Few Thoughts for our Anniversary
A Few Thoughts for our Anniversary. Tomorrow will be the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day Paula and I were married. On one hand that seems a rather inconsequential time frame, yet in the lifespan of a human it makes up virtually all of the prime years of a person’s life. She was 25 and I was 24 so we were not particularly young as new couples go; but we were in the prime of our lives. And, we had a lot of sex and we did it pretty much anywhere we felt like it. We used to laugh at how we were not going to be a normal couple but would keep having hot sex long after other couples had given it up. We decided before we had kids that our children would know full well Mom and Dad loved each other and showed it with our bodies. Even more, we decided when we were grandparents our grandkids would know it too. Those who have kept up with the postings of Our Decades of Open Marriage know that Paula and I largely lived up to our pledge. We most certainly were not the typical Southern parents (southern as in the USA, not France) of teenagers who act as if sex itself was something to be avoided. And as we moved through our fifties, we continued to be quite active and rather open about it all. In ages past, there was a certain level of fatalism where people simply knew life would throw things at them that they did not want; yet, in today’s youth/fitness-oriented culture we have a collective belief that it is normal to simply defy age & illness. In popular media, when we see our screen stars aging, they seem to defy the fact they are 60 & 70 years old and live active vigorous lives. Paula is totally obsessed with Tom Selleck and has been since she was a huge fan of Magnum P.I. back in the early 1980s’. Now she’s watching season 13 (or is it 14) of Blue Bloods. Her hunky hero is now nearly 80, yet still (in the show) appears just as fit and sexy as he was all those years ago. That defiance of age in those we see on television and in movies tends to be the norm till… well until they simply disappear. BUT… as everyone finds out as they move through life, the simple desire to have life on your own terms does not make it so. Right at a year ago, Paula began to feel a pulling sensation in her neck. Well… let’s go back another year…or two to the beginning of Covid. None of us predicted the pandemic and the effect it would have on our sex lives. As I’ve written about before, from the very first year of our marriage Paula and I knew that while we were so well matched in so many ways, our sexual desires were not. The fact we did not have sex till after we were married meant we did not know that until after we’d set up our own house. I wanted snuggling and romantic low-keyed sex and she wanted hard… eyeball-rolling… fucking. And she wanted a lot more of it than I could possibly give her… and she had not predicted that her physical response to other men (and women) would grow stronger, not weaker as she learned what her body wanted and how to get it. Not that I have ever regretted marrying her, but it presented challenges. Within a couple of years, even as I was still preparing to start my work as an evangelical minister, we began to talk about her taking lovers so as to have her sexual needs met. For over thirty years she has had many, many (certainly more than 100) sexual playmates and it has worked well for us. There were bumps on the road and times when we were monogamous (like the year after her father passed); but, the expectation was always that our sex life would be supplemented with people from the outside. Long ago, I began to teach that open marriage is not that the couple has sex outside of their marriage… but that they can do so without fear of damaging the relationship with their spouse. This approach was what worked for us. In this, Covid put a stop to actually going out and meeting other people. In a local lull of the pandemic, we got out of the house to go to a Halloween party at a sex-friendly nudist resort. We were so impressed, that at the end of the summer before last we paid $1,800 for a year-long membership. Though she’d just turned 60, we were all ready to start meeting new people and returning to the pattern that works so well for us, i.e. she would have lovers to maintain her libido and I would benefit from her happiness and the “spill-over” sex. Then came the pains in her neck. Over a period of a few weeks, her neck began spasms and twitches that were so severe it left her housebound, and often bedbound. For months we sought medical care and simply got no results, even as she began losing weight and spending most days in bed. After her first hospitalization, we finally were referred to see a highly regarded doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. By then she’d lost 1/3 of her body weight and I was getting truly worried. The doctor had a firm diagnosis; but we were told that there simply was no cure, only ways to manage the rare disease. At 61 years old, she was much younger than others he’d seen with this condition, but we started on a regime to mitigate the effects. The hard truth was (barring a miracle) that our life as we’d known it, was over. We would not spend our 60’s at nudist/swinger resorts meeting (and fucking) new and interesting people. We would not be that couple we had said we wanted to be. It took some time (and another hospitalization) before we finally fully accepted that fact. She can’t drive, and we rarely go anywhere. She’s had to largely stop babysitting our grandson and she only is up to visiting her 95-year-old mother once every week or two, and even then someone has to drive her. Rather than the active seniors we’d aspired to be, she is in many respects an invalid and I am her caregiver. It has been a hard transition. Saturday, was a big deal because she felt up to going out to Waffle House for lunch; however, even before the food arrived, I could tell she was in pain. So, our anniversary celebration plans are “tentative.” If she’s up to it we will go to someplace nice for dinner, but given the fact she woke up last night in pain with her neck twisted around, I don’t expect that to happen. We now have come to accept the new reality. We haven’t had sex in over a year now, and it is likely we never will again. That is just how life works. There is no reason for anger or bitterness. We are grateful for the active years we had. I am sure that my collection of photos and the stories of our past ‘adventures’ will grow in importance to us as the years go on. But, my own words come back to me: open marriage isn’t about having sex outside of our marriage, it is about giving each other the freedom to do so. We will continue to be grateful for every day we have together… and that is what makes a great marriage.
A Few Guidelines for Teenagers Regarding Sex
I’ve written a good bit making it clear that I believe parents and other adults should view recreational teen sex as normal and should take the position that it can be healthy for the participants. However, I say "can be", because there are pitfalls that can be deadly serious. As sex-positive parents and adults it is imperative that we do not abandon our expected mentoring role in the area of sexuality. So, I am offering these guidelines for teens (but most of it applies to adults as well). Since I am obligated to say my blog isn’t targeting underage people, I put this out as a professional for parents and other adults to pass on. However, the truth is that everything I write is with the awareness that teenagers, even very young teenagers, are searching the web for truth about sexuality. This site is exactly the kind of place they should be looking. Nothing, and I mean nothing here is bad for teens and, if I could, I would have a million teenagers reading it. Certainly, better this site than 99% of what teens will find on the web as they look for help in negotiating their lives. So here goes Dr. T’s “rules” for teens regarding sex. 1st Your Body is Yours! No one has a right to use it sexually but you. You may share it with whom you wish, but remember, it remains yours. The inverse is also true, your friend’s body is his/hers, and you do not have a right, no matter what your relationship, to use their body. That friend has his/her right to share that body with you, but it is never yours to use as you wish. 2nd Be Legal I may not always agree with the laws of sexual consent, but they are enforced. In most of the US, it is a crime to have sex when you are under 16. For parents, in many places, it can be interpreted as child abuse to allow your child that is under 16 to have sex with your consent. You (your child) may be ready to have sex before your localities age of consent, but the cost of such behavior outweighs any benefit. When our daughter first told us that she was sexually active at 15, we explained the law in our state to her. We asked her to promise she would not do it again until her 16th birthday. We let her know we did not condemn her for underage sex, but we were legally bound in this issue and we didn’t have the money to fly her and her boyfriend to France to have sex. If your boyfriend/girlfriend is under 18 remember the “Two Year Rule”; in most states sex between minors (over the age of consent) is legal as long as the older partner is no more than two years older than the younger. And finally, beware of sending nude photos (unless you’re on a public nude beach) until you are 18. Some states have worked out the decriminalization of this, but I would not take the chance. We had to take our daughter’s web-cam for chatting topless, again not because we believed it wrong, but because of fear of the law. Parents should do their homework to know their local laws before they think their child needs to know. 3rd Be Safe I have long advocated the “2 Methods Rule” to teenagers I’ve counseled; a condom, plus a second method such as the pill. No birth control method is 100% fool proof, and teens can be fools. Nearly all contraceptive failure is due to user error. Ask your teen to talk candidly to adults they know and ask if all their pregnancies were fully planned. In most cases they will find that the adults have had unplanned “surprises”. My wife and I had two in our first 8 years of marriage. How many teens want to have an unintended pregnancy every four years? Not many I would guess. A commitment to the two-methods rule will bring that chance down to an acceptable level of risk. Of course, by using a condom and another method, the chance of STD’s are also brought down to acceptable levels. Teens need to be told, sex is an adult activity and adult responsibly goes with it. 4th Be Respectful Be respectful of yourself and of your partner. For years I have given this one piece of advice. Before you have sex, ask yourself will I be proud of what I’ve done tomorrow and a year from now? If you can say yes, then do it. If you cannot say yes, then stop. I tell guys this but also say they should ask themselves “From what I know of this girl I am with, will she regret doing this tomorrow?” If the answer is yes, then hold up till she’s ready. Beyond that, sex is not something to do to keep a score or to prove your manhood/womanhood. It is immoral to fuck a person under false pretense. No, you don’t have to have some deep relationship; sometimes Paula and I have sex with friends just for fun. That’s OK. But, don’t fuck to get a relationship, or because the other person thinks you’re promising a relationship. That’s not OK. Don’t fuck because you feel expected to, or to keep a guy’s/girl’s attention. That’s not OK. Having sex is something you do because it makes you and your partner feel good physically and emotionally. If it doesn’t do this for you both, then don’t do it. Yes this is a pretty short list of rules, but long lists are rarely followed, and these rules are for the benefit of everyone. I Know I have a few supporters out there and if you have ever linked anything those in your circle of influence, I would ask you to forward this short list so that together we can help todays teenagers.
A Few Thoughts On Our Open Marriage
The concept of an open marriage was first popularized in the United States during the 1970’s. In 1972 a book by that name was published and had an impact during the “Women’s Liberation” movement. That book primarily focused on a socially open marriage were the partners were free to have their own friendships outside of the marriage. At that time, that in itself was a radical idea. The extension of that concept to sex was only obliquely addressed in the book. However, in the public mind and usage open marriage meant that there was an agreement within the marriage that the partners could not only have friendships outside of their marriage, but they were free to have sex with those friends if they chose. While for most American couples, social openness has over the past four decades become just an accepted part of the modern marriage; sexual openness has never gain widespread acceptance, even in very liberal circles. Why this is, will be the subject of a future essay. What is interesting to me is how little most people, even sexually liberal people, understand how open marriages actually work. So, I thought I’d pen a few thoughts about our marriage which has been “open for over twenty-five years now. It was in 1996, when my wife and I agreed to have a sexually open marriage. We didn’t make this decision because either of us was in an affair or had just had one. In fact we’d both been monogamous since we'd met each other, over a decade before. It wasn’t that we were board or were dying to go out and have a fling. It was a cool rational decision to reject the concept that lifelong marriage, which we intended to have, meant we must forever give up the possibility of other sexual partners. This decision seemed natural to us in part because we had never had a socially closed relationship. Even before we were married neither of us saw a need to own the others social life. In our case, we explicitly extended that social freedom to include sexual encounters because Paula had the courage to tell me that she wanted more sex than I was able to provide at that time. In retrospect that honesty and willingness to address issues head on was foundational to the success of our marriage, not just open marriage, but our marriage in general. Further she openly told me that she was very strongly sexually attracted to other people. She was clear she was very much sexually attracted to me, but rather she simply knew she had desires to have sex with a good many people who crossed her path. Not to have love affairs, but to fuck. She was not focusing on one person in particular, but she just had a general desire to expand her sexual horizons. She was not going to cheat on me, but she knew she was somewhat frustrated in our sex life and was interested in having other sexual relationships. Our decision was simply giving her liberty to act on those interest if she so desired. It may be that our two and a half decades of success in having a sexually open marriage has a great deal to do with the dispassion of the initial decision. Inevitably decisions like that made under the pressure of sexual or emotional desire by one of the partners will create a state of both internal and external coercion. Coercion in marriage will always reap negative consequences in time. So, getting ahead of that was important. Many a failed attempt at maintaining a positive long term open marriage will trace the root cause of the failure to the fact the initial agreement to open marriage was made under the coercive power of lust or love for a third party. Not only was that not true in our case; but as a couple we were in the midst of reexamining the core moral values of the Fundamentalist Christian way of life we had been taught by our spiritual leaders. As I was then a full-time minister, and thus one of those leaders, I took it upon myself to compare the validity of the sexual rules of fundamentalist to the actual words of Jesus. In the end we could find no moral reason to forbid mutually consensual extra-marital sexual activity than we could find for many of the long list of “thou shalt not’s” we had been taught. Thus our transition to open marriage was simply an agreement. We agreed that should the circumstances arise where she had the desire and opportunity to have sex with someone else, it would not be a violation of the mutual promises on which our marriage was dependent. At the time I did not even ask for the same permission because I simply couldn’t imagine having the time, energy or desire to have any more sex than I was having at home. While it was purely theoretical at that point, it laid out a foundation. And, significantly, it did not lead her to act on that agreement for several years. From the very beginning, we viewed open marriage not as the act of having sex with outsiders, but the permission to do so. Perhaps that is one of the keys to our success. Since then we have been sexually active with quite a few other people. Over the years my wife has had sex with well over one hundred men and women, while I have been with less than half as many as she has. Both of us have had one-off sex with people we hardly knew and ongoing sexual relationships with friends. Additionally she has had several serious love affairs. There have been times when she’d have sex with other people several times a week, and others where neither of us had sex with anyone outside our marriage for a year or more. For instance in the mists of the Covid pandemic we have completely suspended seeing other people. There have been times when we were actively going to several swinger events in a month and other times that we didn’t go to one in several years. We have been to parties where she or I had sex with a number of people in a night, but far more where we did not “hook up” with anyone. However, what has underpinned all this is that literally at any time or with anyone we met we could have sex…if we chose to. That option is there 24/7/365, even if neither of us choose to take it. Our pattern of activity is not uncommon in the open marriage community. Couples will be active for a while, then inactive, then active again. In part this is simply due to what I call “real life” crowding out recreational time. Over the time we have had an open marriage we raised our kids who had school events or had demanding extracurricular schedules or got sick, or had personal crises that took our full attention. Those things often impeded our ability to go out with new potential bed mates. When her father became sick and eventually passed away, we were monogamous for 18 months. But, after that we bounced back and had the most active sexual period of our marriage. And now our kids are grown, our grand-son and Paula’s ninety-three year old mother get the time that once went to our kids. All that to say this; an open marriage is not so much about the frequency of fucking other people as it is the fact that fucking other people is always an option. Not just a tolerable option, but one that we both know the other will positively support and will be happy we had a moment (or a few hours, or a whole afternoon/night) of sexual bliss. So, when we meet new people and they ask about what we have done over the years, it can sound like we constantly jump from one bed to the next. Yet, that perception is not correct. In actual fact; the spaces in between wild times are longer than the wild times themselves. After all, even if we counted up and found Paula has had sex with a hundred different men and fifty women, that would still be only a few new partners per year. So no, open marriage is not about constant sex, but it is about constant love, trust and support. All in all, open marriage has worked for us. If I were to guess it will only be old age and infirmity that will permanently close our marriage to others. And that too is just a part of life. A final note: the photos on this post are of my wonderful wife Paula and a man she had met only hours before. She decided not only did she want to have sex with this guy she just met, but she wanted me to take photos of her doing it. She called me and asked if I would be willing to take pictures of her having sex with this hot guy. That ability to share special moments is part of the reward of not claiming ownership. While that time she obviously told me she was going to have sex, she is under no obligation to do so. Many times over the years she has had sex and not told me. Sometimes, months or years later she will tell me “Oh, I had sex in hotel once,” but to this day there are sexual liaisons that I have never heard about, and likely never will. Of course I have no idea how many, but that is her privilege.
A Few Words on Female Breasts
These are all photos of Paula over the years When our daughter was in high school, I was dragged into acting in a few stage productions at the local playhouse. One year I was the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. As all the munchkins and jitterbugs were played by children and teens, we had a large number of children present backstage. The woman who played the Wicked Witch of the West was a very talented actor in her early thirties and more relevant to this post, was very attractive. She was slim but had unusually large breasts, at least 36 DD’s. As most theater people are not shy about their bodies, over the rehearsal months we saw a lot of those breasts. No, she did not fully expose herself to the teens and children milling around. We are in South Carolina after all, but on occasion, a surprising amount of her generous bust was on display. As a long-term drama person, she thought nothing of it. On the crew was a group of high school age home school students who used this experience as part of their schooling. In the American South, where we live, most homeschool students come from fundamentalist Christian homes. Not surprisingly, the younger kids hardly noticed her, but the teens did. For me, watching the sheltered teenagers watching the witches’ breasts was quite an opportunity to learn more about how teens react to nudity. At one of the first dress rehearsals, the witch was sitting gand etting on her “green face” as the director fussed with the munchkins on stage. As she had to change clothes and makeup between Kansas and Oz she stripped down to a pair of micro-shorts and a very abbreviated halter sports bra, in which a great deal of her bust was on display. It was the first time the teens had seen her change like this. The next day, when she was again changing, a teenage boy, who had clearly lived a very sheltered life was talking to her. I have no doubt before he joined this production, he had never spent time with someone like her (she lived with her boyfriend…. such a sin). Over the prior month of rehearsal, he had discovered she was just a regular person, not a demon. I heard him say with clear admiration in his voice, “I’ve never known anyone like you. You are so comfortable in your own skin.” I knew exactly what he meant, with my fundamentalist background I interpreted this to mean “I’ve never known a woman that doesn’t seem to care who sees her boobs.” The witch also understood and said, “They’re just mounds of fat, nothing special.” She was wrong though. Yes, a woman’s breasts are just mounds of fat with latent mammary glands, but to say they are nothing special to humans is simply not true. Anthropologists make a convincing argument that human females evolved “swollen” breasts because, unlike other mammals, humans do not have a physiological signal when they are fertile. They don’t get in heat and are receptive to sex at any time. The female has protruding breasts to tell males she is sexually developed enough to mate. Breasts are not just lumps of fat. Contrary to the insistence of some feminists that breasts are not sexual; they are, in biological fact, the primary way females advertise they are sexually available and desirable. So it should be no surprise that males are drawn to this visible symbol of female sexuality. It isn’t objectification or male chauvinism, it is basic biology that makes the breast the focus of male attention. Sure men also are drawn to asses, but that is an even older biological response, harkening to our quadruped roots, one must only see a dog in heat to see where that came from. It has been suggested that people in the modern world are only obsessed with breasts because they are nearly universally hidden. However, reviewing historical and anthropological records would suggest that indeed exposed breasts do become normalized in societies (normally tropical) where they are usually left uncovered. Even in places where women nearly universally leave their breasts exposed, upright perky breasts are still admired by men as a sign of sexual desirability. Yes, by keeping them hidden modern humans have amped up that focus to the point of fetish, but it is not the base reason for the fascination with the female breast. Boobs, tits, knockers, hooters, melons, ta ta’s, fun bags, the list could go on and on. Men and women are obsessed with breasts and always have been. Even in eras of highly conservative values such as Victorian England and post-war USA, breast were put on display. Sure the ‘real thing’ was hidden under layers of fabric, but that just meant they had to be all the more accentuated by corsets and bullet bras. When I was shooting glamour photos professionally, the face of my client was the primary focus, but her breast was most definitely one of the secondary points I brought into the composition. This would also be true in the photos I collect from other talented glamour photographers. Bare breast, draped breast, breast with the nipple just peeking through; they all have their own allure. As a photographer, I like smaller or midsized breasts for the simple fact they don’t move around. Large unsupported breasts seem to move of their own accord and are very difficult to photograph; except for surgically augmented ones, they stay put. A client from nearly 20 years ago shot with my full manual Nikon. And then there is the notion of valuing women solely for their breasts. The truth is that most men are not particular and are aroused by the sight of just about any woman’s breasts. Women however are prone to make judgments of other women based on their breasts. My experience is that women judge other women’s breasts far more harshly than men ever do. I would suggest that the approval of women is a larger factor in the desire to get breast implants than to please men. And, increasingly this effort to impress or show-up other women is to no avail as women with ‘natural’ breasts are increasingly critical of those with augmented ones. Big soft breasts, small muscular breasts, half bowl breasts, perky upturned breasts, breasts pulled down by their own weight, big areolas, tiny areolas, the variety goes on and on. Men tend to have breast types they are most attracted to. A study in the 80’s found that men with physical jobs tended to like large breasted women, while men with desk jobs tended to be more attracted to smaller breasted women. What that means….. I don’t know; but it does show that there are patterns to sexual attraction based on breasts. So I will close by saying my wife’s breasts are perfect. They were perfect for the first 20 years of our marriage as 34 B’s, they were still perfect as 36 DD’s during her late 40’s & 50’s and now she is back to 34 B’s, and they are still wonderful. No, she did not (as my own mother did) get implants to make them bigger, her breast size has just changed over time. So I will make the radical proposal that the size and shape of breasts are not nearly as important as the woman to whom they are attached. But, like it or not, breasts matter.
A New Definition of Casual Sex
A Few years ago my wife and I both came to the conclusion that we are not real fans of having casual sex by the conventional definition, i.e., sex with persons with whom we have no ongoing relationship. Now, that’s not saying we haven’t done that once or twice in the past year, because we have. But, those times were “just one of those things”. The point is, we don’t go looking for that kind of sexual encounter. I’m sure part of that is that we are both over 50 and neither of us have that burning imperative, when we go to a swing club or party, that we must have sex with someone new. And it’s not that we think such casual sex is wrong or as some put it empty. It’s just not for us. On the other hand we certainly don’t believe that sex should be reserved for relationships that are deeply committed either. I am quite sure the myth of the specialness of sex is an outgrowth of property based monogamy (with women being the property). It became codified into nearly every religion that has a professional clergy as a way to maintain social stability and thus the clergy’s social position. Even though this myth is still perpetuated via the modern secular clergy, psychologist/psychiatrists, it does not derive from real science but from the desire to justify what they already believe by using unjustified cause-effect statements. The position that my wife and I are comfortable taking is the proposition (that I’ve made before) that sex is a normal and positive part of adult social relationships. In other words, sex is for friends. In our post tribal world, most of us have precious few people to whom we can go to when we have a joy to share or need comforting in our sorrow. I don’t mean the new “Facebook” meaning of friendship, but a real relationship of trust and caring. A friend is the person that you don’t need to put on for and don’t expect them to put on for you. Perhaps the best definition of friendship for me is that person for whom I don’t have to clean the house if they come over. Friendship is all about shared experiences and mutual support. As humans one of the best ways to do both is through physical touch, skin touching skin. Sexual touch is the most complete version of touch, which makes it a natural activity for friends. Sexual sharing is all about skin on skin touching. It is just full body, genital included, skin on skin touching. One may counter that sex is mostly about erotic passion and release. I would disagree. Perhaps my age is showing again, but the most important thing about sex is not the erotic passion and release of orgasm. The most important thing about sex, it is skin on skin touching. If orgasm is all someone wants, masturbation is a more sure way to gain orgasm than any other, but no one can get the deep pleasure and sense of serenity that full body skin on skin contact provides via masturbation. When I’ve taught about sexuality, I use the analogy that a full sexual experience is like a symphony. It has multiple parts including an opening (often with surprises), and a slow building section that can be either sensuous or relaxed, a rhythmic center, a climax then a quiet reflective post climatic refrain. Sure it is possible to listen to the climactic three minutes of the Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture over and over, but by doing that you rob the music of its real power. Or perhaps more accessible to some readers, if you just saw the last scene of the Les Misérables, it would have nice music but it wouldn’t bring forth tears because there was not the preceding build up. However, it would be hard to imagine anyone attending to the whole musical where that last song that does not get a tear welling up. With that background, I contend that sexual interaction is, or should be, a normal and positive part of adult friendships. With this in mind I offer the following definition of “Casual Sex” Casual Sex: (1) informal sexual interaction of a caring, but casual, nature between persons who have an ongoing mutually supportive relationship (philia), but are not romantically involved (amore); (2) mutually pleasurable sex between friends where the relationship is defined by something other than romantic or sexual attraction.
A Sexual Orientation Paradigm
One of the reasons I began blogging was to clarify and organize my thoughts on topics. I am trying to lay out a systematic approach to the discussing the topic of sexual orientation. Based on my years or research and experience here is what I’m thinking. Yes this is a direct challenge to Queer Theory. Perhaps it might help you in thinking through this. Part I - Truisms Humans are born with an emotional need for belonging, affection and validation. Humans are socialized to how to get their emotional needs met. Until puberty humans do not develop a biological urge to have sex, though children are socialized to act in ways that mimic an internal sex drive. By the time humans are aware of their sexual urges, they have already been socialized on how to express them and how to get them met. The socialization process is vastly complex, too complex to systemize. Genetically carried traits significantly impact the how the socialization impacts emotional and sexual desire. Humans can get their emotional and sexual needs met from the same person (or type of person) or from deferent people (or types of people) Part II - Implications Prior to the onset of puberty, children do not have sexual needs; thus they do not have sexual preferences. What is often interpreted as early sexual orientation is the development of gender based patterns in meeting emotional needs. When people say “Sexual Preferences” it usually is meant to mean several components of emotional attraction as well as sexual attraction; however, and there is reason to suggest all the different types of attraction will line up with one person, one gender or one group. Emotional/Sexual attractions nearly always change over the life cycle and are impacted by very many things, including but not limited to: societal expectations, availability, life events, values changes and social status. Efforts to shape, limit or encourage other peoples sexual/emotional attractions is a futile and often harmful project. Part III- In Regard to Straight & LBGTQA et al. No one is born heterosexual or homosexual because adult sexuality comes with puberty. The complex nature of childhood gender role development defies an ability to attribute causes. The concept of mono-sexual homosexual (i.e. gay & lesbian) is a socio political construct that is very modern in origin. The rise of self-identity based on sexual interests as a common behavior has no precedent in human history and is a result of the decline of traditional ways of identity making (religion, class, family, profession, etc.). Sexual identity should be seen to be more about identity and community than it is actually about sexual desires. Most people will find themselves emotionally and or sexual attracted to both males and females over their adult life course, nearly half will act on that desire at least once. Homoerotic imagery is a key element in mainstream commercial porn to feed and fill the gap between homosexual desires and behaviors. Social history shows that absent social prohibitions to the contrary, most people will act on sexual attraction to both sexes There is a growing rise in the acceptance of people who do not identify as part of the queer community to occasionally engage in homoerotic behavior. The reason the gay/lesbian leadership attack the bisexual identity is that the very existence of bisexuals undermines their claim to be fundamentally “different” based on their perceived unique homosexual urges. The proposition that western society could return to the normalizing of bisexual behavior as it was in the Hellenic world undermines Queer Theory which acts like a quasi-religion. Hence the L/G leadership insists that humans must be mono-sexual
A Short Critique of Critical Race Theory
I honestly never thought this topic would ever hit the mainstream, but it has. What surprises me most is that those who are talking about critical race theory in the popular press and in the political sphere ... on both sides... don't seem to have a clue what they are talking about. A few weeks ago one of my left of center friends challenged my claim that critical race theory (CRT) is a dangerous and anti-liberal ideology. It seems that a great many people simply just assume that since CRT exposes systematic and structural racism and it is opposed by the right wing, it must be good. That is simply not the case. Just because someone talks about a disease does not mean they have the cure. Snake oil salesmen have been doing this forever. CRT at its core offers the same false and oppressively vison for society as do fundamentalist religions. It is just the same snake oil with a different label. SO... for those of you who actually want to know what does the term Critical Race Theory mean, I offer this short critique I wrote a few years ago. A Short Critique of Critical Race Theory I spent over a decade deeply immersed in the fundamentalist Christian community. I have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from flagship institutions in two different wings of the movement. As such I know what fundamentalist religion is. I’ve seen it up close. Despite their claims to the contrary, fundamentalist religion is founded on the utilitarian concept of “the greater good”. Such religions believe they have the inside track on ultimate truth; and, that the “here and now” control they seek to inflict on others, is justified by some greater long term good. Their practitioners are convinced that all people must yield to their vision of reality in order for society to reach a higher level of existence, justice and happiness. Religion rejects the scientific method because their beliefs trump what appears to be measurable fact. They see the world as an illusion hiding the underlying supernatural truths that lie beneath. Finally, fundamentalist religion, specifically fundamentalist religious institutions, are self-serving. When push comes to shove, religious institutions (like all institutions) act in their own self-interest rather than the interests they publicly espouse. The political leftists in the US and in Europe have pilloried religion since the enlightenment; however, in the past half century, the “new-left” has embraced an all-encompassing religion of their own. Their religion is non-theistic, but it has all the hallmarks of fundamentalist religion. The name of that religion is Critical Theory. And in this short paper I lay out why I am concerned their religion aims to supplant democratic liberalism with a totalitarian quasi-theocracy. However; addressing critical theory is not a simple matter because Critical Theory is not a theory of society, or a wholly homogenous school of thinkers or a method. Critical theory, rather, is a tradition of social thought that, in part at least, takes its cue from its opposition to the wrongs and ills of modern society’s on the one hand, and the forms of theorizing that simply go along with or seek to legitimize those society on the other hand”. (Bernstein, 1995, p. 11). The term critical theory was coined by Max Horkeimer in a 1947 article which was primarily an attack on what he believed to be the misplaced belief in the scientific method, and in specific, he attacked the Cartesian dichotomy of separating the object and the observer (Bernstein, 1995; Thomassen, 2010). Additionally, as a member of the Frankfort School, Horkeimer combined this constructivist view of reality with Marxian conceptions of economics, materialism and class domination. Horkeimer said “the [critical] theory never aims simply at an increase in knowledge as such. Its goal is man’s emancipation from slavery” (Thomassen, 2010, p. 20) . The essential difference, between traditional Marxism and critical theory however, is not just that the proletariat is replaced by other groups; but, that identity formation of the new sorts of groups does not require direct action (i.e. revolution), rather, the new group identity requires action in the political arena. (Bernstein, 1995,p. 20). Other German philosophers, chief among them Jürgen Habermas built on the foundation laid by Horkeimer to continue to develop the critical theory. One particular challenge to the Marxist in Western Europe in the 1950’s was the need to update Marx’s vision of the inevitability of a proletariat uprising, which by that time was clearly not going to happen. The predicted collapse of capitalism just didn’t and wasn’t going to happen in a world of growing affluence for the working class. How were they going to tell a bunch of factory workers who lived in nice homes, had cars and TV’s that they were oppressed? One approach was to say their wealth and leisure oppressed them. Habermas wrote how wealth and consumerism has led to what he called alienated leisure, and even a welfare state, like France, can be a dehumanizing force as it exercises control over the individual (Edgar, 2005). That approach didn’t get very much attention. A more productive line of thought lay in finding new reasons people were oppressed. The success of critical theory lies in its focus on unmasking hidden structures and meanings that lead to oppression of social groups using the traditional political theory of Marx blended with the psychoanalytic theory of Freud (Thomassen, 2010). Habermas, extended and clarified, adding to Marx, the psychoanalytic ideas of Freud to reenergize discredited Marxism. In this he changed Freud’s efforts to uncover repressed feeling of a single person, to encompass society as a whole. Habermas, sought to put whole nations “on the couch” to understand how society is driven by meanings that are hidden from every day view (Thomassen, 2010). Importantly, only the analyst (i.e. the critical theorist) can divine these hidden oppressions or alleviate them.. Thus, critical theorists seek to find new groups who are oppressed, tell them they are so and offer themselves as the solution to their oppression. So, why do we suddenly have a hundred different groups claiming to be oppressed minorities? Because the critical theorist is on a religious mission to find as many groups as possible, and convince them they are oppressed. Thus, modern critical theory has many faces and focuses but all look so very much like religion. Two core beliefs have defined the philosophy (quasi-religion) from the outset: a rejection of scientific proof, in favor or a belief system (i.e. faith) and the duty to seek to uncover hidden oppression (i.e. sin). Because of this, the critical theorist has a life-long evangelical mission to tell those who do not know they are oppressed that they are indeed slaves and that the gospel of critical theory will set them free (preaching and evangelism) (Carspecken, 1996). For illustration I will, based on classical liberalism, specifically address my concerns based on two very popular incarnations of critical theory: critical race theory and critical feminist theory. The first precept of critical race theory is “Critical race theory recognizes that racism is endemic to American life”. (Dixson & Rousseau, 2005, p. 9). This is not presented as a possibility, but as an indisputable fact. As constructivist, critical race theorists legitimize such unequivocal “fact” statements founded on their constructed reality based on finding hidden agendas visible only to critical theorist (McKnight & Chandler, 2012). This core belief justifies critical race theorist, Gloria Ladson-Billing, to use her position as President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), to proclaim that there is not just an achievement gap, but an education debt owed by European-Americans to be paid to African and Latino Americas (Ladson-Billings, 2006b). In her address to the AERA, she makes a case that race and race alone drives educational achievement. All other factors are functionally irrelevant. The justice, or even factual truth, of suggesting, as she does, that African-American children cannot succeed because “racism is normal not aberrant in American society.” (Ladson-Billings, 2006a) is simply not considered in her address. Thus, in her vision of critical theory of justice the white population, including the children in schools today, owe what she specifies as economic, sociopolitical and moral debt to every child of color, no matter their particular circumstances (Ladson-Billings, 2006) . Schouten (2012) strenuously objects to the whole notion that there is a moral debt owed for education as suggested by Ladson-Billings. Rather she counters with a classically liberal answer that there is a moral obligation to those who are disadvantaged. She acknowledges that the disproportionate number of low performing African-Americans is certainly rooted in historical bias, and that disproportionate resources are required to remedy the statistical inequity. However, the assistance should not be geared to groups based on past injustices, but to individuals based on current need. She wrote, “They therefore have a claim to be benefited, as they are themselves victims of an injustice; the injustice of being badly off.”(Schouten, 2012). There is a significant case to be made that poverty, not race is the driving factor in the difference between races in school success; however, this runs counter to the critical race theory commitment to treat “race as a defining principle rather than a variable within research” (Leonardo, 2012, p. 430). When income is addressed by critical race theory, it is often in the context of Bourdieu’s Marxian tradition rather than income. Nowhere is CRT’s relationship with class analysis more clear than its uptake of Bourdieu’s (1977a) concept of cultural capital. It is one of the most frequently used and critiqued class-oriented concept in the CRT literature on education. There are several species of the appropriation. First, in an endorsement of Bourdieu’s concept, cultural capital is used to explain school biases against more or less essential(ist) cultures of color, their family value systems and priorities. Consistent with Bourdieu’s ideas about class stratification but applied to race, CRT scholars indict the White standards of learning in schools, from the English forms that are recognized to the behaviors that are punished or rewarded and the historical contributions that are valorized or omitted. (Leonardo, 2012, p.438) I find it significant that in the current US Department Of Education figures, African-American’s comprise the exact same percentage in the U.S. undergraduate colleges and universities (15%) as they do in K-12 and nearly the same rate for graduate education (14%) (Aud, Hussar, Kena, & Roth, 2012). The data indicate a more complicated situation with Latino students in the 2011 DOE report (Aud et al., 2011) notes that the dropout rate for immigrant Latino’s is over three times that of native born Latino’s and further notes that Asian immigrants also have the same disproportionate dropout rate, despite the overall success of Asian students in US schools. This would indicate that the issue may well be surrounding the process of immigration rather than race. Even still the Hispanic college undergraduate population is 14% of the total. I’m sure you have not heard that African-Americas are no longer underrepresented minorities in colleges and universities. Why? Because the criticalists control the academic press and to them this is bad news, not good news. I have presented this line of argumentation about critical race theory to highlight the underlying problem with the use of all types of critical theory. They give themselves, carte blanch to assigning negative motives to others and when one says “I’m not a racist” they just respond with their belief system, “Your denial is proof you are a racist.” This is very similar to a Baptist telling someone “You’re a sinner going to Hell”, when the accused says they don’t believe in Hell, the Baptist says “Ah, your denial is proof you’re going to Hell.” See how this is basically religious in nature. This approach leads to a huge body of “research” that shows little but the prior beliefs of the researchers. Typical for the articles I read for this project was a peer reviewed article on how young African-American college men worked out race in predominantly white colleges (Wilkins, 2012) . Throughout, the researcher made motive claims with no evident connection to the subject’s statements. When her subjects made statements that did not conform to the tenants of critical race theory, the author again assigned negative motive. Thus successful behaviors by the subjects were negatively labeled and the author condemned her subjects as being oppressors themselves. The conclusion is brazen in its condemnation of the subjects refusal of specific agendas the authors believes are required based on race; “But more, by dismissing both black women and, often, black organizations, as immoderate spaces, black men abandon their collective responsibility to fight racial inequality, focusing instead on individual strategies of mobility and leaving the work of fighting racism up to women.” (Wilkins, 2012, p. 57). My readings in preparation for this project indicate that this type of approach is not an anomaly, but common practice. This is not to suggest that the profound achievement gap is not important, nor does it suggest that there are not differences in life circumstance for children that are highly correlated with race. What this does suggest is that there is a fatal weakness in the argument for using critical race theory as the core tool to measure educational justice. Critical race theory is closely related to critical feminist theory in philosophy and method with sex being substituted for race when presenting oppression in schools (Hannan, 1995; Okin, 1994); The intersection of race and feminist theory is common such as in the Wilkins article above, yet it shows a willingness to choose interpretations of the subjects statements to prioritize the researchers agenda. It becomes apparent that critical feminist choose ideology over objective statistical measures. It is not that critical theorist do not use statistical data on inequality, but they only condone statistical data as valid when it is convenient to support their beliefs. Despite the fact that long term trends show that females are far more successful than males on nearly every educational measure, critical feminist continue to search for evidence that girls are disadvantaged in education, and to seek programs to promote girls performance (Bianco, Harris, Garrison-Wade, & Leech, 2011; Kafer, 2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2010). Overall the critical feminist response is to downplay the significant achievement gap between males and females that has been growing for over two decades (Froses-Gremain, 2006). Worse yet, in certain segments of the critical feminist community, there is resentment at the idea of addressing the achievement gap that favors females (Mills & Keddie, 2010; Zyngier, 2009). I think, if you made it this far into my rather dense essay, that you can see how critical theory acts just like a religion, based not on facts or evidence, but firmly on a belief system. Marx is Moses, Das Capital is the holy writ, with Freud as a co-prophet, and Habermas as the apostle Paul making the new religion palatable and understandable to the larger world beyond the zealots. Across the land, primary in Colleges and Universities this religion is enforced with an iron hand. Eighteen year old undergrads not only aren’t told the core of this religion, but are crushed and belittled if they resist. As a doctoral student, older than most of the professors expounding on this I had to fight tooth and nail to get a draw. When confronted with the Marxist core of critical theory, several of my professors simply lied and denied the facts while they tried to belittle me as they desperately tried to sell their religion as liberalism to the younger students. But as the greatest philosopher of the late 20th century, John Rawls, pointed critical theory stands in stark contrast to the claims of universal rights based on a common humanity. So next time you hear, something presented as social justice that seems to do quite the opposite, think of this essay. References Aud, S., Hussar, W. :., F., Kena, G., & Roth, E. (2012). The condition of education 2012. ( No. 2012-045). Washington DC: US Dept. of Education Center for Educational Statistics. Bernstein, J. M. (1995). Recovering ethical life: Jürgen habermas and the future of critical theory. New York: Routledge. Bianco, M., Harris, B., Garrison-Wade, D., & Leech, N. (2011). Gifted girls: Gender bias in gifted referrals. Roeper Review, 33(3), 170-181. doi: 10.1080/02783193.2011.580500 Carspecken, P. F. (1996). Critical ethnography in educational research: A theoretical and practical guide. New York: Routledge. Dixson, A., & Rousseau, C. (2005).
And we are still not saved: Critical race
theory in education ten years later. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 7-27. doi: 10.1080/1361332052000340971 Edgar, A. (2005). The philosophy of habermas. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. Froses-Gremain, B. (2006). Educating boys: Tempering rhetoric with research. Mc Glill Journal of Education, 41(2), 145-154. Hannan, D. J. (1995). Gender equity in the american classroom: Where are the women? English Journal, 84(6), 103. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9510172609&site=ehost-live Kafer, K. (2011). Wasting education dollars: The women's educational equity act. ( No. Backgrounder #1490). Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation. Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in U.S. schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3-12. doi: 10.3102/0013189X035007003 Leonardo, Z. (2012). The race for class: Reflections on a critical raceclass theory of education. Educational Studies, 48(5), 427-449. doi: 10.1080/00131946.2012.715831 McKnight, D., & Chandler, P. (2012). The complicated conversation of class and race in social and curricular analysis: An examination of pierre bourdieu's interpretative framework in relation to race. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44, 74-97. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ962318&site=ehost-live; http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00555.x Mills, M., & Keddie, A. (2010). Gender justice and education: Constructions of boys within discourses of resentment, neo-liberalism and security. Educational Review, 62(4), 407-420. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2010.482202 Okin, S. M. (1994). Gender inequality and cultural differences. Political Theory, 22(1), 5. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9407053853&site=ehost-live Thomassen, L. (2010). Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. London: Continuum. U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Women's educational equity. Retrieved 9-19, 2012, from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/equity/index.html Wilkins, A. (2012). “Not out to start a revolution”: Race, gender, and emotional restraint among black university men. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 41(1), 34-65. doi: 10.1177/0891241611433053 Zyngier, D. (2009). Doing it to (for) boys (again): Do we really need more books telling us there is a problem with boys’ underachievement in education? Gender and Education, 21(1), 111-118. doi: 10.1080/09540250802580844
A Threesome: Gateway to a Sexually Open Relationship
I find it interesting that the most common thing Paula and I were asked about when we spent more time with teens and young adults was about the experience of having a threesome. Years ago, not long after I’d left the Christian ministry, a college student who as a teenager had looked to Paula (the minister's wife) for guidance during her high school years came to visit. In her visit she asked Paula straight out if we had ever done a threesome. It was quite a surprising question because we didn’t think she had any reason to suspect we hadn't been monogamous while working with her in our last Christian organization. Still Paula didn’t hedge when presented with the question and said yes we had. The young woman then told Paula that her new husband and she were thinking of having one and asked Paula's advice as to how to go about it. This wasn't the only time this has happened. Some years later we'd taken one of our daughter’s friends (who was fifteen at the time) with our daughter to a local restaurant. The girls were talking away about school and dating and such when the teenager asked us "Have you guys had a threesome?" Now the idea of a fifteen-year-old asking her friend's parents if they had sex with a third partner would have been unthinkable when I was a teen, but the world has changed. Now to be fair, this teen girl had seen the nude photos of Paula we had hanging in the bedroom and at the time we had a very large photo of Paula in a rather see-through chain-mail thong bikini in the main hallway. There was also no way that Michelle hadn't told her friend about her mom going nude at the beach or how her parents rarely shut their bedroom door, even when they had sex. It wasn't like her friend saw us as prudes, but still to ask us in front of our daughter if we'd had a threesome was quite bold. I must admit that I hesitated, but Paula did not and said we had. Now, I will be right up front that I have not seen any current research into how common it is for couples, particularly young couples to have a threesome. A 2004 survey by ABC News said 14%, but we know that casual polls significantly under report sexual behavior that is considered taboo or even unusual. So, it really is hard to give any answer with a even a moderate degree of certainty. However, what I think I can say is that they are significantly more common now than they were even 20 years ago. if I were to guess, I would say that well over 1/3 of couples under forty have had one. When we were first married, to admit publicly that we'd shared our bed with another woman or man would have been shocking enough to result in social ostracism. Today it is merely unusual. Why are threesomes so "in vogue" now? I think it might be that the threesome is a way for a couple to put their toe into the open relationship water, without feeling out of control. Certainly it was a part of our process, in that my wife first became sexually involved with her best friend, then had a threesome by including her friend’s husband and later a threesome by having her friend join us in bed. Threesomes have a lot going for them in the life of a long-term relationship or that of a married couple. It allows the couple to introduce a new sexual element while keeping their sex life unmistakably centered on their relationship. It takes more trust, for instance, for me or my wife to know the other is on a date alone with a man or woman, than it does for a couple to jointly date someone. In poly parlance, this third person is a “secondary”. I think it is a good thing that as of late there has been a good deal of discussion about the ethical treatment of the people who are the playmate of a married couple. In most cases the concern revolves around young single women who are secondary's of older married couples and are treated as expendable living sex toys. However, I am quite sure that putting such limits on the discussion leaves out the majority of "secondary's" who are involved in threesomes. Though the talk is nearly all about a woman sharing the bed with a couple, the reality is in our experience, nearly as many couples share their bed with a man as with a woman. This is not just what we do, but from our many friends who have had threesomes this is also true. For the last decade or so, I can't recall any time we had a threesome with a woman. This brings up the first question about a threesome, what do you (as a couple) want out of the experience. Will it just be sex and no more, or do one of you want to have a "boyfriend/girlfriend." To us the ideal situation is the threesome is with a friend, but some couples want their threesome partner to be a complete stranger, not someone they will run into at social events. Paula also likes secondary’s who are boyfriends, with romance in the mix. The next question is: will this other person in your bed be a man or a woman. A related issue is what form of 3 some do you want. Do you want a “V” with the two same sex partners only connected by their sex with the opposite sex partner, or do you want a triangle were the three participants give and/or receive sexual pleasure equally with the other two. In our case both Paula and I are very comfortable giving and receiving sexual pleasure from either men or women, this gives us the maximum flexibility in choices. To us it makes no sense to have a threesome when two of the three partners can’t touch each other sexually……. Well, that’s not entirely true, she does like the two people playing “Tag team” at giving her pleasure. We have also had 3-somes where the woman didn’t want me to be sexual with her, so that was also a “V” arrangement but with Paula as the center of a female-female-male (FFM) three some. Just a note, in our experience it is rare for self-described heterosexual men in a threesome to turn down receiving oral sex from me. In fact it's only happened once. So it is a real question: how open are each of you to giving and/or receiving pleasure from someone of the same sex? It seems to be common to assume women are more open to same sex enjoyment than men. I would suggest that a study of research and sexual history would disprove that. In a married couple’s threesome, the focus is on mutual enjoyment and sharing an erotic high. To share your shared lover fully (male or female) is the natural state. Nearly all “straight” people in a threesome, when offered pleasure from someone of their sex, can fully enjoy it as part of their sharing with their spouse. Many others, particularly those who get their joy out of seeing their spouse pleasured, can fully enjoy giving their spouse’s playmate pleasure no matter what genitals are between their legs. The most shocking thing about my first time in a threesome when a man’s penis filled my mouth was how it was simply no different than going down on a new woman in a threesome. So it should not be assumed that wives are more open to homoerotic behavior than husbands. We have tried all the different variants. We have agreed that, for us, that the ideal situation is a man to share our bed who is open to pleasure from another man, even if he doesn’t call himself bisexual. That is not to say that is best for others, but for us, as a couple in our 50’s, having a pair of penises promises the best satisfaction for her and for us. Additionally, she likes alpha type men who can fuck for hours. This relates to our sexual styles. I tend to be a slow romantic lover, which she likes a lot, but there is a certain unique pleasure that she gets from being fucked hard, fast and long. She tends to like very masculine men and women as lovers for this reason. She has dated several former pro/semi-pro athletes and found they fit the bill nicely. Notice, the point here is what we as a couple need, not what couples in some general sense need. All this to say, if you are considering trying out a threesome, deicide what niche the two of you want this person to play in your relationship and make a point to let that person know what that niche is so they can fill it. Otherwise, what happens is either the hoped for advantage of a threesome never materializes and/or the lover will tend to fill a role already claimed by one of the existing relationship partners. This is very bad as it can undermine the valued extant relationship. In these cases the relationship may well survive, but will be damaged. The open-relationship/open-marriage concept is erroneously blamed for this problem, hence you get counselors and therapist that say non-monogamous relationships are a mistake and can’t last. We believe that many, if not most, relationships would be stronger and happier in a sexually open state; but, from that first threesome, negotiated non-monogamy must be entered into with clear plans and goals. So, if you are currently monogamous, and are interested in trying out a more open arrangement, consider a threesome. Talk it through, and see what needs could be met by a playmate in your bed. Explore your own willingness to put out an effort to see your mate pleased and how committed you are to your relationship/marriage. In almost all newly opened marriages, the siren song of conventional morality makes one or both partners uncomfortable before, during and after the first sexual encounter. We want you to know these feelings are likely coming, and only move forward when both of you are fully ready. When we have been asked about threesomes by those (and other) people, my wife always says yes we have and do have threesomes; but she also gives them a firm warning that unless you are prepared for it, a threesome can do more harm than good.
A few thoughts on turning 60
I must admit, turning 60 seems to be important to me. I know it’s silly, but I think life circumstances have led to this feeling more than I would have expected a decade ago. Well, I guess a lot of things would have seemed different when I turned 50 than they do now; but for that matter when I turned 40, or 30 or even twenty I saw each of those milestones as stepping stones to a bright future. Sixty does not feel that way. Without a doubt, I have far less life in front of me than behind me, so it is now the time to consider how my life has unspooled. I see my life as a ribbon that has been tossed on the floor and I am like an ant walking along its length. From above one could see the pattern, but standing on the part of the ribbon where I am today, I can only see until the next bend. I’ve made my way from the start crawling as the ribbon turns and folded in ways I did not expect. I know where I have been, but beyond my line of sight, it is pure conjecture. I don’t even know if the part of the ribbon that I cannot see suddenly comes to an end or is hopelessly frayed…or does it suddenly get flat and easy to walk. I simply don’t know. When we are young, we want to believe that we have the power to turn that ribbon to our will. What I can now see is that while we can choose how to walk that ribbon, we simply have no control over the ultimate shape the ribbon forms. We have no control over the place and circumstances of our birth or the skill set that is imparted to us by genetics and our parents. I was very, very fortunate; but to claim somehow I made that happen is utter self-delusion. My childhood circumstances gave me choices that most people simply don’t have. There is a reason in Cervantes’s Don Quixote that the protagonist was a well-to-do hidalgo. Only those blessed by birth not to have to scrabble day and night to survive can go off on a quest to make the world a better place. Like Alonso Quijano took on the role of knight errant, I began a quest forty-odd years ago to make the world a better place. Like Quijano, I was sure I was special and I could defeat the evils of this world in single combat. Like him, I was wrong… and right at the same time. I became my own sort of Don Quixote and from the gritty streets of Chicago to the dusty back roads of Appalachia I have sought to slay the dragons that oppressed millions. And like Quixote, I found that my ability to change the world was an illusion. Looking back, I can see many of the monsters I sought to slay were simply windmills; while at the same time the larger forces of oppressive evil are very real. What I found, as did Don Quixote is that the only real victory against evil and oppression comes at the small scale in which we lend a helping hand to those around us. It is not lost on me that while religious people talk in grand terms of changing the world; Jesus did not. When asked what was the most important rule of morality, he told the story of a single man on the road who came upon a single man in need of help and he provided that help without asking for anything in return. As a young person, I was not able to see the power of the story of the Good Samaritan, at sixty years old I can. There is a temptation to look back on my life and consider that I, like Don Quixote, spent my life on a fool’s errand and wasted my time and energy. After all, I did not change the world nor slay the great dragons of evil and injustice. Yet, I think back to a lesson my mother taught me and my brother over and over again. When we went camping as a family, the mantra was that we leave the campsite cleaner than when we arrived. As a child that made no sense to me; yet, at 60, I see it became how I saw the world. I might not be able to fix world pollution or global warming, but I can leave my campsite cleaner than when I arrived. I can only hope that I’ve moved from campsite to campsite in my life’s journey, that I have left each place a little better than I found it. I would like to hope that for most people who have come through my life I left them just a little better off than when I met them. Perhaps even that is overly optimistic, but it is all I can hope to achieve. In reality, it is all that any of us can hope to achieve. Alonso Quijano was right in that wealth and power and all the trappings of “success” are poor substitutes for the success of the spirit. It is the journey of leaving good in our wake that matters; not how large a wake we leave. And also like Alonso Quijano, at the end of the day; it was the gifts of my birth and not of my doings that leave me with a snug and quiet home when my years of riding forth with my lance and sword to fight dragons have come to an end. From here on out, in my 60’s and in whatever years I will have past them my primary means of knight-errantry will be my pen (OK my keyboard). I hope to continue to write and to pass on the message of leaving that campsite cleaner than you found it (or as Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself). And the transition from knight to sage is also a part of the path of life.
About family Nudity
I was recently asked if I would post something more about familial nudity and I said I was pretty sure I'd written an essay on the topic. Well I found it. So here it it. Here is the simple fact, while there are loads of opinions and anecdotal stories about family nudity, there is very little real scientific research on the impact of familial nudity on children. Beware anyone who says there is solid empirical evidence one way or another. While one might expect the modern attacks on familial nudity come primarily from the religious right, you would be wrong. The two most influential voices on this subject over the past 150 years have been anything but highly religious. First Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry, was obsessed with sexuality and childhood experiences. He was convinced (with not one bit of scientific evidence) that exposure to nudity and/or sexuality was inherently damaging to children, and his legacy on this continues to influence professionals today. The other great influence on child rearing in North America was Dr. Benjamin Spock. In all practical respects the modern American parental education system begins with him, and his views still dominate professional opinions today. Spock was very clear that even young children were disturbed by parental nudity and somehow it made them feel inferior to their parents due to their lack of sexual development. Again, not one bit of proof was offered, but for 60 years his views on this are what you will hear from most child development experts. To this day, we hear "protect the children" as the reason to censor nudity (and sex) on TV and movies. While there is a mountain of evidence to show exposure to violence in media is harmful to children, there is no such corresponding evidence of harm from seeing images of nudity or non-violent sex. Yet, this makes no difference when "child advocates" equally oppose nudity and violence in the media. They use the evidence that show linkage between exposure to sexual violence and damage to children to condemn all human sexuality down to the briefest image of a female nipple. If there was not already the underlying belief that seeing adult nudity and sex harms children, this would be easily seen as an irrational approach. Sadly, that belief in the inherent harm of nudity (and sex) to children is deeply embedded. What real evidence we have about exposure of children to adult nudity comes in two forms. One from anthropology and one from a limited number of studies done primarily with college students. Anthropology tells us that attitudes about familial nudity are 100% socially constructed. In other words, contrary to what Freud, Spock and others declare to be true, human children have no more psychological need to be shielded from seeing adult genitals than do other primates. Young children just don't notice nudity, and older children react to adult nudity based on what they perceive as "normal." Kids do have very negative reactions to things that seem out of place and/or threatening to their security, but they are taught what to expect and not to expect. Knowing what is "normal" and to be expected, is not inborn. In many societies, even today, familial nudity is of no consequence. Interestingly, studies in Scandinavia (where situational family nudity is common) indicate that by middle childhood children have a firm understanding of when nudity is normal and when it is not. There has been some scientific study (but not a lot) done on the long term impact of family nudity in North America. The results not only debunk the notion that kids who grow up in the presence of adult nudity are damaged, but it suggests that young adults raised that way have a better body image than those who do not. To be complete, the same research suggests that such young people were slightly more sexually active as teens than those who did not live in homes with open familial nudity. If you think teenage sex is inherently bad, perhaps this might be an argument against familial nudity; however the study I read suggested that the nudity might not have caused the increased sexual behavior, but the same familial attitudes that did not condemn nudity likely would not condemn teen sex either. In our home that was certainly the case. Parental nudity was not a big deal nor did we pressure our kids to abstain from sex as teenagers. All that being said, the impacts of parental nudity on the psychological health of teens and young adults is so slight that it need not be a factor in how parents raise their children. The real question is what do you want your kids to believe about nudity and/or sex. It is simply a matter of parental values and choice. Contrary to the nudist beliefs, family nudity does not make children better, but neither does it make them worse. This conclusion is also supported by my decades of working with teens and families. Like so many other parenting issues, there is not one right way. But it is important that new parents discuss this as part of their parenting planning. In our case we chose to make nudity normalized in our home. Growing up we did not tell the kids how much or little to wear around the house. Mom and Dad went naked at times, but mostly wore clothes. When the kids were younger we had a home pool, and Mom and Dad only wore swimsuits about half the time. Most of the time the kids wore theirs, but not always. We spent several summers at a beach front hotel where many of the women went topless. The kids did not seem to notice the women (including Mom) wearing only tiny thongs were anything the least bit unusual. Mom and Dad went nude at other more private beaches, and again the kids didn't seem to take any special notice. Those were our choices and our (now grown) kids are very well adjusted. All that to say, familial nudity is not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, not even good and better; but, rather a matter of values and the personal viewpoint of parents.
Addition to Preface of In Search of the Final Freedom
I've been thinking on the need for this for some time, and now the content of the next few chapters it is time to add it. I've gone back and added this to Chapter One. I feel the need to make a comment on the inclusion of teen sexuality. As noted, I spent my career dealing directly and indirectly with teenage sexuality. While it may seem silly that I need to point out the obvious; people under eighteen have sex and they always have. In the US, and often in the larger English-speaking world, there has persisted a fiction that “good kids” don’t have sex. Furthermore, due to the outsized influence of the Puritanical strain of American law; it has been all but decreed that teenage sexuality should only be discussed in terms of condemnation. Those who create works of fiction that normalizes sexual behavior of young people in their middle teenage years are now subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) accused of promoting child abuse and/or pedophilia. This is nonsense. As someone who spent years working as a full-time professional dealing with both teenagers and sex offenders, I have the credentials to say that idea is nothing more than the ranting of the ignorant. In this project, I present many stories that touch on middle-teen sexuality, most of which were inspired by actual people and events. I have tried to present these issues with sensitivity, accuracy and a balance of the risks and rewards found by actual young people. One final note, I have been working on this novel since the early 1990’s. Many of the events of the early chapters are fictionalized versions of events in my life with my family in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. The Campbell family began as a thought project as to what my real life nuclear family would look like when my children made the transition from childhood to the adult world. As it happened, the project outlasted my children’s childhood and saw my wife and I progress through our forties and fifties even as the family in the story hardly aged at all. At that same time, the characters in the story developed on their own, spinning off from a semi-autobiographic story to one of pure fiction. Thus, this novel is almost a ‘what might have been’ story rather than the ‘what might be’ from which it began. As the project progressed from the story of a nuclear family in the American South (Book One) to a larger canvas of American culture (Book Four) it reflected the world that existed when I was writing the final chapters in the first decade of the 2000’s. In subsequent rewrites simple things like phone and video technology leaped forward. In the first draft for instance, there was discussion of video tapes and home telephones; however, by the third re-write in the first years of the 2010’s I found myself needing to rework the text not only to fix issues that tie tech to dates; but people and events in the larger society and world as well. Additionally, as my readers know, I tell a good many backstories which are also fixed in specific times and places. Then came the twin cataclysms of the rise of Donald Trump & the neo-fascist MAGA movement followed by the great pandemic of 2020. The world had changed more than I could keep up without simply abandoning the story as written. Therefore, I decided that rather than adjusting my text to keep up with the ever-changing world; I needed to simply fix the opening of this novel in the early years of the 2010’s, coinciding with the 3rd rewrite. I decided in the fourth (and final) rewrite that includes the addition of the illustrations began in 2020; but I did not and will not attempt to incorporate the huge impact of the events after 2015.
Adultery & Fornication: What do those words mean in the New Testament?
One of our funniest open-marriage memories is from twenty years ago. We were laying in bed with another couple in the afterglow of exhausting sex, when Paula realized it was nearly 3:00 AM. She jumped up and said we had to go, reminding me I was scheduled to preach at a Baptist Church I'd never been to before at 11:00AM. She pointed out that we were an hour from home, and we still had to pick up our kids from the babysitter's; and on top of that we weren't even sure where the church at which I was preaching was located (this was way before GPS). The woman laying next to me initially thought Paula was just being funny. But, it was all very true, I was a minister and I did have to speak at a very conservative church that morning. Over the years Paula and I have been asked over and over how is it that we can claim to be committed Christians and have a sexually open marriage. This question comes both from our monogamous friends as well as couples who have an open-marriage but have a deep feeling of guilt about doing so. When I explain how I do not believe following Jesus requires monogamy, I am often asked if I am just ignoring the parts of the New Testament that oppose sex outside of marriage. Though in my response I point out that I first made a multi-year study of the scriptures before I ultimately settled on the polyamory model; I understand why people might think that I first abandoned monogamy then looked for an excuse. So today I am going to address a frequently misunderstood New Testament word “fornication”. Let us look at this passage from the gospel of Matthew chapter 14 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” The truth Jesus is making is simple; morality is not primarily about our ritual cleanliness but about our motives and how evil motives cause us to do evil things to other humans. Then he lists the sins we can commit against other people: evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and slanders. Now let us consider two words as relevant to this discussion: adultery and fornications. Adultery did not mean, as some suppose today, all sex outside of marriage; but rather the sin of adultery was limited to a man having sex with the wife of another man or a married woman having sex with a man other than her husband. A married man having sex with an unmarried woman or a prostitute was not considered adultery. Why the inconsistency? Because adultery was seen as the ultimate property crime against the husband. In many ancient cultures (and some modern ones), a married woman had only one purpose: to bear sons to carry on the man’s legacy and inherit his property. Other “womanly” functions such as cooking and clearing and even recreational sex could, and were, carried out by concubines and/or female slaves. The crime of adultery was one of giving away all a man possesses to the offspring of another man. Thus it was usually punishable by death. In a side note, you might have seen how the Saudi government just this recently condemned a woman to death for adultery while only punishing the man with 100 lashes. Or when this week the Sultan of Brunei instituted the death penalty for adultery. We can assume from history that no men of substance will be even charged with this crime unless he is caught screwing the wife of an even more powerful man. And note that the Sultan has repeatedly divorced his wives as they got older so he could marry much younger women. Hmmm? Do you think he waited for his divorce and remarriage to have sex with these women? Not on your life. Yes, I know that sounds like the current president of the USA that is worshiped by the conservative Christians ... but I digress. So to be sure this view of women as property is still alive and well. Adultery was the ultimate form of theft of a man’s legacy. Adultery could never be charged if a man has sex with the wife of a slave since the slave had no property or title to defend. In the model of love and equal justice for all that the teachings of Jesus proposed, there is no room for a man to own his wife as property. Rather she (like all people) owns herself, including her sexuality. I believe the true Christian model is that a man does not buy a wife, but rather they come together freely and choose to become a unit. In this choosing, they are free to adopt the ancient "female" model of sexual exclusivity after marriage; or the equally ancient “male” model that gives sexual freedom after marriage. That is as long as both partners have equal rights and responsibilities under the arrangement. Importantly, this choice is theirs to make, not the community’s, the government's or the religious leaders'. Since we see the word adultery was referring to a property crime, why did Jesus still separate it from the word “fornication?” Fornication is also translated as “illicit sex” or “sexual vice” by other Bible translators. In the Greek the root of this word is Pornos. This word refers specifically to prostitution. The male form is also translated whoremonger, or seller of prostitutes. What one must understand was that in the time it was written prostitution was part of the slave trade. The whoremonger was just as part of their society as the fishmonger who bought and sold fish. The whoremonger however bought women, girls and boys at the slave auction and rented their bodies to men (and some well-to-do women) for sexual use. The prostitutes themselves had not the slightest right to say no, because they were slaves. This is more akin to what we call human trafficking than a woman choosing to have sex for money. Of course in those days the Roman government was the chief supplier of slaves through conquest, thus official policy was to encourage the use of enslaved people for sex. There was also a second type of prostitution that existed in that time and place; that being religious or temple prostitution. Again this was not limited to women, temple prostitutes could be females of all ages or young boys. The Hebrew law (Old Testament) interestingly forbids Hebrew children to be given over to becoming such prostitutes, but does not condemn Hebrew men from participating by hiring them. It is widely accepted that since it was children given over to being temple prostitutes, that they were not at liberty to say no. And the buyers of sex at a pagan temple could not be charged with adultery for visiting a prostitute, though the "joining" with a servant of a false god was problematic to Jews across the Roman Empire. Paul very specifically went into this in I Corinthians 6, just after he states that "all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any," Paul says: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. Here the Apostle Paul tells Christians in the Greek city of Corinth that their bodies are temples of God. This analogy would resonate in a city known throughout the world for its marvelous temples to a multitude of gods. Many of the people to whom Paul is writing here grew up worshiping at those temples. So using that imagery, he tells the Corinthian Christians that they are not to join their bodies to temple prostitutes who serve as conduits to false gods. Rather he says, they should flee the temptation of easy sex with the temple prostitutes. Why; because God has paid the price for our bodies, so we have no business buying the body of a pagan prostitute. He closes with the admonition that we are to use our bodies (i.e. our sexuality) to glorify God. Jesus presented the world a much higher standard of sexual morality than had been practiced before. He introduce the concept of treating all humans as having value and that the moral human would never treat someone in a way they would not want to be treated. And in this passage Paul extends that idea that our sexuality is a key way we show love for all, and thereby glorify God. Certainly to pay a whoremonger to have sex with his slave would not meet that standard. And consider one more thing that makes fornication evil. Sex with a temple prostitute was doubly evil in that the participant was engaging in a sexual sacrifice to a false god. Consider one more thing: In either case, the person who pays the whoremonger or the pagan temple to have sex with the unfree prostitute is in reality forcing that woman or boy to have sex. They have no possibility to refuse. That is the very definition of rape: forcing someone to have sex against their will. Have you ever noticed the word “rape” is never mentioned in lists of sins by Jesus or Paul, even though it has been common throughout history? This is because it is captured in the concept of “unlawful sex” or “fornication”. So, when you come across these lists of sins, do not make the mistake our conservative friends wish you to make and assume they simply refer to all sex outside marriage, but realize it means forced sex or rape. But beyond that, any sexual action that is coerced or pushed on another person is violating Jesus' standard of showing compassionate love. This applies both in and out of marriage. Thus when we look at both the issues of “adultery” and “fornication” we find that the assumption that Jesus was teaching a morality simply based on forbidding sex outside of heterosexual marriage is false. As with the rest of morality, Jesus taught us that the highest rung of righteousness is to act based on love toward those around us and treating all fellow humans with respect and dignity. In this photo, my wonderful wife of over thirty years is fully enjoying God's gift of bodily pleasure with another married couple.