Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Photos Pittsburgh Zoo

I must say that I like my camera.  It knows a hell of lot more about photography than I do.  Here are some pictures that I took at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium today.

Click on the photo to view full size.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Monogamy Takes A Hit

I just finished a rather enjoyable book called Sex At Dawn, The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, by Christopher Ryan, PhD, and Cacilda Jetha, MD. Sex At Dawn

The overall gist of the book is that human beings believe that they are monogamous when in fact they are extremely promiscuous.  The authors begin with what they call the “standard narrative” of human mating behavior:

•    A man is extremely possessive of his spouse because paternity matters.  A man does not want to support another man’s child.  As such he is sexually jealous of his wife.  However, due to the biological low cost of spreading his seed, a man is tempted to cheat on his wife and increasing his genetic advantage at no cost to himself.

•    A woman due to the extreme biological and economic cost of child care tends to be more choosey in mate selection.  She then becomes emotionally jealous of her husband (not so much sexually) because she worries about losing the material benefits of the union for her and her children.  A woman at times may cheat (only when ovulating) with a man she judges to be genetically more fit than her husband.  This is nature’s way of injecting some evolutionary advantage into a woman’s genetic future.

•    Summing up, a man is concerned with paternity and is extremely sexually possessive.  A woman is concerned with material benefit and is emotionally possessive.  But both will cheat to increase their genetic advantage.   

OK, this sounds about right from other things that I have read, and the authors do not deny that this is the current state of affairs.  Their claim is that monogamy is not a natural state of human beings but one that has been self imposed on our species by the pressures of agriculture—it is a social and economic construct, not an evolutionary one. 

The authors then proceed to provide a long list of evidence that they claim has been misread by others in the field of anthropology and evolutionary psychology to support their claim that human beings by nature are not monogamous but rather quite promiscuous.  In nature, men and women do not form pair bonds but rather live in small groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers that have little tangible possessions and share everything within the group including sex.  Paternity does not matter because everything is shared, and there are no possessions.  Children are supported by the entire group. 

Oh shit!  My beloved monogamous pair bond is slaughtered, my Sacred Marriage Bed is nothing but a social construct.  Sextant is in shock and grief, and currently planning to run out and get some strange stuff to assuage his hurt.  I have been living a lie for 33 and half years of marriage and several years of courtship.  I have been duped by an agrarian culture and a possession crazy woman and it is time for me to go and spread my seed and be the joyful man intended by nature.  But wait before I do, let’s take a look at the evidence.

•    Genetically we are within a couple of percentage points of being identical to chimpanzees and bonobos.  Both are promiscuous, bonobos merrily so.

•    Many primitive societies that are still hunter gatherers share all their collective possessions, have loose or no marital structures, and are very peaceful.

•    The human body provides evidence of sperm competition.  Human testicle size, ejaculate volume, and penis size and shape are all geared to promiscuous sperm competition modes of sexuality not monogamy.

•    Men are sexually performance wimps…hump, hump, hump…putt, putt, putt.  Hmmm, I think I will get the Skill saw out and build a deck.

•    Women, when they get properly fired up, are sexual performance Olympians… hump X 500…big O accompanied by shriek #1…hump X 500  big O accompanied by a shriek # 2…hump X 500, big O accompanied by a shriek # 3 on and on. 

•    The two above factoids are not complimentary, the man is shot and the woman is just getting started.  As such this is proof that women by nature want multiple partners lined up ready to jump on when partner # 1, # 2 and so forth are petered out (loose pun somewhat intended).  

•    The shrieking is a Female Copulatory Vocalization.  What does it mean?  Well it has nothing to do with visions of God, but rather an advertisement to all nearby males…”I am hot to trot and the guy I am with has just shot his wad, come and join the fun.”  Well bonobos do something like that anyhow.

•    Current American divorce rates would indicate that monogamy does not work.

•    Love and sex are not the same thing. 

•    Pornography is a symptom of our desire for non-monogamous relationships.  Multiple male partners with one female is an especially appealing form of porn in that it reflects true human desire. 

Actually there is nothing new here.  I have read all of this before, except the Female Copulatory Voice being an advertisement, but my reading of all this has been scattered about.  What is new in Sex At Dawn is the concentration of these facts, and the author’s insistence that this proves that we are not by nature monogamous and that marriage is not a natural state.  The authors bring up many names in the fields of anthropology and evolutionary psychology, some for which I have a deep respect, and claim that they wear the blinders of monogamous human marriage and they have been misinterpreting the data.  They offer persuasive arguments.  My Holy Marriage Bed is being consumed in the flames of evolutionary scientific truth.

So what do we as a society of duped women and men do now?  To the author’s credit, they admit to being perplexed.  They offer no panaceas of unrestrained debauchery, but they do insist that people should realize our true nature and discuss it within their marriages.  Don’t ignore the elephant in the room, grab it by the tusks and talk it to death.  Everyone needs to come out of the monogamistic closet and realize that humanity is nothing but a collection of sluts—both male and female and perhaps we need to be more open to an open sexuality.  But beyond talk, they are short on advice.  They come out very strong for the idea that it is insane to destroy an otherwise solid marriage and family over a little bit of cheating.  They feel that the destruction of a good marriage and parent-children family is a travesty.  I agree with the second sentence.   

The authors get a little conventional when discussing the ravages of infidelity.  It is the man who cheats and the woman and children who are the victims.  This seems to go against the natural human sexuality with the woman calling out to all available males with the FCV.  Why is there not widespread female cheating?  Hmmmm, the flames on that marriage bed are not burning quite as hot. 

Not stated in the book is the fact that our authors are married and apparently happily so.  On their blog on the Psychology Today website, they were questioned about how they use the information in the book in their married life:

The Authors Are Married
"You guys are married, right? How do you handle this issue?"

"That's definitely a fair question, but one we've decided not to answer. Certainly, our relationship is informed by our research, but the details of our own sex life are nobody's business but ours."
Psychology Today, Sex At Dawn Blog

HA!  HA!  Excellent answer!  Keep ‘em guessing!  I love it, because it is very true, it is none of our business.  And while we are at it, of what business was Bill and Monica’s peccadilloes to us?  Despite Ken Starr’s opinion that every lascivious detail was worthy of a Federal report, I would have to say that the only people that had a genuine concern was Bill, Monica, Hillary, and Chelsea.  Ain’t none of our business, but thanks to Ken we could probably estimate Bill’s sperm count.  That is not to say that one shouldn’t question Clinton’s judgment, people who live in glass houses, or fish bowls, should keep it zipped, but to suggest that the American people were somehow traumatized by Bill's and Monica’s actions (had they remained unknown) is ridiculous.  I am not defending Bill and Monica, I believe what they did was wrong, but what I am saying is that we the American people should have never known about it.  Our cultural fascination for who is screwing who is not healthy, and I believe the government has more important things to do than analyzing DNA on blue dresses.  

So my poor happy monogamous pair bonded couple is lying in a pool of blood, run through by the sword evolutionary truth, while my Sacred Altar of Holy Monogamous Matrimony, the marriage bed goes up in flames, and I am off to a singles bar to pick me up some hot hookup action…three decades of fidelity has me depressed and in a life of weighted down misery, and while I am at it, perhaps, I will bring back some lads for my wife.  She has to be bored with all this monogamy. 

No so fast, I ain’t buying all this.  

First let me say this.  I am neither shocked nor saddened by the news that we may be a promiscuous species and marriage is a social construct resulting from agriculture.  As I said, I have read all this stuff before, but in a scattered matter, so there is no real news here.  What I am not prepared to do is accept the author’s conclusions lock, stock, and barrel.  I find it hard to believe, although not impossible, that we have been duped by a collection of anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists that could never see beyond the blinders of monogamy.  So to that I say, let the intellectual slug fest begin.  Argue it out and let the truest opinion win.  The author’s arguments are persuasive but may not be the end all truth.  Sam Harris said that no society was ever harmed by being reasonable, and I would add as a corollary that no society will ultimately be harmed by the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may appear.   

But let us concede for a moment that the authors are 100% correct.  We are by nature promiscuous and monogamy is a cultural fabrication.  So what?  We are also an ape that should be running about the savannah in the nude.  So should I rip off my clothes run out in the back yard and freeze to death because nudity is natural and I have no business violating nature by living in a heated home in a locale with a winter?  Is anyone prepared to go back to our hunter gatherer ways?  It sounds great, go out with the boys and try to hunt down an antelope.  If we get one, great we are the macho boys with the meat, but if we don’t get one fine, the girls were doing the real nutritional work of gathering fruits, nuts, grubs and vegetables, either way we will eat.  Then we can sit around and stare into the fire for a bit, and then go bed down with any one of the 75 girls that may be hot tonight, and perhaps sharing her with the other boys from the hunt while she vocalizes copulatory ecstasy into the night.  Lovely!  But how in the hell do you support 7 billion people with hunting-gathering, and wouldn’t all this unbridled promiscuity add immensely to the population?  It won’t happen in our life time, but perhaps if everyone followed the 1 child per couple philosophy (which sort of requires enforced monogamy), the world's population might drop within 10 generations to support hunter gathering again and mankind could then live in promiscuous bliss.  But for the time being, I think we are stuck with the evils of agriculture and all the miserable social and cultural fabrications that result from it. 

But do we have to maintain (thinking of my 50s hi fi) long term monogamy with absolute fidelity?  Hmmmm?  The authors get a little funny about offering any concrete advice other than coming out of the monogamous closet and talking about it.  So I think I shall sit down with Lady Sextant and have a chat. 

“I say there Lady Sextant, are you aware of the fact that bonobos have sexual relations extremely often, numerous times a day with different partners?  Did you know that we are only 2.838964% genetically different than a bonobo?  Now look down here at my testicles, Lady Sextant.  You will note that they are much larger than a gorilla’s but only slightly smaller than a bonobo’s or chimp’s, and notice how my member looks like piston in a vacuum pump.  Well that’s for the purpose of evacuating competitors semen from the many female reproductive tracts that by nature I should be visiting.   Did you know that there are many primitive tribes with very loose or no rules of sexual exclusivity?  You do know, of course, that monogamy is the invention of farming patriarchs that have enslaved females for the past 10,000 years.  Well dear, all this to say that I think you should give me your blessing to go out and get some strange stuff.  After all, long term marriage to you has sunk me into the despair of sexual boredom.  Now don’t take that the wrong way, after all sex and love are not the same thing.  Just a little fling, you know, a little roll in the hay with some strange lass will make me feel so much better.  And you can revel in the knowledge that I am living up to my evolutionary promise.”

Yes, I can see Lady Sextant listening to this conversation, this coming out of the closet of monogamy.  I can also envision me like the Bobbit gentleman searching along the road side…”Oh dear, dear, where did she throw it?” 

What was not mentioned in the book:

•    Human beings possess intelligence.  How does our intelligence affect our decisions, as individuals and as a culture, regarding the merits of monogamy or polygamy?  Should we approach our sexuality by instinct?  Do bonobos apply intelligence to their sexuality?

•    Sexually transmitted diseases, if mentioned, I didn’t notice.

•    Multiple sex partners put women at a higher risk for vaginitis from bacterial vaginosis and cervical cancer. 

•    Pregnancies from these extra-marital flings seemed to evade mention. 

•    Does sex have any spiritual or religious component that may affect our decisions regarding monogamy?  The morality of busting up good marriages were discussed, the morality of keeping it in your pants was not.  

•    Dolphins.  The book never mentioned dolphins who are an intelligent species and apparently enjoy their sexuality far beyond the needs of reproduction. 

Alright, I am now going to express some annoyance.  The authors talk about the Perils of Monotomy (monotony + monogamy).  Poor little hubby gets all bored with the Mrs, you know, screwing only her all the time makes his testosterone levels drop.  Life is such a drag.  So he goes out and gets himself a little innocent piece of strange tail.  Then this brute of a wife somehow finds out, gets all pissed off, and destroys the marriage and family by mindlessly divorcing him when all he was doing was just following his evolutionary directives.  They didn’t quite put it that way but that was the flavor I got out of it, and bear in mind, I am a man.  The woman is being unreasonable over a minor dalliance.  Sorry but that is bullshit!  Hubby needs to keep it zipped up.  We ain’t bonobos and we have a moral commitment to not be screwing other people than our spouses, no matter how boring life may get.  Sorry but that is what I believe, I didn’t marry my wife to cheat on her.   

OK but I also believe that what is good for the gander is good for the goose.  So all you poor little sexually bored hubbies out there, is it OK if the Mrs goes out and enjoys a nice big eight inch hunk of strange manhood delivered slowly and with a masterful dedication to her pleasure?  Doesn’t she have the right to be a little bored with your 30 quick thrusts of an average sized tool and...putt, putt, roll over and fall asleep before she has even got warmed up?  Maybe size does matter.  Maybe skill counts even more.  Not being in a hurry, a big plus.  So why shouldn’t we all be relieved of our boredom?  Again what is good for the gander should be good for the goose.  And what about the goslings? “Mummy and Daddy, where are you going all dressed up like that, can we go to?”  “Oh no Billy and Janey, Mummy and Daddy are going out to have sex with strangers tonight because we are bored with each other.  It will make our family much stronger.  You be good for the Grandma now.”  Sounds like an episode right out of Father Knows Best.    

Obviously I am an unapologetic monogamist.  I am not buying into these arguments, no matter how persuasive they are.  First we are not bonobos.  I would like to think that we have more intelligence and morality than our close genetic cousins.  Second we are not hunter-gatherers any longer.  So no matter how fulfilling a 3 minute sex break at 10 AM with one of the young interns could be for my evolutionary destiny, my employer has other expectations.  (Oh sorry I am late for this meeting, Jennifer and I were ripping one off by the copy machine, didn’t you hear her vocalizations?)  Perhaps capitalism as well as agriculture will be the ruination of us.  Third, I think we have a moral obligation to maintain fidelity to our spouses if that was part of the bargain, and for most people, that is the expectation…that you are not going to go out and screw someone else because you are bored.  "Oh my testosterone levels have fallen off, I need something different."  Tough shit!  There are worse fates in the world.  I also have the dim recognition that this is a private obligation that applies only to my wife and I.  I really have no business stating that this is how you or anyone else should live.  So if you desire a polyamorous relationship, have at it, but at least establish the ground rules at the beginning of your relationship, not two or three decades into it.   

Again let us assume that the authors of Sex At Dawn are correct.  We are fighting millions of years of evolution with 10,000 years of cultural expectation.  Are we helpless to do anything about our situation?  Must we just run off, screw someone new, let our marriages go to hell, leave our kids to fend for themselves and avoid sexual boredom, or is there something we can do?  The authors don’t offer much help, “we are perplexed”, “come out of the closet”, “talk about it.”  Sorry but I am not sure what that is going to buy us.  The direction that the authors seem to lean without coming right out and saying so is toward some novel polyamorous solution.  Well that is good for those who want to do something along those lines but what about we simpler folks who just want to remain faithful to our spouses?  Should we just throw our hands up and say it is impossible? 

Well it is not impossible.  I think the authors have a point, we probably are fighting millions of years of evolution but I don’t believe we are helpless.  First let’s realize that we live in the modern world with 7 billion other people.  We have many things that we are forced to do:  show up to work on time, pay taxes, stop at traffic lights, travel internationally with a passport, wear clothes, mind the laws and codes of civility in all our daily dealings.  Bonobos and primitive man did not have to pay taxes.  Well there you have it.  Should we not pay taxes or stop at a red light because it is not in our inventory of gifts bestowed to us in evolution?  So what makes sex so different?  Sure it is a powerful motivator, but still the things we can lose over sex are very valuable.  So there should be balance.  So what do I think you can do to help avoid sexual ennui? 

The authors tell us that sex and love are not the same thing.  I agree but I think they can be so tightly intertwined, if you choose so, that they can be impossible to separate.  Sex can be the ritual for your love of only one person.  If you believe that you have a Soul, sex can be the Sacred ritual of love.  We are not forced to think of sex as just sex, it can be Sacred if you choose to make that way.  This goes back to something I said in a previous post, I believe that as a culture we have secularized sex.  If you take the human dignity and Holiness out of sex, then it is just screwing…what difference does it make if you screw your spouse or your neighbor?  But if you consider it something Holy, a communion of Souls, then making love becomes Sacred.  Sex is something that you will only do with that one person in the world that you love, no matter how tempting a new partner may look.

How do you avoid sexual boredom?  By keeping your love life alive, and here I will probably sound like one of those glossy magazines at the super market checkout with the same failed advice that the authors mention in the book.  First you must make time for it.  You have an obligation to your children, but you also have an obligation to your spouse and yourself.  Make time for sex.  Make it special.  Take a weekend trip every so often without the children, friends, or relatives.  Just the two of you.  Take a shower together, do it on the kitchen floor or in the backyard at 3 AM.  Novelty strikes interest, be a little crazy.  Your marriage is worth it.  There are hundreds of books addressing this problem.  Pick one and try out those things that perhaps pull you slightly beyond your comfort zone.  Strip poker?  Perhaps a bit of grab ass in public (not so much that you get arrested for indecency).  Be inventive.   There was a time when you first got together that you couldn’t keep your hands off each other, that time can be brought back with your partner, perhaps not with the intensity, but certainly with a greater depth.  It really is up to you and your partner.

I think there is one thing that we must come to grips with as individuals if not as a society.  What is at the core of our being?  Is it just a body and a mind?  If so, it probably doesn’t matter how bad we live.  In three score and ten or there abouts, we will be dead and our behavior will soon be forgotten.  But if there is a Soul or Spirit at the core of our being, regardless of whether there is or is not a God, then we owe it to ourselves and our families to honor that which is Divine within us.  If you can look at your spouse and your children and not see a spark of Divinity within, I feel genuinely sorry for you.  Look harder.  You don’t screw up that which is Divine with a strange piece of ass no matter who tells you how much like a bonobo you are.  We need to raise our standards as a culture, not lower them.  If you believe in monogamy, defend your faith.  Do not let the dictates of fashion and culture spoil your belief.  We may be a couple of percentage points from being a bonobo, but I think we are a bonobo with a Soul…a Soul that deeply needs to commune with one other Soul.   I am sorry but I remain an unapologetic monogamist.  

Sex At Dawn Web Site and Image Credits

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Constantin Brâncuşi’s 135th Birthday Google Doodle Masthead

Constantin Brâncuşi’s 135th Birthday

Today Google had another masthead for an artist of whom I have never heard.  It is Constantin Brâncuşi’s 135th birthday.  I am not a huge sculpture fan and modern art?  Hmmm,  let me be kind and just say that I am far too simple minded to appreciate Brâncuşi’s art. 

You can read about Constantin Brâncuşi at Wikipedia. According to this article, Brâncuşi
“was invited to enter the workshop of Auguste Rodin. Even though he admired the eminent Rodin he left the Rodin studio after only two months, saying, "Nothing can grow under big trees."

I think he should have stuck around and hoped that something would rub off.  I will let their works state my case.

Click on the images to view full size. 

Rodin's The Kiss

Brâncuşi The Kiss

Just to demonstrate what a total rube I am, check out the prices that Brâncuşi’s  works have fetched, again from Wikipedia:

“In 2002, a sculpture by Brâncuşi named "Danaide" was sold for $18.1 million, the highest that a sculpture piece had ever sold for at auction. In May 2005, a piece from the "Bird in Space" series broke that record, selling for $27.5 million in a Christie's auction. In the Yves Saint Laurent/Pierre Bergé sale on February 23, 2009, another sculpture of Brâncuşi, "Madame L.R", was sold for € 29.185 million ($ 37.2 million), setting a new historical record.”

$18.1 Million Danaide
Again I find I must ask you dear readers, good Lord, have I gone insane?  Did I pass into some parallel universe?  Is it my imagination or do some people have more money than taste or common sense?  Nah, I am just a rube.

 A wise friend once told me that art is highly subjective.  A specific work is art to an individual only if it speaks directly to him or her.  If it doesn’t, then that piece is simply not art to that individual.  Rodin’s  “The Kiss” touches my Soul,  Brâncuşi’s does not.  In my image search I found this blog site,

Konstantin Brancusi’s Sculptural Series “The Kiss” (1907 – 1925): To Be Stuck in Personal relations to the Neglect of Understanding of the Public Realm

The author was apparently deeply touched by Brâncuşi’s The Kiss, (or perhaps simply hijacked it to prove his point--a point that I came to the conclusion that I am far too stupid to decipher--although I found a certain attraction to the vast collection of 50 cent words). Alas I must confess that Brâncuşi’s art is beyond me as are all the insights that these pieces provided the author in the above blog. I rather imagine that I shall never darken the doorway of the MOMA (for aesthetic reasons as well as its location in New York City), and looking at Brâncuşi’s work confirms that belief. Modern art is beyond me, and I suspect that it is my lack of intelligence that is the cause of the flaw in appreciation. I have searched Google Images looking for a favorite Brâncuşi. I can’t find one. That said I must confess an appreciation for the Google doodle. The physical placement of the various shapes provides a recognizable Google…very clever.
$27.5 Million, Bird In Space
SEE EDIT 7-13-2012

If you find that either Rodin’s or Brâncuşi’s “The Kiss” touches you in some fashion, I would be interested in hearing from you.  Please share with us in what ways these works affect you in the comments.

You can find a very good (but huge file size) photo of Rodin’s The Kiss here:

Wikimedia Rodin's The Kiss

For the past three or four days there has been a flood of image searches on Bird In Space.  I have done a search on Google and Bing and have found no reason for the sudden interest.  I am always curious as to why a particular image suddenly generates a lot of interest.  Prediction, soon we are going to see another sale of this piece for some outrageous price.  If you have any knowledge why this image would go from several hits a month to better than 30 in one day, please leave a comment.  Thanks!

Thanks to John's comment below, it seems that the source of all the hits is an article in Wired:, Threat Level, When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers’, July 12, 2012

"I’m reminded of Brancusi’s “Bird in Space”, which was famously detained while being imported into the United States. The customs agents were certain it was an attempt at shipping precision engineered metal under the guise of “art”. Brancusi had been doing that kind of work for years, I doubt he was still actively reflecting on the ontological status of the piece. But it was a question the customs agents couldn’t see past."

EDIT 7-16-2012  A friend pointed out that when one Googles "Bird In Space" a small summary box appears at the upper right hand corner of the results page and the image from this blog page appears with a link.  So the popularity of the image may just be one of those quirks of Google.  My blog's fifteen minutes of fame?  The total number of hits doubled on July 12, 13, and 15.  The 14 showed a lot of traffic for Bird in Space but the total hits were not unusually high.  Saturdays are always low activity.  The doubling in hits and the big increase in searches devoted to Bird In Space on the 12th would indicate that article had something to do with it.  I ran into this phenomena after David Eagleman appeared on the Colbert Report.

Navigating The Finite, 7-28-2011, How Many Angels Can Dance on The Head of a Pin

Image Credits:, Rodin's The Kiss, Brâncuşi’s The Kiss

Google Doodle

$37.2 Million, Madame L R, Constantin Brâncuşi, Danaide, 1918, Constantin Brancusi, Bird In Space, Madame L R

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Commentary on The Inefficiency Of Love

The Old Baguette has given me 6 points to chew on.  I shall try to address each point.  Alas the length of my extensive bull slinging will not accommodate the brevity allowed in comments.  So this is not a post per se but a reply to Old Baguette’s comment in the previous post, The Inefficiency of Love.  Here is the thread of previous comments:


Old Baguette said:

Do you suppose the author Sax believes his name on the book jacket is a misprint? Do you suppose that he believes he is Sex, not Sax? As for his ideas .... Each one sux.

Sextant said:

I think you are confusing Dr Sex with SEXtant. I am the one preoccupied with sex, not Sax. Sex was a relatively small portion of the book. As far as Sax's ideas sux, I thought he had some very good suggestions. Allowing pre-puberty girls to be girls and not dressed like their ready for a one night stand seemed sensible to me. He tries to impart the idea that modern girls need to develop a strong interior personality independent of celebrity and pressures of Facebook. Don't confuse Sax with my first two sex posts here. He had nothing to do with the articles in the Atlantic, other than being a source for alcohol abuse in Flanagan's article. What Sax seemed to push more than anything else is to allow children to be children like you and I were children and not be pushed by technology and extreme meritocracy into something they are not way ahead of when they are ready for such pressures. I thought his book on boys is very good as well. Again sexual issues are a small part of the books, its Dr. SEXtant whose ideas probably sux. I welcome more comment on this.

An Old Baguette said...
1. The 2010 census will shed light on this issue. Perhaps.
2. Information about how the Atlantic is selling these days will indicate whether or not they feel they must print titillating articles to acquire readers. Perhaps.
3. Comments by teenagers should be informative. Perhaps.
4. An analysis of naiveté should settle matters.
5. Sax is a Doctor Doctor, so he should know what he's talking about. Perhaps.
6. Because so few read books, persons concerned with these issues should browse the web.

These six comments will not knock your sox off. For sure.

So I shall try to address each of these comments although the first point, I am lost.

1.  The 2010 census.  I am not sure what your point is on this one.   So rather than me babbling, Old Baguette, please elucidate.

2.  The circulation of The Atlantic is about 400,000 according to Wikipedia.  The Atlantic’s website shows their circulation steadily climbing to 478,000 up to the year 2000, after which, curiously, no data is given.  Wouldn’t The Atlantic know what their circulation is?  I have been a subscriber since the early 80’s and have always enjoyed the magazine, although I must confess that I have seldom read it cover to cover.  According to Wikipedia, in 1999 The Atlantic was sold to new management.  In 2005, the editorial offices moved from Boston to Washington.  My observation is that the magazine is not the magazine of 10 or 15 years ago, and is a far cry from the thick tome that I received 12 months a year in the 1980s.  It is now 10 issues per year and still has good articles but they are becoming almost a rarity by comparison to the good old days.  Several years ago the magazine chose a glitzy (and thin) format and broadened their interest and included much shorter articles…perhaps both a format and interest to appeal to the younger generation.  I don’t like the magazine near as much as I used to although I would have to also admit that any publication that would appeal to me is doomed for failure because I am far removed from the moneyed mainstream.  In a very unscientific observation, I would estimate that in the 1980s I probably read 24 to 36 articles a year in The Atlantic that made me happy to be a subscriber.  I would estimate that number now to be about 5 to 10 a year. 

Caitlin Flanagan has been writing The Atlantic book reviews for quite some time.  I don’t believe that she is a paid employee on staff any longer.  I have always enjoyed her articles and much of the reaction which varies from accusations that she is an extreme liberal femni-nazi to an ultra conservative anti-feminist trying to rebuild the patriarchy.  She seems to have the ability to piss off a lot of people, which endears her to my heart.  Flanagan has a clear eyed practicality that I particularly enjoy.  The fact that I like her probably does not ode well for her, not that anyone particularly knows or gives a shit what I think, but rather in the idea that someone that appeals to me is bound to piss off a lot of people.  It may also explain the spectrum of bitching about her. Flanagan believes in what Flanagan believes, not what the latest movement in society happens to deliver to her door step.   A few years back she wrote a piece on weddings that had me in tears…both in humor and in pity for our society.  She also wrote an article several years ago on this oral sex thing that sort of implied that it was a bit blown out of proportion while Oprah was predicting the end of Western civilization. I like her and enjoy her writing.  (Sorry Caitlin.)

I have never heard of Natasha Vargas-Cooper prior to reading her article.  I enjoy her writing although I find her message to be rather confusing.  I think she had point but vastly overstated it.  Yet that is the view from a 61 year old geezer who was raised in the Internet-less world of yesteryear, brought up in the patriarchy where Mom ruled the house with an iron fist and there was not going to be any soft core erotica found in her house let alone porn. 

 3. Comments by teenagers.  Don’t hold your breath on this one.  I have Stat Counter monitoring the hits on the blog, which can tell you some interesting things about who is looking at your blog.  Despite claims to other wise I have two readers, one from Minneapolis / St Paul, and a very faithful albeit silent reader which I will say no more than he or (I suspect) she resides in the Atlantic provinces of Canada.  Of the 30 to 50 visitors to my blog daily, I have two readers.  The rest have been referred in by Google Images, come to look at pictures, and their average visit length is less than 20 seconds.  If I deleted all my pictures, I would have 1 to 3 hits a day.  (The Old Baguette has a nasty habit of disappearing for a week or two at time always causing me to worry). If I left the blog as it is and simply deleted the St Theresa of Avila post, I would probably have 5 to 10 hits a day.  I am not sure why but St. Theresa accounts for about 80% of the traffic on my blog.   I should conduct my blog by email and save server space.  This thing is waste of time and server space if one considers readership.  However, I am extremely grateful to my two readers, two are far better than none.  All this to say that I don’t believe that we will ever see a comment here by a teenager.  I did talk to a young lad fresh out of college at work about all this.  He said that he agreed with Sax’s observations on boys dropping out of society, although his experience is that they wake up in their mid to late 20s, but he had never heard of the oral sex phenomena.  Unfortunately, being at work, we didn’t have much time to discuss this.  Perhaps I should take the lad out for a beer, except I don’t drink and he may not be old enough.  My “have a beer” sessions are always allegorical.  

4.  An analysis of naïveté.  The naïveté of whom?  Me?  How can I analyze my self?  You have to do that.  Or society? 

na•ive•té or na•ïve•té   (n   v-t  , nä -, n -  v -t  , nä-)
1. The state or quality of being inexperienced or unsophisticated, especially in being artless, credulous, or uncritical.
2. An artless, credulous, or uncritical statement or act.
From    The Free
Wikipedia has an article on it as well covering broader usage. 

First I believe myself to be extremely naive as to what goes on in popular culture.  I watch very little TV and have little contact with the greater world other than people I work with, engineers—not exactly a demographic that is considered to be hot or culturally sophisticated.  So indeed I don’t know what the hell goes on in the world.  It has been my observation in the few movies that I watch, that the moment a relationship has even a minor sour note, members of both genders go looking for other bed partners immediately.  Sex with a stranger can alleviate a broken heart?  Hearts must be rather flimsy these days.

Or are we talking of the naïveté of society about sex?  I think everyone can agree that there is something strange about sex.  It effects us a bit differently than most aspects of life.  A very simple way of looking at it…in what ways can a human being be a god?  I can only think of four ways:  a.) create life,  b.) take a life, c.) grant forgiveness through grace, and d.) unbidden altruism.  I am sure there are more ways but those are the ones that come to my mind.  Fortunately most of us are not given to murder, although our fascination for war presents a troublesome wrinkle in that belief.  Unbidden altruism can be something as simple as a kind word or holding a door for a stranger, or it can be the unthinking bravery required to run in a burning building to save a life of some one you don’t know.  The granting of forgiveness through grace may actually be a supremely selfish act.  Grudges and hatreds are extremely heavy baggage, and they often only hurt the holder of the grudge.  The offender seldom suffers from the grudge.  That leaves the creation of life's method and ritual of sex.  Sex is in the nature of a trinity: mind, body, and spirit.  It is built into us for the need to procreate, yet it goes far beyond the simple need for reproduction.  Sex of course is performed by the body for the enjoyment of the mind—the high from brain chemicals that can make sex addictive.  Ahhh, but what of the spirit.  The Soul?  This is where our society is naïve about sex.  Advertising and entertainment sells the body to the mind, but Soul is ignored.  If you don’t believe you have a Soul, then you certainly have no need to sexually satisfy it.  So a drunken hook-up or one way oral sex is fine.  But if you believe you have a Soul, then you may realize that your Soul has a desire to commune with another Soul and I believe the most efficient vector is loving sexual expression--not screwing but making love--there is a difference.   I don’t feel that our culture believes for most part that we have a Soul, and quite often those who do believe we have a soul (no I didn’t forget to capitalize it) believe that it is something weak and human and easily given to evil and that sex is the high road to despair.   I think that much of our popular culture think these spiritual ideas are corny and could get in the way of the profits to be had by pushing lust.  Is the sentiment behind the sale of revealing clothes so different than the distribution of porn?

So indeed,  I am totally artless by what society and the culture finds important, but on the other hand I think the culture is completely naïve about the Sacred aspects of sex between a long term loving monogamous couple, and may fear the loss of profits to be had by unbridled lust.  Why buy a BMW when a Honda is almost as good?  The difference in quality certainly does not justify the difference in price.  It is plumage, and somebody is making one hell of a buck off of our culture’s desire for plumage!  If we invested as much interest in our sexual relationships as we as a society invest in plumage, we would be far better off.  I have always felt that the world would be a far better place with more love making and less strutting.

5.  Indeed Sax is both an MD and some sort of counseling PHD, but that doesn’t make him right. I have read plenty by both groups that I thought was un-distilled bullshit.   If you read his books, rather than my poorly written interpretations of his books I think you would find much to agree on, although not necessarily agree on everything.  Reading books primarily written for parents is not something us old farts want bothered with, so may I suggest browsing his website:

There are some links to magazine articles that he has written that will give you a flavor for his thoughts on child rearing and the importance of recognizing gender differences among children and how they should be handled by parents and education. Again sex is a minor part of his commentary. 

6. The Internet.  One can prove any conviction by looking on the Internet.  Look at me.  I am basically full of shit yet here I babble away on the Internet as though I know something.  I have chosen to ignore the moral obligation to be knowledgeable about something before one opens his mouth.  Unmitigated bullshit.  Regard it as entertainment.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Inefficiency of Love

After reading The Hazards of Duke and Hard Core in the January / February 2011 issue of The Atlantic, I was rather dismayed with the notion that I don’t have a clue what goes through young people’s minds.  As such I decided to read one of the books that Caitlin Flanagan mentioned in her article:

girls on the edge by Leonard Sax M.D., Ph.D.

Wow!  I really am out of it.  Not only do I not have a clue, I wonder if I am of the same species.  I found the book to be quite good although perhaps geared for parents of girls more so than old geezers trying to figure out what the hell is important to young people.  The book as the title suggests is about girls.  The author also wrote about boys in another title:

boys adrift

I should read this one as well, although my parenting days are long over. 

In Girls on The Edge (all lower case on the cover, but old habits prevail) the author discusses four factors that are creating a crisis for girls:  sexual identity, the cyberbubble, obsessions, and environmental toxins.

•    In sexual identity, the author claims that young girls and young women are being sexualized by dress, culture, entertainment, and social pressures well before they are naturally ready.  Their natural sexuality is never allowed to develop at it own pace because girls are transformed into sexual objects by the culture well before puberty. 

•    The cyberbubble is an explanation of the negative effects of the constant contact with their social group through Facebook, texting, and cell phones.  This incessant connection never allows a girl to have very much needed private alone time.  The ubiquity of electronic media in their lives and camera technology in cell phones result in girls constantly being on display and may result in a girl developing a public celebrity personae without developing a strong, true, interior personality. 

•    Obsessions describe the particular penchant for girls to become obsessed with an activity or idea such as academic performance, weight, beauty, exercise or sports and pursue it with frightening enthusiasm and discipline. 

•    Environmental toxins explains how girls are at risk for going through puberty at an earlier age due to estrogen in commercial beef, hormone mimicking chemicals leeching out of plastics, and phthalates used in skin products.  There is also a rather fascinating discussion on how pheromones from a loving biological father may delay puberty in girls. 

The remainder of the book gives specific suggestions on how to reduce the effect of these negative factors.  Many of the suggestions were common sense such as move computers into common living areas so that Internet usage and time and content on Facebook can be monitored.  One suggestion that especially struck me was providing a period of time every day where the girl is alone, without interruptions from cell phones, texting, instant messaging, TV, or the Internet.  This is time for much needed self reflection which will tend to help build a rich interior life free of the social requirements of friends, the need for the constant celebrity personae, and the pressures to conform to the latest craze, fashion, or fad.   Although the book was written for girls, I think much applies to boys as well and I imagine much of the same advice is offered up in  Boys Adrift.    

Another area Sax covers is budding spirituality of girls, which again I believe applies to boys as well.  He states that parents should encourage some sort spiritual development in their children even if it goes against their own (or lack of) religious beliefs.  There was once a time in my life, between my disaster with the Lutheran church and an odd miracle on the highway, in which if one suggested that I encourage a child to engage in religious belief that I would have replied to go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  So from my own experience, I know that it would not be an easy thing for non-religious parents to try to encourage a child’s spirituality.  Yet I think it is extremely important to do so.  But I would also suggest that the child be given the freedom to find her own path of spiritual awareness that does not necessarily coincide with that of the parents.  No forcing a child to go to religious classes or services that the child may despise.  On the other hand the parents must take interest and have an awareness of the child’s spiritual development to ensure that the child is not being lured into a potentially dangerous cult or sect.  Its tricky business at best, but I think extremely important.  Parents do not own their children, especially their child’s Soul, but a parent must be vigilant to matters of their child’s spiritual development—especially in this dangerous age of the Internet. 

Sax brings up another issue that parents must be cautious that their daughters do not confuse spirituality with sexuality.  He warns that failing to awaken the spirituality of one’s daughter may result in her substituting sexuality in its place.  He gives a bit of a haiku to that effect:

 “The sexual is good.  The spiritual is good.  But they are not the same thing.” 

At first blush, this seems like really excellent advice for an adolescent girl or boy.  You are not going to find God in sex.  The only trouble is that it is based on what I believe to be a mistaken untruth—not a lie per se, but an untruth based on a misunderstanding of what sex really is.  The sad part is that in today’s culture, it is in a very practical sense absolutely true.  But it shouldn’t be. 

I have been contemplating this modern view of sex since I read the two rather upsetting articles in The Atlantic.  Our popular culture has secularized sex.  It is a mistake to think of it as a Sacrament or Holy.  If there is a God, which there probably isn’t, He doesn’t really care about sex.  Sex is something you do to relieve natural urges, or improve your standing in the social pecking order.  Its good to pursue hookups with popular people as they have more celebrity appeal for your Facebook page.  It is best to use alcohol to loosen up the inhibitions.

In opposition to the above some people feel that sex is an unfortunate biological necessity for the creation of children that for the most part has been hijacked by Satan and the forces of evil.  Sex for anything other than procreation is sinful and it is a damned shame that we must do such a lowly and animalistic act to have children.

So we have some people in the culture believing sex to be a sin and many others who know that it is not.  It’s just a natural urge, a vestigial need from our pre-civilized days running about the savanna.  We are smart enough now to know when to procreate, and we are smart enough to know when to hookup to relieve an urge.  No need for being horny.  With equality of sexes and improved contraceptives, both men and women can hook up for sport with no moral qualms.  It is only a natural urge that can be dealt with intelligently and with no needless emotion.  

If this is our attitude, can it be any surprise that Sax speaks of a 16 year old girl that has given oral sex to about dozen guys?  When asked if she enjoyed the experience, she replied “I don’t know, it’s OK, I guess.  It’s really no big deal.”  Is this an isolated case?  According to Sax “I have talked with many girls and young women whose main sexual experience, from age 14 onward, has been providing oral sex, with the girl on her knees servicing the boy….Many of these girls seem to believe that sex is a commodity that girls provide boys.” 

“It’s really no big deal.”   May the saints preserve me and I am not even religious!  No big deal!  Since when did oral sex become no big deal?  When do you do oral sex to improve your “status in the eyes of the boys?”  Good Lord, have I gone insane?  Did I pass into some parallel universe?   What the hell are we coming to?  Back in my day, oral sex was a really big deal.  I am not talking about hippies or the attendees of Woodstock.  I am talking about us, we the commoners, the usual people, the dung encrusted masses.  Yeah that’s right, oral sex was a very big deal.  It was and is something that you do to someone with whom you are deeply in love, not to someone at a party because you want to be cool or you can get a star beside your name on some boy’s Facebook page.  I honestly can not fathom this sentiment.  

I have read that girls and young women like the Twilight series because of the classic romanticism that goes on between the protagonists.  Despite all the brave claims of sexual equality and the freedom to pursue screwing for sport, it seems that some women still have a need to be loved, cuddled, held tightly, and gently kissed.  Men have not always been so responsive to this need, but they can be trained.  Yet this oral sex thing that I read about every so often seems to be based on cold industrial efficiency.  It is one way, the girls servicing the boys with no demand or apparent desire for reciprocation.  It is purely sexual with no sense of romance, affection, or Holiness.  It seems to be a cold, calculated catering to the male need for emission.  Get it over with in the most efficient method available and let’s move on and not get dragged down with a lot of silly emotions.  I am sorry, oh modern denizens of the new sexual truth, but this simply breaks my heart.  This is not what I would want for my daughter, nor my son.  Is there any dignity in this?  Is there any tenderness?  Forget the concepts of love or Holiness.

Do these girls lack self respect?  I don’t believe that to be the case.  I believe that they feel they are just responding to a perceived reality.  Boys and men have an uncontrollable need to ejaculate and they are just getting through that in the most efficient manner possible.  It has nothing to do with dignity or self respect, it is just a physical reality.  “Its no big deal.”  Sort of like taking a crap, you know.

Well probably all I have managed to convey is that I am a Victorian religious prude interested in maintaining the “gulags” of the patriarchy.  I would like to think that is not true.  I believe in something, and I call it God for convenience sake, but that concept goes so far beyond the definitions provided by organized religions that the adherents of such would not recognize it as being the same concept.  So I hope I don't come off as churchy or preachy.  I believe that we have a Soul, and it is Divine—made of the same stuff that God is (oh how so terribly New Age, yeah well tough shit, that’s what I believe).  Because we have a Soul, because we are Divine creatures and not simply some sort of vast electro-chemical processes that evolved out of the primordial ooze, I believe in human love and human dignity and I believe that both concepts are indeed Sacred.  I believe that women and men really need love, tenderness, stability, and recognition of the Divinity that dwells within them.  I believe that we all must have one person who is our rock, our anchor, the love of our life.

So is it sinful to perform oral sex or participate in drunken hookups?  Not really, I don’t think anyone is going to go to hell over it.  The fact that I don’t believe in hell has a lot to do with the above statement.  But no, I don’t believe that consensual casual sex is sinful.  Do I believe that oral sex for the purpose of efficiently removing semen from a boy’s reproductive tract is a good thing for a girl to do?  Absolutely not!  Not for the girl or the boy.  You can do sex like taking a crap or you can do sex with a sense of love, honor, dignity, and Holiness.  The first method is very efficient time wise.  The latter is extremely inefficient.  It involves laying about in bed for entire afternoon, hugging, kissing, caressing, holding each other, orgasms or multiple orgasms for both, and drifting off to sleep while plugged in together.  It is done in private with only one partner. Stupid things like “I love and adore you for eternity” are whispered to each other and at times “Oh God!” is screamed.  It is messy, a little smelly (in very good way in my estimation), requires the removal of clothes, and the routine washing of bed sheets.  During the process the damned computers, cell phones, iPod, iPads, Twitters, tweaters, and every other distracting frigging contraption are turned OFF.  It is extremely inefficient and your friends will wonder why they can’t get a hold of you.  In the process you will feel some very odd emotions and sensations and you will feel an extreme attachment to your partner.  You may feel a sense of touching something that is Sacred and Divine, which I believe to be your partner’s Soul, and you may get a sense of the veil parting and a glimpse of the Infinite.  All this is an incredible waste of time, so stick with the efficient, oral sex and drunken hooks ups and move on to the next partner.  You can add them as friends to your Facebook page. 

If you believe that you have a Soul, and if you try the long and inefficient method, you may also find out that women and men really do need each other, that happiness is laying naked in the arms of your one and only lover, and that when the plumbing is together the Souls can speak to each other in a language that is so steeped in mystery, love, and wonder that you may be tempted to shriek “Oh God” at the top of your lungs.  But then again, it could all be nothing more than brain chemistry…perhaps, but try it, it is the best high you will ever have.

If you have some time on your hands and want to read how ridiculously inefficient and Holy sex can be, may I suggest

The Soul of Sex by Thomas Moore (of The Care of The Soul fame)

Although he gets a bit deeper into Greek mythology than I would prefer in the beginning of the book, stick with it, the last chapters of the book are quite superb.  This is not a how to book.  It is a beautifully written book explaining why sex is a Sacrament. 

Another book, perhaps more secular, but still in awe of the beauty of loving sexual expression is

A Natural History of Love by Diane Ackerman

In searching for the book cover image I ran into a very unique blog, which I have found rather fascinating.  I could not resist stealing this quote:

"To love someone is to find beauty in another’s tragedy, to find hope in their scars, to find tenderness in their vulnerability as well as finding joy in their utter grace and brilliance."

From On Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of Love

I wished I could write that well! 

If for some unusual reason you would like to read some more about how terribly naive I am on modern sexuality, may I suggest the following posts:

Sacrament or Hookup

Sacrament or Pornography