Greta Speaking in Berkeley, Sun. Feb. 20: Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

East_Bay_Atheists

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area — and especially if you’re in the East Bay — come hear me speak! I’ll be speaking to the East Bay Atheists at the Berkeley library on Sunday, Feb. 20, starting at 1:30 pm, on the topic, “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” Quick summary:

The atheist movement is often accused of being driven by anger. What are so many atheists so angry about? Is this anger legitimate? And can anger be an effective force behind a movement for social change? Greta Christina talks about whether the perception of the atheist movement as an angry one is accurate; whether it’s fair for atheists to be angry at religion in general for harms done by specific religions; whether atheist anger is hurting our movement; and more.

I’ll be speaking for 60 minutes, and will be doing Q&A afterward, so come prepared to grill me. Or just come by to say howdy.

LOCATION: Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. (one block from downtown Berkeley BART), Berkeley, CA
TIME: 1:30 – 3:30 PM
SPONSORS: East Bay Atheists
COST: Free

Hope to see you there!

He’s A Super Freak: Tiger Woods and Sexual Compassion

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. I never reprinted it here, since it was very topical, and by the time the reprint rights had reverted to me the media flare-up I was writing about had run its course. But the Blowfish Blog archives are apparently no longer on the Internets, and the original piece is no longer available. So in the interest of completism and making all my published works accessible, I’m going ahead and posting it here.

Important note: This piece discusses my personal sex life and sexual fantasies. Family members and other who don’t want to read about that, please don’t read this. (I would also just like to point out: I believe this is my only post to be tagged with the categories Sex, SM, and Sports. I’m finding myself very entertained by this.)

Text messages Okay. Maybe I’m a freak of nature. But does anybody else like Tiger Woods better after reading the freaky text messages?

Or, maybe more accurately: Does anyone else have more sympathy and compassion for Tiger Woods after reading the freaky text messages?

Until recently, I had almost zero interest in the Tiger Woods sex scandal. Rich, famous, powerful man; maintained a squeaky-clean public image for years; turned out to be sneaking around on his wife with multiple mistresses and sex workers. Ho freaking hum. Wake me when something remotely unusual happens.

But then — pretty much by accident, since I’d been ignoring this story to an almost aggressive degree — I read about the text messages he sent to one of his sex partners, Joslyn James, which she saved and released to the media.

Including:

I want to treat you rough. Throw you around, spank and slap you

Slap your face. Treat you like a dirty little whore. Put my cock in your ass and then shove it down your throat

Hold you down while i choke you and Fuck that ass that i own

Then im going to tell you to shut the Fuck up while i slap your face and pull your hair for making noise

Where do you want to be bitten

I really do want to be rough with you. Slap you around

For years. And punish you for not seeing me more

I want you to beg for my cock. Kiss you all over to convince me to let you have it in your mouth

Next time i see you, you better beg and if you don’t do it right i will slap, spank, bite and fuck you till mercy

I read these texts. And my whole perspective changed.

All of a sudden, my perspective on Tiger Woods was no longer, “Powerful man with a sense of sexual entitlement, who cheats on his wife with impunity and doesn’t think sexual ethics apply to him.”

All of a sudden, my perspective was, “Oh. He’s kinky.”

And that’s a radically different perspective.

Cheating For starters: While I don’t generally condone cheating, there are a handful of situations where I understand why people do it, and feel some compassion for people who do it, and recognize that a reasonable person might decide that it’s the least bad choice available to them. The main one I’ve written about before is the situation where one partner in a deeply tangled relationship turns off the tap on sex — unilaterally, non-negotiably, and permanently. (And yes, I know, not everyone agrees with me about that. Please, can we not start that argument again?)

But I also have a fair degree of compassion for people in long-term monogamous relationships (or supposedly monogamous relationships), who have strong, deep-rooted sexual desires that their partners can’t or won’t accommodate. I have, for instance, a tremendous amount of compassion for married people who are figuring out, partway through their marriage, that they’re gay. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Break up with your spouse or partner of many years… before you experiment and figure out whether you’re really gay? It’s a lousy situation, one where no choice is going to be a really good one, and people who find themselves in it have to make the best bad choice they can.

And this applies to being kinky — every bit as much as it applies to being gay. What are you supposed to do if you start figuring out, partway through your marriage, that you’re kinky? That the fantasies you’ve been having for most of your life may be more than just fantasies? That they may be a core part of your sexuality, without which sex is always going to be disconnected and unsatisfying?

Coming out day Yes, in a perfect world, people would come out about their sexual desires and orientations before they get into committed relationships with people who can’t or won’t satisfy them. But we don’t live in a perfect world, or anything like a perfect world. We live in a sex-negative and sexually ignorant world, and both the hostility and the misinformation about sex — especially about sex that’s kinky or otherwise unusual — means it often takes years for people to figure out who they are sexually, and accept it, and find a way to fold it into their lives. At which point, their lives have often already gotten tangled into a web that it may be hard to get out of. Hard on themselves… and hard on other people.

Now. Add to this the fact that plenty of sexual desires and orientations aren’t socially acceptable. To say the least. Plenty of sexual desires and orientations will get you treated like a pariah if people find out about them.

And being kinky is definitely on that list. In fact, I’d argue that being kinky is significantly higher on that list than being gay. In much of the world, being gay has a fair degree of acceptance, and isn’t that big a deal. In the overwhelming majority of the world, being kinky still gets you treated as a mentally unbalanced, amoral freak. At best.

Consensual-sadomasochism Yes, some of us are willing to be out about it anyway. I am, obviously. But frankly, my willingness to be out about being kinky has less to do with my courage and integrity and fine nobility of character… and a whole lot more to do with the particular circumstances of my life. Circumstances I can’t really take credit for. I don’t have kids. I live in a sexually tolerant part of the world. I don’t have a job that coming out as kinky could jeopardize: I’m not a teacher, or a public official, or a pillar of the local business community.

Or a professional athlete.

And as long as being kinky is as deeply stigmatized as it is, I’m going to have compassion for kinky people who keep their kinks private. I wish they wouldn’t keep it private from their spouses; but again, that can be a complicated moral decision, and while it isn’t the decision I’d make, I can see why some people in some situations might decide to make it.

Finally:

This is almost certainly not fair or rational. But I now have sympathy and compassion with Tiger Woods for an entirely different reason:

I now see him as family.

I see him as one of us.

When I read those text messages, I did not for one second think, “What a disgusting person Tiger Woods is for doing those horrible things to that poor woman.” When I read those text messages, I thought, “Damn, that’s hot. I want to do that. I want to have that done to me. Now, please.” I could totally see myself doing any or all of the activities described in those messages. Or writing a porn story based on the messages. Or going to a Perverts Put Out reading and hearing a porn story by Thomas Roche or Charlie Jane Anders or some other brilliant sick fuck, based on the messages. And I find it easier to cut people slack when I see them as part of my tribe. It isn’t fair or rational, but it’s human.

Tiger-Woods-Nike I’m not totally letting Tiger Woods off the hook. For one thing, I have a serious problem with the deliberate way he played the squeaky- clean public persona to his advantage. There’s a difference between keeping your sexuality private, and deliberately projecting a deceptive, concocted image of it. What’s more, the squeaky-clean, All-American, family-man schtick totally plays into the exact same sex-negativity and kink- negativity I’ve been complaining about. I have compassion for kinky people who feel like they have to stay in the closet and get their kinky thrills on the down low. I have rather less compassion for people who do all this… while at the same time trading on the idea that a nicey-nice sex life somehow makes you a better citizen/ role model/ sneaker salesman. It’s not as bad as closeted politicians who vote for anti-gay legislation while screwing around on the sly with same-sex partners… but it’s in a similar category, and it’s a category that ticks me off.

Ultimately, though, I don’t know what the deal is with Tiger Woods. And neither does anyone else, except Tiger Woods himself (and maybe not even him). I have no idea, for instance, what the deal is with his marriage: whether he tried to bring his wife into his kinks and she refused, or whether he never told her about them, or whether they had a wild and kinky and happy sex life and he skanked around on the side anyway. Or what. There’s too much about this story that I don’t know for me to really come to any fair or accurate judgment about it.

I just know that my thinking about Tiger Woods has shifted.

The Tiger Woods sex scandal in general, and the kinky text messages in particular, are having the overall effect of making his popularity drop like an anvil. Most people — especially in the media — seem to be reacting to the text messages with derision or disgust or both. But I’m having the opposite reaction. The text messages aren’t alienating me from Tiger Woods. They’re making me identify with him. They’re making him seem less like an unapproachable cog of the carefully manipulated celebrity machine… and more like someone I might run into at a party. More like someone with a complicated sex life, who’s made some fucked-up but understandable choices about it.

More like, you know, a human being.