A Valentine’s Day Story

I’m not big on Valentine’s Day as a holiday. Too much pressure to “correctly” perform a form of romance that has nothing to do with the rest of our lives together. Too little imagination about the varieties of relationships that exist out there. Far too much commercializing of a particularly insidious kind.

I still celebrate the day, however, just not as a holiday. For me, it’s the anniversary of my first date with my husband, eighteen years ago.  Inspired by this Role/Reboot piece on the death of traditional courtship, I thought I’d share how we got there. [Read more...]

A “Deep Human History” of Polyandry

Many evolutionary psychologists like to talk about polygyny. Some say it’s a good thing for the individuals involved. Some say it’s a bad thing. But they tend to agree that this is just how we evolved. Polyandry, if it’s discussed at all, is generally dismissed as being insignificant.

A new study just out suggests we shouldn’t dismiss polyandry so quickly, particularly not if we want to talk about evolved behavior. Last year, Katherine Starkweather and Raymond Hames published “A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry” (pdf) in Human Nature.

Terms first. What do Starkweather and Hames mean by “polyandry”?

In general, we define polyandrous unions as a bond of one woman to more than one man in which the woman has relatively restricted sexual rights toward the men, and the men toward the women, as well as economic responsibilities toward each other and toward any children that may result from the union.

They note that this arrangement may be formal, in which the family created becomes a household, or informal, in which the sexual relationships and responsibilities are recognized but the family does not all live together. For a polygynous equivalent to informal polyandry, consider the old (at least) royal practice of a king who maintained mistresses and their children on estates away from the royal palace.

“Non-classical” has largely meant “ignored” up to this point for reasons pointed out in the Atlantic article that drew my attention to the survey. [Read more...]

Time to Go to Medical School

Rob Tarzwell has been running a series of videos that, ironically, I’ve only just had some time to check out. I say, “ironically”, because the series is called One-Minute Medical School. They’re quick and easy to understand, each covering an aspect of normal or “abnormal” human physiology.

Since I’ve been up to my elbows (and sinuses) in dust recently, these videos on allergies caught my attention.

The poster for this video is here if you want to look at it more closely. [Read more...]

When You Already Are the Middle Ground

We’ve all seen the media promote false equivalence in matters of science (evolution, climate change) and history (David Barton; need I say more?). Roy Speckhardt has a recent article up in The Huffington Post pointing out that they do the same thing when it comes to human rights.

Take for example the debates over LGBT rights. On one side are people who understand the constitutional guarantee of equal protection for all and advocate for marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and equal benefits on that basis. Leading the opposition are religious fundamentalists, who interpret their holy scriptures as condemning homosexuality. While there are certainly two different opinions, only one is a valid expression of political thought, while the other is merely a vocalization of deeply held bias.

Arguments for LGBT discrimination are based not upon considerations for public health or legal precedent but upon religiously enshrined prejudice. It’s embarrassing and unjust that practices like employment or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persist in many states. And one of the ways this discrimination continues is through fabricated debate on topics not worthy of deliberation.

Speckhardt also mentions men’s rights activists in his post, which makes the comments what you might expect.

The important thing about these “debates”, aside from acknowledging that they are used to hurt and control people, is to recognize their shape. [Read more...]

Atheists Talk: Dan Riley on “Generation Atheist”

People throw off the mantle of supernatural belief in all sorts of ways, to all sorts of end results. Not everyone who leaves belief behind identifies as an atheist or gets involved with activism. Every person’s story is different.

Dan Riley is the author of the book Generation Atheist. Riley was a campus organizer for the Center of Inquiry, and during that time he worked with many secular students. He was fascinated by their unique journeys, and decided to pull these deeply personal and enlightening stories into a collection of narratives that he could share with all of us.

Dan Riley will be joining Atheists Talk this Sunday to discuss his inspiration for Generation Atheist as well as some of the insight he’s gained during the production of this project.

Related Links

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.

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Saturday Storytime: The Dead Girl’s Wedding March

Cat Rambo is an award-nominated editor in addition to writing lovely, odd short stories. I’m not sure what color her hair is today. 

She is also one of the few authors in the pending anthology Glitter and Madness who hasn’t been featured in the Saturday Storytime feature here, so I thought I’d fix that. Glitter and Madness is a project of John Klima and my friend Michael Thomas, who is part of the editorial staff for Apex Magazine. Apex, in turn, publishes the stories that tend to get the highest click-through rates here. Between the two, I figured it was high time to let y’all know about the Kickstarter for the project, which has less than a week to go.

“I have had a marriage proposal,” she told him.

He folded his paper and set it down, frowning. “From whom?”

“A rat, just now. At breakfast.”

“What does he expect? A dowry of cheese?”

She remembered not liking her father very much when she was alive.

“I told him no,” she said.

He reached for his paper again. “Of course you did. You’ve never been in love and never will be. There is no change in this city. Indeed, it would be the destruction of us all. Shut the door when you go out.”

* * *

She went shopping, carrying a basket woven from the white reeds that line the river’s banks.

Passing through a clutter of stalls, she fingered fabrics lying in drifts: sleepy soft velvet, watery charmeuse, suedes as tender as a mouse’s ear. All in shades of black and gray, whites lying among them like discarded moonlight.

The rat sat on the table’s edge.

“I can provide well for you,” it said. “Fish guts from the docks of Tabat and spoiled meat from its alleyways. I would bring you the orchard’s gleanings: squishy apricot and rotted peaches, apples brown as bone and flat as the withered breasts of a crone. I would bring you bits of ripe leather from the tannery, soaked in a soup of pigeon shit and water until it is soft as flesh.”

“Why me?” she asked. “Have I given you reason to suspect I would accept your advances?”

It stroked its whiskers in embarrassment. “No,” it admitted. “I witnessed you bathing in the river, and saw the touch of iridescence that gilds your limbs, like plump white cheeses floating in the water. I felt desire so strong that I pissed myself, as though my bones had turned to liquid and were flowing out of me. I must have you for my wife.”

She looked around at the market she had visited each third day for as long as she had been dead. At the tables of wares that never changed but only endlessly rearranged their elements. Then back at the rat.

“You may walk with me,” she said.

Keep reading.