Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?

In 2016, I took part in the Godless Perverts reading at Skepticon. The performance wasn’t recorded, which opened up the possibilities for more than one performer. It also means no one outside that room knows what I said there, until now.

I lucked out on sex education. My house was the place the other kids came to learn how babies were made and whether the things that were happening to their bodies and minds were normal. Me? I didn’t have to wonder. I had the information before I could ever get curious.

Now, of course, we were Minnesotan (fourth generation here), so that means we didn’t actually talk about any of this. It came out of books. That the books were radical says more about the time they were written than anything, about attempts to codify the openness of the Sixties and to prepare new generations to live in that open world. Though who knows? They might be radical again in a year or two.

Photo by wilecany.

That our house was the house for these books also says a lot. It says some things about poverty and education, given how and where I lived, but it also speaks to religion and shame. Strict rules around pleasure and sexuality were one of the reasons my parents abandoned organized religion and promised never to foist it on their children. Apparently eloping before their scheduled wedding just so they could fuck felt ridiculous even to them.

Those books and their place on our public bookshelves were part of their efforts to spare us what they went through. I don’t know whether we were supposed to find the books on the private bookshelves, the erotica and the sex guides. As I said, Minnesotan. But they served the same purpose.

I entered adolescence with a solid sense of sexual possibility. I can’t quite tell you how I reconciled that with being pathologically shy at the time, but I did get over the shyness. Continue reading “Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?”

Who Do You Think You Are? Gods?

Frivolous Friday: Mark Reads Chuck

The following is a video recorded this year at CONvergence’s erotica reading. In it, Mark Oshiro reads a brand new Chuck Tingle story. If that doesn’t immediately have you pressing play, here’s what you need to know to appreciate the video:

  • The Rabid Puppies are a group of neoreactionaries dedicated to mucking up the Hugo Awards by nominating as a bloc because people who aren’t white men have received a substantial number of nominations in the past few years.
  • One of the stories they nominated this year was by gonzo erotica writer, Chuck Tingle.
  • Tingle has taken steps to make it unpalatable for the puppies to vote for him. He may win the Hugo because of it (though I hope my friend Naomi wins for her short story and Tingle gets a fan writer nom next year for the way he played this).
  • Tingle is currently very popular in parts of the F&SF fan community because of this.
  • Oshiro’s gig is reading cold and reacting as he reads. He was not prepared for this. No one was prepared for this.
  • Oshiro had originally been going to read a different Tingle story for this panel, but he received an email from Tingle shortly before the panel, offering him this exclusive.
  • The interruptions are a traditional part of this panel, even if they don’t really work well for this recording.
  • This entire thing was translated live into sign language. The interpreters who do CONvergence live for this sort of thing, and they are every bit as much part of the entertainment at this panel as the people reading.

So if you think you’re ready….

Continue reading “Frivolous Friday: Mark Reads Chuck”

Frivolous Friday: Mark Reads Chuck

In the Hands of the Goblin King

Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.

I may have thought about this offer a bit over the years. Yes, yes, all right: I’ve spent hours of my life on it. I know from talking to other women who first saw Labyrinth in their mid–teens that I’m not alone.

Sarah, on the other hand, didn’t think about it at all. She didn’t even listen, reciting her memorized lines instead. I couldn’t forgive her for that. It’s been nearly 30 years since I first heard those words, and I’m still angry, though no longer at her.

With the benefit of some growing up and some time spent writing fiction, I realize it isn’t really her fault. The movie was never set up to let her consider the question. Jareth’s love was never going to be more than the framing story, the necessary element to set the plot in motion, the final obstacle for Sarah to conquer. That doesn’t make me any less angry that the offer was made and thrown away.

Let me say right now that I don’t think she should have accepted the bargain—probably. Even without goblins, there’s a lot to consider in that statement. What kind of fear are we talking about? Does it have to be real, or does everyone have their roles to play? What do you want me to do, and what are you willing to do for me?

When I was Sarah’s age, I’d have given a lot for a movie that took my sexuality as seriously as it took my escapism and my fear. I’d had sex before watching Labyrinth, and I’d been grappling with desire and figuring out what I wanted in a partner for years before that. I was slightly precocious, but I wasn’t alone by any means. Where were the movies for teenaged girls like me?

It wasn’t that there was no media aimed at my adolescent sexuality. I was part of MTV’s target market, and no one really blinked an eye when I saw Prince’s Purple Rain concert shortly after turning 13, even though it was decided I needed a chaperon. Eighties pop was delightfully full of “unusual” options for sexualized performers and lyrics, presented with a variety of levels of awareness that some of the pretty candy was poisoned. Not to mention all the “romantic” male singers of the 70s who had been guest performers on my children’s shows even earlier.

There were a handful of books as well, but the ones with protagonists near my age talking frankly about sex were mostly “issue” books. “Oh! Look at the trouble that comes when this young teenaged girl feels and expresses and maybe even follows through on her desire!” No. Just no.

Movies were slightly better, to the extent girls my age were represented in them at all. If you were a character played by Molly Ringwald, you could experience a polite modicum of embarrassed lust. If you were played by Brooke Shields, you could even do something about it. We just weren’t supposed to watch it.

Then there was this movie that put David Bowie in a wig and makeup and tights. Those tights. Then it gave him pining songs to sing in his best feelings voice and orbs to twirl so he looked delightfully dexterous. And he just kept offering himself to us our through our protagonist proxy, both in abstract form and in his own person.

Then we didn’t get to think about what any of that meant and make up our own minds.

Read the rest of this essay over at Uncanny Magazine. And for a very different perspective, read Sarah Monette’s essay on Labyrinth as well.

In the Hands of the Goblin King

A "Deep Human History" of Polyandry

Many evolutionary psychologists like to talk about polygyny. Some say it’s a good thing for the individuals involved. Some say it’s a bad thing. But they tend to agree that this is just how we evolved. Polyandry, if it’s discussed at all, is generally dismissed as being insignificant.

A new study just out suggests we shouldn’t dismiss polyandry so quickly, particularly not if we want to talk about evolved behavior. Last year, Katherine Starkweather and Raymond Hames published “A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry” (pdf) in Human Nature.

Terms first. What do Starkweather and Hames mean by “polyandry”?

In general, we define polyandrous unions as a bond of one woman to more than one man in which the woman has relatively restricted sexual rights toward the men, and the men toward the women, as well as economic responsibilities toward each other and toward any children that may result from the union.

They note that this arrangement may be formal, in which the family created becomes a household, or informal, in which the sexual relationships and responsibilities are recognized but the family does not all live together. For a polygynous equivalent to informal polyandry, consider the old (at least) royal practice of a king who maintained mistresses and their children on estates away from the royal palace.

“Non-classical” has largely meant “ignored” up to this point for reasons pointed out in the Atlantic article that drew my attention to the survey. Continue reading “A "Deep Human History" of Polyandry”

A "Deep Human History" of Polyandry

Nothing Changes When You Add Sex

This post is an answer to Libby Anne and Dan’s question, “What would you tell teenagers about sex?” This is part of their Forward Thinking project. Answers are being collected in the comments on Libby Anne’s post and on Dan’s blog a week from next Monday.

While the title of this post is the short form of my answer, I should note that it’s more aspirational than descriptive currently. As a society, we (speaking from a U.S. perspective here) tend to treat sex as this thing that is completely outside normal life. The fact that most of us have sex with the rest of the world on the other side of a door means we act like sex happens in another world with rules of its own.

That’s a problem because we act as though all the things we knew on the other side of that door are useless when it comes to sex. They aren’t, of course. Sex is a number of things: (frequently) a social interaction, bodily mechanics, pleasure, risk. We already deal with all of those in the rest of our lives, and we already know plenty about how to deal with them.

Continue reading “Nothing Changes When You Add Sex”

Nothing Changes When You Add Sex

Pat Robertson? I Don't Even….

I really try not to be judgmental about other people’s consensual sex lives, but

But you didn’t come here for a geography lesson, you came here for some good, old-fashioned Craigslist pervertedness and boy do we have a doozie for you today. Normally, I’d expect this kind of post in the Casual Encounters section, but I just assume that this couple’s request was meant to be offered out to the more open-minded people of the “Activity Partners” community. Especially those who love to dress up and watch people get it on.

Middle aged bored couple (Kempsville)

Both male and female late 40′s seek adventurous couple for fun times. We seek another couple for a night of fun so we can check off another on our bucket list. We would like the man to dress up and play the part of Pat Robertson and the female to wear a tight blue dress and act like she is a sales spokesperson on Home Shopping channel. My husband I would be naked and making love in our bed all the while Pat Robertson will be constantly attempting to save our souls and the female to have ongoing dialogue trying to sell us an Ab Rocket in 3 easy payments.

I don’t actually know that I fail at being judgmental about this one either, because I simply don’t get it. I can’t even wrap my brain around this long enough to be squicked out.

Pat Robertson? I Don't Even….

Religious People Cheat

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Jesse Bering has an article up at Slate this morning on whether nonbelievers should marry believers. His argument in favor?

On the one hand, I’d no doubt be irritated by my very religious wife’s supernatural beliefs. On the other hand, the very fact that she believes strongly in some divinely imposed morality should influence her behavior behind my back. She may well be suffering a very bad case of the dreaded God delusion, but perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing for her atheist husband. After all, my faithful, imaginary wife would then be operating under the assumption that cheating on me would not only hurt her family if the affair ever came to light, but would result in eternal damnation or perhaps an unhappy plague of this-worldly misfortunes even if it didn’t. Never mind if she’s crazy. I’m a pragmatist, so what she believes to be true is all that matters.

[Evo psych argument for why this should be important elided.]

Now, now, Dawkinsian atheists, I know what you’re thinking: You certainly don’t have to believe in God to be faithful to your spouse; marriages are built on mutual trust; religious people cheat, too; and so on. Of course you’re right about these things, but we’re still in the emotionless realm of the hypothetical, remember, and all else being equal, if you’re simply trying to minimize the chances of landing an adulterous partner, you might as well stack the deck in your favor by marrying the woman who “knows” that God would get really mad at her if she misappropriated her genitalia. This isn’t just my being a contrarian, either. There really is evidence from controlled experiments showing that religious thinking and church attendance leads to moral behavior.

For the record, he does recognize this as a bit of cold calculus, done for the purposes of writing the article. That’s not my problem with it. My problem is that the research he cites (the “controlled experiments” link) doesn’t say what he seems to think it says about cheating.

Continue reading “Religious People Cheat”

Religious People Cheat

Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

This week, Scicurious and I are tandem blogging her Friday Weird Science paper. This one just had a bit too much weird for one person.

Child pointing at the camera and laughing.
Heh. Heh. Heh.

A summer school theater teacher of mine from way back claimed to long for a unique career. He wanted to be a stand-up comedian for preschoolers. There were just one or two little problems. The kids don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on entertainment, and the parents weren’t going to pony up for a grown man standing in front of a bunch of kids saying, “Pee-pee. Caca,” no matter how much the kids were, well, peeing themselves with laughter.

ResearchBlogging.org icon
My teacher understood humor at its most basic, and he would laugh his ass off if he were to read a recent evolutionary psychology paper on the topic, “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” If he didn’t have one of those common names that makes a person impossible to catch up with, I’d send it to him. It’s the sort of evo psych paper that ignores everything we know about inheritance, almost everything we know about the topic being studied, and much of what we know about sex to say, “Look! Correlation! Thus…selection!”

Continue reading “Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar”

Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar

Naked in Print

There is something deeply personal in writing about sex, even in an academic sense. You can’t do it with your clothes on, not your metaphorical clothes anyway.

You don’t necessarily have to reveal your own desires, but you do reveal your prejudices. They are right there in what you chooe to write about sex. What do you take for granted? What is unusual enough to need an explanation? What is weird enough that a cause must be discovered and shared?

Sex and the 405 has a lovely essay up about Alain de Botton’s new book, How to Think More About Sex that tells us more about how de Botton thinks about sex than I ever wanted to know. I had heard the book wasn’t very good, mainly in that it assumed sex all happened from a male perspective, but the problems appear to run far deeper. The essay is appropriately titled “Alain de Botton Tries Hand at Sex, Fails“. Continue reading “Naked in Print”

Naked in Print