Dog Fighting and Bacon

Human treatment of animals has been on my mind a lot lately, particularly how different cultures seem to have internal contradictions. Western culture tends to put a lot of stock in logic and reason, but when it comes to animals there is a bit of cultural relativism. We see what we do as moral and others as immoral, even when the two things are very similar. If you ask someone from the United States what they think of eating dog they will probably act disgusted and even claim that eating dogs is “wrong” or “immoral”, but we eat pig all the time. Not only is there cross-cultural views on what is right or wrong, there are also seeming contradictions within our society. Take dog-fighting, for example.

Most people think dog-fighting should be illegal. They see the act of raising animals simply so that they can fight, suffer, and die for human entertainment and profit to be deplorable. Human entertainment, at its core, is simply pleasure we achieve through the use of our eyes. Humans watch dogs fighting and the thrill of the fight and the potential for gaining money through gambling gives them a thrill, it gives them pleasure.

Many people see this as wrong, but at the same time eat bacon. Bacon, and generally all meat, is consumed because it gives the person eating it pleasure. It is pleasure derived from taste and the satisfaction from a full stomach. Bacon has no nutritional value that is necessary for survival, but people enjoy it. While some people may need animal protein for survival (I’m not sure how common that medical necessity really is) there are other sources that it can come from other than pigs.

If you are against dog-fighting and abusing pets, but support eating bacon then I can only come up with three reasons: This is a hypocritical stance, morality and ethics are relative to a particular society, or there is some sort of important difference between pleasure that comes from sight and pleasure that comes from taste with taste allowing you to perform acts of violence (or pay someone to) that sight doesn’t allow. If morality and ethics with regards to animals are relative to a particular society than we shouldn’t be using the state to enforce them, particularly at the federal level. This means that laws against dog fighting are unjustly targeting a particular sub-culture in the United States.

Personally, I think it is a hypocritical stance. If a dog shouldn’t be abused for pleasure or profit, than neither should pigs (and pigs in our society are treated terribly before being killed for human pleasure). If harm must be done for survival, if meat must be consumed, we should attempt to minimize that harm and only eat the amount of meat necessary and make sure it comes from sources that are raised in a way to minimize harm.

I think most people are fine with being hypocrites. Challenging the consumption of bacon is almost a sacrilegious act and is commonly defended with “but it tastes so good”. The argument is basically, I derive pleasure from it therefore it is okay. It is moral hedonism, which I don’t have a problem with if you aren’t harming. Though, if they saw me beating my dog with a bat and I said “but it feels so good to do it” I doubt they would shrug and say “okie dokie, as long as you get pleasure from it”.

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Ex Sext Ethics

Yesterday, I encountered an all too common, but kind of modern, ethical dilemma. While searching through my old emails for an address I stumbled upon a message that contained nude pictures of an ex. Since the invention of pocket porn studies (smart phones) most people in modern relationships have sent nude pics to their lovers and friends and, until the popularity of Snapchat, those pictures were pretty permanent. That brings me to my conundrum, what do I do with pictures of ex partners?

My intuition is to just trash them, but intuition isn’t good enough to guide just actions. My primary moral guide (the non-aggression principle) isn’t really a lot of help. I am certainly not harming or aggressing against my ex by having these pictures or by using them for masturbatory pleasure. I guess you could make the argument that there is an implied contract when you send the pictures that they are only to be used and kept during the duration of the relationship. I’m not sure if implicit agreements are really a good thing to assume, and these particular pictures are from a fuck-buddy who I am still on good terms with. It wasn’t a romantic relationship and it wasn’t a bad separation, we just stopped living in the same area. Should I treat photos in the same way that I would treat other items?

Take, as an imperfect example, a situation where an ex let me borrow a jacket and after we separated I still had the jacket. If it was raining outside and I needed to go out to get the mail, would it be unethical of me to wear the jacket to keep dry? I would think not. It isn’t harming anything. But, does the situation change if I have access to other jackets but simply prefer my ex-partner’s jacket because it is comfortable, familiar, and I know it will get the job done? Again, I would think not. I am still not harming anyone. Is sexual release (and pleasure) a different ethical category? I don’t think so.

This also raises other questions. Like, is it wrong to think about an ex or a friend or a celebrity while masturbating? The “be excellent to each other” half of my moral code offers little to no guidance. Using my mind to receive pleasure through fantasy harms nobody by itself. I think it is probably socially unacceptable to admit to fantasizing or using photos of your friends for sexual pleasure, but society is pretty terrible as a moral compass, especially a society like in the US that is incredibly sex-negative and shaming.

So, I am left without a real answer. I think the appropriate middle-ground would be to contact the women in the photos and ask if they want me to destroy them or if they care if I keep them. We live in an interesting time.

The Lifestyle: A Review

Yesterday I finally finished “The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rights of Swingers” and I really enjoyed the analysis of what was going on with Swingers in the mid-late 90’s. The book is a bit dated but many of the lessons stand true today and books like this help destroy the unfair discrimination and naive views some people have towards those who don’t fit neatly into the “traditional marriage” paradigm. In fact, I found it surprising how many people were actually involved in The Lifestyle, the odds are someone in every neighborhood across western civilization there are play-couples who don’t see a problem with introducing third party eroticism into their relationships.

There are several different types of swingers discussed throughout the book but each type shared some common themes. It is very woman-centric, the ladies tend to control the action and explicit consent is absolutely mandatory. It mentioned many times throughout the book that come down to men tend to initiate the idea of entering the lifestyle but it is the women that really dominate. Due to the potential for coercion the official lifestyle clubs work very hard to self-regulate. Some clubs require interviews, psychological evaluations, and an application process to make sure both members of the couple are healthy and interested. Swinging cannot save a couple with a bad or weak relationship, but it can strengthen a strong and healthy one. Swingers don’t consider their actions cheating because everyone consents, especially their partner. The relationship comes first at all times, which is more than I can say for the people who cheat on their partners. The lifestyle at this time (and possibly now) does have a male homophobia though, men showing intimacy for other men is more than just frowned upon. That may have changed over the last 15 years as pansexuality and bisexuality become more normalized though.

The majority of swingers I would call “soft swingers” and they make up roughly 3/4 of people in the lifestyle. Soft swingers don’t necessarily have sex with other people, instead the enjoy the carefree and sensual atmosphere of being around adults where everything is out in the open. Because people are so open there are much fewer cases of unwanted touching, grinding, sexual assault, or harassment… everyone knows the boundaries, there are no games, it is all in the open. This is much like the Orgy Dome that my partner and I went to at Burning Man, it is a sexual place where trusting couples can be surrounded by sensuality without a worry of anyone being hurt. When some sort of sex outside of the primary relationship happens it is usually with another couple they know, trust, and it is a beautifully intimate affair.

Within the lifestyle there are also “hard swingers” who are more orgiastic. These are the vast minority though. Not that there is anything wrong with indulging in group sex with strangers, but it is relatively uncommon. Of course this is the type of swingers that comes to mind thanks to the media, you say swinger and people imagine “key parties” or groups of writhing oiled up bodies, when the reality is most swingers don’t engage in group sex behavior at all.

One chapter of the book was also dedicated to polyamorous people, though whether they are part of the lifestyle is up for debate. Where “swingers” brings up the idea first of sex (and many swingers would agree with that), the polys discussed in the book view things very differently. In their view they are very explicitly trying to remake society along the boundaries of love. Their relationships tend to be sexually closed and intimacy is shared within multi-person families and marriages. They wanted to bring Robert Heinlein’s views from “Stranger in a Strange Land” to life and even adopted the terminology of “grok” and “sharing water” in common conversations. To be honest, this chapter of the book kind of surprised me because that has not been my experience with polyamorous people. My experience, which I admit is minimal, seems to be closer to a middle ground between these polys and swingers. This may be due to the 15+ years separating now and this book or it may be that my experience is not the norm.

One of the most common criticisms of any lifestyle that is not monogamous is that it isn’t “natural”. The standard model of human sexuality pushed for monogamy, but that is being challenged pretty heavily by sperm competition. Under sperm competition a male will have more powerful and pleasurable orgasms if they think (or know) that their partner has had sex with another person. It is a pretty common fantasy for a man to want to see his partner be with another and sperm competition leads some credibility to that. This theory also shows why women can have multiple orgasms, take longer to orgasm, and become very vocal during sex… because they were built for many partners to help guarantee they get the strongest genes. More info on this can be found in “What Do Women Want?” and “Sex At Dawn

The media in the past has seen people in the lifestyle as perverse and open to all sorts of unfair criticism. They reinforced a form of classism where when rich and beautiful people embrace their sexuality it is to be celebrated but the common folk must do no such thing. Articles were written focused on how unattractive swingers were compared to their hollywood counterparts and how disgusting it was that they would wear scantily clothes, show intimacy in public, or openly flirt. I can’t help but be disgusted with the idea that sexual fulfillment and relationship experimentation is only a good thing if people fit into a certain physical mold. If all humans are equal we should all be free to pursue happiness with other consenting adults.

As disgusting as the media’s actions were for a time their tune eventually changed when the government decided to enforce morality. The major turning point was when the California ABC (which is responsible for giving out liquor licenses) started targetting venues who allowed swinging conventions and using nude art as their justification. Once there was a clear attack on free speech the media got in line and started at least supporting the swingers rights to practice what they wish. The ABC, as a bureaucracy, has virtually no check on their power. They are charged with defending public morality in any place where alcohol is served and used this power with virtually no oversight. They couldn’t be sued and any complaints went internally to ABC. They even claimed the authority to revoke the liquor license of any hotel that allowed nudity or sexual activity behind the closed doors of a hotel room. They used their power to primarily go after those who couldn’t fight back but the swingers had resources, they are primarily middle and upper-middle class suburbanites who weren’t going to go down without a fight. After the attempted censorship of nude art a judge finally reigned in ABC by putting a restraining order on them. To this day the ABC is charged with protecting the safety, welfare, health, peace, and morals (emphasis mine) of the people of California. As the author says, “When a government – any government – feels itself standing as a righteous bulwark against sexual immorality, the public becomes the enemy”

All in all this was a fascinating book that I really enjoyed. It did a great job of showing how “normal” most swingers are. They are mostly married, have good jobs, raise kids, and are many times religious. They just reject the current view of sexual morality, as the author said “Morals are without exception dictated by the dominant figures in a group, who ruthlessly attempt to constrain the sexual expression of others.” Swingers are telling the establishment to fuck off, they are living life their way. I would love to attend the national convention in 2014 but it is unlikely I will be able to due to my bike ride. Hopefully my partner and I can at least check out one of the local clubs or something though. There is a wide world of sexual and relationship acceptance out there for those that will open their minds and think for themselves.