“Consent Is Hard”

A repost for today, in “honor” of all the people who jump up to claim to be rapists when the subject of alcohol and rape is brought up. Pro tip: “That can’t be true because it would make me a rapist” is never a convincing argument. Don’t miss Benny’s comments in particular on that post, or the comments where this was originally posted.

There’s some interesting conversation going on in the comments on my post, “An MRA Speaks on Rape.” It’s interesting not for how it starts–which is the typical fretting about potential edge cases in consent–but because of where it goes from there.

It started with the standard misdirection:

Wel I have some reservations against calling “having sex with an intoxicated person” rape. Does that mean that if both persons were intoxicated they raped each other?

I pointed out that that wasn’t what was being discussed. It is, after all, a very different thing to say that one may be too intoxicated to effectively give or withhold consent (as federal definitions of rape do) and that no one who is intoxicated can consent to sex. Someone else wasn’t keen on me keeping the thread on topic, however:

Given the numbers of people who go home together after meeting at bars or clubs or parties or other places serving alcohol–given the number of people who go out to such places in order to meet someone–and the countless stages of intoxication, and of comparative intoxication, of visible intoxication, questions of who’s buying the drinks, what each person’s goals are–of all the conversations to cut short with simplistic and sometimes unkind responses, this is not one.

I think that there are questions in there to be fleshed out. Because that’s the kind of statement that sounds good and solid, and can block a further conversation if it’s not deconstructed. I’d have looked into it.

Declaring an area crystal clear does not in fact, get rid of that obnoxious blurriness.

A number of commenters made excellent points, and they’re all well worth reading, but I just want to say this up front: If you find the topic of consent to be difficult to sort out, you’re going at sex wrong. [Read more...]

Helping the Families

We can’t change what happened. We can’t make it better. We can, however, take one small worry off the plate of the families who lost children in Newtown. From We Are Atheism:

Atheists Giving Aid – Support Sandy Hook Elementary

During this time of great tragedy, American Atheists along with the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics (SOMA, a SSA affiliate and University of Kansas Student Organization) and We Are Atheism, have decided to come together to raise funds for the children and their families affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary SchoolThe families that have been hurt did not plan for their child’s funeral, no parent does.  None of us would have ever thought to have money saved for the great expense of a funeral for any of our children.  The money you donate will go directly to the Sandy Hook Elementary families for funeral expenses and counseling for the survivors of the shooting and their families.  Now it is your turn to show that there are more of those who love and care for their fellow community members than those who would kill mercilessly.

A typical child’s funeral costs between $3,000-$5,000.  The wooden casket alone is near $3,000.  In Newtown, CT the cost of living is ~129% above the national average. This horrific time is difficult enough without having to worry about how they are going to pay to bury their child and afford counseling for themselves and their siblings left behind. Please give as much as you can so the people of Newtown, CT can begin healing and get the help they need.

We will be processing these payments to American Atheists to distribute the money to the 20 families that we have contact info for. Additional funds will go to help the families of the adults who were killed and to community in their efforts to provide counseling to those involved. Your donation is tax deductible (we will be getting our 501C3 status next year)

Yes, I know that sometimes parents do have insurance for that. They’ve checked. These parents did not.

You can donate here.

A Violent Child

You’ve seen the post. It’s been linked everywhere. She’s his mother, she says, though she’s not. His mother is dead, as is he, and neither can answer any questions. Her son hasn’t killed anyone. He’s just scared them.

I was scared that way too, once upon a time.

Screaming child in black and white.

“scream and shout” by mdanys. Some rights reserved.

Children are violent, you know. They lash out when they can’t cope. They hurt each other and us until they are taught not to, until they are taught how to express what they want and need and fear, until they learn how to get away from what hurts them. Sometimes that happens easily and young. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes the violence lasts until muscles have grown. Sometimes lessons about how to make violence more effective are learned well before control. A violent child with the capacity for harm we normally associate with adults can be a very scary thing indeed. I know I was terrified. [Read more...]

Be Counted

When the Atheist Alliance International decided to run a census of the non-religious around the world, someone decided you shouldn’t take part. Not only was the site taken down with a denial of service attack, but it stayed down for several days. It couldn’t, however, stay down forever.

You can now take the survey again. It’s just six questions, and the results tell you who and where we are. Go be counted.

Rushing to Be Part of the Gun Problem

There are other countries, other cultures where guns are owned and handled more responsibly than they are here. There could be a healthier gun culture here I think. I see bits of it among friends who own guns. I think my household is part of it, mostly.

Still, it’s something that lives largely only in its potential. Good culture, good gun practices and attitudes can only grow so much in isolation. The more minds dedicated to building a healthy culture, the faster and better it will grow.

We don’t have many minds dedicated to a healthy gun culture in our country. Those there are don’t have many opportunities to get together and share ideas, which is also required for growth. Why? Because every time the conversation starts, people jump up to defend and reinforce one of the unhealthiest gun cultures in the world. [Read more...]

In a Violent Context

In light of the discussion on Kate’s post about assuming mental illness in the case of a mass murder, this post and, particularly, Daniel’s are extremely relevant again. It really shouldn’t be that hard to think about why people who are not mentally ill might do terrible things. It happens all the time. Shootings like these are just one of the less typical ways it happens.

When the incomprehensible happens, we are much happier if we can reduce the event to a single cause, put it in its little pigeon hole where it can’t disturb us as much. Attributing mass violence like the shooting in Aurora, CO to mental illness fits this bias of ours very comfortably. Of course, that doesn’t mean that mental illness really is the answer–or the only answer.

Daniel Lende of Neuroanthropology started a discussion on this topic when Jared Loughner shot Gabby Giffords and several others. With this new act of mass violence that we are attempting to explain away instead of understanding in all its dimensions, he’s focused his thoughts more. The questions he prompts are fascinating, particularly for those familiar with how much cultural context–what we collectively accept and reject as civilized behavior–determines diagnoses of mental illness.

[Read more...]

Labyrinth

It’s fun watching an aspiring writer succeed, even if it’s sometimes difficult to watch what the pace of success means these days for many writers. Mari Ness is one of those writers I’ve been seeing here and there since we hung out in the same bits of writerly blogosphere once upon a time, I think before her first publications.

I slice the throats of the two I have faced, swiftly, whispering the proper words, and dance above their bodies in respect. When I am done, I turn to my daughter and the third combatant.

The third combatant is good. Damn. I should have taken a better look, should have taken this one myself, and allowed my daughter, who has never done this before, to take on either one of my opponents. That is doubtless what the priests expected, and what the three combatants planned against—and with a little luck, it could have worked. This woman is almost good enough to beat my daughter; may even be good enough to beat my daughter, with luck, and although I had taken down the other two without difficulty, this woman and just one of the others—even that unskilled male, who may never have held a blade before this—could have given me difficulties. I swallow, and hope the priests do not notice, do not see my concern.

I cannot interfere while my daughter still dances. Not only is it against ritual, but it is also dangerous. I force myself to stand in the nyaki pose, that I first learned to hold when I was four, and watch my daughter fight for her life. She is good; her combatant is better. But then my daughter leads the dance over the floor, over to the combatants I have already killed. Good; very good. Her combatant sees the bodies, hesitates, slips. My daughter is over her in a second, slicing her belly—too lightly, but I will discuss that with her later—a knife at her throat.

I try not to burst with pride. My second daughter, successful in her very first dance. And against an opponent with skill, as well! I must not show this. I must not. But I do step forward.

“Well done,” I say. I do not add “my daughter.” That is something I will say later, when we are away from the floor, and can rejoice as a family. “And now, finish it with honor. As you have been taught. A swift blade against the throat.”

Sometimes we dancers need that encouragement, the first time. My daughter certainly does. Her knife hesitates, trembles above her combatant’s throat.

“Kill her,” I say, but gently.

The knife still trembles, but does not sink down.

Keep reading.

On Political Correctness in Science

Make a criticism of some sort of research that props up a conservative ideology and you’re likely to hear something about political correctness interfering with research. This is true even if your objections are methodological.

However, if you really want to understand what it looks like when political considerations interfere with scientific research, I strongly suggest you watch this talk by Jennifer Oullette from this year’s Skepticon. You’ll have a little perspective to apply to those claims. Also, it’s an interesting talk.

The Perils and the Promise of Psychedelics (Rethinking Wonderland)

Atheists Talk: Dan Barker

Our guest this week is Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation works to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism, and to promote the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. The Foundation is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and skeptics) with over 18,000 members.

Since 1978, the Foundation has acted on countless violations of the separation of state and church, and has taken and won many significant complaints and important lawsuits to end state/church entanglements.

Won’t you join us in our critical work to defend the separation between government and religion?

Dan is also an author, atheist spokesperson, musician and your friendly neighborhood atheist. He’s visiting the Twin Cities this weekend as the musical guest at the Winter Solstice dinner. Join us for a discussion of what the Freedom From Religion Foundation does for us all.

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.