If some atheist women pose nude for a calendar, does this have implications for the question of sexual conduct at atheist conferences?
My attention was recently called to a blog post by John Loftus at Debunking Christianity, in which he addresses (among other things) this question. I quote:
Some high profile secular women have undressed for a Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar, which is promoted by some of the women at Freethought Blogs and includes Greta Christina and Maryam Namazie in solidarity with blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who posted a nude photo of herself as a scream “against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.” Others participated in Boobquake. Skepchick regularly posts something called “Skepchick Quickies” (*ahem*). The message is clear to me, that women can use their bodies as they see fit. I understand that completely. Men do not own the bodies of women. (No, I’m not interested at all thank you very much).
But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.” It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?
I was unaware that my posing for the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar was sending a “mixed message,” or indeed any kind of message, about people having sex at conferences. But if there’s anyone reading this for whom these messages are getting mixed, let me un-mix them posthaste.
First, let me get this out of the way before we go any further: The question of whether I — or anyone else, of any gender or any level of prominence — posed nude for a calendar? This is entirely unrelated to the question of whether people like to hook up for sex at conferences. I am frankly baffled as to why these questions are being seen as relevant to each other, or how the former could be seen as a “message,” mixed or otherwise, about the latter.
So let’s talk for a moment about hooking up for sex at conferences. Yes, some people like to do this. Some men like to do this; some women like to do this; some trans and gender-fluid people who don’t identify as one gender or another like to do this. There is nothing wrong with this. There are some things wrong with some of the ways that some people go about doing it — but there is nothing wrong with the basic idea of hooking up at conferences. Some people at conferences like to do this…
…and some people don’t. Some people are open to this possibility — and some are not. Some people who enjoy socializing at bars during conferences are solely interested in socializing of the non-hooking-up variety. And some people who are interested in hooking up will nevertheless not be interested in hooking up with you. A general interest in the possibility of hooking up does not imply a specific interest in hooking up with any particular person.
So yes, if you’re interested in hooking up at atheist conferences, knowing which other people might share this interest — as an interest in general, or with you in particular — is not always obvious. So if you’re at a conference hotel bar, and you’re trying to figure out which people there also want to hook up — and which among those number might be interested in hooking up with you — how are you supposed to know?
You ask them.
Not right off the bat, of course. There are some settings in which etiquette permits introducing yourself to strangers by asking if they want to have sex with you — but hotel bars at conferences are, as far as I can tell, not among them. So you start by conversing on other topics. You see if you establish a rapport. You behave in slightly flirtatious ways, and see if these are met with a withdrawal or a response in kind. If it seems that things are moving forward with this, you behave in slightly more flirtatious ways. If this seems to be moving forward, and you want to try establishing physical contact — you ask them if they would be interested in that.
This seems to be a tricky concept for some people. So I’ll spell it out again: If you are interested in having sex with someone, the person you need to consult about it is the person you’re interested in.
You do not, however, consult the question of whether some atheist bloggers posed nude for a calendar. Or whether they participated in a mock scientific experiment designed to make fun of the hypothesis that female immodesty causes earthquakes. Or whether they title their quick-summary-of-interesting-links blog posts with the mildly double-entendre title of “quickies.”
These activities are not what create an environment at atheist conferences where people look to hook up. What creates an environment where people look to hook up is the fact that human beings are descended from thousands of generations of animals who replicated their DNA through sexual reproduction, and we have evolved to be extremely interested in sex. Yes, some social occasions are more sexually charged than others — sex parties more so, funerals not so much — but conventions and conferences have long been environments where some people hook up, since well before I posed nude for a calendar. And I suspect this is true for atheist conferences as well. Yes, some secular men do think of some secular women as sexually available — most likely because some of them are, as are some secular people of all genders. I have only been attending atheist conferences for a couple of years, but I strongly suspect that people have been hooking up at them long before Boobquake or Skepchick Quickies or the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar.
Now. As it happens, the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar was not intended to be erotic or pornographic. (If I were to permit myself a tangent, I might write a brief discourse here on the notion that nudity automatically implies sex.) But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the calendar was intended to be erotic. Or let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I had recently participated in some entirely different project that was intended to be erotic. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I recently performed in an explicit adult video — let’s call it “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ with Belladonna and Maggie Mayhem — and posted trailers for the film on my blog.
How would that, in any way, be relevant to the question of whether people are looking to hook up at atheist conferences?
How would my performance in “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ send any kind of message whatsoever about whether other women at atheist conferences may or may not be available for hooking up?
And if some people took this bizarre leap of logic, and mistakenly interpreted my performance in “Mixologist Spanking Gangbang Vol. 9″ as creating an environment at atheist conventions where some men may look to hook up and might think that some women would be interested in that… how would that be that my responsibility?
It occurs to me that we may be facing one of Natalie Reed’s classic Catches-22. If women display our bodies, if we discuss our sexuality or make sexual jokes or talk about sex in a positive way, we are accused of (among other things) sending mixed messages about whether we — we personally, or women generally — are sexually available. But if we don’t, if we conceal our bodies and veer away from the topic of sex, we are accused of being uptight, sex-hating, no-fun prudes.
But I suppose that’s a bit of a tangent. The message I am trying to convey, hopefully now unmixed, is this: Some people, of all genders, like to hook up at conferences. Some do not. If you want to know which ones are which, consult (after an appropriate introductory interlude) the people in question. Do not consult the question of whether atheist bloggers of any gender are posing nude for calendars. It is not relevant. Thank you.