Evidence on the Hebephilia Question

It’s funny how the best argument against allowing hebephiles to have sex with children is a hebephile arguing s/he should be allowed to do as s/he wishes. If you have a strong stomach for this sort of thing, feel free to read the comments on my prior post on the topic. If not, what you really need to know is that one showed up insisting that “Yes” was consent to be taken at face value and the harm of these relationships was an extraordinary claim. Also, consent is only an issue if there’s some demonstration of harm, and sex is healthy, so it’s always good.

So, time to shed a little science on the matter. Let’s start with a couple of definitions, since those are also in dispute in the comments.

Child: We are discussing the rights of a child and the responsibilities of a society toward children. By international treaty, a child is defined for these purposes as “Every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable under the child majority is attained earlier.”

Hebephilia: “sexual preference for individuals in the early years of puberty (generally ages 11–14, though onset of puberty may vary).”

Now for the documentation of harm. Wherever possible, sources are reviews of the literature available without special access.

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Garter Porn

The following video is not for the faint of heart. Not unless that wobbly pitter-patter is coming from the heart of a herpetophile anyway. In that case, it’s definitely worth seeing (the shaky video does even out shortly).

The consequences to the female snake of engaging in this sort of behavior would satisfy the stodgiest conservative Christian.

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Science, Sperm, and a Survey About Your Junk

If you don’t already read Scicurious’s Friday Weird Science (and why not, may I ask?), today is the day to start. Today’s post is titled, “Laptops and WIFI are coming for your SPERM. Again.

Sci loves her some science of sex, especially after a long week in the lab. She also loves pulling apart the methodology of a study. Sometimes it’s to point out where the authors made some hilariously strange decisions. Sometimes it’s to highlight clever mechanisms for getting at a research question, particularly where testing in vivo would be ethically problematic. Sometimes it’s just to caution against getting too excited about what are really preliminary results.

That’s the case with the study Sci highlights today:

So the conclusions of this study: Do not place your sperm cells in a dish under your laptop for four hours. It might stop some of them from swimming.

That’s it. No nuked sperm here. From the press releases I was expecting to see those poor little buggers dying by the millions. Heck there wasn’t an increased rate of death at all. I’m not sure I buy the increased DNA fragmentation. But it doesn’t show decreased fertility, it doesn’t show nuked sperm, and though they got much higher electromagnetic frequencies, it doesn’t necessarily show that the Wi Fi is coming for your balls.

Here’s why this doesn’t necessarily mean the Wi Fi hates your nuts:

Go find out why. While you’re there, take Sci’s survey about how likely you are to put your genitals in danger. I think we all want to know how much of a problem this may be and how much attention we need to pay to future studies like this. (Yes, they do just keep…er…coming.)

It’s for science.

Pornography and Pulpits

Greta Christina posted yesterday on why she will probably not make pornography ever again:

But that was back when I was primarily known as a sex writer. And it was back before the Internet made anonymous rape threats easy and cheap. Now that I’m trying to build a writing career around topics other than just sex, it’s hard to imagine that doing porn would be anything other than career suicide.

And that sucks.

I would freaking love to do porn now. I’m more comfortable and more happy with my body than I have been in a very long time. And I would love to share that… for my own exhibitionistic pleasure, and for the sake of others. There aren’t a lot of role models for women of my age — I’m turning 50 at the end of this year — being openly and brazenly sexual, being comfortable and happy with their bodies and their sexualities and proudly celebrating them. I would love to be one of those role models. If I was ever going to do porn or nude pictures, now would be the time.

And I just don’t think I can. Not if I want to be taken seriously as a writer.

Read the whole thing, of course. Greta pulls the problem apart in her inimitable style.

A few readers are telling her that in order to dismantle the current cultural thinking on porn, someone needs to do what she doesn’t want to do right now. They’re right, of course, but that still doesn’t mean that Greta Christina is the person to do it. She talks about being taken seriously as a writer, but what she’s really doing is engaging in the culture war through her writing. She’s already leading one fight. That doesn’t leave her much time to lead another, not if she wants to do the first right.

After reading that last night, I came across an article that gave me an entirely different perspective on pornography and leadership. This article about the pope’s recent statements condemning pornography and prostitution followed up on those statements with this:

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On Display: Clothing, Breasts, and Power

Greta Christina has been writing about fashion as a language, about how we choose what to express and the fact that we don’t get to choose to say nothing by our choice of clothing. On Friday, she wrote about her relationship to clothing as an expression of gender. The whole thing is interesting, but I was struck in particular by her statement that “male drag was a way of feeling sexy and sexually transgressive when my weight was up and I wasn’t feeling conventionally attractive.” I’ve been thinking about weight, clothing, and gender for some time. Greta’s post has inspired me to write about it.

Breasts are fascinating, but perhaps not quite for the reason you’re thinking.

All right, in addition to the reason you’re thinking.

Breasts, or at least larger breasts, are made up primarily of fat. As a culture, we hate fat, but we love breasts. Where else but in the bumpy cleavage of a very thin woman are the unmistakable signs of plastic surgery so generally accepted?

Hips and butts too, but as a former kid whose diapers slid off my nonexistent hips all the time, I’m somewhat less qualified to talk about the dichotomous reaction to those particular secondary sex characteristics. Breasts I’ve got, in plenty. Sex and fat in one package.

It’s a combination that brings…an interesting set of choices. [Read more…]

Why “No Means No”

PZ posted a comic about listening to a woman when she tells you what she wants. Predictably, the comment thread took a turn for “but sometimes they don’t mean what they say.” Time to repeat myself. This was originally posted here.

One of the tangential issues that came up in the thread that would not die is the statement “no means no.”

I really hate to have to point this out, believe me… but sometimes a simple “I’d rather not,” “I shouldn’t,” or even “no” isn’t clear enough. I won’t try to guess at numbers, I’m not qualified, but there are most certainly women who enjoy that particular game. Keep in mind that we’re talking about college kids here. Boys and girls in their late teens and early twenties for the most part, and clear communication about sex and relationships is going to be fairly uncommon. Again, I’m not even going to pretend to put numbers on it, but I’m absolutely certain that sometimes it is honest miscommunication.

“No means no” is a simple slogan, but it just doesn’t reflect reality. Imagine stopping only to be yelled at because your partner was getting into it and you ruined the mood. Imagine it happening when you’re young and still inexperienced and emotionally fragile. How many times do you think that has to happen before a person is capable of mistaking a sincere “no” for a repeat of the previous situation, if only for a short time?

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Writing Fiction with Science: Pedophilia

When you listen to slush readers, editors, and agents talk about what they don’t want to find in their mailbox, you hear about hackneyed ideas, bland openings, purple crayons, and death threats. You also hear, “Don’t send me a sympathetic story about a rapist or a pedophile. Ugh.”

When Henry Gee asked me to submit a story to Nature Futures, I decided to break that rule. Why? Well, first off, I’m not much good with rules. Also, I felt this particular rule was malformed. What it really meant was, “Don’t make me read something that makes me feel I should tell the cops about you.”

One of my pet peeves is the conflation of pedophilia and child rape. Paying attention to abuses of authority, as I do, I have this peeve triggered a lot. The phrase “pedophile priest” makes me grit my teeth.

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Oh, Is It Blasphemy Day?

Taking enmellishment’s advice:

  • I don’t pay a lot of attention to these events.
  • Nonetheless, if you think your belief is sooooo much awesomer than the thousands or millions of competing beliefs out there, let it stand up on its own without government protection.
  • Religion is a propped-up means of saying “STFU! I’m better than you!”
  • Rebecca Watson has been awesome in the way she handled “Elevatorgate” from beginning to, well, now at least. I doubt that will change by the time it ends.
  • It is highly amusing that the principles of radical feminism are still considered radical.
  • Anger, sarcasm, insults, and mockery can all be very powerful tools.
  • Power tools require skill and practice to use, because they can make a bloody mess.
  • A stereotype is not scientific evidence. There is no “extraordinary claim” requiring mountains of proof inherent in sneering at a stereotype.
  • IQ is in large part a measure of institutional competence.
  • Social sciences frequently require far more scientific competence than “hard” sciences because they tackle more complex subject matter.
  • Everyone (yes, even you) is irrational about, not just something, but far more than they’d ever stop to consider.
  • Government is a requirement for civilization on this scale.
  • Politics is a tool and not a tool of Satan.
  • The evidence says that Ron Paul is a hard-core racist who’s merely learned to shut up about it.
  • Marriage is not and never has been–not even in the 1950s–one man and one woman. Nor has it ever been forever. Marriage laws only dictate what marriage looks like from the outside for those in the middle class, and they’re not very good at that.
  • Porn can be pretty cool.
  • The answer to “No” is not “Pleeeeeze” or “La La La La La La” for anyone over the age of eight.
  • There is a cat in another room who is gearing up to die, though she may last quite some time. I’m pretty sure that’s more important than blogging right now.


Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar

This week, Scicurious and I are tandem blogging her Friday Weird Science paper. This one just had a bit too much weird for one person.

Point and Laugh

Heh. Heh. Heh.

A summer school theater teacher of mine from way back claimed to long for a unique career. He wanted to be a stand-up comedian for preschoolers. There were just one or two little problems. The kids don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on entertainment, and the parents weren’t going to pony up for a grown man standing in front of a bunch of kids saying, “Pee-pee. Caca,” no matter how much the kids were, well, peeing themselves with laughter.

ResearchBlogging.orgMy teacher understood humor at its most basic, and he would laugh his ass off if he were to read a recent evolutionary psychology paper on the topic, “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” If he didn’t have one of those common names that makes a person impossible to catch up with, I’d send it to him. It’s the sort of evo psych paper that ignores everything we know about inheritance, almost everything we know about the topic being studied, and much of what we know about sex to say, “Look! Correlation! Thus…selection!”

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The Judgment of Rep. Weiner

My former roommate, who was also my maid of honor and has consumed more of my turkey soup than anyone but my husband, left a comment on my prior post on the reaction to Weiner’s “sex scandal” that I think is worth addressing at length (in no small part because she asks me to, and I hate to say no to Shari). So here is the meat of her comment and my reactions.

But there’s a few things Not connected (at least, in my own head yet) to prudery that Still make me want him to step down.

One thing worth noting here is the prudery under discussion isn’t necessarily the prudery of an individual. One effect of the overall background prudery in effect has been to narrow the options and ideas that even come to mind when we think about these issues.

Poor impulse control.

We don’t actually know this. Evidence of a mistake is not always evidence of poor planning. He may have thought this through, decided it made sense for his situation, and still bungled the execution.

Utter lack of concern (or was it freaking AWARENESS of concern) for what his family would go through ‘if he was caught’.

Again, we don’t know this. People who take on “alternative” sexual and relationship arrangements are well aware that there is risk involved. That’s why there’s a closet. That’s why these things are conducted in private. But that doesn’t mean that the risk hasn’t been weighed and found to be more than balanced by the ability to be true to one’s own desires. Let’s face it. If that ability were a trivial thing, human history would be hugely different.

Whether right or wrong – and if prudery is being used as a cultural straightjacket, we can all probably assume Wrong! – he knows that politicians are under intense scrutiny, as they represent other people.

Actually, this is new. I recommend reading Marcotte’s piece on Alternet on this for some recent historical perspective. If you need more examples, consider that Norm Coleman’s mistress was considered non-news for both his Senate campaigns (as, sadly, was his reputation for sexual assault). FDR, JFK, and LBJ’s affairs (to stick to the monogrammed presidents) are matters of history, known but irrelevant during their tenures. You can say times were different then, but that doesn’t explain why Bush the Elder’s mistress was considered only a matter of gossip. To go back further, Cleveland’s possible illegitimate child (actual paternity unknown) was acknowledged in his run for the presidency but not a deciding factor.

Private matters used to be considered private unless they were evidence of hypocrisy and often even then. This is new.

And they are held to high standards. Or, at least, I hold them to high standards – especially of judgement.

Well, except we don’t hold our politicians to high standards. If we did, we’d get serious about the Citizens United ruling so that corporations have a tougher time buying them. We’d do something so people weren’t always talking about voting for the lesser of two evils. We’d hold them accountable for their campaign promises instead of expecting them to be broken.

Holding politicians to high standards only for private decisions that have no impact on our lives is a clear signal of prudery to me. And while any individual may not fit that description, the fact that a consensual dick pic is news and Justice Thomas’s hidden conflicts of interest aren’t stinks of that background prudery.

I’m guessing he thought he could manage any fallout if this ever became public. We see how well That turned out.

Given the historical treatment of extramarital sex in politicians, I’m not sure that was a bad assumption going in. It doesn’t seem to have taken him very long, though, to figure out that nothing but the full truth was going to suffice in this situation.

That amazing level of arrogance in his initial denials screams of his desire for celebrity, without responsibility.

I’m all for lying my face off if someone decides that my private business is their public business. Well, actually, I’m not, but that’s mostly because I’m a skewer-with-detailed-truth kind of gal. Still, I completely support it in others. Serving one’s country is not the same thing as giving the American population a free pass into one’s bedroom (or wherever else one wants to flirt or fuck). It’s a pity it didn’t work.

And that kind of judgement in his personal life makes me question his judgement on national issues.

Here Weiner has a record. Twelve years of national record, six years in New York before that. And that record is excellent, particularly on the topics of women’s health (sexual and otherwise) and sexual freedoms. I have no reason to doubt his record because he screwed up using Twitter.

The point at which compulsive behaviour threatens your job – and this qualifies, I think, you need to put it in check.

What’s compulsive? Why compulsive? The fact that you and most of the people you know would need something as strong as a compulsion to behave that way means that this is behavior you find wrong for you. That’s fine, but it’s not a universal. Someone who doesn’t consider this behavior immoral or otherwise wrong doesn’t need to be compulsive to do something natural to them.

Would I be as disgusted if this guy weren’t married? Not quite, because the whole point of marriage is to forsake all others (not discussing polygamy here.), and if you want to do gross tweets, don’t friggin’ get married because your spouse will be understandably pissed. Poor judgement.

Actually, the purpose of marriage is to build a life together and to have that life recognized by your friends, family, and society. Beyond that, it varies. I know a number of people in very strong marriages (some of the strongest I know, but not all, so no use guessing) who never promised monogamy or who decided that monogamy was either not necessary or actively harmful to their marriages.

And really, we don’t ever forsake all others. Marriages happen within a community. We have friends who meet some of our emotional needs so our partners don’t carry them all. We have people around us who share values and interests that our partners don’t. We have flirtations, the vast majority of them without any intent to go beyond flirting. We maintain lots of degrees of intimacy with people other than our partners.

Some people simply find that allowing sexual and romantic relationships with people other than their partners is, for them, a reasonable step in the same direction. They’re nothing like pissed. The people who don’t aren’t necessarily prudes, but deciding that all marriages have to be composed of the same boundaries and arrangements that yours are is a form of prudery.

Also, I’ve seen the picture that was tweeted. It’s not gross. It doesn’t make me want to jump the guy or anything, but I can kind of understand why he wanted someone else to see it.

Single people sexting (especially with that last name)
are opening themselves up to blackmail – poor judgement if they are in the public eye.

There is only a risk of blackmail if there is secrecy. There is more likely to be secrecy in an atmosphere of prudery. If you’re willing to do what Weiner did, to confess when the press decides this is the most pressing political issue of the day, you can’t be blackmailed.

So, no. While I’m deeply concerned at the judgment of the press in this situation, Weiner’s judgment, particularly as a legislator, bothers me not one bit.