Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Soils of Mind

While picking up some software media, I ran into someone else in the department who saw me on TV - apparently I managed to avoid sounding like an idiot during my brief interview with the newsfolk. We talked for a bit about whether POG helps liberal movements, my experiences with them, and touched a bit on what political anarchism means to him. It was really nice to have that conversation - I generally don't talk politics much at work because I don't want to be one of "those people" in the workplace (by "those people", I don't mean ultra-liberals, but rather someone who's very pushy with their politics in every social interaction they have. This may seem hypocritical to those who know me more through my BLOG than in person, but with long-term friends, I don't tend to bring up politics very often), but it's nice to occasionally have those conversations.

I recently came across the Wikipedia article on Sex-Positivity, and wondered to what extent the label describes me. I'd first like to distinguish what is allowable from what is preferred -- toleration (legal and personal) are different from approval, and I think sex-positivism sees toleration as a prerequisite for a good society along its relevant axis but not the whole thing. If I were to reduce it to what should be allowable, I'd refer to my general notion that unless there is a sufficiently strong societal interest otherwise, the default of legal permissiveness should be used. Are the components of sex-positivity a good thing? Sex, like other types of human interaction, is normally good for society in that it builds personal ties between people. Especially in modern times, where television and other interaction substitutes threaten societal fabric, supporting social interaction in the general case is important, and so we must consider that along with the idea that sex may have some biologically greater importance (and a special role) than other types of interaction. I am inclined to think that our species is by nature semi-monogamous (different simian species have different specifics along these lines), with posessiveness/jealousy partly embedded in our genetics, and that masturbation, non-heterosexuality, and other things are biologically "natural". The word "natural" is tossed around a lot in discussions about sexuality - I don't think it should ever be used to end arguments, but I don't think it's meaningless. Natural tendencies should be considered alongside possibilities for inculturation (Freud suggests that advanced society involves considerable compromise of our nature and that this is a good thing, but taking this too far can lead to neuroticism). For activities and inclinations that are not harmful to society in some significant sense, the positive effects of sexuality as a social activity (and a venue for happiness) lead me to see them as positive. Another common topic is the family - traditional family structures work to sustain society. I personally am willing to entertain alternative arrangements, although I would admit that they're "less tested" than the traditional family. If some kinds of relationship are naturally less stable than vanilla monogamous heterosexual unions, then this may harm the upbringing of children (if relevant - I support population curbs and thus dismiss out of hand the notion that having as many children as possible should be a goal of society). I am concerned about providing a stable home environment for kids, but I think the happiness of the caretaker(s) may be a more important factor for a good home environment than stability, and if the caretaker(s) would, by their specific nature, be happier with other arrangements, that would be positive. I also like the idea of raising children being the responsibility of the community and society at large as much as that of the parents - children are not property, and parents should not expect (and do not fully have even in today's society) the ability to raise them as they see fit. Back to sexuality with few limits, as described as being a component of being sex positive by the article, all the possibilities should be considered as options for the interested, and that various forms of more traditional relationships should usually still be accepted by society (subcultures that reduce one gender to a significantly lesser role should prepare for interference in what is needed to sustain that value/tradition).

To the specifics:

  • I don't presently have a strong opinion on when age of consent should be, although I hold that there should be one
  • I am unsure what I think about incest, either with appropriate genetic difference or if it should be prohibited. There is a societal interest in preventing genetic horrors, but I haven't felt out how to weigh it against happiness and social ties
  • Continual consent should, I think, be a model for sexual relations (disallowing contracts to bind people into unwanted contact). Similarly, I would expect that if sexual or other fidelity is an expected component of an ongoing relationship, it should be respected and its breach be considered a very serious public mark against transgressors.
  • Masturbation is positive, not as a social activity, but as part of the looser preference for human happiness
  • Polyamory/Swinging/other forms of non-monogamy aren't a bad thing by my book (except in certain forms, e.g. polygamous cults) when they work, although I personally probably couldn't manage it.
  • I see no problems with "gender transgression" (even though by my framework, the words don't make sense -- I know what's meant) - I prefer to deconstruct gender roles into nothingness though, so there's nothing left to transgress across
  • My attitude towards casual sex has become more positive over the years - while I still think people should be aware that sex probably has hormonal effects that may sway one's emotions in unexpected and possibly difficult-to-manage ways, if that's understood and managed (or even if not), the positive possibilities are more significant than the negative (provided illness and similar are also taken into account and managed).
  • I see porn and sex toys as positive.
  • I'm not so keen on some kinds of sex/strip shows, which tend to create atmospheres that lead men to objectify women - I see this as different from porn because it both creates a toxic social atmosphere (porn is normally solitary) and because it's significantly more real than porn, in a way similar to how the roadrunner cartoons would be significantly more disturbing and negative if they were not animated.
  • As much as I sometimes find furries and the like hilarious, their preferences don't diminish from the fact that their action builds societal ties, and should be considered positive. Just as much as we see things positively, we should still be able to laugh at them if their specifics strike our sense of humour.

I find the Robert Peters quote on porn to be quite telling:

  • Even were we to assume that there is less “forcible rape” today than there was 30 years ago and that the increase in promiscuity and proliferation of pornography contributed to the decline - after all who needs rape when you can have sex whenever you want and who needs women when porn is so accessible and affordable... does anyone in their right mind think promiscuity and pornography are good things and should be encouraged?
From my point of view, the answer is a strong yes - wanted sexual contact that strengthens societal ties and can be accepted and provided for within societal bounds is far superiour to rape, which is antisocial and can be traumatic and destructive on many levels. With porn, the possibility of objectification that would carry over into real life is less of a concern than the individual happiness it generates (and the possible release of libido that otherwise may be difficult to manage).

So it's fair to say that I can give a (slightly qualified) yes to being sex-positive. I don't tend to talk about sex much (apart from occasional absurdist jokes about snorkels and slinkys) with other people because I know it's an often-touchy subject (and to a limited extent I want to avoid inappropriate familiarity with people that might lead to discomfort in their relationships or awkwardness in my relations to them). I've known a few people who are much more open about these things, and sometimes it's been weird being around those conversations. Sometimes the imagery described also induced unwanted feelings in me, which also can be a concern..


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