Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making fun of sexualities: godless edition

As I've said before, lots of people who are supposedly sex-positive aren't very good at it. Sometimes, they say stupid things which damage sexual freedom, because they just never really thought about it.

I think it is important to show specific examples of this, so I collected a few. These are not meant to be especially disgraceful examples or anything, just little examples that came to mind. All these examples come from the atheist community, not because atheists are the worst or only offenders, but to make it more relevant to all my atheist readers.

Christopher Hitchens, in his book God is Not Great, repeated the myth that Orthodox Jews are religiously required to have sex through a hole in a sheet. I looked this up, and Hitchens has since recognized that it is an urban legend, and removed it from newer editions.  Good for him, my respect for Hitchens just went up a notch.

But even if we believed the legend were true, why is that relevant?  So what if a group of people has sex through a hole in a sheet?  And if you're attacking, or even just joking about the "hole-in-a-sheet" practice, it will make kinky people feel unwelcome.

It sounds an awful lot like making fun of people for what you view as sexual deviancy.  In fact, that's exactly what it is.  The urban legend primarily comes from the non-Orthodox Jewish community as a joke at the expense of Orthodox Jews.  It's an old story: Group A dislikes group B, and then makes up rumors about the deviant sexual practices of group B.  If Hitchens had played his cards right, this would have been a great example of how religious affiliation poisons everything.

Here's another example, one that happened to me personally.  Friendly Atheist posted the results of OkCupid statistics, which showed how many people claim to have never masturbated, binned by religious affiliation.  Then he asked people to come up with amusing theories for the results.  This prompted many jokes along the lines of:
This chart can be more effectively broken down into two categories: Those who masturbate, and those who lie about masturbating!
Because anyone who claims to not masturbate is just being silly, and we should point and laugh at them.  I get that people lie about masturbating (and that this likely accounts for most of the poll results), but this is just incredibly poor taste.  People who do not masturbate usually grow up feeling ignored and erased.  And then when anyone finally acknowledges the possibility, they make a joke about it, and then a dozen more people jump in and make more jokes about it.  It is not a single joke which is the problem, it's the entire behavior pattern which is the problem.

When I reacted negatively, people offered helpful comments like this one:
Miller sounds a bit... backed up. There's surely something that could help that.
I said that I personally know people in the asexual community who do not masturbate.  This is a red herring, since asexuals aren't significantly less likely to masturbate (though perhaps they are more likely to admit not masturbating). But for whatever reason, people are more hesitant to make jokes when they realize they're making fun of an actual sexual orientation, something that people actually live through.  This is kind of stupid... what did they think they were doing?

My last example is when atheists (primarily liberals, really) attack Ann Coulter by insinuating that she is transsexual.  For an example, see virtually any liberal discussion about Coulter; it's about as likely as references to Hitler.  This one really pisses me off, and my mind drifts to the fact that people literally get murdered for being transgender.  Other people on the internet said it better.

Humorlessness is tough to sell, but making fun of sexualities is heartless, harmful, stupid, and I can't laugh at it anymore.


Anonymous said...

If you don't need God in order to be a good person (mocking others is not good), then why not BE a good person?

Good post.

miller said...

I really enjoyed this post. I agree with every point, although I'm not sure all of the people who do these things consider themselves "sex positive"? I mean I don't remember Christopher Hitchens being known as a sex-positive person and I'd find it hard to believe the people who edit pictures of Ann Coulter and try to point out where they believe they see an "Adam's Apple" actually are all that accepting of *any* MtF people.

But I get the gist.

miller said...

You're right, I don't know whether the people described are "sex-positive", and was simply generalizing based on my sense that sex-positivity is pervasive among atheists. I would characterize "sex-positive" as a collection of positions including pro-LGB, pro-choice, pro-contraception, pro-porn, and (usually) legalizing sex work.

miller said...

Well I know Laci Green used to post videos exclusively about atheism (she was a former Mormon) and then completely shifted to sex-positivity as her topic, and that's how I, already an atheist, really became acquainted with the whole "sex-positivity" movement. I had been following her atheism vlogging and got sucked in when she changed gears.

I also had a boyfriend who was an atheist and he too seemed fully on board with the idea of sex-positivity. We ended up breaking up because I realized that I was asexual, but to his credit I think he maintained a sex-positive and respectful view toward asexuality from the very beginning of me revealing to him that I feared that label might fit me (which was immediately after we shared our first kiss, lol, before we even officially decided to call each other boyfriend/girlfriend). The only self-identified "sex positive" people I've talked to in real life are him and my dad and brother, and all 3 guys have also been very open-minded and willing to learn and accept the ideas of asexuality. They also are not remotely the type to make bigoted jokes, or rape jokes, or anything like that. ;) That is only my own personal experience with a few people, of course, and I don't think it really means much because it's such a limited sample size, but I just thought I'd share, lol...

I think my whole life I kind of already was fairly sex-positive, just like I always had a basic scientific skeptic's viewpoint on things, even before I knew the term for it. To some degree, most of what the sex-positivity movement encompasses (all of what you listed I'd agree with) seem to me to be conclusions you would come to if you exampled sexuality from a scientific skeptic viewpoint, so perhaps that is what the scientific skeptic atheists so often seem to be sex-positive types.