Personally, I Thought Smoking Cigarettes Laced with Embalming Liquid was Cooler

Before my family moved to 4th and South, we used to visit the area frequently to go shopping and have dinner. We would often have dinner at the Copa Cabana, a staple of South Street that is still there. In fact, we celebrated my mom’s 61st birthday there just a few weeks ago. It’s a bar with an extensive food menu. My dad always said that he thought it was a great place to bring kids because they could be loud in there and no one would care because it’s loud anyway. I never really took advantage of the allowance to scream like an idiot in the place, but it’s nice to know that I could have without incurring the wrath of my parents. I probably still wouldn’t be as loud as the drunken Girls Night Out happening in the table next to us.

My dad had very predictable beer choices back then. When we went to the Philadelphia Pizza Company, he would order a Moosehead. When we had pizza at home, he would go down the street and grab a six-pack of Yiengling or a 40 of Budweiser (high class!). When we went to the Copa, he always got a Dos Equis. If he were the Most Interesting Man in the World, his slogan would be something like, “I don’t always drink Dos Equis, but when I do, I am probably eating cheap tacos”.

As a child, these trips to the Copa resulted in Equis being the first Spanish word I learned, far before “Hello” and “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10”. It was also where I learned to dislike the taste of beer immensely (a malady that would only be cured years later when I went to Belgium and discovered that there are beers, many many beers, that taste better than Dos Equis or Budweiser). I was inquisitive as a kid and so when my dad was drinking his beer, I would ask about it. He would then give me the bottle and let me have a sip. I would take him up on this and remember that it was terrible. My mom never gave me any of her margarita.

So, I consider this fabulous parenting. If you were to watch public service announcements now about parents and underage drinking, you would think that my parents were the worst ones in the world for letting me taste beer. But there’s a few things here. First, my parents drank around me. It wasn’t something they did when I wasn’t around or banned altogether from the household. I was used to seeing alcohol around (I actually frequently went with my dad for liquor runs and helped him carry stuff), seeing adults imbibe responsibly (I have never seen my mom drunk and have rarely seen my dad that way), and because my dad didn’t drink a beer and then say “drinking is bad! DON’T DO IT”, I was raised with the general impression that if I wanted to drink at home, I could, right there with my parents. There was no vice in it. They gave me a similar view on drugs. They never hid the fact that they’re Baby Boomers and that they both did various drugs frequently throughout the years. What they would say to me about drugs is this, “They’re not worth getting arrested over.” This is all they had to say. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t. After smoking a joint for the first time (I was 15), I came home and told them about it and how I was completely unimpressed with the whole thing. My dad described his experience with LSD as “the lights get really bright. I always hoped I’d see a crab painted like a checkerboard, but I never did.” He tried coke once and said that the experience was “meh”. And everyone generally agreed that we should all stay away from heroine. Again, I was raised with the idea that drugs were not forbidden, that they can be fun, but not worth getting into trouble.

So, the other day I see a link to this article saying that kids are now ingesting hand sanitizer in an attempt to get wasted. I read the article and could barely muffle my laughs. All I could think of was an Ellen Degeneres bit I heard a while back about how humans will do anything to get high. We will lick the anus of a muskrat if it holds the remote chance of giving us a buzz. Apparently, this is a big problem because teenagers are making themselves sick and having to go to the hospital. I don’t think anyone is dying though so I’m going to laugh at them. Teenagers are hilarious.

One time when Peter and I were in highschool, he and another friend of ours got the idea of snorting Smarties. I honestly can’t remember what he thought would happen when he did this, or why this idea seemed like something he should do. So one day, they brought in a tube of Smarties and he smashed one on our shared table in Home Room with his Calculus book. Then he snorted some of it and at the moment that the Smartie particles (Smarticles?) entered his nose, he went into a convulsion of hilarious proportions. Am I a heartless bitch? Maybe, but also he wasn’t convulsing because his brain was melting or anything. He was convulsing because Smarties sting like a motherfucker in your nose. We all learned an important lesson that day about snorting things. We’re not going to do it.

So if we’re going to coke, we’re going to freebase it.

Anyway, back to the idiots drinking hand sanitizer. So, if you read the article, the author states that the main ingredient in sanitizer is ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or the fun and horrible ingredient in “booze”) and that kids are getting sick because “ethyl alcohol is toxic”. I know it’s an NPR article and all, but something about this just cracked me up further. I think it was the “Reefer Madness” sound of the whole thing. Sure, ethanol is toxic, but in a way that even a lot anti-chemical people can get behind. It’s a fun kind of toxic, like having surreal conversations with Swamp Thing. (I have no idea what I mean by that, but the image is awesome.) To say “ethyl alcohol” instead of ethanol, to not put the caveat that this is the same shit in booze…I don’t know, it just sounds like they’re saying, “the kids are drinking HORRIBLE TOXINS THAT NO ONE ELSE CONSUMES AT HAPPY HOUR. Did you know that ethyl alcohol is TOXIC? OOoooOOOOoooOOOoOoOH.” Yes, I’m reading a lot into it, but I’m on a kick about this stuff right now.

So, here’s the thing about this. I don’t think it’s the ethyl alcohol that’s making them sick. I think it’s all the other alcohols in them that are also in it. Many of them have isopropanol in them (rubbing alcohol) and various other assorted alcohols. Readers of this blog probably know this, but did you know that you can drink methanol and isopropyl alcohol and still get a buzz on? Did you know that you should stick to ethanol because metabolizing the other two is way worse news than the toxicity of ethanol? Fun Facts: Ethanol turns into vinegar in your liver. Methanol turns into formaldehyde (you’ll be blind and well preserved if you drink enough). Rubbing alcohol turns into acetone (nail polish remover). Which of these three sounds the least illness inducing?

In addition, I don’t really know what the gel part of the hand sanitizer is, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. See? I can be anti-consumption of chemicals! I don’t think you should consume things found next to the can of Comet underneath your sink (unless you keep muffins there…but that would be strange, and likely covered in cleanser), or things that have revolutionized the Port-a-Potty industry. I have standards! My favorite part of the whole article was when they said that the best way to combat the problem is to keep hand sanitizer out of the reach of your teens. Like, only you, the responsible parent, can dispense it for them when they want to kill a bunch of bacteria. Otherwise, keep it in locked cabinets or something. Really? That’s what you should do?

Forgetting for a moment that I think you just shouldn’t have hand sanitizer around because soap and water is fine and that I think everyone is paranoid about germs. CONTROVERSIAL! You really think that the problem is that the kids have access to hand sanitizer? Or is it that they have a completely unhealthy relationship with alcohol and drugs? Don’t you know that one of the biggest things that makes the idea of getting drunk/high for teens is that it’s forbidden? Apparently, eating hand sanitizer makes them look cool to their friends. There isn’t a lot of currency higher than that in the teen world. I’m sure some parental board will crucify me for this and say that it’s different when I have kids or something, but honestly, what’s wrong with having a drink with your kids? It takes the mystery away and you can teach them how to do it responsibly. They won’t then go to college or whatever and end up in the hospital in the first week with alcohol poisoning. Also, they won’t feel the need to find bizarre and creative ways to consume alcohol.

I did a quick Google search for “drinking isopropanol” and most of what came up was teenagers asking the internet if they could drink it and not die. It makes sense…it’s cheap and unregulated…also, it’ll make you ill a lot faster and worse than a jar of Georgia Moon. Wouldn’t it be better if you had some positive influence on how your children, who clearly want to drink, experience alcohol? I would say the same for some drugs, but like I said, it’s really not worth getting arrested over. If only Ron Paul was president…I will never say that again. But you can say the same for many of the other forbidden things that kids are dumb about due to lack of guidance. Be honest with kids about things like drugs, alcohol, and sex. Is it so bad that you be completely upfront about your flaws, your struggles, your life history? I never saw parents as perfect or infallible. They told me everything, and ultimately I respect them more for that and feel like I was able to be relatively mature about things like this at a young age.

OK, so I still was pretty fucked up about sex, but they did a lot of other stuff right!

Strip clubs, heaven, and other boring fantasies.

I have been thinking about my up-coming bachelor party.  I’ve been to a few over the years and have had good times at each, but mine will be different.  At mine, there will be no strip clubs on the agenda. 

I know this will disappoint a few people who will be there, but they can go do such things on their own time.  Oh right…bachelor parties are excuses for momogamous married men to act like they are single for a while.  My not allowing them their vacation from reality is a bit selfish of me, or something.  See why I’m convinced that monogamy aligns with people’s true desires?

The reason that I have insisted that my best man not include strip clubs into the plans (he is not married, and is not interested in such things anyway) is that I don’t find them exciting.  Sure, I like seeing naked and often attractive women, but such clubs are all a farce.  It isn’t real.

And although it may sound contradictory at first, fantasies which are not realistic are not exciting to me.  I can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of human bodies in such clubs, but it rarely does anything for me sexually. 

Perhaps its because I actually get to see real live naked women (notice the plural) fairly often, also that I am not restricted from other women, that strip clubs don’t do much for me.  Perhaps, although even when I was unattached and monogamous I still didn’t get much out of the experience.

When I think about it more seriously, I realize that I simply cannot get caught up in the lie.  I realize that these women stripping for our money are not into me.  I know that this is not flirtation, pre-foreplay, or how real relationships develop.  And in the rare case where a stripper might be into me, I would still be unable to find it really arousing until she made that clear to me on her own (I don’t ever expect this to happen).  I’m certainly not going to ask them for their real name or contact info, knowing how often they receive such requests and how annoying it can be.

In contrast, I get quite excited when meeting fully clothed women with whom I share flirtatious bantor, playful affection, and maybe even phone numbers.  And in my fantasy life, my thoughts may occasionally start with outlandish possibilities, but ultimately I find myself attracted to more realistic possibilities as fodder for, well….

The point is, I am much more interested in fantasy tied to real people with whom I really have, continue to, and might again interact.  I have serious trouble suspending disbelief too much, especially when it comes to sex.

Also philosphy, theology, etc. 

See, I baited you with sex talk, and now I’m talking philosophy.  But now that I have you dug in this deep you might as well see it through, right?  Right.

So, I can’t get excited about stuff that isn’t real, or at least real-ish (this is why I prefer science fiction which at least tries to be scientifically plausible).  Belief in silly unskeptical things leaves me cold, and so my mind is more attracted to what can be demonstrated to be real.

I grant that I have cognitive biases.  I understand that my mind is more attracted to certain ideas than others and that this cognitive gravity does not necessarily align with reality in all cases.  I’m not some super rational skeptical guru who was born with some freakish reality detecting brain (but that would be awesome!).

Quite often I have to apply skeptical methodology to check my thoughts for such biases.  But I have a strong tendency to move towards what seems to be tied to reality.  And when something seems unfettered, my mind cannot any comfort from it, and what enjoyment it can get is short-lived and superficial.

So when I hear people talking about things such as faith, hope, and other synonyms for wanting to believe something which is clearly, demonstrably, untrue, I cannot sympathize.  I may be able to empathize, but it is not an experience I have which I can share, and so I see such faith as nothing more than a self-delusion.

I realize that many other people do get genuine pleasure out of fantasy detached from reality, and I can sometimes hold onto such pleasure briefly as well.  But this pleasure disintegrates quickly, much quicker than it seems to do for others, and I find myself mostly disappointed by the promise of fictions.  Sometimes I wish I could sustain such pleasure from facades, delusions, and lies.  But even that wish is effemeral.

Heaven does not appeal to me.  The fact that the idea seems so absurd and impossible to me, let alone unpleasant even if true, makes it unappealing to me.  I simply cannot get caught up in the lie.  I holestly do not understand how other people can find it so beautiful, inspiring, and worth wanting.  Perhaps the failing is mine.

A loving, merciful, nor even a self-sacrificial God is not appealing to me either, nor are angels or other such things.  I can’t see them as things which would be nice to want to believe in.  I can’t see them as positive symbols, helpful metaphors, or even happy thoughts.  They seem vacuous and undimensional to me.

I just see them as fictions, unhelpful and distracting from the real pleasures, beauty, and even the naked ugliness of reality.  There is more than enough in reality such that adding extra sparkly, null-colored fantasy on top of it does not help at all.

I do not like strip clubs, and I could not look forward to heaven.  My mind is not enticed by such fleeting and superficial distractions when there is real, gritty, dirty fun to be had.

“Oooh, Heaven is a place on Earth”?

Yeah, that works.  I will spare you my image of a heaven on Earth.  There are some things that nobody who reads this blog needs to have in their minds.

Cool Whip May Not Be Food, But it Sure is Delicious

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today, like I do, and I stumbled across this picture:

It had the following caption: Our fast “food” display is now 2 years old. The word food is questionable, since the bread-like and meat-like substances have not molded or spoiled in any way. Bugs won’t even bother with it. Please think twice about giving this to your kids. You have a choice, but they don’t. We truly are what we eat. 
— from LiveWell Wellness Centers 

This is not the first time I have seen these things.  A few years ago I saw something similar about how Cool Whip is totally disgusting because it doesn’t separate or decompose, vs. real whipped cream that barely lasts 10 minutes before it starts to separate and get kind of gross.  The comments followed were the obligatory “Eww!”, “Yeah, I stay away from that because it’s all CHEMICALS!” and “OMG DISGUSTING!”  It bothered me then and it continues to bother me now.  When I saw the Cool Whip thing, my main annoyance was that claiming that something is bad because it has chemicals in it is possibly the dumbest overly simplistic statement you can make.  You may as well say, “I have a personal problem with atoms”.  Not to be a smart ass, but everything everywhere is a chemical.  The air we breathe is made of chemicals.  The water we drink is a chemical.  WE ARE ALL CHEMICALS.  Our minds and bodily processes are a series of chemical and electro-chemical reactions.  DNA is a chemical.  Do you get it?  When you say “Chemicals are bad” you are betraying yourself as being ignorant and woefully misinformed about the nature of physical reality.  Also, to equate “natural” with “chemical-free” is to deny that there are a whole lot of things in nature that will drop you like a bullet, but more nastily.  Hemlock is natural.  Arsenic occurs naturally in nature.  Do I need to remind you about snake venom or the evil Brown Recluse?!?  How about how elements of the air will suffocate you if they are in the wrong percentage?  How about if you drink enough distilled water (free of horrible chemicals, other than water), your cells will burst and you will DIE!  See what you’ve done?  Now you’ve got my chemist up!

Deep breath…

But, still, when I outlined the above rant, it didn’t seem to completely address the underlying issue that I have with claims like that.  Making the entire argument be about how ignorant fear of “chemicals” makes no sense doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem.

So, I tried to think about it further.  I went searching for links about this kind of thing and found this.  The author sounds possibly intelligent for a little while, but then goes into the following tirade:

So why don’t fast food burgers and fries decompose in the first place? The knee-jerk answer is often thought to be, “Well they must be made with so many chemicals that even mold won’t eat them.” While that’s part of the answer, it’s not the whole story.

The truth is many processed foods don’t decompose and won’t be eaten by molds, insects or even rodents. Try leaving a tub of margarine outside in your yard and see if anything bothers to eat it. You’ll find that the margarine stays seems immortal, too!

Potato chips can last for decades. Frozen pizzas are remarkably resistant to decomposition. And you know those processed Christmas sausages and meats sold around the holiday season? You can keep them for years and they’ll never rot.

With meats, the primary reason why they don’t decompose ist heir high sodium content. Salt is a great preservative, as early humans have known for thousands of years. McDonald’s meat patties are absolutely loaded with sodium — so much so that they qualify as “preserved” meat, not even counting the chemicals you might find in the meat.

To me, there’s not much mystery about the meat not decomposing. The real question in my mind iswhy don’t the buns mold?That’s the really scary part, since healthy bread begins to mold within days. What could possibly be in McDonald’s hamburger buns that would ward off microscopic life for more than two decades?

As it turns out, unless you’re a chemist you probably can’t even read the ingredients list out loud. Here’s what McDonald’s own website says you’ll find in their buns:

Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.

Great stuff, huh? You gotta especially love the HFCS (diabetes, anyone?), partially-hydrogenated soybean oil (anybody want heart disease?) and the long list of chemicals such as ammonium sulfate and sodium proprionate. Yum. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Now here’s the truly shocking part about all this: In my estimation, the reason nothing will eat a McDonald’s hamburger bun (except a human) is because it’s not food!

OK, come on now.  Your argument is that the burgers contain a bunch of chemicals, in addition to organic matter (BTW, just to continue by smart ass trend, most of the additives in food are also organic chemicals.  Organic means that they are based on carbon. Durpa do!) and so microbes and bacteria show up at the site of the burgers and go: Oh, I’m sorry, there’s too many chemicals in this.

Are you serious?  Bacteria are intelligent now?  If that’s true, we might be fucked.  Look, perhaps they don’t necessarily go after all the Big Bad Big Words that only a chemist can pronounce (that’s what my entire education was for, btw…to learn how to pronounce things like sodium and look hella smart and also to dismantle the health of the American public.  The secret is out!), but they will eat, you know, everything else.  McDonald’s hamburgers are not made up entirely saw dust.  They also include Grade Meat meat and soy and other things that sustain life.  Bacteria love that!

In addition, just to remind you that my chemist is still up, just because something is hard to pronounce does not mean that it is evil.  Yes, saying cheese is easy.  Saying the names of the chemicals that occur naturally from the cheese making process is hard.  It’s still cheese.

In addition to all this, I find it idiotic to say that food = decomposition.  Shitty food is still food.  Our bodies can digest them and extract useful stuff from it.

Of course, I am not the only person to answer these claims.  I found this wonderful blog entry about a study debunking the whole thing.  In short, if you leave a burger and a bun, any burger and a bun out in the air to dry out, bacteria will die because bacteria requires moisture to survive.  As is mentioned in the article, dehydrating food is a proven preservation method.  Beef jerky is simply dehydrated meat.  Also, food like this is loaded with salt, a known preservative (that’s apparently “natural” because it doesn’t have too many syllables).  In addition, under circumstances where a homemade burger and a McDonald’s burger were kept moist, mold grew on them both.  It must be food then since bacteria are food critics or something.

Now, here’s what I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that you should eat McDonald’s food.  It IS bad for you.  But, I shouldn’t even have to say that.  Making the grand accusation to today’s modern public that McDonald’s is bad is as obvious a statement today as “Cigarette cause cancer, like, really”.

Today while looking at that picture, I kept asking myself why I was so annoyed.  Clearly I agree that you should avoid this crap, that ingesting large amounts of it many times a week will lead to probable health problems.  So what’s my problem?  I mean, the underlying message that they’re promoting is ultimately correct even if the various associated beliefs are wrong, right?

And there it is.  There is the problem.  The sharing of these ideas makes you come across as a proper skeptic, not swallowing what the main stream wishes you to accept.  The chemical industry, big business, everyone who stands to make a profit from the ignorance of the public are taking full advantage of it at all times.  Not only do they not care about your welfare, but they wish to put it in danger.  It is black and white.

Obviously.  If there’s anything that’s black and white and not difficult to predict it’s nutrition or medicine or human physiology.  That’s why it’s so easy for people to lose weight.  I mean, if it’s just that humans are stupid and eat shit (while animals never do that, ever), then shouldn’t it be easy to lose weight and get healthy when you’ve cut out all the Bad Shit?  Why isn’t it?  Could it be that the obesity problem, the general health problems that people are more aware of now, all of that might be more complicated than fast food?

If you take these claims as fact without question, you are not a skeptic.  Yes, you should question everything and you should require evidence that the ideas that the main stream have accepted are true.  But why does that stop when the dissident perspective is presented?  Is it not possible that the point of view is not particularly accepted because it’s actually bullshit?  There are whack jobs on every side of an issue.  There are people who spread misinformation in both conservative and liberal circles.     People, regardless of politics or religion, will believe anything if they do not properly engage in a skeptical outlook.

Again, this is all a matter of skepticism being properly applied.  I am bothered by the spreading of this woo woo, ignorant information with a general hint of truth because it is shared with an air of “we are smarter than them”, an arrogance fueled by a general misunderstanding of science.  When you say that eating something because of all the chemicals in it and then say that the names of all the chemicals are hard to say, you don’t sound any better than the idiot claiming that evolution isn’t true because…THE BIBLE.  You are saying that science is hard, that being science literate isn’t important.  You just need to know enough to be scared and then avoid it all together.  Yes, you are right in that you should not accept that everything the FDA says is edible will do you no harm, but you are wrong if you justify this skepticism with bullshit facts.  This makes you just as bad as all the other ignorant people you feel superior to.


Past liberal, future conservative.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be sexually liberated.  The 1960s began a new cultural revolution for sexuality in the west, and it has allowed the once radical idea of sexual freedom for adults to become mainstream.  And, as I see it, what was once radical traversed through liberal/progressive to mainstream, and its trajectory is pushing it towards conservativism for future generations. 

Currently many people, who would have been thought of as radical to 1950’s repressive standards, are now trying to defend our cultural accomplishment of liberated sexuality against the remaining religiously-motivated reactionaries who are trying to maintain a pseudo-traditional view of strict abstinence towards life-long monogamous marriage. 

I don’t have statistics available to me right now, but I would bet that evidence exists to support the claim that the majority of people in countries like the US, Western Europe, etc agree that non-married adults who choose to maintain sexual relationships with other non-married adults should be permitted to do so at their whim.  That is, our freedom to have relationships of our choosing, as adults, is mostly uncontroversial.

This, in our culture, has not always been the case in the last couple of centuries.   There were many social stigmas as well as other cultural control mechanisms which made such things rather difficult for adults, especially woman, even if it did happen (our desires are too strong to eliminate completely!).

So, having gone through a couple of generations since the sexual revolution of the 60s, most people accept a worldview of sexually active adults.  Many people still may have reservations about gay marriage, the alternative sex world, or non-monogamy but do not object to the extistence of relationships which include homosexual, kinky, or non-monogamous behavior if that is what people want.

When we talk about “conservatives,” then, we are talking about people who oppose homosexuality, non-procreative sex, and “adultery,” right? I mean, people who oppose such things certainly are conservative, but are they the extreme conservatives or merely the standard conservatives?

For me, to be conservative is to attempt to maintain some “normal” or mainstream behavior in order to preserve cultural practices which are beneficial either because they are valuable in themselves or because they work to maintain some other aspect of culture which is valuable.

As an example, take the rhetoric about traditional v. Gay marriage.  Gay marriage, it is claimed, seeks to destroy “traditional marriage”, even though the “tradition” of marriage has already changed from a property arrangement to an agreement between two individuals to remain committed to each other and share responsibility for resources, children, etc. 

That is, the former tradition of a property arrangement, a tradition once defended by conservatives of an era past, has been transformed by progressives (“liberals”) of the same era, and has become traditional.  And now that new tradition is being defended again by people who share the opinion of those once-radical progressives, but we call them conservatives today. 

We at least call them not-liberal (as my own father’s political status is on facebook).  The point is that history is currently moving towards liberalization, progressive values, etc.  Even if it is moving slower than I would like.  Also, it could possibly start moving in the other direction just as easily, so we need to keep up the effort.

My hypothesis is this; within the next generation or so, or at least within my lifetime, what we now see as the mainstream view of relationships will begin to look more conservative—what is now centrist, mainstream, or traditional will shift as progressive people recognize the legitimacy of views which are seen as radical now; things like polyamory, for example.

Liberals of today are maintaining pretty tame views about sexual liberation.  Even my own generation, people I went to highschool, college, etc (as well as those 10 years younger, in many cases) hold views about relationships which look to me, from my “radical” point of view, as conservative by comparison.

These are people who self-identify as liberals.  They support Barack Obama, gay marriage, science, and are almost exclusively pro-choice.  But they see much of BDSM, swinging, polyamory, etc as radical.  They think it is damaging, impractical, or at best experimental.  They tend to question whether my engagement and relationships can really be legitimately serious, important, and be a function of mature, responsible, true love.

Ladies, gentlemen, and genderqueerfolk, I present to you tomorrow’s tradition-defending, centrist (but leaning conservative), pragmatic culture.  They will take what they have learned, in response to yesterday’s conservatism, and create a newer conservatism of their own.

And when they are retired, grandparents, and defending the tradition they were raised with, our grandchildren will be pushing the possibilities of relationships, sexuality, etc in directions that us weird folk can only imagine and dream about now. 

And we will be proud while those whining conservatives we grew up with will be grumbling about traditional one-at-a-time spouses, how they had to fumble around with their first sex partners to learn, rather than having excellent comprehensive sex education which makes young adults unashamed to enjoy sex, etc.  Just like conservatives do. 

And these future generations will be the newer liberals, progressing in ways hard for us to imagine.  Our generation will be the conservative generation, with some of us weird folks sticking around to appreciate what legacy we worked for, were ostracized for, and for which we were labeled as freaks all our lives.

Well, let’s get on with it then, freaks!  Let’s pave an easier road for the next couple of generations, and see what unrepressed, unshamed, and radical people can do with the possibilities of love, sex, and (hopefully) skepticism.

Gina Sez: The Healing Powers of Otters – What Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You to Know!

Jessie has a membership to the Philadelphia Zoo, so the past year has seen an uptick in my visits.  They’ve made a lot of improvements over the years and there’s many things that I enjoy seeing when I got there.  But there’s one exhibit that I would have to describe as my favorite: The otters.

It is difficult to describe how freaking adorable otters are when they’re leaping off of things into the water, chasing each other, playing with various toys floating in their enclosure.  When you see otters at the zoo, you have a hard time remembering that they are in captivity.  Or at least, you have a hard time seeing the downside.  The otters seems to be fine with it.  Anyway, when I catch a glimpse of happy-go-lucky otters, I look like this:


OK, admittedly this is a picture of me being pretty excited about the prospect of putting a pair of Peeps (armed with toothpicks) into the microwave.  It was after someone told me that they “battle” while they melt or something and this seemed awesome to me (for the record, no real battle happened…they just kind of melted…disappointing, but a pretty good use for Peeps).  I had also had a few glasses of wine (it was a Good Friday party after all).  Anyway, the point is I feel similarly excited about otters being all otter-y.

Last week I had a battle with a bout of sadness and anxiety.  While I was at home healing from its effects, Wes sent me a video of baby otters.  OH MY GOODNESS!  All I wanted to do was pet them and let them scurry around and then pet them some more.

It made me feel immensely better.  The simple sight of baby otters lifted a good portion of the sadness and anxiety away.  It was then that I realized that baby otters would probably be a pretty good anti-depressant.  In fact, they probably make the best anti-depressant!  Everyone knows that mood disorders are due to various chemical misfirings and imbalances in the brain, right?  So, if looking at an otter does the same thing that medications do, why is it that you can’t go to your local pharmacy and fill a prescription for Baby Otter?

A simple Google search showed me my answer: A major species of otter comes from China.

Now, you might be getting ready to assume that I am about to reveal that otters from China are infused with massive amounts of lead or something, and so the FDA had to ban them in this country for use as medicine…you know, for our safety.  But that’s not it at all!

The truth is that this country is currently in the clutches of Big Pharma, an industry completely hell bent against embracing the magic of Eastern Medicine.  So, since otters come from China, this is, like, the same thing.

A moment to break character: I am not a proponent of “alternative medicine”.  I do not think that you can heal yourself by hoping really hard and aligning your chakras.  I DO however distrust the pharmaceutical industry.  I am quite skeptical of its motives from time to time and don’t take any claims of miracle drugs at face value.  I just wanted to point that out because as I did Google searches to try and find ridiculous links to holistic health sites, I started making myself sick and had to take a break.  The Yahoo message boards were the worst.  “People are fat because of Western Medicine!!!”  Deep breath…

So, clearly Western Medicine already knows about the anti-depressive effects of otters and how it’s a remedy without any side effects and clearly they are keeping them from us as a readily available item.  Sure, you can see them at the zoo, but we are programmed by society to dismiss our increase in mood in the presence of otters as a simple thought of “Oh, what a nice day at the zoo!  Those otters are cute.  Hmm, time to go get a soda in a tiger shaped cup!”  In reality, there are real physiological changes happening!  If you were able to sit in the presence of otters for hours on end, your depression would likely be cured completely.

And what about other maladies?  If all you need is positive thinking to cure all your ills (from depression to a tumor), then otters are all you need.  That’s right.  I am positing that otters can cure cancer.

The Chinese have probably known this for years.  I read somewhere on the internet that they have managed to figure out how to harness the inherent healing elements of an otter and produce it in powdered otter pellet form.  This way, you can get the obvious health benefits of otters without having to actually take care of an otter (which would obviously involve letting it live in your bathtub where it would swim around and crack clams open with rocks on its belly.  ZOMG CUTE!).

Powdered otter pellets work in much the way that actually seeing an otter works, as long as you’ve seen an otter before.  You go to the zoo and check out the otters.  You will never forget that experience (gee whiz! That was the best day ever!).  Now, when you take an otter pellet, you will remember that the pellet is made of the cutest animals on the planet.  You will remember that day at the zoo and THE HEALING BEGINS!

Another out of character moment:  Good lord, this is difficult.  You know, I thought that writing stupid “science” articles would be easy but it’s quite hard to not be constantly accusing myself of being full of shit.  “Yes,” I say to myself, “I know!  That’s the point of the HUMOROUS piece!” “Listen,” I say to myself back, “Go read another message board…”  

So, cancer sufferers who are growing tired of trying the same old remedies, why don’t you ask your oncologist about otters the next time you’re there.  Watch how they will scoff and say that there’s no evidence that otters cure cancer and then drop your doctor because they are just a cog in the Western Medicine machine.

AHHH!  I can barely stand myself right now.  At some point I’ll write a serious post about faith healing and Christian Scientists and this will really make me want to barf.  I think next time I need to write about something less harmful like how we’re days away from time travel due to one person’s vague understanding of relativity.  For now, I don’t think I can keep up this charade any longer.

In conclusion, here is a picture of an Asian Otter in a log:

If you’re having a bad day, I would suspect that picture just made it a little better.  You’re welcome!

And she nails the dismount!  Everyone knows that you get out of trouble on the internet by posting cute animal pictures.  I think a recent commenter is right.  I should just talk about boogers.  That’s much more noble.

Shaun here….

I will rarely use my admin powers (mwahahahaha!) in this sense, but I must vehemently disagree that otters are the cutest animal.  That title clearly goes to pygmy marmosets:


Gina back.  I won’t deny that pygmy marmosets are adorable, but…


Gina Sez: Polyskeptic’s Very Own Science Corner!

So, if you read my bio, you may have noticed that I am chemist during the day.  In case you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of me being scientific:

OK, admittedly, that was taken at my bachelorette party and I wasn’t really doing much science.  Please note: The lab coat is bedazzled and is fabulous.  I was given a drink recipe and I was recorded giving a PBS style chemistry lesson, because my friends are awesome and they knew exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing for my bachelorette party.  Here is a picture of me not knowing whether the resulting drink would explode or not…I mean, it was unlikely as it contained lime juice, vodka, and sour mix or something, but you can never be too careful.  Gina Sez: Always Safety First!

Generally, when I’m in a lab setting, I either take on a maniacal mad scientist kind of persona, or a persona similar to the picture above…or more to the point, this:

I can’t really say that Beaker is my hero, per se, but he and I have a lot in common.  Well, maybe not a lot…OK, I say “Meep” a lot and I wear a lab coat for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week and I generally run around like a silly person in the lab and one time I almost fell head first into a drum of goo while trying to scrape out what was in the bottom.  It sounds like something Bunsen would tell Beaker to do.  Alright, I guess that’s actually quite a lot to have in common with a Muppet.  So be it.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was talking to Shaun about how I’d like to do some science writing on here…but I wanted to do it my way.  My way generally means “ridiculously”.  I want to write bullshit science articles, spanning subjects such as those I actually know about and many that I don’t particularly!  This is the internet, people.  If I can’t write a bunch of bullshit conjectures based on no evidence on the internet, then what good is it?

What good is it, INDEED???

I started musing about this and decided that I had to have different photos of me in a lab coat with different thematic things, depending on the nature of the subject I was talking about.  Like…if I was talking about biology, there would be a picture of me in a lab coat holding a cat.  If I was talking about physics, it would be a picture of me in a lab coat falling off of something, you know, ’cause of gravity ‘n shit (which we all know is only a THEORY).

I told this entire idea to Wes and he said, “You just want another excuse to take stupid pictures of yourself!” Um…no…no…NO…I mean, sure, the pictures of myself are a benefit to mankind and all, but really it’s that I find writing bullshit that is obviously bullshit to be therapeutic and entertaining…to me…

(Full disclosure: I have had big plans to start operating a still in my basement to make a whole line of liquors.  The main point of this idea was to have an excuse to take a bunch of stupid pictures of myself in funny hats.  For example, my vodka would have a picture of me in a big Russian fur hat and the tequila would have me in a sombrero.  Who wouldn’t want this?  But yes, Wes had a point…)

Anyway, everyone else who writes here reads and stuff and forms thoughtful ideas.  My value is my wanton disregard for facts!

OK, I actually really like facts.  My real goal is that idiots will start citing my dumb science articles for school assignments.  That would be sweet.  If enough people cite it and don’t fail, then at some point my theories become true, right?  I mean, that’s how religion works.  If I say something that gets accepted by enough people despite complete lack of evidence, it’s still ok, right?  Sure!


So, yes, I am planning on making the Gina Sez column a regular thing on here in the hopes of entertaining you with my creative interpretations of facts.  I will also make up facts because that’s generally easier.  I mean, it takes so loooooong to Google things.

Also, just like many ultimately bullshit articles, the entries might contain some actual good information.  Like, I’ll probably drop character here and there if I actually start thinking critically about what I’m writing.  I’m so not method.

Oh, and I do well with writing assignments, so if there is anything anyone would like me to write a load of hooey about, please leave me your ideas!


The Nature of Attraction or Wherein I Talk About Sexual Politics Stupidly

When I was younger and starting to become aware of my own sexuality, I used to get attracted to people who made me laugh.  This started at an early age.  I think my first crush was on a kid who was a year or two older than me when I was in 3rd grade.  He used to crap me up all the time and I think attraction for me at the time summed up to wanting to spend more time with him and hoping that he liked making me laugh.  This attribute served to be the thing that really attracted me to people for years.

OK, it’s not really any different now…not in the slightest.  But, now that I’m a bit older and a bit more self aware, I have realized much more what the attraction was about.  Wes will look at this and move to remind me that I think everything is funny.  I won’t argue against that point as it is very true that my sense of humor covers a wide range of things.  It really does suck to be you if you manage to NOT make me laugh because that generally means I’m either highly upset with you or you are the least funny person on the planet.

Note: This has happened.  I have, in fact, not laughed at things.

Anyway, as I have mentioned before, I have had the fortune of being surrounded by generally very intelligent people for most of my life.  Some of them have been very funny also and so I think I have often equated a fabulous sense of humor with intelligence.  It has become apparent to me that the real number one thing that initially attracts me to you is your intelligence.

If you are smart AND funny, well, then you have the potential of being hella sexy to me.

The things that the people I have been attracted to have in common are that their sense of humor and general social skills indicate that they are also comfortable with these aspects of themselves.  I am attracted to confidence and it is confidence that is backed by a mind worth being confident about.  When all these things align, I find myself attracted.  It usually comes upon me unexpectedly (heh heh…SO MATURE).

Notice that I have made no mention of body type or looks.  For me it has always been the case that I am attracted to a mind long before I am fully attracted to a body.  When I am out and about, I notice that some people are good looking, but that does not immediately equate to attraction.  Sexual attraction growing to the point where I actually want to do something about it takes time and generally only happens after I have had a chance to connect with someone intellectually (often in the form of a very funny conversation).

Today I was having a text conversation with Shaun during which he said this:

Fine. So long as this part does not get me type cast.  I still have dreams of one day playing roles of a kung fu master/spy with a pet/sidekick super monkey.  His name is Mr. Mister.

Wait…wrong text conversation.  That is clearly irrelevant to this post.  Right?  Yes, definitely.  No, the one I meant to quote was one we had in response to his latest post.  I was saying that I wish I was generally more attracted to people, that there wasn’t such a strong mental element to it.  He said,

I have trouble comprehending the idea of having a desire which is blocked by another feeling.  I find attraction to be undeniable when it happens.  It hits me quite strongly and immediately.

I have talked about this with Wes, and with women like Jessie and Ginny and it appears (based on a very small sample) that there is a divide about this between the sexes.  Ginny being our in-house sexologist probably has more to say about this from an intellectual/academic standpoint…you know, with like studies and facts and shit.  So hopefully she’ll want to weigh in!  But yes, based on my “research”, the women I have spoken to experience attraction in a way similar to me while Wes has communicated similar sentiments as Shaun where he doesn’t really understand how someone can be good looking to me but I am not attracted.

Part of it could be that this is an inherent biological difference between men and women.  From an evolutionary biology point of view, the female of the species is the bringer of offspring, the continuer of the line and so genetic dominance is attractive.  In humans, the best “candidate” isn’t necessarily the man who can lift a truck over his head or beat the shit out of the neighbor.  It could be the cleverest person.  People want their children to be intelligent so that they can become the next Bill Gates or something.  Especially in our technology laden culture, we have the advent of the sexy nerd.   Industry is moving away from manual labor more into mental labor.  We are elk no more!  I don’t know…ask Dawkins or something for a better explanation of this or read Sex at Dawn…which I should probably do.

But I think much of it has to do with how women are programmed to feel and think about sex by society.  Yes, I am about to speak in some generalities.  So sue me.

So, the battle of the sexes in high school or college or at the single’s bar:

Men are considered aggressively sexual by nature.  Boys will be boys and all that.  There’s nothing they can do about it.  IT’S JUST HOW THEY ARE!  Their mission in life is to have sex.  Women are the gate keepers of sex.  They are not sexual by nature.  Those who are happen to be deeply flawed and sinful (and are god damned whores).  In addition, because men are aggressively sexual and women are the gate keepers of the number one thing that they want, they will do whatever they have to get it.  Men, just because they’re men, are entitled to sex.  To deny them it is cruel, but YOU MUSTN’T GIVE IT TO THEM, lest you want to become a god damned whore.  Basically, you are either a frigid bitch or a god damned whore.  I can’t stress that enough.  Men are stupid, base creatures that have no choice but to do whatever the testosterone coursing through their blood tells them to do and since you, as a woman, have no real value in society except for your ability to have children and then raise them not to be serial killers (serials killers are a result of women in the workplace, obvs), you must remain virtuous so that your mind can be kept clear so that you can mother everyone.  It’s like that part in Clash of the Titans where you find out that the oracle can only tell the future as long as she remains a virgin.  And then she has sex with Perseus and can’t see the future anymore and dooms the Earth.  Next thing you know, Zeus is screaming “Release the Kraken!” and a bunch of other stuff happens and then Perseus stabs the kraken with his testosterone laced phallic sword, and all the peasants rejoiced.  Thank goodness there was a male demi-god around so that no one had to pay for the oracle’s whoring ways.

Or something.

In addition to the massive amount of responsibility women are burdened with as the sacred gatekeepers of consensual (hopefully baby-making) sex, there is the whole other issue of the high likelihood of rape/assault.  Yes, this happens to men too, but not nearly as often.  Men are generally not afraid of being raped when they leave their house and go wait for the bus.  Women deal either consciously or unconsciously with the concept of Shroedinger’s Rapist.  Every man has the potential to harm you.  We are gatekeepers not only of the consensual sex we have, but also of the non-consensual sex we have.  If we are raped or are assaulted, we must have done something to encourage the asshole who did it, because men can’t help themselves.

I mean, don’t even get me started about the magical nature of my hair that I so brazenly allow to fly freely on a daily basis.  Also, you can usually see my wrists.  THE SCANDAL!

Yes, that was likely the worse wrap-up of gender relations ever, but I think I made my point, while also getting to mention krakens.  Big win!

In case you missed my point, I’m saying that, at least in America, women are the victims of a sex negative society and I think that it has affected how most women experience attraction initially.  In an existence where being female is a flaw, in a culture that does not condemn violence against or shaming of women NEARLY enough, feeling a great sense of safety, trust,  and value beyond our reproductive organs is attractive.  These conditions make us feel safe to express our sexuality, to allow it to develop and exist.

This is, I think, a large part of my experience.  When I am out and about and see an attractive woman, I find that I have more of an instant physical attraction to her…likely because I am not programmed to fear for my safety around her.  She might be a maniac, but that worry doesn’t enter my mind.  I am programmed to be wary of men I don’t know well so initial physical attraction is hindered by that fear.   I have experienced wanting some kind of sexual contact with a woman without the desire of a relationship (though only mildly…I’m still new to letting go of my inhibitions in this regard and haven’t ever actually acted on these mild desires).  I have never experienced this with a man.  And I think this all comes down to whatever threat level I feel.

So that explains why some women have more reservations about allowing themselves to just be attracted to people.  Admittedly, as I explained above, my attraction to people still doesn’t develop simply because I feel safe with them.  When I feel safe, then I can get to know you more.  OK, so I don’t think you’re going to hurt me, but are you actually enjoyable to spend time with otherwise?  Feeling safe leads to a meeting of the minds.  Attraction to the body comes after this, for me.  I don’t know why this is.  Evolutionary biology?  I’m just some kind of weirdo?

Wes and Shaun think I’m weird for this, but the women close to them seem to agree with me.  What do you think?

Couple flirtation and polyamory

I used to be monogamous.  Ok, more precisely, I used to try to be monogamous.  I sort of slipped and fell a couple of times, to find that my penis had landed in vaginas that were not attached to my girlfriend.

I remember what is was like being a 20-something guy with a girlfriend, having frineds with girlfriends/boyfriends and doing group activities like going out for drinks, grilling at someone’s house, or sitting around playing games and such on a Saturday.  The room would tend to be full of young, attractive, sexually hungry people who flirt with each other.

I might find myself having a conversation with a girl who my friend just met recently, and it was obvious that there was some chemistry between us.  And the fact that I was “taken” made it safer to make flirty jokes (see what I did there? dirty+flirt=flirty!).  It was all just in good fun, and almost always led nowhere.

And then we all get to go home, paired off, and allow the sexual tension that we built up with such interactions with out monogamous partner.  Well, except monogamous people don’t tend to admit that this type of flirting contributed to our interest in sex those nights.

That would prove that we are not attracted to our partners anymore, or enough, or even that we never were, right?  Anyone with a very insecure partner in their past can tell you stories about those partners, after such evenings, would comment about how they saw you checking that other person out, and how they bet you’d like to ‘hit that’ (or whatever the kids say these days).

So, how often in such situations do couples talk and say things like “hey, so I saw you talking to ____ tonight.  Ze is totes into you.  I think their significant other is pretty attractive.  We should all go out together and, like, fuck each other or something!”

Ok, if THAT conversation happens on the part of both couples, they might be ok.  But more likely a less transparent conversation happens after everyone is drunk, one or two people seem really eager about the idea, and everyone else laughs nervously.

I mean, such things like partner swapping does happen. It   usually includes alcohol, of course.  Often, in such cases, it ends up ugly even if it starts out great.  It often does not happen again.  Those people later remember their younger, rebellious days where they tried swinging, polyamory, etc and all they really remember is how badly it went.

Then those people talk to me or read a blog post here or elsewhere (although why would anyole want to do that?) and think that its quite adorable how naive I am, or whatever, and go on with their life.

Except, well, they did it wrong. 

Because there are more ways to do non-monogamy wrong than to do it right.  Doing relationships well is hard,  sometimes very hard, and the more people involved the more complicated it gets. 

I would like to see a world where 20-somethings could be less monogamous.  I would like to think that such people could be honest with their partners enough to not only admit the desire, but mature enough to hear it as well.

It would lower rates of infidelity in such relationships, as well as bring to the surface emotional issues which need to be exercised by people in order to be successful partners. 

Will all of them end up polyamorous? No, probably not.  Will people get hurt? Yes, probably.  Will it fix already weak relationships? Eh, perhaps in some cases, but probably not in most.

Will it be more honest of people, considering what they really want to do? I think that it might.  It might teach all sorts of lessons about what we desire, what we can handle, as well as give people invaluable sexual experience which goes far in terms of teaching us about relationships and desires.

And yes, I am aware that many younger people are not taking monogamy as strictly as generations before did, but I still want to see more of it exist transparently. 

And I would like to see more people after their 20s keep their relationships from slipping into the default monogamy, especially when those old fires spark up. 


This post is not completely fueled by the fact that some monogamous couples I know are totally doable.

But seriously, people, stop being so sexy and monogamous!


Polyamory is not a privilege, but is skepticism?

I wrote a long post two nights ago, in response to a post over at which started some conversation.  Today, I want to clarify a distinction that may help illuminate my central point.

There are social power dynamics which make achieving certain things more or less difficult in our culture.  Those with more privilege have an easier time surmounting aspects of our culture than others.  Some people avoid emotional, economic, etc hardships which makes certain things easier to achieve.

In other words, privilege exists.

For some people to arrive at polyamory, they need to overcome such hardships.  For others, such struggle is not necessary.  Thus, for many people to arrive at polyamory (or atheism for that matter), they need to take advantage of privilege.  For others, lack of privilege can still lead one to polyamory.

The conclusions I draw from this are that there are privileged ways to get to polyamory, and for many people to get to it they need to take advantage of privilege, but polyamory is not a privilege per se.

Privilege will certaintly help to practice polyamory, but to simply be polyamorous is not a privilege.

Whether I could have gotten where I am today without my privilege of gender, race, economic status (although I have been quite poor myself at one time, I grw up without want), and education is unknowable.  But that some people could have seems incontrovertable to me.

This brings to mind the question of whether skepticism is a tool held through privilege or not.  Because yes, some people arrive at true opinions and healthy lifestyles without rational scrutiny, but is skepticism itself possible without privilege?

Smugness and arrogance in polyamory?

I have been following a blog about polyamory for a little while now called polytical.  I try and keep up with a few poly blogs, twitter feeds, etc in order to keep my finger on the pulse of the community.  I am not really a part of that community, even less than I am an insider the atheist community, but I have been listening for some time and know a fair bit about the issues, people, etc.

So, earlier today this post went up on polytical entitled I’m Poly ‘Cause I’m Better (which was a follow-up and partial change in views from a previous post entitled I’m Better ‘Cause I’m Poly).  I had not read the earlier post previously (it went up before I started following the blog), but read it today for further context.  I will say that I pretty much agreed with the older post.  I have some reservations about the one from today.

Let’s just say I have some questions.  Concerns even.

Lola O starts by saying how ze, after more presence in the poly community, has started to see the smugness of some polyamorous people; smugness about polyamory being better than monogamy and so forth.  I have seen a little bit of that myself.  I think that some of that smugness, that arrogance, can be justified.  Not all of it, surely, but some of it.  I’ll get to that.

So, let’s start with where Lola thinks the problem originates.

I feel it’s important to address this. Not because I enjoy being a naysayer, but I can see why the community alienates people. The smugness comes in two forms – a lack of acknowledgement of intersectional issues, and unchecked blatant privilege.

Oh boy, have we skeptics and atheists been over this ground in the last year!  The debacle that was Elevatorgate, The ‘Amazing’ Atheist, and even Penn Jillette will remind us skeptics (the rest of you can use your Google machine) of what I am referring to (and of course there are many more examples).  Alienating people, especially women and non-white people, from meetups, conventions, etc has been a huge issue in the skeptical/atheist world in recent years, and it exploded last year in a way that educated many people, including myself.

I still have not had a chance to thank Rebecca Watson, personally, for much of that unfortunately.

Once again, there are a lot of things that the polyamory community has to learn from the skeptic community, as well as the other way around.  I know there is some overlap, but I don’t see a tremendous amount of discussion that deals with the intersection and how their trajectories might resemble one-another.  Except, of course, for here at!

In any case, let’s get back to Lola.  Ze thinks that there are two issues that are at the foundation of the problem in the poly community.

  1. a lack of acknowledgment of intersectional issues
  2. unchecked blatant privilege.

Intersectionality is a relatively new idea to me, although I certainly sympathize with the phenomenon as an atheist, polyamorous, skeptic.  Privilege…well, that is not as new to me, but the debacles listed above must have increased the Google hits for that term by a significant degree last year, and I wrote a bit about it myself.  But  I don’t want to deal with these issues naked, I want to allow Lola to dress them up, give them shape, so that we can follow her reasoning.

People who say they’re polyamorous and critical of the assumption that we’re biologically suited to monogamy do not seem to bat an eyelash at gender stereotypes, and are more than willing to glue themselves to biological imperatives of the way “males” and “females” behave.

Yep, I’ve seen this.  The nature of privilege (or am I getting ahead of myself) is that you don’t see it when you have it.  I am in agreement with this statement, although I don’t know how common this actually is, having seen it rarely myself.  As a point of comparison, I’ll add this; having seen how many atheists, who tend to be good at seeing past religious privilege, are blind to their own privileges has taught me that suffering the blunt end of privilege does not imply that you are incapable of having another form of privilege.

Lola continues:

I find myself (and I’m not exaggerating) constantly having to remind fellow poly people that not only do intersex and gender variant people exist, but sometimes even that bisexual individuals exist. And when I bring up how sexism probably impacts the way people interact with others; the way people find partners; how comfortable, for example, those who identify as female may feel in situations where being poly means they are sexually available, I’m told that I’m pissing in everyone’s Cheerios or being too negative.

I have not seen this much myself.  From my non-scientific sample, from my experience, this is pretty rare.  Of course, most of my experience with the poly community IRL comes from being in Philadelphia; a very LGBTQ, intersex, etc friendly area of the world.  I also attended an extremely liberal school where most of my friends were also extremely liberal.  Just another privilege of mine.

It may be that the level of awareness, comfort, and overlap between the polyamorous community and the intersex/gender variant community varies from region to region or even group to group within a region, and Lola and I live in different parts of the world and may travel in different kinds of circles.  Perhaps if I traveled around more I would find similar experiences as Lola did in recent months.

At one poly event, when a friend of mine brought up the struggles of women & gender variant individuals, and how – as poly activists, we need to mention and address these issues, she was condescended to by a fellow “poly activist” who told her that those people need to fight their own battles while we need to focus on poly struggles and poly issues.

I am in complete disagreement with this “poly activist” which Lola paraphrases here.  This type of statement is another example of where the poly community needs to learn lessons from the gay community.  I learned it through the atheist community, in a talk given by Greta Christina, where she talks about how the atheist community needs to learn from the mistakes of the gay community.  (watch it, but perhaps after reading):

This larger fight for rights, recognition, etc for all of us weird, and even the not-so-wierd, people is the same fight.  I stand for gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, cis, feminist, men’s (but no so much MRAs), atheist, Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Hindu, Pastafarian, polyamorous, monogamous, asexual, etc rights.  I stand for human rights.  Anyone who thinks that we are all fighting separate fights doesn’t see the larger picture, and ends up segregating and tribalizing us all.

Lola then addresses the issue of whether polyamory should be included in with the “Queer” umbrella, and even whether we should add a “P” to the LGBTQ “alphabet soup.”  In some ways, I think that there are good arguments for this addition, but only because I have seen good overlap between the LGBT community and polyamory.  But if what Lola is identifying here is true, then I think that the following is very well said.

And when I voice my concerns as a queer person, that adding “P” to an acronym built on backs and blood of beaten, raped, tortured, and slain individuals is insulting when, while polyamory is misunderstood, it has yet to be a death sentence – I’m told by individuals who have no concept of being queer that I’m being divisive and discriminatory. What sort of welcoming do queer people find in a community that tells them to keep their issues to themselves, unless of course heterosexuals want to co-opt their struggle?

This is a fantastic point.  I don’t know the extent of the real distance between the poly community as a whole from the LGBTQ struggles, but if it tends towards being as far as Lola is claiming here, even if not everywhere, then I think that the poly community should back off trying to add a “P” here, at least until this issue is rectified.

So, thus far in the post I am in agreement with Lola.  I think that ze has some wonderful things to say about some problems in the poly community, and while I hope her experiences are the rare exceptions, my more cynical nature doubts that it is.  We poly people have work to do, surely.

So I keep reading.  When Lola turns to race relations, I don’t expect to find this sentence;

To put it bluntly, being polyamorous may cause one to endure all manner of ignorant comments and may even threaten the custody or family lives of a few, but practicing polyamory is overwhelmingly a privilege.

Upon reading this, something pops in my brain.  ‘huh?’ my inner-voice says.  ‘did I just read that correctly?’ it continues.  Now, I have never thought of polyamory as a position of privilege.  To me, it seems that monogamy has the position of privilege, and polyamory is struggling against that privilege.  But being aware that privileged people are blind, I keep reading.

Loving more than one person is a capability I believe all human beings have. But having the time, energy, and resources for more than one relationship is, without doubt, a privilege.

Ah! I see.  This makes a bit of sense.  I see where the argument is headed.  The immediate point following this, then, is not surprising.

I see a lot of poly people online and offline wax poetic about polyamory being the next stage of human evolution, degrade and devalue monogamous people for their silly triflings; all the while ignoring that a working single mother barely has enough time for herself, let alone dating.

This is an interesting point.  And no doubt the observation is largely true, but consider this.  A common response to polyamory, from monogamous people, is that they simply don’t have the time or energy for another relationship.  This is basically the same point, and I think it falls apart for similar reasons.  Let me address it in two ways.

First, what I think is overlooked here is that some ways to approach polyamory may actually help this problem, rather than exacerbate it.  I think the assumption here may be that the single mother (or father) may not have time for two relationships, let alone one.  Sure, this is a problem.  But what if that single mother/father found an existing couple, family, etc? What if they found themselves a support network which could make the work of raising a child a bit easier?  That is one of the major strengths of polyamory, IMO.

Granted, this is an idealized solution to a tough situation, and the logistical problems in finding said support group is a challenge in itself.  I was raised by a single mother, until I was eight or so, myself.  And while my mother didn’t find a poly tribe, she found a support structure despite the hardship.  Finding a poly support structure, if that is what she had been after, may not have been impossible or even very difficult (especially now that the internet exists) for a single mother.

The second point is that this argument is no more a problem for polyamory than it is for relationships in general.  It’s like my mother (who apparently has a lot to do with this post) talking to me about why I, as a poly person, should not get married.  All of her arguments turn into arguments against marriage itself, rather than arguments against me getting married while polyamorous.

The essential point here is that when one argues that polyamory is a privilege because doing it is hard, one might as well be arguing against having relationships at all.  Having a tough life does not stop people from finding what they need and want, so if they are open to and prefer polyamory, they can find that as well as any monogamous single parent could.

These discussions about how advanced polyamory is and how much better we are at relationships and life come off to me as incredibly ignorant of the realities many face. There’s a difference between being happy in and of ourselves for what we have, and being arrogant and ignorant. I have the economic privilege and free time to date more than one person, but I haven’t always had that. And people who have to spend most of their time working to keep their head economically above the water may have little time for conventions and long discussions about compersion. Love is infinite. Time is not.

When I met my soon-to-be wife, I was unemployed, nearly homeless, recently abandoned in a city I barely knew (Atlanta), and emotionally wrecked.  I was already pre-disposed to polyamory due to previous experiences, introspection, etc.  My being polyamorous was not about going out on nice dates, spending tons of time with many people with whom I had long-term relationships, or even actually having any partners at all.

My being polyamorous was about not creating arbitrary and absurd rules, when starting or solidifying relationships, about being exclusive.  It was merely about recognizing that my ability to love is not limited, and that anyone who will love me has to know that about me because I will not lie to myself by artificially being exclusive for the sake of some silly fears and insecurities.  Being polyamorous is about being authentic to my actual desires and tendencies, not living la vita loca with wining and dining potential partners.

It was a declaration of true maturity, skepticism, and self-knowledge, not a declaration of wealth of time and money to do the dating game with two or more people.

Polyamory is not about doing what the hetero-normative, middle class, educated world does, but just more of it transparently.  It’s about recognizing that we actually do love more than one person, and this happens whether we are dirt poor, middle class, or of the 1%.  For me, it is a part of a larger project to be a better person than I was, than most people are, and who I would be if I hadn’t challenged myself to be better.

I am not better because I am polyamorous, but rather I am polyamorous, like Lola said, ’cause I’m better.  Not better in the sense of having more money, time, or people in my life, but because I have done the real, hard, tedious work of improving my ability to be a better person, including when I didn’t have the privileged economic means, and for me that means being polyamorous.

In my view, polyamory is actually better, unless you accidentally become monogamous, than what the world tends to do with relationships.  Am I smug? Damned right!  Am I arrogant? I don’t think this pride is unwarranted, I think it’s earned.

And no, not everyone will be polyamorous, nor will all people have the capability to be so.  Also, not everyone will be a skeptic, an atheist, a PhD, an expert, or even famous.  This does not mean that we do not respect, fight for, and care for those who cannot climb such mountains, but it means that in some way we have achieved something that others cannot, or have not yet, achieved.  We can encourage others to follow, but will not expect all to do so.

My privileges (and I have many; I’m white, educated, middle class in a very wealthy country, male, and certainly some others that I’m not thinking of right now) are not what make it possible for me to be polyamorous, but they do allow me to do polyamory in a more privileged way.  This is the distinction that, I think, Lola is missing.  It’s not that polyamory is a privilege, but doing polyamory in a certain way is a privilege.

But this privileged way of doing polyamory is no different than doing any type of relationship in a privileged way.  Again, this line of reasoning does not point exclusively to polyamory, but also to any type of relationship which exists in a privileged world.  There is a logical error of confusing a privileged way of doing polyamory with polyamory per se.  Polyamory does not require a privilege to mount, it only requires an open and honest mind about how we love people, what we want, and how we communicate between those two things.

Finally, I want to deal with what Lola talks about near the end of the post.  The discussion here is things like mental health, ableism, etc.  Lola says:

Discussions that centre around shaming jealousy, or the assumption that security is a realistic goal for all, or that you need it in order to be “good at poly,” create an environment that encourages people with mental illness (and people without) to not only misjudge red flags and pangs they experience as jealousy but also encourage them to ignore those feelings for fear of being the “green eyed monster”. There’s little to no discussion around these assumptions unless it’s pointed out that insecurity could stem from mental illness, and no advice or acknowledgement on how exactly folks with mental illnesses are supposed to navigate poly situations.

I struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder.  If there are any MH issues which would be problematic with emotions, including jealousy and insecurity, BPD would be among the toughest to deal with.

I acknowledge that many people may not be able to do poly, for reasons of trauma, mental health issues, etc.  Where “jealousy-shaming” actually exists, it needs to be confronted and eliminated.  Jealousy is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to work through because it is unhealthy.  We must be up-front with our personal struggles, and not be ashamed of them.

I think that Lola might be missing the distinction between shame and the frustration that comes with having to deal with something unwanted and pernicious, like jealousy (or faith, credulity, etc), which can cause emotional reactions such as shame.  I have not seen much “jealousy-shaming,” but I have seen people bluntly proclaim that jealousy is an unhealthy attribute which we need to confront towards the goal of managing it maturely, honestly, and with aplomb. This is not shaming; this is asking people to deal with a difficult problem with things like maturity, courage, and lots of communication.

The experience of shame in response to such things is part of the problem, and it makes me wonder if the intent of people is always to shame, or if many times it is the interpretation of people who struggle with jealousy and are confronted about this. Shame, a Christian concept if ever there were one, is anti-human and festers beneath the psyche of many of us in the West due to the perpetuation of theologies which feed off of such unpleasant experiences.  We need to be aware of that.

Jealousy, like faith, needs to be outgrown by our species for us to thrive in a future where we transcend the teenage years of our history.  Not through shame, but by compassion, patience, and very good listening skills will we achieve such goals.  We need to allow the love (the ‘-amory) to massage jealousy away a day, a word, or a touch at a time and encourage the best scientific methods to deal with the exacerbation of that problem for those with particular mental health struggles, just as people do in the monogamous world.

We don’t, after all, say that since many people struggle with violent tendencies we should, therefore, not confront and try to deal with people who have mental health issues which exacerbate those impulses because it causes shame.  I know, from personal experience, that causing physical harm to people through violence brings shame, but that this response was mostly my responsibility.

I’m glad I realized that it was not shame, but motivation to be more healthy, was the intention of those confronting me.  Otherwise, I might still be ashamed, rather than more healthy.

Near the end, Lola begins to sum up thoughts:

So, I have found the smug poly people. But it’s more than smugness. To me, smugness implies at the very least that there is something to be proud of, and you’re going the extra mile beyond being proud to being boastfully arrogant. This isn’t boastful arrogance, this is unchecked ignorance – and that is nothing, as a community, to be proud of. I see this problem in many communities, and I’m hoping that this is something that will change.

Well, maybe the community does not have anything to be proud of.  Frankly, the community I have seen is small, unorganized, and struggles with all sorts of issues that differ from group to group.  But this statement above goes further than I am willing to go.  This, above, sounds like an attempt to shame.

I do hope that the polyamory community will continue to grow, evolve, and improve.  But I think that many poly people have much to be proud of.  I am proud of my accomplishments as a poly person, of our little group, and the thoughts that we have collected here at polyskeptic (we’re still quite young as a blogging group).

To sum up my own thoughts here which have gone long and long), I agree that issues with intersectionality need to be dealt with where they are a problem.  I believe that education about what it means and how it affects us all are part of that solution.  But I don’t agree that polyamory is privileged any more than any relationship is potentially privileged.  I believe that Lola has committed a logical fallacy in arguing that poly is privileged because to do it in a privileged way is not possible for everyone.  There are non-privileged ways to do polyamory, and many people are doing just that.