That moment when you realize that you are really into that single but not-polyamorous girl…

So, you know that trope about the guy who is into the straight guy (or girl who is into the straight girl)?


So, people who are not really familiar or comfortable with polyamory, or who explicitly say they don’t think they can or want to get involved with polyamory themselves (whether their reasons are well articulated or not), are perhaps the kind of people in whom it might not be smart to become interested.  Especially if you have any reason to believe that if you were not polyamorous, and you were single, they would potentially be into you.  Also if you are really attracted to them, and you somehow cannot help but keep talking with them knowing all that is the case.  You know, because we are always rational and wise beings, with our ability to control of motivations, who we’re into, and all that jazz.

You see, sometimes when you are in such a predicament, you get to that point where you realize that you are being sucked into that hole; you know that hole where under any reasonable set of circumstances you would feel happy, elated, giddy even.  Except in this case, rather than cutesy giddiness you end up feeling like the only response that makes sense is to stare blankly at the wall (or computer monitor or whatever) and say to yourself “well, shit, this is going to suck,” while you secretly, deep down, hope that it will not.

You know, that delusional part of you deep down where neither love, lust, nor respect are ever unrequited.

But also in there, perhaps deeper or perhaps of similar depth but like to the side or something (my knowledge of depth psychology is obviously not, ahem, deep) you know it probably is just going to end up with a (figurative, hopefully) kick in the stomach.  You know that it’s probably a terrible idea to keep hope alive for any romantic, sexual, or even heavy-make-out-esque relationship, but you also know ridding yourself of such hope will be quite difficult and painful.

You, of course, have already made it clear what your goals and desires are, and they have respectfully rejected the proposition and you move on to talk about other things.  Other non-romantic or sexy things.  You have told them that you are attracted to them, you talk about polyamory a little and they are uncertain (at best) about it, and then you go on and have a friendly conversation with them.  Because you really do like talking with them and you can have a good time as platonic, non-sexual, friends with them…or something.

Because you totally can just pretend that you don’t find them very sexually attractive and just be friends.  Because you are a decent person who doesn’t need to have sex with someone just because that’s what you want…like what you really, really want…and be just a friend to them because you like them and they are a god person and because you have stuff in common and because that’s the decent thing to do, dammit!


So, Wes wrote about being friendzoned recently, and I agree with what he said pretty much, but this situation is different than what he explained there.  This is a situation where the intentions of both parties are clearly stated, but still one finds himself (it is me we’re talking about, after all) with a friend, and not a lover.  And while I am happy to be friends, there is that moment when I realize that the attraction is a little bit more than merely physical, and there is nothing I can do about it.

It’s one of the things that really sucks about being polyamorous in a monoamorous-dominant world.  Because it’s one thing for someone to not be into you, but it’s quite another when they might be into you, but it does not matter because you have other women (or men, or both) in your life.  It makes one ponder what the world would be if we all were polyamorous, or at least poly friendly.  It makes me, specifically, yearn for a world where polyamory was not so strange, so uncomfortable, so radical.

Then there is that little voice that, in the back of your mind, whispers little things to you like “just wait, she’ll change her mind” or “she really is into you, she’s just not sure about the poly thing; she’ll get over it!”  But, that’s a tricky road to navigate, because it’s probably a delusional little voice.  While that voice might keep that flame alive, that flame might just burn you as well as a potential friendship unnecessarily.

Then there is the other voice, the one that says “dude, you are just infatuated.  Even if she changed her mind you would have like a month of really hot sex, and then what? Can you expect a monoamorous girl to first get involved with you then accept the potential role of being your close friend who you used to have sex with a lot? perhaps even still do occasionally? That’s a lot to transition to from a monoamorous worldview.”  And that voice, while possibly also wrong (because who knows? she might end up being a long term girlfriend!), has a point.  Because a friend who I have sex with is not a stretch of the imagination for me; a polyamorous, sex-positive, slut.  But for someone who has a different set of experiences, that might be destructive, hurtful, and it might preclude the possibility of a friendship continuing.

It’s so much easier when all you’re interested in is sex, because in that case when the rejection comes you can just move on and not worry about it.

So, what to do? What do you do when you realize that being platonic friends with someone may be too hard for you, even if the friendship itself will almost certainly be rewarding in itself? I mean, I know monogamorous people deal with this all the time (and for them, I advise them to just get over it already and be polyamorous, knowing most won’t), but monoamorous people are generally used to suppressing such desires. That’s why cheating is so rare.  Right.

Ugh….  Having a conscience sucks sometimes.

It sucks because in such situations you really do want to be friends with them, but you also know that the attraction will sit there between you the whole time.  You can try and keep it away from your conversations with them, but it will poke it’s head out now and then to remind you, and possibly her, that it’s still there.

Of course, then you realize that you’ve had a couple of drinks and you are tired, and that is potentially skewing how you feel.  So maybe you should just sleep on it.  Perhaps tomorrow you’ll feel differently.

Yeah, that’ll work!

Well, good night then.

Anti-Abortion = Anti-Sex

Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts  here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.



Ross Douthat, one of the more thoughtful conservatives out there (weak praise, I know posted today about the relationship between abortion and single parenthood. In an effort to rebut the conclusion that abortion restrictions lead to more single parents, he wrote:

in a post-Roe world, social conservatives often find themselves accepting single parenthood as the lesser (by far) of two potential evils. But there’s good reason to think Roe itself was instrumental in creating the kind of sexual culture that makes the Bristol Palin dilemma as commonplace as it’s become. While the frequent use of abortion can limit out-of-wedlock births, that is, the sudden mass availability of abortion almost certainly had the opposite effect — mostly by changing the obligations associated with pregnancy, and by legitimating male irresponsibility where sex and its consequences are concerned.

For all I know, this may be accurate. However, its efficacy as an argument in favor of abortion restrictions rests on some terrible premises. Namely, it relies on the standard conservative “sex is bad” attitude. How horrible it is that access to abortion has allowed people to have recreational sex! If only people were more terrified of pregnancy, then everything would be fine!

And this continues a familiar pattern, where every single person I’ve ever heard argue for abortion restrictions also takes an extremely sex-negative attitude toward recreational sex, some going so far as to argue that an unwanted pregnancy is some kind of divine justice for being irresponsible, where of course “being irresponsible” means “having recreational sex.”

The sad fact is that Douthat’s claim that “since the 1970s, social conservatives have had more success encouraging doubts about the moral acceptability of abortion than they have had on almost any other cultural front” is true. Douthat would have us believe that people are supporting abortion restrictions due to respect for the sanctity of life. I have my doubts. It seems much more likely to me that support for abortion restrictions stems from the fundamental sexnegativity of our culture.

The Crommunist’s myth metaphor for the culture wars

I have been thinking about the philosophical, emotional, and historical underpinnings of the culture wars in recent months.  I have been try to come up with a way to categorize it in such a way that will make sense to people who don’t understand that it  is a matter of different values, and I have not been particularly successful at it.  I did write this post last month, but it felt like an incomplete attempt to articulate my thoughts.

Ian Cromwell
Ian Cromwell

In the last few days, Ian Cromwell, over at The Crommunist (one of my favorite FtB blogs) has been writing a series of posts utilizing the concept of myth (which he defines here) in a quite interesting, and I think useful, way.  He continues with his next post to define, for this conversation, the concept of  fairness and justice–but in a way I have a subtle, but perhaps important disagreement with.  Briefly, I think that fairness is a concept which is objectively (or inter-subjectively) definable, but we don’t have access to all the relevant information at any given time, so what appears to be fair may not actually be fair.  Because we don’t have sufficient information, or we are under a delusion about the facts, we will not recognize the unfairness of the circumstance until we understand more.  I’ll leave that aside for now.

I also appreciated the disclaimer that Ian gave to who his intended audience is.  I have come to write for a similar audience recently, realizing that I don’t really care what the others think most of the time.  There does come a time when you simply have to ignore some potential readers as being irrelevant to what you are saying, although the irony here is that we are writing about how to think and talk about fundamental mythological and value differences.

On his fourth post in the series, he comes to the meat of his thought, which he calls The dueling myth postulate.  here is the gist:

I wish to postulate that it is useful to think of many disagreements as the collision of two opposing myths. The first myth, what I call the ‘fairness myth’ (and will heretofore refer to as f-myth) is very simply stated: the world is a fair place. You will undoubtedly have heard this described as the ‘just world theory’, ‘just world hypothesis’, or ‘just world fallacy’. I prefer the term ‘myth’ for the reasons I spelled out in yesterday’s post – it is a story that we tell about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. Those things we have were obtained fairly, and our position is justified according to our understanding of moral axioms.

The countervailing myth is, of course, the ‘unfairness myth’ (u-myth) – that our position in the world is not in accordance with moral axioms, and that we (or others – more on that later) are being arbitrarily deprived of access to a state of harmonious existence.

In the past, I have described this as a clash of values, and while I still think that is true, I think that this approach has merit, and I will gladly steal it in the future, where I find it useful.  I don’t think he’ll mind, especially since I will credit him for the idea.

He then goes onto flesh out the idea some more, and comes up with the Ethical dimensions of the dueling myth postulate, which looks like this:

Morality within the Fair Myth framework

If one starts from a position that the world is fair, then any attempt to change the world would bring it into a state of unfairness. It is morally reprehensible, for example, to arbitrarily deprive someone of something that ze deserves. Indeed, it is highly morally reprehensible to take goods or status from one who has earned them and give those goods to someone who has not.

We saw an example of this when people believed that tax money was being used to bail out large banks and give bonuses to wealthy executives whose risky practices had caused a financial collapse. The taxpaying public (largely blameless for the economic troubles) were having their goods and services curtailed in order to reward a class of people who a) didn’t need the bonuses to live, and b) did not face any criminal charges for their malfeasance. It was monstrously unfair to redistribute wealth in a way that rewards irresponsibility and excess.

Indeed, in many cases it is morally laudable to fight to protect a fair system. In the last American election, when new laws were brought in that would disenfranchise voters, a public outcry went up to preserve the existing system (whatever its flaws might have been). The belief that the current system was fair, insofar as it allowed people to vote regardless of their skin colour or age (with the caveat that there is a legal voting age), motivated a strong resistance to change, fueled by a general agreement among proponents that people deserved to vote, and were threatened with having that status taken away from them for reasons that were seen as arbitrary.

Morality within the Unfair Myth framework

Conversely, there is a similar moral dimension to the u-myth. If one has the ability to intervene, it is morally reprehensible to allow an unfair system to persist. The u-myth invokes the image of the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable, where it is morally laudable to take action to either prevent an unfair thing from occurring, or to stop an unfair thing while it is happening.

For example, there are a number of people who believe that the state has a moral obligation to provide health care to its citizens. A state, with its wealth and power, is in a ready position to construct, administrate, and fund a system wherein all citizens receive at least some rudimentary level of care. Most industrialized nations, and many with different economic circumstances, recognize the duty of the state to ensure a level of basic health, and consider it a moral failing when a state does not. The fact that it also makes financial sense for the state is worthwhile including in a discussion of policy, but I wish to focus solely on the moral dimension.

As above, it is morally reprehensible to defend an unfair system. We have precious few people today who would jump to the defence of South Africa’s apartheid system (though there are many alive today who have defended it). We recognize the unfairness of a system that stratifies human beings by an arbitrary characteristic such as skin colour, and would roundly condemn anyone who argues that such a system was fair and/or necessary.

I think this is a pretty good set of frameworks to start with.  I am not sure that any one person will fit cleanly into either, and I’m sure we use both of these to some extent depending on the issue, but I think this a is a fair categorization of how many of these issues are, in fact, rhetorically spun.  In his four consecutive posts, Ian addresses this framework in terms of the issues of welfare, #IdleNoMore (a movement concerned with First Nation rights in Canada), religious persecution (or privilege), and then feminism.  I’ll quote a snippet from the post about religious persecution.

So let’s see if we can break down Mr. French’s [of WND] argument within a competing myth framework. I would identify it as springing from a f-myth belief, and will analyze it thus:

The world is fundamentally fair when it comes to the place of religion in public life (or at least has been up until recently). Overt displays of religiosity are protected free speech under the Constitution. The use of religious invocations, symbols, and practices are part of American history – a tradition that stretches back for generations.

Because the world is fundamentally fair, the attempts to change such a system are morally reprehensible. Conversely, it is morally laudable to resist the changes that threaten to remove religion from public life. Religious people should not have their rights taken from them in order to appease the growing chorus of anti-religious voices.

By opposing these changes to tradition and to American identity, the FRC’s actions/positions are morally laudable. By fighting to change a fundamentally fair system by abridging religious freedom, the actions of the ACLU and the U.S. government are morally reprehensible. By opposing the core of the American identity and long-standing tradition, the beliefs of the ACLU and the U.S. government are morally reprehensible.

For fun, we can also parse Ms. Feinberg’s argument in a u-myth framework:

The world is fundamentally unfair when it comes to the place of religion in public life. Overt displays of religiosity on behalf of state actors is specifically precluded by the Constitution. The use of religious symbols, while popular, is a reflection of an unfair system of religious hegemony and preference – a tradition that stretches back for generations.

Because the world is fundamentally unfair, the state has a duty to intervene and increase the amount of fairness. Fairness, in this context, looks like no religious preference for any group. Public schools are state entities, and as a result they must not be used for religious promotion. Any history of such promotion does not abrogate the duty of the state to ensure that it lives up to its obligation to be fair to all groups.

By acting to ensure that the Constitution is upheld, the actions of the NYCDE are morally laudable. By attempting to uphold or restore a fundamentally unfair system of religious privilege, the actions of the FRC are morally reprehensible. By asserting a right to preferential treatment that would propagate an unfair system, the beliefs of the FRC are morally reprehensible.

So we can see from the above analysis of the example that the specific statements of ‘both sides’ of the argument can be expressed as a function of an underlying myth about the fairness of the system in which the dispute is happening.

I have seen this type of argument between people on one side or the other concerning church/state separation over the last decade, and I think that this, in conjunction with Jon Haidt’s recent work (which I am not in complete agreement with, but I find his  Moral Foundations Theory extremely helpful) is a very good way to approach thinking about the culture wars, values, and the myths (or worldviews, as I might call them) we use to construct our concepts of the world.

So, in summary, I think this postulate of the dueling myth postulate, described in the recent series of posts by Ian Cromwell, is at least a useful, if not powerful, tool to use in talking about these types of issues.

In the future I will be thinking more about the relationship that this tool, this dueling myth postulate, has on the conversation about privilege.  For example, is privilege the circumstance of being stuck within the perspective of a “air myth framework,” at least in most cases? Do people who argue against shifting our behavior and views about what normal is, what is expected, and what efforts we should make to fix such things a function of feeling like the world is fundamentally fair, and by pointing out the effects of privilege we are trying to upset the apple cart?

In any case, a nod and a thanks to Ian Cromwell for thinking about this and sharing.


I’ll add that Ian added, a few hours ago, a follow-up post entitled The usefulness of the dueling myth postulate, which I am about to read now.

Emotion, Memory, and Quality

I met my wife just over 3 years ago.  On the anniversary itself, which was just a couple of weeks ago or so, she reminded me that it had been 3 years since, and we shared a nice moment between us and I reflected on how much I appreciate having met her.  Of course, we met at almost the same time as an event which shook me to my core, leaving me more depressed and emotionally raw then I have probably ever been, and which had stuck with me for many months (and to some extent, years) afterwards.

I have written about the events in question previously, and even had a now non-existent post about the event itself a few days after, but I found further evidence, just now, for how much emotion affects one’s perception of reality.  I made a video, about 3 years ago now, that was intended for an ex girlfriend of mine to see (I don’t know if she ever saw it).  It was a video which was created in a fever of creative energy based upon a dream I had woken up from.  The creation was an extremely emotional event, and was cathartic in many ways, even though I didn’t understand it then.  No, I will not embed that video here.

Upon finishing this video, I saw it as a sort of great achievement; it moved my deeply and I was unable to delete it from my hard drive even long after it was clear to me that the lost relationship was never to be restored.  The video involved a song–which was part of the dream–in the background, and ever since then that song has had an important emotional affect on me.  In a sense, this video was a great achievement, as it was the first step I took in healing from this loss, and it was not long after that Ginny and I were quite obviously moving towards being together as a couple.  She is a woman who saw me at my worst and helped carry me out of the darkness.

So, tonight while sitting around Polybar Galactica with Gina having some drinks and talking about quantum mechanics, chemistry, and relativity (like you do), the song in question comes up on my computer, which is randomly playing music for u while we pretended to know what we were talking about.  The song, as soon as I notice it, punched me in the stomach (figuratively), and I used my phone to skip to the next song (because Polybar Galactica exists in the future where you can control your computer with your phone) so I could allow the emotional tumult to pass by not listening to that beautiful but painfully mnemonical song (a link just in case you just have to know what song it is).

But then, right after Gina went to bed (because she has a job that involves getting up early and shit) I have this intellectual curiosity to watch this video, which is still on my hard drive.  I wanted to see if I would still feel as vulnerable and sad watching it now as the last time I watched it, which may have been 2 years ago or so.  I was prepared to be emotionally ruined for a few minutes, reminded of the pain that engulfed my life 3 years ago, but that’s not what happened.

So, here’s what did happen.  I smiled and even laughed.  Not comically, like at the gross inadequacy of the video-editing skills (although they are mediocre at best),  but because the images in the video reminded me of good times.  I remember having fun with and loving this girl who tore my heart out so long ago.  I remember her fondly, despite all that happened, and I was able to watch this video without the pain I prepared for.  And I was able to reminisce about some times long gone, with only a tough of bittersweet (which I think is appropriate).

But, perhaps more interestingly, I noticed how not-awesome the video was.  It made me grossly aware that my previous opinion of the quality of this video was intricately and intimately tied to the emotions involved with it.  Emotions which have changed, faded, and perhaps forgotten.  Emotions have a real affect on both memory and perception, and now that the raw emotions have faded away, the quality of the video was perceived, tonight, as appropriately mediocre (at best).

Ginny and I back in Atlanta, after I healed some.
Ginny and I back in Atlanta, after I healed some.

But what has not faded over time, but rather grown, is the other thing that happened 3 years ago.  Ginny, I love you dearly, and I am happy that you are my wife. Thank you for all you have done for me, and all you continue to do.  I live a charmed life.

And thank you, Gina, for sitting with my at Polybar Galactica while talking about things we have no idea about while I make you chocolate martinis.  Also, for being awesome and stuff.

I want to leave with a direct quote from what is on my Google calendar from the date that the event happened.  I don’t remember when I added this note, but it is true, even for this heathen:

Saturday, January 16th, 2010:

All hell falls upon me…and an angel was there to catch me before i fell into its depths



Also, if you missed this previously, you need to read this post (which also mentions the evil Seana event, which is why I was reminded of it right now), because it is me channeling Gina’s hilariousness in a way that I am not sure I can replicate again.  I made myself laugh. Wait, i do that all the time.

You know what? Never-fucking-mind!

Loving Authentically

We should love the people in our lives as we actually desire to do so. We should not unnaturally inflate or deflate our feelings for anyone. We, speakers of English, suffer from the poverty of words to express the varieties of love.  The Greeks knew better, having multiple words for the various kinds of love we feel for people, and perhaps there is a lesson here. Not all love is erotic. Not all love is adoring. Not all love is brotherly. Sometimes we will only feel brotherly (or sisterly) towards a person, while other times we may feel the hot coal of Eros burning within us to touch, savor, and embrace another (or many others) with pure passion. Sometimes we will feel a deep sense of attachment and affection for a person, such that we could not imagine being without them in our lives.  Sometimes you have a little (or a lot) of each.

Whether we are monoamorous, monogamish (a term I’m somewhat annoyed with, personally), “exclusive”  but cheating, or polyamorous we can experience a phenomenon of either inflating or deflating the nature of a relationship based upon social or personal expectations. This happens because how we actually feel for people around us may not fit the categories our culture has for relationships, at least mainstream culture.  In recent decades we have invented new categories, such as friends with benefits, asexuality, etc, but there is still room for better defining what kind of relationships we want from people.

Having been in a number of relationships (and most of the examples below has an analog in my experience), I have noticed that many people will artificially inflate or deflate the nature of that relationship in the name of having that relationship fit into the social context we are used to, or possibly to try and make the relationship look appropriate.  That is, the reality of a relationship may not always mach what it appears to be from the outside, often at the fault of those displaying their relationship.  This phenomenon, of falsely displaying our relationship one way or another, is inauthentic.

What I want to explore here are the implications of this phenomenon on a set of relationships, in order to start thinking about how and why we define our relationships the way that we do and how we might do better.


Inflating Relationships

Monoamory,* in some cases, will force us to inflate how we care for someone unnecessarily and unnaturally. Because people are insecure or afraid, we may have to overcompensate for moments when we may show interest in other activities, other people, and even other potential loves. If we err by having an affair, we try to soften the damage by saying things like “she/he means nothing to me” or “I only want to be with you, nobody else” which are obviously not true in many cases.  Except in rare cases, monoamory is based upon a lie, or if not a lie then an inauthentic approach to who we love.  We try to convince ourselves, and often we tell our partner, that we only want one person, and that we are happy only with them.  We create a mythology of happiness and fulfillment in exclusivity, when the actual behavior–cheating is rampant–says otherwise.

The result is that we try and inflate our partner to being all that we need, everything to us, and the object of all of our romantic and erotic desires. Now, there may in fact be cases where this is actually true, but I suspect that in most cases such claims are an exaggeration of the truth. We may, in fact, have a substantial amount of affection, respect, and attraction to our monoamorous partner, but there is always room to have similar affections, respect, and attraction to other people. To claim to not have such feelings for others is to either deceive or to be a very rare case, if not an unhealthy one.  There are times of course, when we do not lie about our other desires, but for various reasons agree to not pursue them.  This is not as inauthentic, but is perhaps absurd and an accommodation to our fears and insecurities.

When we are single, taking steps into the wilds of polyamory outside of our existing relationship(s), or even when we are in the beginnings of what might become an illicit affair, we may end up either inflating or deflating how we feel for someone. There are times when the way we care for someone is mostly physical. We may actually like the person, rather than hate or be annoyed by them them, but here the primary connection is sexual, sensual, and erotic. For a number of reasons, we may feel that this base desire is insufficient, disrespectful, or possibly immoral in terms of continuing a purely physical, but not emotional or “spiritual” (whatever that means) relationship with them. In such times, we may feel compelled to communicate a feeling of love and try to make more out of the relationship than which actually exists.

This inflation may result in a relationship that walks and talks like a serious relationship, but it does not feel that way inside, perhaps for either of you. You may call the other person your partner, you may be exclusive with them, but the relationship lacks an emotional, intellectual, etc depth that one of both of you may crave. Now, there is no necessary reason to discontinue the physical relationship because of this, because all you need to do is find someone with whom you share the other things you desire in a relationship. So long as the sexual connection lives and is reciprocated, then there is no reason to stop it, but there is also no reason you should pretend the relationship is more than what it is. There is nothing wrong with having acquaintances, friends, or even people with who you have no emotional connection to as a lover, so long as the arrangement benefits both people.

When we are polyamorous, something similar may happen. We may have an ideal that all of our partners should be of similar seriousness, that we should try and develop an emotional depth with all of our lovers or else a relationship will be inferior or unworthy. We may feel, in short, like promoting sex partners to the rank of full romantic partners, when what the two people want from each other is a good time now and then. We need to love the people we love as we actually desire to love them, even if that love is solely erotic in nature, or solely romantic in nature for that matter.

In short, no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside.  We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.


Deflating Relationships

Let’s say you’ve been committed, for some substantial amount of time, to a wonderful person with whom you share a deep affinity, share many enjoyable days and nights with, and with whom you share a healthy and active sexual relationship. You have decided to remain exclusive, whether overtly or by mere assumption or accident (based on cultural norms and such), and are happy with your partner.

Let’s say that through work, social circles, or merely by mere chance you happen to meet a person with whom you develop a healthy rapport, you become friends and find that not only do you respect and care for them, you are very attracted to them (or perhaps you are only attracted to them sexually.  If so, the following is equally true). This relationship is a threat to that exclusivity, and in many cases an affair will happen in such cases, often damaging or destroying the primary relationship.  But an affair and damage are not the only options.

In some such cases something different happens. Whether you and your new friend admit an existing attraction or not, it exists but it is suppressed, pushed away, and ignored. You decide to remain platonic friends (or to avoid one-another), despite the reciprocated desire for more. You deflate the appearance of the relationship from what it feels like, inside. You are pretending not to love them in a way that you very much want to love them, so you try and redirect that erotic love into brotherly or sisterly love or to a lack of any relationship at all.

Why do we do such things? The feelings already exist, why do we lie to ourselves about them? Is that love, which already exists, going to do more damage if actually acted on? Yes, you should be honest about your feelings, not only to your new friend but to your partner with whom you have had, perhaps up until then, an agreement to exclusivity. It is such circumstances which support my belief that the vast majority of humans have the inclinations towards polyamory within us already, we just need to be honest about them.  Thus, another option here is to explore non-monoamorous solutions, whether swinging, polyamory, or mere monogamishness.  One does not merely have the choice of either suppressing the desire or cheating, in such circumstances.

Of course, this does not happen only to people involved in a relationship. Single people deflate as well. Some people may have insecurities, fears, or etc which affect their ability to pursue their desires. We may have strong feelings for a person, but not communicate them out of fear of rejection. We may do so because they are not seen as good enough or socially appropriate for us, especially in view of peers or family. They may be single and interested in somebody who is already polyamorous, and be unsure about their ability to handle the emotional consequences of pursuing someone they have to share.

Non-monoamorous people can do something similar as well, especially when they are relatively new to polyamory, or who are involved in the swinging community. Poly people who pursue others may deflate how they feel for a partner in order to protect the feelings of others they are with; to defend jealousies. Jealousies need to be addressed, not merely accommodated to or coddled. We should not pretend that our new love is merely a mild interest, or that our mild interest is merely a friend. Be direct about what what people mean to you, and encourage them to do the same for you.

Swingers, in some cases, ignore or avoid romantic feelings for sexual partners because most swingers become so because they are seeking, primarily, new sex partners and not romantic partners. They may realize that an emotional connection might be destructive to their primary relationship. There are some people inthe swinger community who, if they start to have feelings for their sex partners, stop hanging out with those people. They may decide to suppress those feelings, much like the hypothetical you did above with your new friend, except in this case it is the romantic love which is suppressed, rather than the erotic.

In short (again), no matter how many relationships we have some or all of them may be presented to the world as more than they feel like inside.  We may do so for all sorts of reasons having to do with the society in which we live, but all of those reasons are inauthentic.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our partners, and the world around us (insofar as it is their business) about what our relationships are, and not inflate them unnecessarily.

Concluding thoughts

I encourage all of us, especially myself (as I struggle with this phenomenon as well), to have the courage to admit how we really feel, or to allow ourselves to find how we really feel about the people around us. We may be suppressing feelings without being aware of it, leading us to miss out on a relationship or to remain in one we may not wish to continue.

If the way you feel about a person is erotic, let that attraction be known. If you feel an abiding reverence, deep affection, or romantic impulse for someone, then express that as well. If you see someone as like a brother or sister to you, and while you may not be attracted to them you want them as part of your life, your family, etc, then let that relationship grow as well. And if you feel all of these things, whether in abundance or not, let that relationships—let those relationships—be what they are, informed by your desire and authentically pursued..

Love each person according to your reciprocated desires, and do not artificially inflate or deflate that love out of respect for any cultural, religious, or psychological expectation. In short, love authentically.



*I use the term ‘momoamory’ and the correlating ‘non-monoamorous’ in the interest of being aware that not all relationships are marriages.  Monogamy is an exclusive marriage, technically, and while it is applied to cover all exclusive relationships between two people, I prefer to be more precise and inclusive with my terminology.

Where philosophical differences turn into meta-debates about personalities

This, ladies and gentlemen, will be a rant of sorts.  I’m not happy with humanity today, and it’s my own damned fault for reading blogs!

So, I’m a feminist of a specific kind.  I have evolving but ideologically-leaning views about the relationship between gender, history, and culture.  I think there are things that we should be focused on as a society to improve the world related to those feminist ideas.  I think that we need to become familiar with concepts which will be consciousness-raising and will shift our perspectives on how to behave.

The details of what specific kind of feminist I am, what ideologies I prefer, and what changes in perspectives we should work towards are almost not worth explaining, because all I have to say is that I read Freethought Blogs and Skepchick and I agree with them more often than not.  I think Greta Christina is an excellent advocate for both atheism and feminism.  I think Rebecca Watson had something to teach me in talking about a guy in an elevator.  I miss Jen McCreight’s contributions to the conversation.  I have learned lots about race and privilege from Ian Cromwell.  I think PZ Myers is witty, intelligent, and sometimes wrong (actually, he’s mostly right there).

So, now you know where I stand right?

Here’s the thing.  If you read any blogs who have a dog in this fight  (you know, the fight about the role of feminism, if any, in the atheist/skeptic community) then you will either think that Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, etc are generally right and are fighting for a worthy cause within the community or you will think they are bullies (FtBullies, if you would) who have a view based upon “garbage feminist scholarship” and who are creating a division in the community with their, well, bullying and such.  Some, such as my good friend Staks, have given up reading any FtB posts at all.  I think he’s missing out on a lot by doing so, and I’m not sure if he will change his mind.

It has gotten so bad that I am not even sure what the philosophical differences are, most of the time.  Most of the posts I see now are not substantive philosophical critiques of a point of view, they are an attack on the other side.  This has become a polarized, party-line division, much like what exists in politics.

And this is no surprise to me.  Tribal mentalities exist in all communities, so the fact that this happens in the atheist community is to be expected.  I would like skeptics to be better, but I’m too cynical to really believe that will happen even among those who should, ideally, know better.  Humans are emotional and irrational (which they then rationalize, in most cases), so all I can do is be both frustrated and amused at it all.

Take this post by Maria Maltseva called A World Without Dogma.  it starts off OK, but then you immediately see that PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Carrier are all Marxist feminists who may endanger us with their terrible Marxist ways.  I really thought I had run into a Republican blog by accident, for a moment there.

The arguments there are straw men.  There is no attempt to take seriously the problem of how to address feminism as a skeptic (and yes, I know there are people who do take this issue seriously from some of them I also read), but rather the point is to show how untrustworthy, unskeptical, and how bad the other side is.

And yes, some at Freethought Blogs do the same thing, and I will admit that I am less annoyed when I agree with the one doing the mocking than when I disagree, even though I also do get annoyed, occasionally, by some I agree with (especially Amanda Marcotte, who I agree with more often than not but I find her writing to be abrasive, so I don’t generally read her stuff anymore, except in rare cases).


So, let’s spell it out; there are people on both sides of this issue being snarky, using mockery, and who dislike each other greatly.  I want to see people who are able to see that snark and let it roll off of them.  I don’t want the emotion, passion, and even humor to go away, I want it to be waved off and for us to be able to actually have a substantive discussion about things like feminism without it turning into politics as usual. I want people to be able to hear mockery, snark, etc and let it roll off them and pay attention to the message, but often there is little actual message to sink one’s teeth into.

Yes, some people I will talk to will be wrong (painfully wrong), but can’t we drop the meta-debate? Can’t we stop talking about elevatorgate and talk about the philosophical disagreements which underlie why elevatorgate was such a big deal? Can’t we address privilege, safe spaces, and the concerns that men have all while we recognize that understanding the perspective of others is part of the process of making it all better for all of us?

I know I’m biased, but I think that is precisely what people such as Greta Christina have been doing.  I want a world where the complaints that men have with our culture are solved. I want a world where the complaints that women have about our culture are solved.  I want a world where tribalism and petty interpersonal squabbling don’t dominate philosophical debate.  Mostly what I see now is that PZ Myers and Thunderf00t don’t like each other anymore, Rebecca Watson is (supposedly) an ugly bitch, and my view of feminism is a totalitarian dictatorship in the making.

I want to put aside petty interpersonal squabbles, platitudes, and deal with real issues.  But I won’t get what I want;  the battle-lines will be drawn more vividly and I will be forced to be a combatant even if I try and avoid perpetuating the divisions.  And the effect of this is that I will inevitably become further removed from any real dialogue between people on different sides of this issue.  I will have less exposure to views different from mine, despite my desire to understand their point of view, because the conversation will become meta-, rather than substantive.

I can try to keep it away from here, but the simple fact is that I do think that one side of this debate is mostly right.  It’s just like PZ Myers said some time back, compromise with crazy is half-way to crazy town.  I think that FtB, despite some of their poor behavior from time to time, is mostly right, and I find Maria Maltseva mostly wrong, but still worth listening to in case something good comes through.

Not saying so would be inauthentic, so I will be placed on one side of the battle lines, and when I take a step across to try and understand, I will be shot at because I’m perceived to be wearing the uniform of the person seen as the leader on my “side.”

It’s absurd.  I’m interested in the truth, if such a thing exists, and I will hope that these stupid squabbles evaporate into a truly skeptical conversation.


Less than 2 months until the Atlanta Poly Weekend, so get your tickets now!

I wrote up a preview and details here, but in case you forgot or you missed it, I will be in Atlanta in the middle of march to participate in a convention of polyamorous people, in part to talk about the relationship between skepticism and polyamory (atheism itself may come up as well, we’ll see!).

So, again:

So, get your tickets now! We at will be there, and we will look forward to seeing you.

The What: Atlanta Poly Weekend 2013

The Who (no, not the band!): you, and all your awesome friends (who will be permitted to listen to The Who, if that is your kink.  The Kinks will also be acceptable).

The When: March 15-17, 2013

The Where: 

Holiday Inn Select Atlanta- Perimeter/Dunwoody
4386 Chamblee Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30341
(770) 457-6363
(770) 458-5282 (Fax)

The Why: Because it will be awesome!

The How: That is for you to figure out, because I don’t know who you are or where you are coming from.  If teleportation doesn’t work, try a car, train, plane, or penny-farthing.

On Feminism… Are We Talking Past Each Other?

Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts  here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.




Thanks to Shaun’s latest post (and a couple links he posted on Facebook), I’ve spent the past two days reading feminist articles, critiques of those feminist articles, and critiques of the critiques. I’ve been reading Skepchick, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Jen McCreight (when she was blogging), and other feminist-friendly atheists for years. What I haven’t been reading are the people at Skeptic Ink or any other major criticism of the Skepchick/FTB-style feminism. The blog that Shaun linked on FB (not approvingly) was Skeptically Left, written by a woman who, to put it mildly, takes some issue with the kind of feminism that is practiced at FTB & Skepchick. One of the first posts I noticed was this one, where Maria Maltseva, the author, takes a collection of words, and gives them the definitions that are used in “certain darker parts of the internet.” A sample:

Feminism — A dogmatic stance on women’s issues promulgated by the likes of PZ Myers, who is notably not a woman.
Misogynist — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape Enabler — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.
Rape — Consensual sex with a woman after she’s been drinking. Also, actual rape.
Patriarchy — A nebulous conspiracy-like entity responsible for oppression of women in Western society.
Oppression — Being born with a vagina, even if you’re treated like a queen and allowed all the same opportunities as men.
Victim Blaming — The suggestion that women have some degree of control over their own behavior.
Slut Shaming — Pointing out that suggestive attire, inappropriate nudity, and sexual behavior are likely to get attention.
Rapist — Any man who’s had sex. Also any man who hasn’t. Synonym: man.
Rape Culture — A culture that glorifies rape. The one we live in. The same one that makes (actual) rape a criminal act.
Privilege — Something you say to get another party to shut up when you have no real argument, because clearly human beings are incapable of empathy. Existence of actual or even group privilege is irrelevant.

(sigh). I have some sympathy for the victims of unfair attacks at the hands of quick-to-anger feminists, especially at FTB & Skepchick. I too have had the word “privilege” used as a bludgeon to suggest that any opinion I have on a topic that concerns a marginalized group is completely worthless and irrelevant. I have been labeled a misogynist for having the audacity to voice a minor disagreement with a popular feminist. I’ve been decried as a troll and been accused of “JAQ-ing off” for asking sincere questions about a feminist position that I don’t understand. And in none of those situations did anyone come to my defense, so I understand how someone can be upset with the community. But come on, this crap is ridiculous. These definitions are ridiculous caricatures of complicated and nuanced issues, and surrender the moral high ground before the discussion is even started. I think contemporary feminism could use some strong criticism in certain circumstances, but juvenile bullshit like this is just flame warring.

Yesterday, Shaun described a post by Libby Anne at Patheos as “recommended reading.” Libby Anne’s post is a critique of a post by vjack at Atheist Revolution. I was not as happy as Shaun with Libby Anne’s post. The whole post was one big straw man.

vjack’s post was about some people’s hesitancy to identify as feminists, and posited that it was because “feminist” means different things to different people. While many people may be feminists under one interpretation, they may not be under another interpretation, and people don’t want to be associated with the more extreme factions. So far so good. Most of the feminists I know (including me) specifically disavow radical feminism, and specifically its shameful treatment of trans* people. vjack offers the following definitions:

In a nutshell, equity feminism refers to a focus on the goal of social and legal equality. That is, equity feminists believe that women and men should have the same rights, be paid the same for the same work, have access to the same opportunities, etc. They are advocates of equality, and I wholeheartedly embrace this form of feminism. Women deserve equality, and none of us should settle for anything less.

Gender feminism is very different. It looks far less egalitarian, involves sharp criticism of gender roles, and seems to emphasize victimhood. There are aspects of gender feminism with which I agree (e.g., the manner in which patriarchy can be harmful to both women and men, the critique of traditional gender roles), but I do not support the entirety of gender feminism.

So, clearly, those definitions are crap. Aside from the obvious bias of the author, I’ve read them several times now and I still have no idea what “gender feminism” is. As Libby Anne note, vjack did not invent the terms, and followed one of the links vjack provided to this post by Barry X. Kuhle, an evolutionary psychologist. Libby Anne provided the following quote:

What is feminism other than the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes? Regrettably to feminists like myself, far too many other feminists believe that being one means believing in far more than equality for women. These “gender feminists” cling to an ideologically driven, theoretically unsound, and empirically unsupported perspective on the origin and development of sex differences (Kuhle, 2012). To paraphrase New Jersey philosopher J. B. Jovi, they give feminism a bad name. In so doing, they have discouraged women and men who support sexual equality from self-identifying as feminists. … The reluctance most women and men have to embrace the feminist label in the absence of a definitional nudge is due in no small part to gender feminists’ untenable position on sex differences.

As an evolutionary psychologist, I believe that much light can be shed on psychology by considering how the information-processing mechanisms underlying our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affected our ancestors’ abilities to survive and reproduce. As an “equity feminist” (Sommers, 1994), I believe that women should have the full civil and social equalities that are afforded men. Equity feminism has no a priori stance on the origin or existence of differences between the sexes; it is solely a sociopolitical desire for men’s and women’s legal and social equality. Defined in these ways, there is no rational reason why one cannot be both an evolutionary psychologist and a feminist.

Gender feminism is an alternative version of feminism and is the dominant feminist voice in academia (Sommers, 1994) and online (e.g., And boy (er, I mean girl, er, I mean womyn) do they take issue with feminism being compatible with evolutionary psychology. They ardently argue that psychological differences between the sexes have little or nothing to do with evolution, but instead are largely or solely socially constructed (Pinker, 2002; Sommers, 1994). Whereas equity feminism “makes no commitment regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology… gender feminism is an empirical doctrine” committed to several unsubstantiated claims about human nature, especially that of the psychological blank slate where sex differences are concerned (Pinker, 2002, p. 341).

Now, Kuhle seems like kind of a windbag, but I can’t point to anything factually inaccurate with his statements, other than that he seems to be doing an awful lot of generalizing based on relatively few citations. Libby Anne, however, finds a lot more of an issue:

In other words, Kuhle argues that there are significant natural and inherent differences between men and women, so while we should support equality of opportunity, we shouldn’t wonder when men and women make different life choices, pursue different careers paths, act in different ways, or value different things. Thus Kuhle appears to be arguing that men and women can be equal even if they, as a result of their evolutionary background, carry out vastly different roles in life.

Excuse me? Did we read the same quote? Kuhle never says “there are significant natural and inherent differences between men and women.” Kuhle merely says that it’s an “open empirical issue.” Kuhle doesn’t say that the idea that the sexes are psychologically identical is incorrect, he just says that it’s unsubstantiated, which is true. The psychological community has reached no consensus on the topic, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that the sexes have genetic psychological differences. Furthermore, Kuhle most certainly does not extrapolate from this that “we shouldn’t wonder when men and women make different life choices, pursue different careers paths, act in different ways, or value different things.” Later in his post (and not quoted by Libby Anne), Kuhle says the opposite:

The first misunderstanding, the myth of immutability, is evidenced when one erroneously concludes that “if it’s evolutionary, then we can’t change it.” As has been discussed at length elsewhere, evolutionary psychology does not view human behavior as impervious to change. In fact, evolutionary psychologists have cogently argued that knowledge of the informational inputs to evolved psychological mechanisms is a crucial first step toward changing the behavioral output of these mechanisms (Buss, 1996; Buss, 2012; Confer et al., 2010; DeKay & Buss, 1992; Geher, 2006).

The second pervasive misunderstanding is the naturalistic fallacy, which rears its illogical head when one concludes that “if it’s evolutionary and hence natural, then it’s okay and hence good.” Numerous evolutionary psychologists have unpacked the mistaken inference that if something is the case then it ought to be the case (Buss, 2003; Geher, 2006; Pinker, 2002).

Evolutionary psychology does not excuse, justify, or rationalize any human’s thoughts, feelings, or actions (Buss, 1996; Geher, 2006). It merely seeks to discover and detail the design of the information-processing mechanisms that underlie our psychology. If some women have been subjugated because they were regarded as different than and inferior to men and some men have excused their misogynistic behavior as being an inevitable consequence of their genes, then a reluctance to embrace a discipline which viewed such pernicious behavior as immutable and excusable would be understandable. But evolutionary psychology is not that discipline (Buss, 1996).

Kuhle may be an asshole, and by the tone of his post, he probably is, but he’s not arguing that women belong in the kitchen. Later in her post, Libby Anne quotes Harriet Hall as saying:

I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.

Libby Anne’s followup:

Kuhle made this same argument in his article when he argued that there are natural differences between men and women and derided the idea that gender roles are socially constructed. Kuhle’s line of reasoning is why some people argue that it’s only natural that the vast majority of engineers are men and that the the fast majority of stay at home parents are women. Men are just better at spacial reasoning, after all, and women are perfectly evolved to care for children!

Again, nobody said that! Kuhle never “derided the idea that gender roles are socially constructed.” And he certainly never suggested that men evolved to be better engineers and women evolved to care for children. It is not “Kuhle’s line of reasoning” that leads to this attitude – it’s unscientific sexism. Kuhle never makes any such suggestion anywhere in his article, and to say that it’s his “line of reasoning” is ridiculous. It’s the laziest kind of slippery slope argument.

Libby Anne spends the rest of her post listing the various evils of assuming that our current gender roles are natural. It’s a good rundown, and would be a good argument against anyone who actually argues the opposite. However, the remainder of the post continuously implies that it is an argument against people like vjack and Kuhle. Libby Anne ironically closes with the following:

it’s critically important to find ways to communicate with those who may not fully agree with us, and listening to each other and trying to understand each other’s perspectives is crucial.

I agree. I hope Libby Anne will make more of an effort to do so next time, before putting words in people’s mouths. Chris Hallquist, of The Uncredible Hallq commented, echoing my concerns:

I’ve read the Kuhle article, and you seem to be reading a lot into it that isn’t there. In particular, [it] can be true that there are some innate psychological differences between men and women and at the same time think the male domination of many fields might be cultural.

Ed Clint, for example, has defended evolutionary psychology (including claims of innate psychological differences between men and women) against its detractors, but has also argued for having 50% women among speakers at skeptic conferences, for the sake of breaking the (possibly? very likely?) self-perpetuating maleness of skepticism.

No response from the OP. Both writers, Libby Anne and Maria Malseva, seem to be ignoring the actual words of the people that they are criticizing. While Libby Anne’s writing is seemingly from a much more conciliatory place, both posts unfairly lampoon their subjects and ignore what they are actually saying. It’s no way to start a dialogue, and it’s certainly no way to reconcile.

We can do better.

Skepticism and insecurity

The title of the blog is Atheist, Polyamorous Skeptics.  That is, we are atheists and we are polyamorous, but those are qualifying terms of our (at least my) primary identification; skeptic.

I identified as an atheist before either of the others, temporally.  It was somewhere in the late 1990’s that I started thinking of myself that way, and the winter of 2002, upon meeting Margaret Downey and joining the Freethought Society, that I came out of the closet, as it was.  I never believed in any gods (I toyed with pantheism for a little while, but pantheism is ontologically indistinct from atheism), but I didn’t always see the point in talking about this much or thinking of it in larger cultural and historical terms.

Over the next few years, I was introduced to people such as Michael Shermer, Penn and Teller, James Randi, and others who usually identify as skeptics.  I had already taken critical thinking, logic, and philosophy courses (By 2003, I had a MA in philosophy), but the term skepticism was pretty much academic to me until a couple of years later, even though I was actively writing about and advocating for atheism as a cultural force during both college and graduate school.

I had discovered polyamory as an idea, and practiced it to some degree, in the late 1990’s as well.  But it was not until around 2006 or so that I started to re-think about the idea beyond the fact that I liked the idea of being able to pursue other girls while I was with my girlfriend at the time.  And I believe that the way I started taking polyamory more serious was related to my growing interest in skepticism as a means to living, rather than merely an intellectual exercise.

I had not come to articulate it thus yet, but I was beginning to apply skepticism to all of my life; my beliefs, suspicions, and to other people’s idea which I heard.  It did not always make me popular at parties, and it certainly did not make my native insecurity any better (as I wrote about last night, I still have anxieties about talking to people from this point of view).  But while it didn’t make me popular, it made me feel better about myself and gave me epistemic foundations for my worldview, even while that worldview was shifting.

Most importantly, it gave me a process by which I could counter-act my natural human tendency to allow my biases and fears to skew my worldview, and thus I grew the strengthened ability to challenge myself and learn about other people and ideas better.

Skepticism became, for me, a way of living, thinking, and perceiving.  But I had to train myself to be this way, which my philosophical training helped with.  And it often fails me anyway because skepticism is not easy and it is not natural to our brains.  I’m still prone to things such as selection bias, rejection of ideas which don’t mesh with my worldview, etc.  It takes a constant vigilance to notice and attempt to counter-act such tendencies, and it creates a cognitive uncertainty around my thoughts, quite often.

So, not only do I have to deal with a quite visceral and powerful insecurity at an emotional level, the nature of intellectual processes require me to be unsure about myself and my ideas.  A double dose of uncertainty, which I would rather do without, envelopes me.   And thus I understand people being turned off by skepticism; it feels better to be sure.  Questioning our values and beliefs is difficult, and people really don’t like their values and beliefs to be questioned, even liberal and “open-minded” people.

And yes, I am intellectually very certain about many things, but nuances and stupid semantic distinctions mean I cannot merely insist upon my superiority (although that is something I am prone to, as well).  I resist the urge to be arrogant, insistent, and authoritative because these desires are a defense mechanism against feeling insecure, and not necessarily the result of feeling overwhelmingly right or warranted in my opinion.  That is, there is an air of confidence which is only air.*

This is not to say I’m not occasionally arrogant, insistent, or think I’m intellectually superior.  I have weak moments, after all, and ironically my weakest moments often look, to others, as my strongest moments.  This is why I have trouble trusting people who appear boastful or arrogant; I suspect that underneath this appearance lies insecurity, like it does in me.  And sometimes I genuinely feel confident; the distinction is that when I’m actually confident, I’m calmer, less insistent, and I will probably be governing a wry smile.

And then, of course, I think that maybe some people don’t ever have that feeling of insecurity and that not only do they not feel insecure underneath their apparent certainty, but may have no reason to feel such insecurity because they are smarter and better than I am.

And then I really feel insecure, all because I think it’s important to be skeptical.

But that’s a lie; I just feel insecure fundamentally, and it just happens that skepticism is benefited by a reservation of opinion, which emotional insecurity provides.

But rationalizing is fun.


*There is a wonderful episode of Star Trek TNG, entitled “Attached“, which deals with this very phenomenon. summarizes the scene thus:

Capt. Picard & Dr. Crusher are being held captive by an alien race that implants telepathic devices on both of them, enabling each to hear the other’s thoughts.

While trying to escape, Capt. Picard & Crusher come upon an area which has two possible paths to take. Crusher is unsure which path to follow. Capt. Picard points in one direction and assertively indicates that it is the correct path.

As they start down the path, Crusher hears Capt. Picard’s thoughts and realizes that Capt. Picard had no better idea than her as to which path they should be taking and that he was only guessing earlier when he chose which path to take.

When Crusher tells Capt. Picard about her telepathic observation of him and asks if he does that often when giving orders, Capt. Picard answers, that there are times when it is necessary for the Captain to give the appearance of confidence.

And when I see people confidently proclaiming a decision, I think of this and wonder how universal it is that leaders just appear confident.