Sex & Sexism in Ancient Rome (Video)

Clipped photo of an actual ancient Roman silver dinner cup depicting in elegantly realistic relief a well built man lifting a boy lover up and having anal sex with him in the air. The cup shows all genitalia and the whole act, but because the internet is a prude, I have cut the image off just above that part.My talk for PolyColumbus last month has now made it to YouTube! It is age restricted due to its sexual content. A transcript is underway. I will add a link for that to this post (and announce it in comments, so if you want, subscribe to comments below to be alerted when that happens). But you can read the bullets (not quite a transcript), and for those who want to study further, I have provided my bibliography. Note also that this event was co-sponsored by the Humanist Community of Central Ohio and PolyColumbus, and a talk on this subject might never have happened but for them.

The full title of the talk is “Sex and Sexism in Ancient Rome: Crossroads of Sexual Freedom & State Oppression,” and the official talk description is:
[Read more…]

Katherine Cross on Tone Policing

Katherine Cross has written an excellent piece on distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate tone policing: Words for Cutting: Why We Need to Stop Abusing The Tone Argument. The article is a valuable read all through. Do not regard my summary here as its replacement. My aim is only to expand on it.


Cross makes two overarching points. One is that though intention is not magic, it does matter (as she says, it’s still data). And we should acknowledge that. I shall have nothing to say about that; it’s obviously correct (see Dan Fincke). The other is that while it is legitimate to denounce tone policing in many cases (and not only because it’s a fallacy), this should not become a non-circumstantial rule that applies to every instance, as if all tone policing were bad. It’s not.

Within that overarching point she makes the following supporting points:

  • Tone policing someone who is defending the oppressed or victimized is often illegitimate. Because when someone does that, “while they claim to be attacking tone, they are actually attacking the message, and often as not the very identity of the messenger.” This is thoroughly explained at GeekFeminismWiki. In these cases, tone isn’t really the issue. It’s just being used to silence someone or avoid addressing the point they are making. And that’s wrong. If you try to do that, you deserve to get called out on your shit. Own it. Then stop it. And do better in future. (I think this can also be done in ignorance—not just as a deliberate tactic, but out of not appreciating the context that evokes a particular tone, as I noted in the case of JT Eberhard’s attempt to tone-police Bria Crutchfield two years ago.)
  • Anger and other so-called negative emotions are important and have tremendous personal and social utility (without which, see Miranda). Anger is not irrational. Anger is data and motivation. You can be angry for irrational reasons. But not all reasons to be angry are irrational. Nevertheless, as Cross says, “like any emotion or tool, there are right and wrong ways to deploy it.” Thus, calling someone out for (let’s say) calling for sexists to be killed (even in jest) is not an illegitimate tone argument. That is a fully legitimate tone argument. If you are doing that, your tone is fucked. Sort that shit out.
  • Genuinely censurable tone can include threats, ill-wishing, calls for violence, ad hominems, or just plain abuse (see my article The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur for more on that last point).

In short, in Cross’s words:

To put it simply: sometimes someone is being too angry. Sometimes an activist’s rage is doing more harm than good. Sometimes there is no good being done by it whatsoever. Not every emotion we have is a great strike against oppressive forces. Sometimes you are just being too loud, abusing people verbally, triggering them, and so forth. Sometimes you are just being a jerk and your tone is a fairly reliable indicator of this.

Quite. There are some things I think that could be added, though… [Read more…]

Last Call for Learning Naturalism as a Worldview!

A slightly out of focus photo of California poppies (an orange flower), which is my link image for naturalism as a worldvidew, because it captures the idea of beauty and science and the natural world.Please tell everyone you know who might be interested! My course starts this Thursday (May 1). It’s a valuable way to support my work and expand your knowledge of philosophy, and learn how to build and think about a coherent worldview without a god or the supernatural, and use that in your daily life and personal growth. If you can afford it, it’s only as demanding as you want it to be. You can participate or just lurk. No schedule need be kept. There will just be class readings and class questions to answer and discuss each week (plus maybe an occasional video to watch at your leisure).

Close up photo of a nebula in outer space. An image I use to promote naturalism and philosophy at my website, here for its connotations about science and the vastness and fascinating nature of our universe.Post questions and answers or read replies at any time. You can also ask me all the questions about each week’s subject as you want, and get my detailed answers–and keep following up with more questions until the course ends (at the end of May). You can also follow (or even join) my other discussions with students. Often that’s where you learn the most: seeing what questions others had, and how I responded to them, and what came up in the ensuing discussion, a lot of which can be surprising or stimulating.

For those already signed up, the class login is here. It will be active May 1. For those who want to learn more, read here. For those who want to register to participate, go here. The required course text is Sense and Goodness without God. If you don’t already have a copy, you can get an electronic version right away, or fast-order a print copy. All buying options are here.

Consider the Poor

Alex Gabriel has produced an excellent summary of “10 things atheist groups can do to take on class exclusion,” available at Alternet as “10 Ways to Make Sure the Atheist Movement Is Not Just for the Wealthy,” tagline, “Life without God shouldn’t have to be a luxury.”

Anyone involved in decision-making for any atheist group, local or national (even if just as a voting or outspoken member) should bookmark that article, read it, and discuss it with their group’s leadership. That link is an excellent thing to have on hand and pass on to future leadership, too. I think it should be part of any org’s permanent toolkit.

Alex discusses the reasoning behind it on his blog here at FTB: [Read more…]