Sex


Rod Dreher is the senior editor at The American Conservative. He penned a piece a few days ago about chastity and how it’s been relegated to America’s social trash heap.

The article was in response to Pope Francis’s recent letter, Amoris Laetitia, a rather tortured explanation of the Catholic Church’s continuing lack of comprehension where sex and real people are concerned.

If you are interested at all in what an old celibate man has to say about intimate relationships, you can read his take and others outrage on sex, marriage, divorce and remarriage here, but I am going to focus on the Dreher piece because I find the idea of chastity and the way its been used/continues to be used so repugnant.

Dreher references a young female reader of his blog as the basis of the argument that chastity as an idea has been forgotten by most adults and that this is – in her (and his) view – a huge loss for society.

When you consider chastity as an idea that has always been problematic at best and violently oppressive at worst, I don’t agree at all.

Chastity has been forgotten for a good reason. It only existed is the first place as a way for society and religion to shame and control women and LGBTQs.

It’s a tool of oppression that has – among other things –  allowed sexual abusers to flourish in the priesthood specifically but also in families and society at large. It’s part of what has helped keep females second class and physically vulnerable for thousands of years.

Chastity is the more evil twin of modesty. Both are tools of subjugation, and teaching our children that sex is dirty and their bodies are shameful is one of the deepest roots of the ills of modern society.

Dreher’s young reader bemoans the fact that her friends couple physically without regard to what the church thinks about it.

And not in “scandalous” ways. What she references to is nothing more than dating, consensual sex, and co-habitation. Just the normal stuff of life. Behaviors that humans were engaging in long before religions and governments decided that it was in their best interests to introduce restrictions and instructions. And let’s not kid ourselves that this occurred for any other reason than politics and power.

For some reason though the young woman Dreher quotes, thinks that people don’t value relationships because sex often happens before marriage and sometimes marriage doesn’t happen at all.

I would argue that people don’t value each other because of the screwed up messages they get from religions and pop culture, the latter being a backlash of the first. But the religionists are stuck on the idea that humans are incapable of valuing each other or understanding love and intimacy sans a whooping doses of shame.

Because that’s what chastity is. It’s shame disguised as a virtue.

There’s nothing healthy about teaching young people – females in particular – that their bodies are such a corrosive distraction and temptation that they should not only be well-covered but they should be kept off-limits sexually until  safely housed within the confines a lawful marriage.

There are a lot of good reasons to be choosy about who you form an intimate relationship with but preserving one’s chastity would not top any list I might make.

And I wouldn’t argue at all with the young reader’s idea that intimate committed relationships are something that a some people don’t put much serious thought or effort into. But not because of a lack of chastity. Not because they are knowing or unknowing “sinners”.

People are thoughtless because they are human. They live in the past and the very near future. Seldom in the moment. Rarely thinking far ahead. Mostly self-interested. It’s our humanness that sometimes makes us terrible partners. Chastity and rigid, unrealistic rules about how to date and mate aren’t the fixes for these things.

The Catholic church (much like other faith beliefs) is only interested in sexuality because it allows them a means to exert undue influence and even control over people.

The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar was among the first to legislate and reward state-approved sexuality. Long before Christianity, Augustus realized that people could be more easily controlled this way. It wasn’t about sin. It was about consolidating power. Regulating women to a more subservient role. Marginalizing LGBTQs. Chastity was a part of that and it’s no small wonder that when the Christians arrived, their religion eventually became the state religion. Roman rule and Catholic aversion to healthy sex were a match made in their particular twisted versions of heaven.

If someone wants to practice chastity as a part of a personal belief system or to be more mindful of themselves and their partners, more power to them. As it stands though, chastity is a blunt tool of suppression with both eyes ever on the prize of control. It tells those it is aimed at that they are shameful, bad, deviant. It teaches people wanting or participating in sex is a personal failing. It springs out of the idea that all sex is sinful – consensual and non-consensual alike.

Chastity is why women are still not equal.

When chastity becomes a choice rather than a coerced obligation, I might be inclined to amend my views, but I don’t see that day on the horizon.

Chastity is best forgotten. And the sooner the better.


Love Love Love

Image by Gregory Jordan via Flickr

A good number of Google searches bringing readers to this blog lately have been searching for proof that their widower boyfriend loves them. Why they are searching the Internet for the answer to a question that only their widower can provide, I hesitate to guess though I bet I could.

How do you know if any man loves you?

Cher would tell you it’s in his kiss, but it’s in his actions. Does he act like he loves you?

With men (and women too really, the whole “Venus and Mars” thing is mostly based on stereotypical crap), words will only take a person so far if there is nothing concrete to back them up. Concrete as in action.

What’s the guy doing. Or not doing. That leads you to question his “I love you” in word or deed?

Or are you engaging in the centuries old female pastime of reading between a man’s lines like they were leaves at the bottom of a tea-cup? And if you are doing that – quit it. Now. Step away from the high school cafeteria table where you once giggled and obsessed about boys. It was okay then. You were learning about the whole relationship boy/girl exchange, but as an adult woman, the only thing you are ever going to get from it is a big fat bruised ego.

My advice, and it’s hardly revolutionary, is simply ask.

“Do you love me?”

“Are we an exclusive couple?”

“Where is this relationship going?”

And no, it’s not pushy or stalkerish or demanding to ask some very basic questions of the guy you are in all probability getting naked with on a regular basis*. If it’s not too soon to have regular “sleep over” dates than it is not too soon to ask questions when you feel that love is in the air and he, for reasons unclear, doesn’t seem to be feeling it too. You’re a grown woman and this is your life. Speak up.

But, his wife is dead. He’s grieving.

He’s also involved with you. Having sex with you. Insinuating himself into your life and your affections. Although I have been told – by widowed folk – that sex just happens because of the loneliness and pain of loss. It doesn’t. Sex never accidentally happens. Show me a “sex accident” and I will recant, but until I am offered proof, I will maintain my disbelief.

A widowed man who comes a courting, regardless of where he is in the mythical grief process, is perfectly able to deal with the fallout, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Cut no man (or woman) slack because they’ve been widowed. It’s no different from the divorced guy whose “wife screwed him over” or the never married guy who’s “afraid of commitment because of that girl who dumped him once … a while ago”. It’s bullshit excuses. The ones that people use because they know they’ll work. The stereotypical guy whose been too hurt to open his heart again routine has rewarded many a man with the cake sans having to bake it for himself.

A widower loves you when his actions say so. He will not retreat or play “now you see/hear from me and now you don’t” games. Pictures of his dead wife are not adorning his nightstand and his home does not resemble Miss Havisham‘s ballroom. He doesn’t cower under the weight of disapproval from children, in-laws or friends. And even if he has moments where the past intersects with the present, chances are quite good that he will never let you know it.

You will be his priority, his joy and future. He’ll have told you so in a thousand different ways consistently and happily. And he will have taken steps – in the words of Captain Picard – to “make it so”.

But if you are here because you are still not sure – and you don’t believe me – then ask him how he feels and what’s going on. You owe that to yourself.

*And if you are helping out with his children, practically or actually living with him – you are well past the point of having the right to know for sure.


Students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut have sex and they want Congress, those members ready to throw Planned Parenthood under the budget bus, to know it.

Do you have sex? Congress, the GOP and the religious right appear to think you shouldn’t – especially if you are a woman – and if you do, you should suffer Job-like travails for your audacity.

The truth about Planned Parenthood is that they spend more time providing access to healthcare to young women, underprivileged women and women without health insurance than they do providing access to abortion, which by the way is legal and nobody’s business but a woman’s and her doctor.

Planned Parenthood, at any rate, is not the problem in the debate about abortion. The problem is that some people believe that life begins at conception and some don’t. Just like some people believe in God and some don’t. And just like all things theological, Americans in particular have a really hard time respecting other people’s right to believe or not and to act upon those beliefs where their lives are concerned.

Americans practice the idea of freedom in a random manner. They believe in it for themselves personally and for other people only when it suits them.

It’s also a matter of not understanding the difference between life and existence.

And it is, sadly, yet another example of the fact that women are not valued, being reduced again and again to little more than a sex object with incubator potential.

If you believe that life begins at conception fine. Live it. Be a good example. God would approve.

What he wouldn’t approve of is forcing your will and views on those who don’t hold the same views. Aside from his tantrum in the temple, not once does Jesus ever impose his will on anyone he interacts with throughout the Gospels.

Jesus, it would seem, was a “choice” kind of guy.

If only his followers could have established such an enlightened attitude once he wasn’t around to physically keep an eye on them anymore. Perhaps the history of the world would have played out differently and perhaps people who have sex would be allowed to take responsibility in a manner that fits with their beliefs.

I don’t believe that life begins at conception. I do believe that Planned Parenthood’s services are important for women who don’t have the money or the access to gynecological services otherwise. I do think that the assault on reproductive health services in the United States is part of a widespread disrespect for female independence and civil rights and an attempt to force us further into second class status.

Oh, and I have sex. So I support your right to have sex also, if you choose, and to make decisions about your body for yourself alone. And I support Planned Parenthood.


Suffragettes on way to Boston (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

A record number of anti-abortion bills emerged this legislative season at the state level with South Dakota, predictably, leading the vindictive pack with a bill that essentially made it legal to murder doctors who performed abortion or women seeking them under the guise of a “self-defense” law.

And while I am still waiting for the inevitable day when right leaning legislatures seek to impose a dress code and assign us seats at the back of all public transit, the Florida State Legislature takes top prize for the sheer number of assaults on female reproductive autonomy with a record 18 bills struggling to meander the process and land on the new GOP governor’s desk.

While some could claim that this is not about women’s rights at all but protecting human life, the proof against this tired clichéd defense is a bit too overwhelming because it’s not just our plumbing that concerns the GOP. Reducing women to 1950’s standards at every level appears to be the goal.

Wisconsin’s union busting tactics are aimed point-blank at female dominated professions, and the dismantling of higher education largely affects young women who are now the majority of students and are graduating in greater numbers than their male peers.

While the feministing 20 and 30 somethings were angsting over non-issues like whether to change their name or not when they married or how to ensure that men carried their share of the household and child-rearing chores, those who prefer women barefoot and pregnant have been making steady progress in their hamstringing of Roe V.Wade and limiting women’s access to birth control, emergency contraception and even basic reproductive health care.

We fiddled and Rome caught fire. The question is – will it burn down around us or can we roll back the lash the right is using to back slap us?

Let’s make a few things clear. This is not about the right to life or babies.

The people so intent on forcing women to carry children to term have no interest in those children once they are born. They are the same people who flushed Headstart down the toilet and are defunding state health care plans for children at every opportunity. They are crippling public education through budget cuts and unrealistic measuring standards. The goal is – and always has been – about using children as a means to cripple women and tie them to home and hearth, ensuring their dependence and subservience.

What is going on is no less an attempt to prevent equality than forcing women to bind their feet, be circumcised or swaddle themselves when out in public.

Whenever God or sanctity or family values are invoked, the end result is never good for women.

American men hate women just as much as their counterparts in the Third World and just as much as Muslim fundamentalists and just as much as those who tried to smother the early suffragettes by jailing and force feeding them did.

Every man who professes a “right to life” is proclaiming his belief that women are chattel to be possessed, ordered about and controlled.

And women take it.

Do we hate ourselves as much as we are hated?

We dress like whores and desperately maintain weights that damage our health while flocking to every beauty product and medical intervention that promise to freeze-frame us in a manner acceptable to men and societal standards set by men.

We work at the expense of our sanity, health and children because men expect us to pull half their load and all of ours too. Women have known since the get-go that “having it all” is a myth but it’s one that men still whole-heartedly support and push down our throats – with our help.

I have daughters. There are wonderful – witty and smart – but their lives will never be as easy as the boys they grew up with because it is still an XY world and with males now the making up more than half the population, how can things get better?

Margaret Wente at The Globe and Mail wrote an idiotic diatribe for International Women’s Day that stated the misguided opinion of too many women in the industrialized world. She wrote that we (women) have won the fight for inequality so shut up about it already.

It’s that attitude that has allowed the legal assault on women to ratchet up this year. Complacency and a preoccupation with crap that is distraction more than substance.

Men have been the dominant race since the beginning of time. They have no reason to share power and have done so only when forced and only reluctantly.

Wake the fuck up, Ladies.


"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

Image via Wikipedia

New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.


Old woman pouring tea, unknown artist, 19th ce...

Image by Black Country Museums via Flickr

Health, my own, dominates at the moment. Since late last year, it has been one thing on the heels of another. Despite my visible skin-crawling anxiety about dealing with the health profession, I’ve spent numerous hours trekking from one appointment to another.

The good news is that I am not officially allergic to anything, which should have me dancing about like Snoopy after sending the Red Baron into a death spiral. However, the allergist does concede that what I experience – hives, swollen itchy eyes, wheezing and sneezing – are allergic reactions.

To what?

Good fucking question.

But more good news is that though my system reacts, I am not at risk of anaphylactic shock and my body is just as likely to ignore a past trigger as it is to go haywire. Possibly it’s something to do with the planet alignments or moon phases.

Also, along the good vein is the apparent revival of my thyroid. I’ve gone from hypo to heading toward hyper. Woo hoo.

But the flip side, I am creaky. Tweaked here and there to the point that I am off to see the physio next week.

And,

the aging thing is on the warpath again.

Hormones. Malfunctioning. Tests. Doctors.

Probably it’s nothing. Usually, it’s nothing. Unless, it’s something, but that is rare absent a family history.

Let me pause to thank the bio-parents once again for not bothering to look me up as an adult to clue me into any medical history that may have cropped up in their lives in the last 47 years that I might need to know.

Rob let my latest testing procedure slip into a conversation with the older girls tonight. He didn’t note the alarm, but I did.

“It’s just the whole change thing,” I assured them. “It would be easier if I had a biological mother to run things by and ask if such and such was normal or ask how things played out for her.  It would save me a lot of worry and the doctors a lot of hunt and poke. But the odds are it’s just aging and running down.”

Probably.

I can’t quite dismiss the “probably”, and it’s not like my doctor was worried, but she doesn’t know me well enough – yet – to know that I can worry in Technicolor 3-D with THX surround sound without taxing my vividly overactive imagination the slightest bit.

The getting old thing wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for my innate ability to worry about it.


Mary Magdalene

Image via Wikipedia

When I was about seven or eight, I had a coloring book that retold stories from the Old Testament.

I know what you are thinking.

Huh?

I am fairly certain it arrived in my Easter basket along with a Skip-It, a new box of Crayolas and some chalk. The Easter Bunny was flush that year.

One of the stories was from the Book of Ruth, and as that is my mother’s name, it caught my eye. The drawings depicted a woman who also reminded me a lot of my mother physically though her obedient behavior and willingness to be a follower was not something I have ever associated with Mom, no matter what she may say about her demeanor back then.

Dad thought the story of Ruth‘s betrothal and marriage to a man named Boaz was a hoot because Boaz essentially seals the engagement by offering one of his sandals to Ruth’s kinsmen. He shared the story with all of his friends and some of them loved it so much that he was forever after known as “Boaz” in particular circles.

But I have told this story before.

What is interesting enough to prompt me to bring it up again springs from a couple of book reviews on two works soon to be published on biblical interpretation.

Fascinating stuff? More than you know.

In the days of the Protestant Reformation, one of the big deals the reformers sought – and the Catholic Church fought against – was printing the Bible in common language instead of Latin. Reformers believed that even the lowest rungs of society would benefit from being able to read the word of God for themselves. Rome cringed and declared that ordinary folk weren’t capable of interpreting scripture correctly. They would inevitably read the Bible wrong and heaven only knew what would come of that.

Ironically, the old school Catholic Church was correct to be concerned. The Bible is probably one of the most poorly understood and badly interpreted texts ever.

The authors of the new books want to set a few language and interpretation issues straight because they feel that the Christian right and the political right in the United States are deliberately promoting non-ideas and values based on faulty knowledge of the Bible.

Which brings me back to feet – Boaz’s – and Ruth.

In the story of Ruth, she pretty much puts the moves on Boaz at the insistence of her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Naomi’s late son was Ruth’s husband and Ruth had left her own tribe to be with him. Upon his death, custom dictated that Ruth could/should return to her own people but Naomi had no one immediate to help her and Ruth felt obligated to stay.

But when Boaz showed up on the scene, the wise Naomi pushed her daughter-in-law to move along. She knew that a second marriage for the childless widow was a better long-term plan for Ruth than staying with her.

My favorite “revelation” from the review talks about how sex is hidden in the Bible.

Basically there is sex on every page, but only if you know where to look for it.

As an eight year old, I had no idea that people had sex beyond kissing, and my Catholic school training certainly never covered Bible porn. Still, I knew there was more to Mommy and Daddy interactions than what was apparent to my eyes, and when I read that Ruth spent her wedding night sleeping at Boaz’s feet, I was puzzled.

“Why did she sleep at his feet when they were married?” I asked my Dad.

“Because in the old days, women were trained better, ” he quipped.

But according to scholars, there are more than a few places in the Bible where a foot is not a foot at all.

When biblical authors wanted to talk about genitals, they sometimes talked about “hands,” as in the Song of Solomon, and sometimes about “feet.” Coogan cites one passage in which a baby is born “between a mother’s feet”; and another, in which the prophet Isaiah promises that a punitive God will shave the hair from the Israelites’ heads, chins, and “feet.” When, in the Old Testament, Ruth anoints herself and lies down after dark next to Boaz—the man she hopes to make her husband—she “uncovers his feet.” A startled Boaz awakes. “Who are you?” he asks. Ruth identifies herself and spends the night “at his feet.”

My. My.

Now I wonder what the whole sandal thing was really all about.

Naturally this begs a bit of further exploration in terms of the rather famous New Testament incident involving Mary Magdelene washing Jesus’s feet and drying them with her hair.

As I remember, the disciples were quite scandalized and if the feet in question weren’t feet at all – that makes sense – and really sheds a different light on the Saviour.

But sometimes feet are feet. Like a cigar is just a cigar.

I won’t be telling the real story of Ruth’s foot worshipping to my mother, but it’s too bad Dad isn’t still around to hear the tale. That would set his ears to wiggling and earn me a look for sure.