Friday, July 22, 2016

A Light Caress

I awoke to the feeling of the morning sun caressing me with its fingers. My skin tingled, and without opening my eyes, I spread my legs wide to let the warmth flow into me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Better Bathroom Selfies

This is an extension of a previous idea I've had. People criticize "bathroom selfies" - even more than they do selfies in general. Obviously, I'm pro-selfie. And even more, pro-bathroom selfie. Especially those exciting bathroom selfies that show some skin. Fuck modesty. If you've got it, flaunt it, and show it to the rest of the world! The only bad thing about bathroom selfies is the poor quality of so many of them. But the solution to that isn't less bathroom selfies, it's more education! In my mind, the only just punishment for teens caught sexting is a crash course in basic photography skills. Toward that end, I have half a mind to print out friendly tip cards and leave them propped up against mirrors in public restrooms across the area. They might look like this:

5 Steps to Better Bathroom Selfies:
1. Wipe the mirror clean.
2. Disable your camera's flash.
3. Show some skin! (Optional)
4. Hold the camera steady.
5. Skip the duck lips - just smile!

The skin thing is optional just because I don't want people to feel pressured, like they're being evaluated. I want them to feel comfortable about taking bathroom selfies, and then, once they get into the mood, they'll be more likely to want to have fun with it. I also took out the detailed modeling tips, because again, I don't want people to think this is something that only super-attractive professional models do. Once a person is in the mindset of improving their bathroom selfie game, chances are, they'll figure out their own best angles.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Some Kind of Monster

You know - against a clean, uniform backdrop - this might actually pass for art!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Learning Opportunity

So, there's a story in the news about a Playboy model who is being accused of body shaming, after posting a critical photo on her Snapchat of a woman she encountered in a gym locker room shower. I'm not interested in defending this woman's actions, but I do think it bears mentioning that people are quick to jump to conclusions, and I can see how this whole situation could be the result of a massive misunderstanding, if the woman in question did truly intend the image to be an in-joke with her friend, and not posted publicly. (The fact that people are so quick to jump down another person's throat only supports the dim view of humanity that these people are ironically criticizing this woman for exhibiting - does nobody else notice the irony of this situation?). Also, the gym in question has publicly labelled this woman's actions as "appalling" - which, frankly, I think is a bit of an exaggeration (though I'm prone to hyperbole myself, so maybe I should be more forgiving). Was it insensitive and ill-advised? Yes. But "appalling"? I don't know that I'd even go so far as to say that this behavior warrants banishment, much less criminal charges. But, of course, companies these days have to kowtow to every little criticism, lest they sacrifice their public image and risk losing business.

Anyway, I have a couple of comments about this news story - involving both this woman's actions, and the response it has received from the public. Now, if this woman truly did intend to body shame this other woman she encountered in the locker room shower - and especially publicly, on the internet - as people are assuming (because you have to be honest, that's what it looks like), then that is behavior that deserves criticism. At the same time, I would caution people not to react so strongly as to warrant the justification of censorship. This woman experienced a genuine feeling - and while it was not the most positive feeling, and she chose to express it in an insensitive way, I don't want people to become scared of expressing their genuine feelings. If PC culture gets to the point where people believe they are not allowed to even think that other people's bodies are unappealing, then it has gone too far, because we no longer have freedom or control over our own thoughts. What we need to do is place the emphasis on how we express our thoughts and feelings - and how that affects others. So that instead of submitting to the knee-jerk impulse to express one's self at the expense of others, we will see the value in stopping to think about why we feel the way we do, what that means to us, and how we can express it in a way that ultimately contributes to making the world a better place (which is what I do - or at least try to do - when I sit down and analyze my thoughts in preparation for posting them to this blog).

Now, about the legality of taking photos in locker rooms. Firstly, let me say that what this woman did is exactly the sort of thing that gives voyeurism a bad name - using it as a weapon to criticize and embarrass other people, instead of the harmless (and pleasure-inducing!) goal of sexual gratification. In truth, there is a subset of the population that also believes there is something intrinsically harmful (or "degrading", if you want to use a word that stands for illusionary harm) about being the unknowing subject of "naughty" behaviors conducted in secret behind closed doors - but this fear is nothing more than bogus superstition. There's no harm in somebody being attracted to you, and if they take a surreptitious picture of you (that maybe you didn't even notice!) to remember that by, and to maybe use as a masturbatory aid later on, or even to share with other people who will use it in the same way, who cares? It hurts no one - the only thing it serves is to make other people feel good. Keep in mind that none of this justifies true violations of privacy, or stalking, or any antisocial behaviors. But unobtrusive (and especially public) voyeurism that does not involve harassment or abuse of any kind (including verbal) is an unqualified benefit to society.

Still, people are afraid of having their privacy violated (even in public). They get nasty when strangers take their pictures, because they assume they're going to post them to their Facebook with critical captions, and be made a public laughing stock. In short, people expect other people to be insensitive jerks. Which is realistic. But wouldn't it be nice if we lived, instead, in a world where people had the expectation that other people wouldn't be insensitive jerks? Which is pretty much the way people are reacting to this story. They're calling this woman out on her insensitive behavior. Why, then, do we focus on the inherent wrongness of taking the picture? Of all people, even nudists (which is where I first heard about this story) use this story as an example to justify the expectation of privacy. Which is ironic, because nudists freely and regularly shower in front of each other without fanfare. Isn't it entirely against nudist principles to emphasize the importance of privacy regarding something they don't consider private (that is, people's bodies) over the importance of just not judging people on their looks? Why do nudists still think this kind of privacy is important, then?

Unless they, too, are only shielding themselves from the jerks out there who want nothing more than to criticize their bodies. But isn't this the perfect opportunity to put our money where our mouths are, and invite the entire world to peer into our secret nudist communes, to see once and for all what nudism is really like? Instead of suspiciously insisting that it's not about sex, and then hiding behind tall fences? Wouldn't this be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world the importance of treating people with dignity and respect, regardless of what they're wearing, or what their body looks like? To me, this seems like an ideal teaching opportunity for nudists, and the best way to expand knowledge and awareness of our lifestyle to the masses. And we're wasting it, because we're all too lazy and scared of being judged. We keep to ourselves in our little secret societies, hiding behind our fences sipping beers in front of our trailers, shunning cameras because god forbid somebody from the outside world should see us naked. And we call ourselves nudists? Well, let me tell you, that's not the nudism I want to be a part of. The only question I have is, who's going to join me?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Third Field

If you've ever taken a survey, or filled out your detailed information on some kind of form, you've been presented with one or both of two particular fields. Although the labels change, generally they show up as "Sex:" and "Orientation:". But I would argue that these two fields are not adequate to describe the human population when one provides for the existence of transgender individuals - individuals for whom their gender does not match their sex.

The first problem is this ambiguous "sex" field. Is it referring to sex, or gender? Sometimes it's actually labelled gender. In reality, it's asking for both (tacitly assuming the two are one and the same). Although in some cases, depending on the purposes of whatever it is that's doing the asking, it may be referring to one or the other. But this is often not clear. And it does not provide a transgender person the opportunity to give two separate answers.

Most people are cis-gendered. They make up the majority. So we are talking about minority concerns here - but minorities deserve to be recognized. Especially when the recognition of a minority indicates a flaw in our basic understanding of something. In this case, sex and gender. They are not the same thing. The fact that they are the same for most people explains why it's taken us so long to realize the difference. But now, having noticed the difference, does it make sense to go on pretending they're the same? (That's not how we do it in science).

One solution that some people have tried is by adding a third option to the ambiguous "sex and/or gender" field. In addition to "male" and "female", there might be an "other" option. But if there's a meaningful point to be asking people their sex and/or gender in the first place, I don't think that answering "other" gives enough information for statistical analysis. If it matters enough that you're either male or female, then it should be important whether your sex is male and gender is female, or whether your sex is female and gender is male. Especially if the survey/form is relying more on one of these than the other, but has done a poor job of indicating that (and we must be forgiving, because in this confused culture, one cannot be sure that when somebody uses the term "sex" or "gender", they are really being as precise as one could hope).

So a better solution would be to add a third field, in between the ambiguous "sex and/or gender" field, and the orientation field (which we'll get to shortly). It's simple - all you have to do is split sex and gender into two separate fields. Granted, for most people, who are cis-gendered, their answers to these two questions will be the same. But doing this not only clarifies the concept and the language, but it acknowledges the existence of transgender people.

No doubt, the conservative majority will groan, and whine about adding what is sure to be a "redundant" and superfluous box to their forms. I can hear it now. "Why d'I got ta answer this damn question twice?!" We can do one of two things. Cave in to their lazy, regressive demands, or simply plow forward in the interest of tolerance and diversity. That having been said, I'm not opposed to streamlining the process. For example, provide a "Sex:" field with the options, "male", "female", and "other" - so that when someone selects "other", another field will pop up (increasingly relevant in this digital age) allowing them to indicate their gender independently from their sex. Problem solved!

Now, to be fully inclusive - and isn't that a worthwhile goal? - we would need options for people who are intersexed, androgynous, bigender, nonbinary, and any number of other combinations. The best, and perhaps only, way to adequately prepare for these possibilities is to simply make these things text fields, instead of radio buttons. This may be less precise for statistical purposes, but for anyone interested in inclusivity, at the very least, you could provide these options in addition to the more standard fare, in order to give a person the ability to identify themselves, whether as an alternative or an addition to the more standard determinations.

Now, we've covered the third field. But since we're talking about modifying the "Sex:" and "Orientation:" fields for improved inclusivity, we should take a moment to explore the limitations of that "Orientation:" field, because it is no less problematic than the ambiguous "sex and/or gender" field was. I imagine there was a time when this field wasn't even needed, because it was assumed that everybody was straight. Things are different today. But even giving people the choice between "gay" and "straight" isn't perfect - and not because it marginalizes people who are bisexual (which it does). It's because the terminology itself is fundamentally flawed, if we want to allow for the previously identified distinction between sex and gender.

As I've discussed before, the problem with the terms "gay" and "straight" is that they do not focus on the target of a person's sexual attraction, but rather a relationship between the sex and/or genders (again, we're being ambiguous) of the subject and the object of the attraction. Logically, this seems counter-intuitive (at least to me - shouldn't your sexual orientation tell who you're attracted to, not make some ambiguous statement about sex and/or gender?), but it makes sense that our understanding has developed this way.

To start with, the default state of men being attracted to women and vice versa can more easily be summed up with the single term "heterosexual" (especially because if you add another field to identify a person's "sex and/or gender", then you'll know everything you need to know in this limited framework), rather than adding another option, and splitting it into "male-attracted" and "female-attracted".

Then, the main alternative to this heteronormative standard that we've been introduced to as a society is homosexuality. It's only natural that, as a result, we've focused on characterizing people's sexual orientations based on the relationship between sexes and/or genders. I would argue, however, that we're moving into a post-LGB world, where it's beginning to make more sense to define a person's orientation in terms of who they're attracted to, instead of this archaic emphasis on the relationship between sexes and/or genders.

This becomes ever more obvious when we account for the difference between sex and gender, and provide for the existence of transgender individuals. I've written at length before about how the terms "gay" and "straight" are inadequate for describing a transgendered person's sexual orientation, precisely because of this irritating ambiguity between sex and gender. How do you identify the relationship between two people's sexes and/or genders when that relationship is going to be different depending on whether you use sex or gender, and when it is not clear (or changes in different situations) whether it is sex or gender that is to be used?

It's a quagmire. But there's a simple solution - provided we're willing to shift our perspective in a significant way. But it's logical. We just need to stop thinking in terms of "gay and straight", and turn the focus away from the subject, to the object of a person's attraction. Who are you attracted to? That alone should determine your sexual orientation, regardless of who it is you happen to be.

Now, I can foresee this paradigm shift potentially tearing apart the community bonds that the various queer cultures have constructed for community and solidarity against conventional society. I'm not interested in destroying those foundations. I have no problem with people continuing to identify as "gay" or "lesbian" or anything else. And it's still the case that in terms of dating prospects, gay people and straight people are going to want to stick to their own sides of the bar, simply because that's how they're going to find the people that are going to be willing to date them.

But, again, if we want to be inclusive not just of LGB people, but T people as well, we need to at least construct some labels for sexual orientations that do not have such a strong reliance on the synergy between a person's sex and gender. It could be as simple as adding the options "male-oriented", and "female-oriented" - which, in addition to the provided sex and/or gender field(s), could tell a researcher all he needs to know (and more) about whether a person is "gay" or "straight".

It gets a little bit more complicated when we start to consider just all the sorts and combinations of people and things that a person can be attracted to (starting with asking the thorny question of whether people can be attracted to genders and not just sexes). Ideally, there'd be options for people who are pansexual, omnisexual, asexual, and any number of other colorful varieties of sexuality. Again, as with the sex and gender fields, it would be best to use a text field instead of the typical radio buttons.

I know that it probably sounds like I'm trying to make things a lot more complicated than they already are - but the truth is that life is complicated, and people are complicated. And while these changes do not have to be made, they are essential for anyone interested in being more tolerant and inclusive of minorities. The good news is that I've been working on a neat and compact way for people to identify themselves to others visually, that is very open-ended, yet need not be any more complicated than a person desires. I call it "SGO Notation", and I plan to write up a post about it very soon.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Prime D

(As in "prime directive" :p).

All this stigma surrounding sex and physical attraction, and I can't help thinking that this - this right here - is the reason each and every one of us even exists in the first place. Talk about being ungrateful... #respectyourroots

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top Heavy

Carries a bit of a different meaning for a man than it does for a woman.