Empowerment

There is an image that has popped up on my Facebook newsfeed a lot recently that has me thinking. The image is a drawing of two people, one person is naked and the other person is fully dressed and has their head covered. It also says something along the lines of “Nudity empowers some women and modesty empowers other women”*. While this is rightfully targeted at women because women have traditionally been the ones who are classified a certain way by their appearance and had their clothing options chosen for them by patriarchal societies, I think it applies to all humans.

I’m not sure exactly how to define empowerment, but in this case it seems to be actions we take that give us confidence when dealing with the outside world. It gives us the strength to face the day and challenge anyone who would try to usurp our ownership of our own bodies. Empowerment is the choice we freely make with our own body, mind, and labor.

I don’t think it always comes easily though and empowerment, like many things in life, requires practice and discomfort. You can find the idea of being nude or modest to be empowering but lack the strength to exercise it yourself. Instead, it becomes easy to dress the way you are expected. If the concept of modesty is empowering to you that may be difficult if you feel that society and your social group expects you to show your skin. If the concept of being nude empowers you it may be difficult if you have friends or a culture that shames or imprisons people who show certain portions of their skin.

Thus, it requires practice and work to get to the point where you can freely do what empowers you. You must take babysteps… maybe you dress more modestly or nude at home first, then you take pictures alone, then you dress that way among close friends or send pictures to friends via Snapchat or Tumblr, then you go out in public where that dress is accepted, then places it isn’t accepted, etc etc etc. As you take steps towards your goal through areas that are uncomfortable because of societal norms you will push the boundaries. And, through some hard work, you will get to the point where you are comfortable in situations you never thought you would be.

Not only will you find out if a certain thing actually empowers you (it might not, but that’s okay, at least you tried it out instead of spending your life wondering “what if?”), but you will inspire your friends, family, and strangers. People will become more comfortable wearing clothes or not wearing clothes because of the example you set. They will see the humanity in your actions. Your body and clothing will show others that they can do what you do, they can be empowered, they can have strength when they pursue things outside of the norm.

 

* I don’t think there is one side of this coin that is better than the other. Nudity and modesty are up to the individual. I do think it is universally healthy to be comfortable with your own naked body when you are alone. Our bodies are the most amazing gift we have and we should try and love them. Personal body positivity is important and helps with increased self-confidence in other situations, even if you decide to keep your awesome body out of the public eye.

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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.

Motivation

I’ve never been good at self-motivation. I seem to need an outside influence in order to do the things that I know are healthy or for my own benefit. If left to my own devices I would probably do little more than order Papa Johns, nap, watch Netflix, and masturbate. I can completely relate to Snowman from “Oryx and Crake”, even if living in some post-Apocalyptic hellhole I would have trouble getting up each day. I just kind of suck at it. (Sidenote: If you haven’t read “Oryx and Crake” you should close your browser and go do that, there is nothing on the internet better than that novel, Margaret Atwood is a legend).

Lucky for me, I don’t live in a vacuum. I am not on a deserted island or an apocalyptic wasteland. I live in a world with others and I have scarcity that forces me to get up each day and invest in my body and mind. Though, motivation for working out is one of the most difficult things for me. Each day is a new struggle to eat right and exercise. I think that is part of the reason I adopted a lifestyle that literally requires 30-40 miles of cycling each day. If it is not part of my daily life needs then I make excuses, or I just let my laziness take control.

Now that I’m settled in one place for a couple months I need to practice some control and motivate myself. I know me and I need to look to outside influences a lot of the time for motivation, and one influence is not enough. So, I have a list of them that fill various roles, some positive and some negative. Because, let’s be honest, doing P90X sucks and the host on the videos isn’t a true motivation.

One thing that really gets me moving is when I think about being naked in front of others. A benefit of my life with my partner is that we end up naked with other people more regularly than most. Nude beaches, Burning Man, and other friends who we roll around naked with help keep me motivated. I know my friends will accept me even if I put on a pound or ten, but I want to be more comfortable in my body around others. To quote Lester Burnham “I want to look good naked”. It is a confidence thing and having specific events on the horizon helps motivate me. I’ve never done a triathalon or marathon or Tough Mudder or anything like that, but I think it would be pretty motivating for me if I signed up.

As an optimistic transhumanist I also believe we will cure death in my lifetime, but I think the timeline will be close. To motivate myself I sometimes focus on that. I think that if I exercise now and deal with some discomfort then I am investing in eternity. The payoff is well worth it.

I also respond well to seeing change in my body. This can be as simple as weighing myself regularly and doing body measurements, but it can also be more aesthetic. When I see a new muscle start to form or notice some abdominal muscle that I’d never noticed before or see a vein popping out of my arm it is incredibly motivating. Seeing my hard work pay off encourages me to work even harder.

I can also be motivated by seeing what I don’t want to be. This is kind of a negative thing and may make me sound like an asshole, but it is true for me. When I see someone obese or unable to function because they are incredibly unhealthy it motivates me to take care of my own body. I don’t want to be in my 40’s and need to use the electric chairs at the grocery store. I know that an accident can be the cause of that, but the better I take care of my body now the more likely I will be able to heal if there is an accident. Sometimes seeing what I don’t want to be is just as motivating as what I want to be.

Anyway, that is what motivates me. Every day when I logically know I shouldn’t drink another beer or know I should carve out time for a work out I try to run through the reasons why until a specific one stands out. Right now my upcoming visits to LA and Portland stand out in my mind, and the need to stay in shape for the bike ride continuation in January. In truth, there is always a good reason to make a healthy decision. The pleasure from food and laziness is weak and fleeting, maybe it is necessary some of the time for sanity but usually it is better to invest in my body and mind so that I can experience greater pleasures. No amount of cupcakes are worth the satisfaction of being healthy enough to hike the Appalachian Trail, feel confident at a nude beach, or living forever.

Self Reflection – Introduction

The nature of my lifestyle means I have a lot of time to think. 4-6 hours of constant bike riding daily kind of demands it, your mind tends to wander and you can only focus on podcasts for so long before you ignore them outright. I guess most of my adult life I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I believe and why I believe it. The stability of my Christian, conservative, white middle-class view on the world was another tower that fell on 9/11. After that attack I joined the military, saw some of the world, met lots of people, and realized my upbringing was not the “end all, be all” of the good life. In fact, I found it quite wanting.

This penchant for self-analysis and a recent post on the app “Secret”* inspired this upcoming series of blog posts. I think it is important to constantly question what you believe, why you believe it, and how people perceive you. There are many labels that people apply to themselves (myself included) but rarely can a person’s perspective and history be defined by a few grunted syllables. In addition, I think it will be fun to provide a permanent record of what I believe for future me to look back on. It is likely that 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now I will not have the same points of view. I actually hope I don’t, because that means I have likely stopped growing and learning.

So, in no particular order, here are the subjects, roles, and views I plan on exploring in the coming months, both my current views and how I got to them. I hope to get 1-2 out per week but that depends on logistics for my ride.

  • Libertarian Anarchist
  • Pansexual
  • Nudity and Body Positivity
  • Pagan Atheist
  • Transhumanist
  • Sex Positive
  • Open Relationships and My Current Monogamish Relationship
  • Veganism
  • Minimalist
  • BDSM and Kink
  • Drug Use

*Recently someone posted on “Secret” that my life is basically childish, hedonistic, and that I’m afraid of adulthood. I responded on Facebook and it doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but that perception of me did get my brain moving and was part of the catalyst for this series.

Couples Therapy

I have often talked about my advocacy for using MDMA* as a therapeutic assist for individuals facing PTSD, as well as a way for romantic couples to keep communication open and maintain a strong love for each other. A while back my partner and I got to experience something else when we had a night “rolling” with another couple who are our friends. I found this experience to be incredibly positive and I hope to relive it again with that couple and others that we know.

There is a false stereotype that MDMA is some sort of “sex drug”. In reality, it opens doors of communication and fosters love and trust between those involved. Due to the nature of the relationship of all involved the only sexual contact occurred between significant others and did so in a fairly private manner. Instead, the whole experience was a lot of discussions about love, life, relationships, and how much we appreciated each other. We  all got to discuss how we face the problems in our lives and what we hope for in the future. We were also able to find out how another couple deals with difficulties in relationship types (both being kind of mixed poly/mono couples). People who love each other should be free to discuss anything openly, but sadly social barriers and our past often prevent that. MDMA helps open that up.

Moving forward I certainly hope we have more experiences like this. With all things pre-intoxicated discussions are key. While I may be comfortable with things like being naked in front of friends, giving/receiving massages, having sex while others are in the room, or even sexual intimacy with others it is important to get these things on the table beforehand when everyone is completely sober… if something comes up of interest during a roll you can always discuss it the next day and save it for another time. It is better to guarantee enthusiastic consent and interest in an activity than risk harming a person or relationship. Basically, err on the side of the most conservative member of the group.

Unfortunately, I am not as outspoken in person with individuals as I am when writing about things as broad issues, so though I may be interested in something I often remain quiet. I’m working on this, and thinking there might be a better way. I’ve seen lists of sexual interests that couples can exchange where they rate things like “I’d love to do that – Maybe under the right circumstances – No way in hell” and I’m sure that could be adapted for couples therapy. Even if new boundaries aren’t pushed, enjoying a loving and intimate home environment while rolling is still one of my favorite things to do, and it sure as hell is a lot safer and cheaper than alcohol.

*Unfortunately we live in a place where men with guns are willing to throw peaceful adults in cages if they possess MDMA. Due to Prohibition the quality of MDMA can be compromised and can become unsafe. Please, please, please, always purchase from a trusted source, use a test kit to ensure quality, stay hydrated, and look out for each other. Rolling is amazing and can be a near spiritual experience, but it isn’t worth taking unnecessary fatal risks.  Be Safe.