Learning from 2015

Ok, this is going to be a long one. In this post I’m going to go over a LOT of the different topics and ideas I had thought about over the course of 2015 and wanted to post about but could never find the time or motivation. A lot of them I feel very strongly about but the thought of having to reiterate arguments many other people are making (and have made and will continue to make) left me exasperated. This may be my only post this year, it may not, but I wanted to at last commit these ideas to digital paper, as it were, and ensure that they were put out there. I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days and the character limit there makes it very hard to sufficiently expand upon any one point during a given discussion. The platform seems to engender, in others, at least, the desire to fire out as many discrete points as possible as opposed to making one solid and defensible claim and arguing that point back and forth. Anyway.

  • Stop misgendering people. Just stop it. Don’t make excuses, don’t say anything else, just stop it.
  • Respect people’s preferred pronouns. If you are unsure what they are: ASK the person.
  • Nonbinary people are valid. They exist, they are real and their gender and identity is valid.
  • Bisexual people are bisexual. They’re not sometimes straight, sometimes gay, they are bisexual. Understand this. Accept this.
    • Sexual orientation is a spectrum and can be fluid but a bisexual person is bisexual even if they have only had relationships/relations with one gender.
  • Feminism is not about men’s rights. Feminism is about striving for women to be equal to men in all appropriate regards. Men’s issues or inequalities do not invalidate feminism.
  • Feminism will, however, positively affect men’s rights. In an ideal world, at least. When people can remove a person’s gender from an issue those inequalities should become less prevalent.
  • Genital mutilation of anyone of any gender who cannot consent where not medically necessary is a horrific abuse of bodily integrity. To be clear, this includes male circumcision of infants.
  • Male circumcision is proven to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates [Ref] but its use as a strategy to fight HIV/AIDS in epidemic regions doesn’t undo the abuse of bodily integrity.
  • If you want to fight for men’s rights and highlight inequalities faced by men, attacking people, slandering them, throwing slurs and doxxing is NOT an effective strategy.
  • If you are Pro-Life the most effective thing you can do to reduce the numbers of abortions being pursued by Irish women is to promote #BetterSexEd
    • In statistics from 1996, Netherlands and Belgium had the lowest abortion rates internationally [Ref pg.27] and this is in large part due to their comprehensive Sex Education ethos [Ref]
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it does not define at what point an embryo/fetus becomes a “child”
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it only states “the child…needs…appropriate legal protection before…birth
  • Fighting human trafficking and sex trafficking by criminalising Sex Workers and/or their customers and the rights of everyone involved is NOT a proven effective strategy.
    • Men who buy sex and thereby create the demand that fuels trafficking have stated that greater criminal penalties, having their name publicized and having a letter sent home stating that they were arrested for buying sex would deter them from buying sex.[Ref]
    • The argument here is that men create the demand for sex work which fuels trafficking. So, instead of tackling the trafficking, we are instead making something more illegal than it otherwise would be, in order to attack a different crime. I can see how anything that reduces trafficking levels could be seen as a good policy but the reality of the situation is no matter how harsh the criminal penalties are, the demand will be reduced yes, but not eliminated. The groups and individuals who make money from human trafficking and sex trafficking may make less money, but so long as there is profit to be made from whatever demand is available this human rights abuse will continue largely unabated. Without any statistics or models to show how much demand can and will be reduced by, determining how much profit is made by these groups, factoring in the costs to these people of trafficking people it is largely impossible, I believe, to determine whether this policy will actually result in reduced trafficking of people for sex or other purposes.
    • Furthermore, Sex Workers come in many different forms and not all of them are trafficked individuals. While it’s unclear what actual effects this kind of policy will have on trafficking, it is very clear just how detrimental an effect it will have on people who are Sex Workers either by choice, by economic circumstance or other reason. It will rob them of access to proper resources for health, safety, finances, shelter and, ultimately, their life and livelihood. Because the demand will not completely disappear and because these people will still need to pay their bills, feed themselves and any dependants they may have they will be forced to operate in extremely unsafe conditions where they are in fact putting themselves at risk of being trafficked for sex.
    • Please also bear in mind that the Nordic Model uses Sweden as a litmus test for the effects on trafficking however the Swedish Ministry of Justice itself, in reviewing what effect their policies had, if any, “[acknowledged] the limitations in determining the prevalence of illegal activities[Ref]. They still said they were confident that their policies made a difference but were limited in actually determining what levels of these activities were going on. That is hugely problematic and should not be ignored.
  • Toxic masculinity genuinely affects men in an adverse manner and contributes to the abuses and inequalities they suffer.
  • Rape culture exists in a society where a claim of rape or sexual assault is met with comments of “he/she deserved it”, “just trying to ruin his/her life”, “that wasn’t rape”…
  • Rape culture affects both men and women. Your denial of rape culture hurts both men and women.
  • One feminist saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of feminism complicit and culpable in that persons abuses. Likewise one MRA saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of Men’s Rights complicit and culpable in that persons abuses.
  • No matter who or what you disagree with, no matter how fiercely you hold your position, your strongest, most effective weapons are 1) Rational Discourse 2) Evidence 3) Arguing the point, not the person and resisting any and all urges to Argumentum Ad Hominem.
  • If someone is slinging shit at you in a discussion you do not win by slinging shit back. You win by successfully articulating and defending your position. Anything else is probably a waste of your time.
    • Some people with a probable MRA connection have told me that they throw shit at feminists online because some people with a probable feminism connection threw shit at them. What, are you 4 years old? If you want to further your cause in an effective manner, wasting your time trading Ad Hominems back and forth is a waste of everyone’s time and it only serves to fuel any potential backlash from others who are more than happy to waste their time throwing shit instead of furthering their own cause. It doesn’t matter who started it, be mature enough to cut it out anyway.
  • No matter what anyone else writes or says or does, make up your own mind. Articulate and defend your position. Question and reinforce your position.
  • DO NOT provide sources/data in support of a particular claim/position you are making if the sources/data do not conclusively support your claim/position.
    • For example, if you provide a graph that shows that the number of male suicides in a given date range increases while government spending in prostate cancer research goes down over the same date range while government spending on breast cancer research goes up over the same date range you CANNOT use this to prove a claim like “feminism is killing men”. The reason for this is because you are not actually doing proper science or statistical analysis. Your data could be used to support ANY number of claims because there are too many other factors involved. “Feminism” is far too vague as a factor. The graph does not provide statistics on government spending on mental health, which could be a far greater factor than “feminism”, it does not include statistics on private funding for the different research areas, it does not show statistics on female suicide rates which could show instead “feminism” is killing both men and women however this still too vague as a factor. I could go on but I won’t. This is bad science, bad statistical analysis and bad logic. Don’t do it. Correlation does not equal causation.

Polyamory: My First Steps

So, a while ago I came out as being both bisexual and polyamorous. Today I figured A) I’d actually get back to blogging about stuff and B) I’d write a bit about how my life has been since then.

So, the first thing I want to say is that the way I handled the “coming out” process was stupid and hurtful to people I know and care about. On the one hand I felt like this was my truth to share and no one can tell me how or when to share it. On the other hand, sharing something like that online while in a relationship with someone that is becoming serious, before having spoken to them about it, was clearly stupid and thoughtless.

So, first lesson learned: if you’re like me and needed to commit the words to digital ink in order to compose your thoughts and figure out how you actually feel, DON’T post it where people you know can see it and tie it to you and would be upset that you didn’t let them know first. Save it as a draft or write it on screamintothevoid.com or something.

The way I handled that was stupid but, realistically, it didn’t make the discussion with my then partner (we’ll call her S) any harder or easier. She couldn’t get past the idea of not wanting to “share” me and despite her best efforts to find a way to be ok with it we had to eventually admit that there wasn’t a future for us if I wasn’t going to be monogamous and committed to her and so we broke up. That sucked, a lot.

While I do not in any way blame S for feeling how she did that concept of “ownership” or “sharing” really grates on me, I have to admit. I’ll talk about my thoughts on that in a different blog post though.

So, after learning from that mistake, I updated all my social media/dating platforms to explicitly state that I was bisexual and polyamorous and that anyone who wasn’t ok with that would be better served seeking a relationship with someone else. I spoke with a few people on Tagged and OkCupid but eventually happened upon the profile of the wonderful @HelenaHalikias on OkCupid. I didn’t hold out any hope of a favourable response as her profile didn’t seem to be overly in favour of poly/non-monogamy but I messaged her anyway, explaining that that was what I was looking for and I was pleasantly surprised when she responded very favourably and was quite interested in the idea of being polyamorous.

While this online relationship was blossoming, a woman I had met last Christmas on Tagged (let’s call her R) but never actually met up with, read my Invisible (Short Story) and messaged me to say that the erotic subtext at the end of the story had quite aroused her and our subsequent discussion led to a very intense intimate encounter.

Helena and I spent a good bit of time chatting over a period of days and weeks and we become quite close and we seemed to be on really the same page in terms of what our ideas of a good poly relationship were: communication, honesty alongside emotional and sexual freedom. We agreed that with each other as primary, committed partners, there was no reason either one of us couldn’t have fantastic relationships with other people.

Meanwhile, myself and R had met up a few times for more intimate encounters and even a date or two. I had however, after our first encounter, spelled out to her quite clearly that I was bisexual and polyamorous and went through what I meant by polyamorous as she wasn’t familiar with the term. She seemed to have no issue with my description and we were happy to keep meeting up. It was slowly becoming serious, though R was getting a lot more serious than I was and I didn’t realise this until after things came to a head. We’ll get to that in a second.

I’m normally nervous meeting people for the first time, even if I’ve spoken to them online for a while but strangely myself and Helena had none of that nervousness and we got on fantastically. The wrinkle came when Helena had gone back home after we had spent a wonderful weekend together and I mentioned to R that I had had a friend over. A female friend. Yes, we had been intimate. Wait…what? I thought I told you I was polyamorous. I honestly don’t know what happened but R very quickly seemed to do a 180 regarding her opinion on polyamory to the point where some very offensive things were said to me. We had a few interactions online and eventually came to the conclusion that polyamory was really not something R thought could ever be ok and so we went our separate ways.

After Helena and I met up in person a few times and had a lot of wonderful times together we became ‘official’ as a poly couple and we both continued seeking positive relationships with other people online. Conveniently we both had a focus on interacting with same sex people as neither of us had any real experience with being with same sex people in anything other than friendships and so we’ve both been gently nudging each other towards those kinds of scenarios and being just super positive and supportive. We have still at this point yet to consummate any of these scenarios but I think we’ve both got some really great people we’ve grown closer to and it’s likely only a matter of time before those desires become lived experiences and we can both explore ourselves and grow as people.

My sister, aside from chastising me for my handling of the “coming out” process (given that S is a great friend of hers) was worried that being poly and bisexual was exposing me to a lot of potential emotional hurt. I took a bit of offence to this as while I know I can be stupid and while I know I can be thoughtless, emotional strength is something I feel I have mastered. She half-jokingly threw my experience with being married at 19 and divorced at 22 in my face as an example of my emotional immaturity but the other half of that joke where she was genuinely concerned for my emotional wellbeing, while appreciated, still felt like a bit of a slap in the face. I’m not good at keeping in contact with my friends and family and I’m not always very talkative about my emotions and feelings (that’s what a blog is for, in my head) so I know she was coming from a caring place and she didn’t have much frame of reference for my negative response but that experience she threw in my face is one of the major reasons why I feel I’m so strong emotionally. That experience taught me so much about myself and with each subsequent relationship that I have had I have become more and more of the forthright person who knows who and what he wants. This last year has been a further deepening of that process as I’ve acknowledged that being bisexual and poly is the best way for me to go about my personal and romantic life.

If I wasn’t that strong person I believe myself to be R’s confessed love for me could have stifled my resolve and I could have ended up in a relationship that wasn’t a good fit. If I wasn’t that strong person I believe myself to be, I wouldn’t have come out as polyamorous to S and I could have ended up in a relationship that wasn’t a good fit. If I wasn’t that strong person I believe myself to be I wouldn’t have the courage to stand up and advocate for my rights and the rights of others and my life would be full of unfulfilled relationships and unmet needs. I wouldn’t have the fantastic and supportive relationship that I have now. I wouldn’t be happy. Everyone deserves to be happy.

For What It’s Worth…

…here’s my 2c on the current PZ vs. Rationalia mud-flinging debacle that has even dragged in Michael Nugent, who really only just wants us all to get along while we further the true causes of the atheist/skeptic movement.

Rape is not a joke. I personally don’t find jokes with rape as the subject matter funny, nor do a lot of other people. Intellectually I understand the irony of the Nirvana song “Rape Me” but the subject matter leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. This is ok. Some people find those kind of jokes funny, and that’s ok too.

For anyone who’s out of touch with these slightly-on-the-fringe events, a guy called Pappa on Rationalia.com forums created a thread asking “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” Then PZ Myers picked up on the thread, and posted a crude condemnation of not just Pappa but the forum as a whole on the back of this thread.
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The Trouble With Porn…

…is that even smart people like to misrepresent and attack it. Taslima Nasreen says “Pornography is exclusively for men’s pleasure” and that she is against pornography in that she is against abuse and degradation. She is, however, for erotica and provides the contrasting definitions of pornography and erotica, attributed to Diana Russell.

Pornography: Material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behavior.

Erotica: Sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all human beings and animals portrayed.

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Imagine…

…if we treated sports like we do sex. Only HBO would regularly show scenes of people playing sport in their shows, ESPN subscriptions would be listed anonymously on credit card transactions, late night tv would have adverts for sports chat lines where women naughtily talked of goals and tackles, men would frequent footie bars where fully dressed women kick balls around, it would be illegal in some countries for a fan of one sport to play with a fan of another sport, and in most countries they definitely couldn’t get married. It would even be illegal to wear a team jersey in public in most civilised countries. Not that hard to imagine though is it?

A male perspective on women, clothing and feminism

(a little disclaimer: apologies to transgender and intersex folk, I am not ignoring you, this article is just aimed directly at the social conventions around the prototypical gender roles. It’s regressive and it sucks but that’s life it would seem.)

Spurred on by an internal discussion with myself on the topic of the French ban on burkas etc… I’d like to offer my own perspective on how women, and their clothes, are perceived in society. It’s admittedly a male opinion, but a largely unusual one given the standard of stereotypical male thinking.

On the subject of burkas first of all I must admit I’m a little torn. I rail against the idea of enforced dress codes and uniforms etc… and I’m of the opinion that people should be allowed wear what they want when they want. At the same time, however, I’m vehemently opposed to the further oppression of women at the hands of vicious patriarchies in the form of forcing them to hide their bodies in cloth sacks in order not to inflame the lust of men (alongside clearly hypocritical claims that men are perfect and women are the weak gender).

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On The Merits of Being Honestly Intellectual

[This post has been awarded the official badge of mediocrity]

Many people (myself included) will extol the virtues of being intellectually honest, however today I’d like to speak to the merits of being honestly intellectual i.e. being exactly as smart, intelligent and intellectual as you are at (almost) all times.

It’s a common experience both in the real world and in the virtual world of television and film media that there are certain people, generally at least one, in any given circle of friends who are if not actually more intelligent or intellectual than the others they certainly come across that way. Personally, in most of my various circles, that person tends to be me. I’m pedantic (I correct people all the time on spelling, grammar, logic etc…) and I like to use a wide-ranging swathe of my vocabulary most of the time. It speaks to this fact that the level of grammar and vocabulary that I use in this blog (which is generally similar to that which I tend towards in my verbal orations) ranks as “100% Intermediate” in Google’s search based on Reading Level, which would rate it at around a University level of reading but not quite the standard of a Scientific Journal or other academic media.
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