There is no larger trend of women being forced to be baby-makers

I don’t really have much more to say about the whole forcing-women-back-into-the-alley tactics of the Republican party, supported by people whose ideation of their religion includes prohibitions of abortion that are wholly unmentioned in their foundational texts. But I’m certain they’re the only parties in this world that think women exist solely for the purposes of procreation. Other instances are totally isolated.

Take, for instance, the twisted logic by which Republicans defund Planned Parenthood, ostensibly to prevent abortions, inevitably leading to more underage pregnancy when these kids cannot access contraceptives.

Take, for instance, the baby factory recently broken up in Bangkok. The Vietnamese women who were coerced or kidnapped and pressganged into having children were freed, thankfully.

Take, for instance, the vile attacks on a female reporter whose public rape in Egypt was evidently not punishment enough for practicing a man’s job while in possession of a vagina.

Take, for instance, this chaplain saying a female soldier’s rape was God’s will for the sin of not coming to church often enough. (Never mind that she’s also doing “a man’s job”.)

Take, for instance, the misogyny suffered by a woman who happens to own a pair of breasts, as though this should come as a great shock to a man of the intellectual caliber necessary to have produced the Death Wish films.

Take, for instance, the defunding of a Liverpool rape center when the numbers of people being helped are rising steadily and being carried over year after year.

Take, for instance, the demonstrable lies necessary to sustain the anti-sex lobby’s political agenda to reduce sex back to its (religiously) “rightful” role in society as a shameful act done only for the purposes of making babies.

Take, for instance, the Canadian judge’s decision to let a rapist walk because the victim “wore makeup” and “wanted to party”.

Take, for instance, Nebraska attempting to make legal the murder of abortion service providers, in a move that was recently stopped in South Dakota.

Take, for instance, the proposed Georgia law that all miscarriages should be investigated in case some of them turn out to be resultant from “back alley” abortion attempts.

These are, of course, all isolated incidents and should not be taken in aggregate to determine that any particular group of people — vagina-owners or otherwise — are under assault by society at large. Just, you know, make sure you have that baby if you happen to accidentally conceive. If you know what’s good for you. Even if you were raped, even if doctors say neither of you will survive, and even if you die from the attempt.

Old Agriculture is Dying

I’m typing this on my recently new Aspire One netbook. It’s booted to Ubuntu 10.10 because I dislike the way Windows operates. Between my husband and I we have 4 computers, we used to have 5. I’m also watching him play Little Big Planet 2 on our PS3 and 40″ Sony LCD which I helped choose. Video games are one of our favourite past times. My iPhone 3Gs buzzes in my pocket and it’s a text from a friend in MN. It buzzes again and it’s a twitter mention from another friend in FL. The wonderful little gadget is practically surgically attached to me. I’m young enough that by the time I started doing projects in elementary school that required any research at all computers were necessary. Tech is my life, I am a geek and I love this modern world I live in.

There’s a point to this, it’s meant as a contrast. I also work at a local vineyard/winery which is really just a fancy way to say I do farm labour for a living; I farm grapes. I’m also damn good at what I do. I work hard, I use complicated heavy machinery and I help to produce good crops.

I recently read this 56 page 2010 report on the state of agriculture in Atlantic Canada. Twice. It’s sad, and scary, and heartbreaking for all the reasons it ought to be as local farms are disappearing. It’s also frustrating however in a unique way for people like me. I’m a 25 year old woman who enjoys video games and travel, who is interested in the world’s politics and cultures, who eats sushi and cares about scientific progress. I also care about farming.

I hate to say it but this report frames it all wrong. It wants consumers to care about farming, and about the state in which farmers are currently living. It wants people to know where their food comes from and to buy local. It wants young people like me to give a damn. Why then did it feel like they were sneering at me the whole time? Read it if you can as I get the feeling that it’s not just Atlantic Canada who is having problems in the agricultural sector, but I’m going to try to go through it here and address a few concerns I have. Grab a seat and a drink. (Do you know where it came from?) [Read more...]

Fox vs video games: the Bulletstorm shitstorm

The other day, when I saw it appear on the Playstation 3′s “What’s New” splash, I downloaded a demo for a first-person shooter game I hadn’t heard anything about before, called Bulletstorm. The demo video preceding the actual playable level pretty much set the expectations for the game — chaotically violent grindhouse with over-the-top game mechanics, protagonists with generally more machismo than intellect (even the girl) who are quick to make lewd sexual references, and buckets and buckets of blood. Despite its outlandish presentation, the demo was actually fairly fun. The ability to kick enemies and have them thereafter hang in mid-air long enough for you to aim at specific body parts is a bit silly. but otherwise my first impression was that with some polish, the game has potential.

I had no idea that potential that I saw was the potential for lulz when Fox News lost their shit over it. But there you have it. Turns out I’m not prescient — whoda thunk it? Though, given their earlier performance in grossly mischaracterizing Mass Effect’s “full digital nudity and controllable explicit sex” (which, as it turns out, is no more controllable or explicit than any sexually tinged and artistically presented offering on Fox Network’s prime time block), I should have seen it coming.

In the new video game Bulletstorm due February 22, players are rewarded for shooting enemies in the private parts (such as the buttocks). There’s an excess of profanity, of course, including frequent use of F-words. And Bulletstorm is particularly gruesome, with body parts that explode all over the screen.

But that’s not the worst part.

The in-game awards system, called Skill Shots, ties the ugly, graphic violence into explicit sex acts: “topless” means cutting a player in half, while a “gang bang” means killing multiple enemies. And with kids as young as 9 playing such games, the experts FoxNews.com spoke with were nearly universally worried that video game violence may be reaching a fever pitch.

“If a younger kid experiences Bulletstorm’s explicit language and violence, the damage could be significant,” Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Southern California, told FoxNews.com.

In their private parts! Such as the buttocks! You just can’t make this up.

More commentary below the fold.
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Morality, semantics, and presuppositional apologetics

Remember the big apologetics war Peter and I waged, where he fired the first salvo in the wrong direction, and called me Justin to boot? George is still waging it, though Peter’s end of the argument has gotten stale rather quickly — and not just because he’s been sitting on George’s reply for over a week. His argument amounts to a false dichotomy — either morality is objective (and therefore God exists as the “law-giver”), or it is subjective (and therefore anyone can choose to do anything they want if they think it’s good). And this dichotomy depends on some semantics about those two words.

If you know me well enough, you know I have little patience for philosophy as I find it to be self-important fluffery, using logic to prove things without any evidence, misused by theists to the point where my impatience grows into disdain. Philosophy has largely been superceded by empirical scientific discovery in every area of studying reality. However, it still has a place — and a valuable one, one I cannot begrudge its practitioners. Meta-ethics, for instance, can’t rightly be refined by a scientific process, even while we discover how the brain shapes our personal ethics through the same scientific process. Without philosophers defining objective moral frameworks around which we can better serve humanity, our moral codes would never evolve — it is therefore the engine for evolution for our societal morality.

Daniel Fincke of Camels With Hammers was dragged into the debate between Peter, George and I at George’s behest, and his first salvo wasn’t against Peter — it was against George and my use of the words “objective” and “subjective”. Evidently, philosophy has a whole lexicon for a varied shade of positions about morality, and “subjective” morality actually has two definitions — one that is in line with Peter’s definition, and another that involves a law-giver (e.g., The Supreme Court, for instance) that can make things good or bad by fiat. Neither of these fit with the definition I was using — merely, that there is no external, inviolate, unchanging objective law. I was using “subjective” as the opposite of “objective”. On the spectrum, “objective” covers the extreme leftmost corner, and “subjective” covers everything else. As it turns out, this definition is far too broad, regardless of what we’re arguing.

I posted the following on Daniel’s blog:

Not to resurrect a dead horse to beat on it some more, but I do feel the need to clarify, and I was under many time constraints over the past week while travelling, so I really couldn’t properly attempt to defend my layman’s understanding of philosophy. This is not an attempt at arguing with you, for the record, only of explaining my position in such a way that we are not talking at cross purposes as much as we seem to have recently.

I would agree that, given the definitions of terms you’ve given in this post, I am also a naturalist and a contextualist. However, I limit my understanding of “objective, natural values” to the context of human beings, insofar as morals do not exist outside the scope of humanity. Morals are a framework by which humans decide what action benefits themselves and their society most; and I strongly suspect we’ve created them because humans are natural classifiers — we will not simply accept any aspect of our humanity without first having “punched, stamped, filed, briefed, debriefed or numbered” it. We’ve evolved as social animals, who work better together than apart as a species, and therefore require rules that we enculturate in our offspring in order to keep individuals from damaging or otherwise breaking the cohesiveness of the societal unit. Our empathy as human beings pretty much ensures that we have to take others’ feelings into consideration; the fact that empathy can be removed by lobotomy indicates to me that morals are entirely brain-dependent.

I make the caveat about it applying only to humans because I steadfastly deny that the existence of morality (such as it is, since it does not exist manifestly without humans) proves anything about a divine creator or “law-giver”, which is the general tactic of the presuppositional apologist. If my declaration that morals are subjective is anything, it is an inartful declaration that morals do not exist separately from humans, and are therefore contingent on them. It is also a declaration that one needs to make a specific objective moral frame the guideline for building one’s system of morals, and that societies’ laws are a zeitgeist-dependent approximation of them.

At least in a functioning democracy. Some laws simply exist to ensure the ruling class remains the ruling class. Some laws exist as a sword of Damocles hanging over each citizen’s head, intended to serve the government in damning anyone at their discretion — much in the same way that every person on the planet is a sinner if the standard is the Bible, given how it was written to damn every person for at least one thing, and if not for anything endemic to humanity, then through “original sin”.

Jason’s emotivist-like discussion of “disliking” pedophilia—rather than condemning it explicitly on objective grounds—has not yet convinced me that his views rule out subjectivist relativist dimensions.

Also, I believe the “dislike” construction [referring to the blockquoted objection above] was paralleling one of Peter’s assertions that atheists have no reason to believe pedophilia is “wrong” without a law-giver. If this isn’t the case, then obviously, emotivist language was not the best construction, and I am not the most polished at arguing philosophical or meta-ethical questions. I was using the layman’s understanding of “objective” — “unchanging, uniform under all circumstances” — and “subjective” as the opposite. I expressly deny the false dichotomy Peter presents, that morals either were given to you by God or they differ from person to person and therefore give cover to a pedophile. The fact that you have so many words for so many positions on a spectrum I didn’t even know was fleshed out by philosophers shows me that philosophy has a place in discussing man-made concepts like morality. I am a very practical soul: a naturalist (there is no supernatural) and monist (there is only one kind of “stuff”, matter), and a determinist (every molecule does exactly what it’s supposed to, and doesn’t break any laws of nature to do something uncaused), and barring any advances in the field of quantum physics, I strongly believe free will is an illusion — one I’m willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy.

Because I strongly believe there is an objective truth to the universe, and science is the best way to find it, I generally find questions of subjectivity (by which in this case I mean anything to do with humans and their understanding of one another and of ethics or other man-made constructions) to be side-bars to the greater quest of discovering this universe. I prefer science to philosophy, but only because I find philosophical arguments to generally be an unending ouroboros of painful discussion about semantics. I don’t mean “semantical quibbling”, I mean “semantics”. As in, “meanings of words.” The “quibbling” part comes in when — and only when — one tries to make their position clear despite misusing a word, and the bulk of argument following involves the misuse of the word rather than the position they attempted to make clear.

And if anything in this diatribe uses incorrect words, I welcome you to correct them, but not to assume that my use of them means my position is anything but what I’ve laid out. If you’re unsure, please do ask.

On reflection, I also need to point out that my exact quote about “disliking” pedophilia:

Atheists dislike the idea of pedophilia because children are vulnerable, and it is in human nature to protect vulnerable members of our species. They are not sexually mature enough to make an informed consenting decision, and therefore they are not “consenting adults”, and therefore do not count as someone you can “have sex with and enjoy it because sex is fun”.

Note that the second clause of the first sentence, through to the end of the quote, is an objective framework: children are vulnerable, and humans will protect them because otherwise our species would die off. It is also a recognition that sexual predation on children would tangibly harm them because they are not informed or sexually mature, and therefore would be psychologically damaged by the act. Protecting children is an objective framework that is arguably the easiest one to get everyone to agree with.

Why then Peter can use this as a rhetorical club and get away with it, while I get accused of not sufficiently providing objective reasons why pedophilia is bad, is beyond me. And you wonder why I dislike semantics. No matter which way I try to argue, people on both sides of the argument will beat me up using semantics as their club.

I’ll change my lexicon. I have no problems doing so. I just seriously dislike it when people take me out of my provided context to argue word-choices, when the context I provided refines the definition of the words I’m using. I mean, hell, when people (including Daniel) tell me I’m taking stuff out of context, misunderstanding stuff because the surrounding text is missing, I correct it — even when the omission is not my own fault. So I’m using the wrong words… big deal. My meaning should be manifestly clear, and if it isn’t, a quick question about them never killed anyone.

Pope quote more nuanced than I thought – but he’s still no moral authority

My mea culpa on this one quote — widely reported out of context, which I accepted uncritically as the full context based only on its widespread dispersal — doesn’t mean I’m softening my opinion on the Pope’s past duplicity and his inability to own up to simply being wrong about anything. Nor does it mean that I was particularly wrong about my assessment of his quote, even with context, though the distinction you have to cut for it is rather fine.

Daniel Fincke pointed out at Camels With Hammers that I was wrong about what the Pope was trying to say when I denounced any claims to moral authority he once had in this post, stating that he all but admitted morals are subjective. Having read the full address, the section that everyone’s been quoting as stating that pedophilia was in some way acceptable in the 70s, is in actuality a claim that some people with that philosophy “corrupted” the otherwise incontrovertible stranglehold on objective morality the Catholic church claimed — and therefore this (wholly fictional) pedophilia meme was drawing the Church away from the objective morals that exist in their doctrine.
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Presuppositional apologetics, in a nutshell

This entirely explains why, in the last post’s comments, Peter of Atheism Presupposes Theism claimed that because there is no objective moral imperative to accept evidenced facts as facts, he could simply disagree with the facts under the subjective nature of the moral framework we understand today and he’d therefore be free to do anything he wanted, including pedophilia.

If you presuppose that there is a God, without evidence, then you are forced to defend a number of ideas that are undercut by actual demonstrable facts about reality. Facts like that morals are a tool of society to keep society stable, and are subjective, demonstrable by the existence of multiple moral codes across multiple societies. Presuppositionalism is, frankly, intellectually bereft. It depends on philosophical legerdemain when evidence exists to the contrary that can be easily and directly observed. You may not be under any objective moral imperative to be intellectually honest in arguing for your case, but you damn well better, lest you be proven a complete idiot in public.

RCimT: Religion/sexuality link roundup

Been a while since I’ve done one of these! I have to get some tabs off my Firefox and I don’t really have a lot of time to blog them individually, so here you are.

In case you haven’t seen it, Stephanie has weighed in on the hilarious conflation of sex-positivity and pedophilia a theist has accused Justin me of recently. As is her wont, Stephanie did not address the hilariousness of the religious apologist’s claims. Instead, she posted an essay, and a suicide note, that will cut you to the quick, no matter where you believe the source for morals might be. Hopefully the apologist will simply shrivel up and blow away at this. I mean, I doubt it, but I can’t help but hope so.
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Just have sex, people, and enjoy it.

Written by my wife, Jodi. The account she posted under didn’t get migrated.

Men, you don’t need to have a porn star penis. There, now that that’s done we can all just move on right?

I wish.

I had a great conversation today with a friend that started by me relating a story about once having sex with a guy whose penis was large enough that he hit my cervix. It was a painful experience and has always stuck in my mind as a counter point to ‘bigger is better’. My friend and I agreed that society’s obsession with men needing to have larger penises than they have (right up to gigantically huge don’t-you-dare-stick-that-in-me size) is both frustrating and a little sickening.

First of all, there is just no need for it. Penises of all shapes and sizes can satisfy, particularly if both participants know what they’re doing. People shouldn’t make assumptions about whether a man and his equipment can satisfy based solely on the measurement of said equipment. It’s like assuming you’ll enjoy how that new car handles based on the width of the door. Seriously, stupid. Secondly, this crazy giant penis ideal has severely damaged many men who are perfectly well endowed enough to give any woman immense pleasure. It has made these men think themselves inadequate and kept them from being sexually healthy members of society. In case you got lost there, that’s bad.

A point was made that the case is similar to women obsessing about breast size, which is a good point. Except it sort of isn’t. There has been much push-back in recent years to let women know that it doesn’t matter what size or shape their breasts are. In fact there is endless movement to embrace women as they are, and for them to embrace themselves no matter their over all body size or shape. We have tried really hard to save ourselves from this nightmare of self esteem issues and yet men are still being told they need to live up to this ridiculous image of a giant penis. Why is no one talking about this and trying to fix it? Men need to be happy and healthy psychologically in order to be good sexual partners, why are we making this so hard for them?

—–
At the back of my mind there is always a little voice which is usually very unhelpful and I often ignore it but in this case I will address its concerns.

Soo … what about the people who really do prefer an 8 inch penis? What about the people who really do prefer a playboy figured woman? What about the people who actually have/are these things? Well, I don’t know.

Actually I do know. They should have sex the way they like, with whom they like and be happy about it. They just shouldn’t be held as the ‘standard’ or ‘ideal’ in society. In fact, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should all just have sex the way we want with the types of people we want and *enjoy* it, because enjoying it makes it awesome.

The Pope is NOT a moral authority.

Not after this statement:

In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.

“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

What is this? I was always taught that absolute good and absolute evil existed in the form of God and his commandments, and Satan and his lures and machinations. And I was raised Catholic. So, the Pope is arguing that morals are entirely subjective? Does that make our present set of morals — the ones that say sexual predation of children is horrible and immoral — are superior to those morals of the 70s wherein people ostensibly accepted pedophilia as “in conformity with man and even with children”? Because I’d like to think that that’s the case, that we as a society have evolved our morals over time to protect the weak from those in positions of power. (As a side note, I’d like to see any theory originating from the 70s saying that kiddy-fiddling is just fine. I’m seriously skeptical that any such position was ever postulated.)

Though religious nutbags like to complain about being forced to conform to society’s set of morals, they are always more than happy to claim that atheists are incapable of emotions like empathy or love, both of which lead directly to the morals we rely upon for society. Since we have empathy for other human beings, and we understand that as children sexual advances would empirically harm if not destroy a child’s psychologial state, it seems obvious that we’d endeavour to protect these children from these acts with or without some deity’s say-so.

The Pope is supposedly the arbiter of what’s wrong and what’s right — the emissary of God on Earth. He’s supposedly got a direct line to the big man himself. Why not ask him whether pedophilia is, was, or even should be, wrong?

Either way, the Pope has all but admitted that morality is subjective. I disagree with him on the salient point about whether pedophilia was acceptable or accepted in the 70s, and consider it tangential at best to the point that these priests were in positions of power over children, and they abused that position in order to put the kids into other positions. Is that abuse of privilege not sufficient, when coupled with the fact that these priests have vowed celibacy, to prove the whole practice immoral and counter to the foundation of his religion? Why equivocate, or obfuscate, or outright lie, about these acts, if they are so subjective, and were subjectively moral at the time they were committed?

Fuck this Pope. Fuck all the popes, but fuck this one in particular. If you have such moral paucity you’re incapable of standing strong against these acts, especially when you once actively covered them up in your past (and in the same time frame you’re referring to), you really ought to shut the fuck up and just let this scandal disappear down the memory hole. You know it will happen, if you just stop reminding your sheep over and over about how immoral a fuckwit you are. I mean, seriously. I have a fraction of a percent of the audience you do — no matter how loudly I scream about it, your feeble protestations that child rape is acceptable does more than I ever could to prove you immoral and incapable of moral judgement.

Repeal of DADT sends right-wingers into apoplexy

I am amazed that it took as long as it has to bring a bit of sanity back to America’s policies with regard to sexuality of serving members, but they finally repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. Yesterday the US Senate voted 63-33 to end cloture, then voted 65-31 (including eight Republicans) to repeal the strange law.

It’s one thing to forbid people from investigating, or discriminating against, gay soldiers. It’s another thing entirely to forbid people from serving while out. There’s a scene in the movie Across the Universe, set during the Vietnam War, wherein someone is expressly NOT refused entry into the army for claiming to be gay. “As long as you don’t have flat feet,” the recruiter says. Reality under DADT, however, expressly forbade any knowledge of a person’s sexual orientation, such that anyone openly gay could not serve, and anyone serving could not come out.

I can kind of understand, in the political climate of the 90s when being gay was only just becoming slightly less taboo — a bit of progress that was slowed with the misinformation around the spread of AIDS. The creation of the law in that climate was obviously intended to allow gays to join, to serve their country alongside straight soldiers — because if someone wants to risk their life fighting for what may or may not be a good cause, it damn well shouldn’t matter what gender or orientation they happen to be.

Except, naturally, to the esteemed and totally sane members of the Party of Family Values.

The new Marine motto: “The Few, the Proud, the Sexually Twisted.” Good luck selling that to strong young males who would otherwise love to defend their country. What virile young man wants to serve in a military like that?

If the president and the Democrats wanted to purposely weaken and eventually destroy the United States of America, they could not have picked a more efficient strategy to make it happen.
Bryan Fischer, American Family Association

“Today is a tragic day for our armed forces. The American military exists for only one purpose – to fight and win wars. Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda. This may advance the cause of reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality, but it will only do harm to the military’s ability to fulfill its mission.
Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

If the lame-duck Congress succeeds in ‘gaying down’ our military this weekend, it will take a disastrous leap toward “mainstreaming” deviant, sinful homosexual conduct – not just in the military but in larger society — thus further propelling America’s moral downward spiral.
Peter LaBarbera, president of “Americans For Truth About Homosexuality”, a virulently anti-gay organization

Ain’t that just precious. What is it about the right wing that makes them so xenophobic and self-defeating that they’d deign decree who’s allowed to give their lives for their country? They can’t honestly think that being gay makes you less capable of killing people, can they?