Sunday, August 28, 2011

Temporary Hiatus

Hey all, this post is just to let you know that my home desktop is currently unavailable (power supply crapped out on me), so posting will be delayed until I can get a new power supply. But I will be back soon!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Link Dump

Some awesome women in Columbia are pulling a Lysistrata in order to get the road to their town paved.  The lack of access is severely affecting the quality of life in the town (including the death of a pregnant woman because an ambulance got stuck), and the women refuse to let this go on any longer.

Apparently, women with P.H.D.s make around the same as men with B.A.s.  Even though more women are graduating from college than men.  Awesome.

Don't you just love when obvious research is obvious?  Like when they found out that bras, even sports bras, don't actually do all that much in the way of supporting breasts.  Well, to add to the pile of obvious things women already know about women's bodies (but scientists are just figuring out), a new study discovered that vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms feel different!  Shocking!  Emily Yoffe over at Slate has a point, I think, when she says that maybe we should have more women studying female sexuality, and more male lab techs getting out of the lab more often...

Also, this:

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Brief Update On My Dysfunctional Body

Many friends I don't see often at the SSA conference asked me how I was, and how I'd been and so on. You know, just friendly "how's life?" type stuff. It was a difficult set of questions to answer, as things haven't been quite alright with me, health-wise.

First on the list is my depression, which began to cycle into a down-swing early in the summer. I could have avoided a full-on bottoming out, had ElevatorGate not occurred. Unfortunately, many of the comments across many website were incredibly triggering, and I, in my desperation to understand why people held such atrocious views and keep abreast of the latest happenings, I failed to manage my triggers appropriately. The result were night-terrors and a deep depression that I am finally beginning to lift out of. While my down-swing is still present, it is much more manageable now than it was a couple weeks ago. This affected my posting during that time.

Second on the list is the rounds of doctor's visits I have been occupied by.  My first battery of tests indicated the presence of autoimmune markers in my blood-work. I was referred to a rheumatologist for further testing.  After being poked, prodded, doing some minor yoga, and looking at my family history and blood work, the list of possibilities has short from near-infinite to a half-dozen or so.  The fun thing about the markers that came up is that they could indicate something fairly serious (because of my family history), or nothing at all.

As of right now, my doctor has an idea she wants to check out concerning a disorder that affects where my tendons attach to my bones.  It's a genetic disorder, so she is having my genes tested (the nerd in me was all "Can I have a printout?").  So a few x-rays, 10 tubes of blood, and some sore joints later, I now get to wait until the tests are run and the results are in.

I am eternally grateful to those that have been supporting me through this time, in particular Significant Other (patient as always). I appreciate the well-wishing and all the support I have received through all of this and I am very thankful to my friends and family for standing by me.  Hopefully this will all be sorted out soon.

I've Been Slacking

I'm very sorry that I haven't been keeping up like I should have with this thing. I promise it will change!  (Maybe...)

For now, I appease you with links:

In case you've been living under a rock, HHS has now mandated that insurers cover birth control and other preventative women's health (STI screening, HPV vaccines, breast exams, etc) without copays under the new Health Reform Act.  Yay!  Most companies will phase into the new requirements within a year, but all must have switched their policies by January 2013.  It's about time we started viewing well-woman exams and birth control as preventative medicine (like the rest of the Western World...).

Anna Lekas Miller has a great guest post over at Feministe about the disproportionate affect lack of sex education has on women.  I was straight up told, growing up, that I was and was not allowed to do certain things because "you can't get a boy pregnant."  Holding girls responsible to not getting pregnant until it is deemed "okay" to, and at the same time depriving them of the information and tools they need to do so, is sabotaging those girls' chances at having responsible sex lives.

And finally, L'Oreal has a really funny video up to promote their lines of men's beauty products featuring Hugh Laurie (who I may or may not have a total celeb crush on...):

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Religion, Guilt, and Learning to be Kinky

Disclaimer: This post contains references to my own sexuality. If you don't want to read that stuff, skip this post.

I have a laundry list of things I dislike about religion, and superstition in general (Greta Christina has a great post about why Atheists are Angry).  The perpetuation of an Us versus Them mentality, the treatment of women and minorities, the repression of scientific research, the discouragement of analytic thought, and so on.  One of the major issues is how religion and superstition can warp peoples' thoughts on sex and their perception of the human as a sexual animal.

If there has been one thing religion has done really well over the
millennia, it is the dictation of sexual behaviors.  Religion tells the populace who they can fuck, when, where, and even often going so far as to tell them how they can fuck.  It does this with the ever-lasting Carrot and Stick methodology of discipline: Orient your sex life and sexual thoughts with what is deemed 'appropriate,' and be rewarded with an eternity of bliss.  Fail to do so, and risk eternal pain and suffering.  This policing of sexual behavior includes the private sexual thoughts of individuals.  If deities are omniscient, then they know what you're thinking, and they know when you're thinking about things that are sinful.  Others within the community act as the social enforcers of these beliefs, shunning those that do no appear to adhere to the guidelines put forth.

It is unsurprising then that this sort of policing of such a fundamental set of animal (much less, human) behaviors can have lasting, damaging effects on a person's psyche.  The traumatizing effects of "Straight Camps" are well-known, and yet they continue to exist across the country, and even across the world.  Setting in a deep-felt belief that one's sexuality is inherently wrong causes cognitive dissonance and can leave a person severely psychologically damaged; sometimes for life.  Evidence has shown time and time again that such therapies do not change a person's sexual orientation or even their sexual behaviors, as decisions about such behaviors need a basis in a personal desire.

It is fortunate that historically marginalized sexualities, such as the LGBTQ community are finally working their way toward being accepted into popular society.  However, asexuality and alternative sexualities such as BDSM are still having problems being seen as lying on the vast spectrum of human sexual behaviors and desires.

I was perhaps fortunate that my own sense of sexuality began to develop as I was in the long and slow process of leaving the religion in which I was raised.  I was also lucky in that my parents (particularly my mother and step-mother) had progressive ideas on sexuality and how children should learn to view and experience the human body.  By the time I came to realize that my sexuality, my propensity for pain, my aesthetics, were not to the social norm, I had already reached a point in my life where I had decided I wasn't going to let others dictate to me who I could and could not be. 

But one thing I have experienced/noticed lately, is the sometimes extreme guilt that can be faced by people who identify as kinky, due to their religious upbringing.  Often, they do not realize that their sexual guilt is due to their upbringing.  But once you talk to them, it can become painfully obvious where the often very warped perceptions of what human sexuality should be come from. Being raised in an environment in which only a very narrow range of sexual behaviors and/or body types is seen as acceptable has left these individuals with cognitive dissonance concerning their sexual urges.  They enjoy their kink, it brings them pleasure and satisfaction; but everyone around them and the community authority are telling them that the things they enjoy will ensure them an eternal punishment.  This guilt over enjoying their bodies and the bodies of others is saddening and troubling.

That something attributed to bringing so much comfort and joy to so many (a piss-poor argument for religion, by the way) would bring so much inner conflict and turmoil to so many individuals for something they have little to no control over is appalling.  There has been some discussion going on for some time now over whether Kink should be considered an orientation, much like LGBT.  My personal view is that it should.  It should be brought into the conversation when discussing the vast gamut of sexual behaviors we humans partake in. In my mind, I can not alter my love of pain and being submissive any more than I can alter my attraction to men and women.

And religion, as a whole, would seek to deter such behavior.  The common misconceptions about kink often lead to a dangerous mis-characterization of it being abuse.  While abuse within the kink community does happen, it is by no means the norm.  As I said before, if religion was good at nothing else, it would be controlling peoples' behaviors.  That includes our sexual behaviors.  It does this based on the irrational position that some dude or dudes, or dudettes in some alternate parallel reality really really cares about what you or your partner(s) do in your private spare time.

It is my hope that as people become more rational, and as religious belief becomes replaced with evidence based world-views, that we as a society can begin to view things like sexuality as simply another facet of human behavior in which we accept the "different strokes for different folks" mentality.  If people are partaking in consentual sexual behaviors that satisfy them, then who are we, as a society, to condemn them?  To make them feel guilty about what turns them on or gets them off?  To label them as potentially dangerous individuals?

With the removal of religious and cultural stigmas against taboo sexualities, we can replace religious sexual morality with a secular, on based on reason, critical thinking, and evidence.  Greta Christina has also expressed the need for reason based sexual morality.  It will be difficult, for as Elizabeth Pisani said, "If there are two things that make humans beings act irrational, they are erections and addiction."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Returned: Alive and Well

I am back and finally recovered from the Secular Student Alliance's 2011 Conference. It was a whirlwind time, but a wonderful, informative, funny, and enlightening experience.  Even with this being my third consecutive year attending, I am still learning new things; the mark of a top notch conference.  I also came up with an idea for a possible presentation based on some absolutely terrible fliers I saw.  I need to contact JT and Liz about it.

Not all of the talks really stood out to me, or really made a significant impact other than "Oh, ok, that makes sense."  So I'll just be noting the significant ones to me.  There were TONS of presentations given this weekend, and there were also breakout sessions (as well as a mild personal crisis) that prevented me from attending all the talks.  These were the ones of note: