Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Taking Sides

lady lawyerAs my close friends know, I have a deep-seated dislike of interpersonal conflict.  Now, I don’t mind mocking idiots on the internet, or chastising a stranger for being an asshole or a customer service person for not giving me what I want, or having an intellectual debate.  And I’ll always support someone I love in an argument with a person I don’t, without even a moment’s hesitation.  But when it comes to disagreement with a person I love, I will go a long way to avoid arguments, even to the point of giving in when I know I’m right because it isn’t worth the emotional pain.  In fact, the single most abusive thing my first husband, Jack, used to do in our relationship (and there were many) was to refuse to let me avoid arguments; he’d insist on cornering me and goading me no matter how much I just wanted it to stop.  So while I deeply disliked arguments before, I now have an aversion to them bordering on the pathological.

As you can probably guess, this also means it’s deeply uncomfortable for me when two of my friends argue with one another.  I don’t particularly even like hearing one friend complain about another, but as long as they respect my desire to remain neutral I can live with that.  But when there’s an implicit or explicit request for me to validate the person’s feelings (beyond the level of, “I’m sorry you and so-and-so aren’t getting along right now”), I have to draw a line.  It’s possible I might be able to mediate a reconciliation, as long as the parties both agreed to be calm during the process, but even then I wouldn’t like it.  And actually hearing two people I care about hurling harsh words at one another is so painful it makes me want to run away.

Lately, I’ve had a few requests from sex worker readers I don’t know to help them in fights with other sex workers I don’t know.  And while I can understand their desire to get a well-known and highly-respected member of our community on their side, my answer has to be “no” because if I don’t know either participant there’s just no way I can separate facts from emotions and decide which actions were understandable reactions to provocation and which were pure assholiness.  If the two of you can agree to calmly state your cases to me, and furthermore will agree to abide by whatever decision I make or compromise I propose, I can probably be persuaded to act as judge.  This doesn’t mean I want that role; if I wanted to be a judge I’d have gone to law school rather than library school.  But I understand that my position as one of the grande dames of the demimonde and my reputation for wisdom and rationality will naturally cause some people to want me to act in that role, and I won’t shirk my duty.  Also, if you’re a sex worker and your adversary isn’t, it’s possible I may be able to help you (though again, I won’t like it) because I’m naturally going to sympathize with a member of my own tribe.  If, however, you’re a whore fighting with another whore who just comes up out of the blue and expects me to take your side without hearing the other, I’m afraid I must decline.  I mean, think about it for a minute:  What if she had thought to contact me first?  The only way to stop the drama is to lay everything out in the open, and that’s impossible unless I can hear both sides.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Watching brouhahas unfold is always very revealing; even if different people agree that whatever it was that whoever it was said or did or thought was cause for concern, they may disagree about what particularly made it so.  The most recent major gaffe committed by the eternally-boorish Donald Trump is a perfect example.  For those blissfully unaware of the train wreck we call a presidential election, I’ll recap:  someone recently discovered a recording from 2005 in which Trump made comments to the effect that women let famous men get away with gross consent violations, such as kissing or groping them without asking.  Here’s the video if you’re interested:

Getting a clean copy of this wasn’t easy; most of the versions on YouTube were either censored or edited.  I’m rather glad that happened, however, because it actually reinforces my point.  In CNN’s version, for example, the very first thing a viewer sees is a “warning” that the video contains “graphic language” (as though anyone watching would actually have never heard the words “fuck” and “pussy” before).  Next, a description: “Footage from 2005 has surfaced featuring Donald Trump using vulgar language about women”, followed by a video in which a loud “bleep” has been inserted over the words (which rather makes one wonder what the point of the warning was).  Look at the emphasis there:  someone at CNN actually seems to believe, and undoubtedly many people agree, that the most salient point of the controversy was Trump’s language, that he had uttered taboo words which would presumably ritually pollute the dainty hearing of anyone viewing the video.  The fact that he used these common words about women is presented as though that somehow makes it worse than if he had used similar words in talking about men, children, mixed groups of people or Shetland ponies; the assumption seems to be that women are delicate china dolls who are magically harmed when men emit certain sounds from their vocal apparatus, even if the woman in question did not even hear them.  If he had joked about violating the physical boundaries of women without using those words, perhaps saying “I attempted to get her in bed” and “grab their crotches” instead, would that have made it all better in the minds of this unknown CNN editor and others like her?  Because that’s certainly the implication.

But if this social conservative spin on the incident is questionable, the “feminist” spin on it is even worse.  Yesterday morning I became aware of “Grab Her By The Brain“, a site whose founders apparently feel that the problem lies in the fact that Trump’s churlish comments were sexual in nature.  The implication seems to be that while grabbing a woman by her sexual anatomy is a horrible thing, grabbing her by some part that stupid, shallow people imagine to be non-sexual is perfectly OK.  As in the CNN video, the first words one sees upon landing on the site reinforce this: “Take part in the movement that refuses to accept the objectification of women – at work, on the sidewalk, at school, in the media, empower every woman by acknowledging her unique and immeasurable contribution to society.”  That’s followed immediately below by “Value her for who she is,” which is a direct contradiction of the pusillanimous and patronizing platitudes in the line above, which urge the reader to value a woman not for who she is but for her “contribution to society”, which is quite a different thing altogether.  For right now, let’s ignore the sexism inherent in the absurd notion that only women can be “objectified”, the infantilizing concept of “empowerment” as something granted to women from without as a gardener waters vegetables, the obsequious assertion that every single woman makes a “unique and immeasurable” contribution to society (a concept that’s ludicrous even on its face), and the tired neofeminist pretense that it’s somehow “better” or “more respectful”radio-assembly-line-1925 for women to be valued for the characteristics of one organ than for the characteristics of a different one; we are still left with the dangerously anti-sex mindset which imagines that so-called “objectification” can only be sexual while blatantly objectifying women as only valuable for our “contributions to society”.  This pretense derives from exactly the same mindset as that of the Republicans whose disavowal of Trump after the comments were made public was expressed in phrases like “our wives, our daughters, our mothers”; it’s the vile and loathsome collectivist obscenity that women’s rights derive not from the fact that we’re individuals, but from our relationships to men and “society”.

Human beings, no matter what their gender, are individuals and don’t need outside collectives to “empower” them. Their rights as individuals, including their right not to be molested by either individuals or the operatives of the state, are inalienable and don’t depend on whether anyone else thinks they’re of “value” (whether for their intellect, for their sex appeal or for any other reason) to the state, “society” or any individual.  So, please, stop pretending that “grab her by the brain” is superior to “grab her by the pussy”; you have no right to grab her, him or anybody by the brain, pussy or any other part without their consent.  Human beings don’t exist to serve you, to be “empowered” by you or to be defined in relation to you.  And only they have the right to determine what they wish to give to you, the state or “society”, and the conditions under which they will give it.

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I recently became aware of Science Hooker, and I was so impressed I immediately asked her to do a guest column.  She was able to achieve what in my youth I wanted to achieve, but couldn’t, and that makes her even more awesome in my estimation.science-hooker

Fucking science.
Science does not need to be dry.
Middle and upper class.
Even though people fitting these values dominate it.
Serve my science as a double shot in a sleazy bar.
“What was your name again?”
Learning and ability is not about background.
It’s about will, thought, curiosity, stubbornness and passion.
Science Hooker is about science for ALL.

Nerves jostle my stomach stepping onto the podium, adjusting the mic.  Hundreds of academic faces, mostly white, mostly men, mostly upper middle class, peer at me from the cavernous dark.  Mars rover tools.  I’m here to talk about Mars rover tools, about how ultrasonics enhance performance.  The focus envelopes, I calm…. begin.  A significant part of my confidence in academia traces back to me fucking for a living.  Honing those social skills.  Escort, prostitute, courtesan, whore; the label has never seemed important.  I remember perching on the radiator in a cold Edinburgh flat, nervous energy bubbling through me and a client due to arrive any minute.  The doorbell chimed, the focus enveloped, calm… begin.

I’ve never been ashamed or embarrassed about escorting.  Why should I?  There was so much learning.  So much living. I was an escort in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was studying part time at the Open University of Scotland, a truly fantastic institution for social mobility.  I gained a 1st in a geoscience BSc and was half way through an MSc when offered a PhD with the UK Space Agency, investigating the loss of the Mars atmosphere into the rocky crust and what lessons we can take from this in respect to climate change on Earth.  I’d never studied full time, nor physically attended an institution.  The integral snobbery, bigotry and discrimination is real.

Many academic peers are surprisingly religious, mass on Sunday sort of thing.  Their attitude to open discussions of prostitution backgrounds is full of the usual “saddening”, “terrible” and “disgusting”, coupled with trite ignorant sentiments such as, “Well, at least that is behind you know, or I hope it is, otherwise I don’t know what to say”.  The idea that there could be any positive life or value within the confines of escorting is anathema.  The message clearly announced that sex workers do not belong in academia unless they are very repentant, and acknowledge that their life was very sad, and how grateful they are to have transcended into the academic’s world.  Fuck conforming to fit in with this scene.

Science Hooker is my reaction to this elitist, insular environment of privilege.  It started in December 2015 as website, Twitter and Facebook platform where I simply shared fun science, but with an “escort” slant, which probably tasted daring and risqué to most academics.  The few thousand followers were mostly academics.  Yet, the project has evolved since the early days, becoming less timid.  A regular blog slot was provided by The Huffington Post, with a relatively free hand regarding content; this has been a powerful platform to engage larger audiences.  Following a Huffington article I wrote on prostitution, the House of Commons invited me to a panel discussion on reforming prostitution laws; it suddenly felt like Science Hooker could make an impact.  A short film was produced as a Cairn Productions-Science Hooker collaboration about my science research.  Thousands of academics followed, hundreds of professors; but still, I felt Science Hooker was pointless in a way.  Sharing academic content with academics is preaching to the converted.  It is not outreach.  It is not real science communication.  Added to this, a dozen other platforms are doing the exact same format of science dissemination.  I found myself asking: why am I doing Science Hooker?  What is the goal?  Where is it going?

The answer is still forming.  Fermenting.  Recently, large numbers of sex workers have followed, sharing their content, thoughts, jokes and issues.  I am glad of this demographic shift.  Interestingly, the extent I engage with the sex work community correlates with a proportionate decline in academic followers; a price worth paying, but informative about attitudes, and reinforcing my previous conclusions.  There has been a mixture of positive and negative reactions to Science Hooker.  Recently an academic pulled their copyright and association with a mineral reference book I had been working on with other students because they had stumbled over Science Hooker and my escort history.  This was no loss, academics are plentiful; we simply replaced his contribution and took the incident as a perfect example of bigotry and exclusion in the sciences for those from alternative backgrounds.  At the other end of the spectrum, Science Hooker recently got nominated by a post-doctoral fellow for the Annie Maunder medal from the Royal Astronomy Society for public outreach.  Science Hooker generates impact, disparagement, respect, hatred, encouragement and dismissal in a messy bundle of reactions.

Science Hooker ethos has always been about making science accessible and understandable to all, yet the tangible application of this goal is difficult.  How does one achieve this in any concrete sense?  Initially the accessibility I had in mind was all about explaining science, but now I feel it has morphed to include smashing down ivory walls of the academic tower, or at least graffiti them up a bit; highlighting discrimination, denial of access and judgemental hatred to sex workers in relation to formal science, education and academia.  A new project on the drawing board just now is called “Ask a scientist!”  I am collecting a network of scientists from a wide range of disciplines willing to answer public questions in a 1-1 personal way.  There will be two functions.  Anyone will be able to search for a scientist from a database, read about their history and motivations, their area of research and contact them directly via email.  Alternatively, people will be able to ask a question on the website, and any scientist can choose to respond and answer it, or not.  Possibly different scientists will forward different viewpoints and a conversation will develop.  I hope so.  Once this has been trialed successfully, it would be interesting to create another database called “Ask a sex worker”, again, with the aim of developing conversation, connection and mutual understanding.  I firmly believe it is through knowledge of each other that stigma dies.

The university is ending my funding soon, and I won’t have finished the PhD in time.  I don’t know what will happen, with me, or with Science Hooker.  I may even return to escorting.  Life is uncertain. I am unpredictable.  Science Hooker is fluid.  We can all only play with the cards in our hand, make a difference where opportunity and circumstance allow. So why not visit Science Hooker?  See what it’s all about.

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Our civilisation cannot afford to let the censor-moron loose. The censor-moron does not really hate anything but the living and growing human consciousness.  –  D.H. Lawrence

defend-the-1st-amendmentEvery year, the last week of September is designated as “Banned Books Week“; the name seems to imply the kind of top-down state censorship which was at one time very common even in the US, and is still common in many countries we generally think of as advanced ones with Western values.  But this kind of censorship is very rare now in the United States, and has been for decades; the majority of “challenges” now (despite the celebration’s name, it’s pretty rare that books are actually removed from public collections) originate not with state officials or other “authorities”, but with individuals seeking to “protect the children” from thoughts their parents don’t want them to have.  Nor are those thoughts only sexual ones any more, though obviously those are still the most common reason; nowadays, demands that books be burned controlled are just as likely to come from soi-disant “progressives” as from cultural conservatives, and the reasons may include “racism”, “sexism”, “religious viewpoint”, “violence” and so on.

In a way, the name “Banned Books Week” is far too narrow to encompass everything we should be talking about, and a week is far too limited a time to be talking about it.  As I wrote above, “banned” implies a top-down regime, while in reality the majority of censorship now is the result of morons trying to self-lobotomize our entire culture; the word also implies a governmental action, when in reality the rise of social media and mega-media corporations has resulted in a de facto delegation of the censorship authority to them.  And if you’re tempted to suggest that this isn’t as bad, I suggest you ask yourself how much distribution your book will get if Amazon & Wal-mart refuse to stock it and Google monkeys with your search results to make it difficult to find.  Furthermore, “books”, as much as I love them, are now only a tiny fraction of the ways information can be shared; people who would balk at the idea of censoring actual paper books suddenly feel very differently when the conversation turns to magazines, or movies, or pictures, or music, or video games, or public lectures, or articles, or blogs, or other social media postings, or (most especially) advertising.  The same “right-thinking” folks who would march in protest if a school library declined to stock And Tango Makes Three grow strangely silent when Twitter bans a member’s account for “hate speech”, and may even be willing to march in support of censoring escort ads on Backpage.  As I wrote last year,

We are living in the past of Fahrenheit 451, the early stages of a culture which values feelings above thought, the history of a world in which the solution to any troubling idea is to eradicate it.  Right now it’s going on in the universities, where sheltered young people who have been coddled by overprotective parents for two decades are declaring themselves to be “triggered” or “offended” or even “violated” by ideas – whether spoken or in print – that they haven’t encountered before, or that contradict their opinions, or that they find unpleasant, or that bear some superficial resemblance to any of the preceding.  Just as their parents “protected” them from these unpleasant thoughts by banning them from their homes with internet filters or “parental controls”, so they feel entitled to “protect” themselves – and every other person within their sphere of influence – from those bad, icky ideas by banning them…

The censor-morons are loose, and they’re coming after everyone who dares to disagree with them.  And the only way to stop them is to oppose every attempt to limit the free expression of ideas, even if you disagree with them or find them offensive.  Correction: especially if you find them offensive.  Because as always, tyranny starts with those nobody really wants to defend.think-for-yourself

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Chester Brown is one of the most renowned and respected cartoonists in the world; he and I first met online about four years ago and quickly became friends.  And while I did give him a little help with his revised edition of Paying For It, and he drew the cover for my book Ladies of the Night, his new book is the first one I’ve been privileged to see developed from the very first kernel of the idea (shared in a letter to me several years ago) all the way to distribution and book signings.  So once the initial release whirlwind had died down and I figured he might have some time, I asked him if he’d like to do a guest column introducing the book; he sent this the very next day.  Oh, and one more thing:  Chester now has a Patreon account, and if supporting outspoken allies of sex workers is important to you, you really should consider signing up to that.  Just sayin’.

While the subtitle of my new book is Prostitution And Religious Obedience In The Bible, and there are stories about several biblical prostitutes in it, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus is mostly about the connections that Jesus had to prostitution.  I’m proposing three interrelated ideas:

  • Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a prostitute.
  • Mary of Bethany, the woman who anointed Jesus as a christ, was a prostitute.
  • Jesus’s parables about The Prodigal Son and The Talents indicate that he didn’t see prostitutes and their clients as sinners to be forgiven but, rather, saw paying for sex as socially beneficial.

The Prodigal Son (page 164)I’m not going to try to convince you that I’m right about all that here; that’s what the book is for.  Instead I want to talk about the issue of bias.  Some critics have dismissed my ideas because I have a bias; for example, see this piece in the A.V. Club.  It is true that I have a bias; I’ve been a client of sex workers for seventeen years and do happen to see the profession as socially beneficial.  I’ve made no attempt to hide that fact.  The question is, does having a bias on a particular subject necessarily invalidate one’s views on that subject?  Should Martin Luther King Jr’s views on civil rights have been dismissed because, being a black man, he had a bias?  I think it’s precisely because I have a bias that I was able to see certain things in the Bible that haven’t been obvious to others.  And it’s not like others who’ve written about Jesus and prostitution before me did not have a bias on the subject of sex work; in fact, I’d venture to guess that the vast majority of biblical scholars, past and present, had and have a whorephobic bias against sex work.

Let’s talk about two relatively recent examples that I came across while researching for my book.  Karen King is a biblical scholar whom I have a lot of respect for.  Her fascinating book What Is Gnosticism? transformed my understanding of that subject.  In 2003, she published a book titled The Gospel of Mary Of Magdala.  In it, King translates and analyzes an ancient text known as The Gospel Of Mary, which presents a woman named Mary as Jesus’s wisest disciple.  Most people assume that the woman is Mary Magdalene, and they’re probably right; I would recommend King’s book to anyone who wants to understand this difficult text.  On page 3, King writes that The Gospel Of Mary “exposes the erroneous view that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute for what it is — a piece of theological fiction”.  However, reading the text of the gospel, one finds no mention of prostitution; there’s no indication what Mary’s source of income was.  (Even a spiritual person in first century Palestine needed some sort of income, whether it was from begging or some other source.)  There’s no sign one way or the other in The Gospel Of Mary, as we have it, that Mary was or wasn’t a prostitute, nor is there any mention of sex; furthermore, King doesn’t interpret any of the material as relating to prostitution or sex.  Now, since there are many pages missing in the two surviving manuscripts of the text, it’s possible that one of those missing pages mentioned that Mary was a prostitute.  (I hesitate to get conspiratorial, but perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that certain pages went missing in both surviving manuscripts.)  But even if those missing pages didn’t mention that Mary was a prostitute, that still wouldn’t prove she wasn’t one.  So why does King think that the The Gospel Of Mary PROVES that Mary never had sex for pay?  King doesn’t explain her reasoning, but there can be only one reason:  The gospel presents Mary as the most wise and spiritual of the disciples of Jesus, and King whorephobically assumes that a prostitute could not be wise and spiritual.

In the 2006 book Secrets Of Mary Magdalene, edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, there’s an essay by the respected historian James Carroll in which, on page 24, he quotes Luke 8:2-3.  In that biblical passage, it’s mentioned that Mary Magdalene and several other women “provided for them [Jesus and the male disciples] out of their own resources.”  Carroll reads this as an indication that Mary and the other women must therefore have been “well-to-do, respectable figures.”  In other words, they could not have been prostitutes, because, of course, only well-to-do, respectable women had money — prostitutes had absolutely no way to get ahold of money.  This isn’t quite as obviously whorephobic as the Karen King example, but it does indicate a desperate over-eagerness to distance Mary Magdalene from prostitution.  Why wasn’t it obvious to Carroll that, while evidence that Mary Magdalene had money could indicate that she was “respectable”, it could just as easily be evidence that she was a prostitute?  There’s a probably unconscious bias going on there, and one sees it over and over while reading books about biblical prostitutes in general and Mary Magdalene in particular.

Tamar (page 27)On the question of whether Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, I don’t have a definite opinion one way or the other.  It’s true that none of the biblical books link Mary Magdalene with the profession, but Jesus was close with Mary of Bethany, who definitely was a prostitute, and it could be that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person.  It’s also possible that they were two separate women, since the name Mary was popular at the time. (See pages 245 to 253 of Mary Wept for more on this.)  A basic rule: when a scholar claims with certainty that Mary Magdalene absolutely could not have been a prostitute, that scholar probably has a bias against sex work.  That doesn’t mean that all of that scholar’s conclusions should be dismissed, any more than my pro-sex work bias means that my conclusions should be dismissed.  All it really means is that readers should keep authorial bias in mind when reading any book.

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Long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them.  –  Halsbury’s Laws of England

Principal SkinnerAs children, we were told that serious infractions might go on our “permanent record”, which certainly sounds ominous to a misbehaving ten-year-old.  But despite being the subject of jokes by generations of comedians, there really was no such thing until some alliance of sociopaths decided it was a good idea to put armed thugs in grammar schools to arrest children too young to spell the word “arrest” for offenses that when I was a lass might’ve been punished by writing lines, staying after school or (at worst) having one’s parents called by the principal.  Oh, there might be a formal disciplinary record in the principal’s office of that school, and in more recent times it might even be shared with other schools in the same district or diocese.  But all that was required to escape its baneful shadow was a move to a different town, and in any case its effects would have no influence after graduation.

Until recently, the adult world was rather like that as well; cops and other lawmen were constrained both by borders and by time, and one might escape their clutches either by crossing into another country or by staying out of trouble long enough to exceed the statute of limitations.  The latter is one of the most noble, sane ideas ever conceived by rulers, ranking not far behind presumption of innocence; such statutes are intended to encourage those with just complaints to report them in a timely manner, while evidence might still be found and witnesses might still have strong memories of the events in question.  In the English common law tradition, the only crime which usually has no statute of limitations is murder, because A) the effects are both severe and permanent; and B) because “murder victims can’t report the crime committed against them, and hence have no control over when it is discovered.”  Another good argument for such statutes is the same one I’ve used to argue that it’s better a thousand criminals go free than one innocent person be wrongfully imprisoned:  if a true criminal is unrepentant, he will provide the state with numerous opportunities to catch him again, and if he regrets his crime and lives an exemplary life afterward, what would be the point of punishing him when one of the supposed purposes of the “corrections system” (its Orwellian name in many countries) is reform?  If a person who is truly guilty of a crime spends the entire period of a statute of limitations living an exemplary life, society is far better served than it would’ve been by bearing the considerable social and economic expense of trial and lengthy incarceration, resulting in an unemployable outcast who often has little choice but to commit other crimes to support himself (and, if he has children, inflicting damage on them as well).

And yet in recent years, we’ve seen the schoolchild’s “permanent record” nightmare become a reality.  Computerized records can be shared internationally, making it far more difficult to escape the clutches of vengeful “authorities” whether the charges they allege are just or not.  Even after sentences are served, those upon whom they were inflicted are burdened with lifelong consequences as impossible to escape as a brand on the forehead; they may be forever denied jobs and excluded from social institutions, and if their crimes were supposedly “sexual” (a loose distinction indeed in the US, considering that even public urination can fall under its umbra) they may be consigned to pariah status forever, unable even to live among their fellow humans.  Anti-sex hysteria has become so severe that California is now trying to do away with the statute of limitations for rape; given the difficulty of proving even recent rape accusations, this will help absolutely nobody.Nate Parker  All it will do is allow a stain to be thrown on people’s reputations long after any evidence is gone.  And lest you think this isn’t that big a deal, consider the case of Nate Parker, who was tried and exonerated 17 years ago, and yet is being called a “rapist” in the national media because some “feminists” can’t stand the fact that a woman’s unproven accusation wasn’t enough to completely destroy his life forever, and now he’s become an acclaimed filmmaker.

Do you really want to live in a world where everyone must suffer the consequences of every mistake, act of desperation, bad decision, foolish choice and even false accusation forever, without any hope of escape no matter how blameless his life is after that?  Because I don’t.  I’ve been raped, several times, and you know what?  I DON’T FUCKING THINK THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON RAPE SHOULD BE REPEALED.  Nor do I think every man accused of the crime should instantly be presumed guilty, nor that the shadow of one accusation should follow him forever no matter what he does (multiple accusations spanning years or decades are a different matter, to be discussed another day).  Not only is this vile and unjust; not only does it increase the power of the carceral state; it also sets an extremely dangerous precedent.  Men aren’t the only ones who can be accused of rape, and rape isn’t the only “sex crime”; what if some sociopathic politician decides to out-California California by removing the statute of limitations on all sex crimes (which, as we have seen, can include prostitution, “sexting”, teen sex and pissing by a dumpster)?  Once a precedent is established there is no stopping power-mad lunatics from taking that and running with it.  The dismantling of laws that protect individuals from tyranny needs to be stopped at the beginning if it’s going to be stopped at all, and when it’s you being arrested for something somebody claims you did sometime during the Reagan administration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Now I a fourfold vision see,
And a fourfold vision is given to me:
‘Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah’s night
And twofold always, may God us keep
From single vision and Newton’s sleep!
 –  William Blake

William Blake constructed an elaborate artificial mythology full of original concepts, gods, places and terms.  One of these concepts is Ulro, an utterly fallen state divorced from all abstraction and transcendence; he imagined four states of being, with Eternity (also called Eden) being the highest and Ulro being the lowest.  Beings in Ulro have “single vision”; they see only mundane physical reality uncolored by imagination, inspiration or even fully developed eroticism.  Ulro is the state occupied by the dullest sort of human, who is unable to see any of the complexities of the world around them; it is a kind of spiritual sleep, dominated by the stomach and intestines, and people who exist this way can be visualized as going through the world with one eye closed, seeing everything flat and without proper perspective.  The second state, Generation, is the one in which more intellectually & spiritually aware humans exist; it is dominated by the genitals and can be imagined as seeing with both eyes.  The third state, Beulah, occurs when the individual is open to the spiritual or imaginative dimension; it is dominated by the heart and characterized by “threefold vision”, which one might think of as the “third eye” of mysticism, the “altered consciousness” experienced by psychedelic drug users, an ecstatic religious state or even a transcendent erotic experience.  Finally, Eternity, dominated by the head and characterized by “fourfold vision”, allows connection to the entire universe; it is a condition of total bliss which few humans can reach, and even then only for very short periods of time while existing in this plane.

I’ve been fascinated by Blake’s mysticism ever since I first studied it while working on my bachelor’s degree in English; my major concentration was on the Romantic Period, and Blake was the subject of at least one major term paper and a number of lesser ones.  I wove many of his concepts into the D&D universe I created, and I often find myself looking at the world through a Blakean lens, especially when thinking about the incredible, half-blind ignorance with which so many people view the world, especially when the topic is sex.  Traditional religions, authoritarian governments, power-hungry collective entities and the popular media all work  –  separately and in conjunction  –  to immerse the population in a dense fog of obfuscation, a Veil of Ulro which allows them to be just awake enough to serve their masters, but not awake enough to actually penetrate that fog and see the world around them as it is.  They believe in the most ridiculous nonsense about sex, imagining men to be such eunuchs that they can simply be ordered to be celibate by churches, military officials, prison officials or prudish wives, and women to be so asexual that the only possible reason they might engage in pragmatic sex is because some evil man forced them to.  They are “shocked” when government actors behave exactly like other men would under the same conditions, and refuse to understand that interesting costumes don’t magically make men into paragons, but rather make them much worse.  They actually think that the leaders they have chosen to follow are better and more noble than those on the evil Other Team, and obediently close their one open eye whenever those leaders order them to ignore spying, brutality, looting, racism and even mass murder.  And they’re willing to believe in grandiose fantasies utterly divorced from all known facts about statistics, economics, psychology, sexuality, anthropology and plain common sense rather than accept that some women can have pragmatic sex, that most men are willing to pay them for it, and that many people are happy to strive for truly Pinocchian levels of dishonesty in order to make a profit, seize power, get rid of people they’re bigoted against or even seek petty vengeance.  Even Blake himself only claimed to have fourfold vision in moments of “supreme delight”, and most of us need drugs, meditation or superlative sexual experiences to get our “third eyes” open.  But is it really too much to ask that people just wake the hell up and open the second eye that’s waiting and ready right there on the fronts of their heads?

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