Burden of Proof

Last week Isaac and T.K. had one of the best podcast episodes that I’ve listened to in quite a while. In the final half hour or so they started discussing the burden of proof for our own beliefs, particularly what it would take to convince you to change your mind. I think this is a really valuable exercise. Too often we get bogged down in our own beliefs and become resistant to change, even though we haven’t really articulated what those beliefs are grounded in. Sadly, I think a lot of beliefs aren’t grounded in anything more than “that’s how I was raised” or “that’s how it has always been done”. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone.

We all have a hodge-podge of beliefs and identities that color our perception of the world. Some of these can be  pretty damn important to us, like our thoughts on god and government. Some fundamentally alter the way we live our lives, like our thoughts on veganism or drug use. Others are relatively minor, like which way the toilet paper roll goes or whether throw pillows should exist.

To me, the most troubling ones are those that are based solely on how or where we were raised. If you feel hatred towards someone because they support Alabama football or were born in Europe, that can pose serious problems. If you are a Christian simply because you were raised Christian and never really got to know (and love) people from other religions, then I think that is shortsighted and can be a sign of spiritual weakness. One of the most important things we can do is challenge our own assumptions and come up with a proof that would convince us to change our minds, and then maybe go out there and find someone to challenge us. Steel sharpens steel. Minds sharpen minds. It is intellectually lazy to just say “well I just know” or “nothing could change my mind”.

I don’t think this is just a rhetorical thought experiment. I think it is actually important to write down some beliefs and think about what would make you change your mind. Here are some of my beliefs (all of which have a bundle of assumptions tied into them), and I plan on challenging them in the future.

  • A world where animals don’t die for human pleasure is better than a word where they do die, which is why I’m a vegan.
  • Spiritual belief correlates strongly with birthplace, which means that either there is no supernatural deity or that supernatural deity actually speaks to us through multiple (all?) religions and no belief system has a monopoly on the truth.
  • The use of force against peaceful people is morally wrong, the government is defined by the use of force against unconsenting peaceful people, therefore the government is immoral. This is why I am a philosophical anarchist.
  • More often than not, the government reduces the happiness and prosperity of the people and minimizing government will improve the lives of most people in the short term and all people in the long term. This is why I am an incremental pragmatic anarchist.
  • Happiness primarily comes from experiences, and not from possessions. This is why I am a minimalist.
  • Work is not objectively good and humans will be better off when we don’t need to work in order to meet our basic needs like food, water, and shelter. The arts and sciences will thrive when all humans are able to explore their passions without worrying about survival. This is why I am a supporter of the Basic Income Guarantee and advancing technology to eliminate need scarcity.
  • Technology will eventually advance to the point where humans can live forever. This is why I am a transhumanist.
  • Sex is not solely an emotional or spiritual act and I believe that having multiple, new experiences with a variety of partners can increase happiness and life satisfaction.
  • The use of psychedelics and similar drugs have an overwhelmingly positive impact on society and individuals, and we should support responsible use of them.
  • Sexual orientation is a fluid spectrum that is grounded in biology but there is social pressure to restrict it. If humans lacked social pressure we would likely all be somewhat bisexual, and if we eliminated the taboo around same-sex contact (particularly for men) people would be more comfortable with experimentation and less repressed.
  • Electoral politics is the least effective and laziest way to enact social change, particularly at the federal level. Most people’s time would be better-spent volunteering in their communities, pursuing their passions, and working with local institutions instead of caring or supporting a Presidential candidate.
  • I believe mental health and physical health are related for many people, and eating a healthy, plant-based diet, getting regular exercise, meditating, and seeing a therapist regularly can be a huge benefit to individuals, as well as society.
  • We should be less supportive of people who choose to have children but don’t have the economic or social resources to raise them. Instead of subsidizing childbirth we should be increasing access to contraceptives and sex education. Also, it is more ethical to adopt a child than to have one of your own in the US where there are half a million children who need a stable place to live.
  • If there wasn’t social pressure towards monogamy we would see a lot more “alternative” family arrangements that would provide more options for diverse humans to find happiness and prosperity.

 

Those are just some of my beliefs off the top of my head. They are mostly grounded in a philosophical foundation or pragmatic assumptions, which means they are open to being challenged. I may be wrong about some of my beliefs… hell, I may be wrong about all of my beliefs, but that’s okay. I don’t want unprovable beliefs, I want to keep my mind open to growing and being challenged by my experiences and the experiences of others. Life is too beautifully diverse and long to stay in a bubble being stagnant.

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The Green Eyed Monster

I received several positive comments on my post from yesterday that all kind of touched on jealousy. I’m intimately familiar with the feeling of jealousy. In fact, I used to be an incredibly jealous person. Just the thought of my partner being flirted with would become near rage inducing, my stomach would tie up in knots and I would start to run scenarios through my head that I just knew were true. My mind and body worked together to make me as miserable as possible. It was a terrible feeling and a destructive force in my relationship. I needed to overcome it.

I think jealousy is a natural feeling and, like the other negative emotions (anger, hatred, fear, disgust, etc), it was naturally selected for because it provided an evolutionary advantage to us. A person who felt jealousy may be able to spread their genetic code more efficiently than a person who didn’t really feel jealousy. Now, those methods would likely be morally deplorable to us in today’s society, but they were likely effective in a more hunter-gatherer tribe situation that we evolved from. It is always worth repeating, nature is a shitty measure for morality and just because something is “natural” that does not mean it is good or healthy.

Jealousy, in modern society, seems to be accepted more than it should. We kind of brush off jealousy in a way that we don’t with other emotions. If our friend is dating someone who “is just a jealous person” we would probably see that as less than ideal, but not necessarily a deal breaker. But, if our friend was dating someone who “just happens to be a hateful person” or “an angry person” we would be much more likely to try and get our friend out of that situation. I think some people even glorify jealousy and see it as a sign that someone truly loves them. The more jealous a person gets the more they truly care, but that isn’t the case. And, on the other side, people feel like their partner must not realy love them if they don’t get jealous, that if someone isn’t threatened by others it is because they don’t care about you. The more jealous a person gets the more they want to own or control. That isn’t love, that’s possession.

(I don’t mean this in a judgy way, I am just as guilty of this as anyone. I still feel jealousy from time to time and it is because I want to possess my partner or friend’s time or resources. Sometimes I feel I have a right to their time, mind, body, attention, or whatever. I struggle with this all the time.)

Luckily, jealousy (like all destructive emotions), can be overcome. Yes, it requires fighting against our nature, but that is something we do every day. In our post-hunter-gatherer society, many of the instincts we evolved with are destructive and we must fight against them in order to be healthy and prosperous. Our ability to act in a way contrary to our “nature” is one of the things that seems to separate us from animals.

For me, there are three things that really help me overcome jealousy. The first is meditation. I know I sound like some sort of religious zealot when I talk about mindfulness meditation, but it really has helped me immensely. I still struggle with the practice daily, but I have found myself to gain a lot from it, and there is science to back it up.

Second is communication with my partner. When I feel jealous I can come to my partner and talk about it. We go deeper than “I feel jealous” and try to get to the heart of the issue. Maybe it is something silly like “In that moment I was worried you cared more for that person than me” or maybe it is something more legitimate like “I’m having a really rough time but you prioritized someone else over caring for me and that hurt”. By verbally expressing what my concerns are we can find solutions, and expressing them often brings to light how irrational they are. Honest communication can also force us to admit some things about ourselves that we may be a little ashamed of. Maybe our jealousy stems from us feeling like we have some ownership over the other person, that we view them as our possession in some sense. Admitting that may be shameful but it is the only way to actually overcome jealousy.

Third, by taking small steps into situations that worry me I’ve been able to overcome jealousy. Most of the time I felt feelings of jealousy it was while thinking about hypothetical situations, it was all in my head. It wasn’t seeing my partner having sex with someone, it was imagining my partner having sex with another person (and thinking about how that person is satisfying her more, more her type, more attractive, etc etc etc). But, when we actually stepped into situations where I might be jealousy the reality was very different. There is no perfect Adonis waiting to steal my partner, there are only other humans with imperfections, insecurities, and fantasies they want to explore. By taking slow steps I was able to build up comfort with new situations and the old situations are no longer jealousy-inducing. Nobody should just jump into an orgy, you need to start small to build up emotional strength and realistic expectations.

As a practical example of how baby-steps worked for me and can be applied to all types of situations from BDSM to swinging to whatever your fantasy is (this took place over about two years so far):

  1. I express an interest in swapping with another couple and we discuss what that would look like and any emotional concerns we have.
  2. We watch an educational video about how to do something like that safely and making sure we take care of each other’s emotional needs. We talk about the video.
  3. We go into an environment where sex may be happening but there is no expectation that we will play with other couples (or even each other). Everyone here is strangers and there is no concern for awkwardness from seeing friends or whatever. We talk before we arrive about our expectations and concerns, and we talk after the experience to see how we felt with everything.
  4. We return to the previous place several times to continue to get comfortable with the idea of having sex near people who are having sex.
  5. We talk about what we think the next step should be and agree that same-room sex with just one other couple would be a good experience  and that some soft touch (making out, handjobs, etc) are okay.
  6. We have sex in the same room as another couple and communicate with them before and after.
  7. That happens a few more times with different friends that we trust.
  8. We agree that the next step is a threesome with a male and that a stranger would probably be better than a friend.
  9. When an opportunity arises for that threesome we communicate before, during, and after.
  10. We talk some more to discuss the next steps and decide that a foursome may be okay at this point but it would still require discussion before and depend a lot on the couple involved.

When we love someone we want them to be the best they can be. We want them to get the most out of life and experience their desires. We don’t want our relationship with them to hold them back or cause resentment. Jealousy can get in the way of our relationship and our ability to truly express our love, but it can be overcome (not completely, but it gets easier and easier). And, with some work and luck, you can start to feel joy when you see your partner in the throws of ecstasy. You can feel joy and excitement when someone you love is having a good time. You can feel pride knowing that you, as a partnership, have such a strong relationship and such effective communication that you have defeated the green-eyed monster. Instead of jealousy, you have compersion, and that has allowed you to have a partnership that is filled with new adventures, variety, and love.

Communication, Partners, and Sex

One of the consequences of being so open about my sexual interests and views is that Facebook friends (most of whom I’ve never met) will message me with their thoughts and concerns. It doesn’t happen a whole lot, maybe once a month or so, but I’m always happy when it does. The subjects range from STI’s to fantasies to sexual orientation to pregnancy, and I always do my best to provide honest and open responses about the subjects. I guess I’m a “sex educator” in some ways.

The most common fantasy question that I’m approached with is a male-on-male interaction (one of the major taboos in our current culture, even in the swinger scene). Most of the men who open up to me about this are from my military or religious days which, I think is pretty telling. I don’t think people involved in traditionally conservative institutions have greater rates of interest in same-sex action, but I do think they tend to lack an outlet for those interests. They may not be able to talk about them with their spouses or those in their community like people in more tolerant institutions, communities, and relationships might. So, they come to me… which is pretty cool because I can relate a lot.

For a long time, one of my most common fantasies was to have a threesome with another man that included male-on-male contact. In fact, for a while, this fantasy was so prevalent in my pornography use and the XXX-movie theater in my head that I identified fairly publicly as bisexual. Lucky for me, I have a partner who is incredibly GGG and was not threatened by these fantasies at all. She was even completely supportive of me moving this experience from fantasy to reality. Eventually, the right circumstances came around and we had a threesome with a bisexual man.

That experience was a good one, but it made me realize that “bisexual” isn’t accurate for me. I wasn’t disgusted or turned off by the experience, but it wasn’t sexually arousing. It was fun, but it wasn’t erotic. I’ve had similar experiences since and the outcome is the same, I had a good time and would do it again but it wasn’t particularly sexual. Yes, there was a lot of play with organs that are typically associated with sex, but it was just a lot of fun and experimentation and giving pleasure. I actually feel the same way about experiences I’ve had with other women as well, I would call them fun and interesting, but not necessarily sexual. What it really did was reinforce my curiosity about bodies and what people like…  we are all built in such beautiful and diverse ways, I want to see how things look and find out how things feel for other people, and try and help them feel pleasure. It’s weird, the more “sexual” experiences I have the more I see the stuff I do with my partner as the only real sex I have. The more genitals I touch, boobs I play with, and lips I kiss, the more intimate, sexual, and valuable the time I spend with my partner is. New experiences allow me to see my current relationship in a clearer focus and appreciate our sexual chemistry. There is no fear of “the grass is greener on the other side” because I’ve been over to grass on the other side and put it into my mouth… it tastes great and was enjoyable but I’m not going to leave my partner for it. I also know that if I want to go back for a taste I have my partner’s consent.

That analogy got weird…

Anyway, I’m really glad I ended up going through with moving my fantasy to reality. It didn’t turn out like I thought it would, which is pretty normal for fantasies, but it allowed me to have a greater understanding of who I am and what turns me on. Instead of wondering my whole life “man, am I really bisexual?”, I can firmly say “I’m not really bisexual but I can have a good time with any gender”. (At least at this point in my life, I think it is possible that my sexuality is pliable enough that it may change over time, or I may find myself with a man that I am completely sexually attracted to… who knows, the future is wild and weird and unpredictable, and so is the mind).

The thing about our imagination is, not only do fantasies end up being less amazing than we thought, our worries turn out to be less negative than we thought. Our minds blow things out of proportion. In the past, the thought of my partner with someone else would bring about some jealousy, but in the moment I actually wasn’t jealous at all. Part of this was because my partner and I always communicate a lot during new experiences but it is also because concern in my head was way overblown when compared to reality. I had built up the situation into something it couldn’t be and in the moment my illusions were destroyed. All my fears (my partner would leave me for this stranger, she would never be satisfied with me again, she would ignore me for the moment and I’d be left out) turned out to be ridiculous, but they only way I could really vanquish those fears was to move from fantasy to reality.

I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who I couldn’t talk about these things with. I can literally tell her any fantasy I have and we can discuss our feelings about it and whether it may realistically become a reality. Even if one of us is uncomfortable with something it isn’t just a “No, we are never doing that”, instead it is “I’m not comfortable with that for these reasons…. I recognize some of those reasons may be alleviated over time and we can discuss it again, and I am completely open to baby stepping in that direction starting today to see if my concerns are real”.

It is disrespectful to just say “no”, and every person should be at least willing to explore the possibility of something with their partner. Baby steps can be as simple as reading articles about a subject, watching a video (porn or otherwise) or going to a conference/event where nothing physical will actually happen. On the flip side, the partner who wants to do something new should have a lot of patience and know how to communicate clearly. You need to be willing to try small things over a long period of time, maybe years (but also be aware if your partner is just “kicking the can down the road” in hopes that you will forget about the desire or be so locked into the relationship that you can’t escape even if you aren’t satisfied).

I firmly believe that if you are going to be spending your life with someone you should be able to discuss absolutely anything and articulate your reasoning (whether you are for something or against something), and be willing to explore those things with your partner. Would you really want to be with someone that you had to keep secrets from and hide your own desires, or will placate you by saying “we will do that someday” with no intention of actually doing it? Someone who, despite all their proclaimed love and compassion for you, would just cast your desires aside for their own comfort? Luckily, I think most partners are more open-minded than we give them credit for… and they probably have plenty of fantasies, desires,  and kinks of their own. Maybe talking about how you want to tie up your partner will lead to them telling you how much they want to be spanked? Maybe they want to try a threesome or same-room sex with another couple too. You never know if you don’t bring it up.

Luckily, I think most partners are more open-minded than we give them credit for, it can be terrifying opening up to someone and I think we often assume they will react the worst possible way. The truth is, they probably have plenty of fantasies, desires,  and kinks of their own that they are afraid to open up about. Maybe talking about how you want to tie up your partner will lead to them telling you how much they want to be spanked? Maybe they want to try a threesome or same-room sex with another couple too. Maybe they want to peg you as much as you want to be pegged.

You never know if you don’t bring it up.

 

Sexual vs Sex

My post yesterday sparked up a conversation between me and a like-minded friend. She, like I, is fascinated and curious about sex, not only as an intellectual pursuit but also on a personal level. We started chatting about some of our experiences with sex and how they weren’t exactly “sexual”. Sure, there was penetration and/or genital manipulation, but there wasn’t the sort of eroticism or intimacy that we generally associate with sex. Instead, it was fun and fulfillment of our curiosity. It was just neat to see what brings the other person pleasure or how they react to certain stimuli, or how they felt different than past partners. It was simply good fun.

I don’t think the fun, curious, non-sexual sex is better or worse than sensual, erotic sexual experiences. It is just different. It is apples and oranges. Sure, the physical acts that are happening are the same but the mindset of those involved is different. It is like how Michael Jordan playing basketball with his kids is different than playing a pro game which is different than leisurely shooting hoops with Magic Johnson (Disclaimer: I haven’t watched basketball since the Portland Trailblazers made a run for the title when I was in elementary school… but I hope you get my point).

Just because acts look similar from the outside doesn’t mean that they are comparable. The value and perspective of the individuals involve weigh much more heavily than what part is being put where and for how long.

I’m not necessarily looking for more sexual partners, that is closer to polyamory than I’m really interested in now (I’m open to them… but not really looking for them). But I am certainly looking for more sex experiences that broaden my horizons, satisfy my curiosities about other people, and create memorable experiences with friends and strangers. I’m thrilled that I have a partner who enjoys new experiences as well and isn’t set on controlling my bodily acts, and we both agree that the heart and intentions of the act are way more important than the physical side of things.

Sex doesn’t need to be sexual.

Fascination

It will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am fascinated by sex. The only “career” that has really appealed to me in recent years is getting involved in sex therapy of some sort. I consider myself a bit of a “sex nerd” who reads books on sex, sexuality, and relationships for fun. I’m fascinated by how our species evolved our sex organs, all the weird quirks about what we are attracted to, and the variety of ways that people arrange their sexual relationships. I do think about sex a lot in an intellectual way, but I also think about it a lot in a personal way.

I’m interested in the sex lives of my friends and am curious about what it would be like to sexually involved with them. I would never push these issues or violate the trust of my partner, but the curiosity stands. I view my friends as sexual beings and I would love insight (or experience) in that part of their lives. I don’t view them solely as sexual beings, but that is part of how I view them.

I’ve often wondered why I have this fascination with my friends and have trouble viewing them 100% non-sexually. Is there something “wrong” with me? Do other people wonder these things but are afraid to discuss them or admit their thoughts (if this is the case with any of my friends please feel free to start a dialogue with me)?

I think a large part of it for me is my desire to be seen as a sexual being or to be sexually appealing to others. I am interested in sex, in part, because I want other people to be interested in sex with me. Maybe this all goes back to my childhood that treated sex as kind of evil. Maybe it is because I’ve never really felt attractive and was a nerdy kid in school (I still kind of am a nerdy kid). Or maybe I am just wired to be interested in things that our culture finds taboo, maybe if I lived in a world where singing was seen as this secretive, intimate thing a la the Adem (See: The Kingkiller Chronicles) then I would be that person singing in public and talking about it openly.

I’m not sure if this is something that I really need to unpack or change. Though, when I start seeing a therapist again I’m sure it will come up. I hope it doesn’t freak my friends out if they know that I think of them as sexual beings and am curious about their likes, dislikes, kinks, fetishes, and fantasies (no judgement here… you do you and have fun doing it). Maybe, just maybe, being transparent about this will just be another freak flag I raise that other people will gather around. Maybe I’ll start getting messages from people who feel the same way or view me sexually too… or maybe I’m just hoping that will happen.

Sex and Work

Say I have a friend, let’s call her Crystal. Crystal just graduated from college and is currently trying to move to a new city to find work. She has a little savings but is on the look out for some part-time work to smooth out the transition. She posts the following on Facebook “Hey friends! I’m really excited about my move to Chicago, it has been a dream of mine to live in that city my whole life. Unfortunately, money is a little tight (housing is expensive!) and I need to find some part time work. Does anyone have any leads for online work or need help with anything? I’m not looking for a handout or donations, I will gladly work hard!”

Now, I don’t own a business or have any particular need to hire someone. I also don’t know of any online jobs available. But, I do find Crystal attractive and I’m willing to pay money for nude pictures of her. Unfortunately, if I were to send her an offer to pay her money for nude pictures (that I would promise to never share with anyone else) that would probably be frowned upon by society. The pleasure I would be deriving from this exchange would be sexual, and that is seen as an unacceptable exchange among friends. Using her body in that way is bad, but if I asked her to use her body to shingle my house or pour concrete at great risk to her physical health that would be okay.

It is strange that we have this stigma around sex work, particularly sex work among friends (even “Facebook friends” which may exist between people who have never met). I recognize that sharing nude pictures can be dangerous if you don’t trust the recipient to honor your discretion, but let’s ignore that for now because I am not an asshole). We all use parts of our body to directly and indirectly provide value to others, and some of that value involves pleasure. When a chef cooks a meal that I enjoy, I get pleasure from their labor. When I accomplish a task for my supervisor I free up leisure time for him so that he can get pleasure from other things. Why are these things not stigmatized? Why are we afraid of providing sexual pleasure for our friends… it is a nearly universal pursuit of adults and I don’t think it should be shunned the way it is.

It makes me wonder how my Facebook friends would respond if someone offered to pay them money for nude pictures. Would they be less willing to provide them if they found the person unattractive? Would the price go up? Is a certain level of mutual attraction necessary for the transaction to be seen as non-creepy? Do we apply this same level of compatibility to other business transactions (I’ve certainly worked with some assholes but have been able to separate that in my mind)?

This is purely hypothetical. To my knowledge I don’t have any friends who are looking for freelance online work, and even if I did I don’t think I would be comfortable confronting them with this offer. Which kind of sucks, social norms are preventing people from having more opportunities, but I’d be afraid that I’d be stigmatized if I made this offer to someone and they became offended. I bet a lot more people would be better off if sex work in all forms was legal and non-stigmatized.

Note: This could easily apply to couples who want to make some extra cash or to single men. I just used Crystal and she pronouns for writing simplicity and on the assumption that the most common situation would be straight-identifying men buying pictures of women (though, I could be wrong on that).

OMGYes

I recently purchased season 1 of OMGYes and I couldn’t be happier with it. It was definitely money well spent and I wanted to write a quick summary and review of the product. This is clearly from the perspective of someone who does not have a clitoris, labia, vulva, or vagina, but I do enjoy being sexually active with people who have those body parts and I want to give them as much pleasure as possible. I am sure that people with those body parts will also get a lot of value out of this product (at least one friend of mine says she is glad she purchased it, I know I would get a lot out of a similar set of videos for people with a penis, testicles, and a prostate. Variety is the spice of life and we can learn a lot from each other in regard to giving ourselves and others pleasure. Some of my favorite moments from past threesomes and group situations was seeing how other people enjoy their bodies in a way that is different than me.

So, what do you get for the limited time pricing of $29? A whole lot of information and inspiration.

Season 1 is divided into 12 sections that you can navigate between as you see fit. Within each section there are video interviews with individuals about the subject, data collected about the subject from extensive surveys, charts and graphs to visualize the subject matter, videos that show individuals demonstrating the techniques in a informative way (it is not particularly erotic but you will see clitoris, labia, and vulvas of the participants), interactive “games” to practice the techniques, and recommendations on how to bring it into the bedroom. For example, you can check out some of the section on “Edging” for free here, the actual paid section has a lot more information.

The sections don’t only cover physical techniques for bringing pleasure. Also included are incredibly important subjects like framing the experience to reduce anxiety and increase pleasure, giving and receiving feedback, and multiple orgasms. I really do think there is something for everyone in this and it could be beneficial for new partners, established partners who would like to try some new things, and unpartnered people who want to maximize the pleasure they give and receive. I know I am excited to try this out on any willing partners I can find, and hopefully season 2 will be just as awesome.