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"But an intellectual slight of hand occurs over this matter of identity--explaining oneself in this way neatly avoids dealing with the Political implications of one's identity. If identity is held as a given, it is off-limits to criticism or analysis. If, for example, I hold catholicism as my identity rather than my choice then I avoid moral accountability for the various beliefs and political stances go along with it. And if I demand that other people respect my identity as a catholic, then I demand that they accept without protest the policies that I choose along with my catholic identity, even while I pretend my catholicism is not a political choice, only a matter of identity. Identity politics is a stealth maneuver that demands, in the name of tolerance, that others do not challenge my politics."


Nov. 11th, 2013 09:45 pm
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You're alive. The world is alive. Life is joyous. The rest are arbitrary things we make up in our heads, and then take waaay too seriously.
-- me
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Erich Fromm wrote that love is the capacity to engender love in others. I'm not sure I agree with that definition; it seems facile to say "if they don't love you back then that means you don't really love them" - so Jesus didn't really love his enemies because they nailed him to a stick anyway? It also seems wrong, somehow, to insist that love must always be returned to the point of making it part of the definition of love. Then what about love for a plant or a goldfish or a fictional character or the planet or humanity in general?

"it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"

I'd be inclined to say "depending on what's meant by 'loved and lost" - for some meanings of "lost", all love relationship will be "lost" eventually; they end sooner or by death, and even then they won't stay the same. People who've been together for a long time often say they actually had a succession of different relationships with the same person.

So one take on lost is in the sense of a love relationship that was, but ended or changed into something else. In that case the statement is fairly obviously true, like saying "it's better to live and die than never live at all".

Another sense, the one I'm personally thinking of when I hear the phrase, is not about relationships, but where "to love" is when you commit a serious part of yourself to something or someone, essentially taking a risk, making a leap of faith that the effort will contribute to their happiness. And then "to lose" in that context would be when you misleap, misjudge, like when your very existence causes suffering to the one you love, and you can do nothing to change that. I think what Tennyson is trying to say is that, even if in a particular situation it might seem that it would have been better to "not have loved at all", that doesn't mean it's better to lose courage in general, to never take the risk of reaching out and being affected by someone else. At the risk of sounding woowoo, I think avoiding love is a spiritual dead end, it's as much an extreme as becoming codependent...


Nov. 11th, 2013 09:21 pm
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"Things that a culture doesn't want to talk about, that culture makes it cumbersome to talk about. One mechanism for creating that cumbersomeness is to keep the vocabulary for talking about those things severely limited, so that when people try to talk about them they have to "go on and on and on," so that their listeners grow restless and start demanding that they "get to the point."
--Dr Elgin

I don't think the question here is one of arcane vocabulary or meanings negotiated specifically within the context of the conversation. The vocabulary can be very extensive and still make it cumbersome to talk about things society doesn't like to think about, by loading all variations and synonyms with the narrow accepted meaning. This makes it cumbersome for anyone to challenge the "accepted wisdom" or talk about alternatives. The vocabulary establishes a context of preconceived notions that is very hard to escape from, leading to elaborate and cumbersome qualifications and disclaimers that will often be met with disbelief. So a person will be forced to use constructions like "sodomy without connotations of divine wrath that ruins cities" or "romantic relationship where sexuality is not the main focus, no really" or "pedophilia that is not child abuse" or "feminism that recognizes the right of women to put their family before their career without being made to feel guilty about it" or "poor through no fault of their own nor lack of effort nor inherent personality flaw" and so on.
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I think a striving to be "a good person" often derails into rationalizing and justifying our not-so-good actions as somehow virtuous. I have the impression that often, when there is a conflict between our moral sense and some other consideration, people try to redefine their morals so as to avoid ever acting immoral in their own mind, even if such rationalisations appear blatantly self-serving to others. I think that is actually the greater evil - it's a habit that can lead people very far astray, committing atrocities that they've convinced themselves are moral.

I think the main fallacy behind this is seeing "goodness" as an attribute of a person (if we do a bad thing we're not a good person anymore) rather than a property of an action. It gets even more convoluted by bringing intentions into it - so if you do a bad deed with good intentions or a good deed with wicked intent, it's the intent that determines your "goodness". Clearly if we strive above all to be "a good person" it becomes more important to us that our intentions were "pure" than how many people were hurt by our actions. Like a Christian focus on sin, it can lead to judgmental airs of moral purity and hypocrisy - one's "stance" trumps the actual consequences of one's behavior.

I tend to think that moderation in all things (including moderation) is usually preferable to all manner of extremism. In my opinion, it is better to *not* try for "moral perfection". Because, if we think a certain course of action is "good", then being anything less than fanatical about it would mean acting less "good" than we are able to. But the moment we start investigating, the concept of absolute, objective or essential morality quickly collapses, and one is left trying to do good when "good" has no fixed meaning.

The childish answer is the negative "don't do anything bad" - don't break the rules. A more mature morality will make judgments on what a given situation requires - who will benefit, who will we harm, in which kind of world do we want to live? Even then I think perfect morality would require perfect wisdom; it's easy enough to say that, for example, minimising harm is a good thing, but it's far from easy to figure out what course of action in a given situation corresponds to minimal harm.

Since I'm only moderately wise, I think it's best if I accept that I can only be moderately moral, too. History is full of atrocities committed by people whose desire to be moral exceeded their wisdom. Or as they say; "the best is the enemy of the good." I think it's preferable to leave my morals intact even if I sometimes don't live up to them for various reasons of fallibility.

If people try to "be good" rather than "do good", they have to resolve the tension between who they are and who they think they ought to be. I think that being excessively bothered by that gap may lead one into bizarre directions. Much simpler to say that no person is "good" or "bad" as some inherent property, but rather the same people can act in ways we admire or disapprove of...
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In a conventional socialist arrangement, the one everyone thinks of when they think "socialism," a worker works but does not keep the profits from his work. The profits--the results of his labor--are distributed across the population.

In the inverted socialism that comes along with lax regulation of environmental and social practices, a business keeps the profits from its work, but the costs associated with doing business are distributed across the population. This artificially increases the business' profit; the socialization of risk means that some of what would otherwise be the business' expense are paid by the community--even those who do not work for that business--and by other businesses impacted by the first business' practice. Profit is not distributed, but cost and risk are.

This socialization of risk amounts to a subsidy paid by the people surrounding the business which inflates the business' worth and increases its profits without increasing production or efficiency. Because the risks are subsidized and the costs associated with those risks are socialized, businesses which operate in a manner that socializes risk end up at a competitive advantage over businesses which shoulder the full costs of doing business.
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I was skipping through "manga for dummies" when I came across this:

"Drawing your male characters wearing the loose-fit jeans is perfectly acceptable,
but having them wear anything tighter than the classic jeans is, for the
most part, a major faux pas. You don’t want to blatantly describe a male character’s
anatomy to your readers. It’s just wrong (trust me)."

What rubbish. Reading that just tempted me into a deliberate major faux pas, of course.

BTW the book also defines shounen-ai and shoujo-ai as "romance comics for boys" / girls...
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This paper confirmed some things I've always suspected:

It's a scan pdf so it's hard to quote from, but it presents research on three premises:

* premise 1: Sexual desire and romantic love are functionally independent.

Children of all ages experience maximum infatuation regardless of pubertal maturation, same-gender infatuation among heterosexuals. Heightened proximity and physical contact play a critical role.

* premise 2: Romantic love is not intrinsically oriented to a specific gender.

Hereditary nature of homosexuality,correspondence between pair-bonding and infant-caregiver attachment, lack of affectional orientations, animal data.

* premise 3: The links between love and desire are bi-directional.

Evidence of relation-specific cross-orientation desires, gender differences in bi-directionality.

Regarding the last premise, the following is significant to me:

"Although the overall psychobiological process through which love and desire become interconnected during normal sociosexual development has never been fully specified, there is a tacit consensus regarding the outcome of this process: a robust pathway leading from sexual desire to infatuation-attachment, but not the other way around. Although we are expected to form affectional bonds with individuals we sexually desire, we are not expected to develop novel sexual desires as a result of affectionate bonding. It is important to note that this notion of unidirectionality in the links between love and desire has never been theoretically justified or empirically tested."

It's no surprise to me that the "tacit consensus" appears not to hold under empirical tests (although it seems to break down more frequently for women than for men).

This is also my experience; more often than not, I develop desires following affectionate bonding. So I've repeatedly run into that tacit consensus. It's taken for granted that that sexual desire always comes first, so either it was assumed that the previous friendship had not been genuine but a pretense motivated by sexual desire, or else it was assumed that the sexual desire wasn't sincere and a pretext for sympathy sex from friends out of desperation. I've also found that people often tend to deny the existence of this "tacit consensus".

Another thing I find interesting is the treating of "crushes" - infatuation - and "sexual attraction" as completely separate (some people even get the hots for the Berlin Wall, so this makes sense). That would sure simplify discussion.

Anyway, I find the article an interesting read.

I would add that the erotic drive, the "libido" is, to me, part of something larger - what makes me passionate about things, creativity, sensuality, humor, the joy of life, that sort of thing. It's not all about sexuality, but I think sexuality is an expression of that (and a fairly powerful expression). But that's a topic for another day.
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"In our culture now, there is tolerance of violence and even sexual violence (or even ESPECIALLY sexual violence) but complete INTOLERANCE of naturally expressed sexuality."

Note: I'm not implying OMG violence == bad (or even HP == evil) but I do find it upsetting that "naturally expressed sexuality" is this big taboo whereas there are so many portrayals of dysfunctional, unhealthy, mean, twisted or even violent sexuality... can anyone name even one pop culture icon who could be considered a role model for healthy sexuality (compared to, say, spades of role models for being an ass-kicking mofo)?

The way sex is usually portrayed in media seems... very off to me. All too often it is portrayed like a performance of sorts, an empty ritual with only the barest of contexts. There is no real sense of intimacy because even though people are naked they don't seem to disclose anything personal so it's all so completely unsurprising and predictable that they don't even *need* tenderness... so it's often like watching space aliens to me.


Apr. 16th, 2013 07:33 pm
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I find it reassuring that attachment modes change due to circumstances - fairly obvious I guess, when you think about it... I feel different about attachments now than I did... some time ago, before stuff happened; clearly negative experiences will affect one's style. On the other hand, that should mean that positive reinforcement should increase one's feeling of security - again fairly obvious, but I've seen people claim otherwise (to excuse their own dismissive-avoidant tendencies, perhaps). Attachment styles are not determined forever in your first year of life. (Well, perhaps the tendency towards anxious vs avoidant is, but not the security itself.)

I think in our present culture, there is a wide-spread sentiment that being dismissive-avoidant is more laudable than being "clingy" - in part this probably sits into the larger context of glorification of cynicism and nihilism and avarice and violence. I hate the larger context, and I dislike this instance, too. Aside from the larger context, I think there is also a tendency - excusable, but misguided - to conflate the anxious attachment style with teenage existential angst. Perhaps there is a correlation between kids being emo and being clingy, but it doesn't follow that anyone who gets passionate about closeness does so out of existential confusion, and it certainly doesn't follow that being avoidant and emotionally stunted is somehow more mature.

Being dismissive-avoidant is also a coping mechanism, and also less rewarding than being secure, so it's not somehow "better" than being anxious-preoccupied, I think. The preoccupied ones are still fighting, the avoidant ones just gave up! I sometimes wonder if being anxious-preoccupied causes more suffering in the short term but is perhaps easier to recover from than being dismissive-avoidant. I don't see how you could go from avoidant to secure.

If nobody can be relied on to respond positively, there is no way one will be able to develop (or maintain) a secure attachment style. "People with secure attachment styles may trust their partners to provide support because their partners have reliably offered support in the past." and "Relationships that frequently satisfy the desire for intimacy lead to more secure attachments. Relationships that rarely satisfy the desire for intimacy lead to less secure attachments."

(I like the definition of intimacy as "a special set of interactions in which a person discloses something important about himself or herself, and a partner responds to the disclosure in a way that makes the person feel validated, understood, and cared for.")

If attachment is a combination of anxiety regulation, support, and intimacy then it seems only natural to be anxious and preoccupied as long as these three needs are not adequately met. On the other hand, once they *are* reliably met I don't see why the anxiety couldn't lessen in time. Sometimes people say things like "I gave you a chance but you were still anxious so it's all in your head" but that sort of implies the support was conditional to begin with, and one can hardly feel secure about conditional support....
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The Hajnal line is a border that links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality. To the west of the line, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married late or remained single; to the east of the line and in the Mediterranean and select pockets of Northwestern Europe, early marriage was the norm and high fertility was countered by high mortality.

What surprised me was that this difference was supposedly noticeable since the 16th century. I somehow didn't think it would have been that long since we "suddenly" decided to marry for love. It was not entirely clear to me if the marriage age difference didn't exist earlier, or if they just failed to establish whether it did or didn't. The second wouldn't surprise me; it's not like "the media" back then didn't adore love stories long before the 16th century...


Apr. 14th, 2013 02:20 pm
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One common experimental technique is the "ball tossing" paradigm, which involves a group of three people tossing a ball back and forth. Unbeknownst to the actual participant, two members of the group are working for the experimenter and following a pre-arranged script. In a typical experiment, half of the subjects will be excluded from the activity after a few tosses and never get the ball again. Only a few minutes of this treatment are sufficient to produce negative emotions in the target, including anger and sadness. This effect occurs regardless of self-esteem and other personality differences. A computer version of the task known as "cyberball" has also been developed and leads to similar results. Surprisingly, people feel rejected even when they know they are only playing against the computer.

Individual differences in rejection sensitivity are believed to be the result of previous rejection experiences, particularly childhood experiences with parents and peers. Attachment theory suggests that rejection from parents could lead to rejection sensitivity. One study found that rejection sensitivity in adulthood was related to teasing experiences during childhood, but not the amount of support received from childhood friends.
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There was an article in the Hartford Advocate (
from a journalist who entered a furry con under false pretenses with the hope of finding some shocking smutty furry orgies to report on.

The result is a rather poor con report - because about the only thing the intrepid reporter observes about the different events is what was NOT going on that she expected, namely, visible plushfucking. We learn that there was a dealer's room and some sort of art, but the main gist of the descriptions is whether or not anything "adult" was discernible. Aside from that, the only furry that is presented with any amount of detail is described as some sort of social misfit (I'm skunk, because when a skunk enters a room, everyone leaves! Haha unfunny), which isn't exactly flattering.

While it's a welcome change to see an article without blatant misrepresentations about what happens at furcons, there still seems to be an implicit assumption that it is acceptable to judge an entire subculture based on whether or not anything "adult" is going on. The author seems to have gotten an inkling of how important furriness is to some people, yet still predominantly focuses on the (lack of) sex angle, and that saddens me. Being furry is not about sex, but this is completely separate from whether or not anything sexual happens at furcons. Being furry is also not about designer drugs, or gambling, or satanic rituals, or a million other things far more unwholesome than kinky sex, whose absence at the con might have been mentioned.

I regret the media's preoccupation with passing negative judgments based largely on sexual stereotypes and prejudice. The above article is a good example of this, as the author is rather blatantly the one with "sex on the brain" and engaged in Jungian "projection onto the Shadow" - as can be seen from quotes like Thus I went undercover, after visiting a Halloween store to buy a belled collar, velvet cat ears and a nice piece of tail (30 inches, if you think length matters). That the reporter went looking specifically for sexual stuff, or that the presence or absence of sexual stuff in, say, furry art, is seen as the most crucial issue - that is a problem.

the gaze

Apr. 13th, 2013 11:22 pm
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"the male gaze" and how media conditions women to compete for it:

Supposedly ads suggest women use a pretend-submissive pose to gain control over male power by attracting "the gaze".

Personally I think the obvious problem with that is not "omg sex!" but that it conditions girls to think they must sit back and wait for the privilege of being asked out by some violent loser who will beat them up. No wonder then that they get obsessed with their appearance. How about instead teaching young women to be courageous and to stop following the crowd, and to stop thinking "getting a man" is their only means to obtain agency?

These are highly stereotypical, ritualistic poses - and for the record, I'm not in favor of that because the resulting photos are next to useless as artistic pose reference ;) - but that is common in fashion photography, whose primary aim is always (and should be) to show off the clothes to maximum effect. I imagine fashion models get training for that; it's the only explanation for how uninspired and cookie-cutter most fashion photography poses are...

If it's a professional fashion shoot, there's probably a whole team dressing the models and doing their hair and make-up, the photographer and assistants taking care of the lighting and snapping the pictures, and the models -being pros- doing most of the posing by themselves. It's not like the photographer will want to work with models that constantly need to be told what poses to take, I imagine.

The male equivalent of the "submissive pose" might be the "tough guise":

There is also a "female gaze", apparently. It makes men stupid.

The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders' risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning performance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.

On second thought, personally I think "male gaze" and "female gaze" are a bit of a misnomer for the problematic aspects of this phenomenon - not only because it's blatantly hetero-normative, but also because I'm convinced that "gender-policing" happens at least as much if not more *within* each gender. Even "attracting a mate" has a significant amount to do with status among gender peers, I think.

Also, Bratz dolls are apparently evil:
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Peggy McIntosh wrote the classic White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack wherein she describes the difficulty of realizing one's own privileges, likening them to a knapsack full of useful things that is visible to everyone but oneself. She writes about the path of self-reflection and soul-searching she traveled in an attempt to unpack her own invisible knapsack.

It is darkly ironic that the most common reaction to her piece has been people making inventories of others' privileges while vehemently denying their own...

Some related articles:
(Sexist framing; a man has a privilege, a woman lacks a disadvantage)
(Alleging superior moral and epistemic knowledge based on claims of victimhood while silencing others based on alleged privilege)
(Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War)
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Upon stumbling on the wikipedia entry about naturism, the following occurred to me:

Isn't it strange how every fringe group apparently feels a need to distance themselves from people who are comparatively more "fringe" than they are? Like how otakus distance themselves from soulbonders who distance themselves from furries who distance themselves from plushfuckers who distance themselves from shotacon, and on and on. The acceptability pecking order.

There's much about the naturist position I sympathize with; I think the aesthetics of the human body, and appreciation thereof, is too often perceived as "sexualized": I'm fairly visually oriented, and I do enjoy the sight of a beautiful body, completely aside from whether I want to fuck it.

But on the other hand, assertions that nudity in naturism is not sexualized and therefore okay are the sort of argument that rub me the wrong way, because there is a kind of tacit admission/underlying assumption that a "sexualized" enjoyment of nudity is somehow inherently evil. It reminds me of arguments to the effect that sexual orientation is not a choice; an argument which I personally hate because it concedes the premise that sexual orientation by choice would be "wrong".

I don't think there is a simple distinction between what is and isn't "sexualized", and I don't think that trying to make that distinction is meaningful. Because it would concede a faulty premise - that it somehow makes a difference whether, say, the pleasure of having a purring cat on your lap is or isn't "sexualized".
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 photo 151484_pe_1250630779_zpse4212223.jpg

Here's a disturbing old article on Japanese shops selling used panties:

Personally, if I could get good money from selling my worn-out underwear to a shop that caters to perverts who get off on that sort of thing, I would.

That said, I find it disturbing that the author of the above editorial reserves her moral outrage for the fact that girls are "allowed to sell themselves" - not only does it seem like a huge leap to equate selling panties with "selling yourself", what I find particularly disturbing is that the author deplores that girls are allowed to make their own choices, not that there are schoolgirls in a possibly unhealthy relationship with the sex industry. One gets the feeling the author wouldn't object to parents selling their surplus daughters into sex slavery (a historical practice in Japan), or would prefer a situation where girls are forced by poverty to sell their panties ("girls who come in to sell are not from poor families") over one where they can freely choose to do so for whatever reasons appeals to them.

I find *that* far more scary than a guy who likes to stick his face in other people's laundry. I am a bit shocked that the panties bought for $20 sell for $50, but I guess having to interact with pervert customers is worth that much...

(I totally don't understand the objection that material things are exchanged for material things, or how the situation could be made in any way better by involving the girls' "soul" in the transaction.)

Someone else objected to the shops because "it does contribute to the overall culture in which the men buying these panties are free to dream about schoolgirl panties as if they were illicit. The underwear may have actually been freely sold, but the image in everyone's minds, the thing that I think the shops are trying to evoke, is that of illicitly-stolen underwear. By reinforcing that image as something that's okay for everyone to partake in, one is encouraging guys to get off on girls' underwear that they feel like they "shouldn't" have, which of course encourages a feeling that these guys have taken advantage of the girls without their consent, even though they haven't. This feeling thus becomes more commonplace in society, and then society becomes more complacent to the idea of guys taking advantage of young girls without their consent, and that is what is bad."

I'm reluctant to agree that an activity is problematic, based on assumptions about the way people think in general. In my opinion, these shops didn't *create* the attraction of stolen underwear/taking advantage of young girls. I doubt one can "encourage" someone to get off on something one wouldn't otherwise get off on. I'm not convinced that offering a legal, harmless outlet for that attraction necessarily makes society more complacent about harmful actions. There are some really scary things happening in Japan, but is it actually worse now than, say, during Meiji when it was acceptable to take advantage of girls as long as they were poor? If access to escapist fantasy material had a detrimental effect, things *should* be exponentially worse now than ever before in history.

Also, if there is no relation between our actual consent and the way our actions are perceived, what can we do? We could refuse to sell our used panties, or we could burn them to make sure they don't fall into the hands of perverts, but that seems like playing into the trope - we pretend that we don't want people to perv over our panties, whereas we really couldn't care less.

If you sell your dirty underwear, openly and unambiguously, with full consent that any stranger may use it for whatever, and the buyer nevertheless likes to imagine that he really obtained it from you against your will, what can *you* do to disabuse him of the notion, except to repeatedly and enthusiastically say - and demonstrate - that you really want to sell your dirty undies? Criminalizing possession of dirty laundry hardly seems practical. =P And it would only re-enforce what you try to avoid by making it actually illicit.

The answer that you simply can't ever consent to selling your underwear is not only totally objectifying, it's also promoting a society where consent really is meaningless. No doesn't really mean no, unless and until yes really means yes.
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"At afternoon funerals, wear a frock coat and top hat. Should the funeral be your own, the hat may be dispensed with."


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