Archive for July, 2011

Democracy in America

The people of San Francisco have spoken.  At least 7,500 of them, which is no small number.  The people want a referendum.  Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi  has also spoken.  The judge has told the people to shut up.  The judge has scrubbed the Infant Male Circumcision referendum from the November ballot in San Francisco, on grounds of jurisdiction.

According to Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi,  male circumcision is “a widely practiced medical procedure” and medical services are left to the regulation of the state, not individual cities.

But is this really a “widely practiced medical procedure”?  Or is it more akin to ear piercing (Which is fine if done by a consenting adult.  Not so fine if done to somebody else without consent.) Most doctors now say infant male circumcision is completely unnecessary and of no medical value.  The HMO’s won’t pay for it because it’s optional “cosmetic” surgery.  It is most rabidly defended as a religious freedom, as if somebody’s religion gives them the right to cut off a part of another person’s body.   It seems to me there are pretty good arguments to be made against the judge’s ruling.

I’m sure those arguments will be made.  I’m equally sure that someday, maybe in the not too distant future, Infant Male Circumcision will be viewed with the same horror we now reserve for FGM or Chinese foot binding.   It’s a strange combination of religious traditions and out dated medical fad.

The big value of the petition to put the initiative on the ballot, and the subsequent uproar, is that we are now talking about this issue.  It is an indefensible practice.  No doubt in time we will stop it.  But for now, at least, we are talking.  At last.  And this is a huge improvement.

As a continuation of this discussion, I once again invite you to share your views and opinions by taking my survey.  There is so much we don’t know about this issue: How many men who were circumcised as infants now resent it?  How many intact (uncircumcised) men wish it had been done to them as an infant?  Do men really experience problems with their foreskin, or is that another medical myth?  How much does circumcision alter sexual experience?  Please take the survey.  Enquiring minds want to know.

Participate in the survey.  We need your attitude.

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Does No Mean No in America?

We watched the latest comic book inspired megamovie yesterday. ” Green Lantern”.  Good fun, good bubble gum for the brain in the words of Marshall McLuhan, and of course more of the same cliched good versus evil “use the force, Luke” mind as separate from body bullshit.

Green Lantern, like most of the pop culture, mostly harmless.But one scene was particularly troubling.  In it the hero, charming but immature and irresponsible Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is trying to connect with the love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), a woman with whom he has swapped body fluids in the past.  They are in a bar.  He invites her to dance.  She says no.  He starts humming “their song”. She says no again.  He hums more insistently.  She says no.  I lost track of the number of times she said “no” but it was many and adamant.  And then…. and then they are dancing cheek to cheek.  What?

No doesn't mean no in America.  No means talk me into it.So what is the message for the young men and women of America?  Boys are supposed to be insistent.  Boys are supposed to push.  That’s what expected.  Women are supposed to say no.  Repeatedly.  Like they mean it.  And the men are supposed to ignore that and just keep pushing.  It’s like the pop culture is training boys to become date rapists, and training women to be victims.

This comes on the tail end of Elevator Guy and the recent loss by Jamie Leigh Jones of her KBR rape case, two very polarizing events.  It certainly sounds like Jones deserved to lose her case, but one can’t help the lingering suspicion that one more fucking asshole got away with rape.  Elevatorgate has tarnished one of the great minds of our age because Richard Dawkins trivialized the problem of women having to constantly deal with inappropriate advances.  Suddenly there are shrill (yes I use the word advisedly) calls for never reading or recommending his books again.  Like his value to the atheist cause, not to mention the science of genetics, has been negated by a politically stupid over-reaction and dismissal of a very real concern for most women, proof once again that an expert in his field can be a complete moron when he steps outside into the real world.

I’ve had a couple of experiences that make me very sympathetic to women.  One was when my lower back went into spasm.  Before I got to the chiropractor, I could barely move and it took me half an hour to get from my bed to the bathroom, moving from desk, to chair to doornob to sink.  I came out of the chircopractor’s office still taking baby steps, moving very carefully, and on the street I was accosted by a homeless psychotic.  The man made threatening noises and gestures at me.  I realized that I was helpless.  If this man decided to attack me, there would be very little I could do.  Since I’m a big, strong, and usually fairly athletic man, this was one of my first post-childhood experiences of vulnerability.  I realized that women must experience this feeling frequently.  I also realized that I never want to stimulate such feelings in another person.

Two other incidents come to mind.  One was, coincidentally, also in an elevator, that one  in the Time Square Motor Hotel in New York.  Two young and healthy black prostitutes got on the elevator at the same time I did.  These were big women, almost as tall as me.  They had a very aggressive approach to finding customers.  One made a point of casually displaying her switchblade.  The other grabbed for my testicles and made her pitch for a late night servicing.   That incident ended peacefully enough when I protested that I’d had all the sex I could handle for one night, thank you very much, and maybe another time ladies.  But I realized that sexual aggression coupled with a hinted suggestion of impending violence is also not fun.  Not fun at all.

My final empathy lesson happened in Cologne, at the far end of the Panama Canal from Panama City.  I was with three uniformed officers from a Canadian destroyer. We started to enter a bar when we were set upon by at least a dozen extremely aggressive prostitutes.  At least I assume they were prostitutes.  Maybe they were just attractive young women overcome by our exotic good looks.  We were literally fighting our way in the door when I suggested that we really didn’t want a drink that badly, so we started fighting our way out, peeling hands off various body parts as we went.  Perhaps there are men who enjoy such behavior by women, but I can sure understand why women don’t enjoy such behavior from men.

The simple fact is, men have a completely different attitude towards sex than women have.  Sex means something different for most men.  Most people seem to assume that men are after the physical sensations, the release, that sex gives them.  This is obviously not true, because men can have that anytime they overcome their natural laziness and jerk off.  What sex means to most men is that they have been accepted.  that they are attractive enough, sexy enough, desirable enough, that a woman will allow them to be intimate, to play with her breasts and explore the secret places of her body.

But what does sex mean to a woman?  Of course it means all the above, but it also means, in far too many cases, setting themselves up to be badly hurt.  Men will say anything to get sex.  They may even mean it when they say it.  But afterwards, the particular kind of post-coital buyer’s remorse can set in.  Most women have been lied to, used as a semen receptacle, and then thrown away like a used Kleenex.  Sex doesn’t mean the same thing to them that it means to men.  To them sex means being open to the possibility that they will again be betrayed and abandoned.

I find it ironic that there is so much pressure from the religious right to keep good clean wholesome sex out of movies, but no pressure at all to keep poisonous attitudes out.  Heroes and role models can present the most disgusting examples of bad attitudes and behavior, and nobody even notices.  It’s like the role of torture in American movies.  How many times have we seen the “good guy” use torture to get essential information from the “bad guy”.   Somehow it isn’t noticed.  And when the “hero” ignores what the “heroine” is saying because we all know she doesn’t really mean it, what message is the pop culture sending to the impressionable youth.  Not one that bears thoughtful consideration.

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Cognitive Dissonance and Anger

Participate in the survey.  We need your attitude.Update on survey responses: so far I’m getting high marks for being comprehensive and neutral, with only three responders saying they detected bias in the survey. Problem is, they didn’t say whether they think it is a pro or anti infant male circumcision bias.  Not helpful at all.  Do I detect an unwillingness to guess wrong?

Now to today’s thoughts: Far be it from me to presume to know what others think or feel.  I can only guess from their actions and statements.  But I’m still mulling over Mohamad and his rabid anti-Darwin, anti-evolution rants in the comments beneath Jesus and Mo.  Mohamad was good for us.  He motivated a lot of interesting discussion.  It was good to have our polar opposite drop in for a visit, and he was such an opposite that many doubted whether he was real.  But for me the most interesting thing about homo Islamicus fundamentalis is the anger.  We see the same anger with the Phelps family, and fundamentalist Christians.  We see the same anger when an atheist comes out of the closet and announces that they don’t believe in all that nonsense.  So why anger?

Nobody defends the beliefs.  They shoot the messenger.It seems to me that anger is a sure indication of cognitive dissonance.  It’s an emotional response to trying to hold two ideas at the same time, with evidence favoring the idea one doesn’t like.  It’s a rebellion against reality.  It’s very hard to believe that Christians and Islamic fundamentalists don’t KNOW at some level in their brain that they are talking absolute nonsense.  Who could not know?  There is no evidence.  The myths are patently absurd.  The dogma sounds stupid as soon as you start to recite it.  Take the Mormons as an example.  Tell them about the lost tribes of Israel, the native Americans being all evil, the amazingly/conveniently lost gold tablets written in ancient Egyptian, the seer stones in the hat.  Tell them their own dogma, and ask if it sounds even slightly reasonable.  If they answer yes, they must by lying to themselves.  Their brain must be ready to explode with cognitive dissonance.  My guess is they don’t pay a lot of attention to their own dogma, but take the warm fuzzies of their religion as the big benefit and just ignore the rest.  Question the dogma and you are liable to get anger.

Actually, from Mormons you are more likely to get a cold shut down of conversation.  They are too used to being called crazy.  But the average Christian response, at least from members of my family, is anger and personal rejection.  Shoot the messenger time.

I come to this opinion about cognitive dissonance because anger has another quality.  Anger totally shuts down reason.  Anger feeds directly into the amydgala, the fight or flight emotional centers of the brain.  Reason is a long way away in the neural wiring, and can’t compete.  So if you are trying to ease cognitive dissonance, the best strategy is to short circuit reason by going to anger.  Works every time.

I just ignited a minor shit storm on Face Book by voicing this very theory.   The confirmation that I am most likely correct was not slow in coming.  Nobody defended the ideas I had called stupid – talking snake, virgin birth, a God who is pure love but will send us to eternal torture if we are simply confused and human, with no chance for redemption after we are dead and have learned the “truth”.  These ideas simply can’t be defended.  But the anger response was immediate.  Apparently I’m a bigot who doesn’t show any respect for the beliefs of others.  As if all beliefs deserve respect.

The next time a believer denounces atheists, see if you can switch them to defending their dogma.  My guess is it won’t happen.

Comments (4)

Survey Results – Don’t knock it until you’ve done it.

Recently a FaceBook post criticized my survey, saying it would be meaningless.  “I’m a statistician,” the poster wrote.  Of course I agree.  My survey on infant male circumcision is going to be meaningless from a statistical point of view.  But that’s missing the point.  I’m after a better understanding of how people feel, and my survey is giving me that in spades.

Take the survey.  Your opinon should count.

Here’s just one  comment I received.  Note the passion, and the logic, of this writer:

######begin comment quote from Infant Male Circumcision Survey######

“Promoting circumcission as AIDS prevention is most likely to backlash, especially in areas where sex-ed and condoms aren’t that easy to get. It will promote a false sense of security, especially if done to non-consenting infants.” As someone living in South Africa, one of the highest HIV (if not THE highest) countries in the world, I fully agree with the above paragraph said by someone else on a different forum. Hell, this is my LIFE! False sense of security, less protection against other STDs, less likelihood of using a condom (in a culture where condoms are already seen as infringing upon a man’s pleasure)… all of these are TRUE, they happen every second to me or someone I know. SO even to consenting adults, circumcision is NOT a way to fight HIV and AIDS. It’s counter-productive even though it may reduce transfer with as much as 60% – the risks taken are greater which leads to even greater infection. Comprehensive, no-holds barred sex ed and free condoms and the acceptance of condoms (getting rid of the whole “but it doesn’t feel as good for hte man” reasoning) is the only way to go. Also, obviously, in a country where one in two women will be raped in her lifetime, that is also a HUGE contributing factor, so MORE FEMINISM PLEASE.”

######end comment quote from Infant Male Circumcision Survey######

So, even if the survey is statistically meaningless, it lets me hear from people like this, and I’m really happy to find that I’m not the only one in the world who thinks this way.

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