Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Life, Love, Sex, and Porn

Aching loneliness in my soul
Led me down paths strange
Shoveling cinder and coal
Burying me in burning shame

It seemed a simple thing at first,
Images of women’s kindness
Did amply slake my thirst
And restore in me fineness

But my thirst would not be stayed
By such innocent mintage
Twas like sipping lemonade
But wanting headier vintage

Searching out stranger strangers
Seeing things which ought not.
Watching clips of varied dangers
Finding not that which I sought.

Then, forgetting mad dreams
I flesh and blood pursued
In hope and without schemes
I let myself be used

Steamy pictures o’ erotic tangles
Had awfully prepared me
For a real relationships’ tangles,
Arguments, tears, and pleas

Porn and I then parted ways
Religion was my watchword
I fantasized not of other lays
And followed always cross-ward.

Religion didn’t heal me
From the aching at the start
In fact, it just buried the real me
And broke my aching heart

Investigation of church’s claims
Left me scratching my head
The church had nefarious aims
Obsessed with others’ beds.

So I left the sacred fold
Trading one lonely for another
Finding bits of soul I’d sold
And myself, and my lover

When porn was viewed
By more secular angle
Without religious skew
Or tempting fallen angel

I realized I was never seeking
some erotic chemical high
Twas on beauty I was tweaking
Eros when most shy

To strange pastures I went
Not for tolerance built
To creepy content I was sent
Driven by crushing guilt

Atheism, ironic blessing
Freed me from guilt’s’ bully
To be myself without missing
The parts that are not “holy”

Free from guilt and shame
I view what I find lovely
I’m not driven by pain
And skip what misogyny makes ugly

And I can see clearly
With all the women I view
Real women I loved dearly
And almost always you

My taste has improved
I’m not looking in dark places
With all the shots perused
Trying to find you in their faces

But such an awful thing to say
And even worse to do!
To shape images like clay
To dream of loving you

The dream I often visit
Is us physically together
But, somehow, not illicit
A love that time could weather

I would be scorned
I seek images in replacement
I want to love and be loved in return,
You’d gag at my abasement.

None of them are right
None of them are you
All of them are right
All of them are you

So, to what cannot be
Between us, (though we love you)
Onan and I will  see
What can I substitute

But it would misleading,
To blame only the ‘net
Your image is fleeting
For we’ve nott met yet

Morning dew gleams
Moon beams shine brighter
Life is better it seems
When love’s circle is wider.

I don’t want love to still
At some arbitrarily limit
I do seek a thrill
But only if love gives it.

I want love’s full expression
In context of friendship
Where physical affection
Is compassions apprentice.

So, I am seeking another
to have and to hold
Addition and keeping
Not substitution of old

I want to love with depth
A true equal and partner
But also with breadth
A circle out farther

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July 23, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, poetry, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Marriage, Porn, Romance, and Partnership

My wife and I had a long argument about Romance novels today. Not like a fight, we rarely fight.  There was no name calling, just a lot of relatively healthy debate about what romance novels say.  I had to step out of it for a minute and ask myself what bothered me so much about it.

It’s the stereotypical female complaint about a man’s pornography.  It makes me feel inadequate. I’ll never be that rich, that mysterious, that or that romantic.  I don’t mind her reading them, I just don’t like to have it really brought to my attention. Which, of course, is how she feels about pornography.   We realized after much thought and arguing, that the real issue is the feelings of inadequacy, not the object of them.  So we talked about that some more.

Inadequate to what?  Well, to meet every possible need, of course.  This is a complicated topic.  I love my wife, desperately.  Sometimes I do wish that I could have sex with other women.  I don’t want the enormous baggage which that would bring, I don’t really want to sleep with them, I want to sleep with them is some magic universe where everything I want is somehow right and good for everyone.  Sometimes, she wants to be swept into a romance.  That doesn’t mean she really wants to deal with the non-communication, control issues, drama, and complexity. She want’s to, for a bit, live in a magic universe where everything she likes is right and good for everyone.

Neither one of us, being real, can ever meet the real, and acceptable need for the fantastic.  Sometimes I wish I could be a Jedi.  Sometimes she wishes she could be Kaylee Frye.  That’s OK and we have to accept the fact that we can never meet all of the persons needs.

And then we talked some more and asked “Why do feel we have to meet each other’s needs in the first place?”  In no other relationship to deeply concern myself with meeting the other persons needs.  Why in this spousal relationship do we feel this way?

Culture.  The world view expressed by most modern media, songs, movies, etc, is a mix of judeochristian humanist values, taking, I’m afraid, the weaknesses of both world views, and few of the strengths.  Combined with growing up in the church, we’d come to believe in our hearts that it was our job to meet the other person’s needs.

This wasn’t something we had considered intellectually until today, so if you asked me if I believed it, I might have said no, but our expectations of others often reveal what we really believe.   I was hurt that a fictional character was meeting a need for fiction, because I believed it was my job to meet every possible need my wife had.   How silly.

We realized that a lot of what we have joking called the “blessing of godlessness” in our lives since we started walking out an atheist worldview, has come from a non-cognitive dropping of this I meet your needs you meet mine theory of marriage. 

And now, we drop it purposely.  We are partners, not in meeting the other persons needs, but partnering to help them meet their own needs.  In retrospect, it seems impossible we ever considered anything else.  Of course, I can’t possible meet all my wife’s needs.  She’ can’t possibly meet mine.  No one person could ever meet all of someone else’s needs, and to attempt so would be sick. 

The freedom this brings in delightful.  We don’t have to feel guilt for not meeting the other persons needs.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Of Sex and Sin

Published with typos and without editing until I have more motivation.

When I was kid, growing up in the church, world view was very important.  If the basic world view of a person or group fit the Church’s, that person or group was seen to be basically good.  Rush Limbaugh and Doctor Laura are both good examples of this.  Both treat callers in an abusive and vindictive way totally incongruous with teachings of Christ, but both have managed, to one degree or another to remain the darlings of the Church.

Feminists stood up for things that Church cared about like abused moms and not objectifying women, but also things that Paul commanded the church to care about which weren’t always followed, like feeding the children of the poor. The Church held against feminists their pro-abortion stance and their anti-patriarchal leanings, and could never find anything good to say about them.  I remember Rush Limbaugh’s old saw “Feminism was created to put ugly women in power” being repeated often.

Dr. Laura’s belief that there was no Messiah (She’s Jewish) was remarkably, not an impediment to her heroization by people who believe that “If you deny the son you deny the father.”   People who aligned themselves with the world view of the Church were courted by it, and people who did not were ostracized, in both cases, totally regardless of theology.  (Bill Clinton, seen by many people I knew at the time as a harbinger of the Antichrist, was a Southern Baptist.)

The world view the Church gave us was a comprehensive package, with something to think about every issue we might run into.  Sex, of course, is of utmost importance to the Church’s world view.  There was an unofficial party line to every issue that might relate to sex in even the tenuous way.  Sex must be with the right person (your wife) at the right time (after marriage), in the right emotional way (out of love, not lust) and the right physical way (un-protected or barrier method birth control only after hours of prayerful consideration).

There were also a lot of “gray” areas that would be stated gray, but preferred action was black and white.  Masturbation was a good example of this.  The view was that while the Bible did not expressly forbid masturbation, it did forbid sexual fantasy.  Thus, masturbation is not being per say condemned, but of course it is.  What would be the possible point of masturbation without some kind of sexual thinking behind it.

Even sexual fantasies about one’s spouse were discouraged, again by the same gray-stated-black-and-white applied principals.  The argument went like this: Sexually fantasizing about your spouse acting a in manner your spouse would not normally act, was projecting the sexual heart of someone else into your spouses body.  Thus you were, in fact, not fantasizing about your spouse, you were fantasizing about someone else, (who just happened to look just like them) which was lust, and thus a sin.

By this token pornography was definite no no.  Pornography was a great evil, at a personal level, and a social one.  First off, to look at it was the sin of lust.  Second, to look and masturbate was equal to having sex with that person.  Didn’t Jesus say if you looked at a woman to lust, you had committed adultery in your heart?  Third, it was addictive.  Once you started looking at it, you couldn’t stop.  You would start missing work to masturbate and look at porn.  I was totally possible you would leave your wife if you looked at porn.  Forth, masturbating while looking at porn was giving a sexual experience that was rightfully your wife’s to a whore.  (This was true even if you were not married, because you were say, 14 years old.  God had a planned spouse for you, to “emotionally have sex” with any other was a form of adultery.  Fifth, porn would destroy you ability to have normal relationships with woman because you would  objectify woman and see their only purpose as meeting your sexual needs, instead of considering their needs. Sixth, by purchasing pornography, you were supplying helping keep woman in sexual slavery, and seven, by looking at pornography at home, you opened a pipeline of the demonic that would attack your whole family.

Hearing feminist demonized as I did, I was puzzled to find there is a group within the feminist movement as radically opposed to pornography as the Church, and with some minor restatement, for almost identical reasons.  When I began to read Christian books about the destructiveness of pornography, (I was terrified I was addicted) I was very surprised to find radical feminists, rejected even by mainstream feminist radicals, as the primary source of this information about how destructive porn is.

When I came to the conclusion that, if Christianity was true, the form I had been taught was at best, compromised, sexual behavior, and thus pornography was one of the first issues I had to deal with.

I wanted to reevaluate everything, start my world view with a clean slate.  I would, I decided, do what ever I wanted, regardless of whether it was a sin or not.  The first couple days, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find, that even with out Christ holding me back, I didn’t solicited a hooker.  I’d always been told that without God, one’s desires couldn’t be controlled and I knew I really liked sex, so I was surprised.

I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty for looking at porn anymore.  I was man, God made me a man, made me straight, and for thirteen years, had never provided me with any victory over this sin.  Those first day, I looked at a lot of porn.  It felt wonderful.  Since I was 12, I had looked at porn.  I’d felt like shit afterwards every time. To look at it and not fell bad was wonderful.

And then the next day… something strange happened.  I had the house to myself, I could look at porn all day, which is probably what I would have done the week before.  But the knowledge that I could look at it whenever I wanted changed something.  The internet would still be there latter that night, and latter that week.

Once I didn’t think it was a filthy, horrible disfiguring sin, I had no reason to never do it again.  And with no reason to never do it again, I had no reason to make every chance I had an all-you-can-view pornothon.

It’s been three years since that first “victory over sin”.  For awhile I thought porn was the coolest thing in the world.  I guess I was just growing up late. That’s a totally normal feeling for a 17 year old, though unbecoming in a grow man. Now, even though I still look at it from time to time, I see where the anti-porn people are coming from.  I know guys who really get into porn, it’s their whole life.  There is something not-quite-right in them.

I always looked at porn from a desire to be with women, not a desire to hurt them or master them.  So, I didn’t really understand what people where talking about when they said that porn is about men dominating woman.  Now, because I get to talk to a lot more people about a lot more things than I did when I was a Christian, I’ve talked to men who watch porn because they hate women, though rarely would they put it that way.

I think they hate women because they are jealous of them.  They would do anything to have sex with attractive famous women, yet the women do nothing to try and have sex with them.  At some deep level, it offends their sense of reciprocity.  They talk about it at work often.  They make masturbatory motions and say things like “That’s what you get, bitch.”

So, to the radicals who say porn is purely about hurting women, and to the radicals who say porn has no effect, I say, you’re both wrong, and I offer my explanation: Pornography is art and art has a message. When art must sell that message must be something that people want to hear.  Sadly, the message that a lot of men want to hear is “Woman are just here for you to use.”

But the fact that most purchasers want that message does not mean that all who enjoy the art do.  As I’ve grown as a person, pornography has become increasingly less satisfying to me.  I don’t look at it nearly as much as I used too, because for me, the message is wrong.  But if there was porn made with the message that I want, I want to look at it all the time, and I refuse to be ashamed.

The message I want is this:  one, that all woman are beautiful and two, that two people meeting sexually as equals is beautiful. I will not apologize for thinking that that is a beautiful statement, and I will not apologize for wanting to see art that celebrates it.  Most of the negative things said about porn are true.  Life doesn’t imitate art, art matches life’s message. The kind of people who really like the message “Woman are for me to use” are abusive little jackals, and the porn they like isn’t the only indicator.

But it’s not what I like, and I’m not going to pretend that I think seeing a real woman with the shape  that life and her choices have given her is bad just to not be confused with the jackals.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Skeptics Constitution

I’m a  big believer in the theory that you really learn the ins and outs of something by trying to do it or model it yourself.  To better understand politics, I’m trying to write my own constitution.  It’s shockingly difficult.  I mean, I did expect that it would be hard, but this is crazy.  One of the first ideas I had to let go of was my theory of no contraband.  My basic thought here was guns, drugs, and pornography. I know some conservative person just read this and is now convinced, more than ever, that I am rapidly going to hell.  Allow me to explain.  

I don’t believe in bad objects.  I believe the morality of an object is decided by its use.  To try and legislate against an object, instead of its use is to say to the world at large, “You’re all either to stupid to use this responsibly, or just plain evil.  Either way, you couldn’t possible use this object morally.  No one could!  So the object is banned, banned I say!”  I think that is wrong and sort of stupid.  

Let me make a parallel to free speech.  True free speech means speech you don’t like.  It’s that freakin’ simple.  Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, they all believed in a kind of free speech!  They all believed they should be free to say whatever they wanted.  It was the freedom of others to speak they made illegal.  Because we, and the people we agree with, want to be free, we grudging accept the fact that everyone is going to have to be free, and we tolerate other’s ridiculous babble so that we allowed our Righteous Pulpit of Truth. 

Free ownership is the same.  Free ownership means some people are going to own things some people don’t like.  Again, communist tyrants and the kings of old were very pro-private property: the party or royals should be free to own anything and maybe everything. The people, not so much.  Since we all want to own things that some people aren’t going to like, we must grudgingly accept the fact that everyone is going to have to be free, and we must tolerate others ridiculous and vile possesions, so we may keep our treasured and divine baubles. (To the moralists who might think they don’t have or want any offensive possession, I remind you that every religion’s holy book has been banned in part or totality at one time or another.)

I always thought it bizarre that people I knew who were the most pro-gun seemed to support any new anti-drug law which came down the pipe. My father is rabidly pro gun ownership, believing any restriction at all on gun ownership is a plot to disarm law abiding people and take over the country.   But, on the other hand, I remember Dad explaining to me once that even though some people might have the self control to use, rather than abuse drugs, most people would not.  Their abuse would cost society in lives, crime, and money.  Thus it was better to have drugs be illegal.  “But, Dad, if that’s true of drugs why not guns?  I mean some people might have the self responsibility to use rather than abuse guns, but most people wouldn’t.  Their abuse would cost society in lives, crime, and money.  So shouldn’t guns be restricted?”  

Oh no, he assured me.  Gun crime was lowest in the places with the least restrictions on guns, proving guns had a positive effect on society.  “But wouldn’t legalizing drugs have the same effect?  Where we have drug dealers now, we’d have tax paying pharmacies.   Where criminally supporting addicts need to steal thousands of dollars now, they’d only need to steal tens of dollars for the same high.”  

We never did come to see eye to eye on the issue.

I still see it the same way, though.  Guns can be for recreation and utility.  They can provide a fun afternoon of target shooting, put meat on the table, money in the economy (in the form of hunting licenses, boat licenses etc.) and they can save your life from an attacker.  That’s using a gun.  They can also be abused. They can rob a bank, terrorize your fellow man, kill someone accidently, or even murder.  Drugs are the same.  They give people something to gather around, they numb heartache and physical pain.  Many can be grown in your backyard and sold (if legal) at a farmers’ market.  They can also kill, drive to desperate acts, and destroy families.  Use or abuse, the choice is up to you.  

And I think porn is the same.  Porn can be an outlet for the outlet-less, a fun way to kill an afternoon, a business opportunity, and, if both partners enjoy it, a relationship builder.  It can also be an obsession, a perversion, a gateway to far more damaging behavior, an avenue to exploitation, and, if both partners don’t enjoy it, it can eat a relationship alive. 

So my original idea, to prevent the government from promoting the freedom of one group to dislike something over the freedom of another to like it, was to simply remove all laws defining “contraband.”

Congress shall make no law forming any contraband of any kind.

My theory was that, yes, this would allow people to own crazy, dangerous things, but; (1.) You can already own anything you want in any society. Illegality just makes the profit margin thicker for the seller because it does nothing to decrease demand, but increases the scarcity of supply; (2.) Making it legal would decrease demand because it’s not as cool anymore; (3.) Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you can get it.  Cyanide is deadly and dangerous, but legal.  It’s used in some welding operations. Anyone can get it, they just have to have the right bits of paper first; (4.) Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you can afford it.  It’s not illegal for a person to own radioactive material, for instance.  There’s some in your smoke detector.  But the price to quantity ratio makes it unlikely that anyone will do anything antisocial with it; (5.)  We tend to misunderstand risks of legality all the time.  Car’s kill around 50,000 people a year in the US alone.  Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for people under 40.  Cars are legal and kill in the tens of thousands.   Treehouses (stats on treehouses as a cause of death, anyone?) are illegal in many cities.  

It’s a good theory on all of the above points.  I don’t believe in punishing people for the capacity to do wrong which certain objects might give them.  You shouldn’t prevent someone from owning a gun when there is no reason to believe they won’t use it responsibly.  You shouldn’t prevent them from growing poppies or weed or owning a car or having a treehouse because they are assumed to be responsible and free until they prove they are going to use their freedom to harm others, instead of just themselves.  

The problem is an odd and specific one; items, the creation of which requires breaking the law, but are not stolen.  Example one: bits of an endangered species.  So, you go to the store and you buy a white tiger robe.  You didn’t kill a white tiger; the poacher did, and once the tiger was dead, it’s not like you could make it alive by not buying it.  If there is no contraband, then a person cannot get in trouble for owning a white tiger robe, only for killing the white tiger to get it.  So, supply is illegal, but demand is fine.  

There is a solution to example one.  All free game belongs to the people, whose right over it is administered by the State. (It’s already that way in New Jersey, by the way.)  Then, owning it constitutes owning stolen property, as such, it can be seized, and returned to it’s rightful owner, and the un-rightful owner held to various consequences depending on their level of involvement in the original theft.

Example two is a bit more evil: child pornography. While I believe that any consenting adult should be able to see (and do) pretty much anything regarding another consenting adult, the sexual exploitation of children is never acceptable.  Applying a parallel of example one doesn’t work, because even if all children are the property of the state (a profoundly lousy idea) the image of a crime is not identical to the crime.   Owning a stolen tiger pelt is not the same as having a picture of someone stealing one.  

My basic theory was that property is not good or bad, but can only be used for good or bad, but this sort of falls apart with child pornography. There is no good side to child pornography.  There is no way to “use” rather than abuse it.  For it to exist something unconscionable must happen.  How can a society embrace the freedom of adults to own what they wish, and follow the general truism of the amorality of tangible things, and yet keep this one thing contraband?

My answer is this: what makes child pornography is wrong is the exploitation.  The photo is amoral. The evil is the exploitation which went into making the photo.  As such, the real problem here is one of exploitation.  Pornography of a non-consenting adult is no more and no less wrong.   That being the case, exploitive pornography is treated as any other evidence of a crime (in this case rape).  The holder of the evidence is accused as an accomplice to the crime until they can provide evidence otherwise.  Child pornography is especially evil, but we need not throw out due process to pursue and punish it.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments