Holy crap, I’m married! May 22, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: marriage, relationships, tradition, weddings
Like, for real. Like, marriage license, wedding, reception, and all the rest that goes with it.
So, Ginny is more into things like traditions, cultural rituals, etc than I am. In fact, she would pretty much have to be. But on the whole, the day was pretty normal, at first glance. There was a guy standing between us saying some words, there was a bridal party, and we stood there looking at each other all lovingly and crap. You know, like a wedding.
But the guy standing there (my friend Staks) said some non-traditional things. The nod to gay marriage (we were at a gay community center in downtown Philadelphia, after all), references to Doctor Who, and stuff like that. He also included some traditional words that one finds in a marriage ceremony, but no references to any sky-fairies or zombie Jews, so that’s a bit abnormal, I guess.
Also, my girlfriend, the hilarious and talented Gina who readers here will all know as the very serious scientist who pisses off reddit with her analysis of comic book science, brought some people with instruments to play some rocking tunes. (And yes, Arcati Crisis does indeed rock). So, yes, girlfriend at my wedding. Happy poly time!
There were speeches, including one quite sappy and teary one which was forced out through sobs (oh, right…that was me). There was food, drinks, after parties, and crashing of other wedding parties. Also, dancing to said rocking tunes.
People visited from out of town, mimosas were had with brunch, and people left to go back home. Now back to real life, right?
This does not change much in our lives. We are still polyamorous; marriage and commitment do not change that. I am looking forward to the future, living in the present, and remembering the past few days with a smile, but also knowing that we can’t always have the people we enjoy being with around.
It was great seeing friends from Atlanta, Illinois, Virginia, etc for a couple of days. It’s a shame that we can’t all hang out on a Saturday night, in a hotel room, with drinks and ginormous pizzas every week. It’s a shame that everyone had to go home.
But many of them remain, and I am glad for that.
Marriage rights and religious discrimination September 21, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: discrimination, gay marriage, marriage, polyamorous marriage, polygamy, Title VII
Now, I’m no lawyer, but I have some thoughts, Any lawyers who come upon this are free to slice and dice the argument as they like. This will, of course, be a brief sketch of the idea, not a comprehensive argument.
Marriage and family
Now, those who think about marriage rights in the United States, as well as many other Western nations, have had to deal with the question of gay marriage in recent years. And while I know some atheists who oppose gay marriage, it is my opinion that their opposition to such things are ultimately based upon cultural values and traditions which are carried to us on the back of religious doctrines and tradition. That is, while homophobia, discrimination, etc are natural human phenomena which are merely magnified and perpetuated by the many kinds of religious institutions, it is primarily religion that is the social basis for opposition to equal marriage rights. There simply is no coherent argument against gay marriage. Religious arguments, while still not coherent when seen from the outside, are at least more internally consistent.
The so-called definition of marriage is deeply problematic, and not challenged often enough. The idea that it is only marriage when institutions, both civil and religious, wed one man and one woman, is not particularly traditional or universal. The history of marriage, which is too complicated to summarize effectively here, is one based upon property relationships. Contained within but also found outside of the traditional religious scriptures of many faiths is the idea that a wife is property, and the idea that marriage is a union of two people whom love one-another and both enter into willingly is a relatively modern idea. The idea of the nuclear family, with (stay-at-home) mother, (bread-winning) father, and children (and possibly grandma or an uncle or aunt being around) is an idealized picture that is not more than a hundred years old. Sure, families may have looked that way previous to that, but it was not the definition of family until more recently.
The bottom line is the traditionally conservative definition of marriage, and therefore of family, is not actually traditional. It is a conservative notion, for sure, but it seeks to conserve an idea which is younger than the airplane or the automobile. In a world that moves and thinks faster, where innovation is the bedrock of many economies, it is absurd that we should expect cultural and personal ideas not to change. Marriage has already changed from a hierarchical property relationship to one between consenting equals, and it will continue to change as we learn more about ourselves and what we are capable of.
But change into what? Into whatever consenting, mature, and responsible adults want it to change into. We are, after all, the arbiters of our own culture. We bow to no universal definitions or standards. Or, at least, we shouldn’t.
Descrimination is not allowed under the law in Western “Democracies” (I’m not getting into that today…). In the United States, Title VII protects people from “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” and many other nations have similar types of laws. Now, this may not seem like a way to argue about marriage (and perhaps it is not, ultimately) but allow me to present an argument. Similar or very different arguments might have to be levied in the legal whirlwind of other nations, but I’m an American, so I’ll pretend no other places exist for a little while, as is our way.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that a religious institution would start marrying homosexuals in the United States. And, let’s say, this church wanted to do so throughout the united states, even in states that don’t recognize or allow gay marriage. And, let’s say, the church proclaims that this act is part of their religious doctrine. Now, despite the fact that Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and Islamic texts say otherwise, there are other religious institutions that could, hypothetically, do so without this contradiction. Hindus, for example (As far as I can remember) don’t have the same problem with homosexuality. And what about the Shinto? Ah, how we always forget about them, don’t we? But it does not matter what religious group steps forward to do this, because the first amendment protects all religious views.
Wouldn’t these acts and doctrines, by whatever religious group that decides to act in such a way, be a challenge to the state not recognizing gay marriage? In the face of such an act, the state and/or federal government not allowing these marriages to be recognized equally with a Catholic, Jewish, or Hindu marriage seems to be religious discrimination issue. Would a religious institution who had, as part of their beliefs, the idea that anyone should be free to marry anyone, be discriminated against if they tried to do so?
Now, I know how I would respond to this. I would say that there is a distinction between what a church does within it’s doors and what the state is compelled to recognize. That is, the Temple of Holy Perversity can marry Adam and Steve, Lilith and Eve, or (perhaps) Adam, Steve and Eve, but that does not compel the state to recognize this union legally, with all the rights and privileges that come with it. That is, the marriage could be a religious one, but not a civil one. A person who took this road might argue, as some do, that marriage is a religious institution and whatever legal rights “married” people get now is really a civil union we call ‘marriage’ for the sake of simplicity and tradition. They might argue that the state should only recognize civil unions, and not any marriage that a religion can conceive of. Many people seem to be moving in this direction, although it contains seeds of further problems associated with discrimination.
Why, for example, should the government recognize the civil union of Billy and Barbara while rejecting Bobby and Mike? On what basis does it accept one type of civil union and not another? Tradition? Is this traditional distinction not based upon a biased practiced which has been perpetuated by religious bigotry and centuries of discrimination against homosexuality? Would accepting this traditional idea, carried to us by religion, not a way to respect one set of religious traditions over ones that might not accept those traditions? In short, isn’t the civil union compromise merely a way to shovel off the question of discrimination and religious preferential treatment one step further down the line?
It also seems to me (and my legal understanding of the issue gets fuzzy here) that the term “marriage” not only is not a mere religious term (because religion has usurped the idea, much like it has done to morality), but that to allow one type of union between people to have automatic civil rights and benefits while denying it to others seems to be an inequality that is not only unfair, but possibly illegal. For the states or the federal government to recognize one type of union while not another, especially if where that line lays just [sarcasm]happens [/sarcasm] to overwhelmingly coincide with the lines between religious opinions in our culture, seems a little like discrimination based upon religion to me.
I’m going to start my own religion
Now, since it is unlikely that any established church or religious institution is going to take this step, even though many specific congregations are in favor of gay marriage, we might have to start our own. And of course, since I’m an atheist, it might not be me. Or maybe not. Humanism, for example, is recognized as a religion, legally, according to some precedent. And while many atheists, including myself, are not particularly comfortable with having atheism recognized as a religion (because it’s not a religion), I will admit that in the legal sense there is meaning to talking about it as if it were. This is not a double-standard, because the point of the law against discrimination, as I understand it, is to protect people from discrimination based on whatever religious position they take, not what religion they adhere to. So while atheism is not a religion, it is protected in the same way as any religion would be.
So, could Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, or any sect thereof be the group that takes this step? Sure. And if this group starts performing ceremonies which marry two men, two women, or groups of people and these people who have all decided, as adults of their own free will, to enter into this arrangement, then does the state have to recognize it? Perhaps not, but what happens when these people start losing their jobs as a result of it. Can’t they point to their religious group, who not only blessed the union but performed it as part of their religious beliefs, and say that there are being discriminated based upon their religion?
And couldn’t they also point to the traditional religious groups, point to the fact that those who attend and marry in those mainstream places of worship don’t face this discrimination, and say that’s not fair! That’s discrimination! and be right?
Not only morally, but legally?
That’s my question.
It is a question that has implications for not only gay marriage, but polyamorous marriage. And while much of the LGBTQ community does not want to address the larger polyamory issue when it comes to marriage (a political decision, of course), I believe that it is a question that my generation will see come to more public exposure in my lifetime. Will we solve it? Well, these things change slowly, but if the polyamory community can get itself into the public sphere the way atheists did over the last 10 years, we might be able to make some headway.
There is a lot of work to be done.
Kirk Cameron on marriage: The blind leading the blind August 10, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Christianity, feminism, gay marriage, kirk cameron, marriage
Ow, that hurt, But not as much as reading this:
Now, I’ve found Kirk Cameron’s Christian antics annoying for many years. Since my friend Brian Sapient debated him and his Sith master Ray Comfort back in 2007, I have found him to be a pretty dense tool (almost as bad as Tof Friel, really), but this recent event just makes me want to scream with frustration.
Now, I want to write more substantially about the concept of marriage in the next day or so (mostly because I just got engaged to the lovely Ginny), but for now I want to say a few quick things about the idea of marriage, relationships in general, and the role of men and women in them. I want to say these things because I think that the current model of marriage in the evangelical Christian community is poisonous for both men and women, advocates an immature way for men and women to communicate and interrelate, and just generally sucks giant troll balls.
And what’s worse, it informs many of our ‘traditional’ definitions of marriage.
Kirk Cameron advocates a model of marriage with the man (and there always will be a man, as marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman of course), is supposed to “play the role of Jesus Christ to your wife.” There is no equality, no real sense of compromise, and certainly no meaningful feminism here. The man is unambiguously in charge of his wife. This is not a relationship of equals, but one of a power relationship. Just as we are to obey God, the wife is to obey the husband. Sure, if he has “crossed the line” (meaning, is emotionally/physically abusive) then he is not “protecting her” (because that is part of his job, of course) and is not doing his job well. But I doubt that divorce would be an option, as god ordained these marriages, and only we can fail in them; not god.
This is but one of the many aspects of current Christian trends that makes me feel sick. It promotes clearly obsolete gender roles, places people (specifically women) in a place of subservience (and not in the fun and kinky way that some women like, although I’m sure there is some overlap), and (again) it promotes vigorous suction on the balls of the troll which may or may not live under the bridge near your house. His name is Ted.
The irony for me is that many people in our culture, even less batshit nutzoid people than Kirk Cameron, think that gay marriage or polyamorous marriage (not to be confused with the often harmful polygamous marriage) is unhealthy while finding this version of marriage proposed by evangelicals to be relatively healthy. At least (they may say) they are really committed to each other. Or they may say that at least it is the way god intended marriage to be. This is an indication of a fundamental disease at the root of our culture when it comes to thinking about marriage and gender roles. There is no wonder that divorce and teen pregnancy rates are higher among so-called red states; it is these areas which are more prone to this unhealthy model of marriage.
I love my future wife. I love her in a way that a man who sees himself as the master of his wife simply cannot. I am genuinely interested in seeing her free, fulfilled, and treated as the equal that she is. I cannot, not would I try, to “put my foot down” or to make a proclamation about what will be what. It may be hard, we may disagree, but we will communicate openly about all of our desires, fears, and joys. Further, she loves me (this I know, for the Bible…wait, never mind…). She desires me to be fulfilled, free, and will allow me to be who I am, genuinely, inside. Neither of us has to pretend. We don’t have to strive for some fantasy ideal or deny aspects of our selves in sacrifice for our relationship, because our relationship is about a celebration of our selves.
I will put my relationship against that between Kirk Cameron and his wife any day of the week. Any man who sees his wife as subservient, who plays off of old cultural roles for each spouse without any hint of skepticism towards their ideological merit, or who gives men “man cards” which their wives are not even allowed to see is a weak and cowardly man. His worldview is weak and cowardly, and it is a conservative worldview whose influence stretches beyond the evangelical Christian world, but surely dominates that world.
I know too many people, men and women (they are really boys and girls, even in their late 20′s or 30′s) who are inexperienced sexually, relationship-wise, and therefore emotionally stunted. They see this ideal life and marriage set up before them and do not relent even as they fail over and over to find it’s reality. They believe that Jesus will provide for them, and cannot see their own blindness.
And many of these “values” seep into mainstream culture, where (outside of the educated upper middle class generation I grew up around) these ideas are still held with reverence. Heteronormative monogamous male-dominated marriage is more the norm than I think many of us educated and elitist types want to admit–and possibly more than we realize. This idea of the traditional marriage, which is not even traditional if we want to be truly historical about it, is what is doing damage to real human relationships. Not gay marriage. Not polyamorous people who are married and who may want a legalized polyamorous marriage.
It is the closed-minded version of what god wants, what is right, what is ‘Merican even, that will destroy our relationships.
Saving yourself for marriage? November 8, 2010Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: marriage, sex, virginity, waiting for marriage
I am a daily reader of The Friendly Atheist, as well as a number of other blogs, and I usually agree with Hemant on a number of topics. Today, I don’t agree with his (probably tentative) reaction to this post on his blog today. Here’s his (again, probably tentative) conclusion:
There’s nothing wrong with waiting.
But there’s nothing wrong with having safe sex before marriage, either.
Why do I disagree with this? Because I think there may be something very harmful about waiting. Further, having sex before marriage may be the only way to have a fully satisfying sex life after marriage. That is, one might be satisfied, but perhaps not as happy as they could be sexually, without having tested the various grounds out there.
Experience and Communication
Sexuality is complicated. When we are young and inexperienced, we not only don’t know what to do, we really don’t know what we want. And even if we know what we want, that does not imply that we can know what others want, especially if those things are not the same (or incompatible). The ability to give to others what they need sexually to some degree depends on sufficient experience with different types of sexuality and our experience with how to respond to those needs. I doubt that anyone can be prepared for this with only one partner for whom they wait until marriage.
And, perhaps most importantly, when we are inexperienced we rarely communicate about sex, especially during the act itself. Does that feel good? Do you want me to do that harder, softer, or not at all? Would you like to be spanked, or to spank me? All legitimate questions. And there are many more questions in addition to these, of course. Without prior experience to feed off of, how would people know to ask such questions?
It takes more than two, baby!
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is to have two inexperienced people trying to figure sexuality out together. This is not to say that two people with no experience cannot figure it out, but it will take time, patience, and possibly some research. Most importantly, it takes honesty and a willingness to push ourselves. We cannot find what lies deep inside if we are afraid to look there.
But let’s be honest here; most people who decide to wait until marriage are coming from religious backgrounds with conservative views about sexuality. There will be exceptions, of course, but this phenomenon of waiting is primarily religion-driven, I’d be willing to bet. People who were brought up to believe that sex is sinful, except in marriage (and possibly even within marriage, if it gets kinky), are the ones doing the waiting.
These are not people to likely discuss their sexuality in the open, even with their new spouse. They have become so used to repressing the topic, that in order to then suddenly be sex-positive will be a rare exception and not the rule by any measure of the term. Further, because of their lack of experience with other lovers, they will not even know what it is they are lacking. This is why people need to find themselves a more experienced ethical slut to help them along before they move onto marriage. Hell, they may need that before they are ready for a serious relationship.
Finding it too late?
And what happens in situations like this, where young people wait until marriage, is that perhaps they get married too soon, or to the wrong person, because they don’t know better. How could they know? They have little experience to draw from, remember? And then they find themselves married, perhaps enjoying the sex, but after some time they feel as if something is missing.
With a likely inexperienced lover, they may have desires that they don’t know how to express. In this situation, most people will not explore their sexuality until after years of pushing back desires that will seem abnormal, wrong, or perhaps sinful. This is probably why so many people get married only to come out years later as homosexual. But in many other cases people have a vanilla (that is, “normal”) sex life until they discover their inner kinks later on, and then you see them as they should have found themselves while much younger.
I cannot tell you how many people I have met that say that they wish they knew what they did now, about themselves sexually specifically, 20 or 30 years before. I meet people in the polyamory communities who only opened up to their kinky side when they were in their 40s, 50s, or later. Imagine all the years they could have been enjoying sexuality more passionately, ecstatically, and with more people if they just didn’t hold back. And no, not all these people did wait until marriage, but how could a person who does so avoid this fate? Again, some will avoid it even if they do wait, but most will not.
Everyone should have been exploring their sexuality as teenagers, young adults, and ideally exposed to sex-positive environments as children. If children grow up knowing that sex is a healthy thing, they will be able to find what they are into easier as they grow up. And if they get a chance to be sexual as they grow up, of course progressing on their own terms and as they grow comfortable, then they will be able to know that a person is sexually compatible with them.
I mean, how awful would it be to make a commitment to someone who you are not sexually compatible with? Granted, they don’t have to be monogamous with them (although those that save themselves are more likely to attempt monogamy, I’d bet…at least in the short-term), but to be married to someone who you can’t be your sexual-self with? How many people are trapped in loveless and/or sexless (or, with unsatisfiable sex) marriages. And of course they can just get a divorce, right?
Because people with conservative sexual ideas tend to be OK with that too….
No, do not save yourself for marriage. Marry someone (if you marry at all) who fits your sexuality. If you want orgies every weekend, marry someone who is into that. If you want plain old missionary position for 50 years, then by all means at least test out the product before you buy it. Hell, even vanilla sex can be better or worse with the right or wrong person.
You don’t have to be a slut. But find a way to explore your sexuality, and to teach your children to explore their sexuality, in healthy ways. Don’t let them repress their sexuality in the name of some absurd sacredness to sex that is somehow ruined by having it. For Dionysus’ sake, have some sex, and enjoy it!