity laws would show increased sex crime rates due to modeling or that children or adolescents in particular would be negatively vulnerable to and receptive to such models or that society would be otherwise adversely effected is not supported by evidence. It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims. Even in this area of concern no "clear and present danger" exists for the suppression of SEM. There is no evidence that pornography is intended or likely to produce "imminent lawless action" (see Brandenberg v. Ohio, 1969). It is reasonable that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently rejected the principal that speech or expression can be punished because it offends some people's sensibilities or beliefs. Compared with "hate speech" or "commercial speech" there seems even less justification for banning "sex speech."

Wait. What? "... a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes..."

Final Word
What's my point? Abstinence only sex education doesn't work. I'm being lied to. Porn stars are going to hell. This is cherry-picking numbers to support a moralistic I'm-holier-than-thou bogus claim. Pornography is causing problems in society. As porn use goes up, sex crimes come down. Is porn the problem or is porn merely reflective of us, of our society, of possibly our own problems the same way art imitates life? Do the so-called experts really know what's going on or are they selling us snake oil? Are we all being given a tobacco smoke enema?

Parallel to the training of the body a struggle against the poisoning of the soul must begin. Our whole public life today is like a hothouse for sexual ideas and simulations. Just look at the bill of fare served up in our movies, vaudeville and theaters, and you will hardly be able to deny that this is not the right kind of food, particularly for the youth...Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 10

What's going on? What's really going on? Two hundred years from now, what beliefs of today are people going to be laughing about? Think I'm being ridiculous? Don't forget about tobacco smoke enemas and female hysteria. In fact, in some circles we're still arguing about the Earth being created six thousand years ago. I think our understanding of reality is incomplete and in some cases just plain wrong. We see stuff and come up with a theory. We see correlation and assume causation. The misinterpretation of the facts or the distortion of the statistics prevents us from properly assessing the nature of a problem and developing effective and proportionate solutions.

I'm a peace, love, and understanding type of guy. I remain convinced that everybody, at the heart of it, wants to be happy. However, the road to heaven is paved with good intentions. Is there bad in the world? Yes, there is. Do we all not want to do something about it? Yes, we do. But do we understand cause and effect? Do we know what to do? Do we know the right answer? I would contend that scientific research is showing that many things we take for granted are not true. The Earth is not flat. The sun does not circle the Earth. Tobacco smoke enemas do not cure cholera. The list goes on and on.


Wikipedia: The Moon is made of green cheese
The phrase "green cheese" in this proverb simply refers to a young cheese (indeed, sometimes "cream cheese" is used), though modern people may interpret the color reference literally.

Wikipedia: Abstinence-only sex education: Effectiveness
Research finds "little evidence of efficacy and evidence of possible harm". It has been found to be ineffective in decreasing HIV risk in the developed world, and increases the rates of unplanned pregnancy.

Wikipedia: Guttmacher Institute
The Guttmacher Institute is a non-profit organization which works to advance reproductive health including abortion rights. The institute operates in the United States and globally "through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis, and public education".

The Guttmacher Institute
1.94 million unintended pregnancies and 810,000 abortions are prevented each year by publicly funded family planning services

Yahoo News - Apr 3/2013
How Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Is Driving Up STD Rates
Late last month I interviewed a woman who was 19 when she contracted the herpes simplex virus (HSV1) genitally while still identifying as a virgin. “No one ever told me you could contract an STD by [having] oral sex,” she said. “I thought I was being responsible, because I was saving myself for marriage…I come from a very religious background, and that’s what I was taught. Good girls don’t practice safe sex; they don’t have sex until marriage.”

PubMed.Gov - 2011
Abstinence-only education and teen pregnancy rates: why we need comprehensive sex education in the U.S.
Stanger-Hall KF, Hall DW.
Department of Plant Biology, The University of Georgia,
Athens, Georgia, United States of America.
The United States ranks first among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In an effort to reduce these rates, the U.S. government has funded abstinence-only sex education programs for more than a decade. However, a public controversy remains over whether this investment has been successful and whether these programs should be continued. Using the most recent national data (2005) from all U.S. states with information on sex education laws or policies (N = 48), we show that increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates. This trend remains significant after accounting for socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state. These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. In alignment with the new evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative and the Precaution Adoption Process Model advocated by the National Institutes of Health, we propose the integration of comprehensive sex and STD education into the biology curriculum in middle and high school science classes and a parallel social studies curriculum that addresses risk-aversion behaviors and planning for the future.


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