Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sex Positivity and Conservatism

I was wondering about something.  I wondered if sex positivity and conservatism could possibly go together.  Many more liberal minded people would probably say no.  After all, conservatives want to take away birth control,  and access to sexual health information.  Is that exactly true?  I don't think so.  At least not for me.  Sure, some republicans, mostly of the more fundamentalist religious stripe, want to take away those things.  That is NOT what I believe.  I have said it before and will say it again.  Everyone should have access to health information and that includes accurate information about sexual issues, birth control, STDs, etc.  People should be educated about consent and the possible emotional issues involved with sexual activity.

Thing is, though, that I seem to lose touch with this sex positive stuff when they start saying that promiscuity is a good thing for some people.  Yes, I understand that not everyone is the same.  Not everyone lives by the same moral standards or views sex the same way.  I realize that I am reading this through my own views.  I also realize that promiscuous cannot really be defined and that it is typically used against women and not men.  It is a loaded term, for sure.  I am introducing bias into this.

First, I want to say that sex doesn't do anything to anyone that a lot of religious presentations say it does.  Women do not become "used goods" or "chewed pieces of gum."  That is a horrible way to think of a human being.  Sex has in no way an on the worth of any human being.  However, it is an activity that carries a lot of risks, physical and potentially emotionally.  In my view it is not something to be taken lightly.  Something can potentially produce new life, or introduce disease should be treated carefully.

It is it wrong that if I had children that I would want them to have a positive view of sex while at the same time discouraging them from sexual activity until they are older?  I wouldn't want to focus on the negatives.  I wouldn't want them to be shamed and scared like I was.  This where my bias comes in.  I would like for them to be in a relationship where they are mature, trust their partner and are educated in all aspects.  Maybe this is because I can't imagine having sex in a situation where I didn't have an emotional connection to the person.  That is my thing.

Studies have shown fewer risks for women who wait until their early 20's to have sex.  In part, because they typically have fewer partners.  Possibly because they are more mature more likely to practice safer sex.  Maybe because they are more emotionally mature and know more of what they want  out of a sexual relationship.  Of course, all of this could be conjecture.  Anyway, my point is that waiting has its benefits and I don't want that to get thrown out.

Sex can be a wonderful experience in the right situation with the right preparation.  It is natural and healthy.  Of course, I have my views about my own personal situation and so does everyone else.  I don't want tell anyone how to run that very private part of their life.  Anything that happens between consenting adults is nothing I would legally fight.  I just don't want to live in a society that makes sex a very causal thing when in so in many ways it is anything but.

So what does this make me?  Am I sex positive or still too "puritan?"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Coming Out

Wasn't quite sure how to start this one but I felt the need to get something off my chest.  I am not sure what I believe.  Scary, isn't it?  For some people, yes, for other people, no.  It comes naturally to some to question and not worry that they do so.  I am pretty much the opposite of that.  This pretty much sums it up:

On the other hand, I am not entirely sure I fit the label sometimes.  I do not consider myself atheist.  The best I can describe it is I don't know.  This is a frightening development for someone who felt sure about everything for the first 20 or so years of her life.  I went through a period a couple of years ago where I didn't attend church.  I was trying to pray and sometimes I felt it was going somewhere.  I studied other religions.  I studied other forms of Christianity.  I knew I could never go back to conservative Christianity.  The subjugation of women, the treatment of gay people, the fights with science and the simplistic black and white thinking was too much for me.  I converted to a more liberal form of Christianity.  This solved many of my problems for a while.  It felt so right.  I was at home.  Now, I don't know.  I problems but the thing is this time it has to the beliefs of Christianity itself, not just the church.  

I don't want anyone to leave this thinking that I never believed or was never sincere about those beliefs.  I prayed the sinner's prayer for the first time when I was seven years old.  I remember that event so well.  Of course, this was nothing new.  I had been taught the Gospel my entire life.  But for someone to say that wasn't legitimate is insulting.  The experience was legitimate to me.  Despite this, I was always worrying that I wasn't really saved.  I prayed that prayer many times just to make sure.  After all, this was the most important thing in the world.  I was in church every sunday, youth group every friday, sunday school, special events.  Even went on retreats, to seminars, camps and other organized events.  I evangelized people with my church (even though I wasn't entirely comfortable).  Went on missions trips but in some ways I was never "one of them."  I listened to the wrong music, went to public school, and never truly bought into everything they told me.  Maybe the questions were the beginning.

If I had to place myself most days I would say I am an agnostic theist.  This could change and yes, some of my views right now are probably contradictory and don't make much sense.  I want to believe that there is a god that loves us and cares about what happens in the world.  I want to believe that this world has some type of meaning to it.  A part of me wants to feel like praying.  On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of giving your own life meaning.  

However, it was a real relief to know that could come out to my best friend her family and they felt the same way.  They love me no matter what.  I just don't know what to do about my family if and when I tell them.  Maybe I should just keep going the path?  Keep going to church?  Hope for more faith?  I care about the people I go to church with and I care about my family.  I haven't become different.  I am still the fairly conservative person I have always been.  

There is a possibility this is a phase and that is why I didn't want to go all crazy and tell everyone.  I don't even know.  I like Christian ethics (for the most part).  Treating people decently is important. This life matters.  Truth be told, I focus more on this life now, anyways.  I believe in forgiveness, compassion, kindheartedness, justice and all that good stuff.  I am more interested in how people behave opposed to what they believe.  All in all, though, I feel conflicted.  I don't like pretending but I don't like the alternative either.  Maybe this shall pass.  Maybe it is a "dark night of the soul."

Maybe in way I am not ready to "come out" or proclaim anything since I don't know what I am coming into.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Objectification of Women

Saw this cartoon on Pinterest and thought it was interesting.  Got a laugh out of it but at the same time I actually found it fairly thought provoking.  How we view women's rights and objectification is actually fairly dependent on culture.  The woman on the right might believe that she is shielding her body from men so they notice other, non-physical, things about her.  The woman on the left may believe that she is exercising her right to present her body how she sees fit.  Both think the other is giving into the male dominated culture.  But isn't the point?  They are complaining about a male dominated culture, which they recognize they are both living in.  Sure, it looks different but yet it is very much the same.

To me, the important thing in all of this is the women be doing this out of free choice.  Problem is, the way society is currently set up I don't think this is entirely possible.  Does the woman in the full body covering have a choice in if she wears that?  Is she threatened or sanctioned if she were to choose something else?  Similarly, is the woman in the bikini wearing that because that is what she wants to wear?  Is she doing because she feels it is the only way to be attractive to men?  It is tough to make these calls when we live in a society, along with other societies, that objectify women.

Ideally, a woman be able to wear what she wants without fear of being assaulted, demeaned or stifled in her day to day life.  Objectification is what makes all of this so complicated.  It's related to rape culture and the purity movement.  In either situation a woman can be reduced to a body.  In one case she could be reduced to a "loose woman" who is "asking for it."  In another case the woman could be again reduced to her body because she must cover in order to keep men from being led astray if she were to show some skin.

In both possible scenarios the woman is the one who is responsible for how men react.  They are reduced to bodies that must controlled in just the right way so men are kept in check.  Really, in both cases women would be the ones responsible if a man raped them.  Men are never responsible for how they react in either situation.  Of course, this is horribly messed up and shows how messed up things are.

I see this all the time in conservative religious circles when it comes to doctrines such as modesty.  You are supposed to cover all those alluring parts of yourself.  I can remember once at a church function getting told I had to change my shirt because my shoulders were showing another time I can remember being told I couldn't wear a certain bathing suit because it exposed my mid section.  Of course, I complied but I always felt so weird about it.  I wondered why men couldn't handle being exposed to a shoulder, for crying out loud.  It was because I would incite them to lust.  They couldn't choose how to respond?  Now, I do dress fairly conservatively.  I always have but I do now wear things that would not be considered appropriate by Baptist standards.

It's amazing how the more I turn a critical eye to society and gender all this stuff is tied together.  Women cause men to lust, rape them and objectify them.  NO!  Men choose these actions.  Men choose to view women as just a body.  To make assumptions off of the way they are dressed.  Are they a "nice" girl or they a "bad" girl?  They will be treated accordingly.  I believe that men have control over that.  I believe that a man chooses to be a rapist.  They choose to objectify women.  They choose to respect women.  They are NOT slaves to biology, just as women are not.  To be clear, I am not trying to put the blame on individual men entirely but rather to a societal system where women are assessed for "goodness" or "badness" by their clothing choices.

 I wish women had a choice.  I wish women were treated as human beings worthy of respect, no matter what they are wearing.  I wish women were not viewed as bringing on rape.  I would hope that women on both sides of this picture were able to make a choice, free of coercion, about how they are present themselves.  No woman is the sum of her body.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shame and Guilt as Motivators

Too often people use shame and guilt as motivators.  Advertising, work, relationships and religion.  I see this big time in Christianity.  How often is this used, especially when talking about sexuality?  People often shame other church members to show others what will happen if they dare to step outside the bounds.  Do people motivated by shame and guilt act any better?  I don't think they do.  I think they simply have more guilt about their transgressions.
The purity movement is built on shame and guilt tactics.  Don't have sex because you WILL get pregnant, get an STD and have lifelong emotional scars.  Do these things happen every time?  Of course not.  Shame and guilt usually leads into people needing to lie.  In this example, condoms don't work, you will have marriage problems if you don't go in as a virgin, and you will always compare your current partner to your past partners.  Of course, these things are not true most of the time.  Am I trying to defend more liberal sexual attitudes?  Not really, just trying to point out that shame and guilt can lead to dishonesty.
Another example, in some churches they will tell people that one sip of alcohol will cause them to become alcoholics.  In the majority of cases this is untrue.  One sip of alcohol means you are one sip drunk.  How silly.  I think the motivation is just to guilt people into believing that one sip of alcohol is going to ruin your life.  Truth is, most people can enjoy a drink or two and not hurt themselves or others in the process.  Do people abuse alcohol?  For sure.
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that there is always a potential for bad things to happen when doing, well, almost anything.  Shaming people by producing and instilling guilt is effective in the sense that sometimes people will be afraid and form unhealthy attitudes, which will keep them from said activities.  Other times, it just makes people feel lousy and doesn't change them at all.  If someone is doing something truly harmful how likely are they to reach out in an environment where theses tactics are used?  Wouldn't they be more likely to hide and continue these things in private?  It tears people apart emotionally and mentally.
Yes, there are things that are wrong that people should be discouraged from.  This is not about that.  Maybe it is time that we were open and honest about things.  Stop making up lies to scare people.  Be honest about the mistakes people make, including yourself.  People should be shown the positives to a certain way of living rather than convincing them that their reputation and self worth completely depend on it.  People that are willing to change should be commended rather than held up as nothing more than scare tactics.  There is a time for talk about negative consequences but most people don't need more shame, guilt and lies tacked on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston and Faith

As we all know, today was a horrible day.  One of my favorite events, the Boston Marathon, was overtaken by senseless violence.  It just boggles my mind how people could do such a thing and inflict so much suffering on a group of people.  I am naturally a pessimist and an introvert so these types of things really raise questions about good vs. evil and how the world ultimately works.  Same thing with the Sandy Hook shooting.

My questions went something like this: Where is God?  Why is evil allowed, it seems, to overcome good so much of the time?  Is this just one of those things that signals to "end of the world?"  Are people really getting worse?

Of course, some of these questions are the result of my upbringing, especially the stuff about the "end of the world."  I kind of have a phobia about that so best not to go there most of the time.  Anyway, as a person with a somewhat skeptical nature it just confuses me so much.  Why doesn't God intervene?  How much does free will have an effect on the world?  These are the moments where I fall into periods of doubt and uncertainty.  I don't have anymore answers than anyone else.  It is the belief of Christians everywhere that good will eventually overcome evil.  Evil doers will be punished and the world will be set right.  But sometimes, in the deep recesses of my mind, I just don't know.

I get there are evil people in the world.  I get that people make their choices and we bare the consequences.  Maybe it just seems to me that things get worse as time goes on.  I do tend to look to the negative side all too often.  All I know is that people are capable of great good and great evil.  It just seems that some people choose to follow their evil inclinations more than their good ones.

And to add a more political element, people need to stop placing blame where blame is not due.  We don't know the facts.  All we know is that an act of terrorism was committed.  I saw people blaming everyone from liberals, atheists, Obama and Muslims.  The truth is no one knows why suffering happens and why people choose evil when they had other options.  Human nature is an uncertain thing.  Now is not to the time to place blame, as appealing as that may be.  Now is not the time to say why such a tragedy happened.  Now is the time to simply grieve and think of those affected.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Disagree

Lurking around the internet you often see some vile things.  People take the masks off and their true nature comes out.  People suddenly lose their kindness and civility, it seems.  What triggered this was seeing a nasty comment left on an atheist blog left by a so called Christian.  It was insulting, rude and deplorable, to say the least.  Name calling, death threats, and outlandish accusations are never appropriate or necessary.  Honestly, it says much more about the person writing it than the person it is written about.  Surely, we all say unkind things but it seems the internet makes that easier.  Problem is rules don't change or shouldn't change just because you are hiding behind a screen.  Believe in God or not you should want to have integrity, which means acting the same regardless of who is watching, or in this case, reading.  If you have to hide behind anonymous comments, there is a problem.  Thus, this brings me to what I consider appropriate and inappropriate ways to disagree.

*Listening to a person.  That means really listening, not just pretending.  Think about the points they are making and how you could possibly learn something from them.
*Go in with an open mind.  Realize that you possibly be wrong or misguided in some regard.  After all, none of us know everything.
*Be respectful.  Everyone likes to be treated like their ideas matter and they are worth your time.
*Educate yourself on various points of view.  At least know what you are talking about.  No one likes to argue against a strawman!

*Going in with the idea that you are going to change the other person.  This impedes true listening and understanding.  You can't have an open mind if you are always right.
*Name calling/insults.  It just makes you look like you don't have any real points so you must attack the other person.
*Making everything personal.  Just because you disagree with someone does not make them terrible.  Yes, you feel strongly about a lot of subjects but so doesn't the other person!
*Arrogance/superiority.  This goes along with changing the other person.  You are not the sole arbiter of truth on the planet, so don't act like it!

A lot of this boils down to treating people how you would want to be treated.  And frankly, it makes you arguments look weak when you can't present them in logical, calm, respectful way.  Emotions can take a good discussion into a bad place, sometimes.  Some empathy would go a long way.  No one likes being attacked or treated badly.

I heard a good piece of advice, "love your neighbor as yourself..."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Women Should be Silent in the Church

Anybody ever heard that one?  Of course, I heard it so many times growing up Baptist.  Now the phrase kind of makes my scalp itch.  This single verse has been used more times than I can count to put down women and refuse to listen to their points of view.  I think all the time growing up I knew there was something wrong with this but I didn't feel safe expressing it.  After all, this was the orthodox Christian view.  Who was I to argue with God?  Well, times have changed and now I see this for what it is.  It is a cultural view from long ago that is used to maintain male power and dominance in the church.  I am not saying that all men consciously feel this way or even really think this way it is there.  Of course, this thing, patriarchy, is everywhere.  Sounds very liberal and feminist of me, doesn't it?  I guess that's where the modern part comes in.

The plethora of books in evangelical circles about women is a sight to behold.  When I say sight, I mean unsightly.  Oh goody, now's a chance to mention my favorite *cough cough* book, Created to be His Helpmeet.  I was only tempted to throw the thing across the room several times. I think I did well.  Basic premise of the book: women were created to please men.  Too bad if you don't like something that is just the way it is.  It encourages women to stay with abusive husbands, with the only solution being more submission on their part.  It even states in the book that a woman fails if she has no man to please.  This is so wrong in so many ways.  A woman's worth is never dependent on a man.  Woman deserve to be treated with respect just like men.  That means having an equal say in relationships and in the church.

It means that a woman can go into a church and expect to listened to.  A women can get up in front of the church without fear of reprisal for stepping out of bounds.  A woman doesn't feel she has to be silent in the event of abuse or any type of wrongdoing.  Women are taken seriously and never dismissed because something is "merely" a woman's issue.

Women are hearing some pretty terrible things coming out of the pulpit.  Books written for women are pressuring women to adopt these dangerous attitudes because it is biblically "correct."  Girls are growing up hearing they are not as capable as men.  They are taught to lay down their rights.  They are taught to accept unfair treatment and even abuse in the name of "biblical womanhood."  Well, I have had enough.  I am not going to offer religious arguments.  I am just advocating for decency.  Women are human beings and have the right to be treated as such both inside and outside the church.