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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Many if not most people who oppose laws against private, consensual, sexual behavior describe themselves as “sex-positive”; I am not among them.  You may find this surprising, given that I had an essentially-uncountable number of sex partners even before I started making my living from sex more than 20 years ago.  But it isn’t necessary to imagine sex as a positive good in order to oppose its violent suppression by “authorities”, nor to oppose those who consider it an evil to be controlled, nor to make a living from it; in fact, I think the naive and idealistic idea of sex as an actual good is just as harmful, and causes nearly as much societal ill, as the primitive and warped notion that it’s an active evil.  Manichean dualities don’t really exist outside of fantasy and religious literature and the guts of computers; in the real world, most natural behaviors are neither good nor evil in and of themselves, and only become so when used to create weal or woe.  Lighting a fire is a morally neutral act; it becomes good if done to cook food or protect people from the cold, and evil when it’s done to destroy another person’s property (or even one’s own, if followed by insurance fraud).  Similarly, sex is a morally neutral act which becomes good when used to create good feelings, bond people, or make money; it becomes evil when it’s inflicted on a non-consenting partner or used to lure someone to their doom.  This should be obvious, but some people are so locked into black and white thinking that they prefer to cling to the ludicrous notion that rape isn’t sex (despite involving exactly the same actions) than admit that “good” sex can be used to harm someone.  Similarly, is it really so much of a stretch from “sex is an actual good” to “sex is sacred”?  And yet the latter statement has often been used to stigmatize, demonize and even criminalize casual sex, ethical non-monogamy, sex work, kink, homosexuality and a number of other consensual behaviors, and I don’t just mean by traditional religions; feminists and even soi-disant sex positive folk use very similar sentiments to argue that while amateur sex is good, sex work is bad because it contaminates the magical rainbow rays emanating from “mutual” sex.   Similar arguments are used to argue for the repugnant and deeply-flawed concept of “enthusiastic consent“, and to pretend that sexual crimes are so uniquely destructive that nobody can ever recover from them, and that those convicted of them should be ostracized from society forever.  Moral judgments smeared upon morally-neutral acts help nobody; all they do is set up an arbitrary standard to which self-appointed “authorities” feel justified in comparing other people’s consensual sex, and inflicting penalties upon those they find wanting.

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While work is always an effort, work that one loves and finds rewarding is also a source of joy and fulfillment (not to mention money).  So when one has a good week full of work, with generous and interesting gentlemen whose company one enjoys, there’s a kind of  pleasant tiredness at the end of it that goes beyond mere contentment and job satisfaction to a broader sense of a life well-lived.  And for someone like me, who has a lot of trouble getting her nervous system to settle into anything like “relaxation” even when she’s soaking in a hot tub, that’s a really nice place to be.  Obviously, it’s an ephemeral place, but that’s OK; though I hate to get philosophical (a terrible lie), the entire universe and everything in it is ephemeral to one degree or another, and all we can hope for is to maximize the nice parts while minimizing the bad ones.  That’s why I’m taking even more steps to increase the amount of time spent with people I love, while decreasing that spent in unpleasant pursuits.  And if you want to spend time with me (in or out of hot tubs), eating good food and enjoying good conversation and other adult pleasures, you know how to get in contact with me.  Why put it off?  You, too, can maximize the nice parts of your life, and I’m very good at helping people to do that.

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Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  –  Matthew 23:27-28

The United States is not, and never has been, a “Christian nation”, despite the claims of many modern evangelical Christians who are apparently unable to read anything other than the Bible and religious tracts.  Most of the founders were Deists, and the Constitution clearly delineated that the new country was to have no state religion, that everyone has the right to worship (or not) as they please, and that church and state were to be entirely separate from one another.  Unfortunately, the majority of the population were both Christian and far too stupid and selfish to understand why a state religion is an astonishingly bad idea, even for those who embrace the favored creed.  As a result, legislators slowly introduced Christian notions of morality into the laws, and by the late 19th century both federal and state legal codes were thoroughly infested with odious statutes drawn from whichever Old Testament precepts Protestant Christians had decided to keep (while ignoring, for example, bans on eating shellfish or menstruating women attending religious services).  But while these dour authoritarians were only too happy to adopt whatever prohibitions on pleasure they could get past the courts, they showed little interest in the pronouncements of the guy for whom their religion was named, such as all that stuff about charity, mercy and forgiveness (and separation of church and state).  Still, up until recently, most Christians at least paid lip service to Jesus’ teachings, even if they weren’t too interested in enshrining them in the law.  But as US “authorities” have increased their outward shows and proclamations of Christianity, their actual actions have become increasingly un-Christian.  A quick Google search will reveal plenty of incidents of people being fined or even arrested for feeding the hungry, and earlier this week there was this item:

Hours after a humanitarian group released videos showing border patrol agents kicking over water bottles left for migrants in the Arizona desert, a volunteer for the organization was arrested and charged with harboring undocumented immigrants.  Scott Daniel Warren…faces a federal charge of harboring two people in the country illegally…William Walker, an attorney for Warren, said his client’s actions were not criminal.  “This is a humanitarian aid worker trying to save lives,” Walker said.  His arrest last week came after border patrol agents conducted surveillance on a building where two immigrants were given food, water, beds and clean clothes…No More Deaths last week gave news organizations videos taken between 2010 and 2017, mostly by cameras at its desert camp.  In one clip, a border patrol agent kicked over five water jugs meant to supply immigrants.  In another, an agent pours gallons of water on the ground…

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

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I’m really pretty damned sick of social engineers claiming that it’s “bigoted” or “sexist” or whatever for men (or lesbians) not to socially date (ie, have sex with) women of some particular group (such as older women, obese women, trans women, kinky women, etc).  Tellingly, nobody (except the “women don’t date nice guys” cult) tries to put similar pressure on straight women or gay men; apparently, it’s perfectly OK to refuse to date any man for any reason.  Only women apparently need to be “protected” by forcing people to have sex with them whether they like it or not, and the authoritarians who subscribe to this revolting policy usually appear to have no issue with queer people refusing to socially date those of the opposite sex.  So according to them, all factors of attraction except homosexuality are purely voluntary and can be changed as easily as I change my underwear.  Well, I’m here to tell you that this is 100% pure, reeking bullshit.  Nobody can help who they’re attracted to, and nobody has the right to demand any individual socially date any people of a certain group (not talking about sex work here).  For example, I’m too old, too busty, too muscular, too intellectual, too talkative, too intense, too kinky, etc for some guys, and just the fact that I’m female means a lot of women aren’t interested in me sexually.  Similarly, I’m extremely picky about who I sleep with for free.  And that’s all perfectly OK.  Nobody, repeat NOBODY, has the right to demand anyone else have sex with them or anyone else, any more than they have the right to stop anyone from having sex with consenting partners or policing their reasons for having sex.  Furthermore, to make such a demand, or to insult and socially pressure people for refusing sexual contact with some others, demonstrates an utter disregard for the most basic principles of consent.  It’s not only reprehensible and, frankly, disgusting; it is the mindset of a rapist, and nobody with the faintest modicum of respect for individual rights should tolerate it in even the slightest degree.

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I’m really getting pretty damned sick of the infantile “enthusiastic consent” trope, which promotes a fairy-tale view of human sexuality in which the only possible reason for having sex is “fun”, the only acceptable form of consent is throwing oneself into sex with the wild and totally senseless abandon of a teenage wererabbit on coke, and all enjoyment of the act must be “fair” and “equal” (but how something so subjective is to be measured, we aren’t told).  This is both dumb and dangerous.  “Fun” is immaterial; this is the kind of argument used to stigmatize sex workers because we don’t have work-sex for “fun” or “pleasure”.  The actual standard is, “Did everyone get enough of what they were looking for out of the encounter to be OK with it?  And if not, was it because the other person was actually behaving badly?”  There are lots of reasons for having sex, and “fun” or personal pleasure is only one of them.  Just because it’s the only one you personally appreciate doesn’t make all the dozens of other reasons “bad” or “wrong” or “lesser”.  Even people who do enjoy a sex act don’t necessarily enter into it “enthusiastically”.  I know that I never do; being persuaded is a big part of the pleasure of sex for me, and I’m not remotely alone.  And someone who needs to be persuaded is, by definition, not “enthusiastic”.  Finally, even if the sex wasn’t everything you wanted, that does not automatically mean the other person was acting maliciously. Use your damned adult judgment, for Aphrodite’s sake; most people of both sexes are crap in bed, so bad sex is usually just due to the incompetence of one or both partners, not some eeeeeeeeeeeeevil plot on the part of one of them.

Furthermore, “enthusiasm” is a form of behavior characteristic of people incapable of actually considering all the aspects of a situation they find themselves in; it’s the elder sister of disappointment and the mother of resentment.  “Enthusiasm” is what happens when hormones or neurology overwhelm considered judgment.  It’s much more common in the young, whose brains haven’t completely stabilized yet.  And while it can be intoxicating to experience, it’s unwise to make important decisions while intoxicated.

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Two days ago, Dan Savage shared this letter on Twitter and asked a number of sex workers he knows for their input: 

There were a lot of answers you might find interesting, and a lot of interaction between posters; you might like to check out the thread.  But this column has limited space, so I’m just going to reproduce two answers here.  The first is from my dear friend Mistress Matisse, who saw the tweet an hour or so before I did:

It’s not about “fair”, that’s a false equivalence. It’s about: what do each person needs to be happy, and can the other person support that.  Polyamory is not supposed to be a strictly tit-for-tat situation (no pun intended).  If this man feels that he wants to be polyamorous, then he should do that, and his partner should decide whether she’s OK with that or not, and either stay or go.  If this lady wants to do sex work, and it has nothing to do with polyamory for her, then she should do it.  And her partner can decide that he is or is not OK being partners with a sex worker.  But these two people are comparing apples to oranges, and they need to unhitch these two completely different concepts from each other and work them out separately.  Because you can’t pretend they’re the same.  To me (and this is just me) being reluctantly monogamous OR polyamorous because your partner wants it is right up there with having a kid when you don’t really want one, but your partner does.  It’s not really fair to anybody, and it’s just going to poison the whole situation.  And as you may well imagine, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you that you may not use your body to make a living in any way you see fit (short of violence) just because they bought into some meaningless societal dictates that have been force-fed to us all.

The rest of the column is my answer:

I really like Matisse’s answer to this, but I’d like to add that I see both parties being unreasonable here in different ways.  He clearly doesn’t see her work as work, but as recreational, and that’s going to cause problems down the road NO MATTER HOW they resolve this situation.  I absolutely guarantee that whether she quits working or not, he will at some future time hold her sex work over her head, because 1) he clearly equates it to promiscuity, and 2) he thinks of promiscuity as something “lesser” if not quite “bad”.  Furthermore, what’s her alternative if she quits sex work?  Doing some shit job in an office working for a boss for far less money?  That’s going to breed resentment.  I quit sex work TWICE for “love”, and it was a bad idea both times.  At the same time, I don’t think she’s really being reasonable either.  So what if his reason for having other partners is different from hers?  Setting up a hierarchy of motivations (“My reason for doing X is more acceptable than your reason for doing a not-dissimilar thing”) is also a recipe for resentment in the relationship.  People are different; they have different views and different priorities, and comparing them to one another is just as damaging to a relationship as demanding that both parties get exactly the same thing out sex or other cooperative activities.  As a woman who has a lot of difficulty achieving orgasm, should I demand my partner not climax until I have, and that each of us has to have sex for personal pleasure and only for that reason each time?  Of course not; that would be unreasonable and sabotage the relationship.  Yet our culture worships “mutuality” in sex as though it were a cultic totem, even though it’s as undependable and ultimately meaningless as “love at first sight”.  So what I’m saying is, as Matisse pointed out, each person has to conduct themselves as they feel they want and need to, with honesty and without unrealistic expectations of some kind of parity.  And if the other person is OK with that, then the relationship will work.  But the second either of the parties starts bean-counting or saying “you can’t do that”, or “if you do that I’ll do this”, or “it’s not fair!”, that relationship is headed for a really rocky road without a spare tire.

(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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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
–  attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca

And so we come to the end of another difficult year.  I think it’s safe to say that most Americans considered it a pretty bad one, partly because of the behavior of our mad emperor but mostly because of the continuation of trends that were in place long before anyone even knew who he was…trends like the increasing violence of the police, the increasing prevalence of surveillance, and the increasing number of laws designed to criminalize every aspect of ordinary life.  The year was also not especially good for me personally; oh, I’m not under as much stress as I was last year or the year before at this time, and there were some wonderful high points like my weekly dates (and trip to Ireland) with Lorelei Rivers.  But I’m afraid the damage of decades is catching up with me; none of the old wounds are healing any longer and I just can’t get the howling things to go back in their boxes any more, so now my coping strategy is “spend as much time as possible in the less-haunted parts of the house; eliminate, ignore or refuse activities that might take me downstairs alone; turn the music up so loud they’re drowned out; and spend as little of the rest of the time conscious and sober as is practical.”  Case in point, this very essay; for most of my life this time of year was a happy one, but in the past few years it has become for me a time for melancholy and emotional exhaustion.  It seems the most certain way to ensure that a situation worsens is to declare that it’s already as bad as it can get, so I won’t do that.  But I will say that even in the midst of this blue period, I still dare to hope that maybe the coming year won’t be quite as difficult as the last three years have been, even if only because I’m so used to it now.

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