Greta’s Speaking Tour, NE Ohio and Western PA, Oct. 13-15

GretaIf you live in Northeastern Ohio or Western Pennsylvania — or if you’re going to be there in October — come hear me speak! I’m going to be doing a whirlwind speaking tour of the area, October 13-15, with stops in Cleveland, Kent, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh.

I’ll be speaking on three different topics, no less: Atheism and Sexuality, Atheist Philosophies of Death, and What The Atheist Movement Can Learn From the LGBT Movement. So come hear me more than once, if you like! I’ll be doing Q&A at every talk, so come with questions if you have any. And if you do come, please introduce yourself and say howdy. Here are the details:

LOCATION: Kent State University, Kent, OH
KSU Student Center, Rm 317
TIME: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
SPONSOR: KSU Freethinkers
TOPIC: Atheist Philosophies of Death

LOCATION: Brecksville Public Library, Brecksville, OH (near Cleveland)
TIME: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
SPONSOR: Center for Inquiry, Cleveland chapter
TOPIC: Atheist Philosophies of Death

LOCATION: Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH
Ohio Room
TIME: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
SPONSORS: YSU, Dr. James Dale Ethics Center
TOPIC: Atheism and Sexuality

LOCATION: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Spartan Room in Thwing Center (Case’s Student Union) (map here)
TIME: 1:00pm – 3:00pm
SPONSORS: Case Center for Inquiry and Spectrum
TOPIC: Atheism and Sexuality

LOCATION: Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, PA
One North Shore Drive, on Pittsburgh’s North Shore next to Heinz Field, on the Science Stage
TIME: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
EVENT: Associated with Drinking Skeptically – Pittsburgh
SPONSORS: Center for Inquiry Pittsburgh; co-sponsored by Steel City Skeptics and Drinking Skeptically – Pittsburgh
ADMISSION: $6 to non-CFI members, free to FOC. Parking $5 , $3 for Carniege members.
TOPIC: What The Atheist Movement Can Learn From the LGBT Movement

Hope to see you there!

Atheist Meme of the Day: Pascal’s Wager Makes No Sense

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“Believing in God is a safer bet” is a terrible reason to believe in God. How do you decide which god to bet on — and which religion is right about how their god wants to be worshipped? For this bet to make sense, you’d need good evidence that the religion you’ve chosen is the right one — which is exactly what atheists are asking for. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

A Cornucopia of Climaxes

Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life in a tremendous amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff, absolutely positively do not want to read this piece. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Cornucopia I’ve been thinking about orgasms.

Just for a change.

Orgasms, I think we can all agree, are great. (I know — what a controversial and groundbreaking assertion! Alert the media!) But lately, I’ve been thinking about the vast variety of climactic sexual experiences that aren’t, technically speaking, orgasms. I’ve been thinking about sexual experiences that feel, in some sense, like an orgasm, or like a second cousin of an orgasm — a shiver, an explosion of energy, a feeling of relaxation and release — but that probably wouldn’t register as “orgasm” if I was hooked up to a Masters and Johnson orgasm- measuring machine.

We have a poverty of language about sexual pleasure. And this includes a poverty of language about climactic sexual pleasure. Every time I read about the four stages of human sexual response cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution), I feel like I’m looking at a map of a forest that’s only mapping out the one path from the parking lot to the main lodge, without showing any of the trails and creeks and pastures. Technically, I suppose these not-quite-climactic climaxes fall into the “excitement” or “plateau” phase of the response cycle… but that language doesn’t capture the feeling of rich, complex satisfaction these other trails have to offer.

So here are some of the not-exactly-orgasmic sexual climaxes I’ve experienced, and the language I’ve come up with to describe them. If you have some of your own, please speak up about them in the comments!

Mini_cooper Mini-gasms. When I’m on my way to coming, I’ll often have a series of little mini-climaxes. They’re not technically orgasms; they’re not all-encompassing the way an orgasm is, and they don’t make me feel satisfied, except for just a second. In fact, they actually wind me up more. But they’re definitely in the same family: the “over the top of the rollercoaster” peak, the shuddering release of tension and energy. It’s just a smaller rollercoaster. They’re like the amuse-bouche of the sexual world: in giving a little taste of what’s to come, a taste that’s nowhere nearly large enough to be filling, they excite the hunger rather than satisfying it.

Not that that’s a bad thing.

Roller_coaster Thrill-gasms. If I’m really wound up — if I’ve been thinking about a sexual encounter for hours or days before I have it — I’ll sometimes have a little shiver of a climax the moment my partner first touches me. Or a not so little shiver. Or several shivers. The moment after a long period of anticipation, when my body feels the erotic touch of my partner and realizes that it’s finally about to get laid… it feels in an odd way like the moment after a long period of foreplay when my body finally gets to come.

Endorphins Pain-gasms. All the masochists in the audience are nodding their heads. For some of us, pain — the right kind of pain, in the right context — can feel not only as arousing and exciting as more conventional sexual stimulation, but as climatically satisfying as well. It’s like a sexual response cycle in a parallel universe: the excitement of the first few warm-up blows, the plateau of the high-flying endorphin high, the climactic shudders when the pain pushes the envelope, the rich feeling of peace and dissolving into the dark when it’s all over. It just doesn’t involve the involuntary rhythmic contractions of the genital muscles. (Except when it does. The parallel universes do sometimes bleed into each other. I can’t be the only person in the world who’s come from a beating.)

Bronze_door_knob Nipple-gasms. This one is different. This one, I think, legitimately counts as a Masters and Johnson orgasm. I’ve even been known to ejaculate from having my nipples played with. But it has a significantly different flavor to it than a standard “genital sensation” orgasm. Coming without any physical stimulation coming anywhere near my genitals… to me, it’s a radically different experience. Different enough that it needs its own name.

Penseur Think-gasms. I love this one. Walking to work; sitting at my computer at the cafe; sitting on the bus staring out the window… if I’m fiercely fantasizing about a sexual scenario, the imaginary orgasm will sometimes shiver through my real body. It’s not quite like an orgasm itself (which is just as well for the other people at the cafe or on the bus). It’s like an echo of an orgasm. Or a shadow of one.

BillyMills_Crossing_Finish_Line_1964Olympics Finishing off. This one doesn’t quite fit into my list, as it definitely counts as an actual, no-questions genital orgasm. But I’m including it anyway, since I think our language for different kinds of orgasms is even more impoverished than our language for non-orgasmic climaxes.

This is the flip side of the mini-gasm. Sometimes when I’m having sex, I’ll have a series of orgasms — real, honest- to- Loki, Masters and Johnson orgasms, orgasms complete with the peak and the release and the coming down, orgasms that feel shattering and render me speechless — but that don’t quite leave me feeling… finished. In order to feel completely satisfied, completely done, I need to have the One Last Orgasm That Finishes Me Off. I don’t know if the One Last Orgasm is physiologically different from a regular one, I don’t know if it would register any differently if I was hooked up to an orgasm detection machine… but it feels radically, qualitatively different from other orgasms. Almost as different as coming feels from not coming at all.

Aftershock Aftershocks. Damn, these are fun. They’re almost better in some ways than the actual orgasms themselves. These are the shivering tremors I sometimes get after I’ve come: when I’m still feeling all open and aroused and sexual, but am totally relaxed and done with the “excitement/ plateau/ orgasm/ rinse and repeat” cycle. I don’t really experience them in my genitals; I feel them more on the surface of my skin (especially if my partner is touching me just right), and deep down in the core of my body. It’s almost as if my muscles and bones are having the orgasm, instead of my clit and my cunt. And they’re a lot more Zen than a regular orgasm: since I’ve already come and am no longer straining frenetically towards that delightful but sometimes elusive goal, I can just lie back and enjoy them.

So those are a few of my trails in the woods; a few samples from my climactic cornucopia.

What are yours?

Atheist Meme of the Day: “Religion Is Comforting” Doesn’t Mean It’s Good or True

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“Many people find religion comforting” is a terrible argument for religion. Many people are comforted by the idea that global warming isn’t real, too. That doesn’t make this opinion helpful — for the people who think it, or for society. And it certainly doesn’t make this opinion true. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Bad Boys and “Mad Men”: What Do Women Want?

Mad men Why do smart, strong, feminist women get hot for rogues and Lotharios, sexy but selfish bad boys who use women and throw them away?

The new season of “Mad Men” is upon us: the brilliant, beautiful, painful, inspiring, fascinating TV series on AMC about a New York ad agency in the early 1960s, and the screwed-up, rapidly- changing- but- not- rapidly- enough world of gender and race and sex during that place and time.

And it’s reminding me of a rant I’ve been wanting to rant for a little while now:

Why are so many women hot for Don Draper?

The lying, philandering, self-absorbed, work-obsessed, emotionally warped, goes- through- mistresses- like- cigarettes, sexist prick of a lead character, Don Draper?

Via Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, we have this charming article in the New York Observer, speculating on why Don Draper is inspiring so much lust in so many women. The gist of the article is that feminism has been too successful — and women aren’t happy with it. We’ve gotten our equal partners, men who share housework and child-care, men who express their emotions and support us in our careers, men who treat women with respect and value home and family more than work… and it’s letting us down. What we really want is Don Draper. And we’re hypocrites for expecting men to be more feminist… while fantasizing about sexist bad boys who treat women like dirt.

Speaking as someone with a mild Don Draper fetish (although Joan Holloway is the “Mad Men” character I really crave): This is just silly and wrong. It’s silly and wrong for so many reasons, I can’t even begin to outline them all. (Although I’m certainly going to try.)


Thus begins my latest Media Darling column on CarnalNation, Bad Boys and “Mad Men”: What Do Women Want? To find out more about what the nationwide Don Draper fetish does and doesn’t say about female desires and fantasies — and why having fantasies about a fictional sexist philanderer doesn’t undermine our feminism — read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to Carnal Nation — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

Atheist Meme of the Day: “You Can’t Disprove God” Is Not an Argument for God

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“You can’t absolutely prove that it isn’t true” is a terrible argument for God. Just like it’s a terrible argument for unicorns, fairies, Zeus, and the three- inch- tall pink pony behind my sofa who teleports to Guam the moment anyone looks back there. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Friday Cat Blogging: The Two-Level Effect

And now, some cute pictures of our cats.

Ingrid Lydia Violet pile of pillows 1

Ingrid Lydia Violet pile of pillows 2

When Ingrid had her back injury, she spent most of her time on the sofa, with pillows piled around her in different configurations to help her get more comfortable. Lydia and Violet, needless to say, loved this. Here they are, artfully arranged around her on two pillow towers. A two-level effect for the Knights Who Say Ni!

(By the way: Ingrid is doing much, much better. She still isn’t Morris dancing, but other than that she’s mostly back to normal. As if Morris dancing again will somehow make her normal…)

5 (More) Things Society Unfairly Expects of Men

Meninfeminism A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece called 5 Stupid, Unfair and Sexist Things Expected of Men, about how sexism damages men as well as women, and how men as well as women get pressured to fit into narrow, rigid, impossibly self-contradictory gender roles. I argued that people who care about feminism ought to care about how sexist gender roles hurt men; partly because we’re human beings, with a sense of justice and compassion for one another regardless of gender, and partly because the cause of feminism can only be helped by convincing more men that it’ll be good for them, too.

Many people, including many men, responded positively and passionately to the piece. They saw themselves in the piece all too well. They appreciated having their experience recognized and — dare I say it? — validated. They hoped the conversation would bring these issues into the light, and lighten the burden of these expectations on them and on other men. Of all the complaints I got about the piece, one of the most common was that the five gender roles I picked were just the tip of the iceberg.

So today, I’m following up.

Here are five more ways that men in my life have told me they feel screwed over by sexism: five more rigid, narrow definitions of maleness that men feel pressured to contort themselves into.


Thus begins my new piece on AlterNet, 5 (More) Things Society Unfairly Expects of Men. To find out some of the rigid and sexist gender roles men have to deal with — from bringing home the bacon to getting it up — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Atheist Meme of the Day: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

It makes no sense to point to wonders in the world as evidence for God… and then dismiss horrors in the world by saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” You can’t have it both ways. If an all-powerful God is responsible for one, he’s responsible for both. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

The Joke Gets Bigger: JT Eberhard and the History of Skepticon at Secular Student Alliance Conference

JTEberhard Hilarious and inspiring, and entirely made of win. In this video, JT Eberhard — co-Founder of Skepticon, and captain of the Missouri State University Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — explains how a couple of jokers chalking the FSM on a college campus turned into a major annual atheist conference with over 600 attendees (and climbing). Lots of the talks at the recent Secular Student Alliance conference were awesome — but this was the only one that was still making me chuckle days later. And he makes some seriously important points about how to build an organization that people will actually want to participate in… and how to not let “I don’t know how to do that” stop you.

BTW, JT is on the Secular Student Alliance speakers bureau. If you want him to come to your group and debate believers, discuss organizational and fundraising models, or explain about building pirate forts as a recruiting tool, check him out.

(Video after the jump, since putting it before the jump screws up my archives. Or, if you prefer, here’s a direct link to YouTube.)

[Read more…]