Tough Questions: It’s Shitty, But Is It Sexual Assault?

While scrolling through my news feed, I came across an article in the Austin Daily Globe that caught my eye for its transphobic wording. The caption under the thumbnail read “A woman who blindfolded herself during sex with her ‘boyfriend’ was shocked to learn that it wasn’t a man at all”.

Aaaarrrrgghhhh. It? Really? I clicked on it, expecting to read and rail against some transphobic garbage about a trans-man waiting a while before revealing his gender identity to his girlfriend.

Instead, I proceeded to read a story that was so bizarre, I made sure to check that it was reported by several other news outlets before talking about it here.

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Check Your Privilege Part III: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Every so often, I find myself in conversations with people who, while they usually mean well, are completely forgetting the bubble they live in. I have posted before about the privilege of dumping on GMOs, and of how neurotypical people who can simply take a stroll through nature when they’re feeling blue have no right to poo-poo the modern medicine that others need to function.

This time, I want to talk about another conversation I recently had, in which the person thought they were simply being pragmatic in their views of overpopulation.

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Thoughts On: Textbook Atheism

Apologies again for my prolonged absence. I really need to learn how to budget my time better, especially when I am in the damned weeds at work as I am now. Despite my losing track of time in my endless nights of working, there have been some things that I have been pondering as topics of discussion to put out here.

One of the topics that I have been musing over for the past week is the ever ongoing discussion about what is often referred to as “textbook atheism”. What I mean by that term is when atheists use the textbook, or dictionary definition of atheism to describe themselves. An atheist is a person that does not believe in one or more gods. That’s it, that’s all, and there is nothing else that is associated or implied with the term.

Many people on this network, most famously being probably PZ, have railed against the so-called “textbook atheists”. Generally speaking, the argument (to my understanding) is that a rejection of a deity and/or organized religion brings with it certain implications. For example, not believing that a divine creator made certain humans stronger, smarter or more powerful than certain other humans implies a rejection of racism and sexism. Not believing in a creator without evidence implies not believing in other things without evidence either, whether it be silly evolutionary “explanations” as to the biological superiority of one race over the other, or general woo. Unfortunately, as we all know, there are plenty of atheists out there who reject this principle, simply wailing “look at the dictionary dummy! Atheist just means I don’t believe in god! It doesn’t mean I have to be no stinking feminist!”

Overall I agree that, philosophically speaking, it makes sense that a rejection of religion is the first step along a path that leads you to a humanist and rationalist perspective, and I have also been disgusted and frustrated with the racist sexist atheist faction that invades the internet. However, in my life I have found myself, on more than one occasion, blurting out the “textbook atheist” line in defining myself.

Oh dear. Am I a textbook atheist? Where does this internal discord come from?

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Sickness and Soul Searching

I need to apologize again for my temporary absence. I got hit with a very bad flu which, of course, coincided with a definite increase in the list of things that I am asked to do for other people as well as myself. I’ve been crawling into work for a few hours a day to make sure that I don’t fall behind on experiments, making lists of things I have to buy and mail, people I have to call within very specific hours, appointments I need to make and bureaucracy I have to take care of on behalf of others. It seems that this week everybody wants a piece of Crys, and that holiday seems like a very, very long time ago. I’m tired, I’m frustrated and I just want to be sick in peace, which has led to a little (for want of a better word) soul searching on my part.

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Those Kids Today…

I’ve officially gotten to that age. I believe it is in your late 20s when you start to properly feel that enough time has passed since your teenage years that you can start calling today’s teenagers “the younger generation” and, when you hear the word “kids” or “young people”, you no longer assume that people are talking about you and your peers. To this effect, I have seen a spike in the “can you believe kids these days” conversations, rants and posts from my former classmates on facebook. Generally speaking, they all follow a common theme. Here are two prime examples:

14-years-old-then-now-1hsfpnd 13782183_10157311535715096_7590541112966961385_n

 

Somehow, I seem to be the only one of my peers who actually remembers what it was like to be a teenager. I remember loathing these kinds of rants designed to shit all over me and my generation, and I doubt that the current one appreciates them much either. As for the first meme, I remember there being popular, professionally made-up and mature kids in my middle and high schools too, as well as their dorky childish counterparts. As far as I can tell, there are plenty of 14 year olds which fit that category today as well, but perhaps today’s adults find them just as invisible as the kids they went to school with found them when they were 14. As for the second meme, I can see this existing for every generation that came before me. Keep the left panel identical, but for my generation it would have been a kid sitting in front of a computer in the right one, for the generation before that in front of a videogame, for the one before that in front of a TV, and so on. We all seem to remember our childhoods as those excursions into the woods, or at the beach, or stomping through puddles, and forget that we were abused continuously for using whatever technological innovation was available at the time. We forget that we, too, rolled our eyes at parents who moaned about our computers, or the internet, or gameboys, and how they never had any of that growing up, except all the things they did have that their parents bitched at them about for using, of course.

I suppose my point is: can we all just stop? Can we stop bitching about how kids choose to have fun and entertain themselves? Can we stop trying to force the next generation to have exactly the same childhood that we had? We might look back on it fondly, and love those memories, but that does not mean that different memories will not be looked back on with equal fondness by future generations. If you actually have your own kids, go ahead and try to make sure that they get enough exercise and fresh air, and that they make friends and are happy. If you don’t have kids, keep your moaning to yourself, because the point of kids is not to recapture your own childhood through them. They are actual people, with their own personalities and minds. And try, just try, to remember how you felt when adults crapped on your fun and moaned that you were not the same as they were when they were kids. Remember your fierce promises to yourself that you wouldn’t become such a lame, inconsiderate and condescending adult. How are you doing with that promise so far?

 

Ah, That One Is Different

Yesterday, I basically summed up my post on how people can get very judgy about entertainment to someone who was, once again, being very snide about our current involvement in the EURO2016. When I was done, someone else piped up “OK Crys, I see your point. So, I presume that you also don’t judge people for watching shows like Jersey Shore? It’s all just entertainment, right? No one is superior to the other, it’s just a matter of opinion?” To which, someone else responded “Wait she said talent! There is no talent in reality TV!” and they started chatting on about that, the conversation taking a bit of a devil’s advocate turn about whether or not game shows like Jeopardy qualify as reality TV.

Game shows aside, it got me thinking a little bit. I do have a different knee-jerk reaction to reality TV, and why is that?

For the purposes of this post, I will narrow my definition of what reality TV is. I am referring specifically to the kind of reality TV whose popularity most people complain about and judge: shows like Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo or the Real Housewives of Wherever. I am not referring to game shows, talent shows, mini documentary shows, or any kind of competition show. I am referring specifically to the kinds of shows which, supposedly, follow certain people in their “everyday lives”.

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When Women Ask: What Was She Wearing?

This post is about victim-blaming, rape and sexual assault. Take note of that if you want to read on.

It is getting more and more outdated and outrageous to follow a story of rape with the question “well, what was she wearing?” or, “well, what time was it when she was walking home alone?” The reasons behind why this is stupid and pointless victim-blaming has been revisited ad nauseum by writers far more talented than myself. The fact that rape is far more an act of violence than one of sexual desire is known. That men are not these sex-crazed werewolves that will lose their shit and violently assault a fellow human being simply because they see a little extra leg is obvious to anyone who stops and thinks about it for more than a couple of seconds.

However, one thing I noticed when living in Veneto was the predisposition for women to victim blame the second they heard of a rape happening in the area*. The many articles I read online on the subject all tended to make two general assumptions: that the people who engage in this kind of victim-blaming are

  1. Usually men, or at least people who have a strong patriarchal view of society, and
  2. Conveniently apply victim-blaming only to sexual assault, rather than trying to also find excuses as to why it was your fault that your car was stolen, your house was broken into or you got a bottle upside the head on Saturday night.

While I do appreciate that many of the people who victim-blame online and in the media do tend to fit into these categories, the women I would talk to who clung doggedly to this argument and wouldn’t accept a single point against it did not. That got me to thinking about their reasoning, and why they so desperately clung to the idea that the woman is always at fault.

 

*To be clear, I am not insinuating that the women of Veneto are more or less guilty of victim-blaming than anywhere else. I just happened, for the first time in my life, to work and interact with quite conservative people when I was there, and that is why I happened to encounter (and was shocked by) the prevalence of this argument there.

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Thoughts On: Mourning Celebrities

Note: this is an old post, as will be clear by the references. However, it is a topic that has come back up with the recent passing of people like David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Prince, so I decided to post it again.

 

OK so Whitney Houston has died, I’m sure the entire world has heard by now. I still have the same opinion as before on how obsessive people seem to get when a celebrity dies, but this time I wanted to address the opposite extreme. I don’t know if it’s just the people that I know and hang out with or if it’s my entire generation that tends to be this cynical, but the overwhelming number of comments and statuses that I’ve seen on this go something like this:

Ya I heard, so sad,
like I know all those children that died from malnutrition or war or poverty or whatever,
but I mean,
like,
Whitney.
I know she was addicted to all manner of things and recently, 

But still,
Whitney.

Now I don’t think that this argument makes any fucking sense, but I hear it all the time. Yes, Whitney Houston was just one person. As was Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger. Yes, it is true that there are millions suffering and dying around the world that we tend to care far less about, if at all.

But this argument doesn’t make sense because human emotion is not governed by numbers. You could also say that your mother, your sister, your cousin, your friend or your lover are just one person, one in the millions that die around the globe, so why the hell don’t you care about their death 1/1,000,000th of what you feel for the million children that died in the world? Of course you’re going to care more about someone you knew and cared about, regardless of why they died, because you have an emotional attachment to that person. It’s a bond, it’s the monkeysphere, it just matters to you more. So how does this translate to celebrities?

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When A Negative Statement Becomes A Claim

Note: old post, but still relevant

The other day I got into a bit of a strange discussion with my colleagues, which involved me being alone on my side of the debate defending the existence of male bisexuality.
It all started with the observation that our culture is far more accepting of a fluid sexuality for women, as it is less acceptable for a man to admit to having had the occasional male partner but still claiming to prefer women. While initially the people I was speaking to decried this double standard as unfair, at the end they still claimed that they also thought that any man who has had male partners, or wanted to have male partners is probably actually gay, and that the Kinsey Scale is probably only applicable to women. I disagreed. There are plenty of men, some of whom I know personally who claim to be bisexual, on what basis can they claim that in reality male bisexuality doesn’t exist? Personal experience is not science! I was told. That is not evidence! Who am I to say that it does exists? I have just as much justification to claim it does as they do to claim that it doesn’t.
The details of our discussion are not that important to what I want to talk about here. The point is that this whole thing got me thinking about positive versus negative claims, and how sometimes making a negative claim is actually the one requiring a larger burden of proof.
The burden of proof lies on those who make the claim. This is a very common statement used to explain atheism, and why the absence of evidence leads one to assume the negative. There is no evidence that fairies exist, therefore I do not believe they exist. Same goes for unicorns, or dragons. I cannot prove that they don’t exist, it is impossible to prove a negative, but I am not going to believe in them until I have good reason to do so. What is more, personal accounts of having seen a fairy or unicorn or dragon (or, for that matter, God) does not count as evidence in the slightest. Given this logic, I am the one with the burden of proof, no? I am the one claiming that male bisexuality exists. They are claiming it does not. Shouldn’t I be the one who has the burden of proof in this case?
Their claim that male bisexuality does not exist struck me as a much bolder statement than my claim that it does, and then I realized why.
The fact of the matter is, when it comes to something as personal as sexual attraction, personal statements do count as evidence. With something as complex as human behavior, there is very little in the way of objective evidence that one can collect, akin to something like finding an actual fairy. That doesn’t mean that one cannot attempt to design experiments which attempt to collect more objective evidence in order to verify these claims, but in this case the claims themselves do hold significant weight.
Imagine for a moment the more extreme version of this argument. There is no such thing as gay people! People who engage in gay sex are just abusers! Or people who have been abused! Or people who just want to engage in extreme sex! That seems like a very bold statement, no? It seems as though someone who believes that would have to do far more legwork than someone who believes that gay people exist in order to prove their point, even though they’re stating the negative.
In this scenario, it’s not that any of these people would need to prove that male bisexuality, or homosexuality doesn’t exist. This encounters the same problems as trying to prove that fairies don’t exist. However, what they would have to do is start by finding a plausible, evidence-backed alternative to explain all of those people who do identify as gay, or bisexual, or whatever. They need to do a lot more legwork to bring the conversation back to an even 50:50, maybe it exists and maybe it doesn’t, equal evidence on both sides. Without finding evidence that there is an alternative explanation for all of those people, it is actually far more reasonable to assume that male bisexuality does in fact exist, in lieu of further evidence.
Do you see where I’m coming from? Any thoughts?

Personal Differences: Is Hope A Lie?

I post often about cultural differences I noticed while moving from country to country. However, this post does not involve how different cultures perceive things, but rather a core difference that I noticed from person to person. You often hear people say things like “There are two kinds of people in the world, people who do A and people who do B”. This is one of those kinds of discussions.

While these are two extremes, and how far to either extreme you might be will depend a lot on your general anxiety levels, I find myself firmly at one extreme of these two scenarios.

Let’s say you are waiting for the results of something important in the mail. It might be exam results, the response to your college application, or test results from your doctor. You get home one day, and you find the letter in your mailbox. Do you

A. Stare at it, trying to find the courage to open it, usually asking someone else to open it for you and tell you what it says, or

B. Drop everything you’re doing and try not to tear the letter into pieces as you try to get it out of the envelope as quickly as you can?

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