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Queer Youth Radio on Polyamory May 9, 2013

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
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I ran into this today:

I saw it on a blog called Youth Media for Building Healthy Commnities, which I just discovered today.

It’s a fairly good, and short introduction to polyamory intended for young people, specifically in the Long Beach, CA area.  I’m glad to see that resources for young people are inclusive enough, and aware enough, to include polyamory into it’s programming.  The video is pretty low tech, and I don’t know what kind of reach it has, but seeing it’s existence is at least encouraging to me.

I noticed that the video made the claim that polyamory fits under the umbrella of “Queer,” and thus LGBTQ generally, which is an idea which is not universally accepted by all poly people or by all LGBTQ members and allies.  That the struggles which poly people  endure are comparable to those of the traditional LGBTQ community is a tough sale, even if in some philosophical sense there is an affinity between the two groups.  There is a sense that poly people are queer, and perhaps the relationship is more obvious to younger people than it is to me.  I’d be interested to hear from younger people about how they think about that relationship.

I believe that the LGBTQ community should be generally informed about polyamory, especially because there is a natural affinity between minority groups who are struggling for understanding, rights, and community.  We have things to teach one-another, and projects like this video, and the blog with which it is associated, are good positive steps in the right direction.  Also, I would very much like to see a future when comprehensive sex education includes the basic concepts of polyamory as a possibility for people to explore, especially since it will be preferable and more healthy for many people (at least).  We need young people, for the sake of our future world to be a more sex-positive place, to have understanding about their sexuality, possibilities for relationships, and all things related to those two.

I also noticed that they said, near the end, that “monogamy is  an equally valid lifestyle choice, just as polyamory is a great fit for others.”  Putting polyamory on equal footing with monogamy is an improvement over the usual view that polyamory might merely be right for some people, which seems to imply it’s a weird thing that weird people do (well, it is that often too).  I might be willing to go further, and say that polyamory is superior (with the appropriate caveats, of course), but i appreciate the equal footing here.

More of this, please!

Christians mocking themselves while unintentionally advertising for polyamory April 25, 2013

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory, Religion.
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Wait…have you seen this?

So, I found this today via the Friendly Atheist, and I really thought this was a parody.  I simply cannot believe that real people, trying to make a real point, could be so unaware.

Wait, yes I can.  But it hurts to think about it, because I really want to like our species, but find so many reasons not to.

So, a man admits his infidelity (his “adultery”) to his wife, with his accomplice at hand, and offers the argument that if she loves him, she has to love his adultery.  And she accepts it, even so far as to write up some placards to support this publicly.  Of course, the primary analogy is between accepting of the sin (of homosexuality/adultery) of the sinners we should love.  You know, “love the sinner hate the sin” and other hilariously stupid ideas derived from the absurdity of Christian theology.

But also, this video is hilarious (unintentionally) while simultaneously frustrating.  And, of course, the first thing I thought (when deciding whether it was a parody) was that this was a poly triad making a video mocking Christians.  But since this seems legit I’m just going to have to pose the question of whether poly people should take offense at this video or not.  I mean, this is clearly in the wheelhouse of the argument that homosexual marriage will lead to thing like group marriage, sex with alpacas, and whatever else Christians fantasize about when denying that their worldview is as crazy as a pack of rabid hyenas on coke.  But are the Christians who made this even aware of the overt similarity to polyamory here in this video? Is it making fun of us?

Perhaps, but I don’t think any offense should be taken, and I think what Hemant said in response to it is the reason why:

This is the sort of video you would expect an LGBT group to make to mock Christians’ narrow-minded thinking on the subject… Instead, the Christians here went ahead and did the work for them. They’re proving to the world how badly they don’t get it.

They are mocking themselves, without being aware of it.

See, what a video like this does is exposes the lack of self-awareness of people who make it.  Think of it this way; could we here at polyskeptic have made this exact video (with us in it, of course), and had it be a parody? Could we have written it much better to make the point of the absurdity of the conservative Christian worldview in relation to such issues as homosexuality? No, I don’t think so.

The nonchalance of the wife in this video, in reaction to her husband admitting adultery while holding hands with another woman is done for the sake of comedy.  The tension here is between an obviously not-acceptable situation of direct, in-your-face cheating along side the subsequent calm acceptance, tolerance, and ultimate capitulation to it.   Of course nobody is going to respond calmly to such a situation.  Of course these things are sinful and wrong. Of course this is comedy gold.  Just not for the reasons they intended.

The English idiom “of course” here is also telling.  It implies following the expected (mainstream) set of behaviors.  Except the “of course” used above is said mockingly, because that set of expectations only occurs within the rigid bounds of a monogamous (Christian, in this case) world.  My hope is that the fact that this video misses the point about homosexuality and the standard tropes about monogamy are equally understood by people.  I hope that this video is not just absurd because of the stupid analogy between “sins,” but because it teases itself where monogamy lies.

Because my worry is that for many people the calmness and acceptance of the quasi-polyamorous circumstance portrayed here will be missed.  That the effect of the joke will be at being offended by the effectiveness of the analogy.  The video is saying that just like the idea that your wife would calmly accept your “adultery” is absurd, so is the idea that we should accept homosexuality.  And the problem is that, for many people, this will land.  I am willing to bet that the producers of this video would be gobsmacked if they saw people who would accept what they would deem as “adultery” with calmness.  Granted, the actual act in the video is not polyamory, but the tension of the joke is embedded in the idea that no woman (or man, especially in a patriarchal system) would accept their spouse having another lover.  Without that “of course,” the joke cannot land, and we are left with the presentation of the equal acceptability of homosexuality and sexual non-exclusivity.

Sounds about right to me.

When I watched it all I saw was a hilarious pseudo-advertisement for polyamory via unintentional self-parody.  I saw the absurdity of having an issue with homosexuality compared to the absurdity of jealousy, exclusiveness, and monogamy.  And not only am I not offended but  I have a wry and mischievous smile on my face.  I love it when Christians do the work for me, I only wish they could understand it.

Third wave atheism or the ‘new skepticism’? August 20, 2012

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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edit: I saw Jen’s follow-up post as well.  I like this image best:


A couple of days ago (I’ve been moving and such), Jen wrote this post on her blog about how the atheist community has been a “boy’s club” and how we need to help progress towards a “third wave” of atheism.  The key part is this:

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

Yes, I agree.  We, in the blogosphere have been talking a lot about “new” (or “gnu”) atheism, but in the same way that a Jr. leads to a III, we can have the future of the skeptic/atheist movement be a third wave where we include all of the various effects that religion, theological thinking, and non-skepticism generally affects our lives.

In short, we need to transcend mere atheism and move onto application of skepticism to all aspects of culture, beliefs, and actions.  We need a new skepticism.

I have been trying to do just that for years at this blog.  I saw the kinds of arguments that people had about god, religion, and things like science, and saw parallels between how we think about monogamy and polyamory.  I saw unskeptical thinking leading people towards conservative views about sex and relationships, and I began to draw those lines using what I had seen in the skeptical community since I ran into it a decade ago.

In the years that I have run this blog (and after subsequently adding some new writers), I have broadened my focus to include questions of orientation, gender, and have even wrote about my own neuro-atypicality.  Yes, I still focus on atheism and polyamory most of the time, but that is because these are the subjects I know best.  I look to people like Ginny (my lovely wife) to write about gender, trans, sexology issues (when she’s not burdened by grad school work, that is).  And Wes and Gina do their things, whether controversy or convulsions of laughter.

In doing this, I have come to a fairly progressive perspective, which I suppose is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I support LGBT rights, including the right to marry, raise children, etc.  I support people who are simply trying to live their lives with political and legal freedom afforded to them not according to theological concerns, but by rational and empirical arguments based on fairness and compassion.

But most importantly, I support the freedom of speech and thought, without which the freedom to act would be parochial and hindered.  As Keenan Malik recently said,

Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others. Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to assemble to promote them. And whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to act upon those beliefs, so long as in so doing one neither physically harms another individual without their consent nor transgresses that individual’s rights in the public sphere. These should be the fundamental principles by which we judge the permissibility of any belief or act, whether religious or secular.

(H/T Greg Mayer over at WEIT)

I support maintaining a skeptical community that fights for the truth, is aware of concepts like privilege and how it influences or worldviews, and which perpetually self-improves by allowing for criticism and dissent, when dissent is warranted.

To conclude, I agree with Jen that we need a third wave of atheism.  And whether we think of it as an atheist movement, a skeptical movement, or a social justice movement led by skeptics and atheists, the important thing is that we must keep challenging ourselves to understand more, listen better, and remember that religion and non-skeptical thinking has effects which may not be immediately obvious to us, with our perspective.  Religion effects different groups in different ways, and so we need to be inclusive in order to progress towards the goal.

The goal of making ourselves, as activists, obsolete.

What Atheists Can Learn from the LGBT Movement August 13, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I watched this video of a presentation by Greta Christina earlier this week and many of the points have been swimming around my brain since then.

I have heard many people compare the recent atheist activism to the activism of gays 20-30 years ago, and this is perhaps the best presentation on the subject I have seen to date. (This is not to say there are no more comprehensive presentations, only that I have not seen them. If you know of another comparable one, direct me to it, please.)

And certainly there are parallels between the two movements, but since I am not gay (even though I have done activism in support of issues relating to LGBT rights) my commentary will not carry tremendous weight, so I will not say much about how similar they are. I’ll leave that to more authoritative commentators, such as Greta Christina herself, who does talk about many of the same issues as this very blog.

I will point out that the OUT campaign, affiliated with the  Richard Dawkins foundation, is in part modeled on the movement to “come out of the closet” that was started by queers of all types, and which has become part of our cultural language such that atheists’ use of the phrase automatically draws the parallel for most people.  I often wear a scarlet letter T-shirt that signifies this coming out, and will often get asked if I’m an adulterer, making obvious reference to The Scarlet Letter.

(The irony, as some friends have pointed out, is that the concept of adultery takes on different connotations as a polyamorous person.  This is not to say that adultery is impossible within poly lifestyles, only that not all extra-marital sexual relationships will be considered infidelity, causing one to re-think the concept of adultery in such contexts.)

Now, the double reference of the scarlet letter and the coming out movement, wrapped in a symbol like this will cause confusion for most, but it is one that leads to conversations.  Conversations are important to have.  I have have countless (and often) short and friendly conversations explaining what the symbol stands for, what atheism is all about, and why I wear it.  Small steps.

Now, whether the larger atheist community will learn from the mistakes of the LGBT movement or not, is yet to be seen.  I know I am certainly guilty of some of the errors of which Greta Christina speaks.  But it is important for us to keep in mind the lessons that previous social movements have to teach, so that the future will not reflect the past that we have learned from.

And I do believe that there will be a time when atheist (as well as polyamorous) social movements will be unnecessary.  As she says in the video, it is the goal of a social movement to make itself obsolete. Will this happen in my lifetime? I don’t think so.  But if we stop now, it may never happen.

Here’s to making social activism obsolete!