Is Cheating Ever Okay? The Blowfish Blog


I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the question of whether cheating in a monogamous (or supposedly monogamous) relationship is ever ethically acceptable. My thinking on the question has been changing, and as is my wont, I’m using the blog as a place to think out loud about it. The piece is called Is Cheating Ever Okay? and here’s the teaser:

But as the years have gone by, my thinking on this has been changing. My thinking has been changed a lot — or rather, has become clarified — by a series of columns that sex advice columnist Dan Savage has been writing about sexless marriages and relationships… and the unfairness of denying your partner sex and then getting outraged when they seek it elsewhere.

And my thinking was put into sharp focus by, of all places, a recent episode of “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” and a passing comment made on the subject by the main character, the call girl Belle.

The comment:

“Yeah, he’s married. But his wife hasn’t had sex with him for five years, so I suppose they’re both breaking the marriage contract.”

Which is the crux of my new, revised thinking about cheating.

To find out what my new, revised thinking is about cheating, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Is Cheating Ever Okay? The Blowfish Blog

Hypocrisy and the “Modern Theology” Argument


Is it fair for atheists to criticize religion when they haven’t studied theology?

One of the most common counter-critiques against critics of religion is that we’re going after the easy targets. We go after dogmatic, unsophisticated, literalist versions of religion… while ignoring the more serious, subtle, well- thought- out theologies. (“The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins gets hit with this one a lot.)

I like to call this the “You’re Not Critiquing My Particular Version Of Faith, Therefore Your Critique Is Invalid” fallacy. (I really need a shorter name for it…)

The usual argument against this — and it is a good one — is that the simpler versions of religion are the most common. The overwhelming majority of believers haven’t spent years studying advanced theology, either. Atheists don’t care all that much about religion as it’s taught in divinity schools; we care about religion as it’s practiced in the real world.

But in a recent Daylight Atheism thread, OMGF (of the charmingly- named Why I Hate Jesus blog) made this point … and I’m smacking myself on the head for not having thought of it myself.

They have no problem with rejecting or us rejecting all other religions. Apparently, they and we can reject all those out of hand, but theirs must be given serious consideration, and we are not to stop considering it until we accept it.

To which my own darling Nurse Ingrid replied:

Exactly, OMGF. It’s not like they studied a lot of Greek mythology before deciding they didn’t believe in Zeus.

Which brings me to the hypocrisy part.


There are hundreds of religions in the world. Thousands if you count all the different sects separately. And when you get into dead religions — the Greek gods, the Norse gods, etc. — those numbers go way, way up.

Have these sophisticated theology scholars carefully studied every single one of these religions before rejecting them?

Good theologians do study lots of different religions. But have they studied every single one? And have they studied them in depth, in their most carefully- thought- out, sophisticated forms? Have they spent years studying the advanced theological theories of astrology, of Wicca, of Santeria, of Rastafarianism, of Crowleyan occultism, of that religion that worships the blue peacock?

And if not, then how are they any different from us?


It’s true, most atheists are comfortable rejecting religion with only a decent working knowledge of its more common tenets and practices. But that’s true for the Sophistimicated Theology crowd as well. They reject hundreds, thousands of religions without any more than a cursory knowledge of them, and in many cases without any knowledge at all.

Plus there’s an infinite recursion quality to the “sophisticated theology” argument. Even if you have read serious theology, you haven’t read all of it — so how can you reject it? Okay, you’ve read Aquinas… but have you read C.S. Lewis? Okay, you’ve read Lewis… but have you read Teilhard de Chardin? As OMGF put it, we are not to stop considering it until we have accepted it.

And yet, as OMGF also pointed out, this only applies to their religion. Other religions, it’s okay to reject out of hand, or with only a cursory knowledge. But theirs — theirs is special, and it’s unfair for atheists to reject it without spending years studying every aspect of it in detail.

It reminds me of that Richard Dawkins quote: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

Which brings me to a point that gets made a lot in the atheist debates.

It is not up to atheists to prove that religion is wrong.

It is up to theists to prove that religion is right.

They’re the ones making the claim, proposing the hypothesis about the world and why it is the way it is. It’s up to them to support their claim. We’re just saying, “You haven’t made your case. None of the arguments you’ve made in the past have held water, and until you make your case we’re going to stick with our null hypothesis.”

And from what I’ve read of advanced theology (I haven’t read tons, but I have read some), it doesn’t make the case. It doesn’t provide arguments or evidence for why God exists and what his precise effect is on the world. It mostly just uses clever logic and wordplay to explain why it shouldn’t have to; arguing that faith in something you can’t prove is noble and beautiful, or redefining God so far out of the realm of the real world that he might as well not exist.


I do think atheists should have a basic working knowledge of the religions they’re critiquing before they critique them. (And in my experience, most of us do. The atheists I’ve known and read often know more about religious beliefs, are often more familiar with the basic religious texts, then the religious believers they’re debating.)

But unless the sophisticated theology crowd is prepared to drop everything they do and devote the rest of their lives to a careful study of every single religion that has ever existed in the history of humanity — including the most advanced, arcane apologetics for every one — before they reject all other religions and embrace their own, then they are in no position to criticize atheists for forgoing a years-long study of theology before taking that final step, and rejecting that one last god.

Hypocrisy and the “Modern Theology” Argument

Jealousy, Friendship, And Bisexual Chopped Liver

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Dan savage savage love

So there’s this trope I sometimes see in monogamous relationships. (In particular, I see it in advice columns: it came up in a recent Savage Love column, and I’ve seen it more than once in the Dear Abby/ Ann Landers ouvre.)

It goes like this: “My partner has a friend. The friend’s sexual orientation is towards the gender that my partner happens to be. Is it reasonable for me to be jealous? Should I permit this friendship to continue?”

(Or the reverse: “I have a friend. The friend’s sexual orientation is towards my gender. Is it reasonable for my partner to be jealous, and to want the friendship to end?”)


Okay. In trying to make this generic and gender- neutral, I’m being a little obscure. So let’s clear it up and make it specific: “My wife has a new friend from work, a straight man she sometimes goes to basketball games with. Should I be jealous?” Or: “I’m a straight woman who’s developing a friendship with a lesbian. My husband is jealous. WTF?” (Both real examples from real advice columns, btw. Dear Abby stupidly advised, “By no means should you permit your wife to attend basketball games with another man”; Dan Savage, much more wisely, suggested that the husband of the woman with the lesbian friend should get a first class ticket for the clue train.)

Now, I’m not going to get too deeply into the obvious. I’m not going to get into the craziness of the idea that any and all friendships will eventually turn sexual if the sexual orientations line up right. I’m not going to get into the fucked-upedness of the notion that people should choose their friends entirely on the basis of gender, for the sole purpose of avoiding possible sexual attraction. I’m not going to get into the absurd paranoia that even the slightest hint of sexual attraction in a friendship will eventually overwhelm it with uncontrollable passion. (Hey, for some of us, having a little attraction for a friend makes a friendship more interesting… even when we have no plans whatsoever to act on the attraction, ever.)

And I’m not going to point out that, according to this theory, gay men could never have gay male friends, and lesbians could never be friends with other lesbians.


I’m not even going to get into the borderline- evil concept that people in relationships have veto power over their partners’ friends. This is just R-O-N-G Rong, stupidly and evilly wrong, in all but the most extreme circumstances. (“My partner is making friends with the man who tried to murder me.” Okay, you have veto power. Everyone else, shut up. Your partner is a free agent, with the right to make their own damn friends independent of you.)

Here’s what I want to say instead:

So what are we bisexuals — chopped liver?


According to this theory, bisexuals could never, ever have any friends at all. We couldn’t be friends with gay men, straight men, straight women, lesbians. And we definitely couldn’t be friends with other bisexuals. According to this theory, the fact that we’re attracted to both women and men makes us ineligible to be friends with anybody, of any gender, ever.

No, that’s not quite true. We could be friends with non-monogamous people, and with single people. But once those single get into monogamous relationships — blammo. That’s the end of that friendship.

I’m not just writing this to point up the stupidity and irrationality of this particular form of jealousy. I’m writing it to point up the stupidity and irrationality of bisexual invisibility.

We used to be a culture that assumed heterosexuality. We still are, to a great extent. But even when we don’t assume heterosexuality, we are still, far too often, a culture that assumes monosexuality. We are still a culture that asks, “Is he gay or straight?” We are still a culture that sees a woman dating a man and says, “Wait a minute — she’s straight? I thought she was a lesbian!” (Or a woman dating a woman, vice versa.) We are still a culture that ignores the Kinsey scale, the spectrum of sexual orientation — and the shifts that many of us make over that spectrum throughout our lives.

Who cares if its a choice

And this assumption leads to some truly convoluted errors in logic. I recently wrote about an example of this here in this blog, about how the “Is sexual orientation a choice?” debates almost always ignore bisexuals… since even if bisexuals are born bisexual, we still have some degree of choice about which direction to take our lives in. And the bisexual wars in the lesbian community led to my favorite piece of Alice in Wonderland political logic ever: “The lesbians will decide who is a lesbian.”

I can see why people tend to overlook bisexuals. Our existence does poke holes in a lot of conventional wisdoms — especially when it comes to sorting our society by gender and sexual orientation.

But… well, that’s actually my point. The existence of bisexuals pokes holes in the sorting of our society by gender and sexual orientation, pointing up ridiculous contradictions and convoluted logic that would be hilarious if it weren’t so annoying.

So maybe we should quit sorting our society by gender and sexual orientation.

And maybe we should start with our friendships. And the friendships of our spouses and partners.

Which are none of our damn business anyway.

Jealousy, Friendship, And Bisexual Chopped Liver