Resistance Works — Exhibit A

Sign reading "Resistance Is Not Futile" with image of ohm symbol

Remember this. Resistance works.

I’m writing this three days after the last round of the Big Health Care Showdown. For seven years, Republican legislators in the U.S. have been screaming that they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yet despite having control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, despite arm-twisting and deceit and heavy-handed manipulation of legislative procedure (including introducing their final bill at ten p.m. for a vote at midnight), they failed.

There are a lot of reasons they failed. Even though they had seven years to prepare, the Republicans weren’t prepared with actual legislation. Their own party was divided: a large branch of the party thought the bills being proposed weren’t draconian enough. And, of course, the president is an arrogant, incompetent, willfully ignorant buffoon, who failed to do the difficult work of convincing legislators and citizens to accept the legislation, and didn’t even see the value of doing so.

But one of the biggest reasons the Affordable Care Act was saved was a massive outpouring of resistance from citizens, beseeching their representatives not to take health care from millions. The ACA was saved, in large part, by a flood of people contacting their Senators and Congresspeople: calling, texting, emailing, sending letters and postcards, protesting, lobbying, getting arrested, and organizing others to do all the above. Everyone familiar with how federal government works says contacting elected officials is effective, and when it happens on this scale, it’s hugely effective. Everyone familiar with federal government says the recent flood of civic engagement was a major reason a handful of Republican legislators broke ranks — and all Democratic legislators held firm.

I want us to remember this. Continue reading “Resistance Works — Exhibit A”

Resistance Works — Exhibit A

The Impurity Ball: A dance party spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom

Image of gloved hand holding sex toy balls, with text describing event

A Benefit for Center for Sex and Culture and Godless Perverts

You are cordially invited to the Impurity Ball, a dance party and activities extravaganza, spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom.

You know those creepy Purity Balls, where teenage girls lie pledge to stay virgins until marriage, and fathers are controlling creeps pledge to protect their daughters’ virginity? That’s what we’re mocking. In addition to dancing all night, the evening’s activities will include:

  • Impurity Ring Ring-Toss. (Take a wild guess what we’ll be tossing the rings onto! Thanks to Vixen Creations!)
  • Prom Photo Booth. Take the sexy prom pic you always wanted.
  • Debaptisms. Were you pledged to a sexual purity cult against your will? Let our Humanist celebrant undo it!
  • Impurity Supply Station. Need the devil beaten out of you (consensually, of course)? Want your own “purity rings” for your parts? Visit our Impurity Supply Station! Courtesy of Wicked Grounds.
  • Ten-Minute Dating.. The ultimate ice-breaker!
  • Potluck treats. Bring your favorites!
  • Introvert’s Lounge. Enjoy parties, but need breaks from the noise and chaos? Visit our quiet VIP lounge for Very Introverted People!
  • Dance music by DJ Victor Harris Jr.

The Ball will be on Saturday, August 5, from 7 to 10 pm, at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near 9th Street and the Civic Center BART). Suggested donation $10-$30: no-one turned away for lack of funds. RSVP on Facebook or Meetup (RSVPs appreciated but not necessary). All proceeds to benefit the Center for Sex and Culture and Godless Perverts.

Suggested Dress:

    Wear what will make you happy — just keep your junk covered. Some suggestions (admired but by no means required):

  • Formal/ prom wear
  • Sexy and/or fetish wear
  • Sexy versions of formal wear
  • Mocking or over-the-top versions of formal wear
  • Festive, colorful, exuberant, or celebratory outfits
  • Comfortable clothes that make you happy

Hope to see you there!

The Impurity Ball: A dance party spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom

Learning With Respect vs. “Just Asking Questions”

teacher at map with chalkboard
Teacher meme by PTICA10

On one side: “I’m just asking questions! Why are you being so harsh? If you want people to learn about sexism and racism and stuff, you should be more patient.” On the other side: “I don’t believe you’re asking in good faith. You’re JAQing off: ‘just asking questions’ as a way of poisoning the well, derailing the conversation, and wasting my time.”

In conversations about sexism, racism, and other social justice issues, this meta-conversation is one of the most consistently contentious. And it can be hard to explain exactly what’s wrong with “just asking questions,” or even to precisely define what it is. But my friend and colleague Heina Dadabhoy said something recently about this issue that crystallized it for me:

If we sincerely want to learn from people, we approach them the way we would a teacher. And that means approaching them with respect, even with a certain degree of humility.

If we really want to learn from people, we assume that they know more about the subject than we do. When we don’t understand them, or when what they say contradicts things we thought we knew, we don’t automatically assume they’re wrong. We think about what they’re saying; chew it over; maybe talk it over with other people in the class, or with other people who’ve taken the class before. And when we have questions, we ask respectfully. We assume that they have informed, knowledgable answers, and we listen to those answers.

This doesn’t mean we never disagree. People have been disagreeing with teachers for millennia, with wildly varying results. Sometimes it’s just arrogant bloviating; sometimes it’s an important part of how our understanding moves forward, as individuals and as a society. (And yes, in my time as a student, I’ve indulged in the former.) Respecting a teacher doesn’t mean unthinking obedience.

But when we’re learning from a teacher, we don’t start off by disagreeing. We don’t start with a hostile or contemptuous attitude, with the assumption that they must be wrong. We don’t argue with them every step of the way, and we don’t go out of our way to trip them up or shoot holes in everything they say.

And when we’re learning from a teacher, we don’t assume their time is ours to command. We don’t get hostile if they don’t have time to debate with us — or don’t have time at the exact moment we want it. If they direct us to other resources that can answer our questions in more detail, we follow up. At the very least, we don’t get pissy with them for saying, “Here’s a book/ essay/ documentary that can answer a lot of the questions you’re asking: if you still have questions after that, come back and we’ll talk some more.” We recognize that this is part of how teachers teach, that an important part of knowing a subject is knowing where to learn more.

In fact, when you assume that your friend or acquaintance or random person on the Internet is obliged to debate whenever you want, for as long as you want, in whatever space you want including theirs, it’s more unwarranted than treating a teacher that way. Teachers are, after all, teachers: it’s their job to answer questions, and to be patient with questions they’ve answered a hundred times before. It isn’t their job to answer every single question they’re asked, on demand, regardless of whether it’s relevant or whether they’re even on the job — but answering questions and being patient with ignorance is part of what they’re paid for. That’s not true of your friend or acquaintance or random person on the Internet. If you’re asking them to explain a thing about sexism or racism or what have you, they’re already giving you their time and emotional labor for free. They’re your teacher — and they’re volunteering their time.

The reality is that women are the experts in sexism; black and brown people are the experts in racism; disabled people are the experts in ableism; etc. To be very clear, that doesn’t mean you can defend your sexist opinions by citing your one female friend who says they agree with you. There are certainly chill girls and so on, marginalized people who ignore or deny the realities of their own oppression. And there are often disagreements and debates within a marginalized group (such as feminist debates over pornography).

But if you’re talking with a marginalized person who’s conscious of their oppression and well-informed about it, and you’re sincere about wanting to understand their oppression, you need to approach them with the respect and humility you’d give to teachers. When you don’t treat people as teachers, it’s reasonable for them to assume you’re not there to learn.

Learning With Respect vs. “Just Asking Questions”

Godless Perverts Is Now a Non-Profit Organization!


Godless Perverts, the organization that promotes a positive, progressive view of sex without religion, is delighted to announce that we have officially incorporated as a non-profit. In February 2017, we were granted status as a California non-profit under the name GP Events and Media: shortly after, we received Federal 501(c)3 status through fiscal sponsorship by the Center for Sex and Culture. Donations to Godless Perverts are now tax-deductible!

“Being a non-profit gives us the ability to expand in ways that would have been impossible,” says president and co-founder Greta Christina. “I’m proud of our years as a scrappy little group doing meetups and occasional performance events, but we are clearly outgrowing that structure. We can do real fundraising now that donations are tax-deductible, and being officially incorporated will make it easier to take on bigger projects and do coalition work with other organizations.” And vice-president and co-founder Chris Hall says, “The last five years have brought a lot of unexpected changes. Not the least of which is the current political climate. Having a formal structure and nonprofit status makes us much more well-equipped to organize for whatever’s coming, and to stand up for our communities.”

All four presenters at ACT UP workshop hosted by Godless Perverts on Jan 9, 2017. Left to right: Ingrid Nelson, Rebecca Hensler, Crystal Mason, and Laura Thomas.
All four presenters at ACT UP workshop hosted by Godless Perverts on Jan 9, 2017. Left to right: Ingrid Nelson, Rebecca Hensler, Crystal Mason, and Laura Thomas.

Godless Perverts has been in operation for just under five years. We had our first Godless Perverts event in April 2012, a panel discussion about being atheists in the queer, kinky, and alt-sex communities. Since then, we’ve grown from that one-shot panel discussion to a thriving community hosting social meetups, performances, discussion groups, educational events, book clubs, political protests, and an annual holiday party to raise funds for St. James Infirmary, the health clinic for sex workers.

Our board of directors includes Bridgett Crutchfield, Heina Dadabhoy, Victor Harris, Juba Kalamka, Miri Mogilevsky, and Donna Shrout (not pictured), with Greta Christina serving as President and Chris Hall serving as Vice-President and Treasurer. “I like being on the Godless Perverts board,” says Juba Kalamka, “because its mission intersects with my other activist contexts. I appreciate being able to bring all of myself to the conversation and being able to encourage that for others.”

Bridgett Crutchfield
Heina Dadabhoy
Heina Dadabhoy
Victor Harris
Victor Harris

Juba Kalamka
Juba Kalamka
Miri Mogilevsky
Miri Mogilevsky

Greta Christina
Greta Christina
Chris Hall
Chris Hall

Our plans and hopes for the future include more involvement in political activism and political education; editing a Godless Perverts anthology; getting a logo and creating swag; movie nights; coalition work with other social change organizations; tabling and other appearances at conferences; reviving our East Bay meetups; creating a Godless Perverts podcast; hosting a fraudulent psychic fair (one of Greta’s dreams since we began); and just doing more of the great things we’re already doing.

Donations to Godless Perverts (more accurately, GP Events and Media), now tax-deductible, will go to fund current and future projects, as well as general overhead such as web hosting. You can make a one-time donation in any amount, or set up an automatic donation of five dollars a month. Checks can be mailed to PO Box 1220, Berkeley, CA 94701. (Checks must be written to GP Events and Media, with “and” spelled out.)

Many thanks everyone who has helped us get this far, whether by donating money, attending our events, spreading the word about us, or giving us moral support when we needed you most. We couldn’t have done the last five years without you — and we’re excited to work on the next five years with all of you!

Godless Perverts Is Now a Non-Profit Organization!

Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”

Ohm — a unit of resistance.

I keep seeing arguments against the massive uprising in protest of the DT regime, on the grounds that DT won the election and we should accept it gracefully and not be sore losers. Weirdly, I don’t just see this from Republicans: I see it from some Democrats as well. So here’s what I want to ask:

Are you arguing the the citizens of a democratic country should not press our elected officials to do what we want? That we should not, as the First Amendment says, peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances?

Are you arguing that once a president is elected, citizens should let him do whatever he wants with no opposition, regardless of whether it’s grossly immoral and indeed illegal?

Are you saying that we should sit back and do nothing while incompetence, raging bigotry, xenophobia, kleptocracy, and contempt for the constitution all become entrenched in law and policy?

Are you arguing that we should ignore the gross irregularities in this election — the widespread and systemic voter disenfranchisement, the interference from a hostile foreign government, the absurd electoral system that allows someone to become president when they lost by three million votes — and accept the results of this election as if they were normal and legitimate?

Are you arguing that the problem with contemporary US politics is that citizens are too engaged, and that our political engagement should involve voting and nothing else?

And are you arguing that people who recognize the warning signs of fascism — who are listening to the historians who study fascism when they say that yes, this is what the rise of fascism looks like — should sit back and let fascism rise, for fear of looking like poor losers?

We are not the ones dividing the country. The people who want to kick out immigrants even if they’re here legally, who want to let poor people die for lack of health care, who want to decimate public education, who want to permit open discrimination against LGBT people, who are tolerating and even encouraging the massive increase in bigoted hate crimes — they are the ones dividing this country. Are you arguing that we should be in unity with bigoted, hateful, kleptocratic fascists?

What’s happening now is exactly how democracy should be functioning. What you’re advocating is a four-year dictatorship.

Resistance, and Being a “Sore Loser”

Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean

white male hand grabbing microphone

I don’t believe we have to discuss this again. But apparently we do.

The right to free speech does not give someone the right to other people’s platforms and microphones. You can respect someone’s right to free speech, and not give them your own space and audience.

You don’t have to invite someone to speak on your campus. You don’t have to interview them in your newspaper or magazine, on your TV show or podcast. You don’t have to let them comment in your blog or Facebook page or YouTube channel. You don’t have to give them a book deal. People are not entitled to these things, and in fact most people don’t get most of them. I haven’t been invited to speak at the University of California, and this doesn’t obstruct my free speech. I can speak in other places.

When you give your platform and your microphone to hateful, bigoted, dangerous fascists known for ugly harassment, it gives them legitimacy. It makes their ideas seem mainstream. It doesn’t necessarily say that you agree with them, but it says you think their ideas are worth considering and are a subject for reasonable debate.

Milo Yiannopoulos is part of a highly dangerous movement, a movement that has been empowered and emboldened by the 2016 presidential election. If successful, this movement will result in a rise in bigoted and xenophobic hatred, a massive upsurge in violent hate crimes, a loss of basic civil rights, severe restrictions on science and education — and yes, the suppression of free speech, for individuals as well as media organizations. Some of these things are already happening; others are already beginning to happen. Do you really want to give this movement your platform, your microphone, and your audience?

History has its eyes on us. In twenty years, fifty years, a hundred years, we will be judged by how we responded to this crisis. Do you want to be one of the people who helped the Nazis reach more people?

In the past, when people have argued that they’re entitled to other people’s platforms (such as commenting on blogs or Facebook pages), I’ve often illustrated the absurdity of this by asking, “Would you let people spew openly hateful racism on your platform? Would you let people advocate genocide on your platform? Would you let Nazis use your platform?” It is highly distressing to learn that for many people, including people I’ve considered colleagues and allies and even friends, the answer is Yes.

Milo Yiannopoulos, and What Free Speech Does and Does Not Mean

Compassion and Abstraction

abstract photo

Abstraction gets a bad rep. It’s often seen as cold, calculating, divorced from emotion. But I’ve found the exact opposite. Abstraction is crucial to my ability to have compassion. Abstraction helps me step back from my own experience, and look at it in a bigger picture — a picture that includes other people.

Here’s an example. We’ve all seen progressives who are very skilled at critiquing oppression that affects them — and utterly clueless about ways they oppress others. We’ve all seen, for instance, white feminists go after men who derail conversations about sexism, focus the conversations on themselves and their hurt feelings, chide women for being uncivil and harsh, demand to be educated on demand about Feminism 101, argue arrogantly instead of listening, accuse feminists of being divisive, and pull out the “not all men” card. Then, in conversations with black women about racism in the feminist movement, those same white feminists will turn around and do the exact same things: derail, make it about them, argue instead of listening, say black feminists are being divisive, etc.

Abstraction helps me not do that. Continue reading “Compassion and Abstraction”

Compassion and Abstraction

Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

quiet hand over mouth

Please support the crowdfunder, Defense Against Carrier SLAPP Suit!

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. Continue reading “Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit”

Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

the word no

I do not consent to this.

It’s January 20, 2017. It’s inauguration day. And I do not accept it.

That’s an odd phrase: “I do not accept this.” It can mean denial, refusal to acknowledge reality. Or it can mean resistance. I’ve been doing a bit of both: I’ve been sinking into work and organizing, and I’ve been sinking into escapist distractions. I’ll probably keep doing both. I can’t work all the time, I’ll exhaust myself. And I can’t let myself think too much, or for too long, about the world we’re in now. Especially not when I’m alone. I need my escapes into other worlds: worlds where people mostly treat each other decently, worlds where wrongs are righted.

I think I’ve read too much science fiction. There’s a part of me that keeps looking for the key to the alternate reality. One of the most painful things about this election is how close it was. Just a few thousand votes in a handful of states, and it would have been different. The other reality seems so close to this one, and it seems radically wrong that we can’t reach it, that it doesn’t actually exist. It seems wrong that the other world could have been so close to our grasp, and yet be so radically different. The flawed country making itself gradually better, moving three steps forward and two steps back, building on the legacy and momentum of the last eight years… and the worst sides of this country, the dehumanizing racism, the leering disgust of women, the repugnance toward the body, the poisonous fear of the new, the contempt for knowledge, the naked greed, the selfishness masquerading as individuality, the hatred of the stranger masquerading as love of the country, all made flesh at once. So close.

And because the other world is so close — was so close — it makes certain kinds of pain hard to heal, and hard to bear. I know I need to move forward, not dwell, learn lessons and move on. But it’s hard to not feel rage, at people I once saw as part of my extended chosen family, people who should have known better but helped make this happen. And it’s hard to not feel guilt; to feel like I should have done more, better, sooner.

I feel somewhat bad, writing this today. I feel like I should be inspiring righteous anger, issuing clarion calls to action. I know I’ll do that, some of it anyway, in the months and years to come. I know that resistance is not futile. And I will resist. I have already begun to resist, and I’ll continue. But today, I’m deep in grief. I’m grieving the world we could have had. I’m grieving for the world we’re in now. And I am refusing my consent.

Do what you need to do today. Console each other; rage; retreat and regroup; distract yourself; spend all day poking the wound and taking its measure; cry; protest. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is a form of resistance.

Other work in a similar vein:
Depression in a Fascist Regime
The World We’re In Now (my talk at Skepticon 9)

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless perverts Social Club Feb 7 for website

There’s a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, February 7, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime.

Under the Trump regime and with a Republican-controlled Congress, sexual and gender rights will be under attack. Legal protections could be removed, not only for LGBT people, but for anyone in any sexual relationship outside opposite-sex marriage. And the recent rise in hate crimes targets sexual minorities as well as people of color, Muslims, Jewish people, and others. What threats do we have to be concerned about? How is the false panic over religious freedom being used in these attacks? And how can we take action to protect ourselves and each other, and to fight back?

The Social Club is free, and all orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and amazing milkshakes: please support the cafe if you can. If you can’t afford cafe prices, Wicked Grounds customers have bought you coffee or tea: just ask for your beverage to paid for “from the wall.”

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime