Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Don't worry about what others think"

I often wonder if I spend too much time defending myself. But while in the right context, "live your life and don't worry what others think" can be very good advice, it's not always applicable (like when what others think directly obstructs your ability to live your life), and it can sometimes be used insensitively in the sense of, "shut up and quit whining".

The fact is, sometimes (and most times to some extent), it does matter what other people think. If we didn't care at all what other people thought, we'd be a far more antisocial species. But even beyond that, when the way you live your life is so alternative that it offends or contradicts mainstream sensibilities, you may encounter very real dangers just living your life without care to how others might react and respond.

If you're gay, for example, you don't just go and make out with your same sex partner in public when you know full well that the reigning sentiment in your small town is that homosexuals are fair game for abuse. First you take up the cause and fight for acceptance for homosexuality, and then only after enough people's opinions have changed will you feel safe enough to not let the haters dictate the course of your life and comfortable enough to just be yourself.

I wish I could go out in the sun naked regularly (without driving hundreds of miles to pay admission for entrance into a small, privileged community), but I don't have a private garden. Who knows what would happen if I went outside naked, in full view of others - but I'm sure it wouldn't be good for me. The cops may even get involved.

Now if I went to the store wearing a dress (contradicting what mainstream society says are the clothes my gender is allowed to wear), I doubt the cops would get involved (unless a narrow-minded bigot wanted to make a scene, in which case I would hope the cops were on my side, although I don't suppose that's a guarantee). I've been doing it a lot, actually, and have had little trouble so far, although I am frequently "on edge" for the worst case scenario - and that's because it's been drilled into my head (and the heads of everyone else, too) that if you refuse to conform to mainstream cultural dictates, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to socially-sanctioned retaliation ranging from criticism all the way to lethal assault.

What I want is a world not just where I will be begrudgingly allowed to pursue my quirky lifestyle so long as I keep most of it in private and try not to offend too many people, and as long as I don't cross any really egregious social barriers (there was a time, you know, when totally private, totally consensual homosexual sex was considered a serious crime). I want a world where I can be free to be myself and not put too much stock into the opinions of people who don't like the way I live my life, because I have trust in society on the whole to protect me, as I am, despite having strange beliefs and alternative habits.

And the only way to get there is to preach my humanity, demand greater tolerance for diversity, and show how my being weird doesn't make me a dangerous or altogether unlikable person. Undoubtedly, part of that is exposing myself and my views to the world, but that includes being concerned for what others think about the way I live my life, and not carelessly breezing through life, unconcerned for the hatred and fear and bigotry that's out there, directed toward me and others more and less like me who don't follow the guidebook on how you're supposed to live your life.

Absolute, recommended reading: Natalie Reed's followup to Shut Up, That's Why, especially the sections under the headlines "Why do you care what other people believe?" (answer: because people act on their beliefs) and "Can’t we just get along?"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sex Advice for Teens

It's great when 'sex advice for teens' emphasizes the importance of making "the decision that's right for you", but then when it goes on and on about all the reasons why waiting is a good idea, it makes me think this whole 'prevent teen pregnancy' thing is a ruse for 'prevent teen sex'. This sentence totally gives the game away:

"Not having sex is the only way to guarantee you won't make the wrong choice - and the best protection against unplanned pregnancy and STDs."

Protection against unplanned pregnancy and STDs is ultra important. But not having sex isn't so much protection as it is avoiding the risk altogether. And a statement like this seems to completely ignore all the reasons FOR having sex, like as if sex were just this biological impulse we have and that the only thing we can get from it is - not pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment - but disease and unwanted babies, and so of course you should resist the temptation.

A lotta young people hold off on having sex - I did. But a lotta young people don't, and plenty of young people plan on it and end up doing otherwise. The best protection from STDs and unplanned pregnancy is NOT abstinence, but education about birth control and safe sex practices, whether you're sexually active or not.

But the most egregious part of the sentence I quoted above is actually the first half:

"Not having sex is the only way to guarantee you won't make the wrong choice"

What - does choosing to have sex not count as a choice? Or is it just that whoever wrote this sentence (or put their stamp of approval on it) couldn't conceive of deciding to have sex ever being the right choice? Read the sentence again. It suggests that choosing to have sex can be the wrong choice - which is true - but it also implies that choosing not to have sex can never be the wrong choice.

What is choice, anyway, if it's not something you decide for yourself? The emphasis should be on having sex because you choose to, or not having sex because you choose not to. Anything else is proselytizing. "We want you to make the best choice for yourself, so choose abstinence, because we think it's the best choice for you." It has nothing to do with agency and freedom of choice, and everything to do with, "we're educating you" [via our propaganda and selective statistics] "so as to influence you to make the specific decision we want you to make."

One of the underlying assumptions made by this particular worldview is the very Christian idea about the purity of virginity. Virginity is sacred. You may decide you want to lose it, but once you do, you can never get it back. As long as you have it, you can always make the decision to give it up (although, not realistically, if you've been convinced that it's really something worth keeping), but once you lose it, you can never get it back. And if that happens, and you change your mind in the future and decide that you want it again (which probably means that you've decided there's something valuable about it after all), you won't be able to get it, and you'll necessarily feel like a fallen woman as a result (forgive me, but this whole discourse is rampantly sexist).

Do you see how clearly this dovetails with the whole culture of slut-shaming? Virginity can only be valuable if sexual initiation is an indication of depreciated value. A virgin cannot be placed on a pedestal without raising her above the heads of non-virgins.

One of the devil's favorite tricks is to mix lies with the truth. You hear the truth, and it puts you off guard, making you more receptive to believing the devil's lies. This works in advertising, too: mix good advice in with the bad. People will hear the good advice and be more inclined to believe the bad advice is similarly reasonable. And if anyone calls the ad out on account of the bad advice, they are seen to be attacking the good advice, and their position is instantly deemed unreasonable.

Unplanned pregnancy (as distinct from planned teenage pregnancy) and the transmission of STDs are serious issues and absolutely deserve to be confronted. But they do not presuppose, as the abstinence framework tries to suggest, asexuality as the One True Path. What's far more important than whether young people are deciding to have sex or not is whether those young people are properly educated about how to engage in safe sex practices, why it's important to do so, and are being encouraged to make responsible decisions about their sexual activities (and praised when they do).

That doesn't always mean abstaining from sex. That could mean having safe sexual intercourse with a close romantic partner while on birth control. Or it could mean engaging in flirty behaviors that express one's sexual identity without the risk of pregnancy or disease - for example, sexting. In every sexting case I've heard about, the blame is always heaped on the girl for 'exercising poor judgment'. I can't understand how that is anything but slut-shaming. Where is the outrage for the people openly bullying this girl for expressing her sexuality? The most I've heard is sympathy for the trauma she experiences (that sometimes even leads to suicide), but even then, her decision to 'sext' is condemned. This can only happen because a sexually 'promiscuous' girl is a slut, and deserving of condemnation, for not keeping on the path of purity.

Think about it. The reaction, "it's bad judgment to sext, because people who sext get shamed for sexting" willfully ignores the fact that shaming people for sexting is wrong. I would support a plan to educate teens about the dangers of sexting, in the hope that every teenage girl who ever considers sexting realizes that there is a non-trivial chance that her sext will be shared with everyone she knows, even if she trusts the person she sends it to completely, and accepts that risk and is mature enough to take responsibility for her actions and deal with the repercussions before she makes that final decision to hit 'send'.

But only if this education initiative is paired with an awareness campaign of the evils of slut-shaming (and why that absolutely applies to teen sexting). Because otherwise, all you have is people saying "I don't want you to sext, here are all the bad things that can happen to you if you sext, and if you sext, I will make sure those bad things happen to you, because people who sext deserve to be punished, and god forbid we should give anyone the idea that sexting can be a healthy expression of sexuality, properly defended by the Constitution, that won't be severely punished if found out." See what I mean?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Freedom of Dress

I think the idea of "nudity required" is exciting - because I'm a nudist, and I enjoy nudity. I like being nude, and I like the thought of other people (inevitably including some attractive people) having to get nude whether they're comfortable (let alone enthusiastic) about it or not. Also, I think a significant portion of the population would warm up to nudism if they just gave it an honest try (although forcing them to isn't the kindest of terms).

But that's just a fantasy. I want people to like and respect and embrace nudism, but I also respect individual choice, and I don't require that everyone in the world agrees with me on the subject of nudism. I do, however, demand tolerance and equality. The great thing about "clothing optional" is that people can go naked or wear clothes as they feel comfortable. Everybody's individual choice is respected, and no one is left out.

Let me put it to you this way: "nudity forbidden" is no more tolerant than "nudity required". Most people are lucky because they're not nudists and the "nudity forbidden" rule doesn't significantly impact their lives. That doesn't make it right. "No gays allowed" isn't a justified rule just because the majority of the population isn't gay, and/or doesn't tolerate gays. People don't want to have to look at other people's naked bodies, but a lot of people are offended of being reminded that gay people exist. That doesn't mean it's right to sweep them under the rug and force them to hide in the closet.

I'm not even a "militant" nudist, or what have you. I'll go so far as to concede that in many places, nudity either isn't practical, or it's allowance not enforcible. Private institutions, perhaps, who have a problem with nudity, may or may not have recourse to ban nudity - that's an issue for discrimination laws, not for nudism specifically. And some places, there may be practical reasons against nudity, like working in the kitchen at a restaurant. There may be plenty of other examples.

It's not that people should necessarily have a fundamental right to strip to their skin anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the environment and social atmosphere. It's that this wholesale ban on nudity across the board is overly restrictive. I want laws based on reason, not emotion. If it's a hundred degrees outside, and you're sitting in a public park sweating through your clothes, what sense does it make to have to keep those clothes on?

What if you're walking home and it starts to rain, and you want to strip naked on the street or sidewalk simply because you like the feel of the rain on your naked body and you hate the feel of wet clothes clinging heavily to your body? What if you go to the pool or the water park? There's no reason whatsoever to have to wear a swimsuit, except for modesty - and many women's swimsuits are hardly modest, so I think that rather than modesty, it has to do with the hysterical fear of genital exposure.

Of course, we can't talk about nudity without broaching the subject of sex. I think this is unfortunate. Nudists scream themselves hoarse trying to emphasize the point that nudity doesn't equal sex, because people who think it does have a tendency to wrongly assume that nudist resorts are orgiastic amusement parks. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, whether it's inherent in the concepts themselves, or a result of our cultural ban on nudity except in a sexually charged atmosphere, when nudity comes up, too many people can't ignore the issue of sex.

Funny, we can go around in our clothes and not succumb to our base animal desires, but as soon as the genitals are laid bare to the world, all decency recedes and a massive sex orgy commences? Actually, the existence of nudist resorts where this is NOT the case lends evidence to the contrary. People can be naked amongst one another and not find themselves involuntary slaves to their sexual hormones.

I do wonder, though, if maybe people in the nudist community are a special breed, and that other people (probably including the people who try to enter the nudist community but get thrown out on their asses because they don't understand that nudism isn't swinging or just can't keep their libido in check), don't have as much self-control. But that's a really grim assessment of humanity, and moreover it presupposes that a person is not responsible for his sexual behaviors.

Think about it. A person makes decisions on how to behave sexually, and is responsible for those decisions. A person may feel incredibly turned on and have the desire to fuck some attractive stranger, but it's within their power to reason that doing so would be massively antisocial, and prevent himself from acting on that fantasy desire. People who don't are considered sociopaths, and are a menace to society, and generally tend to find themselves behind bars.

So what does a person being nude, as opposed to dressed, have to do with anything? Is it the temptation? Are people really thinking, "yeah, I can probably control myself, but I don't want to be teased constantly". Are you not teased by an attractive person dressed? I think naked attractive people are incredibly alluring, but I'm hardly less intrigued by any dressed attractive person I see on the street.

Honestly, I've seen lots of arguments against nudity in public. Some people are worried about seeing attractive people nude. Other people are worried about seeing unattractive people nude. Nude, dressed, frankly, I don't see that much of a difference. Of course, if you're not used to seeing people's naked bodies, it's going to be weird for you. But chances are, it's something you can get used to, and anyway, if you can't get used to something as natural as the naked human body, it begs the question of whether it's you or the nudist who has the problem.

One argument I've heard is that people don't want to dull the allure of nudity. They think that too much exposure will eventually make them uninterested, and then naked bodies simply won't have the excitement they used to. This is a plausible argument, but I think it's flawed. I've been looking at naked bodies for quite a while now - both attractive ones and unattractive ones. The unattractive ones are easier to stomach (or ignore), which is a good thing, right?

But what about the attractive ones? Yes, perhaps, the raw excitement of nudity has been dulled somewhat by frequent exposure. That's more or less inevitable. But do I not still greatly enjoy looking at attractive naked bodies? Of course I do! I like them because they're fun to look at, not just because of the thrill of getting to see something you don't often see.

I heard the same argument once about the thrill of nudism itself. A person asked me, if I started practicing nudism regularly, would the thrill of it wear off? And to some extent it has. In the beginning, I would feel charged when I had the opportunity to take my clothes off. Now that I spend so much time naked it just feels normal, and wearing clothes is a pain in the ass. But I still think I'm better off naked, because it has more appeals than just 'the thrill', and even then, there are times when I still get 'the thrill' under various circumstances.

Of course, this brings up an issue of conflicting values. If one person thinks hiding nudity enhances the quality of their life, and another person thinks they have a right to be naked in public, how do you reconcile those differences? I think for most people it would go like this: one person wants to 'inflict' their nudity on everyone else, and another just doesn't want to be exposed to that. Easy answer: ban nudity.

But that argument is seriously flawed. The truth is, one person is demanding that his decisions for 'sensible' dress (which includes comfort as much as social expectations) include nudity. The other person demnads that, for the construction of his own ideal world, everyone else he comes into contact with has to abide by his desire not to be exposed to nudity. Clearly, the nudist deserves his right to dress himself as he sees fit, and the prude needs to either accept the fact that he can't control the world around him (especially how the other people in it behave), forcing them to conform to his wishes, or go hide out in a gated community of like-minded bigots.

I'm being harsh. I'm sorry. But honestly, people who hold mainstream values tend to have this belief that the enforcement of those values are somehow justified, and any minority who comes along who holds differing values doesn't deserve as much of a say in the way society is run on account of being smaller in number. No, freedom and equality isn't about "let's construct a society where the largest consensus gets to live comfortably at the expense of the outliers".

No, freedom and equality is about "let's foster an atittude of tolerance and inclusivity, and encourage those in the majority to make room for those who are disadvantaged by being in the minority". The whole concept of "genitals are indecent, and must be hidden from public view" is a subjective belief, and therefore using the law to enforce it is a trespass against justice.

People in a truly just society wouldn't hold the opinion, "I think genitals are indecent, and so therefore people who think differently should be punished for it". People in a truly just society would understand the difference between values and ethics, and wouldn't make laws that punish people for holding differing values. Seeing genitals hurts people? Really? Get a grip.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thought Experiment

(Designed for straight males, can be adapted for other sexual combinations)

Is a picture of a hot girl porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl sticking a cock in her pussy porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl rubbing her pussy by herself porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl's wet pussy porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl spreading her legs while naked porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl spreading her legs with sexy panties on porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl spreading her legs with pajama pants on porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl naked porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl naked, where you can't see her pussy or her tits, porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl in a sexy outfit porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl in a regular outfit porn?

Is a picture of a hot girl porn?

What if it makes you think of sex?

What if it makes you imagine tearing the hot girl's clothes off?

What if it makes you imagine what the hot girl would look like naked?

What if it makes you imagine what the hot girl's pussy, tits, or ass look like?

What if it makes you imagine the hot girl naked, spreading her legs?

What if it makes you imagine the hot girl's pussy getting wet?

What if it makes you imagine the hot girl rubbing her own pussy?

What if it makes you imagine the hot girl touching you sexually?

What if it makes you imagine the hot girl putting your cock in her mouth?

What if it gets you hard?

What if it makes you imagine touching the hot girl sexually?

What if it makes you imagine tasting the hot girl's pussy?

What if it makes you imagine plunging your throbbing cock into the hot girl's warm, wet pussy?

What if it makes you imagine plunging your throbbing cock into the hot girl's warm, wet pussy and then thrusting it in and out rapidly until she begins to scream and beg for you to go faster, harder, until finally she reaches orgasm and you spew your load inside of her?

Is that picture of the hot girl porn?

Or is it just your unspoken thoughts that are pornographic?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seven Heavenly Virtues

Let's examine the seven virtues of Christianity (just for the hell of it).

1. Humility

Humility is good because the opposite is arrogance and egotism, which has the tendency to lead one to engage in behaviors that belittle or minimize the feelings and opinions of others, which is antithetical to the social order. On the other hand, it is not bad for one to develop a moderate pride in one's talents and achievements.

2. Kindness

Kindness is good because we are all afflicted with the human condition, and life is hard, and being kind towards one another promotes good feelings, whereas being unkind fosters anger and spite and other negative emotions.

That good feelings are good and bad feelings are bad I take as an axiom, but if some people disagree, then that's something that can be negotiated between them and others so that they can be treated equally as well (and treat others equally as well) as everyone else. As usual, it always comes down to the issue of consent, what people want, and how to give it to them without trespassing against others' needs and desires.

3. Patience

I think patience is generally good, because cool heads persevere where hot ones embrace impulsive actions that may later be regretted, or that may trespass against others due to not giving enough time to consideration of the repercussions of one's actions. Patience is probably not always the best course of action, however, because sometimes quick actions are required, in spite of the associated risks.

4. Diligence

I think diligence is generally good only because it pays to put sincere effort into one's pursuits. It's more fulfilling, and the fruits of one's labors will be more ripe as a result. Cutting corners has its advantages, but generally these are understood to be selfish and greedy advantages where the benefactor profits at the (oft times unknowing) expense of others.

5. Charity

I think charity should be tempered, because there is some value to having and maintaining possessions of one's own. But as far as an attitude toward others is concerned, what virtue is more important to the social order than treating others with generosity and good will? Unfortunately, in a corrupt culture, those of a charitable nature are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. But if we were all charitable, I think we would all be happier as a result.

6. Temperance

I think temperance also should be tempered (making it, perhaps, the most important virtue in my consideration), because sometimes it pays to indulge. After all, life is only once, you may as well enjoy it. However, often times it is good advice to practice temperance, lest one become absorbed to the exclusion of other activities.

7. Chastity

I think that chastity perhaps has some virtue to it in a general sense, but I just can't see how abstaining from sexual conduct, or other pleasures in life, can be considered a virtuous act. Surely, becoming absorbed in pursuits that pollute the cleanliness of your body or mind are dangerous, but that is the domain of temperance. What good does it do to avoid completely the pleasures of a material life, all for the transparent lie of eternal happiness in heaven?

Frankly, I believe the idea of 'purity' is vastly overrated, and I view it with great suspicion, as it is easily used as a tool to control people via the weapon of shame. I think, of the seven heavenly virtues, chastity should be abolished posthaste.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wait Until Tomorrow

I understand that "sex is special, and I want to save it for my soulmate" is a valid lifestyle choice; I respect that. The problem I have is that people are being encouraged to make that decision based on faulty information and an incomplete picture of sexuality.

I was exposed to that lifestyle choice, and I thought it was a good idea at the time, because the alternative was to be a dirty slut - used goods. As it turns out, I decided that I didn't want to get married, because I don't believe in the institution of marriage. I became an atheist, and gave up on any belief in the concept of romantic destiny or 'soulmates'. And I still wanted to experience sex.

I eventually started having sex (long after I was ready for it - because, after all, it's really scary, and you can never take back your virginity, so you better make sure you are absolutely, certainly, entirely, completely, 100%, undoubtedly ready before you dare try... {rolls eyes}), and as you all are familiar with, decided to embrace a sexually liberated lifestyle, because I don't believe in the virtue of chastity.

I think sexuality is an awesome aspect of life, and accepting that doesn't mean that I am a bad or immoral (or amoral) person, who has no other purpose in life than to go around fucking anything that moves, spreading disease and breaking up homes and wrecking people's lives as I go. There are more ways to approach sex than that [very unrealistic view].

But that is not something I was taught alongside my 'abstinence rocks, wait until marriage' education. I was only told one side of the story. And that pisses me off. Not just because I made what I think in hindsight was the wrong decision (for me), but because any sort of deception and selective interpretation of reality, especially when used to persuade a person to make a particular decision about something, is dishonest, and, quite simply put, evil, in my opinion.

And so, to make things better, I believe it is important to provide the other half of the story, to those people (especially young people) who are being indoctrinated into the moralistic dogma of sexuality, so that they can make a more informed choice.

If somebody chooses abstinence and/or waiting until marriage because they believe it's the right choice for them, that's great and I'll respect that. But if they're making that decision because they've been deceived about the merits of any alternatives (and especially if they're parroting comments that reflect their prejudice), then I'm gonna be rightly concerned.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Representing Teens

I like Seventeen magazine because it's a fashion magazine for teen girls - I like fashion, and I like teen girls. But looking through the magazine, the images appear mostly to be twenty-something models (and even the upper teen models frequently look mature for their years) posing like teenagers for the consumption of teenage girls who want to look and act like twenty-somethings. And I'm thinking, why is this magazine selling twenties glamour to teens, or, alternately, why are teens caught up trying to look like they're already in their twenties?

It seems bizarre to me that a magazine advertising fashion for teen girls should feature anything other than actual teen girls (that look like teen girls, and not twenty-somethings) - but we see the same phenomenon in television and movies where 25 year olds are frequently cast as teenagers, either because they have more experience/maturity than real teenagers (so much for realism and accurate depictions), or to avoid the labor limitations that are placed on under-18s.

The result, however, is a bizarre media representation of the real world where all the teenagers look like they're 25 years old, and depictions of real teenagers are few and far between, and provoke controversy when they do appear. I think this is both fueled by and feeds into our fear of teenagers and youth in general, and our runaway impulses to 'protect' children (which teens are all too frequently defined as) from the harsh reality and evil influences of the world.

It's rather unfortunate, because it fosters an anti-teen mentality, which only contributes to the great generational divide. So when I heard that a 14 year old activist was petitioning Seventeen magazine to feature girls that actually look like the real girls that read the magazine, I was pleased. Of course, her emphasis is on the issue of photoshopping girls to look unnaturally skinny and flawless and beautiful, rather than the issue of using mature-looking 18+ models in a magazine named Seventeen (which, personally, I would have expected to use models whose ages average seventeen), but even so, consider this:

One of the issues of the magazine used as a comparison in the news article I linked to features Chloe Grace Moretz on the cover (May 2012). I believe she was barely fifteen at the time of the photoshoot. Now don't get me wrong, I adore Chloe Grace Moretz, but if you compare the way she looks on the cover of the magazine, all polished up, to the 14 year old activist in the news photo, I think the regular girl - who actually looks like a real person I might pass on the street - is a lot prettier than the big-time movie star on the cover of the magazine - who looks like she was run over by a renegade Zamboni machine.

To their credit, Seventeen magazine has reacted by redoubling their commitment to their Body Peace Treaty, but I still maintain the belief that there are a lot of regular girls out there in the world who are just as pretty (or prettier) than the movie stars and fashion supermodels that grace our magazine covers and television screens, but unfortunately don't know it (tragically in those cases that lead to serious body image disorders and self-esteem issues), because our modern paranoia about youth (coupled with the effects of sex-negative strains of feminism) has resulted in a situation where teen girls are bombarded by messages telling them that they don't look good enough (a standard commercialist marketing tool), but if you try to tell an unrelated teen (because we all know nobody believes the praise your family dotes on you) you think she looks beautiful, chances are good that you'll be branded a pervert, and she'll be creeped out rather than flattered.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is Erotic Art?

Q: What is erotic art?

Think about the feeling you get when you look at a picture of a beautiful sunset. Now think about the feeling you get when you look at a picture of people having sex. Two very different reactions, right? Well, erotic art is art that aspires to produce BOTH of those reactions. Subtract the sexual appeal, and you've just got art. Make it ALL about the sexual appeal, and you've just got smut. If art is beautiful pictures*, then erotic art is just beautiful smut.

art
+
sex
=
erotic art

*Not all art is beautiful in the visually aesthetic sense. Sometimes the purpose of art is to make statements about the world, society, or human nature. In that sense, even images indistinguishable from pornography could be considered art if they are made for any of those purposes above and beyond the pursuit of sexual arousal (although attempting to sexually arouse people in non-standard ways could also be viewed as something of a statement about the nature of human sexuality).

Generally, how much erotic material can be subsumed under the label of art depends largely on your definition of art, but it is reasonable to conclude, regardless, that there is such a thing as erotic art which distinguishes itself from pure pornography in that it aspires to something else in addition to creating an erotic response, whether that something else is aesthetic appeal, emotional value, intellectual meaning, or anything else you consider a legitimate aim for art.

Of course, this is a logical argument; people who complain that "porn is not art" often do so because "art" presumes value, and their opinion is that pornography, being deeply entrenched in the sexual realm, is worthless trash that reflects poorly on those who produce and consume it, and that its existence drags down the quality of society on the whole. Therefore, to call anything sexy "art" is to presume that sexual expression can have 'value' of a presumably socially redeeming quality above and beyond the pornographic appeal. This offends those of a prudish mindset, and is clear evidence that prudes are fundamentally out of touch with reality.

For the rest of us, it is not demeaning to distinguish between porn and erotic art, because the fact is, there are many willing producers and many more willing consumers of pornography who care about one thing only - sexual satisfaction - and efficiency will always trump the effort required to create an artistic product. However, there will also always be people like me, who take a particular interest in erotic art separate from pornography, and I would hope that there will always be people willing to create beautiful pieces of erotic art, avoiding the pitfalls of either succumbing to a total porn mentality or resolving to appease the prudes (for support or sponsorship or what have you) by separating entirely the discipline of art from an appreciation of sexuality.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Constructing Society

The construction of society should be based on these two basic tenets:

A) I exist.

"There is nothing in this world that I can be absolutely certain of except for the existence of my own consciousness."

and

B) There exist others.

"However, evidence suggests that it is reasonable to believe that the others I perceive in this world are in a similar situation."

The first tenet suggests our first basic principle for society. Because there is nothing more real or more direct than my own consciousness, the things that I feel and experience are going to necessarily be the most important to me. Therefore,

1) The individual is supreme.

But the second tenet implies that there are others who feel the same way. If I am not about to submit to another consciousness' superiority, then I must recognize that I, too, cannot subjugate any other consciousnesses. Unless I am ready to give up the first principle, and resign the supremacy of my own conscious experiences, I must respect the supremacy of others' as well. At best, we can only be equals. Therefore,

2) No individual supercedes another.

This is the doctrine of the fundamental equality of persons, and is a foundational principle in democracy. It is a step above dictatorships and monarchies, which presume the supremacy of one or more individuals over all others. However, many democracies submit to a collectivist fallacy, emphasizing the second principle while forgetting the importance of the first. As a result, individuals band together in groups to wield power and influence over others that they don't have as individuals. The first principle, however, demands that the individual be superior to the group. For, after all, the individual's conscious experiences are far more real and direct than the concept of a group.

However, there is a paradox of individuality in that though all persons share a fundamental similarity - this is the concept of 'humanity' - in reality, a vast diversity of personalities exists. If all persons were of a like mind, there would be no conflict, and no need for diplomacy. But, of course, everyone is different, and therefore we need some rules to ensure the smooth running of society.

The first principle above implies our first rule. Since the individual is supreme, one must retain the power of choice in decisions affecting one's own life. This informs our understanding of morality, which I define as the guide for how to lead one's life:

I) How one chooses to lead one's own life is determined by a subjective morality.

The determination of that which constitutes virtue and that which constitutes vice, and of what decisions an individual should make in order to lead a righteous or satisfying life, are a matter of personal opinion. To make those sorts of decisions for other people is to violate the founding principles.

However, where people can make decisions that will affect the lives of others, the second principle demands some concern for the effects one's actions may have on others. This informs our understanding of ethics, which I define as the code of how one relates to others:

II) How one may relate to others is determined by an objective code of ethics.

The role of law is to govern how individuals interact with one another, and how they treat each other, so as to uphold the two founding principles, and must therefore be informed by an objective code of ethics. Theocracies make the mistake of legislating morality, which violates the principles by trespassing against the individual who does not share the enforced moral code. Ethics dictates how an individual may live within society without violating the two principles, and since this is something that everyone in society has to agree on, it must be based on objective reasoning and not subjective feelings.

Individual laws may be drafted to delineate what sort of actions are right or wrong in the context of the social order, but must always act in support of the two founding principles, and not violate them. Law exists to defend order in society, NOT to dictate how individuals should live their lives. Neither the code of law nor the state that enforces it is as real or as direct as the individual's conscious experiences, and this must never be forgotten.

The details of this code of ethics is worth discussing, but I leave that as an exercise for another day. I will say, however, that one of the defining features will be the issue of consent. The notion of "consensual crimes", or "vice crimes" absent victims (except consenting "victims"), as exists in the current social order, is an abomination that violates the supremacy of the individual, and would be completely done away with under the new social order. If we define crime as an act that harms a non-consenting person or their property, there remains the question of what constitutes harm, and how to measure it (which will be informed by evidence-based science as opposed to emotion and tradition) - which is an exercise for the justice system. Nevertheless, the abolition of "consensual crimes" will allow for the reallocation of much wasted time and energy to those real issues of justice.