“Silly”: My Debut on the Blowfish Blog

BlowfishThis post includes a little bit of information about my personal sexuality; family members and others who don’t want to read about that, please hang up now.

If you like my sex writing, you’ll be happy to know that I’m going to be doing a lot more of it. I just started a new gig, blogging weekly for Blowfish, the mail-order sex products catalog where I worked for several years (in an assortment of capacities, ranging from filing clerk to vice president and general manager, with my most consistent job over the years being toy and video buyer).

My first piece for the Blowfish Blog is titled Silly, and it begins thus:

Lucy_needs_a_firm_handIt just seems so silly.

I mean, spanking. Please. How seriously can you take it? Yes, sure, there are thousands of psycho-socio-philosophico-political treatises on hundreds of forms of sexuality, on intercourse and bondage and sex work and masturbation and so on. But getting your bare bottom paddled? How are we supposed to ponder it and not fall into fits of the giggles?

To read the rest, visit the blog!

This does mean that I’ll probably be writing a little less about sex here in my own blog, since even I only have so much to say about sex, and will naturally be saving the juiciest pieces for the paying gig. But I certainly don’t plan to give it up entirely… and I’ll be sure to let you know every time I have something new on the Blowfish blog. Enjoy the piece!

A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn

Originally published in Good Vibrations Magazine, May 2006. Please note: This post includes information about my personal sexuality; family members and others who don’t want to read about that, please hang up now.

Paying_for_itI’ve been writing about sex for over half my adult life. Sex writing makes up the vast majority of my writer’s resume, as well as my professional reputation, and my body of published fiction consists entirely of erotica (a.k.a. smut). I’m an ardent supporter of the burgeoning field of erotic fiction, and a passionate admirer of many of my fellow sex fiction writers. I believe that the last decade or two has seen a remarkable Renaissance in erotic writing, a flowering of first-rate talent both developed within the field and venturing into it from outside. And I feel strongly that erotica is an undervalued genre with tremendous literary potential.

SpankAnd when it comes to getting off, I want dirty pictures. Or videos. Period. Almost without exception.

I want to talk about why.

*****

Beautys_punishmentFirst and foremost, there’s a fundamental problem with sex writing — namely, that I’m unbelievably picky about it. In order for a sex story to get me off, it has to be at least somewhat well-written… and it has to push my own particular erotic buttons. But my own erotic buttons are very particular indeed. My inner masturbator is a fairly devoted sadomasochist, and if a dirty story doesn’t have some element of power or pain, she just doesn’t want to know. I can respect, appreciate, even enjoy sex writing that isn’t about my kinks — but while it may open my mind or tickle my aesthetic fancy, it probably isn’t going to make me reach for my vibrator.

Carries_storySo I need my porn to be kinky — and I need it to be well-written as well. That’s not just snobbery or persnickitiness. Badly written porn is simply less hot. Even if I didn’t care about literary grandeur, I do care about clear images, vivid emotions and sensations. I care about whether the story gets me inside the heads and bodies of the people in the story. I care about imagination, about scenarios that tap into classic sexual iconography without just re-treading it. And I care about writing that, at the very least, doesn’t get in the way, writing that flows smoothly and doesn’t stop the reader mid-sentence to figure out what the hell is going on.

Macho_slutsAs I weren’t picky enough, my porn fiction doesn’t just have to be well-written and kinky. It also has to be realistic. My libido is almost 100% uninterested in fantasies about sex that couldn’t really happen. Give me a sci-fi smut story about kinky telepaths, or a dirty novel about a kidnap victim who’s raped and tortured but learns to love her submission, and I’ll be flipping the pages so fast it’ll start a dust storm. It’s not that I’ll be upset — I’ll just be bored. I like immediacy in my porn: I like to feel like I’m right there, in the story, like I’m inside the skin of the characters (at least one of them, if not all at once). Or else I like to feel like I’m right there watching, like I’m on the other side of a one-way mirror, drooling over the filthy goings-on and shoving my hand in my pants. And it’s really hard to feel that way if I’m picking holes in the backstory or thinking, “There’s no way she would do that.” I realize this is a personal quirk: I understand that porn is often meant to depict fantasies, not realities, and there’s nothing wrong with unrealistic fantasies. I just don’t get off on them.

Three_kinds_of_asking_for_itAll of which makes for a tough sell. Between my need for plausible premises, competent writing, and at least somewhat perverted content, other people’s erotic stories are almost never as hot for me as the ones I come up with in my own head.

*****

PlayboySo what’s different about visual porn? Is it any better made? Is it more likely to be kinky, or to be realistic? No, absolutely no, a thousand times no. There’s plenty of thoroughly vanilla imagery in visual porn, plenty of straight-up pictures of people just being naked or having plain old regular sex. There’s plenty of impossible fantasy imagery, especially in dirty drawings and comics. And God knows there’s plenty of unimaginative mediocrity, steaming heaps of unimaginative mediocrity, in sex photos and videos and comics and art.

Stainless_ladiesWhat’s different about visual porn is that it’s more open to interpretation. There are very few visual erotic images that can’t, in some way, be adapted to fit a wide range of fantasies and preferences and kinks. Take photography, for instance. If the model in a photo is bending over or on her hands and knees, I can imagine that she’s about to be spanked or whipped. If a model is disrobing and not completely nude, I can imagine him being ordered to strip, following precise instructions about what to remove and when, trembling slightly at the voice of the demanding autocrat with the complicatedly specific sexual tastes. Even in the most vanilla, soft-core, soft-focus photos and videos, there’s usually some way to tweak it to fit my kinky brain.

Stripped_nakedIf nothing else, I can imagine some sort of dominance relationship between the photographer and the model (or models). That’s another way that visual porn — photos and videos, anyway — are adaptable. You can project yourself into the scene that the image is depicting… but you can also project yourself into the photo or video session. You can imagine yourself as the model: exposed and vulnerable, or relishing your power over your audience, or subserviently putting yourself in poses to fulfill the photographer’s fetishistic whims. Or you can imagine yourself behind the camera: cool and controlling, or drooling and lecherous, or hungry and worked up with longing for what you can see but aren’t allowed to touch.

BanquetAll this is true even if your fantasies aren’t as stubbornly kinky as mine. There’s nothing in the story telling you that none of this is really happening. There is no story. You get to make the story up yourself.

But visual porn is obviously not just about making up your own stories. If that were the only appeal, I could happily invent jack-off stories in my head all day long (even more than I already do). There’s something else about a visual image, something that curls itself into a fist and punches me in the gut. What is it?

Ecstasy_in_berlin_1926A lot of it is the immediacy of visual porn, the realism, the ability to make me feel that what’s going on in the porn is real, here and now. This is an area where photos and videos have it all over any other kind of porn. It’s so much easier to feel like dirty pictures or movies are real — because they are real. Photos and videos document real sex acts — real people actually did those things, in the physical world, with their actual bodies. Photos and videos are real in a literal, physical way, which no other porn can match.

Lostgirls_01But not all visual porn is like that. In stuff like drawing, or painting, or comics and graphic novels, there are no real people. It’s all made up with the artist’s head and hands. It’s no different from fictional porn in that regard: there isn’t anybody who’s really there. And yet dirty drawings — as long as they’re done with a reasonable degree of competence — have almost the same clit-wrenching immediacy for me that dirty photos do.

Sugar_high_glitter_cityBesides, the immediacy of visual porn isn’t just about feeling like the people in the pictures are really there. It’s about feeling like I’m really there. The pictures don’t just make it easier for me to imagine the scene — they make it easier for me to project myself into it. Having a picture thrust into my brain makes me feel like I’m there; like I’m one of the people in the scene, or a new person wedging myself into the goings-on, or even an invisible voyeur watching it all up close. And that’s true whether the pictures are photos of real dirty people doing real dirty things, or drawings of dirty people doing made-up dirty things that an artist thought up.

Naughty_spanking_stories_a_to_z_volBut here’s the weird thing. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people about this question, and people who like dirty stories say exactly the same thing I do about dirty pictures. Fiction is more immediate, they say; it’s less distancing, it makes it easier to project themselves into the scene. I’d always assumed that people who prefer written porn like it in spite of its lack of visceral immediacy — but here these people are, saying that visceral immediacy is exactly what they like about it.

Best_american_erotica_2003So I’m starting to think that a preference for visual vs. written porn may be hard-wired, just a matter of the way our brains are built from birth. I resisted that idea for a long time, mostly because everything I’d read on that topic was gender-focused in a completely narrow and stupid way: men are wired to get turned on by images, women are wired to get turned on by stories, with all the accompanying “men are from Mars” bullshit about how women just want emotional relationships and men just have dirty minds. I knew that the gender stuff wasn’t true for me, so I’ve tended to dismiss the entire hard-wiring theory. But maybe it has some validity.

Pride_and_prejudiceIt isn’t just about being a “visual person,” though. For one thing, my intense preference for visual erotic art doesn’t translate at all into the non-erotic arts. I’m certainly very fond of visual art; I’ve seen paintings and sculpture and stained glass and such that have moved me nearly to tears. But as a general rule, they don’t have the same death-grip on my brain that books do.

Innocent_college_studentAnd there’s more overlap between the two forms than I’m letting on. After all, when I look at dirty pictures, one of the first things I do is start making up stories about them. When I masturbate, I usually start with a visual image that’s struck my fancy… but if I’ve hit on an image that packs an unusual punch, I find myself working out who these people are and why they’re there. I think about the dirty things they were doing before they got there, and the even dirtier things they’re going to do next… and soon my mind is slipping around between a whole assortment of images, all within this one story.

C_is_for_coedsEven as a writer, the two forms overlap. When I write porn fiction, I tend to start with an image in my mind — a woman bending over and offering her ass, a female college student being spanked by her professor, a peep show dancer talking to a customer through the glass. But then I fill in the backstory: who they are, how they got there, what’s getting them off. Writing porn for me is like an extended, tightly focused, carefully crafted version of my masturbation fantasies. And like a masturbation fantasy, it starts with an image, and then quickly turns into a story.

Best_american_erotica_2005Which brings me back around to the big issue: the fact that I’m unbelievably picky about written porn. See, I’m a writer, not a photographer or a filmmaker or a painter. I’m picky about writing because it’s my medium. I know more about writing, both erotic and otherwise, than I do about photography, or filmmaking, or drawing or painting or comics. If I knew more about visual art, I’d probably be a lot more picky about my visual porn. I’d be more familiar with the cliches, more put off by mediocrity, more annoyed by sloppy work. If I were a photographer or something, I might find it a lot harder to look at dirty pictures without my critical reflexes zooming into my forebrain and kicking my libido out of the way. I might find it easier to relax and enjoy dirty stories, just as a consumer, without immediately analyzing them as a professional. And I might well be ranting and musing about why, with a few exceptions, erotic photography is so distancing and hard to identify with, and why erotic fiction packs so much more of a punch.

Even If It’s Wrong: Barack Obama, Religious Faith, and Same-Sex Marriage

Barack_obama_1There was this piece about Barack Obama in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. And it had a comment in it — about both same-sex marriage and religious faith — that chilled me to the bone.

Barack_obama_2“If there’s a deep moral conviction that gay marriage is wrong, if a majority of Americans believe on principle that marriage is an institution for men and women, I’m not at all sure he shares that view, but he’s not an in-your-face type,” Cass Sunstein, a colleague of Obama’s at the University of Chicago, says. “To go in the face of people with religious convictions — that’s something he’d be very reluctant to do.” This is not, Sunstein believes, due only to pragmatism; it also stems from a sense —

and here comes the kicker, people –

that there is something worthy of respect in a strong and widespread moral feeling, even if it’s wrong.”

I’m trying to think of the best way to put this:

No_2No, there isn’t.

No, no, no, no, no.

A wrong moral feeling is not — repeat, NOT — made worthy of respect by being either strong or widespread.

Danger_poisonI don’t just think this idea is wrong. I think it’s dangerously wrong. I think this idea — that even if a belief is wrong, if a lot of people share it and hold it passionately then it has somehow earned gravitas and respect — this is among the most destructive ideas that human beings have come up with.

Why? Because it is essentially a self-perpetuation machine for bad ideas.

LynchingDo I even need to explain this? Think of all the evil, harmful things in human history that have been supported by a strong and widespread moral feeling. Slavery. Clitoridectomy. Imperialist wars. Religious wars. The disenfranchisement of women. The censoring of information, and active disinformation campaigns, about birth control and sexual health. The Salem witch trials. The Inquisition. Genocides ranging from the Trail of Tears to the Holocaust. Lynchings. Putting queers in jails and mental institutions. Do I need to go on?

And every one of these events and institutions was made stronger and more durable by this “worthy of respect” idea — everyone else thinks it’s okay, so how bad could it really be?

Witch_burning_monty_pythonThe idea that a strong and widespread moral feeling deserves respect, even if it’s wrong… it’s morality by mob rule, by popularity contest. It’s an idea that enables people to not think about what’s right and wrong in the world, but instead to let everyone else think for them. It’s an idea that makes it possible to not question received wisdom, even if that wisdom is blatantly contradicted by the reality around you. It’s an idea that makes people vulnerable to skillful demagogues who are experts at manipulating strong feelings and fears — especially the fear of being left out, of not being part of the group.

Ted_haggardAnd it’s one of the more troubling aspects of religious faith — the idea that holding strong, passionate religious beliefs is by itself a good thing, regardless of what those beliefs are, regardless of whether they’re demonstrably untrue or demonstrably harmful. The idea that being a “person of faith” is an admirable trait, one you have to give at least grudging respect to… even if you find that person’s actual faith itself to be bigoted, evil, stupid, and/or insane. The idea that a lot of people believing the same thing together at the same time is a beautiful thing — regardless of whether the thing they believe is in any way based in reality. (BTW, before everyone writes in — yes, I understand that this isn’t the only way to be religious. But it’s a depressingly common one. And I think the “faith ultimately trumps evidence” nature of religion makes it unusually susceptible to this way of thinking.)

Bill_clintonAnd I don’t want a President who thinks that. That’s what we had with Bill Clinton — a weathervane President who was unable to take an unpopular moral stand, on same-sex marriage and about a billion other issues. And as much as I would give ten years off my life to have Bill Clinton be President again right now (how depressing is that?), as much as he’s pretty much been the best President of my conscious lifetime (and how depressing is THAT?), I sure as heck wouldn’t vote for him in a primary, and I don’t want another President like him.

WeddingBecause the upshot is this: Ingrid and I want to get married. Legally. But a whole lot of people have a strong feeling that it’s wrong — and that feeling is supposedly deserving of respect. Even though that feeling is based on ignorance. Even though that feeling is based on hatred and fear. Even though that feeling is being manipulated and taken advantage of by corrupt, power-hungry frauds. Even though that feeling completely disrespects us. We’re still supposed to respect it.

NoAnd I say yet again: No.

No, no, no, no, no.

Fuck that. We have to do nothing of the kind.

Barack_obama_3(P.S. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that these are not Obama’s own words — they’re the words of a colleague describing her his understanding of his ideas. But it’s a colleague who seems to understand him very well. And given the positions he’s publicly taken on same-sex marriage (he supports same-sex civil unions, but opposes same-sex marriage because “marriage is a religious bond”), it seems pretty damn plausible that “worthy of respect even if it’s wrong” is an accurate representation of his position on religious homophobia.)

It’s Not Fair! The Helsinki Complaints Choir

It’s official: This is the funniest thing I’ve seen online all week.

It’s the Helsinki Complaints Choir. And it’s exactly what that sounds like. (BTW, the video isn’t really eight and a half minutes long — it’s more like six and a half, for some reason there’s two minutes of blank space at the end.)

Apparently this complaints choir thing is a growing and worldwide artistic movement. If you go to YouTube and do a search on “complaints choir” (or just go to the complaints choir website — damn, i love this century!), you’ll find a bunch. But the Finnish one is by far the best. I think my favorite complaint in the whole song (probably because I was just talking about it) is “Old forests are cut down and turned into toilet paper/And still all the toilets are always out of paper.” It sounds so lyrical and haunting in Finnish!

Thanks to Pharyngula for the tip… and for the hilarious conversation afterward. We really need to get the Atheist Complaints Choir going!

Upbeat Atheism and Dirty Stories: A “Humanist Symposium” Shout-Out and a “Perverts Put Out!” Reminder

SunriseFirst, a shout-out and thank you to the latest Humanist Symposium, a neat and smart blog carnival collecting positive atheist blog posts — i.e., posts about atheism that talk about what’s good about atheism, rather than what’s bad about religion. They were kind enough to include my piece Dancing Molecules: An Atheist Moment of Transcendence in their latest roundup. So I wanted to say thanks, to both Confessions of an Anonymous Coward for hosting this latest carnival, and to Daylight Atheism for starting the carnival in the first place.

Best_american_erotic_2005And a quick reminder: I’m going to be reading tomorrow (Friday, May 25) at the Perverts Put Out! series of sex readings. I’m planning to read my very nasty story, “View from the 14th Floor,” originally published in On Our Backs and reprinted in Best American Erotica 2005 — and it looks like I may be tossing a snarky sex toy review into the mix as well. Come by and say howdy!

Perverts Put Out
Friday, May 25
7:30 pm
CounterPULSE
1310 Mission Street, San Francisco
$10-15

Old Growth Forests and My Butt: The Great Toilet Paper Dilemma

Scott_toilet_paperI found out something very disturbing recently. Not about Dr. Laura, or Mitt Romney, or Christopher Hitchens.

About toilet paper.

Old_growth_forest_2What I found out is that much commercial toilet paper is made from old growth forests.

HamburgerNow, I try to be socially conscious and eco-groovy; but I’m also not a psycho about it. I tend to apply the harm reduction model to my social conscience generally, and to my eco-friendliness in particular. If I generally walk and take the bus, I’m not going to kill myself over the times that we drive; if I generally eat organic and free-range and keep my consumption of energy-wasteful meat pretty light, I won’t go into conniptions over the occasional burger from the corner deli; if I generally recycle, I’m not going to have a guilt trip over throwing away the occasional to-go cup.

Quilted_northernAnd for a long time, I was that way about toilet paper. I was like, “Okay, I know the recycled stuff is better; but I’m really not crazy about it, and since I’m normally good about this sort of thing, I’m going to cut myself some slack on this one.”

Ten_minute_activistBut then I read this book called The Ten Minute Activist: Easy Ways to Take Back the Planet. (Actually, Ingrid read it first and then called the toilet paper issue to my attention.) Good book; all about ways to be socially conscious without being a martyr about it.

And one of the things they said was that lots of commercial toilet paper is made from old growth forests.

So I started thinking.

Old_growth_forestOkay. On the one hand — on one side of the scale — we have old-growth forests. Source of ecosystems, and oxygen, and, you know, life on the planet.

Wipe_my_buttOn the other side of the scale: Slightly less soft paper with which to wipe my butt.

EquationAnd I realized that this is a no-brainer. Having slightly softer paper with which to wipe my butt is not — repeat, not — more important than old-growth forests. It’s just not. There is no math in the world that can make that equation come out any differently.

Seventh_generation_toilet_paperSo the recycled stuff it is.

Cotton(P.S. In fact, recycled toilet paper technology is a lot better than it used to be. It’s still not as comfy as the commercial stuff, but it’s perfectly fine. There’s also this toilet paper made out of cotton instead of paper: we decided we liked the recycled paper stuff better, but if you’re considering making the great renunciation, the cotton stuff is worth trying.)

The Sins of the Mother: Dr. Laura and Son

Drlaura_schlessingerYou might think I’d be joining in the “Ha ha” brigade.

As you may have heard, Deryk Schlessinger — son of notorious homophobe/ sex-phobe/ right-wing relationship and sex advisor Dr. Laura Schlessinger — is under investigation by the Army (he’s a soldier in Afghanistan) for creating a MySpace page with some unbelievably disturbing and fucked-up shit on it. Among other things, the page (now removed) included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned “My Sweet Little Habib”; racial epithets; and a comment that “godless crazy people like me” have become “a generation of apathetic killers.”

Deryk_schlessinger(Read the whole story. It really is quite unsettling — this guy is clearly profoundly disturbed. The scariest part for me: “I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it… and some that don’t.”)

Nelson_hahaAnd much of the blogging that I’ve seen about this has been pretty gleeful, along the lines of “poetic justice” and “the bitch got what she deserved.” I’ve seen comments like, “What goes around, comes around”; “Good job, Mama Laura!”; “Karma has a hilarious tendency to bite us all in the ass”; and “Can’t wait for the next revelation.”

Ted_haggardNow, usually I’m up for a good round of Schadenfreude. I’m perfectly happy to cackle with glee over the downfall or public humiliation of right-wing, homophobic, sex-phobic hypocrites. Especially with folks like Mark Foley and Ted Haggard, where the punishment so perfectly fit the crime.

But not this time.

This time, I’m just sick and sad.

Here’s why.

SinsofthefathersFirst: When hateful fucked-up parents raise deeply disturbed children — that’s not poetic justice. That’s tragedy. Even when the fucked-up parent has made a career out of self-righteously scolding other parents and giving them appalling advice on how to raise their kids. I can see why it’s tempting… but really, what kind of karma or comeuppance is it to have parents “punished” with disturbed, sociopathic children? Do we on the left really want to be engaging in that kind of Old Testament, “sins of the fathers” thinking? Do we really want to be looking at messed-up kids as the just deserts that evil hateful parents deserve?

Dr_laura_nudeWhen bad things happen with the hateful hypocrites themselves, I’ll happily have a laff riot. (The Dr. Laura nude photos, I was perfectly willing to cackle over.) When bad things happen with their kids… not so much. It may be reasonable to point out the hypocrisy of smugly preaching about family values when your own family is so completely fucked up. But the gleeful tone of some of these blogs is, in my opinion, wildly inappropriate.

Second, and maybe even more importantly:

It’s not as if liberal families don’t ever have disturbed kids.

AlcoholismLiberal, gay-positive parents can be distant, controlling, abusive, alcoholic, generally crazy, and any number of other things that can seriously fuck up their kids. And for that matter, totally healthy families can end up with disturbed kids. (It’s not nearly as likely, but it does happen.)

Hate_is_not_a_family_valueI agree with the T-shirts and picket signs that hate is not a family value. But neither is directing your contempt for hateful homophobes in the direction of their fucked-up children. Let’s please not act as if violently disturbed kids are somehow the natural result of right-wing parents… and please, please, let’s not be so joyful about it.

Mistakes Were Made: The Arrogance and Fun of Admitting You’re Wrong

Wrong_way_2_2“As smug and self-righteous as people can be when they’re loudly insisting that they’re right, it does not even come close to the smug self-righteousness of people who are loudly pointing out that they’re big enough to admit their mistakes.”

I’m quoting myself here.

See, I get a little tired of hearing skeptics, science-lovers, and atheists get accused of being arrogant, completely convinced that we’re right about everything, and unwilling to either say “I was wrong” or “I don’t know.”

Scientific_method_2I mean, of course we can be arrogant and stubborn, what with us being human beings and all. But in my experience, skeptics and science-lovers and atheists, while we can be very certain that we’re right, are also as a rule very willing to admit it when we’re wrong. (That’s exactly how science works, after all — it’s a self-correcting system that works by people acknowledging that they’re wrong and changing their mind when the evidence becomes sufficiently convincing.)

ArroganceAnd I think there’s a substantial and functional difference between the arrogance of saying, “I really think I’m right about this — but if I’m wrong, then by all means convince me”… and the arrogance of saying, “Nothing you could say or do, nothing I could possibly see or experience, could ever shake my faith.”

Richard_dawkinsIn fact, not only do skeptics and science-lovers and atheists admit it when we’re wrong — we’ll do it proudly. Like the guy Richards Dawkins is always poncing on about, the college professor who publicly shook the hand of the person who proved one of his pet theories wrong and said, “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.” Skeptics and science-lovers and atheists will not only admit that we’re wrong and that we don’t know everything — we’ll do so happily. Proudly. Even smugly and arrogantly We’d take out full-page ads in the New York Times if we could afford it.

DebateBy Jove, nobody admits that they’re not always right and that they don’t know everything better than we do!

SmugSo I’m going to do an unbelievably smug, arrogant, self-aggrandizing thing here — and take you on a tour of some of the places in this blog, either in the posts or the comments, where I’ve done one of the following:

1. admitted that I was wrong and changed my mind;
2. called attention to mistakes I’ve made in the recent past;
3. pointed out a subject on which I recently changed or was currently changing my mind;
4. acknowledged my uncertainty and/or my limited or faulty knowledge on a subject;
5. asked for help, advice, or information.

Question_mark_headI’m not even talking about the places where I’ve pointed out the limitations of science or human knowledge generally. And I’m not doing the tour of places where other rabid atheists/ skeptics/ science lovers have admitted that they’re wrong. Maybe I’ll do that in another post someday. For now, I’m sticking to my own personal mistakes, ignorance, and limitations.

This is going to be fun. For me, anyway. I hope y’all enjoy it as well.

Deathly_hallows“Again, I don’t know why I’m subjecting myself to this public humiliation, as my track record on these pop-culture predictions has consistently sucked.”
The “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Prediction Contest, or, The Most Trivial Thing On This Blog To Date, And That’s Saying Something

Bill“Important disclaimer: I’m a smart observant person, but I’m not a legal expert. If any legal experts see any flaws in my understanding of the law, please point them out.”
Hate Crime Laws, and the Difference Between Speech and Evidence

Hitchens“I’m literally and physically pulling those numbers out of my ass as we speak, by the way.”
So Christopher Hitchens Walks Into A Bar…

Gonzales“I think that’s a very good point, Jon. But now I’m wondering. It seems to me (and do correct me if I’m wrong, you obviously know a lot more about this than I do)…”
Our No. 1 Crime Fighter: Alberto Gonzales, and What Government Is For – comment

Scientist“I am passionate about science, especially for someone who’s only studied it as a humanities major and an educated layperson.”
The Slog Through the Swamp: What Science Is, And Why It Works, And Why I Care

Probability_book“Our brains are not very good at grasping statistics and probability. (That includes mine — I can’t get more than ten pages into a ‘Statistics and Probability For Dummies’ book without my puny earthling brain exploding.)”
A Lattice of Coincidence: Metaphysics, the Paranormal, and My Answer to Layne

Cards_fanned“Okay, this is freaking me out now. I based my metaphysical beliefs for YEARS on the idea that this pattern was ridiculously unlikely. Sheesh. (BTW, if there are any mathematicians or statisticians reading this who are screaming with frustration at my math, please feel free to correct me.)”
Ditto. This one counts for double — I pointed out a mistake I’d made in the recent past, AND asked for help on a subject on which I knew my understanding to be faulty. Yay, me!

Duke“But… oh, just go read the piece on the SmackDog blog. He says it better than I can.”
Credibility and the Duke Rape Case Fiasco

Blasphemy_challenge“I’m sorry that I misunderstood you about being angry because people were making snarky jokes about your faith. It seemed to me like that was part of what you were saying. My bad.”
Defending the Blasphemy Challenge: A Reply – comment
(Also in that comment: “Plenty of smart people have had some stupid ideas. I’m one of them.”)

Bible1“I’ve actually read a fair amount of the Bible. I was a religion major, for goodness’ sake. But until recently, I somehow managed to miss this bit.”
Greta Christina Takes the Blasphemy Challenge

Religious_symbols“I think I need to clarify my point about faith. I thought I’d made it clearly in my original post, Well, There’s Your Problem; but if Laura — who does, in fact, try hard to understand what I’m saying and give me the benefit of the doubt — didn’t understand it, than I obviously said it wrong. For which I apologize.”
Answering Laura: Atheists on Religion, Believers on Religion, Part 3

Bergstrom“In a perfectly non-sexist society, it’s possible that we might still have more male engineers than female, more female teachers than male. I don’t know. I don’t think any of us knows.”
Brain, Brain, What Is Brain? or, Is Gender Hard-Wired?

Question_mark“…since my own definitions have been shifting around lately, I thought I’d gas on about it here.”
Atheist or Agnostic?

God_delusion“Lately, however, it’s been becoming increasingly clear that ’100% sure that there is no God’ isn’t the only definition of ‘atheist.’”
Ditto. Actually, the whole point of <A HREF="this post was to call attention to the fact that I was changing my mind about an important topic.

Sex_offender_sign“There are some very commonly-held myths about sex offenders that turn out to be total bullshit — myths that I believed myself until I read this piece.”
Please Think of the Children: Sex Offender Hysteria

Blake_god_1“When you don’t believe in God, the question ‘What purpose do we serve?’ is as elusive as ‘What caused us to be here?’ is solid. It isn’t simply mysterious. It’s unanswerable.”
Why Are We Here? One Agnostic’s Half-Baked Philosophy. (This one may seem like cheating, since I was using the abstract “you” to mean “all naturalists” as well as just “me.” But I was mostly talking about my own naturalist philosophy here, not other people’s; and besides, it was such a big important a topic for me to admit my limitations on that I couldn’t resist.)

Selma“…ripped fishnets and miniskirts and skimpy tops don’t make me look like a punk rock waif any more. They make me look like an aging tramp. And I don’t know why that is — or whether I’m okay with it.”
The Aging Slut

Fishnets“I want to dress in a way that reclaims my sexual power. But I want to do it in a way that doesn’t make me look, or feel, pathetic and desperate. And I’m not sure how to do that. Any thoughts?”
Ditto. In fact, this entire post is about how I don’t know the answer to an important question and am struggling with it.

Matisse_woman_reading“Quick caveat/tangent — I may not be being fair. I haven’t been reading a lot of contemporary literary fiction lately, so maybe I’ve just been unlucky.”
The Death of the Novel? – comment

Mark_foley“Jon, you make a good point. I think the abuse of power issue is more important than I’d originally made it out to be.”
Sixteen Candles: The Rep. Foley Scandal – comment

Kimjongil_1“I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and am now thinking that, on the specific topic of North Korea, I may well have over-reacted.”
North Korea, and Reason 8,624 that the War on Iraq was a Bad Idea – comment

Bisexual“I have (a theory) about my ‘bis tend to end up with women’ observation… But I’m very aware of the fact that my circle of close friends does not constitute a statistically accurate sampling — so I want to expand the sampling to my circle of people who read my blog. Much more accurate…”
If You Believe in Bisexuals, Clap Your Hands: My Letter to Dan Savage

Lordoftherings“I am now convinced that I was mistaken about LOTR’s moral simplicity and political irrelevance. Again, I haven’t read it for 20 years, and even then I didn’t read it very carefully after the first 100 pages or so, since I wasn’t enjoying it. Mea culpa.”
Why I Like “Harry Potter” Better than “Lord of the Rings” – comment

Wrong_wayWe hope you have enjoyed this tour of Greta’s Willingness To Admit That She’s Wrong And Doesn’t Know Everything. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program of opinionated ranting.

Come Hear Me Read! Perverts Put Out, May 25

Best_american_erotic_2005Come hear me read dirty stories! In honor of National Masturbation Month, the Perverts Put Out series of sex readings will be holding their Wank Edition, a sterling celebration of self-abuse, on Friday, May 25, with fabled and infamous sex writers Charlie Anders. Meliza Bañales, m. i. blue, Jen Cross, Juba Kalamka, Thomas Roche, horehound stillpoint, emcees Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard… and of course, MEEEEEEE. I’m planning to read my very nasty story, “View from the 14th Floor,” originally published in On Our Backs and reprinted in Best American Erotica 2005.

If you haven’t heard me read, you really should. I realize this sounds totally smug, but if I do say so myself, I’m a very good fun reader, and I have a special way with a dirty story. If you’re in the Bay Area, come by and introduce yourself — I’d love to meet my bloggies in the flesh!

Perverts Put Out
Friday, May 25
7:30 pm
CounterPULSE
1310 Mission Street, San Francisco
$10-15