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Not My Sexual Revolution August 17, 2012

Posted by wfenza in Skepticism and atheism.
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Deborah Anapol is one of the founders of the polyamory movement. Her contributions to the movement cannot be overstated. She is the cofounder of Loving More magazine, and the author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. She works tirelessly to promote acceptance of my lifestyle, and she is a truly valuable ally to have.

That said, I need to express my disagreement with her recent article in Psychology Today, where she argues that the sexual revolution has, after tallying up a remarkable number of achievements, stalled:

The architects of the Sexual Revolution intended to unleash the evolutionary energies of sex and love in service of human liberation. Instead, attempts at sexual r/evolution have been repeatedly sidetracked, hijacked, and eventually derailed by a combination of greed, lust, and immaturity. Sex and love are potent forces which can easily spiral out of control. While change always stirs fear in those who cling to the security of the familiar, the absence of a strong spiritual foundation at the heart of the sexual revolution aroused legitimate concerns for many. Ultimately, the lack of integrity in the movement for sexual freedom has prevented the unfolding of its full potential for transforming society. Furthermore, its failure to focus on the ecological consequences of colonizing our planet in the same way we have colonized our own bodies and genitals, has drastically curtailed its relevance.

She seems to be tracing the problems with our sexuality to two causes: (1) the lack of spirituality in the movement, and (2) the failure to merge the sexual revolution movement with the environmental movement.

The nicest term I can come up with for this is “bullshit.” Anapol does not define what she means by “spirituality,” so she may mean something different, but she’s writing in Psychology Today, which is a mainstream publication. The mainstream understanding of spirituality refers to religion. Religion, as will be obvious to most readers of this blog, is the main force holding back further progression of the sexual revolution. The fear of sex in our society is intrinsically linked to Christian values, which completely saturate American society. Furthermore, holding sex as “sacred,” as Anapol suggests, only encourages people to be as irrational about sex as they are about prayer. The way to move the sexual revolution forward is to encourage sober-minded rationalism about sex. That means more thinking rationally, less holding things sacred.

Secondly, I don’t see what sexual issues and environmental issues have to do with each other, except that right-wingers hate them both. Anapol seems to be arguing that respect for women’s bodies and respect for the Earth come from the same place. That idea has no rational basis. “Mother Earth” is not a real person. The rational basis for environmentalism is selfish. We need the environment. Destroying the environment is bad for us. Respecting women’s bodies is not about selfish goals. It’s about recognizing that all people deserve a minimum amount of respect and decency. There are selfish reasons to respect women’s bodies as well, but that doesn’t seem to be Anapol’s connection.

Also, I don’t really agree that the sexual revolution has stalled. Our society is becoming more comfortable about sex every day. Gay marriage is legal in six states, with many more expected in the near future, and polls show that it’s supported by a majority of Americans. Every major city has a kink scene. High-profile people are standing up for non-monogamy. No-fault divorce has largely put an end to the legal consequences of adultery. Comprehensive sex education is now available with a few clicks of a mouse. Pornography is now available for almost any sexual interest imaginable. Websites like Fetlife has created communities where nobody is shamed for their sexual desires. We still have a long way to go, but I think we’re on the right track. Change is happening. But, like all big changes, it’s happening slowly. I don’t know what Anapol thinks has gone so wrong.

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1. Jeremy - August 17, 2012

It’s sad to see an old guard leader doing something that we have had a lot of trouble with locally: attempting to conflate other causes into polyamory. As a movement, we have to stay pure and focused in order to move forward. While some of them may be related, directly bringing in, LGBT, gender identity, environmentalism, or anything else only serves to hurt every group involved. Not only will a misstep by one hurt everyone connected, but it does a disservice to every group involved by implying to the public that they cannot stand on their own merits.

For this stance of focusing on poly exclusively and not singling out any other subculture as special or allowing them to co-opt our mission, my organization has been called hostile to other subcultures for which we have nothing but respect, support, and admiration. It is beyond disheartening to see this same implication coming from Anapol.

2. environmentalism » Blog Archive » Not My Sexual Revolution « atheist, polyamorous, skeptics - August 17, 2012

[...] Posted by wfenza in Skepticism and atheism. trackback [...]

3. Paleonx - August 18, 2012

I can’t help, but get the impression that your criticism of this article isn’t really warranted. I don’t necessarily agree with what she’s saying, but here are my reasons:
1. Calling something ‘bullshit’ in an argument gives off the impression of being biased. – but this is of minor importance and this is a blog after all.
2. Your argument against spirituality doesn’t work. Here’s the link to spirituality in the article you linked: http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/spirituality It says that it is not necessarily religious. By terming spirituality personal, she’s essentially safeguarded herself against any objection because ‘spirituality’ could be anything.
3. Furthermore, while I agree that religion is completely counter-intuitive to any sexual revolution, even if this is what she meant, I think she still has a point. The way I read her statement, and I could be wrong in this, is that she was giving a reason as to why the sexual revolution has stalled. The reason being that many people want religious/spiritual foundation, because that’s what they’re used to. What I didn’t take her to mean is that there is no spiritual foundation, and therefore there ought to be one – though, I will grant, reading on towards the end, perhaps she was implying there should be a spiritual foundation(Mother Earth stuff), but definitely not a typical religious foundation.
4. For your second argument against the environmentalist analogy, while her point might not be the greatest, I still see the connection. Her point seems to head towards some much deeper thinking, but on the surface leads to this: many people still objectify the earth and treat it like trash, just like how many people still objectify women. This alone has obviously led to your objection, but from what I read it seems like she has a much more in-depth reason for saying this, that couldn’t be presented in such a short article. That being said, this was for Psychology Today right? Seems to me she’s suggesting there is a psychological connection between how the two are treated, likely some basic assumptions or cognitive processes that leads to the objectification and so on, of both the earth and women.
Or maybe I’m just giving her too much credit? First time I’ve read anything of hers, so perhaps I don’t have the appropriate background to comment?

4. wfenza - August 18, 2012

1. Bullshit is bullshit. If that’s how something appears, I’m going to say so.

2. The problem with the term “spirituality” is, as you said, it can mean anything. I address the mainstream use of the word because Anapol didn’t give any greater guidance as to what she meant by the term. If she just means a nebulous concept that there is “something greater” than my objections to sacred sexuality will apply equally to spiritual sexuality. Both just encourage people to be less reasonable.

3. I don’t really agree with your reading. Taking the article as a whole, she seems to me to be advocating for greater involvement of spirituality in the sexual realm. Again, I don’t know what she means by “spirituality,” but I can’t imagine any way she could be using it with which i would agree.

4. I think you’re right about the connection between objectifying the Earth and objectifying women. My response is that it’s ok to objectify the Earth, because the Earth is not a person. The best environmental arguments are utilitarian. I will never be convinced by an argument that anthropomorphizes “the Earth” into a person whose bodily integrity should be respected. That’s just silly.


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