Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sugasm #88 - Great Issue!

I'm in Sugasm #88. See below. No, it's not a great issue because I'm in it - it really IS a great issue, lots of steamy stuff, along with a fair amount of intellectual foreplay.

To see all the great sex blog entries in a variety of categories, go here.

Mon 16th Jul, 07

This Week’s Picks

Kinky To Vanilla“Now, each time we play with others, it’s a gift that further cements our closeness and shows us the value of our love.”

One For The Guys“Get into the habit of building your sexual pleasure and indulging in it fully.”

When A Client Dies-Part 2
“As I drank my morning coffee I googled his name and “obit”. Up popped his obituary.”

Mr. Sugasm Himself
A Porn Store Clerk Speaks

Editor’s Choice
Love at First Sight

More Sugasm
Join the Sugasm

See also: Fleshbot’s Sex Blog Roundup each Tuesday and Friday.

Thoughts on Sex and Relationships
Bald = hot
Kinky Vanilla
On abandon
The Origins of Monogamy and Jealousy
Pretendy Sex
Seduction - from the eyes of my spouse
Three years

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Truth About Rationalization

In my last post I spoke about rationalization, which prompted me to speak a bit more on that subject, and to share one of my favorite movie quotes here shortly.

Wikipedia says:

Rationalization in psychology is the process of constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process.

Somewhere in my own internal emotional work, I examined what I came to recognize as my ability to hide the truth from myself and so became aware of my tendency to rationalize. As I looked more closely at rationalization in general, I came to see just how much of it I did and how it is that doing it kept me from being honest with myself.

Certainly rationalization is a natural part of the human thought process. Sometimes it is good, sometimes bad. It can be good to the extent that it is grounded in truth. It is bad when it is not and is basically what we also more crudely call bullshitting ourselves.

So here's the movie quote. In the 1983 movie "The Big Chill", Jeff Goldblum's character, Michael, is having a conversation with his good friend, Sam, played by Tom Beringer.

Michael: I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex.

Sam: Ah, come on. Nothing's more important than sex.

Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

So true. That line still cracks me up.

The Origins of Monogamy and Jealousy

Someone wrote the following to me yesterday.

You obviously have approached this subject with a scholarly bent and seem to know quite a bit. I have thought a lot about it too and I have, from time to time, dabbled in Sociology and Social Psychology. I have a sort of negative, flip-side question for you: what do you think the origins and purposes of monogamy are? For the life of me, I cannot see how monogamy serves any real purpose except to guarantee mates for the less-advantaged males. What do you think?

Well, certainly your observation about monogamy serving to guarantee mates for less-advantaged males is accurate according to Psychology Today.

Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy.

When there is resource inequality among men—the case in every human society—most women benefit from polygyny: women can share a wealthy man. Under monogamy, they are stuck with marrying a poorer man.

The only exceptions are extremely desirable women. Under monogamy, they can monopolize the wealthiest men; under polygyny, they must share the men with other, less desirable women. However, the situation is exactly opposite for men. Monogamy guarantees that every man can find a wife. True, less desirable men can marry only less desirable women, but that's much better than not marrying anyone at all.

Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don't realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy.

Once upon a time when there were certainly no DNA tests to confirm paternity, monogamy was intended to guarantee blood lines so that wealth and property was kept in the family. How well that worked in reality is likely another story, but it did give (or was at least was intended to give) men control over who inherited property, since the right of women to own property is a much more recent development.

Monogamy's origins are also firmly rooted in Europe and the Catholic church. The church enforced monogamy as an aspect of virtue according to the gospel of St. Paul and other biblical sources who believed that Eve seduced Adam into sin and so women needed to be dominated and controlled to save them from sin. This also served to help men avoid feelings of jealousy by keeping their women to themselves, and women bought into it as well, perceiving that they preferred to keep their men to themselves, even as they were attracted to other men and tempted to stray - just as, in reality, were their men. The church declared that temptation to stray was a sin, and that monogamy was divinely mandated. Again, this was the church's way of controlling its parishoners and maintaining it's own power and authority.

From an evolutionary biological standpoint, humans are programmed to pair bond for the raising of children, though anthropologists believe we have never done so entirely monogamously. There is a reproductive advantage to spreading one's reproductive resources around to others, generally others perceived to be healthy - which explains why men in particular are so attracted to women younger than they. We women have a finite number of eggs and a finite number of years in which to put them to use - not so for men.

Next we throw into the mix the matter of sexual jealousy. This is not even remotely new in evolutionary terms and is believed to have developed as a further means of keeping parents together for the raising of children, especially in order to see that children are protected and provided for at least until they are out of the cradle. Some anthropologists assert that this explains why biologically limerence, that "in love" rush of emotions, eventually wears off, preparing us to then be attracted to others so as to continue to spread reproductive resources around to other attractive, i.e. reproductively viable, partners.

For more on all this, see the book references on the website for the Institute for 21st Century Relationships, specifically here and here.

I recommend the works of anthropologist Helen Fisher, especially her book "Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray", as well as the book "Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice" by Wiesner-Hanks.

Sexual jealousy makes monogamy seem like a good idea, yet we are just as biologically programmed to stray outside the pair bond to further guarantee perpetuation of our species. In other words, it is normal to want to keep our partner to ourselves while we decline to remain monogamous ourselves. It seems that human evolution is entirely focused on outcomes and is not concerned with the internal conflict it may create in attaining them.

In my work with polyamorous people on resolving jealousy, I have encountered a few who are honest enough to fully admit that they want to be with others but are not willing to share their partner with others while admitting that it is unfair. A very few bisexual folks with straight partners take this approach as well, pointing out a need for one of each as justification for being with more than one while their straight partner has no such right or imperative. In both cases the motivation is to avoid feelings of jealousy while getting their need for variety met. These folks are definitely in the minority, at least as to their willingness to admit to these rationalizations. The vast majority of non-monogamous people share these feelings but are much more philosophically egalitarian. They choose to deal with concerns about jealousy more directly, by doing internal emotional work, communicating with their partner(s) about their feelings, and in so doing finding ways to minimize or resolve their feelings in a way that is fair to everyone.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage and the Slippery Slope to Polyamory

So I recently promised in my last post here to explain how it is that polyamorists and same-sex marriage advocates find themselves sometimes at odds with each other. It all started with a guy named Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz is a fellow at the think tank Hoover Institution, a contributing editor to the National Review Online as well as The Weekly Standard, all highly respected bastions of conservatism, with a special interest in America's culture war. As a Harvard Ph.D. in social anthropology, his writings focus on the family, feminism, homosexuality, affirmative action, and campus political correctness.

Over the past few years, Kurtz has become the darling of the religious right and the marriage movement via his writings about why permitting same-sex partners to marry will literally bring about the demise of our civilization as we know it. He explains everything so smoothly, logically and reasonably while using no hate speech that he gains a lot of credibility for his assertion that same-sex marriage will open the door to the “slippery slope to polyamory”

He first establishes this premise in his August 4, 2003 Weekly Standard article entitled “Beyond Gay Marriage: The Road to Polyamory” in which Kurtz explains his point like this. If same-sex partners are permitted to marry, once the legal definition of marriage is altered to permit anyone other than two opposite sex partners to marry, then there will be no legal basis for denying the same rights to polygamists, polyamorists, or even members of the same biological family. Naturally, the very idea of this is so abhorrent to conservatives (who, by the way, know little to nothing about polyamory itself), especially to religious conservatives, that this premise grew legs almost instantaneously and began to be used far and wide by religious extremists to incite those opposed to same-sex marriage to stand up and voice their opposition in what has at times sounded like a genuine frenzy of freaking-out. Of course, they've been intentionally alarmed with the belief that what other people do in their marriages is somehow going to affect *their* marriages. What a lot of baloney.

For the record, Cathy Young, a columnist I often admire who writes for The Boston Globe and the libertarian magazine Reason, also wrote on this subject in 2004 in her article entitled "Opening Marriage: Do Same Sex Unions Pave the Way for Polygamy?" She also blogged on the subject here.

Kurtz seems to do his homework, at least after a fashion. In his subsequent, lengthy piece in the National Review Online dated March 23, 2005, entitled Rick Santorum was Right, he managed to unearth the Divilbiss child custody case which took place in Memphis back around 2000 – and he also located Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, though he misidentifies their mission as one of advocacy for polyamory and poly marriage instead of advocacy within the Unitarian Universalist Association – a HUGE difference - for polyfolk who are UUs. How he missed Lovingmore, The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, and The Institute for 21st Century Relationships I can’t say, each of which is a bona fide non-profit advocate for polyamory (though none has taken on multi-partner marriage as part of their mission as of yet).

What is more important in the March 2005 article is that Kurtz cited Elizabeth Emens, whom he refers to as “A whiz kid with a Ph.D. in English from Cambridge University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.” He goes on to say:

“Emens, who [while writing her paper taught at] the University of Chicago Law School, has published a major legal and cultural defense of polyamory (group marriage). In ‘Beyond Gay Marriage,’ I showed that state-sanctioned polyamory was rapidly becoming the favorite cause of scholars of family law. Yet not until now has anyone offered so bold, informed, intelligent, and comprehensive a brief for polyamory. Emens's breakthrough article is a sign that the case for mainstreaming polyamory is finally being...well, mainstreamed.”

From Stanley’s mouth to God’s ear. Yes, Elizabeth Emens did indeed do we polyfolk an excellent turn with her paper. One could argue that she is equally responsible for endangering the same-sex marriage movement, but there is no denying the integrity of her work.

Kurtz, to bang the drum some more, followed up the two previously-referenced articles with yet another in the Weekly Standard dated December 26, 2005, entitled "Here Come the Brides: Plural marriage is waiting in the wings." I don't recall there being much in this one that he hasn't already said. Maybe he still owed those for whom he shills a bit more drum banging.

Ironically, we polyfolk have no argument with his premise that same-sex marriage must logically lead to multi-partner marriage. He is likely correct. Where we differ is whether we think that is a bad thing or a good thing.

As you can imagine, none of this came as good news to the same-sex marriage movement. As a result, some of its guiding lights, as well as its supporters, don’t think much of polyamory and really, really, really hope we will just be quiet and not spoil their chances. (See my last post here for an example of this.) Why it is that sexual minority groups feel so free to discriminate against other sexual minorities, an affront no less hurtful to we polyfolk than the same kind of discrimination from the mainstream is to them, I cannot say, except that there is a huge sense of entitlement that must come from being treated as second class citizens for so long.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to actively seek to derail the effort for same-sex marriage. I know how important it is to many GLBTs, and, on the one hand, I understand and empathize with their longing to achieve this status so long denied them. But on the other hand, I still have to wonder why they long for something that has clearly showed itself to be fatally flawed for half the people who marry, only to end up in divorce court. Surely there is a better way, and I think Emens and the people who issued the Beyond Same Sex Marriage manifesto make a compelling case for some very viable alternatives, which I support. See my earlier post on why I think that government should get out of the marriage business entirely and why that is the only fair way to resolve the issue.

Bottom line here is that Stanley Kurtz can be credited with putting polyamory squarely in the center of the debate and making it the political football everyone is kicking around. Neither side sees a resolution of the issue as being in its best interests, mainly because they fear how such a resolution might affect them.

The polyamory community is still maturing and has not as of yet become organized enough to advocate for itself effectively in all of this - despite Kurtz's assertions to the contrary - but eventually that day will come, I assure you. Just give it some time.