Category Archives: atheism

Biblical Anti-Feminism

At first I thought, “Should I feel bad about giving these internalized-misogynist websites traffic?” Then I realized that there is no greater joy than the fact that my website will come up on their referring traffic statistics and I feel better. The truth is that I’ve given this website more traffic over the years than I could ever cultivate from one blog post. I’ve been visiting for years pouring over the articles and visiting its favorite links for a peek into bizarro world.

A lot of anti-oppression folks may be looking for something more challenging to the status quo than feminism and there are a lot more looking for something a lot less challenging to the status quo if not a full on societal reversal back to the days when men were in charge and gosh darnit, women liked it that way. These are folks who believe in the “the patriarchy” and think it’s the best thing possible for society.

It’s not just being conservative, it’s a full on call for women to be baby machines (hello quiverfull movement) and for the right to vote to be repealed. It’s a straight up condemnation of educating women outside of the home for any grade level lest the ladies have some semblance of autonomous life skills that would allow them to change their minds and escape with basic knowledge of how the “heathen world” works. Domesticity is next to godliness and it contains a long precedent of abuse.

One article, “No Shades Of Grey” sums up the tone of this scary movement: there is no nuance, there is only biblical patriarchy. It’s a total denial of subjective truth and that’s bigger than a theoretical issue. When you deny the multitude of realities happening in any given frame of life then you have set the stage for totalitarianism. There’s no way around that.

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Atheism Evolves

When it comes to faith, I make it clear: I do not believe in the “supernatural” because sometimes nature really is that weird.

That isn’t to say I buy it all but I do have an appreciation for metaphors and symbols. One of things that drew me to atheism was how quickly it changed people’s perceptions of the way I talked about religion in my cross-faith analysis of texts. I realized in middle school at a Catholic institution that it didn’t make sense to take any scripture literally. Even in the 6th grade I could understand that the world several thousand years ago was a completely different social context that I nor anyone else alive right now could even fathom. We can offer conjecture from archaeology and ancient texts but we don’t know what it would have really been or felt like to have lived during early human civilization. I was willing to consider that there were probably a lot of great things about believing ancient ideas in ancient times but I didn’t know what any of it had to do with my life.

I love reading religious texts, though. I always have and probably always will. I have an abundance of bibles and I’m fascinated by the similarities and differences between them. Being a theologian always struck me as an interdisciplinary field that very well could have entertained me as a career. To be a good theologian, someone who studies theology, means to have a massive breadth of knowledge about history, geology, language, literature, art, economics, biology, botany, mathematics, physics, and virtually everything else one could study all applied to spiritual books.

I always learn something new about humanity when I read a bible and I’ve never limited myself to the Christian ones. My library is full of books of mythology from around the globe. It will never bore me, ever.

But I never thought that it was literal. I don’t think that there is a great judge or judges who watches over us. I do think that “sin” is variable; to me, it is that which detracts from personal development. We are all born with millions of potential minds. Millions! Babies babble the sounds of all languages and culture is a filter that etches away unbridled potential into what becomes our “self.” The human brain has not undergone radical changes in the past thousands of years. The same brain that wrote the bible also built a computer. This leaves me in awe. Still, there was no author of the universe to applaud nor an ultimate goal of evolution. There are contexts to which all life adapts but I think it’s ridiculous to believe that all live on earth exists to serve humans. I am appalled when I hear this by both the religious and the irreligious.

Calling myself an atheist was the first way I could carve out space to fall into awe of the world. Religious texts help me understand the minds of humans, the quandaries and questions we face, but it does nothing to help me understand how the physical world came to be. It can teach me about paradigm shifts throughout time and the huge role that communal beliefs have in shaping culture. In one sense, a bible helps me understand how “I came to be” in an ideological sense because I can follow an ancestry of ideas that became codified law and a reality that we take for granted. The bible does not teach me how my hand works. It doesn’t teach me about how the human hand came to be. It doesn’t teach me why a human hand is physically advantageous for certain tasks nor does it tell me anything about how a human hand was selected for over time.

Religion has been a huge boon to cultural development. Many preachers have been great philosophers, social revolutionaries, and leaders. However, community activism and education does not have to include a literal belief in the supernatural to be effective and empowering. To quote Belinda Carlisle, heaven is a place on earth and I stand with those who work with every fiber of their being to make it something that all humans experience in their lifetime. It was living without god that forced me to become an activist. There is no one to save us from ourselves but ourselves. There is no reward in the afterlife for human suffering so we must abate it. When the wicked and the unjust are in power and the cause pain, death, and sickness among the people, they must be removed from their posts. No one has the divine right to exploit their fellow humans. Period.

However, atheism and skepticism are movements that have been primarily driven by people with immense privilege because it has taken that much privilege not to be destroyed by others for saying something so counter to what we’ve been taught for as long as we’ve been humans. I think that atheism has been in the hands of white, wealthy men for a long time because they are the safest from the repercussions of non-belief. The problem is, many people in that demographic believe that they will be displaced if others are welcome.

Polyamory, for all of its own goofy community dynamics, has been a constant teacher that love doesn’t get displaced. Making it a point to drop the exclusive barriers on being an atheist (like, threatening people with gang rape and harassing them to the point of exhaustion) does not displace the work of others. That’s like suggesting that if we teach students of literature about authors who are women, trans*, of color, lower class, incarcerated, or disabled that everyone is going to completely forget the works of William Shakespeare. We’ve got Shakespeare very well covered and we don’t lose William Shakespeare if we teach people about Aphra Behn.

Atheism as a movement is pulling a page out of Harold Bloom with its suggestion that the canon hasn’t been formed within a context of privilege, William Shakespeare is just objectively the best writer that ever existed and anyone else asking to reconsider the canon and broaden the field of literature just has sour feelings of bitterness for not being as good as Shakespeare and we’ll all be dumber if the canon is altered because it was made that was made that way for a reason. The traditional canon of literature was not formed in a vacuum, it was formed in the context of privilege and we have all lost out on our understand and knowledge of literature as a whole because we don’t teach the art and perspectives of people outside of wealthy, white men. Our understanding of human history, art, and thought is limited because we worship the canon of privilege and we all know less about each other as a result.

The competition between monotheism and polytheism is something philosophical. When you pull your head out of the literal minutia of monotheism and polytheism and look to the intellectual structure that contains them, you can see that this is the core of the intellectual debate even within atheism. Monotheistic atheists hold jealous perspectives that will have no other perspectives before them. Polytheistic atheists believe that one perspective does not discount them and they should all go out and party as equally legitimate. Please look at my language carefully: I said perspective, not belief. I don’t think all beliefs are equally legitimate. I think that personal narratives, life stories, and experiences all forge unique views of the world are equally legitimate.

People are made out of combinations of genetics, not exact cloning. Children of the same parentage do not have identical perspectives on the world. Their place of viewing the world, however, is 100% legitimate.

A silly belief does not displace my own. Laws, exclusionary practices, and violent retaliation does displace people. And the atheist community has been doing a lot to displace the ideas, perspectives, and lives of people within it. Jen McCreight wrote a fantastic post about angry, exclusionary atheists and why we have to tear down the borders surrounding communities of religious disbelief. She wrote about the incredible lengths harassers have gone to in order to silence the voice of marginalized people who are atheists. She points out that social justice needs skeptics and atheists.

The divisions inside of atheism have not come from Freethought Blogs, anti-oppression atheists, or “pussy whipped men like PZ Meyers.” These divisions were already there, otherwise there would be better representation from women, trans* folk, people of color, and other marginalized groups talking about atheism. Tokenism only serves the privileged, it does not broaden the viewpoints and perspectives. It does not help us better understand ourselves and our world when white men get to decide which marginalized people get to speak. Nothing is accomplished with tokenism. We must tear down the walls and boundaries and really figure out how to move towards more wisdom and less suffering for humans.

Because it’s true: there’s only so many times we can debunk psychics and homeopathy and really, those are not the most pressing issues facing humanity at this time. When we spend all of our time debunking homeopathy, we really highlight what kind of healthcare access we have. We should be skeptical about who gets healthcare and who is forced to rely on placebo effects for themselves and their children because they cannot afford to see a doctor. Instead of debunking psychics, maybe we should be looking at what is happening with employment and what it means that psychics are predominantly in low income neighborhoods. Atheism, right now, is about shooting fish in a barrel and letting them rot. Shooting fish in a barrel and leaving them to rot is a fucked up thing to do when people are starving to death, right now.

“Atheism Plus” has been presented as a new form of atheism that focuses more on social justice. It’s a paradigm shift within the movement. Interestingly enough, this same shift can be seen in a lot of fields right now. Maybe this demonstrates how connected we really are to one another, especially in a digital world. All kinds of social groupings are going through angry debates. For every new voice speaking up about their relationship to any given interest is being matched by a temper tantrum of people with jealous perspectives who are convinced that they will be displaced if someone else is included.

Ideas are not physical spaces: you cannot run out of room. One of the greatest things about them is the way they intermingle and breed and create unimaginable combinations. People are standing up, recognizing their power and changing the direction of thought movements. This process will keep us from stagnation and atrophy. It means we’re turning another page in the history book and writing our human story with better evidence because it’s including more humans.

Atheism is evolving.

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Adopt An Atheist

Christians are such wonderful people. When they get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they’re filled with such delight and joy that the mere thought of someone celebrating any other birth, historical events, cultural practice, tilted axis and rotation of the earth, or blockbuster films gunning for an academy award just tears them up to pieces. Without Christians speaking up, how would we know that, “Happy Holidays” is actually a call for Christian genocide? It’s good to have such helpful Christians fighting the “War On Christmas.” Such brave soldiers. How truly oppressed Christians must feel during winter. There’s only hundreds upon hundreds of unconstitutional Christian nativity scenes displayed on state owned property rather than thousands upon thousands.

The best proof of just how brave the Catholic League can be is evidenced in their brand new, “Adopt An Atheist” program. Now there are a lot of atheist and skeptical blogs tearing this to pieces but don’t let that impact how you see this very giving and self-sacrificing program designed to fill those pews (and coffers) up with Christians who don’t know that they are in fact Christians and have gotten confused in this violent “War On Christmas” and are afraid to reveal their true Christ-like self amid all of the loathing and oppression heaped onto people in America who believe that Jesus is their savior.

Seriously, please adopt me. Adoption means that you’ll take care of my finances, right? I’m driving a 2011 bus pass, I live in a tiny apartment in a very exciting part of Oakland, CA, and I am something of a heathen. If ever there were an atheist in dire need of adoption it would be me. In order for me to understand your sincerity, you’ll peruse my wishlist and make sure I have some gifts to put underneath my Christmas Tree, right? That’s what normal people do. Help me be normal!  I don’t usually have a tree and maybe the reason I hate Christmas so much is because I don’t get presents and a couple of years ago I was actually burglarized on Christmas. The best way for me to believe in Christmas Magic would be to see it in its full glory in a giant spread of goods I need and want.

It’s important to remember that if you don’t adopt me and give me a proper Christmas full of gifts and joy, I’m just going to go out and have sex on camera for that money. I know, just those words alone make all of the holy water in the bay area start to boil simultaneously. For every rent check, utility bill, and trip to Haiti I go on, I have to spend hours upon hours of my time having sex with my friends and my personal partner. Is there any other atheist more needy and starving of Jesus’ love? Sure, there are lots of hungry and homeless people in need of adoption in the cold of winter but they aren’t as needy as I am because I’m an atheist whore. I’m morally bankrupt. I have no Christmas tree. I don’t go to church. I read the bible as a piece of ancient global literature.

The Catholic League website makes it clear: if we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

Good for nothing, wow. I thought that going to a place that was hit by a devastating earthquake and left in ruins to sledge, shovel, and clean up the mess was good for something. Now I realize that my work was helpless. The shelters that I built are “atheist shelters.” Oh you might think that they provide cover from the weather, safety from the outdoors, and a place to call home but the families that I worked with know that they live in an “atheist shelter” and it is chillier inside an “atheist shelter” than a real, genuine Christian shelter even in the tropics. It actually snows inside of the good for nothing “atheist shelters” I helped build.

I need someone from the Catholic League to adopt me, clearly. Just the other day my partner and I were talking about planning another volunteer expedition for the summer. Imagine what HORRIBLE things would happen if we showed up, jumped into some manual labor, and did so without any agenda other than clearing debris and constructing shelters. That’s just going to make more snow, isn’t it?

So please, Catholic League. Adopt me. Give it your best shot. Take me as a lascivious little lamb who needs to frolic back into the arms of my eternal shepherd zombie in the cloud castle.

Petri dish holiday tree, Image credit 

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Birthdays

My birthday is 10.10.1984 so I just had my 27th birthday which I spent very quietly with Ned and the pets exactly to my heart’s desire. A hike, good sex, and an exceptional homemade steak dinner. It was perfection. It was just what I needed for the annual inventory of what I’ve done and where I’m heading.

It was a busy year for me filled with lots of achievements and adjustments. Our puppy grew up from a small and easy to carry fluff into her full grown lab/mastiff frame. I grew up with dogs and I’m happy to finally have one in my life again. It felt as though something snapped into place when we adopted her. I’m endeared to my cats but they don’t want to go backpacking with me in the mountains.

We moved out of our indoor apartment to something with a yard and plenty of space in September. I’m still unpacking my boxes and recalibrating normal for myself but I got that one in under the wire. Ned constantly impresses me with the way that he steps up to the game and works hard with me to build the kind of home that we want together.

In the spring, we decided to start working on Meet The Mayhems and the site may have been rolled out early but it’s sprouting and a fun project. The PSIgasm has been in development for awhile it made its piblic debut in workshops and at the Arse Elektronika festival where we took home a “Golden Kleene” award for sex machines, orgasmotrons and teledildonics. It’s been a productive year for the Mayhems and we have no plans to slow down any time soon.

Every year has its ups and downs and course. We also fielded the pornwikileaks fiasco which had a bit of a lengthy aftermath for me. I’ve joined the board of the Adult Performers Association board to help disseminate information, education, and resources about sex education and HIV/STI prevention. I don’t want something like PWL to ever happen again. The only way to do this is to reduce stigma, lobby for ways to help protect our privacy, and empower performers by connecting them with resources to help manage their finances and taxes, personal health and wellness, and communication skills.

I have also been exploring the skeptic and an atheist communities more even though I’m taking something of a beating right now at the James Randi Foundation for a brief essay on why I relate to skepticism. To be fair, it’s not my best writing but it’s frustrating to see people dismissive of the notion that my life pretty much relies on skepticism. I remember going out on my early gigs as a newbie in the industry and just how much I really pulled from videos by popular skeptics on the scams pulled by snake oil salesmen and exploitative preachers. The videos showing a scam in action along with point-by-point narration on how a cold reading works have saved from ass from people who had intentions beyond my wallet and into my body.

It’s more emotionally accessible to tap into a mental database of strategies that a scammer, con artist, or exploiter can use to part you from your money than it is to dig into a mental database of red flags that you may be talking to someone who wants to hurt your body. When it comes to people using psychological manipulation to deceive you, the sooner you get the fuck out, the better. I look back on some of the situations that I exited early on because they resembled a scam and I’m grateful I took the time to learn how one effectively “cold reads” another person and decided that it was of no benefit for me to stick around only to find out that they went on to hurt and take advantage of others. I can look back and say that watching those debunking videos, even as pure entertainment, has saved my ass on more than a few occasions because they gave me the confidence to walk away early before the situation escalated.

In a broader political sense, my life depends on skepticism because right now the popular dialogues about sex work are full of outright lies and falsehoods. It’s going to take more than sex workers and sex positive people to make sure that the separation between church and state is maintained when it comes to legislation about adult sexual freedoms. I need skeptics, loud skeptics, to keep demonstrating the times when religious ideology and policy collide to help keep my unincarcerated liberty in tact. I’ve been a longtime fan of Bullshit because it addressed the hypocrisies and inaccuracies of sexual morality to an audience that isn’t necessarily keeping sex positive or sex worker activism and highlighted the fact that the prohibitions against sex work, porn, and sex education are not based in factual evidence and primarily fueled by dogma.

Photo by Shilo McCabe

The end result of this year has been reading Susie Bright for her amazing narration of political horror instead of the sex. Well, alright, in addition to the sex.  I picked up her books for the erotica but now I run back to them for some kind of insight into just what the fuck I’ve gotten myself into. The first time I read stories about the bomb threat against one of her lectures I felt detached shock. When the pornwikileaks harassment escalated when I spoke out against it I looked back over Susie Bright’s body of work with different eyes.

It is so much fucking safer to be like me now than it would have been to be like me even just a few decades ago. I had to go back to those Susie Bright books because I’m a sex organizer who talked about labor and got harassed and she was a labor organizer who had to deal with bomb threats for talking about sex. It seemed like a good time to go back and see what I could learn keeping my own email inbox in mind. I cannot use the stars of another to plot my own course but at this point in time I’m just trying to figure out where true north is and what I can generally and vaguely expect to find when I get there.

There are times when I open my inbox and I wonder aloud what I’ve gotten myself into by listening to my own voice on these issues. I’m on the other side of a cultural divide and I can never go back. The gap looks wider every time I look. At the same time the idea of not doing what feels right for me sounds awful. Then again, I’m hardly unique in my ambivalence. So many of my peers from my graduating college class are clutching diplomas that aren’t getting them the jobs they need to pay for the degree that isn’t even relevant to what they’re doing for a living.

I studied literature and I guess I took away the idea that you can write your own story. This is mine and as Dr. Gonzo famously said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

I’m happy with what I’ve carved out for myself and the terms that I’ve kept. I enjoy my new home and yard space with fruit trees. I’m exceptionally happy in my relationship and I’m invigorated by the excitement of building something with him. Still even with this I feel fettered with nagging questions.

Do I want to be a better writer? Do I want to put in the amount of work I know that I really need to put into it? Or do I want to be a better activist and put my ideas for what could be into action? Do I want to work on being a better erotic performer and pornography producer? Do I want to throw myself into sex technology and continue developing the software and hardware in the PSIgasm at full throttle? Most of all, do I want to keep putting myself out there even though I know I’m going to get burned?

What kind of mayhem do I make this year?

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Queer Teachers

I spent K-12 in parochial schools and suffice to say it wasn’t exactly the right place for a budding “queerdo” like me. Columbine popped off when I was in junior high making it a very bad time to be the semi-goth alt girl in the class. There was no support offered to queer youth. I only possessed a growing idea that I was queer but when you’re a kid you’re just different. The assumption is that in dire straits like these there are no queer teachers but that’s not the truth.

There have been queer teachers around since the age of teaching first began. My Catholic schools were no exception.

It was the closeting that was the issue. In the 7th grade the parish deacon came to give my class the “sex and Jesus” talk. This is when we learned that to avoid masturbating we should read the bible and splash some cold water on our faces. I never thought that was good advice. There’s too much sexy stuff in the bible, really. I ignored most of everything by dragging my pen into my page to doodle and tearing the paper with each stroke. Then he started to talk about homosexuality. Aside from being a deacon (which is kind of like a de-caf priest in the hierarchy of the Church) he was also a therapist with a private practice.

My head jerked up to listen when he talked about working with homosexuals trying to fix themselves as if being queer were like alcoholism. He had 4 people he was “working with” to get rid of those inclinations and lead a godly life. “Sadly, two of them committed suicide and lost the battle,” he said. It was the first time I had ever heard of homosexual therapy in this way. I knew that it had to be bullshit because my parents both worked on a psychiatric ward and I used to thumb through the DSM when I was bored. I knew that homosexuality had been taken out of the big book but my deacon’s words were terrifying and silencing. I had no idea how to process what I was hearing so I just swallowed it and felt grateful that I hadn’t gone around asking questions or identifying myself as a queer. Not reaching out to the grownups for these kinds of issues was a survival instinct.

And yet I had queer teachers. They were always silent around these issues and that’s why I felt certain that I *could not* reach out to them either. I never knew for certain that they were queer because they never came out of made those kinds of announcements to junior high kids at a Catholic school. They always radiated a form of unhappiness. They relayed a message that being queer meant unhappiness and social isolation. It was my first recognition of bizarre politics beyond my understanding at play. When something is taboo, we make the assumption that no information should be provided about it and especially not to children. It’s not that I had advanced gaydar; most of the students could peg that something set something people aside from others. There was an adult world out in the mist and the best we could cultivate was a mythology around it.

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The Life Zone and Kenneth Del Vecchio

Right off the bat, since I have absolutely no regard for this film whatsoever I’m just going to go ahead and pass along the spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The writer of the film Kenneth DelVecchio is running for the state senate in New Jersey. He is very open about his pro-life stance. This movie is his baby. If you’re reading this in New Jersey I strongly urge you to take this post into consideration as you cast your ballot.

So here’s the plot twist: the three women all died on the operating table of their abortions in the first trimester. They are in purgatory and given another chance to make the right choice, atone for their sin, and enter the gates of heaven. The adamantly pro-choice victim deliberately attempts to miscarry at 7mos and experiences the joy of motherhood with twins. The other women also give birth after having accepted the notion of abortion as sin and ascend into heaven. The pro-choice victim is condemned to an eternity of pregnancy and childbirth without ever actually getting to be with her children. The other twist: the pro life doctor is actually a woman who committed suicide after her husband left her for a more fertile woman when she was unable to conceive. She’s being condemned to an eternity of midwifery.

So first off, we are still left with this image that the all-knowing, all-loving, merciful God is in fact, Jigsaw.

Not only is God judging you for your sins, he’s also setting you up. That’s right, the author of the universe is just fucking with you. God is incredibly sadistic and hateful to women it seems. Haha, you’re insecure about the infertility that I gave you? It drove you to despair and you chose suicide- now you will be delivering babies in the afterlife FOREVER! And you, little miss choosey, since all women will inevitably feel unimaginable joy when they deliver, even by force, a baby- you will be pregnant and delivering babies FOREVER! Babies that will be taken away from you!

Here’s the part that makes me really antsy. I noticed this comment left on the movie: “Hello all. I am one of the producers of this film and have read all of your comments. All I will say at this time is that this movie is a collaboration among people on all sides of the abortion issue, and people should see the movie before jumping to any conclusions. While the writer of the movie is a staunch pro-lifer, many of us who worked on this film are pro-choice and the arguments on both sides of the abortion issue are clearly and intelligently laid out in the film.” – Nace Naumoski.

Well, thing of it is Nace, the very format of this film makes it totally impossible to clearly and intelligently lay out any kind of pro-choice argument.

First off, you have to accept the idea that deaths during abortions are somehow common or at least an understandable premise. They aren’t. The very premise is fear mongering and a strategy of the pro-life movement. If you want to talk about risk of death, take a glance at maternal mortality rates.

Second problem: “It’ll be a 7 month abortion think tank.” Right, because the place we really ought to be having this debate is with pregnant women kidnapped from an abortion procedure and forced against their will by their captors to continue their pregnancy. You bring out the rational side of the debate with a pastor who calls himself “the jailer.” I’m no sociologist but I have to question whether or not Stockholm Syndrome might skew the findings there just a little bit.

Third problem: Suicide is considered to be a sin equal to abortion. There’s a lot to unpack in a statement like that. To address the mental health paradigm, this reiterates the idea that people choose suicide because they are weak. That’s total fucking bullshit. There is all kinds of stuff happening with mental health. All we know is how little we know. We’re all scratching our heads at the statistics showing us that placebos are more effective against depression than either prozac or prayer. The cultural paradigm that people choose suicide or that depression is a weakness of the soul is killing people. So we have a message that if you’re suffering from depression, you have fallen from God’s grace which is pretty damn archaic or the modern version in which you are advised to “talk to your pastor” about what you’re experiencing.

Religious authority figures generally come out of schools of divinity or schools of theology. These degrees are generally offered in the graduate and doctorate levels. Thing of it is, would anyone advise someone experiencing depression to call up a professor with a PhD in anthropology or history or literature to discuss the issues they are having with their mental health? There certainly are religious figures in all denominations who do have training and certification in counseling. It’s not, however, part of the packaged deal in the curriculum for an advanced degree in a study of religion. It’s just something to consider before blindly advising anyone that their religious authority figures are totally trained and prepared for mental health issues. If you want a therapist who comes from your religious background, you can find that. You can also find kink/poly/sex work aware professionals. You want to find a therapist that meets your needs, but you need to start with the “therapist” part of that sentence.

To get back to the point, considering this film to be somehow even-handed in the debate because the pro-life character is also condemned to an eternity in hell is a bizarre denial of reality. Killing off a character (or condemning them to hell, whatever) doesn’t change the debate about abortion itself. Especially not when the debate has already allowed stereotypes, generalizations, and information into the debate as legitimate arguments.

The most compelling argument about abortion for me has been this: I would no sooner force someone to surrender their body for the development of another human being than I would force someone who was a direct match for someone in need of organs or blood to donate them. For as long as I was allowed by the Red Cross standards for blood donors, I donated blood. I donated all the time. My driver’s license says “organ donor.” I believe that if you can, you should. I do not believe that you must. I believe you own your own body. Pregnancy and childbirth are exponentially more complex both physically and socially. Nevertheless, at no point should the government start mandating that everyone with an O- blood type line up at their nearest hospital because the patients have a right to life and need more blood to survive.

I’m really not kidding. There are way more people dying than there are people on organ donor lists, so if you’re a “right to life” sign waving motherfucker you should be trotting your sanctimonious assess down to the donor registry. If you believe that being capable of physically sustaining life with your own body mandates that you do so, you better be on a first name basis with the red cross phlebotomists.

This isn’t just a crappy movie and its problems number more than 3. The problem is that you cannot come up with any legislative reason why abortion should not be legal in the United States. Ultimately it comes down to a fuzzy intangible thing like faith but that cannot be the basis for law. Political ideology born out of morality is dangerous. If The Life Zone were an anomaly or just a shitty movie, it wouldn’t be an assessment of whether or not they would be a good politician. Just because someone makes shitty horror films does not automatically make them a bad politician. Most politicians don’t even know the first thing about making a horror film. Kenneth Del Vecchio is up front about his beliefs. They’re part of his campaign.  Here’s another one of his fine contributions to cinema:

Did you all see that? Now here’s this:

This begs the question: does anyone have a cocktail recipe for a drink that is mixed with tears of bitterness?

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Filed under activism, atheism, culture, feminisms, politics, sexuality, skepticism, slut shaming

Gender And Atheism

I am an atheist. I have been since about the 6th grade. When I started tweeting about atheism in regards to the recent failed rapture, I noticed that my feed was full of people proclaiming loudly that “loudmouthed atheists are just as bad as loudmouth Christians” which was a bit of a surprise to me. Really? I’m just as bad for speaking out about the fact that American constitution calls for a separation of church and state, for fighting back against legislation of all stripes and sizes that is rooted from someone’s interpretation of magic stories in utter defiance of science and objective, proven facts? I’m just as bad for articulating my beliefs? When I’m being a loudmouth about sexual freedom, reproductive rights, the freedom of speech, etc people are willing to pull up a chair but once I state out loud that I do not believe in an author to the universe, everyone wants me to shut the fuck up and “stop being so arrogant.”

At this point in time, I’m fairly accustomed to people telling me to shut the fuck up. I’ve been told on porn sets that I shouldn’t “sound too smart” or no one will want to watch me get fucked. I’ve been advised not to write about academic or theoretical ideas on my blog because it won’t “help me sell myself as a porn star.” I’ve been told I shouldn’t be talking about sex worker rights in feminist spaces and that I should “shut the fuck up.” I’ve been told that I shouldn’t even be talking about sex at all and that I should just “shut up.”

I’m not good at shutting up but the only trophy at the end of that race is losing your rights. I don’t want to win the blue ribbon for silent stoicism in the face of bullshit.

I’ve always been very open about the fact that I am an atheist but I never actually engaged in formal free thought activism before because I always saw my understanding of the origin of the universe as being irrelevant to the activism I was engaged with for real and tangible social justice in the world. I never wrote about my beliefs here on my blog under the advice of many people that it would be a bad idea but recently I had an epiphany: it was my atheism, skepticism, and anti-authority free thinking attitude that compelled me to become an activist in the first place.

When I talk about my atheism, I’m not angry or pissed off that some people believe in unprovable things so much as I am enraged by the fact that these beliefs are held as normal, natural, and right for our country. Facts have become largely irrelevant to the governance of my country and this concerns me greatly, especially as someone involved in porn. We’ve had two major (and expensive) presidentially commissioned studies and reports on the effects of pornography and both came to the same conclusion that porn is not evil and does not have quantifiable negative effects on society. Despite these reports that originated from a sex-negative and anti-porn bias they have been ignored. My country is in a panic about sex addiction which is loosely defined as any amount of porn viewing that concerns anyone who knows about it. People are trotting faulty studies about sex trafficking before the UN, Congress, and the House demanding laws to prevent this thing that they feel very emotional about. We can’t make up laws around feelings and every time we do I start to develop some strongly negative ones myself.

When I talk about my atheism, I am talking about the fact the 1st Amendment is not a fucking loophole. I am not “getting away” with making pornography by “taking advantage” of the US Constitution. I have the right to my speech and my (lack of religious) beliefs. “Pissing people off” is not my motivation for making and producing pornography nor is it my impetus for labeling myself with the word atheist. The fact that other people don’t like these choices is a painful side effect, not a cause.

I decided that I needed to jump into formal atheist/free thought activism because of how intersectional and relevant it is to my life. The “rapture” predicted for this weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump in not because I wanted to make a million jokes about people who genuinely believe that God created this earth for the express purposes of destroying it all but because I saw train wreck of human confusion and suffering. From my vantage point, the capacity to celebrate and laud total worldly destruction indicates fear and desperation. The economy is not doing well, people are out of work, and their homes are being taken from them by the banks, and we are at war without any clear end. I could not, for the life of me, understand how people who interpret a magic book differently than David Camping would take the opportunity to run to any media outlet to clearly define why this magic belief is not the “true” magic belief rather than reaching out to people who can see no other answer than an end to all life on earth as we know it. I was genuinely shocked by the fact that most Christians opted for the public relations angle rather than with the compassion that they preach.

There were a lot of awesome parties scheduled for “rapture” weekend but what I wanted to spend my time doing was untangling this mess of faith and public policy by removing the veil of religion that encompasses my country. I decided to attend the American Atheists Rapture RAM in Oakland because it was local and because it was an atheist/skeptic/free thought conference that I could actually afford.

I have never felt so welcome as a sex worker at a non-sexual event as I did at the Rapture RAM. Yes, there is still a problem with diversity in the atheist movement and I will definitely discuss this at length but I received nothing but positive and supportive reactions from every single individual I disclosed my career to over the weekend. When I engage in activism outside of an explicitly sex-positive context, most people would prefer that I shut the hell up about the fact that I have no shame about what I do for a living. More often than not, I am actively discouraged from being open about who I am as a porn performer. No one wants a pervert representing their cause to the media but everyone I encountered made it a point to welcome me not in spite of who I am but because of who I am.

These conversations took on different flavors, of course. The overwhelming majority of people responded to my disclosure about making porn enthusiastically because it indicated that was dedicated to the freedom of speech by putting my ass on the line (literally) for it. I also ran into a few people who had subtle differences in their tone that indicated to me that I was welcome because atheism “needs more hot chicks.” At times it could feel confusing to navigate because my business is centered around inspiring lust and I think that lust and sexuality are awesome. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be relegated to the post of being a sexy parrot reiterating the “great ideas of atheist men.” The development of my atheist ideology did not come from Hitchens or Dawkins or any other source outside of the bible that I was being instructed to read in Catholic school. It wasn’t until much, much later in life that I ever picked up any explicitly atheist literature to help me hone and frame the conclusions I was already making on my own.

This wasn’t just an issue that I ran into; one of the awesome speakers at the conference, Jen McCreight of BlagHag, had to contend with people who were still tingling in their naughty bits about the popular Boobquake event that she created. When another speaker made a regrettable off-hand comment about a female atheist video blogger during his talk, Jen spoke up to counter it. Although the speaker fumbled the apology at the podium he did make it a point to go to her blog and formally apologize and it’s evident that he figured out what happened. Conference drama is inevitable. I’ve seen and been a part of arguments at conferences before where people walked away without ever speaking to one another again. If anything, it is encouraging to watch a screw-up and to see some form of clarity come from it. I’m going to have my own fuck-ups; I watch the mistakes of others knowing that at some point I’m going to be the one who made a mistake in front of an audience and I hope that someone will empathize with me through my embarrassment.

Perspective and experience is a funny thing. Over time, I have become increasingly skilled with defusing situations in which I have been sexualized without my consent because it is something I contend with all the time because of what I do for a living. When I’m in the middle of a conversation about evolution, for example, I’ll respond to an out of place comment about my tits by immediately making a comment about their sexual anatomy and I will be just as explicit if not more than they were about my body and in most cases this tactic works extraordinarily well. That said, no one should have to stop their train of thought to take on the role of an aggressive phone sex operator in the middle of a conversation to fend off an inappropriate and irrelevant comment about their body.

Moreover, I’m not exactly thrilled about the fact that I have had to develop this skill at all and it is not a one-size-fits-all strategy that I endorse for everyone. When someone diminishes everything that I have just contributed to an intellectual conversation by interjecting with a comment about my sexual anatomy and I fire back with something twice as lewd about their body and go immediately back to what I was just saying I am using the best tool that I have for my own context in my own defense. Most people are not coming from a context like mine and my reaction to these challenges is not “the right way to handle the situation,” because the situation should never have occurred in the first place and there is an endless list of reasons why this could be destructive to someone else.

This is also a case of “better is not best.” I felt very much at ease with the occasional rude comment thrown my way because it was such a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what I am accustomed to experiencing in other circles. At no point did someone look me up and down and say, “So Maggie, when are you and I going to hook up?” solely because they know that I’m publicly kinky and a member of the same kinky organization as they are. That doesn’t make the fact that towards the end of the conference I missed major portions of speaker talks because people kept asking me to pose for pictures after noticing that someone else had taken my picture because I did porn any less frustrating or annoying. I’m grateful for the fact I had brought my audio recorder to the conference with me and left it on throughout the duration of the entire conference because I paid money to hear those people speak.

I do want to repeat that I had a blast at the conference as a whole. I was able to chat with Greta Christina who is totally rad and I got to have the pleasure or engaging in a silly “de-baptism” ritual where the holy waters were blow dried away. As you can see from the photos, special attention was paid to my boots. (Photos taken by Justin Stolle.) Mr. Diety was hilarious. Rebecca Watson of Skepchick slam dunked a talk on reproductive rights. There were some amazing activists from the Secular Student Alliance. There were a lot of great talks and I am grateful to have my recordings from all of the talks and the Q&A periods.

I left the conference exhausted but positive. (9AM start times on the Sunday after a failed rapture? The coffee table was like a peer-review breakout session on hangovers.) I met so many amazing people and I will be talking a lot more about skepticism and secularism around these here parts so brace yourself. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I won a limerick contest at the close of the conference and won some jewelry depicting one of Feynman’s famous diagrams. I had lots of great conversations and I did make some new friends. There’s no such thing as a community that is 100% perfect; as soon as there are more than a few people in the picture there are going to be issues of one sort or another. I really liked converging with other non-believers for the same reasons that believers like to converge with other believers. It’s nice to talk with people who share a similar world view. It was nicer still that not one person told me to shut up.

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